Don't Kill The Mellinger

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

Twitter Tuesday: Royals adding payroll (?), Chiefs cutting Flowers, fair expectations, LeBron, soccer, and expecting heartbreak

06/17/2014 10:30 AM

06/17/2014 1:45 PM

There is no upside in Dayton Moore’s words.

Maybe that shouldn’t matter. Maybe he was just being honest, just answering a question, just speaking from the heart. That’s all good and defensible.

But there is absolutely no upside in Moore telling The Star’s Andy McCullough that David Glass would be willing to add to a franchise record payroll at next month’s trade deadline if the team remains in contention and Moore sees an opportunity.

This has always been Glass’ stated philosophy, but because these are the Royals, it’s sort of like your neighbor talking about what he’d do if he won the lottery. There has been no test, not a real one anyway, because we’re not counting 2003 when the Royals added Curt Leskanic and Brian Anderson to what I think we all understood to be a smoke-and-mirrors playoff push.

So, it’s nice that Glass says he’s willing to add to the payroll if there’s a reasonable chance it would push the Royals to the playoffs. Really, it’s nice. No sarcasm here. Royals fans get angry when this is pointed out^ but it’s also true: since 2006, after years of operating like one of the worst owners in major sports, Glass has operated like a model small-money baseball owner. Adding payroll to boost a playoff push would fall in line with eight years of a track record.

^ I’ve heard Glass also gets angry when it’s pointed out, so whatever.

But there is no upside in saying this. Not now. This is not some coded message to other teams that might be sellers at the deadline, because there are better ways to send that message through the small-world baseball industry.

This is an honest answer — which I think we all appreciate — that will be taken by most of the fan base with a justifiable roll of the eyes and a yeah-we’ll-see-about-that. Assuming the Royals do stay in contention, maybe they add someone. A right fielder is the most obvious spot. Maybe some bullpen depth.

But if they stay in contention and the right deal doesn’t materialize, then these words are going to be used by some to hang the front office and ownership. A generation of irrelevant baseball will be on the side of the hangers, too.

Moore is a baseball man, not a PR man, and kudos for the honesty. But there’s just no profit in him saying what he said.

This week’s eating recommendation is the Sason-Brett pulled pork slider from Wilma’s. The reading recommendation is Tyler Kepner’s appreciation of Tony Gwynn.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for the help. You guys are good to me.

Without question.

The great thing about fans, or at least the ones I hear from on Twitter and email, is that precisely zero of the ones endlessly complaining about Ned for the first two months of the season are writing in to give him even a modicum of credit for the team heating up.

It’s almost as if fans, or at least Twitter, thinks that managers can ONLY screw everything up. That if a team wins, it’s the super-awesome players. And if it loses, it’s the idiot manager.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned from covering the Royals: the fans who’ve stuck around have a sense of humor about things.

You can’t generalize about anybody, especially not a group as big as Royals fans^, but I think most them are self-aware — at least when it’s pointed out that they need to be.

^ I don’t mean that sarcastically, either.

What I mean by that is I do think the Ned-is-a-big-ol’-dummy narrative has deep roots with a lot of Royals fans, but if the reasonable among them see it pointed out that, no, Ned isn’t much different than probably 25 other big league managers and, no, a big league manager doesn’t make all that much of an impact and that, sure, Ned’s biggest strengths (clubhouse management, player respect) are hidden and his biggest weaknesses (lineup construction, unnecessarily defensive press conferences) are clear, they’ll see that FAR too much attention is put on the manager.

The Royals are winning because they’re hitting better, basically, and that’s not on Ned.

Just like they were losing because they were hitting like dogs, basically, and that wasn’t on Ned.

I’ve been saying since the offseason that this is the Royals best team on paper since the strike, and the last week or so has been the first time I haven’t been mocked for that. That’s a low bar, obviously, but still just as true.

The biggest weakness, obviously, is hitting. Especially power hitting. But find me a Royals team in recent history without a weakness, and after you do that, please think about whether all the drugs you’re taking are really making you a happier person or covering up some deep wounds that need healing.

The bottom could fall out just as quickly as this recent surge — besides injury, the bullpen isn’t very deep, and the offense is still operating without a safety net — but since the Astros series we’ve pretty much seen the blueprint of Dayton Moore’s happy dreams.

It can be absolutely critical for this week, and, maybe, a 7 or so on the ol’ 1-10 scale when viewed in the bigger picture.

And the only reasons I’m willing go that high is the Royals’ struggles in the division (less of a concern now than five games ago, obvi) and that they haven’t beaten the Tigers yet.

The Royals could lose the next three and still make the playoffs, and they could sweep Detroit and still lose 85 games. So it can’t be that important, and if you hear anyone use the term "must-win" this week, you will be letting us all down if you don’t mock them without mercy.

But, c’mon. Four games (without your ace) against the team you’re looking up at in the standings? Of course it’s important.

