The Kansas City Royals are back at Citi Field for the first time since the celebration, and for that to be true, 10 years ago, an idealistic young man had to have worked his way to being the game’s best general manager prospect.
He would had grown up a Royals fan and avoided being jaded by professional baseball in a way that his boyhood team still mattered to him, turned down better jobs before, ignored the advice of friends and mentors, convinced the then-notoriously cheap and out-of-touch David Glass to drastically change his ways at the age of 70, spending more money than ever before on a plan that guaranteed nothing but rising expenses, and THEN still have the ambition and sense of adventure to give up a sure thing in Atlanta to take on what was then the greatest challenge in professional sports.
And, like they say in the infomercials, That’s Not All!
Dayton Moore had to convince a young executive named Rene Francisco to be one of the believers, the men who would leave comfortable jobs to try something crazy, and Rene would have to be able to sign a couple of teenage prospects named Salvador Perez and Kelvin Herrera on his first business trip with the Royals for less than $100,000 combined.
The Royals would have to nurse Zack Greinke’s career back to health, sign him to an extension before he was among the very best pitchers in baseball, and then when the winning stalled and Greinke wanted out, get lucky an inferior deal with Washington fell through and end up trading him to Milwaukee for a package that included Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.
They would need Alex Gordon to bust as a third baseman, have the humility to accept a position switch, and then become among the best in the world at a position he had previously never played in his life.
They would need Omar Infante to be good enough to help them to the 2014 World Series, but then so bad the next year they traded for Ben Zobrist. They would need Wade Davis to be ineffective as a starting pitcher, but then better than anyone could have imaged as a relief pitcher.
They would need a short, skinny kid from rural North Carolina who didn’t have a single scholarship offer out of high school to turn into Greg Holland. They would need Mike Moustakas to break out, finally, turning that weird idea about hitting No. 2 into something like genius.
They would need Cain to fix how he ran, saving his legs, allowing him to not only live up to the Torii Hunter comparisons but at least for one year surpass them. They would need Kendrys Morales, the year after hitting .207 with the least power of his career, to hit .290 with his most power in six years.
They would need Ned Yost, as stubborn as the day is long in so many ways, to completely rethink how he makes decisions, trusting his coaches, bringing them into the process, and allowing his natural talent of personality management to shine.
They would need Jon Lester to have a bizarre hang-up about throwing to first, receive an unsolicited tip on it from someone, and combine the intel with a fortuitous injury to Oakland’s starting catcher in an epic comeback in the 2014 Wild Card Game.
They would need to play the entire 2015 season with the energy of a well-rested toddler, the edge of a boxer, and the guts of a burglar. They would need to react to finish a soap opera weekend against the A’s with a late-inning comeback, something Davis said he wasn’t sure they had in them, and was an obstacle that would’ve sunk some teams he’d been on in the past.
They would need Johnny Cueto, after being unaccountable and ineffective, to be terrific in the only two starts they needed him to be good.
They would need a ball to bounce sideways off a mound in Houston, past the glove of Carlos Correa, and then a long list of more breaks that included a .198-hitting backup catcher drawing a 10-pitch walk.
They would need that rain delay in Game 6 of the ALCS to be 45 minutes, and not 50. They would need Mike Jirschele’s anticipation about Jose Bautista’s hero tendencies as an outfielder, and the good fortune for the perfect situation to use it, resulting in an incredible first-to-home dash by Lorenzo Cain on a single.
They would need Gordon to somehow lift a 95-mph sinker over the center-field wall, and for Eric Hosmer to make that sprint home from third, and for Christian Colon to be the 2015 version of Dane Iorg.
They would need at least a hundred things that I’m not thinking of at the moment, the dream and then the pursuit and finally the achievement of the greatest sports accomplishment Kansas City has ever seen.
Not anymore, eat it Cleveland!
Hey, by the way, you guys remember a few weeks back when we talked about Skip Bayless and trolling for clicks? My thought was basically that in 2016, we can all create our own worlds, particularly for sports, so that we can be completely unaware and removed from outlets or media members we don’t like or don’t respect. For me, Skip Bayless is absolutely in that group.
