Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: Trash talk, Royals, money, Chiefs, the Super Bowl, weed jokes

Updated: 2014-01-21T17:09:05Z

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

So, Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the world and he’s now going to be paid like it: an average of more than $30 million over the next seven years, which is about the total the Royals will pay their starting infield, outfield and catcher for 2014.

Actually, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is set to make a total of some $87 million this year, which is close to the total of what will be a record payroll for the Royals.

In some ways, Kershaw’s deal does not affect the Royals. The Dodgers are in the National League, the Royals were never going to have a chance at Kershaw, in anyone’s version of reality, so this is a bit like the guy clear across town buying a new car you’re never going to see.

Except, in other ways, this deal is a shining symbol of a doom trend for the Royals I’ve been talking about for a long time. Baseball is sharing more revenue than ever, big-money teams writing bigger checks to small-money teams, but those numbers aren’t even close to keeping up with exploding TV contracts.

There is a real chance that these TV contracts are a bubble that’s about to burst, sort of like the housing market six years ago, but that hypothetical is cushioned by the length and immediate reality of these contracts — and the fact that the Royals have one of the worst local deals in baseball.

The chasm between rich and poor is growing, in other words, and not to get all alarmist on you, but this is exactly the type of thing that led to the strike in 1994. Baseball’s CBA is up after the 2016 season, and already there are rumblings inside the sport that the negotiations will be far more contentious than they’ve been in a few cycles. The Royals’ side of this debate is at threat level orange again, at least, and no amount of franchise value appreciation is going to stop small-money clubs from wanting a more even economic playing field.

We saw how that ended the last time, of course.

This week’s eating recommendation is the duck wrap at Blue Koi, and the reading recommendation is Dan Wetzel on Peyton Manning.

Actually, do you mind if I use this idea to go in for a raise? I can totally plant a story about Vahe trying to fight me at some charity event, too, if that will help^.

^ Shameless plug: here’s my column off Richard Sherman and trash talk from a wild NFC Championship game .

Well, first, let’s pause for a moment to recognize the remarkable and simultaneous sadness and optimism of this question. In Kansas City, where the MLS team is the only one in a league important enough for games to be on national TV^ to have won a playoff game in the last generation, people daydream a world where the ball doesn’t bounce off a lineman’s head and in for a touchdown and their team doesn’t go MASH and blow a 28-point lead and then — somehow — beats Denver in the AFC Championship game and have reason to care about how their team would match up in a Super Bowl that’s been played without them since the 1969 season.

^ This is as good a way as I can think of to draw a line between the Chiefs/Royals/Sporting and the T-Bones/Mavericks/FC Kansas City.

And now that that’s over, the answer is San Francisco, though I’m cheating a bit here because a lot of why I’m saying this is that Percy Harvin may be healthy by the Super Bowl and the awesome NaVorro Bowman would be hurt.

The problems with the handoffs and the fumble on the first play aside, I think Russell Wilson is a type of mistake-free guy who can pick his spots and let Marshawn Lynch and the best defense in football do work.

Colin Kaepernick is the more spectacular quarterback — that 58-yard run in the first half was breathtaking — but at least until he gets more experience, he’s prone to a costly mistake at the wrong time.

I mean, it’s the most anticipated media day performance since, what, Shannon Sharpe and Ray Buchanan? Ray Lewis was nice, but Sherman adds funny to his particular brand of crazy.

To me, the thing that puts Sherman’s moment on that podium ahead of most of the rest is that he’ll be smarter than anyone asking him questions, and he knows it. He will go in there with some prepared material, I’m sure, but he’s comfortable and quick-thinking enough to come up with a killer line or two on his own.

Honestly, these Super Bowl media days are usually dreadful. They’ve been overtaken by the guy who dresses like a Viking and the dude from Nickelodeon who comes in a cape and the gorgeous sideshow reporter from Mexico and the like, but this is one I’m truly looking forward to.

This is an all-timer. There is no one else who can combine his confidence, smarts, sense of humor and fearlessness.

And, let’s not discount this part — he has a coach who embraces it all.

Of course, I say all this, but there’s also the distinct possibility that Sherman will tone it down.

In order: SEC, KU, Patriots. And here’s why…

The Patriots actually haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season, when the Chiefs still had Priest Holmes and Scott Fujita was their leading tackler. The Patriots are a threat every year, of course, so it probably seems like they’ve been this real dynasty but here’s the list of teams that’ve won Super Bowls more recently than the Patriots: Steelers, Colts, Giants, Steelers (again), Saints, Packers, Giants (again), Ravens.

And the SEC is first here, because think about it like this: long before Kansas City was even an SEC market, people here were sick of hearing about how the SEC was just like the NFC West, only better and with more super awesome football fans and stuff.

That takes a special breed of annoying in a regional sport like college football for your annoyance to penetrate other markets.

I’ve said this a million times, but the SEC is both the best college football conference in the country and vastly overrated by many people, maybe most.

