Don't Kill the Mellinger

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

Twitter Tuesday: Yost, Reid, Chiefs, Royals, Weis and the 21st century equivalent of a vacation slideshow

09/17/2013 12:35 PM

09/17/2013 9:05 PM

One of the strange things about following a team through a playoff chase is that everything that happens is the most important thing that’s happening at that moment. All of the things that people complain about baseball turn into all of the things that make baseball so incredible. Too much time between pitches becomes addicting suspense. Scoreless innings become enthralling drama. Games become appointment television, storylines become dominant conversation. We’ve seen a bit of that the last two days with the Royals. Sunday, Ned Yost made his biggest mistake with the Royals^, and then Monday James Shields shoved and Sal Perez mashed and the Royals pulled back to within 2 ½ games of a playoff spot. This is how it goes with meaningful baseball. Nobody around here has had to worry much about that for a while. This week’s eating recommendation is the Boulevard Brat at Kauffman Stadium, because they had me at "Boulevard." The reading recommendation isn’t going to be for everyone, but this is a really powerful and personal essay about caring for an older dog. Very busy week, so let’s get to it. As always, thanks for the help and for reading. And that’s a pretty good summation of the week. Let’s start with the Yay. There was some of both. My plan is to have a post here tomorrow with notes on my Chiefs re-watch, and then one Thursday with some notes on video-ing the Eagles. As always, I hope you take those with the appropriate grains of salt. But to answer the question, there was a lot of great Chiefs defense. Dontari Poe and Derrick Johnson, especially. Bob Sutton fairly plainly made a deal against the Cowboys, leaving Brandon Flowers at a disadvantage in lonely coverage of Dez Bryant and in exchange have more bodies available to stop everything else. It was a calculated gamble, and one that clearly worked. Now, we all tend to watch games through the prism of the team we cover. Dez Bryant’s touchdown catch might’ve looked like a Chiefs failure to you, for instance, but it probably looked like a Cowboys success to people in Dallas. So, sure. A Cowboys fan is going to remember Bryant’s drop on that deep ball down the right sideline, a play that would’ve changed everything that happened afterward. A Cowboys fan is going to remember too many plays that didn’t go to Bryant, actually, and the offensive line’s inability to give DeMarco Murray much space. But, you know. Chiefs fans are going to look at that and think they have a badass defense. Bold prediction: the Chiefs will turn the ball over at some point this season. But this is part of the plan, obviously. Andy Reid sees this team’s strength in its defense, and offensively is trying to maximize Alex Smith’s ability to make good decisions and stay out of trouble. Can’t argue with the results so far, obviously, but at some point the Chiefs are going to need the offense to keep up. They’re going to need Alex Smith throwing downfield, picking up yards in chunks, and they’re going to need to let Jamaal Charles be more than a closer. Inside the 10 and you can think it to yourself, maybe say it out loud but not above a normal speaking voice. Inside the 10 and you say with conviction. Inside the 3 and you can scream, high-five a friend, and Tweet it. These are the rules. Of course. I had them going 7-9 before the season, and that included a 2-0 start. I do think they’ll lose in Philly. Not necessarily because the Eagles are better, but because a road game on a short week in prime time is a brutal task. Sort of like how I thought the Chiefs benefitted from having the Cowboys game for the home opener. I’m willing to be swayed off 7-9, but not yet. Another reason I don’t think they can win on Thursday, but it’s worth pointing out that the NFL coach who knows the Eagles’ personnel better than anyone is employed by the Chiefs. Also: don’t think for a second that Reid and his assistants waited until after the Cowboys game to start scheming the Eagles. Really? I liked it. I don’t know that I’d want them doing it every game, but as a once-in-a-while thing, a changeup, sort of their equivalent of Notre Dame’s green jerseys or whatever? Sure, let’s do it. Also, again: nothing turns grown men into fashionistas like sports uniforms. I’ll have more on this in the posts coming up later this week, but initially: Best: Dontari Poe, again. If this is a season-long beastmode for him, the Chiefs are a different team. Worst: the offense is going to need to be better than what we’ve seen so far. My experience was a breeze on Sunday, but I’ve heard from enough of you to know that’s the exception. The Chiefs had a big crowd, including many Cowboys fans who may or may not have been going to Arrowhead for the first time, and I assume the stupid clear-bag policy slowed people getting in. But the Chiefs have to be better at this. There is no excuse. In a world where the couch is becoming more attractive than a bleacher seat for many, teams just can’t be giving their fans more reason to stay home. The Chiefs know this, and to that end have promoted loyalty programs and improved in-stadium phone reception, among other initiatives. It’s in the Chiefs’ best interests to get this fixed, by the way, and despite what at least some within the organization thought after the last preseason game, it’s not fixed. Now, I would like to present a theory I have about this and I would like to preface it by saying this does not excuse the Chiefs getting this wrong so far. But my theory centers around one of Kansas City’s strengths. This really might be the most convenient big-ish city in the country. I’ve always heard we have more miles and lanes of highway per capita than anywhere else in America, and I don’t know if that’s actually a fact but it feels like it. Traffic problems in Kansas City mostly mean a 20-minute drive takes 25, 30 tops. If you think a restaurant is 15 minutes away, you can leave for a 7 o’clock reservation at 6:45 and feel relatively confident that