Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Super Bowl, Chiefs’ needs, Royals’ new power, Lagerald Vick and more

In this May 29, 2014 file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (left) and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talked with the media.
In this May 29, 2014 file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (left) and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talked with the media. The Associated Press

Welcome to the world’s biggest junior high school.

Tom Brady’s dad said some mean things about Roger Goodell, who everyone knows is despised by most Patriots fans. Someone passed a note about this during study hour to Goodell, who sort of said the only reason he didn’t go over to Tom’s house to play was because that big meanie Robert Kraft didn’t invite him. So when Kraft heard that, he invited Goodell, kind of, if the Patriots win Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Or you could change the channel, or click a different website, and catch up on the pillow fight between LeBron James and Charles Barkley.

This is sports in America.

There is no bigger and perhaps no better gossip factory than Super Bowl week. We have demands to know about Brady’s political beliefs, and this story about Donald Trump’s love of the Patriots, and everyone’s angling to know how their team or city back home is viewed by others around the league. Mostly, they are told, over and over, they’re just fine.

This is both the kind of Super Bowl week we like and it’s the one we deserve. It’s silly. It’s outrageous. It’s irreverent, mostly irrelevant, and all packaged in this pseudo self-righteous way.

It’s beautiful. It’s American. More nachos, please.

This week’s reading recommendation is my friend Kent Babb on a high school basketball coach named Osama, and the eating recommendation is the shrimp burrito at Burrito Brothers.

Please give me a follow on Facebook and Twitter, and as always, thanks for the help, and thanks for reading.

I am!

But, I always look forward to the Super Bowl, unless Stan Humphries is quarterbacking against Steve Young, and then what’s the point?

I’d love to see the Falcons win, because they seem to have fun, and they play the kind of football that I like to see rewarded. Also, Julio Jones is incredible, and I’d be happy for Scott Pioli, even as I’m sure typing those words guarantees my tires are slashed in the morning.

I’d love to see the Patriots win, too, because Tom Brady would pass Joe Montana in Super Bowl wins and it’s always cool to be watching historical greatness. I know it’s cool to make fun of the Patriots, and root against the dynasty, but it’s incredible how the roster below Brady keeps changing and they keep finding ways to win. Also, who wouldn’t want to see Roger Goodell have to hand that trophy over and fake some more nice words about the Patriots?

As always, I’m going to be a little frantic about my deadline, and access, and I also feel a little bit like an outsider without seeing the commercials.

I do believe the Patriots’ defense is a little overrated*, but it’ll be fun watching the suddenly well-dressed Belichick against the a team that scored the eighth-most points in NFL history.

* First in points allowed, but they get a lot of help from the offense, and they’re eighth in yards, don’t force a lot of turnovers, and are 11th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

I mean, I do believe the Patriots are going to win, because the Falcons won’t be able to stop Brady, but still. Should be a fun game?

Shoot. That’s not bad, Steve. Well played.

I am hopeful the Raiders don’t move. I hate Vegas, and the idea of going there on an NFL weekend sounds absolutely miserable. I know. What is it with me today, right?

But I like Oakland. I have family there. San Francisco is across the bridge. But more importantly, that city deserves the Raiders. There’s a bond there with that team, a fit, and going back there this past season reminded me after too long what Raiders fans are like when their team isn’t terrible.

The NFL is full of fun atmospheres — Seattle, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Foxborough, Denver, New Orleans, Kansas City, we could go on — but Oakland is a little different than all of them.

I understand the logistics, and why building a new stadium in Oakland is so hard. I even applaud the city there for refusing to use hundreds of millions in taxpayer money when there are many other more important needs. I wish all cities would do this, because having teachers and firefighters and salesmen and landscapers and mechanics and every other working citizen pay for a billionaire to better profit off his private business when every economic study proves it’s only a good deal for the billionaire makes no sense.

But I will be sad if the Raiders do leave Oakland.

But, and this is the most important point I’ll make all week: my hair isn’t that bad.

Right?

Take notice here, you guys, because Brock asked a nearly perfect question. He points out that I don’t know anything, asks a question, and leaves what sounds like a delightful burger recommendation at the bottom, like a chocolate mint under the pillow. I’m legitimately hungry looking at those pictures.

My prediction is they draft a quarterback, but not in the first or second round. If the best indication of the future is the past, then Andy Reid and John Dorsey have been content to throw lures out in the fifth round or so, hoping to find value.

Now, I will continue to be clear in my belief that they should draft a quarterback in the first or second round, and that they should even trade up in the first round, if they believe the right guy for them will require it.