Another reason KU falls behind the SEC: if you want the Jayhawks to fail, to have the last laugh, there is the NCAA Tournament. And for every win over Memphis or run to the 2012 final, there is a Michigan or a Northern Iowa or a VCU.

There’s only been on Florida State to shut the SEC up over the last seven years.

Well, first, I have to cop to not reading the entire thing, every word, line by line so if you want to skip to the next question here, hey, that makes sense. I did what, probably, a lot of us do when confronted with an interesting but novella-length piece of writing on the internet: I had it in a browser window for most of a day, going back and forth, reading the beginning, skimming through a bit, going back to something else, then reading some more, back and forth.

When I "finished" it, as a journalist, I felt admiration for the writing and the reporting but also, as a human being, a bit of an uneasiness with how the whole thing went down.

But after reading some of the thoughtful criticisms of the piece, I feel that uneasiness being articulated in what sure seems to be the consensus of the reading public. Specifically, why the need to out someone on something so personal? Call Dr. V out on lying about her credentials, that makes sense, but about being a transsexual? Some things are off limits.

I mean, look. Being able to tell great stories, surprising stories, real truth, is something that motivates most of us who do this strange thing for a living. There have been times, many times, where the story I think I’m working on turns out to be something very different. You have to adjust, you have to follow your instincts, but more importantly your heart and your brain.

There is a compassion and sensitivity missing from how this went down. There is a prioritizing of The Story above all else, which presents a learning opportunity for the rest of us.

Which brings us to the takeaway: Christina Kahrl’s thoughts on this are insightful and brave and eye-opening.

That her response ran on Grantland, along with editor-in-chief Bill Simmons’ thoughts here, are a terrific example of how to own and handle a mistake.

Kansas will be a monster, I think. Joel Embiid is a force of nature, and Andrew Wiggins is only going to get better. If Naadir Tharpe can continue to provide some steadiness, and if Wayne Selden can grow comfortable sooner than later, the pieces are all there to make deep run.

I also think Oklahoma State can make a Final Four run, because there’s a lot of talent on that team, they have time to adjust without Cobbins, and Marcus Smart gives them an advantage over every team in the country at point guard.

Iowa State will fade. Too one-dimensional. Baylor can be dangerous, with all that talent, but they also have Scott Drew. Oklahoma feels like the team can rise up for a game, but not a real threat.

I love what Bruce Weber is building, but with K-State, I want to see more. My instinct is that they’re not a true threat, but there is an interesting dynamic there, especially if Marcus Foster and Jevon Thomas can continue to grow.

It’s a lot for the Royals, a franchise record, and more than David Glass indicated he wanted to spend going into the offseason^.

^ Publically, at least. But if you listened to me, you heard me say that was all b.s. and that they’d increase the payroll. I’m not sure why the promoted the payroll-won’t-go-up stuff. Maybe negotiating with agents. Keep expectations low, maybe. I don’t know. But it annoyed fans who read it, and just never made any sense.

Anyway, this is a "C" type of spending by Glass. It’s basically what he should be doing. I’ve written this before, but the Glass apologists inside the organization are wrong to promote this as some grand gesture of win-now, and the Glass haters outside the organization are wrong to say he’s still the miserly character hoarding cash^.

^ That was an accurate-ish portrayal before 2006, but if you listen to the folks at Forbes — who know more about this stuff than anyone — they haven’t put Glass in that category in years.

Basically, it gives the Royals a fighting chance. Glass could go more without affecting his bottom line too much, especially with the national TV money going up by about $15 million (after taxes) this season, but it’s enough to avoid reasonable accusations of Bad Owner.

Four thoughts.

First: the flop-stuff has gotten a bit out of control.

Second: Smart is too good a player to be known for this.

Third: I hope that any KU fan going overboard with this stuff saw Gottleib’s tweet.

Fourth: I actually got my hair cut. Short-ish, if you can believe it, and for the purposes of this story I guess I need to mention that The Smokeshow is pregnant and due next month. It’s a boy..

Anyway, the nice lady at the barbershop, who I’ve been going to for a while now, says:

"That’s nice. You really look like this boy’s father now."

To which I thought: "What, instead of the guy who knocked up his mom?"

Oh, Kansas City. This is the best Royals team in 20 years, pitchers and catchers are still weeks from reporting, and you can’t help but think about the monster around the corner next year.

But, yeah, in the most basic sense you are absolutely right. This figures to be the Royals’ best chance, not only because of James Shields’ scheduled free agency, but because the Tigers may’ve taken a small step backward in the short-term with the Prince Fielder trade.

^ It’s a step forward in the long-term, if it means they can keep Scherzer and Cabrera.

Part of Dayton Moore Inc.’s thinking with the trade was that Shields would help the Royals in the immediate, which in turn would help the Royals down the road by turning them into a winning team and disrupting a loserville culture that’s existed as long as anyone in that clubhouse can remember.

