Columnist Vahe Gregorian offers musings about the sports scene in and around Kansas City
Friday Five: Baffling Royals, gracious Alex Smith, Heineman’s prediction and ... futsal?
07/25/2014 11:44 AM
07/25/2014 11:44 AM
1. Being Royal Means …?
Not sure I’ve ever encountered a more mercurial, mystifying team than the 2014 Royals. It’s not just that being Royal means being the definition of inconsistency; it’s that it’s to such extremes.
A few days ago, they seemed in tatters, only a strand or two from disintegration.
Now, they’re back only a stride or two from contention.
Every time you think they’re transformed into being who they really are, like I’ve thought a couple times this season, they demonstrate otherwise.
Every time you think they have traction or momentum, like, say, with a 10-game winning streak, they’ll step in quicksand and, say, lose six of the next seven.
Every time you’re disgusted and, say, turn off the radio the second you hear they’re losing 6-0 last Sunday in Boston, they cobble together a little something like three straight wins to get back to 51-50 after the remarkable and bizarre 2-1 triumph over Cleveland on Thursday.
In some ways, that game was a microcosm of the season.
Nineteen batters in, the Royals hadn’t had so much as a man on base against Corey Kluber to squander yet another exceptional effort by emerging Danny Duffy.
In the eighth inning, Cleveland loaded the bases with one out, surely to bust it open, only for the Royals to escape unscathed when Wade Davis saved his own jam by inducing a double-play grounder.
Then came Mike Moustakas’ double, played into what Star writer Andy McCullough aptly called “a Little League homer” to give the Royals a 1-0 lead.
Then the Royals’ most dependable player, All-Star closer Greg Holland, bungled a save in the ninth inning.
To complete the exercise in the incomprehensible, improbable designated hitter Nori Aoki singled home Lorenzo Cain with the winning run in the 14th inning.
This game easily could have gone the other way, which makes its significance and context all the more unfathomable.
Is it the start of another surge, the beginning of another correction in the other direction or an independent blip?
All we know is the Royals are a game better than they were at this time last season, which proved to be their best in 25 but wasn’t good enough to break this ridiculous playoff drought.
All we know is they continue to be best defined in the eye of the beholder: Are they an underperforming offensive bunch that still figures to produce more, or a truly punchless team on the verge of collapse if the pitching can’t hold up?
But at least there is this:
As we approach August, the Royals are relevant and, in fact, kind of mesmerizing … whether it’s because or despite the fact just you don’t know what’s coming next.
2. Alex Smith Unconcerned About Getting His
Really impressed with the constant grace and professionalism of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who projected true happiness over seeing Jamaal Charles rewarded with a reworked contract even as a potential extension for Smith remains in limbo.
“The guy is one of the most special players in the league and deserved it; I’m glad to see that get done,” Smith said.
It’s hard to know if the sides in Smith’s case are at odds or if it’s just the natural flow of negotiations, but I believe Smith when he says this is no concern of his in the moment.
“When something gets finalized, let me know, but until then, don’t bother me. That’s the way I want it,” said Smith, adding that he’s not even sure if discussions currently are taking place. “I wouldn’t even know. They can talk to me if something happens.
“If not, I’ve got a year left, and I’m planning on playing it. It doesn’t change anything either way for me. I’ve got some football ahead of me. I’m focused on that, and I’m trying to get ready for the Titans (in the season opener).
“That’s just the way I feel about things, and that’s the way it needs to be done. There’s no more time to be bothered by distractions like that.”
3. Sporting’s Encore
Overshadowed in the ruckus Wednesday at Sporting Park over unveiling the pending National Training and Coaching Development Center was this nugget from Sporting CEO Robb Heineman: “Winning MLS Cups are a wonderful thing, and we’re going to win it again this year.”
4. Kansas’ World-Class Appeal
Spoke about the project on the phone with Kansas secretary of commerce Pat George the other day, and, of course, he’s excited about what he expects will be global attention to it.
“I have a dream of when the World Cup comes (back) to the USA that at least there will be an asterisk at the bottom of it that says, ‘Thanks to Kansas, and its vision with the training center,’” he said.
For now, though, he’s just eager to engage the process of getting shovels in the ground and getting it built.
“It’s similar to when you tell your kids you’re going to go get ice cream in a couple hours,” he said. “About every five minutes, ‘Is it time to go? is it time to go?’ There will be a lot of that over the next year or so.”
5. It Only Sounds Like A Cleanser
One of the things I was intrigued by in the announcement reflects the apparent rise of the game of “futsal,” traditionally a five-on-five version of soccer played on smaller surfaces.
Instead of three regular soccer fields Sporting initially had agreed to build as part of a previous long-term commitment to Wyandotte County, it’s building 10 for futsal, a version of the game that the NTCDC also has plans to facilitate.
That evolved from what Heineman called “due diligence,” studying the area and observing a number of popup goals signifying the game sprouting locally on abandoned tennis courts.
“If you go out there tonight, there will be a line of kids outside Wyandotte High Schoool playing futsal right now,” said Mark Holland, the mayor of Kansas City, Kan.
To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to email@example.com. Follow on Twitter.com/vgregorian
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