Anyway, the Cavs’ awesome accomplishment has made me realize I’ve been ignoring Bayless so effectively that I did not know he is apparently known as the world’s No. 1 LeBron troll. This has been brought to my attention by Rich Eisen, and Deadspin, both of whom I generally enjoy.
Nobody likes a braggart, I know. But it feels good to know it’s working!
Well, yeah, so the thing about that is, what’s tough about your question is, well, um, yeah, um, well ... it’s not.
Cleveland’s heartbreak was worse.
Or, put in the language of the day: Cleveland’s heartbreak >
We talked about this some on the Border Patrol, but Kansas City had 30 years without a title, with two teams. Cleveland had 52, with three teams. They had the Fumble and the Drive and Jordan Over Ehlo and The Decision and the river catching on fire and so much else.
They were the mistake by the lake, and that was more than a convenient rhyme.
If you could somehow isolate only the LeBron part of this, that by itself would be an incredible story. A once-in-a-generation talent is born and raised a short drive from Cleveland, is eligible for the draft the year the Cavs have the No. 1 pick, somehow lives up to the hype, but then leaves, kicking the town in the swimsuit parts on the way out, wins titles by the beach, but then decides to come back home to win a title for his people, and delivers, finally.
Without anything else, that would be an amazing story, better even than the overwhelming joy that Kansas City felt these last two years falling in love with baseball again.
But, then, there’s sooooooooooo much else.
Doesn’t make the Royals experience of the last two* years any less special. Just means we were saved a lot of heartache.
* Or, depending on your level of masochism, 30.
Now, Royals fans do not need to hear that the #Nerds have often got it wrong on their team these last few years, so take those numbers for what they’re worth.
But, I do think the bigger point is valid — if we’re taking the question literally, the math says it’s more likely the Royals miss the playoffs than make it.
There are, basically, three teams in the division vying for one playoff spot. You can argue that there are four teams, but I don’t think the White Sox are good enough. You can argue that there are two or even three spots, but I don’t think either Wild Card is coming from the AL Central*.
* Yes, I do realize that if the season ended today the Royals would have a Wild Card spot.
To me, it’s always been primarily between the Royals and Indians. I do think some of the Tigers-getting-old stuff is overblown. They have just three player in their regular lineup in their 30s, and one of them is Miguel Cabrera, and they’re transitioning Michael Fulmer to the big leagues. But whatever.
I do think their window is closing, where it’s very much wide open for the Indians and Royals.
There are too many moving parts to say it will come down to one or two things. The 2016 Royals aren’t as good as the 2015 Royals, but then, they don’t have to be.
The really good part of this for Royals fans is that if the team doesn’t make the playoffs this year, they will be back for one more run next year. And if they do make it in this year, they are a better playoff team than regular season.
Well, mostly, it’s been more fun.
I could answer this question a few different ways, but they would all be versions of that same theme: More fun.
I liked my job in 2012, when Scott Pioli was putting in one last year of driving the Chiefs into the ground, and the Our Time Royals flopped.
I liked my job for surface reasons — I write about sports, often while wearing mesh shorts and a T-shirt in a comfortable chair in my home office.
And I liked my job for deeper reasons — I want to write stories that people care about, and even if it wasn’t smiles, people cared about those teams.
But this is a lot more fun. It’s more fun because the people involved are more willing to talk, less defensive, and able to be part of happier stories. But it’s also more fun because, well, you guys are happier.
Following along, watching every Royals playoff game in person and being able to chronicle the journey in a way that (hopefully) connected with people, has been the most fun I’ve ever had in this job. I hate saying this, because I hope I have decades more writing about sports, but it might be the most fun I ever have.
The circumstances will be difficult to repeat. I missed my chance this year by not working for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Maybe I need to apply at the Chicago Sun-Times or something.