It just makes so much sense to do it this year. I’ve written about this some, but this draft appears to have four strong candidates who would fit what the Chiefs do, the team has extra picks if it needed to trade up, and they have a quarterback they know they can win with under contract for 2017, so they wouldn’t be drafting a guy with the pressure of having to start a rookie in the season opener.

Alex Smith’s contract becomes easy to get out of after the 2017 season, or the Chiefs could keep him, meaning they could make a more informed decision after seeing how Smith and the draft pick perform this year.

It just makes so much dang sense.

But, no. I don’t believe they’ll do it.

I will have that burger, though.

I always hesitate to say too much about possible trades, because there are always dozens of factors teams know that we don’t. But I do think one of the biggest differences between how fans view the game and how baseball personnel folk view the game is the value of average or even slightly below-average starting pitchers.

Teams value starting pitchers, even mediocre ones, if they can make 30 to 35 starts and give them 180 to 220 innings. It’s hard to imagine a team trading that kind of value for a guy who’s not good enough to play every day for the Royals.

Now, what you can find, sometimes, is what the Royals found with Nathan Karns: a team with a hole that matches up with your surplus, and a special motivation to get something done.

That’s a rare case. The Mariners traded everyone but Edgar Martinez this offseason and put a high grade on Dyson, a guy the Royals could move on without, and who was under contract for just one more year anyway. Even then, I believe the Royals valued Dyson enough that they wouldn’t have done the deal without believing Karns has some upside, and without the comfort of knowing they have him four years.

The path to get this done would probably be to trade Cheslor Cuthbert. I’m not sure exactly how other teams see him. He’s young, and showed some flashes, but there are questions about him defensively, and his .731 OPS last year ranked 117th out of 146 qualified American League hitters — right between Ender Inciarte and Scooter Gennett.

If the Royals could get a starting pitcher for Cuthbert, particularly one they control for a few years, I’d expect them to do that deal.

As it stands now, he’s a little redundant on the roster. Moustakas is better in every way but age, and Colon or Merrifield could serve as the backup third baseman.

I don’t expect that kind of trade. Even if it made sense, trades like usually happen before now in the offseason. But it could. And if the Royals get the right return, it’s a trade that would make them better.

Sam Mellinger shares memories of former Royal Jarrod Dyson 

Char Bar.

There are a lot of good places. Waldo Pizza is exactly the kind of place I want my kids to remember going to regularly, especially after games. Governor Stumpy’s is great. Westport Flea Market. At some point, my kids are going to eat tacos at Bichelmeyer’s on Saturdays and they’ll break my heart if they don’t like it. We could go on.

But Char Bar checks all the boxes. Great food. Long beer list for dad. Atmosphere that’s both fun and the kind of place where the toddler’s had a mini breakdown and I didn’t feel like the music stopped.

And if you find a nice day, it’s the absolute best. Their back porch is terrific. Lots of seating, an outdoor bar, but also a sort of play area where kids can run around and you don’t have to worry if they’re headed into traffic. It’s great.

Oh, man, this could be 2,000 words on its own but I’ll try to keep it shorter. First, a disclaimer that probably doesn’t need to be disclaimed: I love my job, and since you asked, I’ll talk about this but you have to promise not to think I’m complaining.

The common misconceptions are that I travel with the teams, that I root for teams the way I might if I had a real job, that there’s beer in the pressbox, that writing on deadline is some sort of magic trick and, well, basically that even a job I enjoy that’s around sports isn’t still work.

Being away from home a fair amount is tough, particularly with two kids, even as I understand lots of people travel for work and that mine is a heck of a lot easier than many.

The worst part of the job is transcribing tape. It’s the absolute worst, and not just the act of typing fast enough to keep up while still listening to what the person is saying. I hate hearing my voice, hate hearing my questions, hate not hearing the question I should’ve asked. Most of all, I hate talking with someone, thinking I’ve got great stuff, then listening to the tape and realizing there’s nothing there.

There’s a lot of waiting. So much waiting. You have to get places early, because if you’re late, that coach or linebacker isn’t talking again for you. Then, the coach or linebacker is 10 minute late, so you’ve spent the last 20 minutes or so small-talking or checking Twitter or otherwise wishing you could be more productive.

Breaking through the wall is hard. Nearly every team — from college programs up — is a multimillion-dollar enterprise. The coaches make seven figures, and the athletes have a lot of money and fame on the line, too. There’s an apparatus in place to, essentially, protect the #brand, and that can mean paranoia. It can be hard to break through that and have a real conversation with someone, and then it can be even harder to earn their trust.

