One of MU athletic director Mack Rhoades’ talking points has been an open desire to play Kansas again, and his mention of having discussions with Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger has let fans and media fill in the blanks. This makes it a good time to mention that there is no indication from Lawrence that renewal is more likely now than before.
Pitcher Yordano Ventura’s starts this season have been defined by drama — cramps, taunts, ejections, and too often lots of runs. But in pitching seven scoreless innings Tuesday night in Kansas City’s 3-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds, Ventura showed everyone why the Royals made him their opening-day starter and gave him a contract that guarantees at least $23 million.
Danny Duffy knows they are watching as he walks off the mound. Fans. Coaches. Television cameras. He has come to understand he will be judged not just by his pitches, but his emotions. That part has been hard, particularly lately.
The coolest, most ingenious, realest reason to believe in the future of an irreplaceable and often endangered crown of Kansas City is a pressed suit, sharp tie and matching pocket square. Dressed to the Nines is an idea that started a short time ago with a guy and his roommate, and already is an official Royals promotion with thousands of fans wearing suits and ties and even some red dresses for fun and to pay respect to the Negro Leagues and the baseball museum at 18th and Vine.
A not-so-independent investigation took way too much time to come to a non-conclusion about the air inside footballs, but that was enough for the NFL to come in like a panting dog with an historic penalty for what became Deflategate: The Patriots are fined $1 million, lose two draft picks, including one in the first round, and — here’s the kicker — Tom Brady is suspended for four games.
If the biggest Chiefs draft in years — the one with nine picks, just as the roster seems to be maturing into a contender — is going to be great, it’s going to be with Chris Conley, the third-round receiver from Georgia, being at least very good. This is especially true because of the trade the Chiefs made to get him.
Eric Hosmer is wildly talented, a combination of quick hands, smooth athleticism and natural power for which the Royals paid him $6 million after he graduated high school in Florida. He is now 25 years old, in his fifth big-league season. He is still young but no longer a young player. A few years ago his age was often referenced to explain his growing pains. Now it is a sign of strength.
Attendance at Kauffman Stadium is up 51 percent from this time last year, and the Royals are on pace to break the franchise attendance record of 2,477,700 set in 1989. “I'm not surprised, just because I know the passion of our fans,” general manager Dayton Moore says. “I notice it every day.”
The Chiefs are in a really good place right now. With natural progression and a productive offseason that is now mostly complete, they are in position to get back in the playoffs with 10 or 11 wins. With a little luck, maybe more.
The Royals collected nine ejections and five suspensions in the first three weeks. National media began calling them the Bad Boy Royals. A Cleveland pitcher watched the first game of the series against the Royals wearing boxing gloves. Entrepreneurial fans printed up “Straight Outta Kauffman” T-shirts. And, son of a gun, the Royals are wearing it well. They entered May with the best record in the American League.
The crowd stood and cheered, first from behind the home dugout and quickly around the rest of this old stadium. Nights like this used to happen all the time. Danny Duffy, whom the Royals have long believed could thrive in nights like this, walked from the mound to his cheering friends and teammates having pitched the Royals into first place.
If the Royals are being targeted for over-celebrating or showing too much emotion — and there are people around the game who believe this to be true — that says more about baseball than it does about the Royals. Respect for the game is important, but so is being free to show natural emotion.
It was reckless, how the A’s Brett Lawrie slid into Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar in the seventh inning Friday. There is no need for Lawrie to come in with his spike high and off the base — directly into Escobar’s leg. But there is no reason to believe it was malicious, and there is an important distinction here.
Billy Butler is back in Kansas City for a three-game series at his old baseball home this weekend. Through some combination of happenstance and serendipity, the schedule gives him the perfect reunion. Including the 2014 playoffs, in which the Royals beat Butler’s new team, the A’s, and the 2012 All-Star game, Butler has played 595 games at Kauffman Stadium. But, always in a blue and white uniform. Always from the first-base dugout.
For all of the mistakes or personality quirks that kept Mike Alden from being a more thorough success as Missouri’s athletic director the past 17 years, he will forever be remembered for getting the two most important parts of his professional life absolutely right. He hired and kept a terrific football coach. And he led the school from a bickering and unstable conference to the most powerful and richest league in the country.
The path back to the playoffs this year is different than the one to the playoffs a year ago, and the Royals’ understanding of and approach to that fact will determine so much. Conversations with people inside and outside of the club show that the best version of the 2015 Royals will be only tangentially related to the best version of the 2014 Royals. The challenge for this group is to succeed again among these moving parts.
We can joke now, because, man, for a minute there it looked like the New Royals relapsed into the Old Royals as Yordano Ventura — the 23-year-old with the 100 mph fastball and new long-term contract — finished the 81st pitch of a shutdown opening day performance by throwing his glove to the ground and writhing in pain. Ventura will make his next start. And, all together now, exhale.