Don't Kill The Mellinger

Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff

Twitter Tuesday: Chiefs contracts, Royals chances, Mr. K, Ninja Turtles, Jamaal Charles

08/05/2014 8:31 AM

08/05/2014 9:49 AM

So as I type these words, the Royals are 57-53. That is a pace for 84 wins. They are 1 ½ games out of a playoff spot with 52 games left to play. If you figure they need 88 wins for the playoffs, they need to go 31-21 the rest of the way.

Basically, they need to win every series from here on out. The margin for error is, basically, kaput. That’s not much of an exaggeration.

The Royals have four four-game series (Oakland, Minnesota, Boston and the White Sox), 11 three-game series, and one two-game series.

If they win each of the three-game series and split the others, that’s 31 wins plus a makeup game against the Yankees.

The Royals have this in them, and this is baseball so anything is possible, but this is also reality so it means a team that will probably be DH-ing Nori Aoki fairly regularly making the playoffs in the American League.

You know, Paul Goldschmidt is injured and will miss all of the three-game series against the Royals that starts tonight. That’s the first lucky break.

This week’s eating recommendation is the espresso-and-Sriracha wings at Wings Cafe^ and the reading recommendation is Jenny Vrentas the hundreds of stem cell treatments for NFL players.

^ Full disclosure, my favorite was the regular buffalo (they were amazing) but I feel weird recommending that when they have so many other flavors. Great place, and particularly nice people running it.

As always, thanks for your help and thanks for reading.

Well, the first thing I make of it is that it’s not a six-year deal for $115 million. NFL contracts are always initially reported with this inflated numbers because of a combination of technicalities, salary cap mumbo-jumbo and an agent quickly leaking the highest possible figures to make himself and his client look good.

But in real terms, Dalton’s deal is two years and $25 million guaranteed with a series of one-year deals and bonuses after that.

I do hope you read this column if you’re interested in how Dalton’s deal affects the negotiations between the Chiefs and Alex Smith. The answer might not be what you thought at first.

You knew this already, but one thing that hammered in even more in reporting that column is how much of a game-changer the rookie payscale in the last CBA is. Dalton and Kaepernick — whose deal was initially reported as up to $126 million but in real terms is $28 million over the next two years and then pay-as-you-go — were each scheduled to make less than $1 million this year.

When that’s the case, the player is going to be much quicker to go for the quick payday rather than risk waiting for something bigger than might not materialize. In this way, guys are sometimes signing for less money because they’ve already made less money. The NFL is an evil genius, man.

I’m all for team payrolls being more evenly spread out instead of concentrated so highly on the quarterbacks, even as the league is increasingly a quarterback’s league. And from the team’s point of view, these are great deals to get your quarterback locked in long-term while minimizing your own risk. But I just can’t help but notice these guys aren’t getting anything really close to their true market value in a league that does around $10 billion in revenue.

You can already hear agents talk about the next CBA, which won’t come until 2020.

Honestly, you’re going to not count it on a technicality?

Look, I don’t love the second wild card, either. It’s a further watering-down of the playoffs, more devaluing of what should be the most valuable regular season in major sports. I also don’t like how MLB did this, just sort of shoe-horning this extra playoff spot without treating it like a real thing. If you’re in the playoffs, you should be in the playoffs. You shouldn’t give your fans a chance to debate whether it actually counts, like they’re some sort of co-16-seed playing on a Tuesday night in Dayton.

I understand the MLB company line about wanting to reward the division winners, but I think we can all see that for what it is, which is convenient spin. MLB added a playoff spot to keep more teams "in the race," which theoretically increases interest and (more importantly) revenue, but didn’t want to make the hard cuts necessary in other places (like going back to a 154 game regular season) to make it feel like more of a real playoff spot.

I also understand I’m getting off point here.

I think you reconcile it the way college basketball coaches reconcile being pawns and babysitters for one-and-done stars. They may not like it, and they may feel some sort of moral or ethical objection to the process, but they chose this business and understand what they have to do to win and get paid.

