Gregorian Chants

Columnist Vahe Gregorian offers musings about the sports scene in and around Kansas City

Vahe's Friday Five: Avoiding a Royals' pre-June swoon and more

03/28/2014 10:55 AM

03/28/2014 10:55 AM

Every Friday, Star sports columnist Vahe Gregorian takes on five topics on his blog: 1. This is my first full spring in Kansas City, but from what I can tell optimism bubbling over the Royals is at a near-peak of the last generation or so.

Concerns about Omar Infante’s arm notwithstanding, it seems justified.

The Royals seem to have spackled in some of their most glaring needs with Infante and Nori Aoki, figure to have much the same strong pitching now accented by phenom Yordano Ventura and should again have one of the best defenses in the game.

Now starting immediately with opening day Monday at Detroit, it’s up to them to end a miserable pattern and not douse the anticipation.

If April is the cruelest month, as poet T.S. Eliot wrote, May hasn’t been much better for the Royals.

Since 2000, they’ve had a winning record entering June 1 just once (27-26 in 2003) and have gone 264-406 overall through the first two full months of the seasons.

In the seven full seasons of general manager Dayton Moore’s tenure, they’re 152-215 to June 1 with a best of 23-27 in 2009.

That has included going 8-20 in May 2013, 6-15 in April 2012, 10-17 in May 2011, 9-14 in April 2010, 11-17 in May 2009, 10-19 in May 2008 and 8-18 in April 2007.

While they’ve had worse month-long funks later in the season on some occasions, April or May generally has punctured the season and disillusioned the fan base.

A number of times, of course, those starts were representative of the season as a whole. But who’s to say how much the early flops influenced what came later?

And if they’d just been bad instead of hideous in May last season, they might well have earned their first playoff berth since 1985.

2. A few weeks ago in Surprise, Ariz., Royals manager Ned Yost was asked about their use of walkie-talkies in spring training

for the dress rehearsals of the instant replay system to be incorporated this season.

Quizzed about how this all works, Yost playfully said, "You turn it on, and you’ve got to push the button."

As for the real intent of the question, how the system will work, Yost noted that there will be hard-line phones in the dugout for the replays.

But the Royals still will keep walkie-talkies handy during the season because they’re more reliable than cell phones and

"Because at times the bullpen phone doesn’t work at Kauffman," he said. "We don’t know if (it’s because) you don’t hang it up just right. We’ve had issues with both (dugout phones) not working."

No sense messing with that: The Royals had the best bullpen ERA (3.71) in the American League last season and one of the best bullpens in baseball by any measure.

3. What a terrific win for Central Missouri and coach Kim Anderson on Thursday night in the Division II national semifinal. The Mules beat Metro State 71-69 on T.J. White’s layup with one second left

.

If there’s a better guy in college basketball than Anderson, I don’t know who it is. And you could see the strength of his personality in how calm he was down the stretch as his team gritted out the win and withstood Mitch McCarron’s near-Christian Laettneresque turnaround three-pointer at the buzzer.

It’s the third time in the D-II Final Four for Anderson, a Sedalia native who played and coached at Mizzou.

Here’s hoping it ends with his first national title and the first for the Mules since 1984, when Central Missouri became the first school to win NCAA men’s and women’s basketball national titles in the same season.

4. So many reasons to like Wichita State’s Ron Baker,

but here’s something that stood out to me from speaking with him a few times over the last couple weeks:

When you ask him a question, he listens to it and often says the word "sure" as he absorbs it and considers his answer. He’s not just polite but forthcoming, even in his pain after the Shockers’ 78-76 loss to Kentucky. That’s refreshing at a time many stars either have up force-fields or go into automatic-pilot.

5. It was silly overkill but understandable enough when the NCAA wanted to prevent

the media sitting courtside at tournament games from flashing a cup or a can of soda that might have advertised the competitor of a sponsor.

But true absurdity has emerged the last few years: The NCAA no longer allows even unmarked cups courtside.

All liquids now have to be poured into an approved sponsor cup, lest there be any imagery that isn’t being used to sell.

And it’s taken seriously enough that ushers between the press work area and the court are charged with scrutinizing each person who passes and making them pour the drink from any blank cup into an approved container.

It’s not the worst thing in the world, really, but it speaks to the broader way the NCAA tends to obsess on the irrelevant when there are so many other points of emphasis it could better spend its energy on.

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