If you read the next few paragraphs and think I'm being at least a little hypocritical, I won't try to change your mind. I am a sports columnist at a newspaper in a city that loves college sports, so literally if a little indirectly I profit off the interest and hype surrounding top high school athletes.
I or at least people who have jobs like mine are part of the problem, even if we can say we're only responding to the demand and interests of our readers, so who am I to say that 85 credentialed media members and a line around the block two hours before a high school basketball player announces where he wants to play in college is a bit much.
I don't know, but that's what I'm saying.
Romeo Langford is not said to be the best player in his high school class. He is not said to be second best, or third, or fourth. Rivals ranks him sixth, just behind Zion Williamson, who is sort of a franchise of his own.
Langford is a 6-foot-5 guard who projects as a prolific scorer. If you had to bet, you would bet on him being a first-round pick soon, perhaps in the lottery next year, but who can say for sure? Jaren Jackson was the No. 6 player last year, and he is projected as a top pick, but Malik Newman was once the best guard in his high school class and it took him three years and two schools to be good enough to make second round projections.
Skal Labissiere has become the go-to example of prospect rankings gone wrong, from the No. 1 player in the 2015 class to the 28th pick in the 2016 draft to a reserve role with the Kings now. Only true die-hards would know his name if not for an arbitrary ranking put on him before he graduated high school.
I'm not telling you anything you don't know, and I guess that's part of the point. We all know these rankings are inherently imperfect. We all know the pressure put on them is probably too much, and in many real ways unfair. But here we go anyway, lining around the block and asking for media credentials to cover an announcement.
Sometimes, a grown man who makes a ton of money to say dumb things on TV feel the need to tell a high school kid what he should've done with a very personal decision. We've all come to understand this is life in the big city, for some reason.
Godspeed to Langford, who chose Indiana over Vanderbilt and Kansas. Hopefully he does well. Hopefully more and more people understand that calling him out for a personal decision or maliciously labeling him a bust if he doesn't live up to others' expectations is the same thing as announcing one's self as a jerk who lacks perspective.
This week's eating recommendation is the burger at the Snack Shack, and the reading recommendation is Skip Hollandsworth on the doting father who robbed armored cars, which is a pretty awesome headline.
Please give me a follow on Facebook and Twitter, and as always, thanks for your help and thanks for reading.
I’ll give Salvy the benefit of just wanting to shake things up after a 5-20 start, 5 game skid and 8-0 loss earlier that day. What say you?— Andrew Logue (@AndrewMLogue) April 30, 2018
We talked some about this on the Border Patrol but basically I had three thoughts.
Shock: I'm not shocked by much. The craziest things in sports happen so often that we don't even notice most of it. LeBron is the best basketball player in the world in his 15th season. Fifteen seasons after Michael Jordan was drafted, he was in the middle of his second retirement. When he returned, he was a shell, essentially owner of one of the league's all-time old man games. This is a fairly shocking development, and somehow we've all just come to accept it as normal. But Sal Perez going full Chief of the Fun Police on a guy for being excited about a home run is no less shocking than if I come home and see that my dog has made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Hilarity: This is like a bad bit from a WWE script, a heel turn so outrageous it's like a cartoon. The Royals literally made a billboard out of Perez dumping water on teammates during their postgame interviews, often after the most mundane wins, and the majority of which happened before he had ever played in the postseason. The 2018 version of Perez would be FURIOUS if he could remember the 2014 version of Perez. Or, really, even the 2017 version.
Sadness: The joy is gone, apparently. Before the calendar flipped to May, this wretched baseball team had sucked the fun of baseball so completely from Perez's mind that went all Brian McCann on a young kid who dared enjoy himself on the baseball field. We all know where the Royals are right now, and I think most of us understand it's going to take awhile to build this thing back up. That's the reality of being the Royals. But it's going to be a pretty miserable stretch if Perez is demanding the other teams act like they're in study hall while beating the Royals.