Playing that one-game playoff as a wild card team might feel a bit light, but doesn’t it beat the alternative?

I use this line too much when talking about the Royals and the playoffs, but: a starving man cannot turn down stale bread.

You bet your burnt end the Royals will sell all sorts of swag with the world "playoffs" on it, and that some in the organization will at least be temporarily unbearable.

But, I don’t know. Maybe I’m going soft. I totally get that losing the wild card play-in game wouldn’t feel like a real playoff appearance. But I also know that watching that one-game playoff would be incredible, and that being there would mean at least a few weeks of playoff-chasing baseball that would grip this city’s attention in a way I’m not sure the fans here fully understand.

There is nothing more boring than late-season baseball when the games don’t matter. And there is nothing more thrilling than late-season baseball when every game, every inning, every swing and every pitch can feel like the most important thing in the world.

There are a lot of people in Kansas City who say this is a baseball town just waiting for a reason to come back. I disagree with that, to a point. I think two decades of irrelevance took too much of Kansas City’s baseball soul. There is a lost generation in here.

But I do think the TV ratings whenever the Royals even pretend to be in a race, combined with what we all saw two years ago with the All-Star game proves that a lot of that spirit is still there. This is more of a football town than baseball now, but above all else, it’s just a town starved to see some success.

That last part can explain at least some of Sporting’s popularity, too.

Maybe we buried the lead after all of that talk.

The Royals aren’t making the playoffs.

Eric Hosmer’s injury is going to catch up to them. The Royals needed him, and he was primed for a big second half. And that’s just with the bat^. The should’ve-been-an-error that kickstarted the A’s eight-run fifth inning on Saturday is just the most obvious example of what the Royals are missing defensively.

^ Though, obviously, he’s been underwhelming on the whole.

There’s also the matter of the Royals still needing more runs than they appear capable of producing consistently, with or without Hosmer, the elimination of Mike Moustakas’ safety net with the trade of Danny Valencia, and the matter of the Royals being soft under pressure.

Or, if you don’t like that, ESPN gives the Royals a 25 percent chance. Baseball Prospectus gives them a 20 percent chance. Those numbers are up in the last few weeks, even.

Again. It’s possible. Just unlikely.

I love you all equally.

I have to say, though … Twitter needs to calm down. I know this is going to come across as the old man yelling from his front porch at the kids and their fancy internet machines, but man, sometimes the narcissism, the anger, the know-it-all, snark-first-ask-questions-later default mode of a lot of Twitter gets tiring.

Smile, you guys.

Get outside.

There’s a nice world out there.

Just stay off my lawn when you’re there.

Well, first of all, thank you for the chance to plug the column here. And here. I’ve wanted to write this story for years, actually. One of my earliest memories around sports is sitting at a Royals game with my dad, listening to him talk about the Royals Academy. I’ve been looking for a reason to write about it, and the combination of spending so much time with Art Stewart and knowing that this is the 40-year anniversary of the thing closing finally kicked me into gear.

The question of whether the Academy would work today is a fascinating one, and maybe worth a follow-up at some point. I asked that question a lot, and got a lot of different answers. Most of the answers from men in baseball were negative, but then, most of the thoughts from men in baseball were always negative about the Academy.

I do think that our culture generally does a better job of pairing good athletes with their best sport now than in the past^. The RBI program has taken up some of the Academy’s work, helping stars like Carl Crawford, CC Sabathia, Jimmy Rollins and others get to the big leagues.

^ That’s not always a good thing, but I have way too many thoughts on this little point than we have time for today.

But I also think that baseball is more of an afterthought among the very kids the Academy was trying to reach than ever before. There is no question that more talented athletes play basketball and football now than 40 years ago. I’ve had a hundred conversations about this with baseball scouts. It’s a significant frustration, and something that many of them think means there is less talent in baseball now than in the past.

Look at Lorenzo Cain. He started playing baseball because he got cut from the basketball team. How many guys like that do you think didn’t "make it" in basketball or football, and could’ve been pro baseball players in the right situation? If you started up the Academy again, you get one guy like Cain and he probably pays for two or three years of the whole operation. Get someone like Frank White, and whatever else you find for a decade or so is gravy.