Finding the right idea is the hardest part of this job. A great idea reported well and written ordinarily is a way better story than an average idea with average reporting written like a boss. That’s how it should be, too. Lots of people can write. Anyone willing to work can report. The magic is getting those things to line up with a killer idea. Sometimes you come up with one. Sometimes one presents itself. Sometimes you just don’t have it.

Speaking of not having it, those days can be tough, too. We all have a certain personal and professional pride in what we do, but just like the good days are probably amplified by your name being on top of your work, the bad days can be a lot worse when everyone knows exactly where to complain.

Taking nonsense on Twitter or voicemails is nothing. Sometimes people think that’s hard, but it’s not. You learn quickly to ignore that. But when you really screw up, or turn in a turd, it can be hard knowing you blew an opportunity, and wasted people’s time.

Anyway, remember what I said at the top. I love my job. No real complaints.

“Back to the Future” is the only acceptable answer. It was the first piece of entertainment that ever really grabbed me, which in hindsight is a little strange because I don’t like science fiction at all.

But that movie blew my mind. The car. The 88 mph. What the past looked like, and what it would be to live in it. Christopher Lloyd was great. So was Jennifer Parker. I actually remember being in fourth grade, and walking down the street with a girl I liked, and picking a leaf off a tree because I thought I remembered Marty McFly doing that.

I watched that movie so many times I memorized every line, no exaggeration, and the VHS tape turned black-and-white. It’s still my favorite movie of all-time, either that or “Dumb and Dumber.”

“Back to the Future 2” was great, too.

And I think we can all agree that “Back to the Future 3” never happened.

I disagree with the premise.

They still have a lot of speed on the team. Raul Mondesi is incredibly fast. Same with Lorenzo Cain. Paulo Orlando was a junior Olympian sprinter. Alcides Escobar can scoot. The Royals are covering left field, center field, shortstop, first base and catcher with Gold Glovers or Gold Glove-caliber defense. If Mondesi plays the position as well as the Royals think he can, add second base. Moustakas isn’t far behind at third.

That’s pretty good.

I’m guessing this question comes from trading away Dyson, and signing Moss. There’s no question the outfield defense won’t be as good, but they’ll still have above-average defenders in two of the three spots.

I agree with their desire to add power. Not being able to hit home runs just shrinks your ways to score, makes it harder for you than it is for your opponent.

But more to the point, I believe, these are the deals that availed themselves. Moss was on the market, for a reasonable price, and was a good fit as a left-handed power hitter, a guy who can mash righties as a DH, and play some in the field if the Royals really want to rotate the DH. Soler, same deal. The Royals and Cubs matched up as trade partners, Soler is under club control for four years, and a deal is made.

If Royals officials are honest, they’ll admit they came by some of their emphasis on speed by good fortune. One of the first things Dayton Moore said when he took the job was that he wanted to move the fences in. David Glass overruled him.

But I digress. Point is, they still have a lot of speed and defense.

Gotta make the tournament. This isn’t complicated, I don’t think.

Unless, by complicated, you mean actually getting to the tournament. That was a brutal loss Wednesday, at home, in overtime. That’s three losses in a row, and now K-State will be underdog in its next three games: at Baylor on Saturday, Kansas at home on Monday, and at West Virginia next weekend.

Maybe they can still win one of those — KU would be the most likely — but even then they’re 5-7 in the league. The schedule was front-loaded, so there are some wins down the stretch, but the margins are so thin.

I haven’t made any phone calls on this. I am merely saying what I already believe, and have for a long time.

Landing an NBA or NHL team at the Sprint Center requires clearing hurdles much bigger than a team being available, and even saying this much ignores that the NHL wants to keep the Islanders in New York, and that ownership has apparently talked about building an arena near Citi Field in Queens.

The biggest problem has always been lack of local ownership. The Sporting Kansas City guys have occasionally talked vaguely about getting into baseball, but I’ve never heard them talk about hockey. Lamar Hunt Jr. has been clear he sees Kansas City as a minor-league hockey town, at least for now.

So it would probably require an owner or group with both the means to buy a major sports team, and the desire to move that team from New York to Kansas City, for a 10-year-old building in the nation’s No. 33 market.

I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m saying it’s very, very, very unlikely.

It’s his money, and as fun as it is to spend that money in the paper, it’s his decision.

So, I don’t know. Maybe he’s content having won a World Series, and keeping the team from bottoming out again.

Maybe he actually thinks there’s a way around the system, twice, that the magician who brought one championship to Kansas City can bring another one in what you could argue are even more difficult circumstances — no benefit of top-five draft picks, and no ability to outspend for talent in the draft.

Maybe he simply does not want to spend a penny more than is necessary, because he thinks more about Omar Infante’s dead money than the club-friendly contracts that made this rise possible.

He is what he is, you know? He was never as bad, after 2006, as a lot of people made him out to be. And he was also never anything more than a responsible small-money owner in the good times.

If it was me, I’d have gone more all-in on 2017, knowing that if it doesn’t work, the worst that will happen is I have a few years of high picks and big draft pools to build back up.

But, I also once packed my wife’s pants for a business trip. So I don’t know that I’m the one who should be making decisions like this.

So, this I don’t get. Well, that’s not entirely true. I get the frustration. I get the aggravation of watching a dead coach walking, a program going nowhere. I get the emotion.

But what does this accomplish? If Anderson is miserable, to the point that it’s best for everyone to make a break, then fine. But your next coach is working somewhere right now, and you’re not going to be able to do anything more than back-channel, hey-are-you-interested stuff, which you can do right now.

So you can fire him. You can fire him today, and be completely justified. But I don’t see that it makes your team better. I don’t see that it makes your program better for the future.

I might actually argue that keeping Anderson is the right move, if a prospective coach might be turned off at the notion of joining a program that fired its coach in the middle of his third season.

I know this makes me sound like a hippy liberal, but whatever, I just can’t understand why this is a big deal in 2017.

Carlton Bragg is a college student who apparently smoked weed. That makes him, literally, like most of the college students I’ve ever known. He got his diversion, might have to pay a few hundred dollars, and that’s that.

The problem with Bragg, of course, is what you might call the body of work. He’s been a problem, off the court and on. Even if you can explain away each of his off-the-court dramas — and you absolutely can — the bigger picture he’s painted of himself is unflattering.

It’s enough that this is almost certainly his last season at KU. You can imagine a scenario where Bill Self will give Bragg a list of criteria to stay in the program so long that it is effectively an invitation to leave. At that point, Bragg could either take the Brannen Greene route and go pro, or take the Naadir Tharpe route and transfer.

But, yes. If you turn on a college basketball game tonight, chances are you will be watching at least a few guys who regularly smoke weed. And if you listen carefully, you will hear the cheers of many fans who regularly smoke weed.

I just can’t imagine this won’t be a thing we look back on relatively soon and wonder why we made a big deal of it.

Now, this is a bigger deal.

We don’t know if a police report was ever made, but the fact no charges were filed is why he’s playing.

Vick may have been “suspended” — he missed two games last season, though at the time Self said Vick was sick — but with no criminal charges, there was no further punishment that we know about.

University Title IX investigations are tricky. After the game last night, Self read from a prepared statement that essentially said he hasn’t been made aware of anything. It was, basically, a 95-word no comment.

Now, obviously I think he knows more than he’s letting on. But I do believe the university keeps as much of this away from coaches as possible, which calls into question a system in which the coach might not have all the information he might need to make a punishment.

Self is putting himself out there a bit on this, and that’s interesting for a lot of reasons. He is a wildly successful coach. After he retires, there will be a statue of him or something named after him at Allen Fieldhouse. He’ll be inducted to various Halls of Fame. He makes many millions of dollars.

He has, in other words, nothing to gain by sticking up for a player — especially, if we’re honest, a role player — unless he knows more of what happened than the portion of the story we know so far from Laura Bauer’s excellent reporting.

The fact that no criminal charges were filed gives Self room to do this. But I don’t think Self would let play Vick if he didn’t know something more. Self suspended Bragg when he was charged with violence against a woman, and let him back on the team after the prosecutor said surveillance video showed the woman should be charged instead.

This is a difficult needle to thread. A coach has to be aware of any appearance of being tolerant about domestic violence. But he also needs to be fair, and support his players when he can.

Here’s what I keep landing on: Self does not have a track record of being soft on things like this.

I liked Houston’s. I’ll miss it. I lost my first game of credit-card roulette there, and must’ve looked like I ate a ghost, because we ended up splitting it (something like eight or 10 people) anyway.

I was eating lunch with a Japanese baseball reporter there once, when he had to storm out because he heard Daisuke Matsuzaka was throwing a bullpen session.

I saw the reporter the next day, and asked what he got.

“He said he felt good,” the reporter said.

But my favorite restaurant that’s now closed is Annie’s Santa Fe. You probably have to be of a certain age to remember Annie’s, and especially to remember Annie’s before it switched owners, when it was still great.

We used to buy tubs of salsa and enormous bags of their chips to take home, and as a kid I thought it was so great when the brown bags turned colors from the grease.

Bring back Annie’s, you guys.

Sam Mellinger: 816-234-4365, @mellinger

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