Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Chiefs, Maclin, Royals & a rule that could’ve saved Bill Snyder

Mellinger Minutes Live: Chiefs, Maclin, most disappointing Royals & Bill Snyder

Sam Mellinger, in his June 6, 2017, Facebook Live session, analyzes the Kansas City Chiefs’ release of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, a list of the five most disappointing Royals players and the saga of Kansas State Wildcats football coach Bill Snyd
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Sam Mellinger, in his June 6, 2017, Facebook Live session, analyzes the Kansas City Chiefs’ release of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, a list of the five most disappointing Royals players and the saga of Kansas State Wildcats football coach Bill Snyd

The bizarre and ugly public spat between a powerful college football coach and an athlete who wanted out has by now peaked and died, inevitably ending with the young man being granted the right to transfer.

Hopefully, some good can come of this, and it’s not going to be K-State’s Bill Snyder talking about failed drug tests or receiver Corey Sutton calling his former coach a slave master.

This was an entirely avoidable fight, just like the fight between any college coach and an athlete who asks for a transfer.

It’s a simple solution, really.

The NCAA should not give coaches this much power.

Athletes should not have to ask to be released from scholarships, then hope their coaches decide to be nice. Athletes should not have to submit a list of potential transfer landing spots, then wait to see which new school their old coach deems appropriate.

If a coach wants out of his contract to “transfer” to another school, he doesn’t have to ask permission. He doesn’t even have to sit out a year, which is required of athletes.

Coaches should be smart enough to know they will never win in the court of public opinion when they play dictator about where a 19-year-old kid can and can’t go to school, but the NCAA should be smart enough to know that coaches are used to controlling everything in their working life and will exert as much influence as the rules allow.

Come up with a waiting period if you must. Make sure a kid isn’t just blowing off steam, or mad about one day or thing. Make him or her formally apply for a transfer, then wait 30 days and see if that’s still the desired outcome.

If the athlete’s mind changes, then great. Move on. But if not, then let him or her decide where to go. And move on then, too.

We’ll get into this a little more below, but the requirement to sit out a year after transferring will still serve as a deterrent. Athletes are allowed only one redshirt year, so they cannot repeatedly hold transfers over a coach’s head without even more consequence.

We live in a strange world when asking that athletes who generate billions of dollars and help to make their coaches rich with relatively little tangible compensation in return should be allowed to freely leave a place they no longer want to be, but here we are anyway.

It would’ve saved Snyder an embarrassing moment, and it would save more coaches more embarrassing moments in the future. More importantly, it would eliminate some intimidation and unfair restrictions for college kids who may want a mulligan on a decision they made at 17 or 18 years old.

Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder responded to wide receiver Corey Sutton’s recent complaints, saying it “doesn’t make sense” to release players from scholarships.

This shouldn’t be complicated.

The reading recommendation this week is Dan Berry on a mobster, a family and the crime that won’t let him go, and the eating recommendation is the chocolate velvet at Westport Ice Cream Bakery.

As always, please give me a follow on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for your help, and thanks for reading.

I am not often shocked at news, but the text message from the Chiefs about this was shocking. I was on vacation last week — and it was awesome — and do a fairly good job of disconnecting but this was hard to forget.

He was, by far, the Chiefs’ most accomplished and experienced receiver. Tyreek Hill had 593 yards receiving last year, which is the most of any remaining Chiefs receiver in any season. Jeremy Maclin had more than that in each of his first six seasons in the NFL, including 1,088 for the Chiefs in 2015.

There is an enormous void in the receivers’ room now.

Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported the Chiefs did not approach Maclin about taking a paycut, and assuming that’s accurate, it makes you wonder about what’s going on beneath the surface.

Maclin just turned 29. Last year, nine receivers 29 or older went above 1,000 yards. Maclin was just a year removed from a second consecutive season above 1,000. But, maybe the Chiefs think he’s done.

I know there are questions about how well he fits in the scheme, but to me, these are misplaced. If Hill is going to be the primary deep threat, Maclin theoretically pairs well with Travis Kelce in attacking the short and intermediate routes. Let’s keep in mind it was just the year before last that Maclin went for more yards and touchdowns than any Chiefs receiver in four years.

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid addressed last Friday's release of Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on Tuesday. He also explained how the Chiefs plan to replace Maclin's production.

The Chiefs have spent much of the last two years talking up Maclin’s leadership and example as a worker and all-around player (he’s a damn good blocker) so that was either nonsense or came with an expiration date.

It’s also true that if this was strictly business then the Chiefs deserve even more criticism, because their perennially crap salary-cap situation is their own fault. John Dorsey and Andy Reid have been terrific in almost every way except cap management.

