Don't Kill The Mellinger

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

Twitter Tuesday: Value of stupidity, James Shields vs. Jake Odorizzi, Chiefs holes, and Andy Reid

07/29/2014 10:06 AM

07/29/2014 2:47 PM

There is no telling how many people Stephen A. Smith spoke for. This is something nobody seems to be talking much about.

You know the basics here. On a television program that people seem to take seriously for some reason, Smith essentially said that women need to take responsibility for provoking domestic violence against them. It was brain-dead, sexist, ugly, out-of-touch, a million other adjectives that basically equate to Smith saying something indefensibly stupid.

Smith has apologized, but only after a few media cycles torched him.

Now, I think I was probably like most people throughout this whole ugly drama, which of course started after the NFL suspended Ray Rice two games for domestic violence. Rice knocked his now-wife unconscious, and two games seems awfully light. And then when Smith said what he said, I took it as such a ridiculous thing to say on a show that I feel like we’ve all agreed has no credibility that it wasn’t worth much outrage.

But that’s a simplistic and probably naïve view, the more I think about it. Smith said something that too many people — men and women — have probably felt or thought at some point.

And maybe this is backwards, but I do believe there can be value in exposing ignorance. Get it out in the open, and let it be shot down and ridiculed. Expose the flawed and dangerous thinking that can lead to a grown man saying a woman needs to be careful not to provoke a man into beating her.

You can change minds like this. I don’t know, maybe this is a stretch. But I think the NFL going light on Rice, then Smith saying something so stupid, and the reaction we’ve seen over the last week or so can do some good.

I hope so, anyway.

This week’s eating recommendation is the lamb meatball at Grunauer, and the reading recommendation is Greg Bedard on the life of offensive line coaches.

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

Sir. Please keep your dirty hands off my job and, besides — do you think this is easy? Do you think that I have the kind of job where I just show up at a game and write whatever I want? Do you think it’s easy to sit at home, look stuff up on the internet, call smart people who know what they’re talking about, and THEN write something about sports knowing that if I screw something up the worst that can happen is a correction in the next day’s paper?

Well, DO YOU?!?!??

Please do not answer any of those questions. Like I say, thanks for reading.

This is far too easy, of course, because James Shields is way more valuable than Butler and Guthrie combined. If you could present this option as a real thing to Dayton Moore, he would giggle uncontrollably, trade Butler and Guthrie for whatever he could get, sign Shields, and then spend the rest of the day not wearing pants and high-fiving everyone who walked down the hallway.

But I include this because the reality is Butler and Shields are both almost certainly in their last seasons with the Royals. Depending on whether Butler regains the form that made him one of the American League’s best right-handed hitters for a while, maybe that’s a good thing with him, especially when weighed against the $12.5 million team option for 2015.

With Shields, this is an undeniably bad thing. He is the most established pitcher on the team, and I know we in the media can overstate this, but he really is a valuable leader. There are a million factors that have gone into Danny Duffy starting to emerge, but I’m convinced that an important one is Shields’ presence.

Part of that is that Duffy has mentioned this, over and over and over again, and it just makes so much damn sense. Shields, more than the vast majority of starting pitchers, can look like a hothead on the mound. He cusses himself, allows himself visible displays of frustration after bad pitches, all of which violates the "code" that coaches always preach.

That’s because Shields has found a way to use that emotion for good, not evil, and what better example for Duffy? His whole professional career, Duffy has tried to tame his emotions. Then he sees a top-of-the-rotation ace, a guy who still might be signing a $100 million contract this offseason, able to channel his energy in such a productive way. Duffy has access to Shields, can ask questions, watch up close not just on the nights Shields pitches but the four days in between.

Again, I don’t want to overstate this. Like the rest of us, Duffy should get credit for his own successes. But beyond being a good starting pitcher, Shields can (and has) provided other value for the Royals.

That’ll be missed.

I haven’t asked anyone in the Royals front office directly, so this is just speculation, but I don’t believe the Royals have or will be close to trading Butler. He’s more valuable than the small return he’d bring, because the Royals were built on the assumption that he’d hit.

