Later Tuesday we will have a better idea of what the Chiefs offseason and the 2016 Chiefs will look like. Specifically, we will have a better idea of whether Sean Smith will play for the Chiefs again.
They have until 3 p.m Tuesday to use their franchise or transition tag, and the most likely recipient is Smith. He has finished a below-market contract, and understandably is looking to get paid.
If the Chiefs are going to stay relatively together, Smith is a huge part of it, and the Chiefs are likely going to need one of these CBA tricks to do it. Terez Paylor, who is awesome, makes a good point that the transition tag might be the better way to go. The Chiefs would risk losing him if someone blows him away with an offer, but would save about $2 million of cap space compared to the franchise tag, and if the deal he gets is reasonable they can match it with what would presumably be a much lower first-year cap hit.
Of course, the risk of losing Smith is significant, in part because the Raiders might be a good fit, and they have a ton of money to spend and could easily and comfortably offer a contract that would be unmatchable for the Chiefs.
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But the franchise tag presents a problem for the Chiefs. Depending on what a long-term deal for Eric Berry looks like — and they absolutely need to get that done — a franchise tag for Smith would leave about $14 million to spend signing draft picks, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Jaye Howard, and everyone else.
There are no perfect answers here. But we'll know more this afternoon.
This week's reading recommendation is Jonathan Blitzer on the time Satchel Paige pitched for an election in the Dominican, and the eating recommendation is the pork chop at Novel.
As always, thanks for your help, and thanks for reading.
This is the truest thing that's ever been said in this space. Sports are great, but they are also often terrible. An incomplete list of things that are better than sports include laughter, family, friends, dogs, good beer, good sleep, nachos, perspective, help without expectation, grilling on a nice day, self-deprecating humor, quiet strength, FaceTime with the kid and, obviously, tacos.
These truths are absolute, and not debatable. Now, on with the silliness.
Not to pick nits, but both names are corny.
Also, I'm not sure this weekly timesuck deserves a bulletproof, well-thought-out name.
There's an old story about my friend and colleague Vahe Gregorian. This is years ago, long enough that it was at a Big Eight basketball tournament, but apparently some coach called timeout with his team down something like 10 points with three seconds left, and Vahe's on deadline so he turns to the guy next to him and says:
"You know what? Crazier things have not happened."
I guess crazier things have happened than Alcides Escobar won the American League MVP, but I'm also guessing you could count them on one hand, even if you were in an unfortunate accident with fireworks as a kid that left you with three fingers on that hand.
Escobar's best offensive year produced a .293 average with a .331 on-base and .390 slugging percentage. That was four years ago. Last year, Josh Donaldson won the MVP with a .297 average, .371 on-base and .568 — /Trey Hillman voice here/ — slug. Alcides Escobar has hit 24 home runs in his career. Donaldson hit 41 last year.
Of course, it is more likely than not that you meant this question in jest, but I would take this opportunity to point out that the Esky Magic stuff overshadowed that the Royals need a lot more from him going forward. Escobar was one of the least productive regulars in baseball last year, and at some point, you would expect the guy who has played more games at shortstop (including playoffs) than anyone in baseball over the last five years to start wearing down.
This is at least the third time you've asked this question, and I do appreciate the commitment, and I also lack the time and desire to look through the records of 60-some schools and a few hundred coaches.
Technically, this would be three straight seasons of Weber going backwards by two games. In his first season, he actually improved upon Frank Martin's last season, even winning the school's first conference title in a generation.
We've probably talked too much about Weber here lately, particularly because there is a 99 percent chance that he will return to K-State next year. I'm leaving the 1 percent there, because who knows, maybe the administration changes its mind, maybe Weber does something in the next few weeks that deserves a change, maybe he pulls a Frank Haith and gets out of town, though even that would be better than a Frank Haith because K-State should have a better roster next year than this year and as far as I know there is no NCAA investigation into Weber.
Next year will determine where and whether Weber is coaching the 2017-18 season, and deservedly so. And if I were a friend of Weber's, or worked with him, I would urge him to take a greater responsibility and realistic approach. The constant references to the schedule, or openly talking about how he challenged his guys to play with more heart because it's Valentines Day, or whatever, grow exceedingly tired.
This is his program, and the way he presents himself publicly at times gives the impression that he hasn't completely embraced that yet. I don't think that's how he truly feels, but it's the optics, and optics matter.
I expect K-State to be improved significantly next year, and for Weber to stick around. But he's making it more difficult on himself than it needs to be, which is particularly frustrating because he doesn't have a lot to complain about — he took over a team with talent, and has received unfailing support from the administration.
The only thing that would be surprising is a first-round loss. Anything else, from a(nother) second-round loss to a(nother) national championship, is well within reason.
There is no dominant team this year, and I know that has been said a million times, but what's often left unsaid is that even in the years there is a dominant team, that dominant team often doesn't win the NCAA Tournament, which is the biggest crapshoot in major American sports.
One thing that tends to get lost around here is that Kansas does not have a monopoly on "early" losses. You say it "never seems to work out," but over the last decade, Self's NCAA Tournament record is actually quite similar to that of Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino and Roy Williams. Duke has lost in the first round twice in the last four years, for instance.
Kansas is, basically, always playing as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, so losses before the Final Four are seen as failures, particularly locally. Yet in a 68-team tournament that includes so much randomness, there are similar failures everywhere.
There is no question that KU should've been better in the tournament, especially over the last several years. The Michigan loss three years ago was ugly for a lot of reasons. Andrew Wiggins shrunk in the moment against Stanford two years ago, and at the time it was assumed Joel Embiid would've been back for the Sweet 16 round, though he hasn't played a competitive game since, so who knows. Last year, KU got beat by a better and tougher Wichita State team.
This is overanalyzing it, because the important thing will be the entirely boring question of who hits shots. Still, KU's strengths include experience, three-point shooting, first-shot defense, pieces fitting, guys who understand each other's roles, and balance. Their vulnerabilities include rim protection, lack of a go-to scorer, and what happens if and when Frank Mason doesn't play well.
We could play this same game of strengths and vulnerability with any team in the country. KU has as good a chance as any team of winning the championship, but this year, that chance is divided up among so many.
The following things can both be true:
▪ Bill Self's track record in the NCAA Tournament is generally one of underachievement, though not by the degree to which some make it out to be.
▪ The consistency of conference titles is astounding, and even as we are all adults and understand more importance is put on the NCAA Tournament, attempts to diminish something that's without precedent in the modern game is unnecessary and stupid.
Actually, that could be a tagline for the Mellinger Minutes: unnecessary and stupid.
I am not here to tell anyone how to live their life, but I am here to tell you that if your last two winters have been ruined by Missouri basketball teams you had ever reason to know would be fairly terrible, you might could maybe reconsider some of your winter priorities.
It's a long way up from here for Anderson and Mizzou, but I do like that the team seems to be improving even as it plays out a season in which it can't even play in the conference tournament. It is a very young team, with virtually all of the best players expected back next year. You can see good things in Kevin Puryear and Terrence Phillips, particularly if you project forward a year or two.
This is a little like the Bruce Weber situation, in some ways, but Anderson is generally in better position in part because he's only been there two years and was handed the keys to a rusty tricycle instead of a roster good enough to win a share of the Big 12.
I know I tend to be an optimist in these situations, because I'm one of the apparently few who think Weber can still make it work at K-State, but I think Anderson is a good coach who can win some games at Mizzou. Maybe a different coach — one with more D-I experience, who could've hit the ground running, and not had some of the staff issues Anderson has had — would have Missouri in a (slightly) better spot at the moment.
But I don't think there's any way we could know that Anderson is a bad coach at this point. At least give the guy a chance to fail.
I do not think I've ever enjoyed watching an athlete or team quite like Steph Curry and these Warriors.
Their basketball is performance art, full of joy and ball movement and rhythm threes and behind-the-back passes that look rehearsed, but in a good way. When the playoffs began last year, I said I was rooting for Golden State because I wanted to believe that kind of basketball could win at the sport's highest level, and because sports are such a copycat enterprise and maybe the style would spread, not just around the NBA, but then trickle down to colleges and high schools.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite teams was, actually, the Warriors. I fell in love with the Run TMC Warriors with Hubie Brown on the TNT broadcasts. I loved how fast they played, how aggressive, how they used the three-pointer as a real weapon, and as a young basketball player I shared their indifference toward defense. At least for me, it's a little strange to be this drawn to another Warriors team a generation later.
