Don't Kill The Mellinger

September 24, 2013

Twitter Tuesday: Royals playoff scenarios, Chiefs dreams, Justin Houston, Billy Butler, and the greatest husband note ever left

OK, so the Royals are three back of the wild card with six to play.

Don't Kill the Mellinger

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

OK, so the Royals are three back of the wild card with six to play. 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 week’s reading recommendation is Bruce Feldman behind the scenes of Texas A&M’s preparation for Alabama, and the eating recommendation is the mac-and-cheese with jalapenos and burnt ends at Beer Kitchen. The jalapenos aren’t listed as an option with the mac and cheese, but trust me, go off the menu. I’m 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 let’s 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, there’s 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 haven’t watched their bed-wetting against the Panthers yet, but there’s talent here, even as Eli Manning is both a good and eternally overrated quarterback. The biggest problem with the Giants is turnovers. They’ve 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 they’ll be catching this team in front of what will surely be another crazy crowd. 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, I’d say, his greatest strength. And in the two games since, he’s 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 I’d also bet you that if it was possible to go back before the season and present it as a legitimate choice the Chiefs would’ve preferred to trade for Kaepernick instead of Alex Smith^. ^ Who has been very good, and who I’ve always been very high on. The thing about the Chiefs being 3-0 I see comments like this, and I can’t tell if they’re self-aware overreactions or honest evaluations. It’s 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, it’s 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 could’ve meant the Chiefs lost. Last Thursday is the Chiefs’ most impressive win, for a lot of reasons, but it’s 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. 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 don’t 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 — doesn’t rob him of his drive, he should be fine. And there’s no reason to believe he won’t still work hard. Drive has never been Bowe’s problem; it’s 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 today’s NFL, and especially with the investment in Smith — the Chiefs need talented players to catch passes. The one year he’s played with a quarterback who didn’t suck, he led the NFL in touchdowns. I still haven’t had it, and I hate typing these words. I assume it’s awesome. You can judge for yourself, but I wasn’t 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 shouldn’t give up 264 yards rushing on 27 carries. We’re 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, I’m 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 didn’t turn it over? They haven’t gone three games with no turnovers since Oct. 2010, and haven’t done four in a row since — wait for it — 1997. Greg Hill led the Chiefs in rushing that year. I’m just playing the odds here, guys: they commit a turnover on Sunday. 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 you’re 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 "shouldn’t that be everyone’s goal?" sort of thing. Anyway, I’ve said since the offseason that I expect Houston to get into the 14+ range, but there’s 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 didn’t get the other team’s quarterback to take a dive. Think of it like this. To break the record, Houston needs 15 ½ MORE sacks, a total that would’ve ranked fourth in the NFL last year. In theory, I agree he waited to long. But in practice, I can’t criticize anyone for taking their son to Joe’s. 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. I don’t 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 can’t really remember a team going into a season carrying that "wild card favorite" tag. But, to answer your question, I think they’ll be expected to be better. And if they’re better, they’ll have a very good shot at it. As, perhaps, the city’s staunchest Billy Butler defender I’ve 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 isn’t 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. He’s 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, let’s 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 he’s slow. The Royals are, finally, good. And with the offense needing a boost, it’d 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 Hosmer’s .807, and two behind Hosmer’s 120) but it’s hard to remember a two-week stretch where he carried them offensively. Yeah. I mean, it’s something. But I say this without intentional trolling, and most of you will understand how I mean it: you can’t put "weren’t mathematically eliminated until the last week of 2013" on a flag. This can’t be the climax. Kansas City! Like we talked about at the top, I believe your high currently has a tragic number of four. Sure beats what Kansas City’s been used to. Good question. At the top here, I’ll 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 he’s also been really good with the micro, picking up two important pieces for, basically, bupkis. Maxwell’s Moment on Sunday earns him a lot of deserved capital in this argument, but I’m 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. Clinton’s not lying, actually. Here’s 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 Oof. Kenamo here is a valued part of Twitter Tuesday, and I’m not sure if this is what he means, so I’m 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, that’s fine, we’re all entitled to our opinions. I’d just ask that you stay out of it when the adults are talking. Mostly, it’s 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 A’s. I’d add Pittsburgh to the teams that’ve shown it’s possible to turn things around quicker without spending a lot of money. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve been consistent about Dayton Inc.: they’ve 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 they’ve made is Christian Colon over Chris Sale in the draft, but they’ve 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/A’s/Pirates are those micro mistakes. I’m 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. 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. The most famous celebration injury has to be this one: But you’ve 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. It’s a scary world out there, guys. Be careful. Look, I love Breaking Bad. Might be my favorite show I’ve ever watched in "real time." I look forward to it every week, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone. But I think a lot of you are more into TV than I am. When Breaking Bad is over, I don’t know that I’ll think about it much anymore. It’s that way with 24, or The Wire, or the Sopranos, or any number of awesome shows that now only exist on DVDs. Sincerely, Wet Blanket That’s 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 didn’t give me an entirely underwhelming Crossroads concert experience a year or two ago. Thankfully, Trampled Under Foot opened for them. I can’t improve on this. I don’t know whether to give you a hug, a high-five, or a phone number for a therapist.

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