I come at this from a bit of an emotional place. For far too long, baseball has been out of touch and too self-important. A culture grew, somehow, that demanded athletes remain very serious while performing incredible feats of entertainment in front of thousands of fans.
That culture has cracked in modern times, and for those who feel like I do, Perez was sort of our ambassador. He made goofy videos, he flexed his muscles after base hits, he crashed interviews, he splashed water, he laughed even when nothing was funny, and generally gave off a vibe of joy, particularly when the cameras were on.
I get frustration, and Perez wouldn't be competitive if he wasn't frustrated. But baseball is an unrelenting grind, perhaps the hardest in sports, and it's long been said that the only way to survive is to focus on the positive and move past the negative.
If this is Perez's new worldview, that opponents cannot celebrate, or that celebration is only allowed for someone who's played in the postseason, then an already difficult few years is going to be even worse.
My hunch is that Perez was mostly blowing off steam, which is fine enough.
But if this is an indication of a new normal, that Perez won't be happy on a losing team, I wonder if it changes the front office's calculus on making him available through trade.
Soler is already 26 and will be a free agent after 2020. It will be a miracle if the Royals are competitive by then. If he keeps improving, wouldn't it make sense to deal him - either in July or this winter?— Eric Wieberg (@ewieberg) April 30, 2018
Soler will be a free agent after 2021*, which changes the math here a bit, but it's still a good question.
* His salaries are set through 2020, and then he'll be in arbitration in 2021.
The decision on Soler is not urgent, unless the Royals believe his value peaks in the next year or so.
All the usual disclaimers about small sample sizes apply here, and it's also worth noting that we haven't seen the power this year. I believe that will come, and probably very quickly. He's hitting the ball hard, and consistently. The weather's been mostly terrible. Twenty-five home runs or more are in play, even if he has just two right now. OK. Moving on.
Assuming he's a good player, the Royals could still expect strong trade value after 2019, and even at the trade deadline in 2020. Home runs are being devalued, generally, but there's always a spot for a good athlete who can get on base and hit it over the fence.
That final year of club control, 2021, could be the beginning of the next "window." If Soler is a good player, he'll make a lot through arbitration, but the old baseball line holds that there is no such thing as a bad one-year contract and if he fits the rest of the roster he could be a valuable piece.
The Royals could also explore an extension. This is purely speculation, but Soler will have made somewhere north of $18 million in his career by the end of this season, and locked into base salaries of $4 million each in 2019 and 2020. If he's productive, that last year of club control will cost more than $10 million.
He isn't in obvious need of a quick payday, is the point, and the Royals have always had difficulty signing power hitters because of Kauffman Stadium.
Or, like you mention, they could see what he'd bring back in a trade. This is actually where I'd lean, because I think he'd be more valuable to a team with a smaller ballpark and more emphasis on power, less emphasis on defense and outfield range.
No matter what, Soler is part of the Royals' future, so in some ways even more than a guy like Mike Moustakas, his performance is important for the franchise's outlook.
Your thoughts on the draft? Did we get better now, better in a year or two, or not any better? Liked what I could pick up of Veach's mentality around players.— Briek (@bweeek) April 30, 2018
Well, mostly my thoughts are here. Nobody knows anything. We all have guesses, with varying degrees of educated. There are times I feel qualified to offer an educated guess on the specific players, like last year with Patrick Mahomes. This is not one of those times.
What I do feel strongly about, though, is that the process, explanations, and aggression shown by Brett Veach are all encouraging.
The Chiefs have some real holes on the roster, but the larger construction is such that Veach can be surgical with his moves. I believe he did that, addressing the defensive line and lack of versatility with his first three picks.
We got into this on the Border Patrol, but one of the biggest problems with the defense last year was that offenses figured out how to lock the Chiefs into bad personnel matchups. Some of that was always going to be diminished next year assuming Eric Berry is healthy and close to full strength.
But the exposed problem is bigger than just Berry. He and Justin Houston are versatile, with diverse skills, but other than that too much of the Chiefs' personnel is one-dimensional.
