Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: Trading Houston, hyping Dozier and appreciating Ned (sort of)

Royals minor-league third baseman Hunter Dozier is tools-y, in scout-speak, a man with a lot of natural talent. But he hit .209 in 267 plate appearances at Class AA Northwest Arkansas last year.
Royals minor-league third baseman Hunter Dozier is tools-y, in scout-speak, a man with a lot of natural talent. But he hit .209 in 267 plate appearances at Class AA Northwest Arkansas last year. The Kansas City Star

This is that time of year where Joe Lunardi brings his Gene Keady hairdo to your television screen during every ESPN game, making up news by telling you which team is out and which team is in, which team has a No. 2 seed, which is a No. 3 seed, and always couching it by telling you this is how it is at the moment, not necessarily an hour from now or tomorrow or heaven forbid next Sunday when it counts.

It our annual reminder that Lunardi is smarter than all of us, because, like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay and other NFL draft experts, he’s figured out a way to make a living by creating and then disputing the news that by definition he makes and changes. I assume he gets paid and everything.

It is an incredible achievement, really, when you think about it.

I toast my coffee in Lunardi’s direction, amazed by his ingenuity, and, please, let’s get to hard-hitting, investigative, important journalism like Twitter Tuesday. I have a George Costanza reference I’ve been waiting to make here.

This week’s eating recommendation is the Jackknife sandwich at Char Bar, and the reading recommendation is Chris Ballard on the awesome Warriors. This week’s hero is Gene Balloun, an area lawyer who has not only helped place a thousand kids in foster care, but done it all for free, putting the state fees into a scholarship fund to help send those kids to college.

Thank you for the nominations, and please keep them coming to smellinger@kcstar.com.

As always, thanks for your help and for reading. Let’s do it:

Better than I deserve, but now that you ask, I want the Raiders and Chargers to stay where they are, people to accept that this Kentucky team isn’t as good as Anthony Davis’, someone to explain how if Jameis Winston has Peyton Manning’s football mind he threw 18 interceptions last year, Derrick Rose to be healthy, Alabama Shakes to play in Kansas City when I’ll be in town, and the MLS season to start on time.

But, other than that, not bad.

Well, calling Houston “an old third round pick” is sort of like calling Jamaal Charles the same. It’s technically correct, but misses the entire point.

This whole situation with Justin Houston and the franchise tag is complicated, but can be simply termed the biggest mistake of John Dorsey’s and Andy Reid’s two years in charge^. Trading him for two first round picks doesn’t help a team that probably needs to win in the next few years or significantly change directions.

^ I heard you right there. You said something about Dwayne Bowe’s contract, but remember the context there: Bowe was a productive receiver and generally considered one of the best 10 or 20 at his position. The Chiefs had already kicked that can down the street, and had Branden Albert to worry about. Also, they are now out of the guarantees on Bowe’s deal because of his arrest two Novembers ago.

You probably know that part of the nonexclusive franchise tag^ small print is that another team can sign Houston to an offer sheet, which would give the Chiefs the option of matching the offer or receiving two first-round picks in return. I assume this is where the question is coming from, but the chances of this happening are very small.

^ I love this term, “nonexclusive,” by the way. It’s like you’re in a serious relationship, but not THAT serious, so each side wants to maintain some flexibility. If a better-looking option comes around, the other side has like two weeks to get in better shape or learn another language or get better stories or something^^.

^^ Actually, being serious, this sort of reminds me how several college coaches have described the scholarships given to players. One put it this way: I may be in a perfectly happy relationship, but if Beyonce comes calling…

Anyway, Joel Corry mentioned that the last time a team gave up two first-round picks to sign a guy to an offer sheet was Joey Galloway in 2000. Teams have an emotional and psychological attachment to draft picks, particularly high draft picks, and particularly high draft picks with the new-ish rookie wage scale.

Now, I believe they’re wrong about this. I think that one of the most important parts of building a good team in any sport is zigging when everyone else is zagging. I believe this is how the A’s have built success in baseball, and more notably how the Patriots have sustained such great success for so long^. If you’re fishing in the same lakes as everyone else, you’re just hoping to catch the same fish as everyone else. But that’s a whole different issue.

^ You know, that and the whole “Tom Brady” thing.

