Danny Parkins: The 9th Remains to Soria
There’s only one number that backs up my belief that Joakim Soria should remain the closer for the Kansas City Royals. And it’s not his 3 blown saves, which equals his total in each of the last 3 seasons. It’s not his paltry 13:10 strikeout to walk ratio or his 19 hits in 19 1/3 innings either.
The number is 8.5. As in, the Royals are 8.5 games out of first place.
If they were serious contenders for the playoffs this year, I think I’d be ready to side with the masses and hand the ball in the 9th inning to Aaron Crow. But because Kansas City might not even be a serious contender to finish .500, Soria has earned a longer rope than most. In fact, he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt more than anyone on the team.
He’s a 2 – time All – Star who debatably has been the 2nd best closer in baseball the past few years behind Mariano Rivera. He’s been the lone bright spot on a team that has existed largely in the dark. And he’s been the consummate professional throughout all the losing. So forgive me for thinking Joakim Soria deserves some slack.
It’s not because I don’t think there is a problem. There clearly is. While I don’t think it’s an injury, Soria’s normal pinpoint control has been largely nonexistent this year. For every 1 -2 -3 outing he’s had like Friday night’s against the Cardinals, there’s seemingly been an adventurous one like Sunday’s Cardinals game, or a disastrous one, like last night’s blown save at Baltimore. If his consistent inconsistencies continue, then a change will have to be made.
But the Royals have demonstrated time and again that they’re going to be patient with this year’s team. Because as much as we’d all like it to be, this season isn’t solely about winning in 2011. It’s about figuring out who can contribute when they’re ready to win in 2012 and beyond. Joakim Soria has proven in the past that he’s that type of player. He deserves a little more time to prove it again.