With Armani Watts and Dorian O'Daniel, that math starts to change a little. Maybe the Chiefs reached a bit, that part I can't say with any certainty, but you can clearly understand what the Chiefs are doing and why.
They probably did not draft a difference maker for 2018. They'll get some starts out of these guys, probably, but this is more of the supporting cast than leading roles. Drafting a 2018 difference maker was always going to be unlikely in this draft, because they took their 2018 difference maker in 2017 ...
Any serious concerns that Mahomes will be a bust?— Alex Greenwood (@a_greenwood) April 30, 2018
... but of course there are serious concerns he'll be a bust. Yes. Absolutely. A million percent, as my friend Terez would say, and that's because there are serious concerns that any high pick will be a bust.
There are no sure things, and after decades of playing it safe, the Chiefs are taking an enormous risk going all-in with a first-year starting quarterback from a system that hasn't produced many good quarterbacks and doing it all without a safety net backup.
You might know I'm, um, optimistic about Mahomes. Some of that is the process of getting him, which lines up with what we just talked about with the draft. The Chiefs identified their guy, moved up to get him, and then did everything possible to help him succeed.
They gave him a year to absorb behind an exemplary professional and brilliant mind, and will now surround him with a proven system, strong coaches, and talent all over the field. Some quarterbacks fail because they land in a bad spot. Alex Smith is an example of this, when the dysfunctional 49ers drafted him.
If Mahomes fails, it will be entirely because he failed. Because he was overwhelmed physically or mentally, because he lost his drive or confidence, because of something he either did or did not do.
These things are impossible to predict, and anyone who talks about how a first-year quarterback will be with certainty should be mocked and then ignored.
But there are just no apparent red flags with this guy. He is supernaturally talented, liked by teammates, and literally grew up with examples of what it takes to succeed in professional sports.
I always worry about drive, about a player's willingness to work through the dirty and difficult parts of the job. But even with that, Mahomes checks some boxes, because he was such a talented baseball player he likely could've signed for seven figures out of high school.
He turned down what most thought at the time was his best sport, because he wanted to play his favorite sport. How many guys can answer the "drive" question so convincingly?
KU has a Zenger problem, and if was fired today you would not hear me or probably anyone else say he got a raw deal.
His job is football, and football stinks. I know we can talk about other sports, but men's basketball is going to be a monster as long as Bill Self is there and beyond, and the other sports are almost always brought up only as a way to make a bigger point.
Think about it like this: if KU was winning championships in golf or rowing or tennis, would it give you any more confidence that Zenger could fix football? Would it change, at all, the unique and heavy pressure of the basketball program to carry the athletic department?
Zenger has his job because he has the support of KU's heaviest donors. That's it. That's all. As long as that is true, he will be the AD, and the moment that's no longer true he will be unemployed.
Personally, I don't get it. Charlie Weis was such a bad mistake, and so easy to see beforehand. To me, that's a fireable offense for an AD.
But the donors believe Zenger is the best person to raise the football money, and you or I may disagree with that, but those are the opinions that matter most.
You know. At least, until Self crushes Zenger like a dove.
But that bad joke does make me think of something else. Zenger is, in every real way, Self's underling. He's a good AD for Self because he stays away from Self.
If Self leaves in the next few years for an NBA job, the new coaches are going to want to know about the AD. Kansas basketball will always be an elite job, obviously, but the pressure Self operates under with football as a money pit is real.
This may seem like a small line of distinction, but it's important in my view so here goes: I don't think you need or in some ways even should go to a professional model. I believe the best route is what's called an Olympic model.
The difference is in how athletes are paid, or can receive money. Professional implies a salary. The Olympic model simply states that you are free to make money from third parties.
It's hard for the NCAA to justify why Michael Porter Jr. would not be allowed to do an ad for a local car dealership, but the guy he might have a class with can be paid for writing that commercial.
You're smart to make this point. You can't legislate greed. My point has always been that none of this stuff would be considered illicit or illegal if not for NCAA rules that were delusional when created and are even worse now.
