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Know Your Enemy: Kansas City Royals

Not actual royals, though they’re awful, too.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex Visit The Caribbean - Day One Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

With how the White Sox have been playing the last seven games, you’d think the actual enemy today was the White Sox. Nope, it’s the Royals. Maybe a homestand will give a needed injection of life into this team.

2021 Kansas City Royals: 74-88, 4th in the AL Central

The 2021 Royals were about as good as the 2020 Royals. They continue to be the armpit of the AL Central, but at least 2021 wasn’t a year they landed in last place (an honor reserved for the Twins). There was nothing good for the Royals outside of Salvador Perez being invited to the Home Run Derby and ending the season battling it out for league leader in home runs with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani. Nicky Lopez also made his mark on the team, ending the season slashing .300/.365/.378 in 565 plate appearances and solidifying his role as shortstop for many years to come (suffering through years of the Royals in a way that Whit Merrifield has done). Andrew Benintendi was punished by being shipped off from Boston to the left field of Kauffman Stadium.

Most memorably, the Royals were leading the division at the beginning of May — and not much longer, after that as they went on epic losing streaks of 10+ games in both May and June. Injuries plagued the team, with Adalberto Mondesi spending most of the season on the IL due to being made mostly of peanut brittle and bubble wrap.

2022 Kansas City Royals: Bobby Witt Jr. has arrived

The Royals are hyped about Bobby Witt Jr., picked second overall in 2019, straight out of high school. He hit .290/.361/.576 during his time in the minors, with 33 home runs and 29 steals in 124 games. He was Baseball America’s 2021 Minor League Player of the Year. Witt Jr. is a natural shortstop but has been playing third base for the Royals, with 10 putouts, 32 assists, three double plays, and one error in 14 games. At the plate, he’s had 54 at-bats resulting in 10 hits, four RBIs, two walks, and 16 strikeouts. While a popular Rookie of the Year pick, it’s still too early in the season to hand out any hardware.

The additions of Taylor Clarke, Amir Garrett, and Zack Greinke are slated to bolster a pitching staff that was led by a hater of fun, Brad Keller, and fill a hole left by Mike Minor leaving for greener pastures (Cincinnati?).

The Royals are still led by baseball supervillain Mike Matheny, who to his credit is terrorizing the Royals much less than he did the Cardinals as manager. It’s pretty surprising that someone who won four Gold Gloves as a player would be the worst villain in the MLB Extended Universe (narrator: It is not all that surprising). His resume boasts winning seasons with the Cardinals and a World Series.

So why isn’t he successful in Kansas City? Well for starters, he took over for Tony La Russa, who had one of the best runs in baseball history managing the Cardinals. It’s pretty easy to carry that torch on when your team is still made up of most of those players. Being a gigantic a-hole in 2018 is what got him canned in STL and crawling to KC, where he’s been toiling in the basement of the AL Central with subpar talent ever since.

Pitching Matchups: Friend of the White Sox Brad Keller, Zach Greinke, and some guy

Tuesday will see Daniel Lynch vs. Dallas Keuchel. We all know how Keuchel has been doing lately. Benintendi sees Keuchel really well, hitting .500 in the eight times he’s faced the lefty, so looking forward to that journey for us. Lucky for us, José Abreu and Tim Anderson have hit Lynch really well, posting .750 and .400 averages respectively in four and five at-bats. Let’s just pray that the error-plagued White Sox have fixed whatever issue has resulted in the entire infield having the yips.

Wednesday is Zack Greinke vs. Dylan Cease. Greinke is 0-1 this season with a 2.25 ERA and two strikeouts, while Cease is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA and 19 strikeouts. This could be an interesting matchup, or it could be a disaster where Cease gets too far into his head. The Royals have faced Cease pretty often in his career, with mixed results.

Thursday is Brad Keller vs. Michael Kopech for the close. Keller is 0-2 this season with 14 strikeouts, while Kopech is posting a 0.64 ERA with 15 strikeouts. I’d like to assume that we are going to see Keller get lit up.

Bird App Hate: Royals edition