Realistically, the Chiefs are either going to sign Houston to a long-term deal that’s around 40 to 50 percent higher than they could’ve done a year ago … or they’re going to pay a higher cap figure and have Houston for the next two years for around $30 million, then lose him to free agency.

Those are the options. Neither is awesome^.

^ Just felt like we needed another one of these italics things here.

A few points here.

First, and I definitely care about this more than you do, but that was the best interview/conversation I’ve ever had with Ned. He was insightful, gruff, funny, honest, deflecting, boastful and humble. It was the whole Ned experience, wrapped up neatly in a half hour.

I believe that Successful Ned is just like the old Ned, only more so, and without even the tiniest filter. I believe he is emboldened, looser, more confident, and able to be funnier. I believe all of this will be awesome.

Second, I do believe the success makes him a better manager. He has approached his job with the Royals with essentially one move, that of positivity and defending his players. In any circumstance, that kind of thing can only last so long. Even as it stands, the Royals’ journey from punchline to playoffs took longer than even the optimists believed. Any longer, and the Royals probably needed to consider changing messengers.

But, anyway, to your question, I’ve never been on the Ned As Moron track as much as what seems like a majority of Kansas City. I’ve always thought of him as average, maybe a little below average. It’s only fair to raise that a little now, but I still see him in the middle. I heard a lot of people think I was being far too nice with that before, and will probably hear a lot of people think I’m being too hard with that now.

But I just don’t see where he’s a moron. He made, off the top of my head, three horrendous decisions last year with bullpen usage: the Jonny Gomes Game, the Aaron Crow Game, and the Yordano Ventura Game. But I think following or rooting for one team rips away perspective, and if you followed any team for 162 games plus the playoffs, you could find mistakes like that with the manager.

Also, and before I say this I should emphasize that nobody pounds the “managers are overrated and get far too much blame and credit” drum more than me. So before I even type the following sentence, let’s all agree that the Royals bullpen is awesome because Greg Holland is awesome and Wade Davis is a cyborg and Kelvin Herrera would be a closer for many teams. But, if you’re going to rip Ned for mistakes and losses, shouldn’t he get even a little credit for the success?

The other thing he always gets ripped for is bunting too much, but facts are a stubborn thing, and the Royals were seventh in the American League in sac bunts last year. Seventh. Out of 15. With a team that probably should bunt more than most, because it has a lot of speed and very little power. And a lot of those bunts are not called from the dugout.

I have a theory about Ned, or I guess managers in general, that they are disproportionately judged on how they present themselves through the media. Ned is fairly terrible at this, even after 11 years, and that has a way of tainting how the thousands of decisions a manager makes are viewed.

But, whatever, this is already a lot of words to say I’ve always thought the guy is an average big-league manager. I thought that before he won, and I’m pretty sure I’ll think that after he’s won.

But he’s going to be a hell of a lot more fun now. Of that, I’m certain.

This is the natural order of things. There was a time when Mark Teahen was shoved off third base at least in part to make room for Alex Gordon, who was shoved off third base at least in part to make room for Mike Moustakas.

Dozier is tools-y, in scout-speak, a man with a lot of natural talent. But let’s slow down a bit here. He hit .209 in 267 plate appearances at Class AA Northwest Arkansas last year, and even if that’s a small sample, and even if he was young for the league, it’s also true that Mike Moustakas hit 20 home runs in the big leagues when he was Dozier’s age.

Never say never and all of that stuff — a year ago how many of us had heard of Brandon Finnegan? — but it would take a list of things to see Dozier in the big leagues this year. Let’s not turn Dozier into the new Johnny Giavotella, please.

I have never and will never claim to be a draft analyst, a point that cannot be made clear enough. I have no idea and, honestly, the more I follow the draft and cover the NFL the more I think a lot of the men making the decisions are just guessing.

Dorial Green-Beckham’s entry to the NFL comes at an all-time high in the league’s domestic-violence awareness. None of us want to be judged by our worst moments, especially when those worst moments happen when we’re in college, but obviously those are things that teams are going to have to address and be comfortable with.

One thing about DGB that I don’t know is being talked about as much is the actual football. He’s an athletic freak, even by NFL wide receiver standards, but some of his combine numbers are underwhelming. Beyond all of that, though, teams are going to have be comfortable with his grasp of the offense.

These are all things that teams are going to have more information on than those of us guessing from the outside, but with the trends of the league so tilted toward passing, he’d be hard to pass up late in the first round.

