It’s the best of times and the worst of times for sports fans in Kansas City.
The best of times being the Chiefs, in Week 16, still playing meaningful football games.
The worst of times is the Royals’ former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke getting traded to Milwaukee for a passel of prospects.
Getting into the spirit of Christmas, let’s start with the good times.
In recent years, the Chiefs normally at this point in the season would be wondering just how high up they were going to draft. Given their recent wretched play, that draft pick has been high, with the last two years yielding Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, who have had lukewarm success in their careers so far, though Dorsey has made strides this year while Jackson is mounting a resume to be labeled a bust.
But here the Chiefs are, assured of a winning season no matter what happens the last two weeks. They are 9-5, a game up on San Diego in the race for AFC West supremacy.
And the Chiefs control their own destiny. They play their final two games at home, where they are 6-0, one of only three NFL teams to be perfect before the home faithful.
They host Tennessee first, then Oakland. Tennessee is dangerous, because it has one of the NFL’s top backs in Chris Johnson and a physical defense. It has underachieved this year, but played perhaps its best game of the season Sunday in demolishing Houston. Oakland has only a thread of a chance of making the playoffs and has to have a lot happen in front of it. And you can bet if the Raiders are eliminated this week, they’d like nothing better than to wreck the Chiefs’ season.
The Chiefs took care of business Sunday with a 27-13 win over St. Louis, their third road win of the year. After some early leakage, the defense played relatively well. The offense was sporadic, but ran the ball well in the second half. Matt Cassel was surprisingly effective, considering he was coming off an appendectomy.
Arrowhead should be a sea of red the final two weeks, though we’ve been surprised at the number of empty seats the last two games. Maybe Kansas City fans think this is a mirage and they’re having a hard time believing what they’re seeing.
Now for the worst of times. The beleaguered Royals had been rumored for weeks in regards to trading Greinke, who’d made it clear he wasn’t into the team’s youth movement, which this year could produce a 100-loss season.
What perhaps has angered Royals fans most is that there’s not a “name” player in the package. Alcides Escobar was Milwaukee’s starting shortstop last year and is expected to be an upgrade over the departed Yuniesky Betancourt (who was included in the Greinke deal). The other three players include outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who’s expected to make the club, and pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi, who could be in the starting rotation in 2012 or 2013.
We look at the trade this way. The Royals would have been lucky to win 70 games this year anyway with Greinke, who won 60 games in his seven years, which doesn’t even average 10 a year. In reality, he’s only had two good years and his focus has been questioned. So why not deal him now, while his value will never be higher? Sure, we’d like to have seen an established player coming to Kansas City, but Milwaukee drafted these players with their top picks for a reason, and their minor league numbers have been impressive.
Kansas City has stockpiled a lot of young talent and it’s hoping for a payday like Tampa Bay, when all its top prospects finally came together. The Royals, by all accounts, have one of the three best farms systems in all of baseball. Surely not all these players can flop, and that some of them will be a big hit.
For 2011, though, Royals fans can almost expect a throwaway season. But beginning in 2012 and beyond, it may be a return to the late 1970s and early 1980s.