you’ll park within 20 yards of the front door. We get spoiled by this. We expect it. A line at the grocery store stands out. The guy in front of you at the ATM machine slows you down. And any wait at a game — especially after the small crowds of the last few years — is a major problem. We just have less tolerance for inconvenience here, because we’re not used to it. Which just makes it a thousand times more important for the Chiefs to get this thing fixed. Love it. Probably my favorite Boulevard seasonal, except for Saison-Brett, which I guess technically isn’t a seasonal but you know what I mean. The best part of 47, for me, is the sort of announcement that it’s fall — the world’s best season. Football, cooler weather, Mother Nature’s sweetspot where you can grill outside all day and then build a fire inside at night. Whoa. Well, according to the Google machine, histology is the anatomical study of the microscopic structure of animal and plant tissues. That sounds incredibly boring, especially when compared with live and interesting sports. But kids, stay in school. Talking about your fantasy football team is the 21st century version of showing your houseguests a slideshow of your last vacation. It is not only boring, not only excruciating, not only pointless to everyone you share this with it is so widely accepted to be boring, excruciating and pointless that it is an absolute cliché of being a terrible and self-centered person. So don’t do this. Unless you’re talking to someone else in your league. Entertainment purposes only, but I’m really surprised that Texas is a seven-point favorite. That seems like a lot. I’m also a terrible gambler^. ^ Though I do plan on consistently and unrelentingly lighting up my degenerate-gambling friend for not jumping on that Justin Houston seven-sack bet on Bovada. I guess you can make a reasonable case that Texas is ripe for one of those screw-you performances that momentarily holds off the inevitable collapse that ends with Mack Brown and DeLoss Dodds "resigning." Actually, the more I think about it, the more that makes perfect sense. Sorry, EMAW. Nothing? You missed Ned Yost on Sunday? Ned’s biggest mistake in Kansas City. No exaggeration. Two and a half games out of the wild card is exciting, but Yordano Ventura would be pitching to potentially bring the Royals to within a half-game if Yost had used the bullpen and — and don’t forget, the rest of this is an IF — the Royals held Detroit scoreless and won in extra innings (as it happened, of course, the Royals didn’t score in the top of the ninth). Kansas City! C’mon, people. You’re better than this. It’s still undecided, I think. I don’t think the people — well, the person — who will ultimately decide that knows for sure at this point, and I do want to stress that this is just my feeling and not based on anything I’ve heard from the man. But, say the Royals win 86 games or so and miss the playoffs. There will be an evaluation needed, one that examines whether Ned’s strengths (most notably, in my opinion: bullpen and clubhouse management) outweigh his weaknesses (most notably, in my opinion: specific strategic mistakes like the one Sunday, and an uncertainty of whether he can lead a team into the playoffs and not just to the brink of the playoffs). The Royals — David Glass, basically — will have to decide whether Ned was a bigger cause of the 17-3 spurts of promise or the 4-19 spurts of depression. I know everyone wants an answer right now, but I’m not quite there yet. They’re not going to fire him or give him an extension today, so I think it’s fair to wait until after the season. But if I was the owner, my attitude would be that I’d still need to be convinced. Yeah, basically. The talent’s been here, we’ve been talking about it for years. But as much as people hate hearing it, Dayton Inc. are absolutely correct when they say it takes time. Now, Dayton needs to stop it with the eight-to-ten years mantra. But he is right to point out that the Royals he took over were not an overnight project, and that every example you can come up with of a quicker fix^ has some holes in it when relating to the Royals. ^ Take the Rays, for instance. Andrew Friedman benefitted from having Carl Crawford and other eventual stars already in house, and got lucky when the Royals insanely swept a season-ending series against the Tigers and gifted the Rays David Price with the next year’s No. 1 overall pick. Teams can make their own luck in drafts, but the Royals have been one pick away from a consensus star at the top of the draft a few times. Of course they can. If anyone thinks a playoff-less 2013 would be a complete waste, they’re just wrong. Eighty-seven (or whatever) wins and no postseason isn’t necessarily a point to put on your resume, but, again, it would put the Royals directly on pace of what Terry Ryan’s Twins did around the turn of the century. Then, going into 2014, I think everyone involved would understand that it’s playoffs or bust. I think so. Francona is, in my opinion, one of the best three or four managers in baseball, one of the very few who can make a significant difference in a team — and I say that knowing he was fired in Philadelphia, and had an embarrassing end in Boston. But for the most part, I think managers’ impacts are vastly overrated by fans and media, and that the vast majority of big league managers are roughly as effective as each other. I don’t think they’re going 1-11. They should win this weekend, actually. They’re a better team than last year, and the Big 12 is worse than last year. Three or even four wins is realistic, which brings us to this and, yeah. I think they can get one or maybe even two. West Virginia is bad, and plays in Lawrence. Iowa State doesn’t look good, though that game is in Ames. Look, I didn’t like the Weis hire and haven’t seen anything to change my mind, but I also don’t think it’s fair to bury him already. If he wins four games this year, a lot of people will be optimistic going into next season. I have just enough pride to believe I can win that race. You don’t have to ask me twice. You are dismissed.  


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