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Greinke's Cy Young hopes fade

From 1990 through 1997, 43 pitchers threw at least 1,200 innings in the majors. Nearly all of them were good, for the simple reason that pitchers who aren't good generally aren't allowed to throw 1,200 innings over the course of eight seasons.
Of those 43 pitchers, seven posted ERA+'s -- though I'm sure they didn't know it, then -- higher than 125 (essentially, that means their ERA's were 25 percent better than league average after adjusting for context).

Of those seven, five will someday be elected to the Hall of Fame: Greg Maddux (165 ERA+), Roger Clemens (157), Randy Johnson (135), Mike Mussina (130) and Tom Glavine (128).

The other two were Kansas City Royals.

David Cone ranks fourth on the 1990-1997 ERA+ list, at 136. Cone spent only two of those seasons with the Royals, 1993 and '94. In '93, he went just 11-14 despite starting 34 games and posting the 10th-best ERA in the American League. In '94, he went 16-5 and won the Cy Young Award. Then the Royals shipped him to Toronto in one of the decade's most idiotic trades.

Kevin Appier's 140 ERA+ from 1990 through '97 ranks third best in those years, behind only Maddux and Clemens. He ranked eighth in innings, seventh in strikeouts ... and 13th in wins.

I'm absolutely sure that every one of you has heard of David Cone. I'm nearly as sure that some of you have never heard of, or have perhaps forgotten, Kevin Appier. Because Appier had the great misfortune to spend the bulk of his career pitching for the Royals.

I thought of Appier Wednesday night, when Zack Greinke pitched six strong innings before leaving with a 3-2 lead, only to watch Kansas City's bullpen promptly give up three runs in the seventh. Yesterday in a chat, someone asked me if Greinke is going to win the Cy Young Award.

The Reader's Digest condensed version: No, he is not.

He was the nominal favorite a month ago, when he was 10-3 with a 1.95 ERA. Since then, Greinke has continued to pitch brilliantly, with a 2.53 ERA in five starts. For his efforts, he's been hung with three losses and two no-decisions; the Royals have lost all five games while scoring six runs. And when the hitters aren't costing him wins, the bullpen is (though to be fair, the hitters and the relievers often work together).

Last winter, Greinke signed a new contract that will pay him $38 million and keep him on the Royals' payroll through 2012. If Greinke hadn't signed an extension, and instead departed as a free agent after the 2010 season, he would have been excoriated -- in some quarters, at least -- for caring only about the money. It might even have been the Yankees' money.

Really, though: Can you blame a guy for wanting to win? For wanting to win games, and Cy Young Awards, and maybe even a championship along the way? As long as Greinke is a Royal, the wins will come only grudgingly and those other things aren't likely to come at all.

Oh, well. There's always 2013.