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AL Central: Meche's Revenge
Gil Meche is underpaid.
In one start -– excuse me, one masterpiece -– the 55 Million Dollar Man quickly quieted skeptics who thought him vastly overcompensated. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, as he still might be, but Meche almost effortlessly shut down the vaunted Red Sox lineup, yielding just one run in 7 1/3 innings and striking out six.
Perhaps more importantly, he left to a standing ovation from the 41,257 fans at Kauffman Stadium. Officially, that's 101.2 percent of capacity. Shy of anything commemorating the 1985 World Series, what other recent reason have Royals fans had to get excited? Plus, Boston fans are known for traveling well -– they averaged the second-most fans per road game in 2006 -– but the Kauffman crowd seemed overwhelmingly full of the local faithful, creating a rare homefield advantage.
It's one thing to pin the hopes of a downtrodden franchise on a core of prospects as promising as Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Luke Hochevar, but it's another thing to do it while losing 100 or more games for three straight years (and counting). Attendance has declined in K.C. each of those years, and that's not a coincidence.
That's why new Royals general manager Dayton Moore was wise to up his team's payroll to $60 million this offseason; though paltry compared to Opening Day victim Boston, it is a club record and that is a sign of progress. Meche, who at the time of his signing had only one career win for each of $1 million he was to receive from the Royals (perhaps that's why he wears jersey No. 55), is unproven as an ace but has room to grow at 28. And, though the intense focus on his contract might have suggested otherwise, he was not the Royals' only acquisition -- they also added closer Octavio Dotel, setup man David Riske, catcher Jason LaRue, outfielder Ross Gload and shortstop Tony Pena Jr.
None of those players are true difference-makers -– and Dotel already might be DL-bound with an oblique injury -– but it's a cast of role players who will keep the team competitive in a challenging division, especially when supported by Gordon, baseball's top prospect, and first baseman Ryan Shealy, who could thrive in a full-time role. It won't be long before Butler, the 20-year-old hitting phenom, is summoned from Omaha despite his defensive deficiencies; he won a batting title in Double-A Wichita last year and hit .419 in his 31 at-bats in big-league camp this spring.
Around the AL Central yesterday, Johan Santana struggled in a Twins win; the Tigers raised their AL pennant but lost; and the Indians pounded Jose Contreras and the White Sox; but it was the Royals who were the talk of the division.
Kansas City improved its roster from top to bottom, which admittedly wasn't hard for a club with a majors-worst -214 run differential last season. Meche gained headlines for signing a seemingly ludicrous contact this winter, but at least it provided some notoriety for an attention-starved team. That's a step in the right direction toward relevancy.
And that's why Meche is the current leader for the title of offseason's biggest bargain.
Labels: AL Central
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Now now, Joe, let's not forget the glorious .512 season of 2003 where the Royals seemed to be surging toward the playoffs, sandwiched between 100-loss seasons. When you are losing 100+ games regularly, even sniffing the playoffs from long distance is a heart-stopper.
That is the way that Santana normally starts the season. April is always somewhat of a struggle for Santana. We know that Santana will again dominate. Also, I think, it’s safe to say that Meche will post an ERA above the league average and pitch under 200 innings, as usual.
The Royals just made some fans in NYC. I smell a sweeeeep.
It may not get worse for Contreras, but if he can't find a way to regain those few MPH on his fastball, and continues to miss the strike zone with every splitter he throws, its not going to get better anytime soon
Everyone seems to be down on the Royals but they will compete this year. They will be above .500 and, while not winning the division (this year) will be respectable.
Meche won't win a Cy Young award this year but last year Royals pitching was atrocious and given their propensity for losing he wasn't going to come to Kansas City for the same money as elsewhere. Give the Royals some credit for doing what they needed to do.
To quote Buddy Bell 'quit whining' and sit back and enjoy the season.
Compared to what everyone else writes about KC, this is a GLOWING assessment of our team.
What the rest of the baseball world doesn't seem to realize is that (for now) all we want in KC is to be "in the hunt" after the All Star break. We don't ask for much. Just a reason to keep checking standings every week.
Weak post LARKIN...lets not get carried away here. It was one game mind you, and No. 38 is 42 years old (it takes some time to get tuned up)
Dayton Moore is a genius. Everyone has been critizing the Meche move, however, I think it will work out because I trust Moore. However, one game does not make a season, although, the game gave Royals fans some hope. Johan will dominate and Meche is nowhere near Johan's skill, however Meche is going to be a top 10 pitcher in the A.L. Central and last year the Royal's best starting pitcher had to rank behind 7 Twins, 6 Tigers, 6 White Sox and 4 Indians. That improvement is enough to justify the contract.
Joe, I think this KC win makes it 6 in a row vs Manny's "Dread" Sox. The Braves hated to part with Pena and LaRue is a terrific backup catcher.
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