He and the Warriors are the best thing on TV right now, the kind of consistent excitement that could turn non-basketball fans into fans.
Donald Trump — and let's please take politics out of this for a second — is incredible entertainment. He is the star of a reality TV show while the people he's running against are trying to catch up. I forgot where I read this first, but he's taking the next logical step from years and years of politicians turning their work and campaigning into entertainment. From that perspective, it's actually not all that surprising.
Meanwhile, Leicester City is the betting favorite to win the Premier League, which if you're not a soccer fan, is a bit like the Toronto Argonauts being called up to replace the Lions and winning the Super Bowl. Two years ago, Leicester was in the Championship League, the equivalent of Class AAA baseball. They are playing against some of the world's biggest clubs, and biggest stars, outspent by an overwhelming amount in some cases, and they are beating them all.
For the last 11 years, the only league champions are the big spenders and league royalty: Man U, Chelsea and more recently Man City. Add in Arsenal — that's a whole different story — and nobody else has won the league since 1995.
You guys, in 1995, Gary Gaetti hit 35 home runs for the Royals, who started Vince Coleman, Tom Goodwin and Jon Nunnally in the outfield.
Leicester City winning the Premier League would be a little like UMKC winning the NCAA Tournament, and I'm exaggerating, but, well, I'm not exaggerating that much.
So, just so we're all on the same page, if we played this game before the most recent five-window, we would've done it as the Broncos were coming off a 4-12 record with Kyle Orton at quarterback. Scott Pioli and Todd Haley were not only still pretending to not hate each other, but were actually successful.
I could see any one of the four teams except the Chargers being the correct answer. I'm going to go with the Chiefs based in large part on the theory that nobody except the Patriots wins all the time, and that the Broncos are facing some quarterback uncertainty, whether with the guy who used to be Peyton Manning for another year or Brock Osweiler.
The Raiders are an interesting dark horse here, but they are also the Raiders.
Holy revisionist history!
A group of people as large as the fan base of a major-league baseball team — even the Royals of five or six years ago — is too large to generalize, but there were plenty of people wanting Alex Gordon kicked to the curb. He didn't care, or couldn't handle big-league pressure, or checked out after getting his signing bonus, or some other explanation. He was the latest in a long line of promising Royals prospects who would break your heart.
I don't mean any of this with malice, because who knew? The Royals weren't sure of what they had, but they knew they weren't good enough and Gordon had enough potential that they had to find out.
I'm not sure the two situations are entirely comparable, for a lot of reasons, including Gordon being the best player in college baseball and then in the minor leagues in successive seasons. When the Royals drafted Starling, they did it knowing it could be a boom-or-bust situation, and expecting that even if they got the boom it would be after a period of struggles in the minor leagues by a guy who just hadn't played a lot of baseball in his life.
I haven't seen enough of Starling to have an opinion worth sharing, and the vast majority of people sharing opinions on him haven't either. His numbers have generally improved each year, even as he's advanced higher in the system, and when I was in Surprise last week I heard a scout compare his speed to Lorenzo Cain and describe his defense as "ready for the major leagues, no doubt."
With those skills, he'll be in the big leagues in some capacity, at some point. His pitch recognition and swing mechanics will largely decide whether it's as a star or a more hyped Gary Thurman.
Well, you know they still make all of those beer flavored beers, right? As I type these words, hand to God, there are three Budweiser tallboys in my fridge.
I am a fan of beer, you are right about that. I like stouts and porters and pale ales and black IPAs and love Saison-Brett. I hate light beers (unless I'm outside and it's hot, then light beers are delicious) and fruity beers and IPAs where the only point seems to be hops on top of hops and I especially hate sour beers. So, I don't buy or drink light beers or fruity beers or sour beers.
I know what you mean, and I also know I'm taking your question too literally, because if a friend orders a grapefruit radler around me the next 15 minutes of the conversation will be me making fun of him/her until they walk out and call me an a-hole.
But I'm also glad those beers exist, if for no other reason than they inspire creativity, and make people happy, because even if I think any TV show with a Kardashian on it is a complete waste of time, I'm happy those who enjoy it can waste their time on it because holy crap there are a lot of things I waste my time on.
So, let's make a deal, you and me. I'm planning on grilling out tonight. One of my life's rules is that when you light the grill, whenever possible, you open a beer. That beer for me tonight will be one of those Bud tallboys, and I will salute you, and hope you do the same in return.
