Four strong starts cannot be looked at as definitive, particularly when they come directly after 10 consecutive disasters, but here comes Danny Duffy pitching a lot more like Danny Duffy:
He's pitched 25 2/3 innings, struck out 19, and given up just six runs. The ERA is 2.10. Against the Rangers, Twins, Angels and A's — each right around the league average in runs — he's giving up a .202/.294/.281 slash line.
If you want to remain skeptical, you would point out he's still walked 12 over that time, and a .232 batting average on balls in play indicates a significant amount of luck.
But there are others indications that the worst is behind him. His fastball velocity is back closer to 95, and he's throwing fewer sliders, that once dominant pitch that appears to have gone flat.
Duffy and many scouts who watch him often talk of his need to trust his stuff. It's a baseball cliche, of course, but with Duffy it seems to hold true. His pitches have enough life that he doesn't need to be perfect, and his struggles tend to come when falls behind in the count and loses the strike zone.
Generally speaking, he seems to be finding that balance again.
The drop in effectiveness of his slider remains a concern. That was the pitch that made him a frontline starter many nights. I'm not smart enough to know the cause. I've heard different theories, but assume it's similar to the reasons all pitchers lose certain pitches at certain times — some wicked conspiracy of body out of synch, mechanics being off, and the mental struggle to get right again.
That he's been able to give the Royals productive innings without his best pitch being its best is particularly encouraging, depending on how you look at it. Pitchers will often say the key isn't how you are at your best, because those nights tend to be pretty easy.
The key is how you are the other nights, that's the difference between good seasons and bad, and maybe Duffy has found a way to cope until that slider regains its bite.
This week's eating recommendation is the cereal and milk at Betty Rae's, and the reading recommendation is Andrew Helms and Matt Pent on how the USMNT missed the World Cup.
With your recent reporting with quotes from the lone feasible Kansas Citian who could bring the NBA (or NHL) to the Sprint Center putting an all but definitive squash on those dreams, what is the next thing KC sports fans will lust for but ultimately never get?— scottwildcat (@scottwildcat) June 11, 2018
I would say something real quick: Cliff Illig would probably be part of it. But it doesn't begin and end with him. Garmin co-founder Min Kao is worth some $3.4 billion, according to Forbes. The Hall family is worth billions. Illig mentioned the hypothetical of "a big-money person here in town" putting up the majority of money and asking for others to join, and those would figure to be the most logical possibilities.
Still, yes. Your bigger point is absolutely true. Illig is better positioned than anyone else in Kansas City, not just with the money but the expertise.
If you want a team here, you probably need to change Illig's mind. And at the moment, he has no reason to change his mind.
OK. Moving on. Let's squash some dreams, shall we?
Even after the 2015 World Series, many Royals fans, for some reason, remain convinced that David Glass is bad for the franchise. I believe that when he is no longer running the team, it is more likely than not that many of those fans will wish he was still running the team.
I started covering the Royals in 2006. Pretty much from the moment I felt like I had enough reporting to believe it, I've been saying that there are effectively two different Glass ownerships.
The first was from his purchase in 2000 to 2006, when he was bad, cheap, didn't know what was required, and without direction from anyone who did. The second ownership began in 2006, and you don't get credit for climbing out of a hole you dug yourself and jumped into, but in the last 12 years he's operated like a model small market owner.
He hired the best baseball man available, and followed through on promises to support his blueprint on how to build a credible franchise. The path was not linear — it took too long to take, and ended up rising higher than anyone could've reasonably expected — and Glass stayed with it.
My biggest beef with his second ownership is something I've written about plenty before, but he and Moore should've had the perspective to know they could not build, win, and limit payroll simultaneously.
My sense is that Moore wanted to keep the pedal down through 2016, at least, but his chief strength here might be his ability to both see and convince Glass of the best baseball paths. I believe he erred in not talking Glass into starting the rebuild sooner.
But, this is a little like nitpicking, at least when it's in the aftermath of a champagne party in New York, so the bigger point is that Glass supported the Royals enough to win a dang championship.