My thinking on this has evolved, at least in some ways. The best college basketball and football players don't get what they're worth, but they do get a lot, and not just with the tuition that's always mentioned*.
* And, it should be noted, vastly overpriced in most cases.
If the same talent and same coaching existed, playing the same schedules with the same rules, just as the Lawrence Lizards or Columbia Cougars or Manhattan Monsters or whatever, players would not be as valuable and coaches would not make the same money.
Being associated with the "brand" of the university enhances their value, enhances their marketability if and when they turn pro. Now, it's also fair to point out that universities benefit here. They wouldn't be as valuable without the highest level of athletics possible. It's a symbiotic relationship.
I have a lot of thoughts about how to make it more sensible. I believe athletes should be eligible for no-interest loans based on their draft stock (and academic progress).
I believe doing that would benefit the college game by keeping some stars in school longer, benefit the players by giving them more comfort to make difficult decisions, and benefit the NBA by giving them more seasoned and marketed players in their draft.
There are a lot of things that could be done, but letting athletes cut commercials based on their own likeness is a start.
Is the recent trend of media slogging through social media accounts of people who do something good to find controversial or incriminating tweets the dumbest thing we do or only one of the dumbest?— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) April 30, 2018
Preach. I hate it. Just hate it. And I'll say this: I think a lot of people feel that way, and sort of roll their eyes at the silliness when it happens.
These tweets are almost always from years in the past, when the athlete in question was something like 15 years old, but even more than that these are athletes not executives.
I don't want to dismiss personal responsibility here. The internet is forever, and what we put on there is often used to explain or illustrate who we are. That's on each of us, and besides, university sports information departments are negligent if they don't do a full sweep of social media accounts.
But it feels much too much like gotcha journalism for the 21st century. If Josh Allen sends a tweet with racial slurs while he's the quarterback of the Bills, that's a completely different thing.
If he did it when he was 15 years old, I'm going to read this story by Tim Graham and wish everyone who saw the tweets did the same.
The best coaches adapt to personnel given to them.Given this, why do we tolerate Ned's intransigence?(Refusal to pinch hit, platoon, use his bullpen situationally, etc.)— Salvatore Montalbano (@SpitshineyCrown) April 30, 2018
My Ned take has always been misplaced in our Hot Taekz World, but here goes anyway:
He's fine. He's OK. He's not the idiot so many said he was before Sept. 30, 2014 and he's not the great manager so many said he was during the back-to-back pennants and parade, and he's not the idiot some say he is now.
He's ... fine.
His weakness has been in specific strategic decisions, but you can say that about a lot of managers, and besides, he's shown a willingness to evolve. Remember the Aaron Crow Pitches The Sixth Inning No Matter What time? Remember when he refused to shift his defense? Remember when he put Yordano Ventura in a position to fail in the Wild Card game?
His strengths have always been in the stuff you can't see in the box score, or with pitching changes. He has a calm and positive way about him with players. He trusts them, treats them like men, and really evolved in letting players have fun. That was all important on the franchise's rise.
Right now, I could not care less about pinch hitting or using his bullpen situationally or any of that. To me, his job is not to win games right now. His job is to help the franchise move to its next window, to hold onto as much of the Royals' culture as possible. Now, winning games helps all of that, but no manager in the history of Earth could win a championship with this team.
You remember him using the example of letting Alcides Escobar hit in close and late situations early in his career. Ned's point was, basically, that he needed to let Escobar fail early so he could succeed late. Escobar never turned into a good hitter, but he certainly is a confident hitter, and that confidence came through in some major moments.
If he's letting a reliever or two wear it now in hopes of protecting another pitcher, or getting someone to a better spot in the future, then godspeed.
Truthfully, if Ned quit today, the Royals would want to hire someone with a lot of the same characteristics.
How would you describe your fandom for the Marvel movies?— Marco Marquez (@MarcoTaquito2) April 30, 2018
Well, we're all friends here, right? We're in the trust tree?