Well, no. They don’t have a good case at the moment. But they can make one, with three more wins. That would be winning at Texas this weekend, and then two wins in the Big 12 tournament, which would put them in the final.

Do that, and K-State would be .500 in the nation’s No. 1 RPI conference, with wins over the league’s best four teams — Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma (twice) and Baylor. Making the Big 12 Tournament final would also mean at least one more win over an NCAA tournament team, and give K-State a pretty strong finish — four straight wins going into the tournament final, including at least three over tournament teams.

To me, that would make for a convincing resume, and here it’s worth pointing out that making the NCAA Tournament is a very different thing than being a great team or even having a very good season. There are 68 teams, and college basketball sure doesn’t seem all that strong this year.

So, all that said, no, I don’t expect this to happen. It’s more likely that K-State will lose in Austin, and lose in their first Big 12 Tournament game.

He’d make them better, but he also has all kinds of red flags of a guy you want to stay away from.

The way the Seahawks dumped him and kept winning, most obviously, but also a lot of the stories that leaked out of that locker room after he was gone were not the kinds of stories that are leaked out about a player who’s not a huge pain in the hind parts. He’ll also play for his new team with a big contract and financial security, and I think the Chiefs might have a recent example of a receiver who fell off after signing a big contract with financial security.

I’m a little surprised that Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin are going to be free agents. I thought their teams — the Eagles with Maclin, especially — would lock them up by now. Either of those guys would be enormous helps for the Chiefs, and obviously bring a level of familiarity with either Dorsey or Reid.

I think so. It’s either happening or not this week, obviously, but I don’t know that there’s anything to change my mind from this column about why the union would end up caving.

This is how it works in sports, at least for sports that aren’t baseball. The players are at an inherent disadvantage because they have a short window to make money and play their sport, which the wealthy owners are aware of and exploit.

As much as I side with MLS players on principle, it’s never seemed realistic to me that they would turn down significant raises in pay for more accessible free agency.

Actually, you may have seen D.C. United union rep Bobby Boswell tell the Washington Post:

“We have made a lot of concessions and we’re trying to keep the ball rolling. It’s in their court.”

We can all read into that what we will, and maybe the players will hold strong, but if what Boswell says there is representative then the union is essentially invoking George Costanza’s strategy after he quit his job:

And, yes, I do understand that I’m still making references to a show that aired its season finale 17 years ago. And, yes, that does depress me.

Thank you for your concern.

The lease at Truman Sports Complex is good through 2030, which probably means talk of renewing or renegotiating the least will start around 2020. So, if there are any impacts on Kansas City, they are indirect and very long-term.

The Chiefs are wildly popular in Kansas City, and last October showed that this town will love baseball if it stops getting kicked in the face long enough to enjoy the team. The Royals would be the more likely of the two to leave, and I know a few people in the baseball industry who say it’s 50-50 whether there’s a team here in 20 years, but I’m not sure I buy that.

The way that St. Louis’ wild contortions to keep the Rams would affect the Royals is in setting a precedent for the sports complex lease. Indirectly or otherwise, these things are all woven together, and there are two time-proven truths about these situations:

Truth 1: Civic investment in keeping or landing teams, or building new stadiums, is financially stupid, akin to lighting cash on fire, and in real money terms benefits only the wealthy sports owners who are making lots of money anyway.

Truth 2: Cities will continue to make these investments anyway, because sports.

Clark Hunt and whoever will own the Royals in 15 years are laughing at the crazy investments St. Louis is making to keep the Rams, and good for them, they’re going to be making a lot of money off it. If the trend holds, it just means they’re going to be making a LOT of money off it. More taxes paid, or less tax money going to things that aren’t private business owned largely by inherited wealth.

I think so. A few caveats: it’s expensive — no city price gouges you on rental cars like Phoenix, for example — you probably don’t want to stay in Surprise, and it helps if you like to golf or hike something, just for something else to do.

It really is pretty great. The weather is mostly perfect, and aside from games that matter, the spring-training vibe is basically everything that’s awesome about baseball. It’s accessible, easy, lots of games, nice pace, lots of optimism, the whole bit. If you (or your kid) are into autographs, there is no better place.

Phoenix is far from my favorite big city, but there’s enough to do before or after the games, too. Tons of golf, swimming, hiking, lots of good restaurants. Traffic is brutal, but, you know, can’t have everything.

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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