Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: Royals good and bad, BBQ crimes, and how many KC All-Stars?

Lorenzo Cain was congratulated by teammates after running down the final out of the game Sunday in the Royals' 6-0 win over the New York Yankees.
Lorenzo Cain was congratulated by teammates after running down the final out of the game Sunday in the Royals' 6-0 win over the New York Yankees. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Dan Jennings has to know he’s being set up to fail. He is the Marlins’ general manager, and obviously has the trust and respect of awful owner Jeffrey Loria, because now Jennings is also the field manager, and this whole thing is going to be a disaster for a lot of reasons but one in particular that I think is being overlooked in the deserved criticism of Loria.

Jennings never played in the big leagues. He played a brief time in the minors, and that’s it. He will (presumably) already be seen by the players as Loria’s puppet, but is also facing a steep uphill climb since he doesn’t have the big league experience (as a coach, manager or player) that is so important in that job.

We’ve talked a lot here about the importance of big league managers. I believe it is vastly overrated, most of the time. Lineup construction has been proven to not matter all that much, most managers use largely the same strategies and philosophies, they all make mistakes, and even a bad move can be wiped away by the players.

But I’ve always thought the one part that has to be there is respect from the clubhouse. That’s why I always thought the general criticism of Yost and the occasional calls for him to be fired missed the point. The guys in that clubhouse like Yost, and they play hard for him. Yost has that respect, in no small part, because of a track record as a longtime big league player, coach and manager.

This is a little myopic, but here in Kansas City, we’ve seen what can happen when you hire someone without any big league experience to be a big league manager — he can turn into Trey Hillman. Credibility was always the issue with Hillman, and it got ripped away, first one thread at a time and then quickly exposed completely.

Jennings will have some advantages over what Hillman walked into, just because he knows the players, knows the roster, and (presumably) has good relationships there. But being in uniform in the dugout is a much different thing than being in a suit in a suite. That job is so dependent on having the respect of players, and the respect of big league players is so dependent on having big league experience.

This is almost certain to end badly. Not for Loria, who will still be rich and the boss, but for Jennings — a good and respected baseball man.

This week’s reading recommendation is Dave Kaplan on Yogi Berra’s profound act of empathy, and the eating recommendation is the smoked ribeye at Cleaver and Cork.

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

Are we going to get off on the wrong foot if I say Bull Durham is overrated as a baseball movie? Is that OK?

Well, whatever. Look at this:

▪ the Royals have won eight series, split two and lost two. They have a losing record against exactly zero opponents.

▪ they are first or second in the American League in runs, hits, doubles, triples, (fewest) strikeouts, hitting, on-base, slugging, OPS, total bases, ERA, and (fewest) home runs surrendered.

▪ they are on pace for 171 Defensive Runs Saved, which is more than double any other team in baseball. No team has finished with even 100 in the stat’s existence.

▪ Wade Davis^ has given up exactly zero (0) runs this year. Greg Holland has given up one (1) run, and it was in a game where he came back out for a second inning and got the win.

^ Lee has a great story about Wade Davis and Miguel Cabrera here.

▪ Lorenzo Cain (sixth), Eric Hosmer (12th), Mike Moustakas (23rd) and Alex Gordon (27th) are all among the top 30 in baseball in FanGraphs’ version of WAR.

So, you know. Not too bad.

No.

Just shy of the quarter pole, they are 24-14, which is a pace for 102 wins, which is great, but particularly great because of all the injuries and suspensions they’ve worked around. They’ve had Christian Colon or Orlando Calixte playing shortstop for a week, Paulo Orlando as the primary right fielder, Greg Holland injured, Jason Vargas injured, and a 24-man roster for what’s seemed like half the season.

Their Nos. 1 and 2 starters have given up 49 earned runs and 121 base runners in 78 2/3 innings so far. That’s a 5.61 ERA, and maybe now’s a good time to point out that Kyle Davies has a career 5.57 ERA.

Eventually, the rotation will get better and the offense will cool and, who knows, maybe Wade Davis will even give up a run. We’re at the point where it’s no longer a small sample size, but not quite at the point where it’s not still early in the season.

This is enough of a chunk to make some judgments about what the Royals can be, and they sure look like one of the American League’s best teams. For their versatility and depth, as much as the speed and defense and relief pitching we’re used to complimenting.

They are 99-63 in their last 162 games, including the playoffs. This is much more than a nice little run, and I think most people around baseball are starting to believe that.

Well, I’d like to start by saying I don’t really care what the Yankees wear, and I’m not sure why anyone else in Kansas City would. I’ve mentioned this before, but it sure seems to me that sports fans in Kansas City often care far too much about things like this.