As far as my life, I don’t think it’s changed much. I love my job, but I try very hard to keep it separate from my life, if that makes sense.
I can write what I think is a great column, and the toddler may still wake up at 4 in the morning soaked in pee and crying uncontrollably. I can write what I think is a terrible column, and he may still insist on a half-hour of wrestling in his bed that ends in both of our stomachs hurting from all the laughing.
I ... don’t think so. I just checked, and I’m not blocking anyone at the moment. Maybe at some point I have, but I don’t think so. I’ve muted people from time to time. Currently, I’m operating with two mutes.
Blocking someone on twitter, to me, seems like a very junior high thing to do*.
* Whereas muting is very passive-aggressive which, well, may or may not be better.
I suppose there are good reasons, if you believe someone is intentionally twisting things you say in a way you’re not otherwise equipped to deal with. Something like that. If they’ve said something racist, or sexist, or otherwise abjectly offensive and you want to make a point. I guess.
But I don’t know that Twitter is something any of us should take so seriously as to block someone, or require ourselves to be blocked.
I’m bad at this.
I know I’m forgetting some, but the most memorable games I’ve seen in person start with the 2014 AL Wild Card Game, but also include some Super Bowls*, some NCAA Tournament games**, Game 6 of the ALCS last year, the David Freese game in St. Louis, and the 100 meters in London.
* I’ve been to the last six, which included three great games: Giants-over-Patriots, Ravens-over-Niners, and Patriots-over-Seahawks.
** The best two might be Ali Farokhmanesh’s shot and the K-State-Xavier double OT game in 2010.
But those are a bit different than I think what you’re talking about, which is just pure sport, unattached, either by local interest or a need to hit deadline. Again, I’m bad at this, but I’m just not sure there’s separation for me between what we saw the other night — and all the history and stories behind it — and some of the best playoff games I can remember.
That means the Aaron Effing Boone Game, Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single off Mariano to win the World Series, the Flu Game, the Push Off Game, the Ray Allen Game, the Helmet Catch Game, Kris Jenkins at the buzzer in April, KU-OU in ’88, even the Laettner Game, and so many others.
I was going to be genuinely happy for whoever won Game 7 this year, and a little sad for whoever lost. But seeing the reactions, and better understanding what it meant to Cleveland, I’m glad it went the way it did.
We don’t get a lot of opportunities like that as sports fans, and that experience is one of the coolest things about the whole silly enterprise — being invested in the outcome of a game between people you don’t know, that should not affect your life in the slightest, and in spite of it all knowing it’s something you’ll remember for years and years.
He’s just trying to make a good football and business decision. Von Miller, it should also be said, is trying to do the same.
I’ve been a little confused about why there is a drop of surprise at how this is playing out so far. This is what happens.
Player wants money, threatens to sit out, implicitly or otherwise. Team uses leverage, attempts to get the best deal possible.
This is how it always goes, including with Justin Houston a few years back, even if the Chiefs bonked that one by not getting the deal done a year earlier*.
* You may have seen this, but a few weeks ago Troy Renck of the Denver Post wrote about Miller’s negotiation, including this line: “Just when you needed another reason to hate the Kansas City Chiefs, right? Houston’s deal is structured almost identically to the one offered Miller with the appropriate hike in pay for Miller’s playoff ascension.”
So I just don’t see how this is different. It’ll get resolved, because these things almost always do. Elway has a responsibility to the team, and Miller has a responsibility to himself. They’ll figure it out.
But I believe painting this as Elway “taking a stand,” or “low-balling” Miller — and I’m not calling Cody out here, I’m calling out the many places where that’s said — is disingenuous or short-sighted.
Oh, man. Over the years I’ve been called many names for many different opinions, including but not limited to: David Glass is not the Royals’ problem, Dayton Moore and Ned Yost should not be fired (summer 2014), the Royals are gutless (also written in 2014, so, oops), Ned Yost is not a terrible manager (before Sept. 30, 2014), Ned Yost is not the greatest manager (after Sept. 30, 2014), David Boren is the Big 12’s biggest threat, Yordano Ventura needs to grow up, and many others.
