With the Tigers and White Sox both sputtering down the stretch, a noted sports psychologist believes both teams are subconsciously tanking out of sympathy for the third-place and mathematically eliminated Royals, who have not made the postseason since 1985.

“Guys from both teams met a lot of folks from the Royals organization at the All-Star Game in Kansas City this year and it’s pretty clear they were shaken to learn it’s been nearly 30 years since that club made the playoffs,” said sports psychologist Les Kowalski. “We see this all the time when more talented players unknowingly turn off their killer instinct because they feel sorry for a lesser opponent.”

While Kowalski’s theory seems plausible, White Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski disagrees.

“That shrink sounds like he’s just serving up a bunch of medical mumbo jumbo,” said Pierzynski, whose White Sox have dropped five straight and have gone 6-12 against the sub-.500 Royals this year. “I’ve been playing in this league a long time and I’ve never heard of anyone tanking because they feel sorry for an opponent. What I can tell you is that I’ve seen teams tank because they don’t want to get devoured by the Rangers, Yankees, Orioles or any other number of playoff caliber teams we might face this season and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Mark Pants