The idea that he's been holding the Royals back is objectively ridiculous, and the occasional cries for Illig to buy the team ignore at least two facts:
1. as stated in the column, Illig is not enthused about paying $1 billion or so for a franchise when he believes the future of professional sports is not going to grow at the same rate as its recent past.
2. Sporting KC has consistently ranked in the bottom half of MLS in payroll, so the idea that Illig would green light enormous free agent contracts — which are often a lousy way to win anyway — is naive.
So, yeah. I'm saying that when someone else is running the team, Royals fans will miss David Glass.
Yes, I'm serious.
What can you take from the Royals using their high picks on college arms? Intent on being competitive in 2020 as soon as the bad contracts are off the books?— Nick Gray (@ngray_63) June 11, 2018
Any reactions to any specific team's specific drafts are almost always overreactions, but I do think this is interesting.
The first official draft pick made with Dayton Moore (officially) in charge was Mike Moustakas. The next year, with the third overall pick, they took Eric Hosmer.
Both were high school kids, and I always thought that was both smart and informative about where the Royals saw themselves. Matt Wieters was the first college position player taken after Moose, and Buster Posey was the first college position player taken after Hosmer.
The Royals' rebuild may have delayed some by taking high school kids in the beginning, but it also gave them high ceilings, the chance to develop them in-house, and a better chance of lining their debuts up with more talent through the farm system.
With five picks in the first 58, this was always going to be a defining draft for the Royals. Teams will always talk about taking the best player available, and that's technically what they do, but they also rank players at least in part based on need.
Brady Singer essentially fell into their laps at No. 18. He was expected by most to go much higher, but some coincidence of events that I assume included bonus demands pushed him down to the Royals. They have the highest bonus pool of any team, so it made sense to take him.
But that was just the beginning of five consecutive college pitchers, and that's too much just to be coincidence, so this tells me the Royals feel better about their minor league hitters than most in the industry, and that they believe they can push this rebuild much faster than the last one.
The Royals will have much more money in 2020. Alex Gordon's contract will be up by then*, and the new TV contract will be in place. Ian Kennedy's contract ends after the 2020 season. Danny Duffy, Sal Perez, and Jorge Soler will be free agents after the 2021 season.
* Technically, the $4 million buyout of a $23 million mutual option will count toward the 2020 payroll.
I know we talked about this last week, but 2020 still feels ambitious. That's basically the best case scenario for Singer and Jackson Kowar and the rest of the draft class to debut.
But, a few things about that. The best case scenario never happens in baseball, except with Mike Trout. That means some won't ever make it, and others will take longer, and not just that, but it also means that even the guys who turn into good players won't necessarily be good players right away.
Mike Moustakas is a foundational player of the Royals' success. His first season with an OPS over .708 came eight years after he was drafted.
These are all reasons that manipulating a draft strategy to achieve some far away goal that will depend on a million factors out of your control is a lousy idea.
To be clear: I do not believe the Royals did that.
But I also don't believe they'd have taken five straight college pitchers if they didn't think they could get this thing going quicker than the last time.
Sam, I'm alarmingly apathetic about the Royals.We all know the parade was worth it...but this is hard.In the old days, 22-44 would have stunk, but I would have had the warm blanket of anger with me.This is just....empty :(— AJ (@AJTrueSon) June 11, 2018
This is the counter argument and, I believe, part of why the Royals tried to win/rebuild/limit payroll simultaneously and part of why they're taking tangible steps to shave time off the second rebuild.
I have sensed an organizational fear about what happens to baseball here if the Royals stink too hard for too long.
My opinion has always been that this is a great baseball city if the baseball is worth the time, but fans here have been given so many reasons for cynicism over the years.
But this organization is hyperaware and sensitive to public opinion. It's why they didn't embrace a full rebuild, it's why most of Dayton Moore's early mistakes were in spending too much time and money on creating a sort of bridge from 2006 to better years.
They're worried about what happens if it's 2005 again. The irony, of course, is that worry has made their present and immediate future worse than it needed to be.
This is sort of like being afraid you're late for a meeting, so you're speeding and blow through a red light, and now you're pulled over, definitely late, and have a $200 ticket to pay.