Holy crap, I adore this question. I mean, this is just perfect. Presumptive, optimistic, pessimistic, big dreams with a bit of blood-thirst and acknowledgement that this will all probably end in disappointment. All contained within 140 characters. Really, just a beautifully executed tweet here. I will toast you tonight.

My very first gut reaction to the question is yes.

Then a half-second later, I switch to no.

Then after considering the question for a few more minutes, I sort of shrug my shoulders and think, "we’ll see."

Part of the beauty of this question is that it is big and definitive and a complete Rorschach Test. If you’re so inclined, you can say yes, absolutely, that would be the best season the Royals have had since 1985 so what the hell are you talking about? And if you’re so inclined, you can say no, absolutely not, you’re just falling for the old okey-dokey here because the playoffs are watered down and the Royals would’ve sacrificed Wil Myers for some second-rate version of standing in line outside a really cool club for five hours and then once you get in realizing the really cool parts are behind another velvet rope.

Me, I’m going to be awfully sick of people whining about losing the wild card game, if that’s what it comes to.

Well, of course they have a plan. Now, what is the plan? The most obvious thing is to use the money to sign Alex Smith and Justin Houston.

The Chiefs save $7 million in cap space this season by cutting Flowers, and more next year. Flowers is a talented player with a proven track record, and that’s hard to let go, but he’s also undersized for what the Chiefs like to do and coming off a rotten season (Pro Bowl or not).

The problem, of course, is that the Chiefs are now without their best cornerback and, I think, still play in the same division as Peyton Manning. Also, Keenan Allen turned into Randy Moss against the Chiefs last year. At this point, the pass defense strategy looks a little like, well, crap.

This is one of those excruciating moves that NFL teams are always considering. The Chiefs got worse by cutting Flowers, but they did get dollar-for-dollar stronger. John Dorsey will typically err going younger rather than staying older, and the further you get from the ball being snapped the more he wants to stay young.

But, safe to say, if the Chiefs go into the season and all they have to show for cutting their best cornerback is more cap space, the plan has failed.

Well, yeah. Oklahoma State has agreed to play Mizzou in December, and K-State will be with Mizzou (and North Carolina, and Northwestern) in the 2015 CBE. And it’s not just that. KU has played Colorado, and at least talked to Nebraska. K-State is playing A&M in Kansas City this upcoming season.

I mean, the child-like, stomp-my-feet-into-the-ground stance of KU on this issue has always been petty and full of holes. Over time, yeah, obviously, those holes will be further exposed.

Which is why I still believe at some point, they’ll play.

Hate can be profitable, and that game would be a monster.

I guess this is what we do in sports, and I guess I should play along. LeBron is the greatest basketball player in the world, which means that’s not good enough, which means we have to decide and debate and scream about whether he’s the best player ever, which means we of course go back to Jordan.

LeBron is 29 years old. He’s won two gold medals, two NBA championships, four MVPs, and been to five Finals (dragging two otherwise crappy teams there). He’s never really had a sniff of scandal around him, unless you count the excruciatingly ill-conceived and executed Decision.

Can that not be enough?

Can we not just enjoy the closest thing to a perfect basketball player —strength, speed, passing, scoring, everything — that we’ve seen in at least a generation?

Yes, of course his career accomplishments are not at Jordan’s level. You are free to cling to that, if you’d like. Me, I’ll be over here, recognizing a transcendent talent and enjoying the experience of watching him play.

You guys probably know that I like soccer, and would like to make it a bigger part of my sports fandom. I like the pace, I love the passion, and, let’s be honest, with a baby boy now I’d much rather push him toward soccer than, say, football. I also am among the many who respect and appreciate what the Cerner guys have done with Sporting.^

^ Even if it sometimes feels like I’m the only one who will say out loud that they completely screwed up the Livestrong stuff, or that building a winning organization while generally being toward the bottom of MLS payrolls probably means that the dreams of them buying the Royals and turning them into the Yankees are delusional.

But you guys need to stop with the exaggerations. It’s like the constant whining about Ned, how it clouds and discredits the times where you can justifiably criticize the guy.

Sporting is not outdrawing the Royals.

Sporting is averaging 19,714 fans over eight home games.

The Royals are averaging 21,118 fans over 34 home games.

Even if we ignore that the Royals play more than four times as many games AND that the TV ratings are a complete mismatch, the Royals are outdrawing Sporting in average attendance.

That’s OK. Doesn’t mean the Royals are flawless, or that Sporting is small-time.

But let’s just keep it honest.

Kansas City!

There are injuries, of course. It’s hard to imagine the Royals absorbing anything serious to James Shields, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar or Sal Perez. Also, you should know that Royals officials are holding their figurative breath every time Yordano Ventura pitches. But injuries could derail any team. What would the Tigers be, for instance, if Miguel Cabrera or Max Scherzer go down?

So the answer here for the Royals is, basically, the offense turning back into a pumpkin.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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