I can’t be sure that the Academy would work today, of course. But the people who doubt it can’t be sure it wouldn’t. And I’d love to see one side or the other proven wrong.

Another great question and, just so we’re all clear, Kauffman would turn 98 years old next month so let’s all understand this is just a thought exercise.

The easy answer is that the Royals would’ve kept on winning in the 90s and 2000s just like they did in the 70s and 80s, but I don’t think that’s true. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this, because it’s a natural question and a great conversation. A lot of people who knew him well say Mr. K was growing increasingly frustrated at the changing economics of baseball, and that he was never a man who liked to lose money at anything.

One man who knew Kauffman fairly well said he’d have sold the team sometime after the strike, but if not, would’ve run the Royals generally like David Glass has done since 2008. Those last two words are important, because no matter how much people hate when I point this out, Glass has generally been a very good small-money owner since 2008. The Royals are 19th in payroll this year with revenues around 28th, for instance.

The biggest difference is that the Royals would not have had the devastating board-of-directors years that killed the franchise’s mojo and turned the team into an industry-wide joke.

Also, one person who worked with Kauffman swears he would’ve wanted the Royals to switch to the National League when given the chance before the 1998 season.

And staying in the American League was an enormous mistake.

Yes.

He’s had some nice moments in training camp, don’t get me wrong. And I fully recognize this may be a me-problem, but I see and hear way too much Dexter McCluster here. Thomas is more explosive, and faster, but he’s also appeared out of shape at times and doesn’t have the same attitude of McCluster.

We’re all guessing here. And I know Andy Reid and his coaches were really excited for McCluster last year, and that Thomas is basically a more talented McCluster.

But I want to see it before I buy in.

We’re all friends here, right?

Yes. That’s a dumb question.

I mean, if he wins the MVP the Chiefs are almost certainly a playoff team, both because an MVP season from Charles would be so valuable and because it’s hard to imagine a running back winning the MVP without making the playoffs.

But Charles was ridiculously good last year, and he didn’t win the MVP. I’ve come to think of him as a given more than a bonus. The profit to be made here will be in places like Dwayne Bowe, a deep and talented group of tight ends, and the new roles for both the left tackle and right tackle. Defensively, besides health, the secondary is a significant question.

You guys probably won’t want to hear this, but you remember the playoff chances for the Royals being quoted at 20 and 25 percent?

That’s probably a good number for the Chiefs.

First of all, I did not recognize the name April O’Neil. I Googled her. If you Google April O’Neil, be very careful where you click. There are two very different April O’Neils.

I believe the April O’Neil that Ryan is talking about is from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles^, though I don’t know Ryan all that well.

^ It’s nuts that the Turtles are still around, by the way. I remember watching that show and, more importantly, playing that video game on the original Nintendo. My seven-year-old nephew was in town last week. He was tired one afternoon, wanted to watch a show, and when he saw TMNT as an option with Nick On Demand I thought his insides were going to explode. I love the Turtles, but people out there are working hard with non-profits and whoever invented the Turtles owns like four islands.

Anyway, obviously, the only reaction to Megan Fox playing a cartoon crush from your childhood is something like this:

First of all, that’s fantastic. I actually know a few people who live in Australia, and they say it’s every bit as awesome as I imagine.

But since you asked … a burger at Westport Flea Market, wings at the Peanut, a morning jog around Loose Park, a game at Sporting Park, an afternoon game at Kauffman Stadium, a tailgate outside of Arrowhead, a concert at the Crossroads, Lonnie McFadden at the Phoenix, jalapeno bacon and onion (and a beer flight) at Waldo Pizza, chorizo rojo with friends at Port Fonda, pop-a-shot at Kelly’s, Saturday morning at City Market, veal spiedini at Garozzo’s, cannelloni at Osteria Il Centro, an hour at the Negro Leagues Museum, 18 holes at Swope Memorial, and the beer tour at Boulevard.

You’ve got time.

This week’s Knoda:

http://knoda.co/1rb

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