If he’s not hitting, you’re not going to get anything in return. And if he is hitting, then you need him in your lineup. Either way, the way the Royals are constructed they’re better off with him on the team. Especially if the faint Marlon Byrd rumors are dead, the Royals are highly unlikely to be able to make a trade for someone who can hit like even a fuzzy version of the good Butler.

Also, let’s keep in mind that this recent surge is three games and nine at bats. He changed two games the Royals needed with home runs, so I’m not trying to diminish anything here, but this isn’t DiMaggio in 1941.

People are crazy about Yost, enough that I tried to use the #Yosted thing ironically the other day, and I think people just assumed I was ripping the manager. I mean, let me be clear: Yost’s weaknesses are gaining ground on his strengths every day, and that debacle about Scott Downs facing Jonny Gomes with the game on the line in Boston pushed his credibility as a big league manager past the comfort level.

But the problem a lot of Royals fans have is that when you rip him for things that don’t deserve to be ripped, you lose credibility on the things he can be ripped for.

Like, I heard from someone angry Yost pulled Danny Duffy after seven innings against the Indians on Thursday. Duffy is less than a year removed from returning from Tommy John surgery, on pace to throw more innings than ever, and through seven innings had thrown more pitches than he had all year. The Royals have the best combination of 8th- and 9th-inning relievers in baseball. This was as simple as decisions get in baseball.

I realize I’m pulling an extreme example here to make a point, but, yeah, Yost would’ve been crushed for his relievers throwing bad pitches (in the scenario you lay out in the question) and it would’ve been one more layer of b.s. criticism that diminishes the legitimate criticism.

Nobody’s talked much about this, but the front office is catching a major break this year with Everyone’s Favorite Prospect Wil Myers hitting .227/.313/.354 and now on the disabled list. Whatever criticism the Royals have taken, if Myers was backing up his Rookie of the Year performance, well, it would be a bad look for a team now in need of a right-handed hitting right fielder.

But Odorizzi is coming on, too. He dominated the Brewers last night, going seven innings and giving up just one run (a solo homer) and three hits. He struck out five and walked none. Since June 10 — more or less the sample size that inspired this blog post and this trade — Odorizzi has pitched 56 innings in nine starts, striking out 58, walking 17, and giving up 41 hits and a .198/.258/.324 slash line. The batting average on balls in play (.238) indicates some luck, but the strikeouts indicate some swagger.

Not to depress you, but:

Jake Odorizzi: 3.80 ERA over 113 2/3 innings, 104 hits, 129 strikeouts and 42 walks.

James Shields: 3.58 ERA over 143 1/3 innings, 153 hits, 120 strikeouts and 29 walks.

I’m not sure how to answer this. There would certainly be a subset that would say that the second wild card isn’t a real playoff spot, that it’s something like bussing tables at a party and telling everyone how awesome it was to be there.

And Royals fans, you know I love you.

But I’m just telling you right now, if you go that route, you are going to come off as incredibly whiny. Winning a wild card spot would end — I think I type this phrase four times a week now — the longest playoff drought in North American sports.

It would mean the Royals were in a real playoff race, with games throughout September — CHIEFS SEASON!!! — that mattered, and came out of it smiling. It would mean a dogpile on the field, and a champagne celebration in the clubhouse. It would mean the Royals would be playing in the postseason for the first time since George Brett hugged Bret Saberhagen in 1985.

I’m not saying that many Royals executives would not be insufferable in their confusion of the second wild card spot and the World Series. But I am saying that if a lot of fans complain about being in a wild card game instead of winning the division, it’s going to come across like a starving man spitting on a cheeseburger because he demands steak.

Besides, you know, the winner of the second wild card can win that game and make the division series. The Rays won a one-game playoff just to get to the wild card game, and ended up in the division series last year.

I did, and I was a little surprised by the traction it got around Royals fans. I mean, guys. You can come up with a thousand ways to show how gawd-awful the Royals have been since 2000. Most of them are more damning than this graphic, the results of which I think most of us would’ve guessed.

Time’s mine?

Of course I missed the big lug. The thing I always think with Andy — and I know you could say this about the vast majority of people in the public eye — he is so much more entertaining than what he lets fans see in press conferences.

He’s legitimately funny. I’m not talking about that athlete-funny, the one where awful jokes inspire lots of media clowns to go to that awful fake laughter that always comes across so desperate and sad. I’m talking about legitimate funny. And it’s a self-deprecating humor, too, which is just the quickest way to my heart.

