Monday, April 09, 2007

One week down, a million to go

Happy 1-week anniversary to the 2007 MLB season! (Well, except for the Cards and Mets, to whom I say, "Sorry I forgot your anniversary. Better luck next year.")

My thoughts:
This string of relative successes for Royals starting it all too good to be true? Royals starters have thrown four quality starts so far, and have lasted more than 6 innings 5 times already. These kinds of numbers are, of course, odd for a KC staff. Tonight will be Odalis Perez's chance to show his stuff, as he did struggle a little bit in his start last Wednesday. Maybe it was just the cold weather that bothered him, so he can feel free to dominate in the climate-controlled Rogers Centre.

I'm kind of sad that Roy Halladay won't be pitching for the Jays in this series. Thinking about him pitching against KC at Toronto brings back fond memories of a game last year where Hallady and Runelvys Hernandez both went the distance, and the Royals ended up winning 2-0. Sadly, that game wasn't televised, but listening to it was one of my fondest baseball memories of last season. Thinking about that game got me thinking about how many long outings we could get from this year's staff. Could any of them go the distance the way Hernandez did in that game? My answer: a definite YES. Gil Meche and Zack Greinke will both have complete game wins before the All-Star break. I think that Perez could do it too, but it will take him a little longer.

As for the KC bullpen, they've really been impressive so far (knock on wood). The only slipups that come to my mind are the Boston game from last Thursday, and yesterday's 9th-inning loss to the Tigers. Give the team a few weeks -- and a healthy Octavio Dotel -- and both of those games would be wins.

Another thing I pondered this afternoon prior to sitting down to write (hey, I had a lot of time to think, as I have a boring 2-hour lecture on Monday afternoons) was how much the first week of the season affects fans' perceptions of particular players. Yankees fans' growing disdain for A-Rod has been well-documented over the last several months, but can his walk-off grand slam on Saturday and his first-pitch homer on Sunday spark some lovin' from NY fans? Does a walk-off grand slam in the first week create more excitement over a player than the same hit by the same player later in the regular season? Conversely, does a slow start by an otherwise good hitter (a la Ryan Shealy or Alex Gordon, who I'll get to in more detail in a moment) make fans think they are inferior hitters? Slumps suck for the players and their fans no matter when the hits dry up, but is an April slump more damaging to a fan's outlook on a player than a midseason dry spell? Are KC fans less excited about Gordon because he has only one hit and eight strikeouts?

Now, the Alex Gordon ponderings. So he's gotten off to kind of a slow start (detailed above). This has the Royals Nation wondering when he's going to pick up and start to live up to his tremendous hype. Oddly enough, I think the team's 9-game road trip, which starts tonight in Toronto, will be very good for him offensively. When he digs in for an at-bat in Kansas City, every fan knows exactly who he is and who he is supposed to be, and they expect the world from him at every AB. Gordo knows full well that George Brett -- to whom Alex has been compared by every sportswriter and his cat -- is probably in attendance, watching him carefully from upstairs. But on the road, he won't have all that personal pressure bearing down on him, and he might have enough breathing room to show his stuff. Your average Toronto fan will probably not know as much about Gordon as all good KC fans do, and might not have the expectations of him that a Royals home crowd does. (And that was NOT a knock on Toronto fans. It is absurd to expect everyone in the world to know all about our uprising phenom, no matter how big a deal he is to us.) When the fans in attendance aren't expecting a George Brett-esque performance every time Gordo steps up to the plate, he might be able to relax; to simply see the ball, and hit the ball.

No comments: