Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: KC’s best week, Chiefs’ salary cap, Royals’ future, and burgers

The Sprint Center again will be a hoops hotbed inside and out as the Big 12 Conference men's basketball tournament runs Wednesday through Saturday.
The Sprint Center again will be a hoops hotbed inside and out as the Big 12 Conference men's basketball tournament runs Wednesday through Saturday. KansasCity

There are no indications that the NCAA’s investigation into potential impermissible benefits for Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander or his family is gaining any sort of traction or moving at a pace that will allow him to play again this season.

This is a shame for Alexander, of course, and an example of a bad and antiquated NCAA rule. The rule will almost certainly change, but not in time for Alexander, so this is one more adjustment KU will have to make in a season that’s been full of them.

On the court, KU will be without its best rim protector, and its most efficient rebounder. These are already weaknesses for the Jayhawks, so they will be further exposed in a potential NCAA matchup against a team that scores well around the rim and/or is strong on the offensive glass.

Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson have each been relatively strong in short bursts, which is encouraging for KU, but there is now more pressure on the other parts of KU’s game — Kelly Oubre’s scoring, everyone’s outside shooting, and ball protection, just to name three — to be sharp. All of that, and we haven’t talked about Perry Ellis, who was in position for a strong argument as conference player of the year before a knee injury last week.

Matchups are always critical in the NCAA Tournament. This is a bit like saying turnovers will be important in a game, or that a baseball team needs to keep its starting pitchers healthy. But the old cliche will be particularly true for KU this year. I’ve written that here and said it several times before, but without Alexander it’s amplified.

This week’s reading recommendation is Juliet Macur on the former major college football player who is now homeless, and the eating recommendation is the eggs benedict at Rye.

As always, thanks for your help and thanks for reading.

Well, look, I’ve enjoyed having you as part of my team and I certainly understand the attraction to Vahe, what with that beard and intellect and generally good hygiene and all, but I’d really like to convince you to make room for both of uhhhh … wait … you said four years?

Four years?

FOUR YEARS?

FOUR YEARS!?!?!?!?!?

That seems like a long time. Does it seem like a long time to you? When I started this, it was just me and my dog in a downtown loft. My life outside work revolved largely around Taco Tuesday at Los Corrals, the pop-a-shot machine at the Quaff, and cigars at the Phoenix. Now I’m a married dad with a mortgage and, last night, apparently, a 10:30 bedtime.

It seemed like just yesterday I was getting the term “curb-stomped” in the paper. Now it’s things like “the Royals played in the World Series, like, in real life.”

Also, according to this, the “modern” four-year anniversary gift is an appliance. So, you know. Technically, I believe a kegerator is an appliance.

Yeah, this one is the best. Especially with this forecast. There is no better time to be in or from Kansas City than this week, downtown and downtown bars buzzing with fans taking a few days off work to pretend they’re back in college and watch some hoop. Every time I write this I get an angry email from someone affiliated with the Power and Light District, but it really is the one time every year you can go there and know you’re not going to run into a bunch of obnoxious bros and bachelorette parties with scavenger hunts.

The second week would be the Plaza Art Fair, and not just for the food stands and open container laws being on the side of day drinkers. There is every kind of person there, from serious art people to kids just out of college looking for an excuse to drink. I’ve run into my dad there, and been 24 and realized that I needed a cab home even thought it wasn’t even dark yet.

For the third week, I’m going to cheat a little bit, because it’s not based around an event or static anniversary. It’s not the start of the Royals or Chiefs season, or the American Royal, or even my first weekend on the deck with my smoker and cigar.

It is the first week in the fall that, um, feels like fall. It’s usually around late September or early October, and the leaves are falling and good football fills the weekend and the weather is crisp enough even a sweat-hog like me can wear jeans and a jacket without worry, but not so cold that you can’t spend the evening on the deck. The Chiefs haven’t broken people’s hearts. Yet.

Man, I love that week. I usually make chili that week, because I am apparently intent on becoming a suburban cliche.

Well, among those choices, I’m on Team Town Topic, but it should be noted that the best burger in the world comes from Westport Flea Market. You are free to disagree with this, just as you are free to believe the world is flat or that in-stadium marriage proposals aren’t reprehensible.

And it’s Jamaal Charles. Still. Travis Kelce is an emerging star, and Jeremy Maclin will transform the offense. But, Charles does stuff like this sometimes:

First of all, “pundits” is such a great word. As far as I can tell, it’s exclusively used in sports and politics, and only to either a) make fun of someone for being self-important, b) point out failed predictions, like a mean school kid pointing at a falling classmate like HAHAHA!!! …

… or c) all of the above. It’s like this tremendous code word that we all understand, on both sides,the way a kid understands what it means when his mom uses his full name with a little bit of anger.

Now, look, I don’t know Mack Rhoades. I look forward to meeting him, but for now, would point you to Tod’s story or this really insightful column by Vahe about the gaps Rhoades can fill.

But I’d also say that it’s not a stretch to suggest that all coaches^ have a new boss to impress, and a new boss to impress who did not hire them and is not invested in them the same way as Mike Alden.

^ Gary Pinkel not included, obviously.

Kim and his assistants know they need to win. They know that there are legitimate forces working against them this year, and that reasonable people always understood this would be a rough season. But they also know they have these jobs and are being paid good money to win games, and the sooner that starts the better for everyone.

I happen to believe in Kim and the people he’s surrounded himself with, but that’s based much more on what I believe about them than anything that’s happened this season. It has always been about recruiting, and there are good signs along those lines but the results need to show.

It’s not at all a stretch to say that the patience might be thinner with a new boss, but it’s also true that Kim should be insulated at least a little bit because of his strong ties and love for the school.

No, but the current CBA has a provision that requires teams to stay within a certain range of the cap. That means there is even more wiggle room than usual, and with the Chiefs, the best example of this is that a chunk of Alex Smith’s contract can be converted to a signing bonus to create cap space without impacting anything else.

Signing Maclin — and we should point out that Maclin isn’t official yet — means other cuts need to happen, and we’ll see more of that later today.

Mentioned this yesterday, but signing Maclin (again, assuming that happens) means the Chiefs can feel more freedom in the draft. If Albert Wilson is your top receiver on the depth chart, you probably feel some pressure to upgrade that position when you can. Saying “best player available” is a good talking point, and it’s what teams should say and try to do, but it’s also completely unrealistic to follow all the time. You need to fill out different positions.

But losing Hudson is a blow, no question, and I say that as someone who fully believes that the Chiefs were right not to match the Raiders’ offer of $9 million a year. That’s just too much, and this is a spot where the salary cap really makes building an NFL team different than in baseball, because even if the owner doesn’t mind bankrolling a few extra million dollars for a player, that means a few extra million dollars that can’t fill another need. Again, this is a ripple effect of the provision of the CBA that requires teams to stay within a certain range of the cap. The Raiders had a ton of cap space, and they had to spend it on someone.

But, anyway, you asked a question and the answer is EVERYTHING. The Chiefs need to be using every avenue available, the draft, free agency, all of it, because they have the makings of a pretty good roster here but it’ll all be blown to bits of Alex Smith’s anatomy if the offensive line isn’t better.

Hudson wasn’t just the Chiefs’ best lineman last year, he was their only good one. I’m higher on Eric Fisher than most, but even then, and even if you take leaps and assume Donald Stephenson will be ready or that Jeff Allen will be healthy there are still holes to fill. Linemen in the draft typically perform fairly well, but this has to be a combination of the draft and free agency.

People hate when I say this, and I wish this wasn’t the case, but I’d stop the “CHEEEEEEEFS” thing at the end of the national anthem. I hate it, and I hate how hating it makes me feel. Hating it goes against what I believe to be my worldview on sports, that it should be about fun, and stop taking yourself so damn seriously — and, honestly, I’m not sure why we feel the need to turn sporting events into displays of patriotism — but I find the anthem thing out of place and disrespectful. I wish it would stop. I know it won’t.

But, other than that, I would take steps to improve the fan experience at Kauffman Stadium. It’s a beautiful venue, and I generally find the people who work there — and I’m talking about the vendors and the ushers, people like that — to be friendly and positive.

The team could do things like improve the wifi, make sure staffing matches crowd size (and err on the side of overstaffing), improve the quality and selection (and, um, mold levels) of the concessions.

And here’s something that wouldn’t cost them a dime — better use that gorgeous video board to improve the fan experience. The shape of the crown — vertical, not horizontal — makes watching replays a bit awkward. It also makes it difficult for the camera operators to get the shot. But they could cut the board down, and turn it into two horizontal boards, and, like, for big plays have one “screen” show Mike Moustakas hitting the home run or Lorenzo Cain making the catch and then on the other show the reaction in the dugout or the crowd, or even another angle of the play.

Seems like that would be fairly simple.

I can’t even begin to describe how much better this show would be if you filled out the house with Randy Covitz, Jarrod Dyson, Rustin Dodd, Mike Moustakas, Dwayne Bowe, and Karen Kornacki.

I would quit my job to be first grip man for this show.

He should be. The Royals are in a little bit of a difficult spot here, because they’ve been working a long time for the opportunity to win, and they feel a strong obligation to take advantage of this window the best they can. Finnegan is, surely, one of their best 12 (or 13) pitchers and would help the Royals win big league games.

But is also, surely, one of their best chances at developing the kind of young, cheap and talented starting pitching that has to be a foundational building block here. Starting pitchers are WAY more valuable than relief pitchers — consider that as superhuman as Wade Davis was last year, his FanGraphs WAR was 20 percent lower than James Shields’ — and the Royals owe it to themselves to see what they can get out of Finnegan.

This is not Aaron Crow, who the Royals would’ve put in the rotation if they thought he was up for it. For Crow, putting him in the bullpen was the way to get some value. Finnegan was drafted less than a year ago, still, and there is no reason to think he can’t be a good starting pitcher someday.

The arithmetic here might be a bit different if the Royals needed bullpen help, or if Finnegan was going to be the closer or even the eighth inning guy. But when his role would be the sixth inning — yes, the Royals could use a lefty back there, but the righties they have get lefties out, too — it’s hard to justify giving up on him as a starting pitcher. Doing that would be chasing short money, and it would be a disservice to both Finnegan and the 2016 or 2017 Royals.

Every once in a while, when I tweet something about AEG being dishonest and misleading, someone from the company will call to tell me they saw the tweet and the conversation goes basically like this:

AEG stooge: “Saw your tweet.”

Me: “Yeah.”

AEG stooge: “Just want you to know we saw it.”

Me: “OK.”

AEG stooge: “We see that stuff.”

Me: “Good to know.”

Then, the AEG stooge will make some lame attempt at painting the company as something other than corporate ugliness, and I’ll point out that they completely misrepresented their intentions and/or ability to bring a team to Kansas City, and they’ll point out that the arena still makes money, and I’ll point out that that’s entirely beside the point, that P&L is hemorrhaging cash without an anchor tenant, and that if having a team is such a problem for concert dates then convincing some other city to give up their team should be pretty simple.

The conversation is entirely unproductive, is what I’m saying. But it always leaves me with a smile, and, I like to think, the same can be said for the stooge.

I’d never thought of this until seeing this question, but I’ve spent a little time brainstorming and I’m not sure what can realistically be done. If you adjust cap space or implement some other mechanism to create a “truly” even cap, should there also be help for teams in markets that can’t support higher ticket sales? Should a “truly” even cap account for corporate sponsorships?

But I guess my biggest hesitation is that you’d be implementing something to counteract a tax code that’s in place for very different reasons than attracting athletes to a city or state. It just feels like this could open up a whole new ball of problems.

I’m also not sure I can support what would essentially be tax credits for athletes. Maybe I need to see the tax thing becoming a more significant draw for athletes, or morph into a more obvious competitive (dis)advantage.

I see where your thinking comes from, and it’s a smart question. Probably too smart for Twitter Tuesday. But I think this would be unnecessary, and expose leagues to other problems. I also might be overthinking this.

Soccer players have a (justifiably) big pride in their fitness. Just locally, you hear Peter Vermes talk about fitness as much as he does anything else, with the possible exception of referees. They run between six and nine miles every game, much of it in sprints, much of it while wrestling, with jumps for headers and slides for tackles in between. It is fairly ridiculous, and even as I believe the best athletes play basketball, the fitness required for soccer is next level.

All of which is another way of saying: good for Besler, if he wants to be on TV with models, all of them in their underwear.

All of which is entirely irrelevant to a more important point: if Besler’s teammates have any pride, they are making unending fun of him.

If you haven’t seen the commercial yet, here it is, and I’m not sure if this needs a NSFW label or not. I don’t know where you people work. Your choice. Have a good day.

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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