I think I’ve told this story before here, but he has a beach house in California. His family spends parts of the offseason there, and occasionally they go out on paddleboards. Andy is obsessed with his work, enough that he always has a notebook nearby on vacation for when plays come to mind. The only exception is on the paddleboard.

"This is what I really understand when I’m on that paddleboard," he says. "I am a shark’s and a killer whale’s buffet. If I fall in, they’d be the happiest things on earth. I try to keep that in perspective. That trumps all my thoughts. So I’m not hurrying anywhere."

I’d also really enjoy it if he came into a press conference sometime like this:

I know there’s talk about it, because this is the last year it has to be in St. Joe. But I’d be shocked if they move it. The football staff loves it there, and they have a big say in this. St. Joe is far enough that you get away, but close enough that you can get back and forth if you really need to. The facilities are good, the people great. Really, I’d be shocked if they moved it.

That said, River Falls is much less likely to feel like the surface of the sun in July and August. And I started on the Chiefs the first year they trained at St. Joe, so I never saw it up there. So I’m all for it.

I don’t think there is one. The Chiefs are super-screwed if Jamaal Charles gets hurt, but you could play the what-if injury game with every team in the league.

Eric Fisher is a big ol’ question mark at left tackle. He was much better later in the season than early, and maybe the move back to the left side will make him more comfortable. But that’s an important spot to not be sure what you have.

The Chiefs also showed the ability to get torched in the secondary last year when the pass rush didn’t speed things up, and that was with Brandon Flowers. Also, especially if Dwayne Bowe is the 2013 version and not the one that actually earned that contract, the receivers really stink.

But this is a long way of saying it’s hard for me to picture the Chiefs going much better than 8-8 no matter what, so I’m not sure I have an answer for you.

But, fine. You ask a question, I give an answer: Fisher. The Chiefs need more than him, but if he stinks, then it’s a harder climb.

They’re on a ridiculous roll, this win in Toronto over the weekend in the 80th minute while playing a man down because of an ejection of Matt Besler merely the latest. I really do think there’s something to the idea that Sporting is able to play more of its style on the road, because the other team isn’t packing it in praying for a draw.

This isn’t what you’re asking about, at least not directly, but the resiliency is even more impressive when you consider all the injuries and different lineups they’ve gone through.

The guys in charge of that team have high goals. They didn’t just want to win one year, because that’s fun for a bit and then eventually forgotten. So the way the club responded the year after winning the MLS Cup was always going to be important.

Long way to go, of course, but they’re coming up aces so far.

It’s a great question. The NFL had its reasons for "only" suspending Ray Rice two games for a gruesome domestic violence incident on his now-wife. Those reasons, basically, are procedural, give a lot of credit to Rice’s good track record, and reportedly considered an "impassioned plea" to go lenient on Rice from the victim.

The NFL has come out and defended its punishment, but going light on a man beating a woman unconscious is an enormous miscalculation for the image-obsessed NFL. In the wake of the news, there was a long stream of media screaming over each other about the punishment being too light, but I thought Mina Kimes had the best angle here.

I don’t think it’s right to insinuate that the NFL does not care about domestic violence. But I do think it’s absolutely fair to crush the league for being shamefully behind the curve on this one. Every October, the league goes pink in support of the fight against breast cancer. That’s nice, but until the league goes after domestic violence with even a fraction of the energy, there is a gap between what the NFL says it’s about and what the league is showing itself to be about.

I can’t speak to how women see the league, obviously, but I do think the league is woefully tone deaf here. Some of the programs to cultivate more female fans come across condescending, and when the only women featured prominently in the league are the cheerleaders — and when those cheerleaders are treated like this — there’s a message sent that I think a lot of parents would rather their daughters not see.

We went over the ways the Royals can win a wild card spot.

But I hope nobody took that as a prediction. I’ve had the Royals at 85 wins or so all along. Just good enough to keep you interested, just flawed enough that they’ll miss the playoffs.

So I’m guessing you’ll be pissed at a missed opportunity for the team, not for yourself missing a playoff game. Oh, also: you’ll be pissed at the lines and the parents who put their kids on leashes at Disney World.

This week’s Knoda:

 

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

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