It’s been fun!
But, I don’t think that’s what you’re asking here. I think you’re asking more general stuff, so here goes:
People who perform the wave should be forced to attend educational classes, and people who start the wave should be sentenced to community service. Kobe was never better than LeBron, and so much of the LeBron hate comes from insecure Jordan fans overprotective about his status.
The NFL has always had a bigger drug problem than baseball, but we all have a double standard between the sports, and if we could force ourselves to have an honest conversation about PEDs, we’d see they are not the boogeyman they’ve been made out to be.
The best thing Dayton Moore ever did in Kansas City may end up being the Urban Youth Academy, and not the 2015 Royals.
Scott Pioli was an insecure and ineffective leader that people were slow to catch onto — I still remember hearing someone around town call it Candy Wrapper Gate — but he’s also a bigger part of the Chiefs’ success of the last three years than people are willing to realize.
Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame.
Alex Smith does not suck, the Chiefs will miss Sean Smith far more than people seem to realize, and the Chiefs’ defense will be the reason they miss the playoffs this year.
David Beaty made a grave mistake that he will regret in neutering his own coach and taking over the OC gig. John Currie and the K-State administration are either doing a great job in keeping the Bill Snyder successor secret or a bad job in not knowing who it will be. The Mizzou administration and circumstance have conspired against Kim Anderson in a way that he will not be able to overcome, and will be unfairly blamed.
Bruce Weber is not the worst basketball coach in the country.
People who argue for the economic benefit of giving taxpayer money to build stadiums are willfully ignorant and should be mocked.
Tackle football should not start before the 10th grade, kid pitch baseball shouldn’t start until 12 or 13, AAU basketball can actually be restructured in a way to benefit everyone, and there’s a simpler way than people think to effectively pay college basketball players to stay in school an extra year or two.
If you’re a parent who gets kicked out of your kid’s game, you should be banned for the year, and for the rest of that season made to clean up trash on the side of the highway on days your kid has a game because, honestly, what the hell is wrong with you?
Let me also say this: having #takes is the easiest and often cheapest route to take in this job. I do not want to overdo it, because when it happens, I want you to know it’s real.
My first reaction: of course he’ll be in the team’s Hall of Fame.
My second reaction: damn, maybe not.
The Royals are going to have a massive run of strong candidates. As it stands now, they’ve got Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon and Zack Greinke and others. But there is going to be a wave of guys involved in these last few years.
This is a balanced group, which means when it’s time to decide who is in the team Hall and who isn’t, it’s going to be a hard line to draw.
Alex Gordon is a lock. Ned Yost, Dayton Moore*, Sal Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Lorenzo Cain will be there, too. Mike Moustakas will be interesting — he might’ve been the second-best player on the 2015 World Series champions. What do you do with Alcides Escobar? Billy Butler?
* If the people involved are willing to be creative, Rene Francisco should be in there, too, as a symbol of the Royals building a strong international scouting department from nothing.
Wade Davis is in the midst of a ridiculous peak, the likes of which baseball just hasn’t seen much of from a relief pitcher, but Greg Holland was the closer until late last season. Does that matter? Should it?
All of these guys, with the exception of Butler and Holland, are still going with the Royals. Moustakas could hit 30 home runs next year and push his way into the lock zone, for instance.
My hunch is that Davis will make it, assuming he continues to be Wade Davis the rest of this year and next.
The fact that Bo Jackson is not in is utterly absurd.
Have you had the Grasshopper at Murray’s? It’s mint ice cream, but instead of the chocolate chips, they use chocolate cookies.
Because if I was a Warriors fan, my team would be so much fun to watch, and would have at least lost to a generational talent on a mission to do something historic for his hometown.
If I was a Patriots fan, my team would’ve lost on an absolute fluke of a catch by a guy who never made another catch. I’d have other Super Bowls to dull the pain, and I imagine rooting for a team with Gronk on it would be incredibly fun, but oh-my-god that David Tyree catch would sting.