41-55 the rest of the way to avoid losing 100 games. That's a serious improvement in pace on what figures to be a worse team when Moose and Herrera are gone. They're gonna lose 100+— Jason Coleman (@jayhawkjac) June 11, 2018
We are 40 percent through the season and the Royals are the second-worst team in baseball, #OnPace for 108 losses, and as the man says here looking to trade (at least) two of their best players.
I would reiterate that losing 100 games is hard — only the 2016 Twins have done it in the last four years, and only 23 of 510 teams* this century have managed it.
* That's 4.5 percent, you nerds.
The same way you need to be good and lucky to win a championship, you need to be bad and unlucky to lose 100.
In other words: this Royals team is doing all the right things so far to lose 100.
I might end up being the last believer, but I still think it's more likely than not that they'll lose fewer than 100. Danny Duffy is pitching like Danny Duffy again, Jorge Bonifacio will be back from suspension soon, and the Royals have a lot of games against a lot of bad teams left.
Get a load of the Reds this week, for instance.
When and if the Royals trade Moose and Kelvin Herrera, the talent will obviously dip, but baseball is a really weird game and sometimes a surge comes when you least expect it.
You might remember the 2009 Royals, for instance, were 51-85 in early September. That's a 101-loss pace with 84 percent of the season gone, but a 14-12 finish left them with "just" 97 losses.
That's the thing about losing 100. You can't afford even an average month.
Depends who you think they need to get rid of, but please understand that the Jon Jay trade is abnormal. These things usually aren't talked about seriously until July, and rarely executed more than a week or two from the July 31 trade deadline.
The trades for Johnny Cueto (July 26) and Ben Zobrist (July 28) are more the norm.
There is anecdotal evidence that the timeline is changing, and it makes logical sense. If you're the buying team, you'd want the help for as much time as possible. Having Kelvin Herrera for three months is better than two.
Same theory about why the Mellingers would be smart to redo their kitchen now rather than wait until their kids are 15 and 13, like they'll probably end up doing. But I digress.
But, again, this depends on who you think they need to get rid of. If you're talking about players who will bring back something in a trade — Moose, Herrera, perhaps Merrifield and Soler — then yes. They could trade any of them.
If you're talking about guys having bad years and/or with big contracts — Jason Hammel, Ian Kennedy, some others — then no. Why would anyone give something up for that?
Out of Salvy, Duffy, Merrifield, Esky, who is the most likely to get moved?— Krampus (@Kohl2231) June 11, 2018
I'd expect each of them to be with the Royals all season. But the answer to your question is probably Merrifield.
He checks a lot of boxes. He'd be valuable to a lot of contenders. He's a good player, with enough of a track record to trust, a diverse set of skills and the ability to play a lot of positions. It also helps that he's still cheap, and under long-term club control.
From the Royals' perspective, every decision they make should be in the best interest of their teams for 2021 and beyond. If that's the case, it's hard to imagine that Merrifield at 33 years old — his age in 2022, his last before free agency — will be worth more than a package of prospects they could have now and control until 2025 or so.
Escobar will be here unless the Royals decide to make Adalberto Mondesi their shortstop, and decide Escobar would be a net-minus as a bench player. They would receive nothing in a trade for him.
The Royals would likely be selling low on Duffy* and I haven't sensed any willingness from the club to trade Perez.
But, one more time, I believe they'd be best served trading anyone who brought back equal value in prospects.
More likely: Royals make the playoffs in the next three years or Chiefs win the Super Bowl?— Chad Chitwood (@ChadChitwood) June 11, 2018
The Chiefs winning the Super Bowl, and not just because Patrick Mahomes might be a star right away, and not just because the offense should be one of the best in the league, and not just because the defense — woof — should be at least mildly improved.
The other reason is that the chance of a Kansas City NBA team not just existing but being coached by an actual unicorn is roughly the same as the Royals making the playoffs in the next three years.
Should we talk about non-Royals stuff now?
Let's talk about non-Royals stuff now.
Is Dawson or Montana the best Chiefs QB of all time and how quickly could Pat Mahomes surpass them in the absolute best case scenario?— Extremely Exhausted Zach (@ZWal93) June 11, 2018
If Joe Montana is the best quarterback in Chiefs history then Chiefs history is even weaker than I often joke.
