Don't Kill The Mellinger
Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff
Please read this if you or someone you love is fretting too much about the Royals’ weaknesses
03/31/2014 9:59 AM
05/16/2014 12:44 PM
This does not apply to all of you. Not even close. But it applies to enough of you that it’s worth a quick minute here to recognize, basically, that the team you root for is not the only one with problems.
This is true in any sport, at any level, but this is opening day so let’s talk about the Royals and Tigers. The Royals are a trendy pick to win the AL Central, and for good reason. Lots of hitters on the good side of the career arc, James Shields at the top of a rotation that includes the steady Jason Vargas and phenom Yordano Ventura. They have the best defense in baseball, and, still, a pretty good bullpen.
But, sure. Alcides Escobar was baseball’s worst every day hitter last year. The bullpen isn’t as deep as it used to be. Billy Butler needs more power, Alex Gordon needs to bounce back, Sal Perez needs to stay healthy, and yada, yada, and also yada.
Now look at the Tigers, the consensus favorite to win the AL Central. They have the best hitter in baseball, and a terrific top of the rotation with Justin Verlander and reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
But have you looked at the rest of the team? Jose Iglesias, a fantastic defensive shortstop, is hurt for the foreseeable future, replaced by a random Alex Gonzalez. And speaking of Gonzalez, he’s part of an atrocious bottom of the order:
6. Alex Avila, who hit .227 and slugged .376 last year.
7. Nick Castellanos, a highly regarded rookie, but also one who hit .276 in Class AAA last year.
8. The aforementioned Gonzalez, who is 37 years old and a career .246/.290/.346 hitter who banged in at .177/.203/.230 last year for the Brewers.
9. Rajai Davis, a 33-year-old outfielder who hit .260/.312/.375 last year.
I mean, that’s a bottom of the order that the 2004 Royals wouldn’t brag about.
Also, they have Joe Nathan, and even if you fully trust that a 39-year-old closer will be money, the bullpen is still messy enough (especially with Bruce Rondon out with Tommy John surgery, and, yes, Tommy John surgeries happen in other places, too) that the Tigers will probably struggle getting the ball from a very good rotation to Nathan.
Look, the point here isn’t that the Tigers stink. The Tigers are very good, experienced, talented, all that. They should be the favorites in the division.
But next time you think about the potential problems the Royals have, just know that all teams have potential problems.
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