Yet with the Royals in the midst of an early season swan-dive, and no Zack Greinke again for this series, as long as the Sox avoid the wrath of Scott Podsednik, Billy Butler, and Jose Guillen, all of whom are in auditioning-for-a-midseason-trade mode, surely this could be the weekend to get things going. Unless of course, such a weekend simply isn't coming.
But what reason is there to talk like that? As Bobby Jenks said just two days ago, "It's only f$#&@%g April".
The Royals are truly in some sort of disarray, but unfortunately if you really examine things, they are only slightly worse off than us. They hit over .270 as a club, where as the Sox only have two regular starters who can say the same. The White Sox had a third player who was hitting over .270, his name was Donny Lucy, we sent him back down to the minors because we're geniuses. While the Royals are dead last in the AL in ERA, the Sox are only 11th. The Royals will trot out three starters this series with season ERAs over 5, whereas the Sox will throw out 2, but the third is Mark Buehrle, who has a 4.96. Quoting ERA's is a little deceptive because Luke Hochevar hasn't allowed an earned run in his last two starts against the White Sox, and because Jake Peavy's last two starts have been rather excellent.
Still, the Royals are 2-9 this month and just fired manager Trey Hillman on Thursday in a bizarre episode that witnessed Kansas City GM Dayton Moore breaking down into tears during the press conference and stopping just short of declaring his undying love for Hillman, before announcing he would be replaced by Ned Yost. You might remember Yost as the guy who got fired by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 while they were in the midst of the wild card hunt in a hilarious front office decision that seemed to scream "We're completely panicking in every way" at a time where the team could have benefitted from a steady hand. I'd be confident in saying that the Royals are doomed for years to come with proven failure Ned Yost at the helm, if I actually thought that managers mattered. Which I don't. Hillman's no more responsible for star prospect Alex Gordon not developing than he is for Zack Greinke winning the Cy Young. The comments from seemingly every Royals player in the wake of the firing is that Hillman hadn't lost the team, and that everyone was still playing hard, which is pretty much all you can ask a manager to be responsible for. Other than holding players accountable who are clearly dogging it (ex: Ozzie screaming at Bobby Jenks on Tuesday), spelling everyone's name correctly on the lineup card, and recognizing things like "Hey, our pitcher has walked the last seven guys in a row, keeps bursting into tears, and seems to have chewed off his upper lip, maybe it's time to pull him out of the game," what do you really expect your manager to do?
But there's gotta be some reason for the White Sox to think they can beat up on the cellar-dwelling KCRs (I like this nickname, it makes them sound like a crappy beer) this weekend? Right?
No, not necessarily, and shame on you for expecting me to patronize you and throw you a bone.
Gil Meche pitches Friday night for the Royals...or does he? Someone wearing his jersey has made six starts this year, but hasn't come close to resembling Meche in terms of his strikeout rate (way down), walk rate (way up), hits allowed (waaaaay up), and demeanor (makes Gavin Floyd look like Sonny Crockett). No one really knows what's wrong with him other than that his control seems off, which isn't really much more in-depth of analysis than saying "Man pitch bad". I don't really care what's wrong with Meche so long as it keeps happening, as all I know is that the Royals have lost every game he's started and he's the highest paid player on the team. Maybe GM Dayton Moore was crying because he knows he's next.
Luke Hochevar has dominated the Sox his last two starts, and this team doesn't really have a track record of figuring guys out eventually (see Pavano, Carl). There's a bad Jennifer Lopez movie called "Enough" where her husband beats her for the first half-hour over minor things like tucking the bedsheets in too tight. J-Lo responds by running away, training extensively to be some sort of super-vengeful kickboxer adorned in stretch pants. When her husband finally tracks her down, she beats the tar out of him before pushing him off a balcony (he dies). The Sox hitters are like Jennifer Lopez's character in this movie, only not at all. Luke Hochevar could very well wail on us his whole career, and the Sox wouldn't so much as take a pilates class in response, let alone go through a whole training montage. Luckily, instead of Gavin Floyd, they'll throw the suddenly red-hot Jake Peavy to the mound that night to set up another pitching duel just like the one that didn't work out for us on Wednesday.
Speaking of Gavin Floyd, he'll have an epic duel with Brian Bannister on Sunday to see what is better; Floyd's all-talent, no-guile or composure approach, or Bannister's no-talent, all-guile mish-mash that has somehow lasted him into his 5th season in the major leagues. After both starters yield 6 runs in 4 innings, Gavin Floyd tries to eat his hat, and Brian Bannister just trots back to the dugout thinking "Ho-hum, another day!", the game will probably come down to each team's bullpens, where the Sox have the advantage....unless you factor in Bobby Jenks.
Now when I was watching 2005 World Series DVDs while ironing my work clothes for the next morning to cheer myself up the other day (stop laughing, stop laughing!), I was watching Game 3 of the divisional series versus the Red Sox. This game featured Red Sox 2nd basemen Tony Graffanino returning to Boston after committing a costly error in Game 2 that allowed the Sox to rally for the win. Graffanino, extremely contrite about the incident, returned to Boston to rousing cheers from the crowd. The fans took pity on Graffanino, knowing as well as any fan base that these things happen, and being quite sure that Tony felt bad enough about the play without their additional piling on. His disappointment with himself was readily apparent from the way he dropped his head in disgust as the ball rolled through his legs.
Time was, Bobby Jenks had similar mannerisms. After he blew the save in the 9th inning of Game 2 of the World Series, Jenks was almost too distraught to finish the frame. Yet somewhere between 2005 and now, Jenks' demeanor switched to full-on not-give-a-crap mode. Leading to him make statements like his response to the notion of Ozzie considering switching closers that he insisted "doesn't make any sense" when his ERA is over 6 and he allows over 2 baserunners an inning. Or say that "It was one game" as if his blown save where he failed to retire any of the four batters and all of them scored was his first abysmal outing of the season.
Though, anyone who has seen Jenks pitch in a non-save situation probably isn't surprised that Bobby doesn't acknowledge those outings as relevant. If I really wanted to just attack Jenks with no let-up, I would say that his statement of "It's only (bleeping) April" during the first week of May was truly indicative of how out of touch and disinterested he was with the Sox season. But I honestly think that Jenks simply was referring to his struggles in the month of April, and didn't think it actually was April. But at the same time, the quote still means that Jenks doesn't give a damn about any games in the month of April...which is just great, considering he made about a million dollars during the month. Boston didn't boo Graffanino because they know he was already punishing himself, but does Bobby Jenks give any indication that he cares about what happens in the game? Or how he's pitching? Or anything besides his hideous chin beard or his next meal at Al's Italian Beef? Bobby doesn't think he's done anything wrong, he's not punishing himself, and while an athlete doesn't really owe you anything, it's not overkill to tell him he's terrible. So by all means, boo Bobby Jenks, curse at him, do everything short of throw knives at him (for now), because it's not everyday that the guy who gets the final out of a World Series championship doubles as the most loathsome Sox player of the decade