They waited too long to sign Justin Houston and Eric Berry, messed up with Tamba Hali, and have generally operated in a way that puts them with one of the league’s worst cap situations every year.

I’ve always applauded Dorsey for being willing to pay for what he wants, but there are some fairly obvious situations that he could’ve avoided so that he didn’t have to cut his most accomplished receivers just so he’d have enough money to sign his draft picks.

Anquan Boldin is the answer to this question every year, it seems. He always seems to be a free agent, and always the kind who can give you a fairly high floor and low ceiling. They should have a few million left over after signing the draft class, and it’s a very stable roster, but replacing Maclin with Boldin does not make a football team better.

I do think we tend to make too much of “leadership.” This is particularly true in baseball, but can also be true in football. We do this because it’s intangible, and hard to measure, and because athletes and coaches loooooooooooooove to talk about it, so it makes for easy stories.

But I do think Maclin provided some real benefits here. He worked out with the rest of the depth chart openly, providing guidance and a real example of how to make it in the NFL. Maybe those guys — most notably Hill and Chris Conley — benefit from that more than the team, but you’d have to think the Chiefs receive some indirect benefits there, too.

It’s frustrating, really. The Chiefs are supposed to be within squinting distance of the Super Bowl, and they just cut a guy they’d been talking about having a big year.

Of course he knew that move was coming, and of course that doesn’t mean a 59-year-old man preparing for his 19th season as an NFL head coach needs to react like that.

To be clear: it’s fine. He can say what he wants, and media should have skin at least six levels thicker than being offput by something like this. It’s just a bad look for a coach to react like that — to the FIRST question of a gathering in June.

We all have bad days. Trust me, I get that. And I do believe Andy Reid to be a good man, and very good coach. This was out of character. It was strange.

Part of being an NFL coach is that people notice.

Part of what I heard in Alex Smith saying he was “shocked” at Maclin’s release was a realization that his own job just got harder.

Smith was bad last year, and Maclin was too. The year before, Smith was pretty good, and Maclin was too. None of this is a coincidence. Smith trusted Maclin in a way he didn’t trust any other receiver.

He’s developed something similar with Travis Kelce, and looked to be in the process of that with Tyreek Hill last year.

But Smith is, in effect, playing a contract season. The Chiefs can save some $17 million by cutting him next year, and just traded up for his replacement. If he has a good year and the team plays in the AFC Championship Game or better, you’d think he’d be back with a Super Bowl-caliber team and a big salary in 2018.

If he stinks, he’s going to be a free agent, and the teams that sign free-agent quarterbacks usually aren’t very good. And the pay isn’t the same.

So this is a season that will decide, in large part, the trajectory of the rest of Smith’s career. And the Chiefs just made that more difficult.

I understand why Smith is upset.

Careful. This is a variation of the #math column I wrote last year that everyone liked so much*.

*And, by “liked,” obviously I mean “despised and mocked even as they had to have known it was true.”

We can have fun with endpoints here. Beginning on May 8, the Royals are 14-12 in their last 26 games. That record is more indicative of what I believe the Royals to be than their overall 24-32 record, and certainly more indicative of what I believe them to be than that rotten 10-20 start.

But the inconvenient truth is that those games matter, and that avoiding prolonged crappy runs like that is part of what separates playoff teams from everyone else.

Even most of us who believe the Royals are a good baseball team believe they are the kind of team without much margin for error, and the Royals began the season in what was basically a five-week run of error.

We can talk all we want about how they are only 6  1/2 games out in the division, and that the Indians aren’t yet looking like a team capable of running away with it. We can talk about Eric Hosmer hitting, and Mike Moustakas’ power, some promising flashes from the rotation, but this is still the worst team in the American League by record and second-worst by run differential.

One other thing that’s not being talked about as much as it probably should: the Royals’ farm system is not very good. Baseball America ranks the Royals 26th, and these things are by definition subjective, but that’s a pretty good representation of the industry consensus.

Chasing a postseason appearance that’s always been unlikely comes with the added risk of throwing away an opportunity to infuse the system with talent.

That’s the only way to maximize the value of their assets, and the best way to create another winning run. I intentionally wrote that sentence in the coldest terms possible, because that’s how the Royals should and (I believe) will approach it.

There’s an old saying I’ve heard, from my sister’s mother-in-law. When her boys ran a toy into the ground, or had an old T-shirt they wanted to keep, she’d say, “that shirt doesn’t owe you a dime.”