The key, of course, is the development of Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Kyle Zimmer and any other pitching prospect who shows his face. Moore Inc., for all of the success turning an absolute joke of a farm system into one of the game’s best, has not developed a big league starting pitcher.

For this thing to have a chance in 2014 and especially beyond, that obviously has to change.

Well, it’s not unprecedented for a so-called cold-weather city. Detroit hosted the game. Indianapolis has had it. Nobody thinks of it as a cold-weather city, of course, but Dallas’ game four years ago was played after a hellacious ice storm.

But it is the first Super Bowl in an open-air stadium in a cold-weather city, which is what you’re talking about here, and a lot of you probably know this but Kansas City was actually promised a Super Bowl some years ago if voters passed funding for a $170 million rolling roof for stadiums Kauffman and Arrowhead. I believe we’d have gotten a Final Four as well.

I’m actually glad the measure failed. Having a Super Bowl comes with some cool parts, but also some giant pain-in-the-arse parts, and unless your team is playing in it you’re probably better off watching with some friends in a living room somewhere.

It’d be nice to have certainty on Royals games, that you’d know there would be no rainouts and that you wouldn’t have to sit out in the cold, but that’s a lot of money and the school system’s awful and there are roads to repair and a bunch of better uses for it.

You could say the same thing about the insane $1 billion plan to redo the exceedingly awesome and convenient KCI, of course, but that’s a discussion for another day.

My general rule is that games I care about, I want to watch by myself or a small group. Games I just sort of want to watch and monitor for holy crap moments, I want to be with a bunch of friends and wing dip.

Actually, it’s a good idea to be with wing dip either way.

Didn’t realize this until the other day: the state of Indiana is in danger of being without an NCAA Tournament team for the first time since 2005.

Duke and North Carolina are each out of the top 20 for the first time since 1996. Louisville is very good, but Kentucky isn’t quite what people expected. Michigan State is tough, like always, but Michigan isn’t holding up its end of the preseason hype.

I’m probably missing a state somewhere in here, but yeah, Kansas has a pretty good argument.

Peyton Manning is smart enough to know the difference between the best cornerback in football and one who might be very good someday but needs a lot of work with technique and some help with schemes.

My challenge to you guys: count the number of marijuana jokes you hear over the next two weeks.

The answer, of course, is this:

Yeah, I had the same thought. Tyson Jackson restructured his deal, Mike DeVito is very underrated, and Dontari Poe is (still) very affordable. There isn’t a position group the Chiefs can’t upgrade, only position groups they need to upgrade more than others, but at any rate defensive line would be fairly far down my list which, since you didn’t ask, off the top of my head I’d rank like this^:

Wide receiver.

Free safety.

Cornerback.

Tight end.

Offensive line.

^ I’m not including quarterback here, because I think Alex Smith is pretty good, and the Chiefs are built to win now, but he’s certainly not so good that the Chiefs should ignore the NFL reality that you should ALWAYS be trying to upgrade at quarterback.

I think it would help a lot, particularly for Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper. Kendrick Lewis just isn’t fast enough, and takes too many bad angles. Brandon Flowers either played a chunk of the season hurt or isn’t nearly as good as his reputation, but the group of corners aren’t as bad as they looked the last half of the season. It’s not all on the safeties, obviously, but a lot of it is and ESPECIALLY when you have Eric Berry at strong safety you need some speed and cover ability at free safety.

Twenty or 30 years is a very, very long time. Twenty-five years ago, Kemper Arena was state-of-the-art and had just hosted a Final Four. Kauffman Stadium was still Royals Stadium, and didn’t even have a Jumbotron. Sporting Kansas City did not exist, in any form. And Arrowhead Stadium … well, OK, some things don’t change all that much.

But my best guess: Arrowhead is still the Chiefs’ home but has lost seats as the NFL trend of TV-over-tickets continues, the Royals are playing downtown, Sprint Center has taken on a major renovation, and Sporting Park has been expanded at least a few times with the team talking about moving downtown.

I stopped listening after the first eight words there. I guess I need to own this.

But damn.

Where did my life go off track?

In no particular order: the Yankees’ Bronx Cheer, the Cubs losing, the Lambeau Leap, stupidity and ignorance exposed on social media, the handshake line after NHL playoff series, the red mark on Peyton Manning’s forehead, Opening Day sellouts, the seventh inning stretch, fathers and sons playing catch, students sitting behind the baskets at college hoops games, the mutual hatred between KU and MU, Sandstorm at Bramlage, high school football teams running through those paper signs the cheerleaders make, Dick Vitale, Bob Costas, Vin Scully, Jay Bilas going after the NCAA, the smell of grill smoke in the parking lot, Russell Wilson’s "Go Hawks!" at the end of interviews, and, pretty much, everything that happens around college football games.

Not pictured: NCAA boneheadedness, NFL arrogance, blackout policies of MLB and NFL and every team, ever, no matter what, screaming about "nobody believed in us."

Kansas City!

 

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to smellinger@kcstar.com or follow twitter.com/mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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