They say that every four years non-soccer fans remember the sport exists, but it’s also true that every four years we have the debate about what it will take for America to embrace soccer like most of the rest of the world.
But at some point since the letdown ending against Portugal on Sunday, it occurs to me that we’re probably already there.
Or, more accurately, pretty much as close as we’re going to get in a country already obsessed with other sports, and in a country where the best professional leagues are in other places.
Because it feels like we’re treating the US Men’s National Team largely like we do our favorite professional teams. I’ve seen or heard Geoff Cameron’s awful "clear" that gave Portugal its first goal compared to Bill Buckner. I’ve seen or heard the USMNT giving up a buzzer-beating goal — made possible by perhaps the best player in the world making a best-player-in-the-world kind of play — called an epic choke.
Those descriptions aren’t wrong, they’re just stronger than most of what we’ve heard in the past about our national team. Just getting out of group play has usually been seen as a triumph worthy of ticker-tape parades, but now, when the coach says it’s not realistic to expect the US to be able to win, he’s met with a cascade of criticism. In most any other World Cup, a draw with Portugal would be seen as a huge victory.
The fact that a lot of us (and I include myself in here) are disappointed about it is a sign that soccer has probably found its place in our sports mainstream.
Or, if we want to simplify, we can just look at the TV ratings.
This week’s eating recommendation is the mac-and-cheese with jalapenos and burnt ends at Beer Kitchen. This is at least the second time that dish has made it here, but damn, it never disappoints. The reading recommendation is Greg Bedard on Browns coach Mike Pettine.
The Royals won last night, and Scott’s son got another save, but this was too good to pass up.
Well, "gaaarbage" is a bit of an overstatement. He gave up five runs in that wild Friday night game, but in the two starts before that gave up three runs in 12 innings against the White Sox and Yankees.
Anyway, let’s look at the numbers.
Shields: 3.70 ERA, 23 walks, and 85 strikeouts over 104 2/3 innings and 16 starts.
Vargas: 3.16 ERA, 25 walks and 73 strikeouts over 108 1/3 innings and 16 starts.
Guthrie: 3.75 ERA, 25 walks and 64 strikeouts over 105 2/3 innings and 16 starts.
Ventura: 3.20 ERA, 25 walks and 73 strikeouts over 84 1/3 innings and 14 starts.
Duffy (starts only): 2.91 ERA, 20 walks and 36 strikeouts over 52 2/3 innings and nine starts.
If we’re going with just this season — nothing matters except this season — the ranking would probably go Vargas, Ventura, Duffy, Shields and Guthrie.
But if we’re talking in more general terms, like, comparing who you’d trust most going forward, track record matters in baseball more than other sports, so the ranking might go Shields, Vargas, Ventura, Guthrie and Duffy.
On both accounts, a few of these guys are so bunched up that you can make good cases for a lot of different rankings.
It’s worth noting here that as a group, Royals starting pitchers are fourth in ERA, fifth in WHIP and first in innings among American League teams — and that’s with Aaron Brooks’ meltdown holding them back.
Speaking of Vargas …
That was always one of those criticisms that the Royals get because they haven’t been to the playoffs in 28 years. I mean, the Royals signed a starting pitcher to a $32 million contract. Nobody ever showed me the world in which that is not a major announcement.
Not to go all Bill Clinton on you, but it depends on your definition of "realistic." MLB.com gives the Royals a 13 percent chance, and Baseball Prospectus comes in at 14 percent. That’s probably about right. You didn’t ask, but MLB.com gives a 24.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, B-P is at 25.2 and ESPN.com is at 45.1 percent.
The Mellinger Odds — this is basically where I just close my eyes and ballpark it — are in that neighborhood; we currently have them at 16 percent for the division and 33.3 percent for the playoffs.
What clouds it all a bit, for me, is that I do believe there is something real about this idea that this group struggles under pressure. It sounds counterintuitive on the surface, but you can make a case that there is more pressure on this team than there would be if they played in, say, Minnesota or Seattle or Texas. Kansas City is so starved for any sort of baseball success that a lot of fans have been robbed of the perspective of what’s a big game and what’s a baseball game. In turn, they all turn into big games, and at least on some level, that has to seep into the clubhouse.
Not only that, but because of Shields’ contract and other factors, everyone knows this is a crucial season for what’s been brewing for eight years now. That’s a lot to put on a group that’s largely never been in a big league playoff chase.
I can’t tell if this is a real question or not. Is this a real question? If they win a World Series, there will be a statue of Dayton outside Kauffman Stadium and it’ll be renamed the Country Ned Plaza.
You guys know what I think about Ned. I believe him to be an average big league manager with strengths that are mostly hidden from public view and weaknesses that are clearly captured on TV. But if the Royals win a World Series, if I was him, I would show up to every press conference after that with no pants and a bag of Cheetos, polishing my ring and answering every question with, "we won the World Series, boom, Yosted."
This is part of what I was getting at in the top, but, no. Hell no. I mean, to be more accurate, it was a SERIOUSLY inspired performance to come back from a goal down (especially the way they gave that goal up) and take the lead against what most considered a better team in oppressive heat.
But you can’t give it up.
If you cook what looks like the perfect meal for your girlfriend, the mood of the night changes if you drop the plates on the way to the table. You may or may not have cooked a good meal, but you definitely were a klutz.
Such a strange deal, on so many levels, even if you don’t consider allegations of fixed soccer matches, even in the World Cup. Jurgen Klinsmann is, of course, a former German soccer star and has denied the notion that the teams will just sit on the ball and go home nil-nil but, yeah, it makes sense.
I don’t know enough about the culture and larger context here to say anything too strong, but if you believe in incentives, the incentives are for each side to sit around and make fun of the French for two 45-minute halves and then go into the knockout round. It’s a fascinating deal, really, because the only motivation to play hard is to keep up appearances and respect the event.
Makes sense if we see a completely boring game, two teams playing 90 minutes like they’re each sitting on two-goal leads and then in the postgame trying to convince everyone they gave it everything they had.
You guys are killing me today. Is this a serious question? Love the Besler, but c’mon.
I’m including this, basically, because LeBron opted out of his contract with the Heat. I’ve always loved watching LeBron play — I do this weird thing where instead of hating the best player of this generation I appreciate the brilliance — and from an otherwise uninvolved fan’s perspective, that Heat team was tough to watch at times.
ESPN will surely beat this into the ground until we all scream for mercy, but the summer will be more interesting with LeBron searching for a new team.
I’m hoping for the Bulls. Or Cleveland.
For the most part, yeah, but like all things, this depends on your perspective. Flowers was a beloved teammate. A hard worker, established in the locker room, well-liked by the guys he played with. I also think something changed in the last year, whether it was being moved around, playing in a system that didn’t really fit him, or playing through an injury that turned him into a more high-maintenance guy to coach and manage.
The Chiefs would never say any of this, obviously, but if management and the coaches felt the same way about Flowers that his teammates did (and still do), they wouldn’t have cut him, no matter the financial relief.
These storylines are usually overplayed, but this is a situation where it would be worth a week of stories about raw feelings on both sides if Flowers landed on a team that plays the Chiefs this year.
Are you more excited about Year Two of the Andy Reid Experience on offense or more terrified about a depleted group of cornerbacks playing half the schedule against Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger?