Judging the Royals

The Royals are eliminated, but they’re still competing: Here’s how

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas jsleezer@kcstar.com

On Tuesday night the Twins won and, even though the Royals beat the Tigers, the Royals were eliminated from the playoffs.

Afterwards, when Ned Yost was asked to reflect on the 2017 season, he refused: there are five games left to play, the Royals’ season is not over.

Ned was then asked to reflect on Jason Vargas’ season and Ned once again refused: Vargas has a start left, his season is not over.

After beating the Tigers, Vargas has 18 wins, tied with Corey Kluber and Clayton Kershaw for most wins in the big leagues. It would appear all three pitchers will have at least one more start this season and Vargas will go for win No. 19 on Sunday.

Don’t be surprised if his teammates play all out to get it for him.

What Michael Jordon, Cal Ripken Jr. and Jeff Francoeur have in common

If you’re a sports fan you’ve probably already heard the story about Michael Jordan getting cut from his high school basketball team. Most of us would have figured we weren’t going to be basketball players and gone on with our lives: Michael Jordan went home and practiced.

TV announcer Jon Miller tells a story about playing a game of Strat-O-Matic on a Baltimore Orioles team flight with Cal Ripken Jr. and beating him. Cal Ripken Sr. was on the same flight and Junior went to his dad to find out what he’d done wrong in the first game, then came back and beat Miller several games in a row.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, professional athletes tend to be a bit competitive: it’s one of the reasons they became professional athletes.

In 2011 Jeff Francoeur played for the Kansas City Royals and hit .285 with 20 home runs and 22 steals.

Like everybody else, baseball players tend to like round numbers and on Aug. 13, Frenchy stole his 19th base, then got thrown out five times in a row trying to steal No. 20.

Guys attempt a steal when the math says it’s possible: if the pitcher takes 1.4 seconds to deliver a pitch and the catcher takes 2.0 seconds to throw the ball to second, but you can cover the ground between first base and second base in 3.3 seconds, take a shot.

But Frenchy was running when the math wasn’t in his favor. He was pushing the envelope to get to 20 stolen bases. Frenchy eventually got his 20th bag and then added a couple more.

After Frenchy hit his 19th home run on Sept. 17, I asked how big a slump he planned to go into while trying to hit No. 20. Frenchy laughed and said: “Pretty big.” He hit No. 20 a few days later and the slump was avoided.

The Royals were 71-91 in 2011, but Jeff Francoeur was still finding ways to compete.

Competitive people find something to compete about

The Royals are eliminated from the postseason, but being competitive people, they’ll still find something to compete about:

▪ Whit Merrifield and Cameron Maybin are tied for the American League lead in stolen bases.

▪ Merrifield needs two more home runs to hit 20.

▪ Mike Moustakas needs two more home runs to hit 40.

▪ It’s a stretch, but Eric Hosmer needs eight more RBIs to get to 100 and he’s five runs away from scoring 100.

▪ Lorenzo Cain needs three doubles to get to 30.

▪ Alex Gordon needs two more hits to get to 100.

▪ Alcides Escobar needs to play five more games to get to 162 for the second season in a row. If he can avoid striking out during those games, Escobar will also avoid striking out 100 times in a season, so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of first-pitch hacks.

Some of these goals might seem dubious, but professional athletes tend to find ways to motivate themselves and getting back to .500 — the Royals are 77-80 with five games left to play — is a pretty decent motivation.

The Royals are eliminated from the postseason, but they’re still competing.