The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

 

A Royal Beating

Fun time at the ballpark yesterday, a lovely spring afternoon for baseball where the Yanks destroyed the Royals 12-5. This one wasn't even that close, as the Royals -- a team that's lost 100 or more games in three of the last four seasons -- gave the impression of bringing a spork to a gunfight with a lineup that included Doug Mientkiewicz in the #3 spot because Eggshell Mike Sweeney had been hit on the hand the day before. The franchise has fallen on some hard times, given that former Wal-Mart president/CEO and current Royals owner David Glass has applied the aesthetic of his old venture to his latest one, producing a cut-rate crapfest of a team in the hands of Allard Baird, an easily-swindled mark among the game's GMs.

Kansas City rolled up three runs off of a shaky Shawn Chacon in the top of the first, hitting the ball hard three times including a two-run homer by Reggie Sanders and an Emil Brown RBI double off the centerfield wall that Johnny Damon probably should have gotten to. But K.C. starter Jeremy Affeldt, once a highly-touted prospect but now about eighth on the team's rotation depth chart (with Mark Redman rehabbing from arthroscopic knee surgery, Zack Greinke sidelined by psychological issues and Runelvys Hernandez sent down to Omaha for being an overweight tub of mediocre goo), gave it right back. Affeldt began the first by walking Damon and Derek Jeter. Gary Sheffield nearly killed third base coach Larry Bowa with a screaming foul ball (a persistent fantasy of mine that shall last the entirety of Bowa's tenure), then one pitch later launched a three-run homer into the leftfield net to tie the game before the Yanks had even made an out.

Chacon settled down and retired eight batters in a row while the Yanks opened up a 6-3 lead thanks to some ugly pitching from his opposite number. Affeldt finally left the game with two outs in the fourth, having used 88 pitches to yield seven hits, four walks and ultimately six runs, the last of which scored on a wild pitch from reliever Jimmy Gobble. Ugly. "That's not very good," KC manager Buddy Bell, who is probably tempted to hang himself twice a week, later said. "It's hard to elaborate on that, other than to say it's hard to win doing that for a lot of different reasons."

Chacon was no prize pig either. He let the Royals back into the game in the fifth on the strength of a Mark Grudzielanek double and a hit from stinky Minky. The outfield defense looked particularly brutal on the former. With Sheffield DHing, Joe Torre stuck Bernie Williams out in rightfield for his first start there since August 6, 1992. The Grudz shot, a gapper between Damon and Williams, showed that while neither has much range, the throwing arm of the new boss is no better than that of the old one. The two of them could have kicked the ball back to the infield with more efficiency.

Still, the Yanks kept digging into the creamy nougat of KC's middle relief. Jason Giambi drove in a run with a double and took third on the throw, the closest he's come to a triple since 2002, his first year in pinstripes. "Wheels" Giambi was then nailed at the plate tagging up on a short fly ball. Let's hope Sheffield's aim at Bowa improves.

The Royals pretty much gave up the ghost in the seventh. With Steve Stemle on in relief of an ineffective Luke Hudson (the Chris Gwynn to Tim Hudson's Tony) and runners on first and third with one out, K.C. shortstop Angel Berroa bobbled a potential double play grounder. Then Giambi looped one to right centerfield gap, where Shane Costa short-hopped a ball and in trying to sell the call, dropped it completely. This was generously scored an RBI double.

At that point, the game was already three hours old and the sky overcast. My friend Nick and I, fearing onset of the gout after eating three hot dogs apiece and sharing three bags of sunflower seeds, and cowering at the specter of Jaret Wright or Scott "The Proctologist" Proctor closing out the ballgame (Kyle Farnsworth and Ron Villone actually did the deed, but the point stands), fled Yankee Stadium for a day when a legitimate baseball team might return to challenge the Yanks. Still, a fun first game of the year.

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