OK, so the Royals are three back of the wild card with six to play.
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
As best I can figure, if they win out they need two of these three things to happen:
- Tampa loses at least four of six (three at the Yankees, three at Toronto)
- Cleveland loses at least three of six (two at home vs. White Sox, four at Minnesota)
- Rangers lose at least two of six (two at home vs. Astros, four at home vs. Angels)
If the Royals finish 5-1, they need two of these three things to happen:
- Tampa loses at least five.
- Cleveland loses at least four.
- Rangers lose at least three.
If the Royals finish 4-2
- Tampa loses all six.
- Cleveland wins no more than one.
- Rangers lose at least four.
And so on. Incredibly unlikely, but, you know, at least possible.
This weeks reading recommendation is Bruce Feldman behind the scenes of Texas A&Ms preparation for Alabama, and the eating recommendation is the mac-and-cheese with jalapenos and burnt ends at Beer Kitchen. The jalapenos arent listed as an option with the mac and cheese, but trust me, go off the menu. Im a little ashamed to admit that the night I ate this, I had a dream about eating it again.
Slammed week and loaded Twitter Tuesday, so lets get to it. As always, thanks for your help and for reading.
Royals. We knew the Chiefs would be much improved, and it sure seemed like my prediction of 7-9 was lower than most around town. With the Royals, theres such muscle-memory in the fan base to expect them to be awful that any sort of success is a complete break from script.
I havent watched their bed-wetting against the Panthers yet, but theres talent here, even as Eli Manning is both a good and eternally overrated quarterback.
The biggest problem with the Giants is turnovers. Theyve given it away 13 times already (including six in the opening loss at Dallas), and taken it away just four. Think about it like this: as much as the Chiefs are taking advantage of winning in turnovers every week, the Giants are that atrocious. The Chiefs are plus-9, and the Giants are minus-9.
Now, you can look at this a few different ways, obviously.
Mine: the Chiefs are catching a reeling team that has to be doubting itself, and theyll be catching this team in front of what will surely be another crazy crowd.
@mellinger I'm not saying what you think I'm saying, but Alex Smith has kind of outplayed Colin Kaepernick...— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) September 23, 2013
Kaepernick was about as good as a quarterback can be in the 49ers opener. He completed 27 of 39 passes for 412 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was the best quarterback in a game that included Aaron Rodgers, and, perhaps most impressively, did his work while hardly using his legs still, Id say, his greatest strength.
And in the two games since, hes been Palko-bad: 26 of 55 for 277 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions.
I assume there are fans in San Francisco raising the question about whether they kept the right quarterback, but Id also bet you that if it was possible to go back before the season and present it as a legitimate choice the Chiefs wouldve preferred to trade for Kaepernick instead of Alex Smith^.
^ Who has been very good, and who Ive always been very high on.
The thing about the Chiefs being 3-0 I see comments like this, and I cant tell if theyre self-aware overreactions or honest evaluations. Its not crazy at all to think the Chiefs can win each of their next six games: vs. Giants, at Titans, vs. Raiders, vs. Texans, vs. Browns, and at Bills.
It always happens like this in the NFL, but the season looks so much different already, three weeks in, than before everything started. The two best teams of those next six opponents are the Giants and Texans, and neither looks as good now as three weeks ago.
Of course, its also prudent to remember the Chiefs only beat the Cowboys by a point, at home, and any number of 50-50-type plays going the other way couldve meant the Chiefs lost. Last Thursday is the Chiefs most impressive win, for a lot of reasons, but its also true that the Eagles coughed it up five times at least two of which were unforced.
The Chiefs are opening as a 4 ½ point favorite, which seems about right. I just wonder how long they can keep winning without moving the ball more, scoring more points.
@mellinger how long until we start talking about Bowes massive contract to be a decoy?— Zach Brown (@Prozaakk) September 23, 2013
Ridiculous, absurd, no way anyone is thinking about this
OK, well, maybe a few of you (assuming Andrew^ here meant " not releasing Dwayne Bowe.")
^ Andrew writes in to clarify he was being sarcastic here.
Bowe has an enormous contract. NFL deals are hard to compare, but it is basically the contract Vincent Jackson got and behind only Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald among receivers. Bowe is not the third-best receiver in the NFL, so by definition he is overpaid.
But I liked the contract when signed and I still do because the Chiefs just invested a bunch of their franchise in Alex Smith and who the heck, exactly, is he supposed to be throwing the ball to? Maybe if Jon Baldwin was actually a first-round receiver, you dont have to make the deal.
Bowe is a talented receiver. Probably one of the best 10 in the NFL. Assuming the money $26 million guaranteed and $36 million in the first three years doesnt rob him of his drive, he should be fine. And theres no reason to believe he wont still work hard. Drive has never been Bowes problem; its been focus and the occasional dumb (and harmless) decision.
