Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: Court-storming, Lorenzo Cain’s TV show, Royals and Chiefs

K-State students run after the Wildcats’ Nino Williams (middle) who helped ice the game in the Wildcats 70-63 win over KU on Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
K-State students run after the Wildcats’ Nino Williams (middle) who helped ice the game in the Wildcats 70-63 win over KU on Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum. The Kansas City Star

Lorenzo Cain had always wanted to do one of those Sports Science shows on ESPN, so when they reached out it was an easy decision for him.

He didn’t know he’d end up playing cricket, though.

“Yeah,” he says. “They had cricket guys throwing to me. I guess they call them spinners.”

The point was something about the difficulty of hitting a baseball vs. — and I just Googled this, but I might still be wrong — being a batsman in cricket.

Cain will not be switching sports.

“I didn’t do well,” he says, smiling. “I swung and missed. I might’ve hit one ball, out of ten.”

The rest of the experience was great. They set up a mock field with a wall, for him to rob home runs, sprint, and dive for catches. They measured his vertical leap (39.5 inches from a running start) and sprinting speed.

The show took about three or four hours to film. Cain doesn’t know when it’ll run, but was told they would give him a heads up a few days ahead of time.

“It was a lot of fun,” he says. “It was something I’d always wanted to do.”

That’s as newsy as I’m likely to get this early in spring training.

This week’s eating recommendation is the pork risotto at Tavern, and the reading recommendation is Chris Jones on Carrot Top. I may institute a moratorium on Chris Jones links here, just because he could fill it up every time he writes.

This week’s hero is Austen Ford, the trainer in the column from the weekend. Claire is an amazing girl, and I hope her story helps as many kids as possible, but Austen is worth remembering. Claire isn’t the only kid who’s come to him with a bruised psyche, and he’s doing a lot of good with instilling self-esteem and self-worth in some of the people who need it most.

Please keep those nominations coming, to smellinger@kcstar.com.

Anyway, as always, thanks for the help and thanks for reading. Let’s do it.

Spring training is as close as you can get to major-league baseball stripped of pretense, and presented barebones and raw. There are no expensively cut hype videos, or T-shirt guns.

Even the games aren’t really games. They are practice, and it’s not that guys aren’t trying hard, it’s just that the trying is focused in a different way. The scores aren’t really important, which means nobody is angry after losses. If you want to see baseball players up close and friendly, there is no better place.

Spring training, I suppose, is baseball at a pleasant pace and approachable level. I love the optimism, the confidence, the clean records.

I know it’s corny, all of it, and I certainly wouldn’t trade it for games that matter. But if you’re a baseball fan, it really is a trip worth making if you can.

The Royals picked a fairly crappy place for spring training, if you’re looking for good food. There’s not a lot here. Surprise is basically strip malls and fast casual restaurants and retirement communities.

It’s Pei Wei and Chipotle and Chick-Fil-A and Chili’s and, don’t get me wrong, I love all of those places, but if you’re looking for something Arizona you’re going to have to take a drive to Scottsdale or Phoenix.

There’s a nice Italian place not far from the complex, called Rosie’s. We went into Phoenix last night to the Vig, which was good. But if you’re wanting to get some really good food, or a good place to have a drink, you’re probably going to want to stay in Phoenix or Scottsdale.

This is about Alex Gordon, of course, and it’s a good question, one I might do a column on at some point here.

There are a lot of factors around Gordon. The Royals have never paid anything really close to what it would take to sign him, and giving a five-year $90 million contract — just throwing that out there — is not what the Royals are about.

Then again, he is homegrown, and represents the Royals in a way that nobody else on the roster does. He wants to stay, likes Kansas City, and has the type of skill set that should age fairly well.

One of the factors here is what the budget will be in the future. The Royals’ horrendous — and that’s not a strong enough word — TV contract runs through the 2019 season. They are leaving, and this is a very conservative guess here, $25 million on the table every year compared to what they could get on the open market. That means they are more dependent than most clubs on ticket revenue, and while all the projections are up for 2015, you can’t be sure how long that will last — especially with a club whose core is generally under contract for only two more years.

The Hosmer question, to me, is totally separate. He just signed a two-year deal, but I’d be surprised if he and the Royals could agree on a long-term extension that would buy out any free agent years.

Boras clients typically bet on themselves, as the saying goes, and the Royals have a lot of uncertainties about what their roster will be like in four years that they might be especially uncomfortable in giving out big, long-term money.

It’s just much more complicated than the idea of taking the dollars for Gordon and giving them to Hosmer. You might not actually want to do that, Hosmer might not actually want to take those dollars, and you have no idea what your team is going to be like in 2017.

So, the big talking points from that game is going to be the court-storming. It got a little sloppy, Bill Self got knocked over a bit, and some KU players got caught up in the fracas.

I’ve always been a proponent of court-storming. I see it as part of what’s unique about college basketball, and I never want to be the old middle-aged guy telling college kids they can’t have fun.

But it does need to be safe, and it seems like most places do a good job with this. It happens enough that there’s a formula, where bright-jacketed security form a sort of human wall that gives players and coaches a safe way out of the party and back to the locker rooms.

At most places, K-State included, I don’t know how feasible it is to prohibit court-storming. I know the SEC fines schools for court-stormings, but I think the better and more feasible plan is to keep the stormings manageable. Keep the fans away from the players, particularly the opposing players.

I don’t know the ins and outs of the system at K-State, but at least last night, they didn’t have that. There were no injuries, nothing serious, but it is worth taking some steps to ensure that wasn’t just luck.