I would describe my fandom for the Marvel movies as ... nonexistent.
They're not for me. I was never a superhero kid. Never dressed up as Superman, never pretended to be Batman, never did the Spiderman thing. Michael Keaton's Batman is an all-time movie, I love it, but other than that it's just not my thing.
And the more of them that come out, the less I get it, like, aren't they just basically transferring the exact same plot from one movie to the next and tweaking it based on different superpowers?
Admittedly, I have never watched a Marvel movie, and I don't think I've even seen a trailer for one, now that I think about it. So my idea of what they are is probably not at all matching reality.
This is sort of like when the Emmys or Oscars or Country Music Awards are on. I know a lot of people are excited, but I literally could not care less about it. I always imagine this is the view how it looks to a lot of people when some of us get excited about the Super Bowl, or March Madness, or whatever.
It's good for the soul to feel that every now and then.
What’s your official spoiler rules? When is it too early to talk about a popular movie like Avengers?— Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) April 30, 2018
I have two general rules here, one for spoiler and one for the spoil-ee:
First, for the potential spoiler: you know you live in 2018, and you know people can't wait to be offended or annoyed at something, especially on social media, so it's probably easier for all if you keep your mouth shut for one week. That's probably enough time for both sides.
Now, for the potential spoil-ee: you know you live in 2018, so if you're really going to be pissed off if you know the score of a game or the plot of that show, it's up to you to stay off Facebook and Twitter and anything else that might ruin the suspense for you. Be an adult. Personal responsibility. Don't whine because you voluntarily went on a website you know could ruin your day.
What happens 1st: K-State doesn’t have a player drafted in the NFL Draft, KU wins a road Big XII football game, Missouri makes the 2nd weekend in the NCAA Tournament, The Royals play a playoff game, Sporting has a striker score 15 goals in a season or The Chiefs play in an AFCCG?— scottwildcat (@scottwildcat) April 30, 2018
I think I could make a case for and against each of these, so well done there, good sir.
In the next 12 months, I would rank the likelihood of each:
1. Sporting has a striker score 15 goals in a season. Johnny Russell has five, and we're basically a quarter of the way through the season.
2. Missouri makes the second weekend. Probably need Jontay Porter back, and even then, I wouldn't bet on it. But, this would not be a shocking development.
3. The Chiefs play in the AFC championship game. This feels too high. I watched that defense. You watched that defense. We all know the franchise's history here. But look what's below.
4. KU wins a road Big 12 football game. I mean, it could happen. In theory.
5. K-State doesn't have a player drafted in the NFL draft. It's the longest streak in the conference, and I'm using Water Football as a crutch here, but I would think that between Dalton Risner, Scott Frantz, Alex Barnes, Winston Dimel, and anyone else who might emerge, this will continue.
6. Royals play a playoff game. C'mon buddy.
So, my bet would be on Sporting. But if we get past the next 12 months, I think Missouri moves up (that could be a really good roster by 2020) and the Chiefs move up (I believe in Mahomes). Maybe K-State moves up, just because that can't stay forever, but I'd feel comfortable betting against KU and the Royals.
In the 2019 NFL draft, when does Drew Lock get picked? Top 10? Top 5?— Rob Brenton (@FastTalkinRob) April 30, 2018
Lot of places have him as the best quarterback in the 2019 draft, and if that's the case, he's top five for sure because bad teams always need quarterbacks. The talent is obvious. He has the body, the arm, the athleticism. There are some rough edges, but that's true of any prospect at this point, particularly a quarterback.
If we're going to answer this, it's probably worth noting that three of the 13 recently updated 2019 mock drafts* linked here have Lock going in the top five.
* Yes, that's a thing.
There are a lot of variables, and only some of them are in Lock's control. If enough amazing prospects emerge this season, and the demand is light at the top of the draft, it may not matter how well he plays. If he's great, and no other quarterbacks are interesting, he could be picked first overall.