Joe Montana was 37 and 38 years old when he played a total of 25 regular season games for the Chiefs. He was 2-2 in the playoffs. He threw a total of 35 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
You guys. He cannot be the best quarterback in franchise history.
OK. Let's answer the question.
I'm in this weird place with Mahomes, where I genuinely think he might be a star, but also believe with every fiber of my being that the hype here locally is WWWWWAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY out of control.
But the best case scenario is that the defense improves* and Mahomes is able to keep his risk-reward calculations on the positive side and the Chiefs win a Super Bowl in the next year or two.
* I know, I know, but they were seventh or better in points in each of the four years before last.
I believe this is unlikely, but you asked for best case, and if it goes down like that we could have a good debate between him and Dawson almost immediately.
The most realistic outcome remains that Mahomes won't be as good as the hype, if only because the hype literally includes his GM calling him "one of the best players I've ever seen" in a press conference after Mahomes had played exactly zero meaningful NFL games.
Headed to the game Friday night. What BBQ would you eat on the way out of town Saturday? Also have a 2 year old and 10 y.o. Fun things to do Saturday?— Casey.holland (@Caseyholland24) June 11, 2018
There are many correct answers here, and let me first reiterate my eye-rolling at anyone who says you HAVE to go to this one particular barbecue place.
If I were you, I'd make the decision based more on what part of town you'll be in, and what kind of experience you want.
Joe's will give you ridiculously good food in a gas station, plus the added bonus of fuming with anger at the jerks who save seats while their friend/wife/husband/whatever stands in line*.
* I know I'm not the only one who hopes those people choke on a rib bone.
Q39 is more of a dinner spot, cloth napkins, that kind of thing. Char Bar has a great patio with games and stuff. Slap's is sort of like Joe's, without as much hype. Bryant's on Brooklyn for the history. Gate's if you want to roll the dice on having the best barbecue possible while risking the worst. County Line if you want Joe's food with more options and the Power and Light. LC's if you want a great place people outside of Kansas City probably haven't heard of.
Honestly, I could go on and on like this until the internet runs out of space.
For a 2 and 10 year old, try the College Basketball Experience. There's stuff for both of them to do, they'll burn some energy, and hopefully make your drive home a little more peaceful.
If you have the flexibility, plan it around an event. The Westport Beer Festival was last weekend, so that's out, but the Plaza Art Fair is always a good time and usually good weather. One good thing about that is that either the Royals or Chiefs will almost always be at home. This year, it's the Chiefs at home against the 49ers on Sunday, if you're into that kind of thing.
Four other things I always tell people to try to do: the Nelson-Atkins, the Negro Leagues Museum, the College Basketball Experience, make sure you have at least one really good meal that's not barbecue.
The options there are endless. My wife's favorite place is Extra Virgin. Osteria Il Centro is nails. Garozzo's is a dang institution. Grab some tacos at Bichelmeyer's or San Antonio or anywhere on the Boulevard.
There's also enough of a beer scene that you could make a night out of walking and Uber-ing from brewery to brewery, especially if you're in the Crossroads.
But if you're coming here, and you like food, you already know about the barbecue, but don't let that be the only good thing you eat.
I consider you a casual soccer fan, so I'd love to hear your level of interest in the World Cup given the US won't be competing.— R-S-H (@ryanscotthall) June 11, 2018
That is a fair and accurate characterization.
The World Cup is one of my favorite events in sports. It's the best parts of soccer, with the global appeal and high level of play. It's also the best parts of sports, with so much at stake, and the gorgeous visual of national personalities being expressed through sport — contrast Germany's organization to Brazil's creativity, for instance.
Of course, it's different this year. Most obviously, there isn't as much being written or said here about the actual soccer. It's more about what went wrong with the USMNT, or about Russia hosting.
For a more casual soccer fan like me, that can make it more difficult to learn more about the teams actually competing.
Now, that said, I already know a decent amount. I watch a fair bit of the Premier League, and sometimes find myself looking for Dortmund games, too, for Christian Pulicic.
