SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 28: Melky Cabrera hits a single against the Cincinnati Reds during the fourth inning at AT&T Park on June 28, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Starting today and every week in this space, staff writer Chip Rouse will take a look back, with a Kansas City lens, at the week in sports and call your attention to interesting or unusual stories you might have missed or overlooked.
You can put this item in the "Who Knew?" file: Following the 2011 season, the Royals traded center fielder Melky Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants for starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. So far, that trade hasn't worked out so well for the Royals - but was else is new, right?
In his one year with Kansas City (acquired from Atlanta in the 2010 offseason), Cabrera batted a team-high .305, with 18 home runs and 87 RBI. Presumably, the Royals unloaded Cabrera to pick up some starting pitching help and to make room for Lorenzo Cain as the center fielder of the future.
Sanchez had a combined won-lost record of 38-46 in six seasons with San Francisco before being dealt to the Royals. He is 1-3 with KC in 2012 in nine starts with an ERA of 6.21, the highest of his major-league career.
Meanwhile, Cabrera's hot bat has continued with the Giants. Recently, he reached 100 hits for the season, in his 271st at bat of the 2012 season, the fewest any Giant player has needed to reach 100 hits for the season since Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays got there in the same number of plate appearances in 1960. This year, Cabrera is hitting a sizzling .351 with an on-base percentage of .388, both career highs.
Given that Cain has played in only five games for the Royals because of injury, and Jarrod Dyson, Cain's primary replacement, is hitting only .248 for the season, do you think KC management might be having any second thoughts about unloading Cabrera so hastily? Probably not, but it makes for an interesting debate, anyway.
No. 1 Royals' Pick Bubba Starling Gets His First Complete Game
Bubba Starling was the top draft pick of the Kansas City Royals, and the No. 5 overall selection, in the 2011 MLB Draft. Starling agreed to terms with the Royals last August with a signing bonus of $75 million. In so doing, the multisport star at Gardner-Edgerton High School in Johnson County, Kan., gave up a full scholarship and the chance to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska.
That was almost a year ago, and before Thursday night, the xx-year-old homegrown product had not played one full inning of organized baseball as a professional. Starling was assigned to the Royals' Arizona Fall Instruction League after signing with Kansas City. He suffered a leg injury shortly after arriving at the Royals' training facility in Surprise, Ariz., and he has been rehabbing and working through other minor ailments ever since.
On Thursday night, however, Starling was in the starting lineup for the Royals minor league affiliate, the Burlington Royals, in the Appalachian Rookie League. He played center field in the Royals' farm team's 14-2 rout of the Johnson City Cardinals, but his pro debut was somewhat inauspicious at the plate, where the Kansas City-native went 0 for 5, including three strikeouts.
Starling is expected to be the regular center fielder for Burlington this summer. He batted third in the lineup on Thursday. "I've waited to play pro ball, and it's finally here," Starling told reporters after the game Thursday. He said the best part is finally being able to play in front of fans.
American League Dominates Interleague Play, Again
Last weekend marked the end of interleague play in Major League Baseball for the 2012 season, and for the ninth consecutive year, American League teams posted a sizeable winning edge over their Senior Circuit counterparts. The schedule this season included 252 interleague games. The AL prevailed in 142 of them and the NL in 110.
The 142 wins by the American League was the third most wins by either league in the 14 seasons since interleague play was implemented. The American League went 154-98 in 2006, and posted 149 wins in 2008.
The Royals played an NL Central interleague schedule this season, with games against Arizona, St. Louis (two three-game series), Houston and Pittsburgh. Kansas City won three of the series, but were swept in three games against Pittsburgh and St. Louis, finishing with an 8-10 overall record over the 18 games.
The American League has had the better winning percentage every year since 2004 and owns a 2,081-1,883 advantage in the overall series, dating back to 1997.
No one seems to have a real good explanation for why the American League has been so dominant in interleague play. Don Mattingly, a former American Leaguer who now manages the National League Los Angeles Dodgers seems to think the AL DH rule has a lot to do with it. The AL teams have assigned designated hitters who, for the most part, specialize it that role, he says. In the National League, the DH is a player who normally plays off the bench and, thus, may not be ideally suited for the designated-hitter role.
Interleague play will run throughout the season in 2013 when the Houston Astros become part of the American League.
No Three-Peat For South Carolina In College World Series
A year ago, two Big 12 teams, Texas and Texas A&M, made it all the way to Omaha and the College World Series. No one from the Big 12 survived the NCAA Tournament regional rounds this season, although Big 12 regular-season champion Baylor came very close, losing out to Arkansas in the Waco Super Regional final.
The two teams that met in the championship series of the just-concluded 2012 College World Series had to get by Missouri and Oklahoma to eventually make it to this year's CWS. Two-time defending champion South Carolina defeated Oklahoma 2-0 in the best of three Super Regional on South Carolina's home field, but the Gamecocks weren't able to get by the University of Arizona in the CWS, although they were playing in their third consecutive championship final. Arizona eliminated Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Championship.