But if we use those mock drafts as a guide, here are The Official Mellinger Minutes Expectations For Drew Lock In A Draft That Is 51 Weeks Away:
Top five: 23 percent.
Top 10: 45 percent.
First round: 70 percent.
First two rounds: 94 percent.
Boom. Can't argue science.
Who do you emulate when it comes to managing your son's T-Ball squad?Do you consider yourself a players coach?— Jeff Martin (@rockchalkjeff) April 30, 2018
So, yeah. I'm going to be helping out with my 4-year-old son's t-ball team this summer. My coaching debut!
To give you an idea, Sammy just started throwing overhand regularly, so expectations are appropriately low here. I actually have some mixed feelings about this. There's no way I was playing t-ball at 4. This is almost certainly too early, or at least it feels like that sometimes, but he does genuinely seem to like it and it's a really good group of kids from his preschool class, so, I don't know, maybe it's just something to do so he can run a little and then go out for ice cream.
He's on another t-ball team right now, and the coach is perfect. He's engaging, he's concise, he keeps it fun. Like I said, perfect. Basically, I want to be like him, but I think he's a psychologist or something, so maybe the best I can hope for is to be like half of him.
I'll tell you this. If we get through a whole season with no more than one major meltdown per game, I'll consider it a success. If we get through a whole season with all the kids relatively happy playing t-ball, it's a raging success.
And if Sammy catches a ball — just one, and I'll even count playing catch with me before games, to warm up, when he just sticks his glove out and I aim — then I'm going to assume he's a future big leaguer and start working on his mechanics.
Best/Favorite story about @TerezPaylor?— Austin Cook (@ADCookie153) April 30, 2018
Austin is asking because Terez announced on Monday that he's leaving the Star to be a senior NFL writer for Yahoo Sports. Terez is one of my favorite people on the planet. His career is a credit to my profession, and should be an inspiration for anybody who wants to write about sports for a living. I have never been around a harder worker, a more committed reporter, or someone who enjoys the work and takes pride in the quality more.
He has what I consider to be the perfect combination of confidence and humility. I learned a lot about football from him, but also about being a journalist. He's great, a star in my profession, and that's because he's worked his ass off and is a good human being.
I don't know that I have a specific story. He's made me laugh more often and harder than just about anyone other than my high school and college friends. We spend a lot of time together, not just Terez and me but also Vahe and Blair, and I can say with 100 percent honesty that I've always looked forward to seeing and talking with them.
So, there's not one specific day or something he said, but when I think of Terez in general I think of what I've just written here and what's in the next few paragraphs.
We do these Facebook Live videos. Many of you have seen them. Terez calls it the A-Team, I've always thought of it as Terez and the Pips. He's the star. If you tell a bunch of newspaper guys with no training that they need to do videos, well, you can imagine how we thought of this in the beginning.
But Terez embraced it, and he convinced us to do the same, not with anything he said but just by how much fun he made it. What you see on those videos, if it works, it's because we're not doing videos. We're just talking, hoping we're not the ones to forget the camera is rolling and drop an f-bomb.
In some of those videos, at the very beginning, in the first few seconds, I am laughing hysterically. Sometimes it's because someone said something just before we went on. But more times than not it's because Terez just spent the previous five or 10 minutes telling us he had no juice that day, that we'd have to carry him, that he was dead tired or distracted or something else, and I'm telling you as soon as that camera went on he perked up and it was HEY EVERYBODY IT'S YOUR BOY TEREZ HERE WITH THE A-TEAM, WE'VE GOT A GREAT SHOW FOR YOU...
There's a lesson in that, you know? Nobody plays at 100 percent every day. Sometimes you have to manufacture a little juice. And if you do, sometimes you convince yourself you have juice. And if you get really good at it, sometimes you convince everyone else you have juice.
And if you get as good as Terez, sometimes you convince others that they have juice.
This week, beyond being able to work with Terez, I'm particularly grateful for Stroud's cinnamon rolls. Had one for the first time the other day. They are basically perfect.