So, I kind of feel like you could throw a dart at any year by Serena Williams over the last 10 or 15 and have a pretty good answer. I know this is cheating, so sorry, but I'm going to put her in a category of her own, and list the other nine that immediately come to mind, in what might be a general descending order, at least as I type these words.
9. Steph Curry, right now. I don't know how to adjust for recency bias, and I know there are times in recent years or decades where Shaq would've been on list, or Olajuwon, or others, and I'm not sure how to separate how happy watching him makes me from how good he really is, but, whatever, I don't care. Did you know Curry broke his own record for made three-pointers already, and that he will soon have more offensive (and total) win shares than Kobe Bryant's best season?
8. Deion Sanders, 1992. This is a pretty absurd list if Deion Sanders is ninth. In 1992, he hit .304/.346/.495, led the league in triples for the Braves, and then made first-team All-Pro as a corner for the Falcons.
7. Ronda Rousey, 2014. Essentially took a sport mainstream all on her own. She was combat sports' closest thing to...
6. Mike Tyson, 1988. This was probably the height of his powers. Knocked out Larry Holmes, Tony Tubbs and Michael Spinks (in 91 seconds). Punch-Out!! had just been released in 1987.
5. Tiger Woods, 2000. Reasonable minds can disagree on his best year, but this was the year he was the only guy to break par at the U.S. Open, and won three of the four majors.
4. LeBron James, 2007. I don't know if this was his best year. He had slightly better stats in other seasons, but he did go for 27-7-6-2-1, drop that 48-spot on the Pistons in the playoffs, and take a team whose second-best player was Zydrunas Ilgauskas all the way to the Finals.
3. Barry Bonds, 2001. Yes, can dismiss this if you want, but the man did hit 73 home runs and walked nearly twice as often (177 times) as he struck out (93). No player since 1957 (Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams) had an on-base-percentage higher than .500 over a full season. This was the first of four straight years Bonds did it and, actually, you can make a case that his 2002 was actually a better year: .370/.582/.799.
2. Michael Jordan, 1991. I don't know. The year before, he averaged 33.6 and turned Craig Ehlo into a henchman. He came back from baseball and led the league in scoring on a 72-win champion in 1996. But I'm partial to 1991, when he scored 31.5 per game on 53.9 percent shooting, and did that switching-hands-layup against the Lakers in the Finals, winning his first championship.
1. Bo Jackson, 1989. Don’t give me any lip. You're lucky this whole list wasn't every year of Bo Jackson's life, but this was the year he hit 32 home runs (and drove in 105) and was the All-Star game MVP and then rushed for 950 yards in 11 games with a 5.5 yard average, and made 11-year-old Sam fall in love with sports even more.
The link is dead, as far as I can tell, which is probably a good thing, but back when the Kansas City Brigade was an actually Arena Football League team (even if one of the owners kept calling the team "the Brigades") I tried out.
They had us run the 40-yard dash, and we all got two cracks at it, and my first time was 5.24 seconds, which, I noted at the time, "isn't bad for an offensive lineman or, say, a toddler." My second time was actually faster, but I didn't note the time because I popped my hamstring. Seriously.
And the next day, I hopped on a plane to cover the baseball playoffs, which was just peachy, limping around O.Co Coliseum and telling people my hamstring gave out running in a straight line.
Now, that was 2006, so I was in my 20s instead of my 30s, and that was a lot of non-light beers and non-diet nachos ago, but there's no way I don't keep it under 6 seconds. And, what the hell, I'm putting the over-under at 5.5.
Speaking of toddlers ...
... he's great! We just got transitioned him out of the crib, and he cried twice, and then banged out a three-hour nap like a boss. He just turned two last weekend, and he's going to be a big brother next month, which means this is going to be the best, most hectic year of my life and you should all expect even more incoherent thoughts than usual.
My team philosophy is don't take yourself or sports too seriously, my home stadium is an overstuffed chair I work from with my dog and my feet on an ottoman, my promos are award-winning barbecue* and freakish pop-a-shot skills, and parking is free, but only on one side of the street, and you better not be on the wrong side because they will ticket you.
* It was a neighborhood thing, with like four entrants, but whatever, I don’t judge you, you don’t judge me.