Kansas City Royals: Five Reasons They're Better off Without Zack Greinke
It was no secret that Zack Greinke wanted out of Kansas City. Speculation arose of where he'd be traded to, if traded at all.
Would it be the New York Yankees?
Would it be the Philadelphia Phillies?
Or would he just be forced to stay put in Kansas City?
In the end he ended up in Milwaukee and is now a Brewer.
The Kansas City Royals went 67-95 last season. Greinke went 10-14 and at 4.17, he had his third highest ERA in his seven years in the big leagues.
Greinke was outstanding 2008 and 2009 season, winning the AL Cy Young in 2009.
Of course, you can't judge Greinke by his Win/Loss statistics. Getting run support from the Kansas City Royals is not something that comes often for any pitcher.
We've seen flashes of greatness from some of the Royals this spring training.
It is clear to see that the Royals and Manager Ned Yost have already moved on from Greinke and are focusing on an aggressive style of play and a team mentality.
Without Greinke, the Royals don't have one of those players that stands out from the rest.
They don't really have a face for their organization anymore.
One could argue that any veteran presence on the team will ultimately become the face of the franchise, such as Jeff Franceour.
The Royals may not have their face anymore with the departure of Greinke, but in the long run, the Royals will be better off.
Competitive Pitching Staff
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With the absence of Greinke, the rest of the Kansas City Royals starting staff can feel free to duel it out for a No. 1 spot. If Greinke were still on the team, he would obviously be that No. 1 guy. But since he is not, it is up for grabs.
These younger pitchers like Luke Hochevar and Vin Mazzaro can now learn from and feed off of each other. They will make each other better. We have already seen that this spring training, and hopefully we will continue to see it during the regular season.
Greinke was always that shy guy who didn't interact much with anyone. He did his business on the mound and that was enough for him.
A Weight off Their Sholders
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When a frustrated Zack Greinke is on the mound, you better start getting some run support for him. But if your a young Kansas City Royals team, this adds an extraordinary amount of added pressure on you to get those runs. It's one thing to go out and try to win as a young team, it's a whole other thing when your ace relentlessly and selfishly demands it of you.
However, with the departure of Greinke, this young Royals teams behind the veteran presences of Jeff Franceour and possibly Melky Cabrera (unless he loses his spot to Lorenzo Cain) can feel free to play aggressively, make mistakes, and learn. In the long run, this will pay off. With Greinke on the mound, there was no room for making mistakes.
The Greinke weight has been lifted, and even though its only spring training, this Royals team is playing aggressive, persistent, and finally, consistent baseball.
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Ned Yost took over managing duties for the Royals 35 games into the regular season last year. Under him, the Royals went 55-72 and finished 5th in the AL Central. But not to worry, that was just his bullpen session.
2011 will mark Yost's first full season as the Kansas City Royals manager. And, as said before, he is letting his team run wild during this spring training. But more importantly, he has a fresh team to do it with.
Even if he tried to, Greinke had trouble hiding that he was unmotivated. I can't blame him, and can almost sympathize with his outlook that it's just hard to get excited when you know you're going to lose. Regardless, Greinke needed to come out firing every start, which he didn't. In fact, at 10-14, it was his first losing season since 2005 (yes, I know about 2006 and his move to the bullpen in 2007. But, hey, those were still winning seasons for Greinke).
As a Cy Young winner, Greinke was definitely a driving force on the Royals. Now that Greinke is gone, Ned Yost can have free reign over his team. This means he can get them motivated. The Royals will be motivated to win in the AL Central, and motivated to win without Zack Greinke, who always brought down the mood in the clubhouse.
Nothing to Lose
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Last season the Royals finished 5th place in the AL Central. This year they can't do much worse than that. While some are predicting the Royals will lose 100 games because Greinke is no longer with the team, I think the Royals will improve, if only slightly.
The Royals' winning troubles didn't necessarily come off of Greinke's arm, even after posting a 4.17 ERA last season. The problem was with the bats. But now with Greinke no longer leading the way on the mound or the team in general, the Royals can play with a Ned Yost attitude: go out there and just play.
I've been stressing their aggressive style of play this spring training, and it has been paying off. But will the Royals just tire themselves out during spring training? Hopefully not.
You can't finish worse than 5th place in the AL Central. The Royals are playing hard with nothing to lose. And so far, that has been a winning combination.
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The biggest reason the Royals may be better off without Zack Greinke is Greinke himself.
Set aside that will miss the beginning of the season due to a cracked rib. There's no question that Greinke vastly improved the Royals' pitching staff -- when he was motivated. But at the same time he added an unnecessary cloud over the Royals. When things weren't going his way, whether with his arm or in the field, he let his negative emotions show as though he were blaming everyone else but himself for any struggles on the field. This is a pitching no-no. Regardless of how your team is playing in the field, you must keep your composure on the mound, and Greinke wasn't very good at doing so.
Greinke had motivation troubles at the end of his career in Kansas City. If you were to say he pitched his heart out every time on the mound, you'd be wrong. While his Cy Young performance in 2009 was beyond impressive, Greinke himself said that he lost some motivation, felt burned out, and was having problems with his social anxiety disorder in 2010.
After his great rookie year, he fell off the following season because he felt too confident. He did the same in 2010 coming off a Cy Young award winning season in 2009.
Yes, I can see how it might be hard to get motivated to pitch for the Royals, especially when at the halfway point in the season there is no chance of making the playoffs. But when your No. 1 pitcher can't get motivated to play, it brings down the rest of the team. And with so many young players this year, that would not have been a good thing.
Greinke is also the kind of guy that doesn't like to get much attention. That's hard to avoid when you're the No. 1 pitcher, regardless of where you play.
"I really don't like having a bunch of attention, so even if I did see myself in that light, I don't do anything about it," he said. "I'm real uncomfortable doing stuff like that, to be around people and doing stuff like that," he said in an interview with the Associated Press after winning the 2009 AL Cy Young award.
Kansas City isn't a big market team, and the Royals fans aren't known for demanding too much of their team.
Being with the Milwaukee Brewers is a different situation. Milwaukee is a slightly bigger baseball market. The past two years the Brewers have finished in 3rd place in the NL Central. The purpose of bringing in Greinke was to improve their chances to compete with St. Louis and Cincinnati. They want to get back to the postseason as they did in 2008 behind C.C. Sabbathia, and are hoping that adding Zack Greinke to the rotation will help accomplish that.
Had Greinke not cracked his rib and started the season healthy, he'd still have to compete with Yovani Gallardo for the No. 1 spot. This is not something he's used to. He's used to being the ace and being handed that No. 1 spot in the rotation. And when Greinke gets overly confident, he loses motivation to pitch well. Maybe being in Milwaukee will change this for him, but what's going to happen late in the season if it's apparent the Brewers won't make the postseason? Will he give up? Will he get burnt out? How will he start off in 2012?
The Brewers will have a tough task ahead of them competing with the Cardinals and Reds.
But what if the Brewers have a fighting chance to make the postseason? How will Greinke handle that? Milwaukee might not have the most intense fans in baseball, but if they have a chance to make the playoffs, you can be assured that the Brewers fans will be a lot more demanding of Greinke than Royals fans were. Greinke is not used to demanding fans.
I'm a fan of Zack Greinke and I wish him well in Milwaukee and hope he gets back to Cy Young form. But Greinke is unpredictable.
The Royals will no longer have to worry about that. This opens new opportunities for the Royals and their starting pitching staff. The Greinke cloud is gone from Kansas City.