Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: Outrage, dominance, Border War, Chiefs, and Jamaal Charles’ career

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West attended the 57th annual Grammy Awards after-party on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West attended the 57th annual Grammy Awards after-party on Sunday in Los Angeles. AP

I was going to lead this silly weekly timesuck with this idea anyway, and then Kanye West made it so much easier. Kanye, you surely heard, faked like he was going to highjack another musician’s acceptance speech at a made-for-TV awards show. He then said a lot of nonsense about respecting artistry and not taking it anymore and some other things that people decided to have very strong opinions about and I just can’t help but think:

Man, we’ve got it REALLY good if we get so worked up about this.

The ease of communication in this world is so awesome. My sister lives on the west coast. My mom lives on the east coast. At any moment, assuming they’re awake, I can video chat with my phone to see my nephews or so my mom can see her grandson in real time. It’s a remarkable human achievement, like the ability to share or find interesting articles or pictures or thoughts with strangers and people I admire from afar at the push of a button. This is all amazing, I wouldn’t change any of it, can’t wait to see what’s next, and let’s just skip over the rest of the fawning over technology to get to the point here:

The downside is that it’s so much easier to complain, to be outraged, and to have those complaints and outrage shared and amplified by others who agree or disagree but dammit they have a reaction.

This could probably be said on any random Tuesday in 2015, but think about some of the things people have chosen to be outraged about recently: Chris Paul criticized a referee, LaGarrette Blount was handed a T-shirt that made a joke about a fellow running back, Marshawn Lynch did not give insightful answers to reporters at the Super Bowl, footballs may or may not have been deflated, a woman was shown on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a bikini, a former baseball player sent a weird tweet and apologized for it, and a musician criticized an awards show.

Each of these things, in one way or another, became some level of controversy that people instantly reacted to with very strong opinions. Each of these things, in every logical way, is entirely, completely, thoroughly, and to the last drop irrelevant to your life and to mine.

I’m genuinely happy that we all have lives good enough to waste time with this kind of thing, but every once in a while it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to recognize where this all fits.

And, yes, thank you for asking. I would appreciate you getting off my lawn.

This week’s eating recommendation is the artichoke and risotto croquettes at Tavern, and the reading recommendation is this oral history of Chipotle.

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

Every writing award I get, I give to Beyonce. Or Vahe.

In baseball terms, yeah, four years and $75 million is probably a fair price for Shields — particularly since the Padres got a team option for $16 million. That means if he’s worth more than $16 million, they keep him and have a valuable piece (to use if they’re winning, and trade if they’re not). If it turns into a bad deal — and these things usually turn bad toward the end — they walk away after four years.

This is considerably less than Shields was looking for at the start of the offseason, and even less than he could’ve had by signing earlier in the offseason (his leverage was probably highest right after Jon Lester and Max Scherzer had both signed).

The Royals were never going to sign him, and for reasons including but limited to the link two paragraphs up, should not have signed him. The biggest contract they’ve ever given a man is $20 million less than what Shields just signed for, and that’s a big investment for a 33-year-old with nearly 2,000 innings on his arm.

The Royals, actually, played this perfectly. The acquisition, production, and now return — they’ll get a compensatory first-round pick in June — of Shields was the dream scenario.

They can’t replace Shields, and adding Edinson Volquez shouldn’t be read as the Shields replacement. This will have to be done by committee, most likely with Yordano Ventura as the staff’s best starter, and everyone else filling in behind. It’s worth pointing out that the Royals have been remarkably healthy the last few years, particularly with their starting pitchers.

Some of that, surely, is hard work and diligence and a training staff with a very good reputation. But some of it, surely, is also luck that can’t be counted on to repeat itself. But that’s probably a different column.

To answer your question, the Royals got everything they could’ve hoped for from James Shields.

Mean streets of Emporia runs through our veins. Hashtag bout that life, etc.

Two? Three, if he’s lucky?