Bowe has had enough of those decisions to worry, and to continue to monitor, but there are no perfect players and especially in todays NFL, and especially with the investment in Smith the Chiefs need talented players to catch passes.
The one year hes played with a quarterback who didnt suck, he led the NFL in touchdowns.
I still havent had it, and I hate typing these words. I assume its awesome.
You can judge for yourself, but I wasnt skeptical that they would be better. It was just strange that everyone assumed a team that ranked 20th in yards given up and 25th in points would turn into the 1985 Bears. The biggest change, obviously, has been in creating turnovers.
I obviously think a lot of this defense through three games, but I also want to see them continue to do it. The Eagles are electric and will gash most defenses they see, but a shutdown defense shouldnt give up 264 yards rushing on 27 carries.
Were all adults here, so we all understand how silly it is to look through a schedule and predict every game before the season starts, but I did it anyway, and the Chiefs have so far won only one game I expected them to lose.
So, at least for now, Im sticking at 7-9.
But obviously things are looking much better now than before.
You realize the Chiefs only had two games all of last season where they didnt turn it over?
They havent gone three games with no turnovers since Oct. 2010, and havent done four in a row since wait for it 1997.
Greg Hill led the Chiefs in rushing that year.
Im just playing the odds here, guys: they commit a turnover on Sunday.
@mellinger after the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, should they build a downtown stadium?— brentkassing (@brentkassing) September 23, 2013
No, but the Royals should the next time the opportunity arises.
He has 7 ½, which is three ahead of Robert Mathis and Mario Williams and three games, or 19 percent of the way through the season on pace for 40. Michael Strahan, if youre curious, had 8 ½ through three games of what turned out to be his record-breaking^ season of 22 ½ in 2001.
^ Sort of. I mean, Favre totally took a dive for on the last one:
Houston has said this is his goal, you know, though you when you talk to him about it it sounds more like a "shouldnt that be everyones goal?" sort of thing.
Anyway, Ive said since the offseason that I expect Houston to get into the 14+ range, but theres still a lot of space between Houston and the all-time record Jared Allen (2011) and Mark Gastineau (1984) share the all-time record of 22 for guys who didnt get the other teams quarterback to take a dive.
Think of it like this. To break the record, Houston needs 15 ½ MORE sacks, a total that wouldve ranked fourth in the NFL last year.
@mellinger My friend Ross took his 16-day old son to Oklahoma Joe's for the first time Monday. Thoughts? I say he waited too long.— Clinton Thomas (@ClintT13) September 23, 2013
In theory, I agree he waited to long.
But in practice, I cant criticize anyone for taking their son to Joes.
This has been mentioned many times here and other places: the most tortured fan is a Royals/Chiefs/Mizzou fan, particularly one who lives in the middle of the state or heaven help you St. Louis with a bunch of Cardinals fans.
@mellinger should the royals be favored for the division or Wild card next year?— Eric Hendricks (@EricHe1091) September 23, 2013
I dont know that anyone is ever really "favored" for the wild card. Is that a thing? I mean, people predict the playoffs all the time, but I guess I cant really remember a team going into a season carrying that "wild card favorite" tag.
But, to answer your question, I think theyll be expected to be better. And if theyre better, theyll have a very good shot at it.
As, perhaps, the citys staunchest Billy Butler defender Ive put a lot of thought into this. We could talk about this all day, but here are four primary reasons:
He is having, by his standards a down year.
Mostly, he isnt hitting for enough power. Butler has always been more Edgar Martinez than Mike Trumbo but fans have always seen a chubby 1B/DH and wanted him to be a home run hitter. His .379 OBP is above his career average and, actually, eighth in the American League. But his .413 SLG is nearly 100 points under last year, and nearly 50 under his career mark.
Hes leading the league in ground-ball double plays. GIDPs are not a mark of a poor hitter^, but they are a worst-case scenario for an at-bat and a mark at how many times fans (and, lets be honest, many teammates and executives) cuss during a game.
^ The AL top 10 includes Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, and Prince Fielder. GIDPs mark guys who hit with runners on first fairly often and who hit the ball hard fairly often. And it helps if hes slow.
The Royals are, finally, good. And with the offense needing a boost, itd be nice if the 27-year-old DH was giving it more of a boost. Butler is second on the team in OPS and OPS+ (15 points behind Hosmers .807, and two behind Hosmers 120) but its hard to remember a two-week stretch where he carried them offensively.
@mellinger Two Royals Flags on garages in the neighborhood. First time in a decade. Anything?— Jim Fischer (@withasee) September 23, 2013
Yeah. I mean, its something.
But I say this without intentional trolling, and most of you will understand how I mean it: you cant put "werent mathematically eliminated until the last week of 2013" on a flag.
This cant be the climax.
