Say what you will about the New York Yankees, they’re a classy organization. Perhaps no other in sports mythologizes its own history nor honors its greats in the same way. In that vein, the Yankees did a tremendous job of honoring Royals righty Zack Greinke in what may be his final start — going down without much of a fight in Sunday’s 5-2 season finale.
For 90 minutes, it was Classic Zack Greinke. He filled the strike zone — 62 percent of his tosses in the zone today — with six different types of pitches. In that wily veteran way, the only time he really got into trouble was loading the bases on three straight singles to open the game, and then immediately engineered a home-to-first double play to avoid damage. He was taken out after walking DJ LeMahieu to lead off the sixth, and it had all the air of a guy whose career is over: handshake with the manager, leaving with the game ball, kids visiting in the dugout.
The potential Cooperstown honoree’s final line saw him go five-plus with one run allowed, as LeMahieu was cashed in after Greinke was taken out, with Austin Wells following LeMachine home on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s two-run single.
Greinke is exactly the type of guy to let his presence, or absence, at spring training inform us of his decision to keep playing or not, and the Royals are exactly the kind of organization that would bring him back on one-year deals until he decides he’s done. To me, all the signs are that he’s leaving the game after today, and the next time we see him will be when he delivers the shortest Hall of Fame induction speech of all time. That’s just my read though; everything is up to Zack. As David Cone said, the 39-year-old finishes the year just 21 strikeouts short of 3,000, a number that must appear like a flashing neon sign to almost any pitcher ... but then Greinke is not just any pitcher.
Michael King’s long, successful 2023 came to a close with his worst start of the season, and I think can be entered as evidence that he was pitching pretty gassed down the stretch. He gave up three home runs on eight hits with just a single strikeout. MJ Melendez took him deep in the second inning to open the scoring, while Edward Olivares and Dairon Blanco went back-to-back in the fourth inning, King’s last.
King did a good enough job keeping his four-seam out of the heart of the zone, but left far too many sinkers and sweepers dead red, and indeed all three of his home runs allowed came on center-cut pitches.
This season was a huge step forward for King and I imagine he’s penciled into a rotation spot for next season. In a year where 80 percent of the roster was a disappointment, he has perhaps the best story of the season, and I’m looking forward to what he does in 2024. For today, and going back to his start earlier this week against Toronto, I think he just ran out of gas. Stamina is the name of the game for King in the offseason, and I’m sure the Yankees will be targeting 150 or so innings from him next season.
One of the nice things about the last game of the season is how quickly it goes by. Yankee fans had to endure just two hours and 26 minutes of the most boring squad in a decade for the final time. I wish I could tell you more about who got a hit, when baserunners looked like a threat, or a sparkling defensive play, but like so many games this year, once the last out was recorded I realized how utterly unmemorable the whole nine innings was.
If nothing else, the winter should be more interesting than the summer. Major question marks lie ahead for the organization, with a relatively light free agency class, a huge hole in the outfield, and uncertainty around which prospects will actually pan out. The much-discussed external audit is going to release a preliminary report in October, and whether the Yankees make that report public in full or not should give us all lots to talk about (don’t count on them being too open about it, though).
For me, I need to take a moment and thank the entire PSA staff, but especially Andrew, Madison and Jake, our editorial team. The amount of heavy lifting that gets done behind the scenes is incredible every year, and I certainly made them all do more work than they should have this season, which they did without a single complaint. I genuinely believe we have the best site in the entire SB Nation network, and as bummed as I am the Yankees’ season is done, the offseason is when we make some of our best stuff.
Winter has come, Yankee fans. Be safe out there and stay tuned for more from us. For now, thank you for following along throughout 2023.