For a time, Zack Greinke was must watch television for the Royals. Even when the team was stuck in the depths of the American League Central, Greinke was still a true ace, even winning the Cy Young award during the 2009 season when the Royals won 65 games. While there may not have been a lot to cheer about in those years, Greinke gave Royals fans something to look forward to every fifth day before being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers as part of a package that included Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain.
Now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Greinke is making his first appearance back at Kauffman Stadium since 2012. That year, he appeared against the Royals as both a member of the Brewers and with the Los Angeles Angels, facing the Royals in Kansas City. Despite not picking up a win in either appearance, Greinke was dominant in both outings, allowing two runs on eleven hits and two walks in 15.1 innings of work.
Tonight, as Zack Greinke toes the rubber, it is a time to remember the good times. It is a time to remember when Kauffman Stadium would be mostly filled in 2009, as Royals fans got to see greatness. It is a time to remember when he accepted his Cy Young award, becoming the first Royals player to win the award since David Cone in 1994. It is time to remember when he broke Mark Gubicza‘s team record for strikeouts in a game. It is a time to remember the Royals first true ace since Kevin Appier was in his prime.
It is also a time to reflect on the fruits of the Greinke trade. Escobar has gone from being strictly a defensive shortstop this season to producing what may be the best season of his career. His .288/.326/.394 batting line is good enough for a 98 OPS+, the highest mark he has produced. Escobar has lready tied his total from last year with 20 doubles, and has been excellent on the basepaths, stealing 18 of 19 bases for the Royals.
Cain, meanwhile, has been the Royals best hitter aside from Alex Gordon. Another player who is primarily known for his defensive acumen, Cain has produced a .315/.354/.420 batting line this season. That is not to say that his defense has taken a back seat to his offense; on the contrary, Cain has seemingly made an excellent defensive play every night. Every time it seems that he cannot top his previous miraculous catch, Cain does just that the next night. It seems like a matter of time before Cain gets a Gold Glove award.
While it is easy to react negatively to players that are returning to their old stomping grounds, especially after a trade that the player asked for, Zack Greinke’s request to be traded brought over two important parts of the Royals lineup. Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain have brought over the type of defense and speed that the Royals crave on their team, and have been amongst the best hitters that the Royals have had this season.
Instead of focusing on the situation surrounding Zack Greinke’s departure, and the fact that he no longer pitches for the Royals, let us focus on his performance when he was in Kansas City. Let us remember his greatness. And then, once the first pitch is thrown, let’s hope the Royals hammer Greinke and snap this losing streak.