Royals – 50 Worst Moments – #44 – Jeremy Guthrie’s Meltdown

Guthrie and his Nike collection. [Photo: GQ.com]

Here’s a little secret, Jeremy Guthrie is one of my favorite ballplayers. It started many years before he joined the Royals when he was playing for the Orioles, his eighth year in the Major Leagues already. He appeared on a podcast with Jay Mohr and over the course of the next 90 minutes, he talked about how he was brought up, his unorthodox career in baseball, even his faith, and I just really dug the conversation. He’s one of those folks who is passionately religious, yet doesn’t seem to wear it all the time, and just seems to have an aura of positivity around him. You wanted to root for the guy. He was one of my son’s favorite ballplayers simply because of his massive Nike shoe collection.

When he joined the Royals in 2012, you could see that he was on the back end of his career that never really put up many numbers. He was a grinding soft-throwing pitcher who could dial it up at times, but only had an over .500 record once, in 2007. He was traded for Jonathan Sanchez, who struggled mightily in early 2012 and you may see more of him later in the countdown. I remember the trade was billed as “crap for crap,” by talk radio host Soren Petro. Nothing much was expected from Guthrie, but the 2012 team was in need of veteran leadership and that’s exactly what was given by JGuts. He took over the clubhouse, instituting discipline and showing the team how to celebrate after wins. He hit a career high in wins in 2013 (15) and that same year threw three complete games.

His first season with the Royals was also very good to Guthrie, who posted a career low ERA, 3.16 and he became beloved nearly instantly by Royals fans. His contributions to the Royals in both the 2014 and 2015 Championship seasons are well documented. Put simply, without Guthrie, the Royals don’t win an AL Pennant in 2014 and World Series in 2015. His Game 3 victory in 2014 on the road in San Francisco where he pitched five innings allowing only two runs put KC in the driver’s seat.

It didn’t come without some challenges. Because Guthrie was so beloved, he likely lasted way longer in his career due to that veteran leadership — like Crash Davis from Bull Durham. Guthrie’s highest highs were equally matched by his lowest lows. JGuts was prone to “the big inning” and when the wheels fell off, they fell off, along with the drive train, the steering column, the engine, the transmission, the weed in the glove box, that Altoids tin you tell your mom is for your breath, but is really a tin of Ritalin you pick up behind the school bus, the sun visor, the “HAULIN ASS” bumper sticker, and the key fob. When you lit the dumpster, it burned long into the night.

Some of the most epic meltdowns in history were pitched by Jeremy Guthrie. And that’s not embellishment. He led the league in home runs allowed in both 2009 and 2015. He gave up the most hits in the AL in 2013, and had the most losses in the AL in both 2009 and 2011. He also gave up eight or more runs seven times in his career including his final appearance in a Major League uniform (10). If you’re going to go out, go out in flames. Five of those eight or more games was in a Royals uniform, three during the 2015 World Series Championship season – a season that he would not finish actively pitching, but rather being more of a player-coach down the stretch – immediately following giving up nine runs in a late September game after which Ned Yost said his “role would be reduced.

It was a looooooooooong afternoon for JGuts. [Photo CBSSports.com]

Which brings us to our 44th moment on our countdown, May 25, 2015. Coming into the game, Guthrie was 4-2 on the year. The Royals were incredibly motivated after losing to HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED in Game 7 the year prior. This was a team that stormed out of the gates winning their first seven and never looked back. Guthrie, Edinson Volquez, and Chris Young were the veteran presence in the middle of a rotation of youngsters including Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and (later) Johnny Cueto. They only needed Young and Guthrie to keep the ship afloat and eat innings before giving it to the fireballers whose job it was to get it to the sixth inning when the game was effectively ended thanks to Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland. (Damn, it feels amazing to type those names again.)

Anyway, back to the series in New York. The Royals had just finished an eight game home-stand, were sitting two games up in the standings in the AL Central, and had the best record in baseball. Guthrie was riding a three game winning streak himself when he grabbed the ball at the House that Jeter Built in the Bronx. Jeremy Guthrie + Yankees Stadium = Poop. What happened next was something that had only happened eight times in Major League history. Ned Yost, Captain Obvious, was quoted, “Just didn’t have it. One of those days.” No shit, Ned. Guthrie pitched only one full inning – getting the hook in the second unable to record an out. He allowed nine hits, four of them home runs, 11 earned runs, on three walks and a strikeout.

To paraphrase a quote from Bull Durham, “how did he ever get one strikeout?” From the CBS Sports story, “Prior to [the game], there were 13 outings since 1914 in which the pithcer allowed at least 10 earned runs while recording no more than three outs.” The last time was 2009, then the time before that – 1948

From the Andy McCullough story in The Star:

Guthrie, 4-3 with a 6.70 ERA, departed with no outs in the second inning. In one afternoon, he erased all the goodwill created by his previous three outings. Guthrie does not miss bats, and he relies on soft contact. On Monday, the Yankees did not cooperate.

With the best record in baseball, and nearly no holes in a roster, this game was enough to throw Royals fans into a panic attack. Now, you know and I know how the story ends – but at the time, it seemed like the S.S. Yost had just hit the iceberg.

All that being said, he’s still one of my favorite Royals.

Up next, #43 – A post you can really vote for.

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