There obviously won't be the personal tug of watching America, but that doesn't mean I can't find reason to be interested in pretty much any game. I can root against Uruguay and Portugal, be tantalized by Spain and Brazil, enthralled by Germany and watch Messi find new international disappointment.
But, yeah. All that said, won't be the same.
The Black Keys would headline, but not be allowed to play anything after Brothers. Patrick Sweany, Gary Clark Jr., and ZZ Ward would feature prominently. Buddy Guy would at least have a cameo. I'd try to get Alabama Shakes back together. White Stripes, too.
Monsters and Men, Beck, Radio Moscow, and Modest Mouse would be there. And I'd try to borrow that hologram thing from Coachella a few years back, to have 2Pac and Biggie.
The rest of the lineup would feature 100 different kinds of nachos, thin crust pizza, and the soft kind of onion rings where only the breading between your teeth comes off with each bite.
And beer and whiskey, obviously.
And a Marriott property close by.
I believe we ask too much of children when it comes to sports these days. I played three sports each year growing up, and now it seems like they have to choose one. Do you agree this is a bad trend?— Anthony (@crane_anthony) June 11, 2018
This is a hard agree for me, but with something of a caveat in that I don't have as much of a problem with specialization. In some ways, I actually believe specialization can be a good thing.
If a terrific athlete chooses one sport instead of three in high school, at the bare minimum it means two other kids can benefit from the experience of competitive sports. It means, presumably, kids are better at their chosen sport rather than capable at more sports.
But — and maybe this is what you're getting at — the benefits of specialization only exist if it's the kid's decision. If it comes from pressure from a parent, or fear of a coach, then that's a rotten situation all around. Probably won't work out, either.
My biggest beef with youth sports, though, is the scope and focus. I believe we — I'm talking as a society here — put too much emphasis on it and we do it too early. I believe organized leagues start too young, and are generally done as business opportunities rather than helping kids or providing a chance to play.
I believe kids are taught — often indirectly — to put too much of their self worth or focus into the outcome of a game when they're 6 or 10 or 18 years old and it should still be fun.
I believe the focus is too much on the immediate result, and not enough on the process. Too much on winning a particular game, and not enough on learning fundamentals, or better yet learning to love a sport, and creating memories that sometimes boost us into adulthood.
I say all of this without accusation. Sometimes, I wonder if I'm part of the problem. We had our older son in an organized soccer league when he was barely 3. He had fun, and there was absolutely no expectation for anything other than fun and a post-game juice box, but still. Was that necessary?
More to the point, I found myself in need of a little self-correction, wondering if I was pushing the wrong things to a kid who clearly was more comfortable running around like an airplane than giving even the smallest dang possible about kicking the ball.
At their best, sports are the best. The memories, friendships, confidence, lessons about teamwork and winning and losing and the value of practice and a million other things. But where is the line between focus and fun, and how much should you push a kid to play?
I don't have the answers, and I don't know anyone who does.
I'm helping coach a 4 year old t-ball team. It is exactly like the cat herding you'd expect it to be. The other night, our first game, a boy came around to third base. He ran in standing up, but in the 30 seconds or so before the next batter, fell to the ground and started doing a dirt angel right there in the infield.
"Good job man!" I said when he cruised into third. "Way to ... wait, get up! What are you doing? Don't roll around in the dirt!"
"But this is what ballplayers do," he said. "They get dirty."
"You know what, man," I said, laughing. "You are absolutely right. Get dirty."
I'll ask Mike Jirschele if that's proper protocol for a third base coach. Maybe I should've been teaching that kid about the game, or something. But he was having fun, man.
Sports are supposed to be fun.
I think about this, in some form, every day of my life. That is not an exaggeration. Literally, every day of my life.
Like many things on here, I suppose it depends on how literally I take your question. All the money? I don't think so.
Sports have a lot of value. Some of my best memories are because of sports, from backyard home run derbies with friends as a kid to ballgames with my dad to high school basketball to watching incredible games as an adult to helping coach a t-ball team in which every ground ball ends with a dog pile.
There's real value there. Not just in physical fitness, but in the promotion of teamwork, friendships, stretching our comfort zones, competition, and everything else. The world would be worse off without sports.
But, there's another side of this.
