Don't Kill The Mellinger

Five-minute break: Bubba Starling’s struggles, Michael Sam, and Andrew Wiggins

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Bubba Starling is the prospect who would be a folk hero, the local kid with the great name and otherworldly athletic gifts who would be drafted by his hometown team and grow up to be a star in center field.

Obviously, the story is being at least a bit delayed, and the short group interview with media here this week had a sort of sad underlying tone. Asked what he’s learned in pro ball, Starling talked about learning from failure. Asked about his goals, he talked about working hard and that he can’t do anything about the past.

Andy wrote about Starling the other day, so we’ll finish this here, other than to point out that if he had gone to Nebraska as a quarterback he would be scheduled to graduate in May. Starling will turn 23 in August. He is older than Brandon Finnegan, just one year younger than Yordano Ventura, and two years younger than Salvador Perez.

Like Andy wrote in that story, Starling may start the season at Class A Wilmington, where he played all of 2014. The Royals can talk all they want about that not being a bad sign, and Starling is a special case, but if he doesn’t progress this year it will be even harder to preach the patience stuff.

You may have seen where ESPN ranked franchises in the four major leagues by their use of analytics, and the Royals ended up in the second tier of MLB teams — with seven other “believers,” below nine teams as “all-in,” and above everyone else.

I’ve said for a long time that the Royals’ reputation as a knuckle-dragging franchise when it comes to analytics has been outdated, but the ESPN stuff sure made a curious case.

The article noted David Glass’ position as chairman of MLB Advanced Media, and even more curiously, called the Royals “among the most frequent deployers of defensive shifts.”

The Royals, actually, were one of the last teams to use defensive shifts and one of the teams that had the hardest time beating shifts.

Could have been a better case made, is what I’m saying.

The Chiefs, if you’re curious, were also among the “believers” in the NFL rankings, which featured no “all-in” teams.

Can we pause for a moment to acknowledge the genius of ESPN putting this together? It is entirely subjective, practically irrelevant, claims to be all-inclusive, and can carry a conversation between friends. Bravo, ESPN.

This is entirely out of place, because Michael Sam is a grown man who can make his own decisions. Like anyone else, I wish him nothing but happiness, and happen to personally think it’s at least a bit shady that he hasn’t caught onto an NFL roster. I hope he gets that chance.

So here is where the out of place appears, because I think it’s a mistake for him to go on Dancing With the Stars. Sam took to Twitter to explain …

… and I respect what he’s saying, but this isn’t going to help him get to the NFL. Fair or not, it helps people questioning his motives and priorities. Again, he’s obviously free to do what he wants, and shouldn’t have to put his life on hold, all of that. But it’s hard to see how this helps his efforts to get into the NFL.

We leave you with this, a spectacular series for Andrew Wiggins, who smothers MVP candidate James Harden on one and and beats him down the floor for a dunk on the other end (h/t The Big Lead).

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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