That being said, the Yankees don’t change their uniforms much. They just don’t. Whether that’s being proud and protective of their history, or just arrogant and stiff, I guess that’s a subjective call. There were Negro Leagues teams in New York, and it would’ve been nice to see the Yankees wear those uniforms, but I just don’t have enough outrage in me to waste it on something like this.

Nothing turns a bunch of grown men who can’t match their belt and shoes into a bunch of princesses quite like sports uniforms, but those Monarchs uniforms the Royals rocked on Sunday were my favorite they’ve had.

I’m with Andy on this one. They should wear those things every home Sunday. On the road, full powder blues.

Who would be against this?

Perfectly done, sir.

Young’s terrific performance, combined with Vargas’ upcoming return, has provided Yost the capital to essentially give Duffy an ultimatum — either get better, or get out of the rotation.

I talked a little about this on the Border Patrol this morning, but I think Yost deserves a lot of credit for Young’s effectiveness. Young doesn’t have a lot of velocity, and pitches up in the zone at times, and there tends to be a very fine line with those types of guys. They’re going fine, right up until the point where they’re not, and you better get them out before that point. Yost (with Dave Eiland’s help, obviously) has done a masterful job with this.

But to answer your question, it depends almost entirely on Duffy’s next start. I don’t think they want to be leaning on Young for a ton of innings. So they need to be smart about this. If Vargas is back (in literal terms) and Duffy is back (in figurative terms), then it’s smart to move Young back to the bullpen, and save his innings for when you’ll need them most. But if Duffy scuffles again, then I think you send him to Omaha (rather than the bullpen) to get right and keep Young in the rotation.

This is a bit like asking me what I’ll get my one-year-old son for his high school graduation^, because this stuff doesn’t matter until at least the beginning of July, but whatever, we don’t let little things like logic or reality bother us here at Twitter Tuesday.

^ I’m hoping it’ll be a ride to the university he’ll be attending on full scholarship.

So, I’m going to be rainbows and unicorns here, because I think by the middle of July the rotation will look a lot better than it does at the moment. A major injury could change things, obviously, but that’s true of any team and any position.

I believe that this is Danny Duffy, much more than this. I believe that Yordano Ventura will figure out the middle ground for his emotions, I’m starting to really believe in Edinson Volquez, and I believe that the Royals’ terrific defense will continue to give Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Young and, when he gets healthy, Jason Vargas every chance to succeed.

I do not believe that the Royals have a great rotation, but I do think it’s somewhere around average, which, with that defense and bullpen, should be enough.

I also think that the cost of these types of trades is almost always too high, that the value in prospects required to bring back a two-month rental player is just not smart business. I also think we’ll be talking about this again, probably regularly, so let’s just move on for now.

I don’t think so. I know where you’re going with this, and I understand, but it’s also incredibly difficult to be a top 10 pick in the draft. Mike Trout was not a top 10 pick. Neither was Adam Jones. Or Anthony Rizzo. Or Joey Votto.

Cain is a terrific athlete, obviously, but — and, people, we’re just talking athleticism here — not as athletic as Bubba Starling. Remember, Cain came to baseball because he got cut from the basketball team. Starling was good enough at basketball that he could’ve been a high-Division I player.

Well, slow down. Nobody’s getting nine All-Stars. Not even with the bloated rosters, and I know the fun joke is to say that Successful Ned is going to pile the roster with Royals, but there are so many rules and elections that the managers don’t actually get to pick all that many spots freely.

But, anyway, let’s go through it a bit. I believe that Perez will be on the team. And Wade Davis. Those guys are probably locks. Let’s go through the others…

Eric Hosmer: he’s an emerging star, and this is the perfect year for him to make his first All-Star team. His numbers back it up — trails only the alien Miguel Cabrera among AL first basemen in OPS — and he has some momentum and flair, too.

Greg Holland: has the history of having made the last two teams, but he’s only pitched in nine games and is currently 11th in the league in saves. Good enough to make it, no question, but there are a lot of good relievers, including teammate Wade Davis.

Mike Moustakas: Evan Longoria will probably win the fan vote. You never know how many backup third basemen will be on a team, and Moustakas will be competing with Josh Donaldson (better OPS, and almost exactly twice as many homers and RBIs) and Manny Machado. He’s played well enough, and it would be cool to see. Prime candidate for that last chance vote.

Lorenzo Cain: last year’s postseason gave him enough Moments that people remember who he is, but it’s hard to see him being voted in with stars like Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz (league leading 15 home runs) and others.

Alex Gordon: sort of a combination of Holland’s case (name recognition and track record) and Cain’s (outfield is awfully crowded). His OPS is currently about 71 points higher than it was at the All-Star break the last two years^ and his defense is again terrific.

^ This is really weird, but his OPS was exactly .772 at the break in each of the last two seasons.

Alcides Escobar: going to be tough to get him on. Jose Iglesias is a no-brainer selection, and Escobar’s case becomes harder if someone else wins the fan vote. Marcus Semien is hitting the crap out of the ball, and Alexei Ramirez leads the position in name recognition.

Add all of that up, and my best guess is that the Royals get four on the team, plus one more in the last chance vote. That’s pretty good.

Reasonable people can disagree about this, and if I was building the case against Sporting Park I would focus on the fact that Sporting’s ownership and management should know better. Those “Made In Kansas City” billboards are all around town, and they’ve made a very obvious and mostly very strong effort to promote themselves as local. Local ownership, local star defender, local bands playing before games, local, local, local.

Royals ownership has gotten a bad rap in a lot of ways over the years. Until last October, every time I wrote that David Glass had been a good owner since 2006. And they’ve actually made a lot of progress in recent years in establishing deeper community connections. The Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat is, to me, the coolest thing any team in town does. But nobody is going to confuse David Glass as a Kansas City guy. So of course his team lets Aramark do its barbecue.

So, maybe there is a tendency to be harder on Sporting for going away from Kansas City barbecue, but to me what the Royals are doing with Sweet Baby Ray’s is more egregious because you can’t get away from it. Those damn ad boards are right there behind home plate every game, staring you in the face, a Kansas City institution like Kauffman Stadium advertising a mediocre barbecue sauce from Chicago to the world. This is more than a bad decision. It’s an intolerable affront on sensibility.

Quick tangent, my wife lived in Chicago for about ten years out of college. Sweet Baby Ray’s is part of the deal there, and we’ve had a bottle in our house for most of our marriage. You know, they say through good times and bad. So, about two months ago, I guess she’d heard me make fun of Ray’s enough, so she finally did a taste test — Ray’s and Joe’s, back to back — and the Ray’s bottle hasn’t been touched since.

Yes.

A few weeks ago, I said that if I ran the Royals, the only changes I’d make would be to better use the video board, fire Aramark, and force Ned to listen to an hour of Justin Bieber music every time Sal Perez started ten games in a row.

I stand by all of those improvements, but I have a few more. Like I mentioned before, those Monarchs uniforms would happen every Sunday at home, and full powder blues on the road. The hot dog race would be bottles of barbecue sauce. Bottled water would be a dollar on days where the temperature was 80 or above. I’d figure out a way to better promote tailgating for games, particularly weekend games.

And, here’s the one I feel strongest about, I’d have that clip of Buck O’Neil singing Take Me Out To The Ballgame play every game:

Of course, that would mean doing away with that venerable Kansas City institution of having the K Crew sing. Let’s just move on.

Royals. Way more.

I love basketball. In a vacuum, it’s my favorite sport to watch, and I’m particularly excited about the possibility of a Warriors-LeBron final, but it’s hard to find time to watch everything. I actually think this is one of the best things that European soccer has going for it in America, because those games are predominately on Saturday and Sunday mornings here. It is, mostly, an untapped time slot, particularly for sports.

I do like the NBA in general, though, and continue to hope that college basketball takes cues from the pro game about how to improve the product. I know that’s going to read wrong to a lot of people around Kansas City, because the talking point about bad NBA basketball — like David Glass’ miserly ways — has long outlasted its accuracy. The NBA is a far superior game, more fluid, better pace, much better officiated. The college game can’t do everything the NBA can do, but that should serve as a model.

I liked the rules changes they’ve made, but don’t think they’ve gone far enough. College basketball needs structural change, not cosmetic.

Risotto cakes at Justus Drugstore, house salad at Garozzo’s, cannelloni at Osteria, cinnamon rolls at Stroud’s, and the cracked up bar from Gram and Dun. I’m gonna start off with a horse feather from the Rieger, and then switch to Tank 7. There are many notable absences from this list, but c’mon, I am but one man.

Hey, and, so, obviously that kind of meal is logistically unfeasible. But I’ll tell you what’s a genuinely possible idea, at least if you live in a certain part of the city … Gus’ is opening at basically 47th and Mission, which is not only next door to Joe’s, but more to the point, less than two miles from Stroud’s.

That means you can have the best comfort food meal in the world. The pro move will be to get takeout from both places — fried chicken at Gus’, sides (green beans, mashed potatoes, cinnamon rolls) at Stroud’s.

Holy crap, guys.

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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