The average salary for a major league baseball player is $4,000,000 — it would take the average teacher 69 years to make that much*.
* It's worth noting that we are not exactly comparing apples and apples. We're comparing major league baseball players — the absolute peak of the profession — to average teachers. I don't know what the average professional baseball player makes, if you include all the minor leaguers making $600 a month. That information is harder to find. But even if you take the top percent of teachers, the difference is obviously extreme.
I'm all for free markets, and will always push for the players to make a little more and the owners to make a little less, but step back and look at this from a wider perspective and what sense does it make?
We can all probably agree that we will never live in a world where actors or athletes or musicians are paid a logical wage when compared to bus drivers, construction workers, and kindergarten teachers but it's interesting to take this thought experiment to the extreme.
Because if we treated teachers like ballplayers, I wonder what unintended consequences we'd see. No teacher is in it for the money, which presumably means a higher percentage motivated by the right reasons.
I'm certainly not advocating that higher teacher salaries would be counterproductive. I don't believe that. Generally speaking I believe teachers and cops and manual laborers should make more, and drug companies and insurance brokers and hedge fund operators should make less.
Because I do believe the old line: don't tell me what's important to you, show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what's important to you.
But it's interesting to think about how different the world would be.
In light of IHOP now being a burger place was the best meal at a place known for something else (Hardee’s fried chicken, Pizza Hut wings, junk like that)?— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) June 11, 2018
Q39's burger is really freaking good. Char Bar does a jackfruit sandwich that is delicious. I'd never heard of jackfruit before I went there, and once looked into making it at home, but it looks like way too much work.
I don't know if this counts, but we went to Sailor Jack's recently, and my wife was craving a margarita. It wasn't on the menu, and the waitress looked at her kind of weird when she asked for one, but she swore it was one of the best margaritas she's had.
I haven't been there in a while, but Hereford House used to make an incredible chicken fried chicken.
Taco Republic's tostadas were better than their tacos, but they have apparently taken them off the menu.
I'm told that the burgers at Waffle House are quite delicious, but I've never ordered anything but has browns with all of everything on them.
The salad bar at Waldo Pizza is awesome.
But, I'm just wasting time here. You answered the question at the top. The wings at Pizza Hut are approximately eleventy times better than they have any right to be.
For some reason, I started saying "oak tree" a lot. I really hope all dads do dumb stuff like this, because I have no explanation for it, other than trying to think of a way to make the kids laugh.
Like, we bribe them with ice cream sometimes. If they're really good, or try something new that pushes them out of their comfort zone, stuff like that, we'll give them ice cream. In a perfect world, we go somewhere, because going out for ice cream is awesome, but in a pinch we keep a tub from the store in the freezer.
Anyway, sometimes when I go to get the ice cream out of the freezer, I'll say something dumb like, "Oh no, guys, bad news!"
WHAT?!? they say.
"All we have is oak tree ice cream."
There's a pause, just for a second, and then they laugh and say NOOO!!!!
Truly, really dumb stuff here, right? Every time I do it, I can feel the air in the room turn from how hard my wife rolls her eyes, and if she ever leaves me, I'm sure she'll tell a friend over wine, "And he just wouldn't give it a rest with this oak tree thing."
But, sometime toward the end of the school year, our preschool did one of those forms where they ask the kid questions and write down the answer. What's your favorite food, what will you do this summer, stuff like that. Well, as god is my witness, one of the questions was, "My daddy makes me laugh when..." and my son said, "says oak tree."
Had to be the weirdest answer in the class. I assume the other kids said stuff like, "tickles me," "makes funny faces," "jumps on one leg," you know, stuff that's actually funny.
Shoot, now that I'm saying all this out loud, there is a distinct possibility that a) my kids will laugh at literally anything, b) saying "oak tree" is the funniest thing I do, or c) both.
I'm very sad now. Have a good rest of your day, I guess.
This week, I'm particularly grateful that both our kids are now what I guess people call "pool safe." They do still need these backpack floaty things, particularly the 2 year old, but this is the first summer we've had where both kids can get in and have fun on their own. It's what I always wanted my kids' summers to be like, especially until/unless we start spending these months going from game to practice to tournament.