Charles turned 28 in December, and history tells us running backs typically start to decline after turning 27. Charles wasn’t as good in 2014 as he was in 2013, but there are a lot of factors involved here, perhaps most notably the fact that he was fairly ridiculous in 2013 and expecting a repeat of 19 touchdowns and 1,980 yards from scrimmage would not be fair.

He is still among the game’s best backs, still averaged 5.0 yards per carry last year, and still gets a lot of yards after contact or after making the first guy miss. It’s probably also worth pointing out that Charles only took 67 carries (and 27 catches) as a rookie, and essentially missed the entire 2011 season with an injury. I looked at all of his touches from that 2013 season, and if we can pretend that what I did had merit, found that of 329 touches “only” 42 ended with particularly hard contact. He seems to be very good at avoiding the really hard hits.

I don’t know if this has any merit, either, but using Pro Football Reference we can see that Charles’ 2014 season was the 14th for a running back with at least five yards per carry and at least 150 carries at age 28 or older. The most accomplished backs on that list — Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes and Shaun Alexander — never did it again.

It’s hard to see where Charles is obviously slowing down, but then, it’s usually hard to see the cliff until you’re over it.

There’s a scenario in which the Royals bomb this year, and it doesn’t take that much creativity to come up with it. Yordano Ventura has some injury or regression red flags, bullpens are usually inconsistent from one year to the next, Alex Gordon has an injured wrist and is on the wrong side of the age arc, Eric Hosmer hit nine home runs last year, and Mike Moustakas is hitting .236 with a .290 on-base and .379 slugging percentage after 1,993 big-league plate appearances. Also, the division loaded up on free agents.

So, that’s your scenario, vaguely.

I don’t believe it, at least not at the moment. I think the Royals have a lot of talent, don’t lean too heavily on a single player, play terrific defense and have enough pitching that they should be in most games. I also think that, for whatever reason, PECOTA hates the Royals every year.

Because, let’s be honest. Any team’s success depends largely on health, Hosmer could just as easily have found something real last year, Sal Perez should be more productive if Ned Yost resists the temptation to turn him into Cal Ripken, and, you know what? I’m not as convinced as everyone else seems to be that the AL Central is a powerhouse. It looks balanced, which can be tough, but I don’t think any of these teams are winning 90.

Look, I like statistics as much as (most) anyone. I think they’re incredibly valuable, particularly in baseball, and used the right way can give us different ways to watch and digest and enjoy the games. But they are also dangerous in the wrong hands, or used the wrong way.

Projections of any kind are just guesses. Like, for instance, here’s a guess on Feb. 10 that is guaranteed to change at least twice between now and opening day: the Royals win 87 games and another wild card spot.

Maclin and the Eagles have both said they want to remain, um, together, so one way or another I don’t think the Chiefs are going to have this kind of decision to make. So, feel free to substitute “Randall Cobb” in here. Also, the Broncos appear to be the only team in the league that operates without a salary cap, so we should all be expecting them to sign Franklin to a three-year contract with $100 million in guarantees soon.

But, sure, in this hypothetical … I go with Franklin. The sexy pick is the receiver, and if Maclin was a possibility the decision would be difficult because of his familiarity with Andy Reid. The comfort level there would be nice. But Franklin would be a plug-in free agent, instantly make Smith (and Charles) better, turn a glaring weakness into a needed strength, and — here’s the kicker, for me, at least — it’s easier to find and scheme open a receiver than it is to find a reliable guard. There are more receivers out there who would help the Chiefs than guards, is what I’m saying.

But, obviously, either one would be great.

Some form of this question gets asked every week, it seems^. Thing is, I just don’t know how anyone can make a judgment on Kim Anderson as Mizzou’s coach and feel like they’re either a) making a complete blind guess, like a man at the gas station buying a lottery ticket, or b) merely confirming what they thought of Kim — good or bad — at the time of the hire.

^ Along with: screw Bruce Weber!

