Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The playoff bandwagon: Now boarding all rows

Perhaps it was the trade of catcher/World Baseball Classic bench-warmer Maxim St. Pierre for Milwaukee's Ben Hendrickson -- a ground-ball pitcher and one-time top prospect who's had a taste of the big leagues but will start this season in AAA Omaha -- that ignited this burst of spring optimism out of Gil Meche, Emil Brown, Ryan Shealy and the rest... but study what they have to say and you just may find logic upholding their hopefulness.

Meche: "I think we will be [a surprise]. From what I've seen in Spring Training, we've got a good offense. We've got some experience in the bullpen that I don't think they've had here for a while. That is going to help tremendously, late in the ballgames."

This is incredibly accurate. As writer Alan Eskew points out in the next paragraph, the Royals blew 31 saves last year (31!), worst in the Majors. Allow Brown to elaborate on how having a reliable closer like Octavio Dotel will change the team's mindset:

Brown: "If you get a nine-run lead or a four-run lead in the ninth, you've got to be able to win the game. I don't care how you do it. You've got the run support to get you over the top. Those games, we've got to find a way to finish."

Kid's got a point. And about starters Meche and Zach Greinke, allow catcher Jason LaRue to offer his insight:

LaRue: "You are looking at two guys in this rotation, on any given day when they're on, hitters don't have much chance. They're un-hittable."

So, to review: dominant pitching at the top, able relievers at the end and a "good offense" to buttress it all. No wonder Shealy came to this conclusion:

Sully: "I think we're definitely going to be the surprise team. At least that's the way we are approaching it. I don't feel like it is going to be a surprise to us. I think everyone in this clubhouse expects to win. I hope teams overlook us the whole season."

The fourth paragraph in that story, by the way, reads: "There will likely be a surprise team or two in the 2007 playoffs, and the Royals believe they could be it."

Whoa. Even I hadn't gone that far. But if there's a playoff bandwagon, consider me aboard. You nonbelievers out there scoff all you want, but just remember this: when the Royals do make the playoffs, I'm going to find you, wherever you are, and slam a big fat pie in your face.

POSTSCRIPT: If you're not a regular Deadspin reader, you probably don't have an office job -- or are an 80-year-old man reading this blog over your grandson's shoulder -- but here's a Deadspin post that I link to here because its comedic value is simply incalculable. Read the comments, too.

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