No products in the cart.
It could very well be the case that the AL Central is decided by the Kansas City Royals. Or, more specifically, how hard the White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers beat them.
The Royals dealt ace Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Milwaukee Brewers for a four-pack of prospects/young players — shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, and pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi.
Nobody’s declaring a winner or loser, but the general feeling is that the return is underwhelming, because the Royals opted for fit instead of impact. Escobar and Cain fill holes, and maybe more importantly, neither of them block the three-headed ProspectMonster that is Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Wil Myers, but their offensive ceilings are lacking. Jeffress looks like a bullpen upgrade in time, but Odorizzi might be their only shot at an impact player.
But with Greinke out of the way, Luke Hochevar — he of the 19-32 career record and 5.60 ERA — will lead the rotation. The Royals may only be down for this year, but it looks like they’re going to be down down. Whether the Sox can take advantage of that could go a long way.
Here’s how the White Sox have feasted on the Central’s worst in recent years it might have mattered (Minnesota’s record):
- 2010: 10-8 vs. KC (13-5)
- 2009: 19-17 vs. KC/CLE (22-14)
- 2008: 12-6 vs. DET (11-7)
- 2006: 11-8 vs. KC (12-7)
- 2005: 13-5 vs. KC (13-6*)
- 2004: 13-6 vs. KC (12-7)
- 2003: 11-8 vs. DET (15-4)
- 2002: 12-7 vs. DET (14-4)
*denoted Cleveland’s record
While the division has never been decided by a difference in performance against the bottom-feeder, I don’t think it’d be absurd to say it has an emotional effect. At the very least, it changes the narrative. The Sox’s unimpressive play against the Royals results in stalled momentum with Hawk Harrelson saying, “They always play us tough.”
The Sox have no reason to let the Royals play tough this year. Besides Greinke, Kansas City got rid of David DeJesus and replaced him with no-OBPers Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera. Hell, the Sox might even benefit from a lack of Betancourt, because he dealt the Sox a couple of nut-punches last year. I don’t understand it either, but it happened.
MLB teams are MLB competition, so I’m not saying the Sox should go 17-1. But 13 doesn’t seem unreasonable, and it might even be necessary. On paper, it reminds me a little bit of 2003, when the 119-loss Tigers rolled over for everybody but the Sox. At the end of the year, the Sox lost the division by four games. Three of those games could and should have been made up against Detroit.
Christian Marrero Reading Room:
*Phil Rogers likes the trade for KC, for what it’s worth.
*Over at The Platoon Advantage, relatively impartial Twins fan Bill asks three questions about the Sox.
*Mark Buehrle’s flip won MLB.com’s Gibby Award for best defensive play.
*Beyond the Box Score has a neat interactive graphic displaying which teams have traded with each other over the last five years.
*What everybody wants for Christmas — Ozzie Guillen’s nipple.