I guess that’s what I’m doing, anyway, because I think he’s a good coach who may or may not succeed but who was always going to lose a lot of games this year with the team Frank Haith left. The biggest point of concern is that Kim’s strength was supposed to be “coaching” in the classic sense, as an X-and-O guy, and it’s hard to see where that’s shown itself. The biggest point of hope is that Kim is backing up his words about bringing discipline and standards to the program, but as far as points of hope go, suspending half the roster is a fairly strange one.

What I think about Kim now is pretty similar to what I’ve always thought about him: his success or failure will depend on his recruiting, and it’s at least two or three years before a fair or informed judgment can be made on him.

This is cheating, because they were banned from everything but conference games that year, but the 2005-06 Baylor Bears won four basketball games. The football team won five games in the fall of 2005. The 2003-04 Texas A&M basketball team won seven games, the same as the ’04 football team.

Actually, dammit, this is the kind of question that I need to answer legitimately. While I go look through the internet, please enjoy this video of Kevin Durant dropping 40 points on 19 shots (h/t Deadspin)...

... OK, still there? So, far as I can tell, the last school to do this was Auburn, whose craptastic basketball program went 9-23 in 2012-13 and whose Cam Newton-infused football team won 12 games and the national championship in 2012.

Not that this makes Mizzou fans feel any better.

Though, maybe this will.

Well, first, if you haven’t read Cyd Zeigler’s story here a year after Sam came out publicly, I urge you to do it. There’s a lot here, a lot of different ways that Sam’s physical talent and production are an absolute outlier among guys who haven’t been on a regular season roster. The story is certainly written from a point of view, but it’s really hard to read the whole thing and not think Sam’s sexuality is keeping him out of the league, even if nobody’s saying that out loud.

The answer to your question, of course, depends largely on Sam. How hard he works. How persistently he pursues the NFL, or whether he decides the CFL is good enough, or maybe even pursues a different profession if he doesn’t catch on.

But for the purposes here, let’s assume that Sam keeps the work and motivation to the limit. I do believe he’ll catch on a roster, because at some point, the reasons to go to other places for a pass rusher will run out. He’s good enough for a shot, it seems.

I don’t know if contrite is the right word, but this was something in talking about not playing Missouri: “To be real candid, it’s not good. It hasn’t been great.”

Bill is a smart guy, and he speaks without a lot of the PR of many coaches, and I don’t think he says things on accident. I’ve always seen KU’s stance against playing Mizzou as petty, and I’ve always seen the stance — and, by extension, the opinion of a lot of fans — as driven by Self.

It makes sense, on some levels, that there would be a break. But it also makes sense that the schools will play each other again. Hate is profitable or, as Self put it: “Everybody likes waking up in the morning disliking somebody.”

That’s a pretty good foundation to get something started, as well as the fact that Self and Kim Anderson have a mutual respect. I’ve always thought the schools would play each again, mostly because the reasons to do it^ outweigh the reasons not to^^.

^ Fun, profit, etc.

^^ Pettiness, hypocritical/nonsensical stance about not “rewarding” MU or “punishing” one school for leaving the Big 12 while playing another school that left.

I do think Self is softening his stance here a bit, and that as soon as he wants to start the rivalry again, the rivalry will be started. I give it three or four years.

Ninety percent?

As it stands, they’re at least two up in the loss column on everyone. They have eight games left, so for them to not win an 11th straight conference title they’d need to lose at least three of these eight and then see Oklahoma, Iowa State or West Virginia win out.

They could lose three. At West Virginia is a tough game. So is at Oklahoma. But other than that, the third loss would be an upset — Baylor at home? K-State on the road? Texas at home?

Then it’s a matter of one of those other teams winning out. West Virginia plays at Iowa State, at Baylor, at Oklahoma State, and twice against Kansas. That’s a brutal finish. Could be three losses in there.

Iowa State plays West Virginia, of course, but then at Oklahoma State, at Texas, Baylor at home, at K-State and Oklahoma at home. Hard to see them winning out.

Oklahoma has the most manageable finish, but they still have Texas at home (a rivalry game, at least), at Iowa State, and Kansas at home.

I’ve thought from the beginning that KU would share the title. Iowa State has always seemed like the most likely candidate, but looking through the remaining schedules, maybe that season finale in Norman will be to determine whether it’s a shared title.

Someone needs to get better. KU has the best coach in the league, and the best homecourt advantage. Those things aren’t changing, at least not soon, and represent significant obstacles. But — and I know the title has been shared four times in these ten years — the inability for anyone else to even temporarily knock KU down is an indictment on the other coaches and programs.

Rick Barnes may or may not be fired after this season, but to me Texas and Oklahoma State (resources, recruiting) and Iowa State (Hoiberg, Hilton) are the best hopes. Oklahoma is also capable.

I want to be clear here on something. I’ve always dismissed the idea that KU’s dominance is bad for the Big 12. But for a lot of contextual reasons — KU was supposed to be down, the rest of the league was supposed to be as good as it’s been, and the RPI number — I’m starting to drift toward the other side on this.

It is just too easy to point to and use as a slam, either against the conference as a whole or Kansas in particular. I don’t believe this matters in any material way. I don’t think it hurts other conference schools from getting recruits, I don’t believe it hurts Kansas or other schools in the NCAA Tournament, and I don’t think it hurts the conference as a whole in tournament seeding. This is, at least the way I see it, a perception thing.

So, with something like this, can we keep it to coaches who’ve been around in my conscious lifetime? Because, let’s be real, I have no idea how to compare Adolph Rupp or Phog Allen. So, roughly, I think we should set the cutoff at 1990. I turned 12 that year, which is obviously very young, but I was a complete sports nerd and feel like if a coach was still doing his thing then I have an idea of what he was about.

Anyway, with that cutoff, I’ve got Dean Smith second, behind only Mike Krzyzewski^. The longevity and success are hard to match. The biggest argument, I suppose, would be for Bob Knight but I’d have him just behind Smith. The legacy of players who not only went through Chapel Hill but without exception revere Smith is pretty impressive. Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, and Roy Williams would fill out a lot of top fives here.

^ I’m old enough to remember when this was a real thing that people said: “Coach K can’t win the big one.”

It’s interesting to think about where some of the current coaching stars — I’m talking mostly of John Calipari, Bill Self, Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan — could end up. I’m not convinced that Calipari and Self will stay in college for the long haul, but if they do they’re bound for that top five.

So, one of the things you always see in sports and politics is that people often answer the question they want to answer, not the one that’s asked, and that’s what I’m going to do here — though not because I don’t want to answer the question, but because I can’t offer any insight here^.

^ I heard your joke there, and, honestly, it wasn’t bad.

But here’s what I do want to talk about … I’ve followed the Premier League this year like never before, and there are a thousand things I like about it … the passion, the skill, the scope, the athleticism, the language, the time slots … a lot of things.

Most of those things I expected to notice, good or bad, but I have to tell you the thing that’s stuck out most unexpectedly is the scandals. I mean, maybe this is a product of mostly following Arsenal, so this is just one team but listen to this: since the start of the season, the team has been openly heckled at the train station, signs have been brought to away games telling the longtime manager to quit, the goalkeeper was benched after coping with a bad game by smoking and drinking Jack in the shower, that same keeper’s father then blamed the problems on a defender he compared to a rhino, a supermodel broke up with one of the players because he wouldn’t have sex with her the night before games, the second-biggest shareholder basically called the majority owner an absentee jerk, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a headline or two.

And this is just one team, in one season.

The Premier League, far as I can tell, is just a treasure trove of amazing things like this. Over the years, a star player may or may not have tried to break into a women’s prison, one guy put his cigar out on the eye of a teammate during a Christmas party, a sex tape leaked of a player being spanked in women’s clothing, and it was reported that a star player had an encounter with a prostitute who turned out to be a grandmother.

The Premier League has much better scandals than Deflategate, is what I’m trying to tell you.

Plus, the soccer is great, too.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to smellinger@kcstar.com or follow on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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