The best part of college sports is the emotion, the celebrations, because in pro sports a team going nowhere never gets a night to party like that. I hope there’s a way to maintain that, and ensure the safety for everyone.

Dorsey is like most NFL people, I think, in that he generally wants to add more draft picks rather than trade them away. He made what I believe to be an exception to get Alex Smith, but starting quarterbacks are always the exception.

I will say, though, what makes this a little more interesting is that the Chiefs have to feel like they are firmly inside of a window to go for it. They have excess draft picks that can be used as assets, specific and glaring weaknesses to address, and all the motivation to use a drafting strategy more like a sniper rifle than machine gun.

If the Chiefs — and it’s not just Dorsey, but Andy Reid and everyone else there in the decision making structure — fall in love with a receiver they think will be picked five or ten spots ahead of them, yeah, I could see a trade.

Motive and opportunity, right?

I think there’s a danger in grouping things together that don’t belong grouped together.

Like, in Starling’s case I think the following three things are all absolutely true:

1. They have known all along that there was enormous boom-or-bust potential here. He was both raw and talented to the extreme, and there has always been a thought that even if he was going to figure it out, it might take a while.

2. Drafting and acquiring athletes, especially athletes at premium positions, has always been a priority for the Royals under Dayton Moore. Starling fit their profile.

3. They also felt some pressure to draft him, because we’ve heard more than enough already about Albert Pujols.

Now, with Lockett, I think the factors are so much different, even if we ignore the fundamental differences of drafting football players against drafting baseball players.

Lockett isn’t boom-or-bust. He won’t be a top five pick. Probably won’t be a first round pick. The Chiefs don’t feel pressure to draft local in near the same way as the Royals. I happen to think that what Lockett does well — he’s smart, runs sharp and precise routes, and is a very good worker — fits with what the Chiefs want and Reid’s offense requires.

If the drafting position doesn’t line up, they won’t take him. If it does, maybe they do. But I don’t think there is near the pressure, or the expectation, and Lockett will bring a lot more of a track record to whoever drafts him.

My default setting is to ignore the combine, particularly either extreme from workout numbers. I believe these results are often a bit artificial, either a guy training to drills that aren’t directly football related, or a guy flopping in a foreign environment where he’s out of uniform and may or may not be operating on like three hours’ sleep.

But, what I think doesn’t matter, obviously. Teams run these guys through all these drills for reasons, and, besides, with Heeney I think there might some value in a good showing.

It seems to me that Heeney’s tape might be hard to judge, playing on such a bad team, lots of blowouts, teammates he may or may not be covering for, on and on. I still think the tape should be the thing, that’s your resume, but with a guy who may be a bit off the radar and playing on an overmatched team it might be a nice supplement.

As for where he’ll go, I have no idea. CBS says the fifth round. Sounds reasonable.

It’d be awesome to have a good answer here. In another life, I would be the kind of man who could get you a great answer here, tell you the difference between this cigar and that one, and even tell a story about some beach I was on when I tried my favorite for the first time.

Alas, I am not that man. I am the guy who goes into the cigar shop and asks for a recommendation, saying I want like a 7 on a 1-10 scale from mild to strong, hoping that’s an actual thing that people say about cigars, then smoking it, really liking it, taking a picture of the label that I think I’ll remember for next time, but then losing the picture and starting the whole process over again.

I will tell you this, though. Last time I smoked a cigar it was in that back room at Fidel’s, with an Elmer T. Glee and buffalo mac and cheese from Eat Me. So that didn’t suck.

Congrats!

I have a great answer here, but this is a family newspaper, and you didn’t intend this question the way my answer would come out — plus, I like my job — so let’s just move on.

I’m fairly certain I’d be like a shorter, um, not-as-skinny, version of Scarecrow, which is a great nickname. I’d probably have blown that layup, just like he did, but if you’re looking for stats here’s the only thing I can promise: I would finish with zero passes.

If I get it, I’m either turning it over or chucking it. Gotta get mine.

Most likely.

Here’s one thing I think is important to keep in mind, and I’ve probably already been redundant mentioning it in both columns I’ve done from Arizona, but it’s particularly relevant: everyone is flawed.

Years and decades of the Royals stinking has made it often feel like the teams that win are great, but the truth is they’re not. Baseball has an under-appreciated amount of parity, which is a nice way of saying there are no perfect teams.

Like, the Royals won more games in the harder league than the world champions last year, and the Royals had a worse run differential in 2014 than 2013.

I mean, the Royals could be disappointing in 2015. That’s entirely possible. There are scenarios we could come up with. But to expect it, with this team, yeah, I think that’s just muscle memory.

First of all, I’m sure Mrs. AP is a wonderful person. I know nothing about Mrs. AP except that she’s Mrs. AP, which means she’s certainly patient, forgiving, and perhaps lacking good eyesight. But I do want to make this clear: she’s dead wrong about beer.

Beer is delicious. Beer is your friend. Beer is not wasted calories.

But I respect wanting to branch out. I assume you’re talking about a restaurant or a bar, so here we go in ascending order:

Moscow mule or, if you’re whiskey-affectionate like me, Kentucky mule. Comes in a copper mug, which is a good time, except at Beer Kitchen and some places they take your ID as collateral and, if you’re like me, there is a 97 percent chance you’ll forget they have your ID.

Vodka martini, dirty, but in a high ball glass because ain’t nobody got time for that … other glass.

Old fashioned. They put that mashed up cherry in there, which makes it kind of like when you were a kid and got a Shirley Temple.

Whiskey or scotch. A man never regrets getting a whiskey or scotch.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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