@mellinger Soria grooved that pitch, right?— Kenamo Fints (@MattNuge) September 23, 2013
@mellinger I'm still on a Royals high after being at the Royals game Sunday. Will I have to come down sometime? Or can I stay here forever?— T.J. Huettenmueller (@Thuettenmueller) September 23, 2013
Like we talked about at the top, I believe your high currently has a tragic number of four. Sure beats what Kansas Citys been used to.
@mellinger Bigger impact: Bonifacio or Maxwell?— Eric Gromacki (@Gromacki16) September 23, 2013
Good question. At the top here, Ill point out that Dayton Inc. has taken a lot of heat around Kansas City, including from me. But he should also get credit, then, for not just the macro stuff about building a farm system and changing expectations and convincing ownership to spend and signing guys to long-term contracts and all of that.
But this year hes also been really good with the micro, picking up two important pieces for, basically, bupkis.
Maxwells Moment on Sunday
earns him a lot of deserved capital in this argument, but Im going with Bonifacio. The alternatives to Maxwell in the outfield are more digestible than the alternatives to Bonifacio at second base. His speed and bat have also filled a hole with the No. 2 spot in the order.
@mellinger Wouldn't it be great if the Royals didn't play like a bunch of amateurs in May? Played like a 95-win team every other month.— Clinton Thomas (@ClintT13) September 23, 2013
Clintons not lying, actually. Heres the month-by-month breakdown:
Month, W-L, win percentage, 162-game pace.
April, 14-10, .583, 95
May, 8-20, .286, 46
June, 16-11, .593, 96
July, 15-10, .600, 97
August, 16-15, .516, 84
September, 14-7, .667, 108
@mellinger longest Royals losing streak since Getz became a part timer on 8/24: 2. Longest win streak: 5. Streaky to steady in 1st easy step— Kenamo Fints (@MattNuge) September 23, 2013
Kenamo here is a valued part of Twitter Tuesday, and Im not sure if this is what he means, so Im making this point generally and not to any specific person:
If you put all the blame on Chris Getz (or Ned Yost, for that matter) for the Royals not making the playoffs, thats fine, were all entitled to our opinions. Id just ask that you stay out of it when the adults are talking.
Mostly, its the model the Royals have followed and, obviously, there is a self-serving element to this since the Twins took longer than the Rays and As. Id add Pittsburgh to the teams thatve shown its possible to turn things around quicker without spending a lot of money.
For whatever its worth, Ive been consistent about Dayton Inc.: theyve made a lot of mistakes (Jose Guillen, Mike Jacobs, Trey Hillman) but have been really good with the most important elements of this (farm system, long-term contracts, a scouting department that should keep producing). The biggest mistake theyve made is Christian Colon over Chris Sale in the draft, but theyve also had some bad luck, most notably a season-ending sweep of Detroit that gave them the No. 2 pick (Mike Moustakas) instead of the No. 1 pick (David Price).
This is an oversimplification, but what separates Dayton Inc. from the Rays/As/Pirates are those micro mistakes. Im OK with that as long as the macro stuff is done right, and as long as the thing eventually makes the postseason. And I think we all understand, especially with the Shields trade, that "eventually" has to be this year or next.
@mellinger If Royals fans could choose to get rid of Yost or Hudler, whom would the majority choose to boot?— Eric Clarkson (@Eric_Clarkson) September 23, 2013
I may be dead wrong about this, but I think the Yost criticism is a vocal minority and the Hudler criticism is a vocal majority.
@mellinger Two-parter: 1) What are some notable injuries to come from victory celebrations? 2) How does shaving cream/gatorade combo taste?— Jake's Journal (@JakesJournal) September 23, 2013
The most famous celebration injury has to be this one:
But youve also got Gus Frerotte head-butting a cement wall after a touchdown, Chris Coghlan tore his knee carrying a shaving cream pie, Ted Ginn hurt his foot after returning the opening kickoff of a BCS championship game for a touchdown, and Kendry Morales broke his leg celebrating a walk-off homer.
Its a scary world out there, guys. Be careful.
Look, I love Breaking Bad. Might be my favorite show Ive ever watched in "real time." I look forward to it every week, and Ill miss it when its gone.
But I think a lot of you are more into TV than I am. When Breaking Bad is over, I dont know that Ill think about it much anymore. Its that way with 24, or The Wire, or the Sopranos, or any number of awesome shows that now only exist on DVDs.
Thats not helping.
I trust Bill Snyder, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. And I think you should, too
but, well, maybe we just have different world views.
This would be a cooler picture if it was 1995, or if Blues Traveler didnt give me an entirely underwhelming Crossroads concert experience a year or two ago. Thankfully, Trampled Under Foot opened for them.
I cant improve on this. I dont know whether to give you a hug, a high-five, or a phone number for a therapist.