Thanks. There are stories you’re happier with than others, and this was definitely one of them.
Basically, I just asked. I’d known George had a complicated relationship with his father. A lot of people have heard him tell the story of 1980, when George hit .390, the highest average in decades, and his dad barked back, “You mean to tell me you couldn’t get five more (expletive) hits?”
I just wanted to know more about that relationship, for a lot of reasons. Maybe some of this is in having two young boys of my own now, but I think it’s interesting how the way we were raised by our parents affects how we are as parents to our children. George’s kids are grown now, the youngest in college, and so I thought it was a good time to ask.
I called him last week sometime, we met for a half-hour or so before a game at the stadium, and that was that.
I’m appreciative of George for being so open, and encouraged by the notes I’ve read from others about how it made them reflect on their own parents, or their own children.
I can’t personally relate to experience George had with his father. Mine was, and is, unfailingly supportive and a standard I use for kindness and generosity. I’m very lucky. But I do empathize with George’s experience, because I know he’s far from the only one.
Just in the world of former pro ballplayers, I know one who grew up with a father very similar to Jack Brett. Where George went the opposite way with his own kids, this other player essentially became his own father, constantly critical, overly demanding, and it drove a wedge that has not been repaired.
Good for George.
There is something to be said for the Royals being built for Kauffman Stadium. They are athletic, generally play good defense, and have swings that produce line drives around a very big outfield.
But most of this — the Royals are 25-8 at home, and 13-23 on the road — is either a small sample size, unexplainable happenstance, or both. That’s a 123-win pace at home, and a 104-loss pace on the road.
No team in baseball, not even the Cubs, has been better at home. No winning team in baseball has been worse on the road, and it’s not even close.
I’ve written about this before, but the talking point that Kauffman Stadium is tough on hitters is a myth. It’s just not true. It’s hard to hit home runs at the K, but if you look beyond that, the numbers show the Royals’ home stadium is actually friendlier to hitters than pitchers. Using the multi-year Park Factors on the indispensable Baseball-Reference.com, the K is actually as much or more of a hitters park than Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, and U.S. Cellular Field.
They are heavy on fly-ball pitchers, and short on home-run hitters, which can explain some of the split, but not all or even most.
The Royals are hitting .287/.339/.436 at home*, and .264/.309/.389 on the road**. They average 5.0 runs at home, and 3.25 on the road.
* Better than Lorenzo Cain’s overall numbers.
** Closer to Kendrys Morales’ numbers than you might think.
The better answer is that the Royals are a streaky team. Their good streaks have coincided with home stands, and their bad streaks have been on road trips.
Right now, their OPS is 77 points higher at home and they are scoring 1.75 more runs per game. A year ago, the OPS was 51 points higher and they scored about one-third of a run more per game. A year ago, they were just seven games better at home than on the road.
By the end of the year, I’d expect the 2016 numbers to be closer to 2015.
I’d be shocked if anyone swept. Actually, I think it’s more likely that each team loses at least one of their three divisional home games than it is anyone goes 6-0.
The over-unders I’m looking at have Denver at 9 1/2 , the Chiefs at 9, Oakland at 7 1/2 , and San Diego at 7. That seems about right — no great team, no terrible team, everyone with a reasonable chance.
Denver has some things working against it. There is the Super Bowl letdown, but beyond that, NFL history says teams that win with spectacular defense one year tend to be let down by their defense the next year. Obviously, they also have an issue at quarterback.
The Raiders may be undervalued here. They have a ton of talent, particularly at the skill positions, and the secondary is strong. If there’s going to be a bad team, the Chargers are a strong candidate.
We’ll talk more about this as the summer goes on, but I’d give the Broncos a 35 percent chance at the division, the Chiefs 30, the Raiders 25, and the Chargers 10.
I don’t know, but I’d stock up on bottled water just in case.
And maybe I’ll see if Buffalo needs a sports writer. That would be a fun story.