Friday, September 25, 2009

Around the division

The Kansas City Royals are playing pretty well this month. They're moved out of the cellar, they took five of six from the Tigers earlier in September and they have a 13-9 record for the month that actually understates how well they're playing now (four of the losses came in the first five games of the month, so they've won 12 of 17).

And naturally, the Twins have six games to go with this resurgent bunch.

We've seen this before. The Royals seem to relish the spoiler role. Remember 2006? K.C. swept the Tigers in the season-closing series to keep them from winning the division title. Remember last year? The Twins lost two of three to the Royals in the final series of the season and were forced into that 163rd game.

Today's starter for Kansas City, Robinson Tejada (above), is no small part of their surge. They stuck him in the rotation this month, and in four starts he's 3-0 with an 0.81 ERA and striking out more than a batter an inning.

Is Tejada for real? Probably not. He's been kicking around for a while with minimal return. Maybe he's figured something out. But then, some people thought the same thing last September about Kyle Davies. He turned last year's brilliant September (4-1, 2.27) into 8-9, 5.27 this year.

What matters right now isn't whether Tejada can be an effective rotation piece for the Royals in 2010, but whether he can stifle the Twins tonight.

* Detroit LOOGY — that's Left-handed One-Out GuY — Bobby Seay is a hurting unit and is to have an MRI on his throwing shoulder.

The Detroit Free Press calls Seay the Tigers' top lefty reliever, and certainly Jim Leyland turns to him frequently in game situations. Man has six wins and 28 holds. Still, Fu-Te Ni appears to have pitched better than Seay this season and may be a more-than-adequate replacement.

* The Cleveland Indians are done playing the two contenders, which is probably a good thing considering how poorly they are playing. The Tribe has now lost 11 in a row; the franchise record is 12, and this is a franchise that had what seems in retrospect to be a 40-year losing streak.

General consensus is that Eric Wedge is finished as Cleveland manager after the season.

* Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen, in a postgame rant I quoted here last week, declared of his players, "If they quit on me, I quit on them." General manager Kenny Williams seemed to echo that line of thought Wednesday:

"I know who’s quit and who hasn’t, who’s willing to sacrifice. Listen, it’s hard to win. Winning and success, whether it be baseball or any other facet of life, if you are not willing to sacrifice, you’re not willing to put in the work, you’re not going to be successful. You’re just not.

"We’ve got some guys here who know all about sacrifice. Some have to be taught. And I hope the guys that know about it are teaching some of the other guys. If not, that’s where your coaching staff has to step up. But you’re not getting anywhere in life, period, if you don’t understand that the work has to be put in."

Neither Williams nor Guillen are naming names.

An underlying point here: There are some people who look at Guillen's diatribes and figure this is a manager who's turning off his players and losing his clubhouse and thus destined to be fired. Other than in the sense that all managers are destined to be fired, I don't see it. It sure sounds like Guillen and Williams are in agreement on the major point here.

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