Well, this Royals core doesn’t owe Kansas City a dime. It gave a long-starved city something to be proud of, and a parade. Giving up on this season in the name of a fire sale doesn’t dishonor any of that.

If anything, it recognizes the difficulty of the accomplishment, as a first step to doing it again.

Good grief, that was strange. Vahe put it better than anything I’ll write here, so if you just want to read that column and skip to the next question, I salute you. Vahe’s money line, though:

“And the man who has been able to control everyone for once wasn’t able to control himself.”

We talked a little about this on the Border Patrol, but when a college athlete goes public about a coach not releasing him from a scholarship the coach will almost never win that battle in the public.

This is true no matter the coach’s reputation or power, and if there was any doubt about that before, a coach of Bill Snyder’s reputation and power having to stand down like this is obvious proof.

It’s not easily explained. Snyder should know better than this. Actually, he does know better than this. He just whiffed here.

I understand that a coach is frustrated when he invests in an athlete and the athlete wants out. I’m even mildly turned off by how often athletes transfer universities. I wish more of them would honor their original commitment.

But the power balance is so far in favor of coaches over college athletes that it’s always a bad look if a coach can be seen as bullying a player, or unduly controlling an athlete’s life once he wants out of the program. But to go public with failed drug tests is a shocking mistake for someone of Snyder’s reputation and history.

If nothing else, I commend him for realizing the mistake and releasing Corey Sutton, but it’s such an unforced error — and potentially damages where Sutton ends up transferring.

I don’t know, man. It’s weird. We’ll all move on. But it’s weird.

Because sports are awesome!

I think I’ve been very clear and consistent where I stand on this. I desperately want Kansas and Missouri to play in men’s basketball and football because it would be fun, and interesting, and memorable, and I believe sports should be all of those things.

Obviously I come fro this with an inherent personal bias, because there are few things better for a sports columnist in Kansas City than Missouri and Kansas playing and hating each other.

I believe Kansas is taking a petty stance, which it has made worse by distorting how important the basketball game would be for Mizzou’s relevance (while often ignoring how lopsided the football game would be), not to mention the hypocrisy of singling out Mizzou while scheduling Nebraska, the first school to bounce.

(I also recognize Kansas’ right to not schedule whoever the heck they don’t want to schedule)

Anyway, none of that answers your question. And I think we all recognize that Kansas City is the epicenter of this, because Mizzou fans in St. Louis and Kansas fans in Salina probably have a much different perspective than Mizzou fans in Blue Springs and Kansas fans in Overland Park.

But, as succinctly as I can think to say it:

I believe hate still exists between Mizzou and Kansas because you can’t erase 150 years of hate and in some cases actual violence by not playing some organized kids’ games.

And thank goodness for that.

I’ve got columns to write.

Sort of. Last week — well, excuse me, I was catching all the fish and drinking many of the Grain Belts last week. Two weeks ago, we did the Royals’ 10 biggest problems.

This is different enough, right?

When you say “disappointing,” that’s a different thing to me than “worst.” Disappointing implies a comparison to expectation, while worst would just be lack of production. Or, at least, that’s how I’m making this list:

5. Alcides Escobar. It is a stubborn fool who expected much offensively from Escobar, but I don’t know who would’ve expected him to be this bad. His .431 OPS would be the worst for a regular hitter since, um, 1918. You guys — 18 pitchers have an OPS higher than .431. Tony Pena Jr. was so bad offensively that he switched to pitching. His career OPS is .548.

4. Kelvin Herrera. I’ll stand up for him a bit here. He hasn’t been as bad as his 4.30 ERA would indicate. Five of the 12 runs he’s given up were in non-save situations, and two more were in games he saved. He’s blown two saves, and converted 12. That doesn’t suck. But we’re judging against expectations here, and as a man who thought Herrera would actually be better than Wade Davis this season — part of that was injury risk, so we’ll see if Davis finishes the year — he simply hasn’t been good enough. Circumstances out of his control mean the Royals needed him to be terrific, and he simply hasn’t.

3. Jason Hammel. His signing brought momentary optimism to a team in desperate need of it after Yordano Ventura’s tragic death. He was the best pitcher on the market, and the Royals got him to fill what they called their best rotation in years. His last start was pretty good, but overall his 5.93 ERA brings back memories of Kyle Davies and Hochevar’s years as a starter.

2. Brandon Moss. I may be a prisoner of the moment here, because last night he struck out with runners on first and third and one out in the sixth, then struck out again in the eighth with a man on second, including a horrendous swing on a ball that bounced about eight feet in front of the plate. But Moss has been disappointing, too. He’s third on the team with nine home runs, but has struck out more than one-third of the time, and carries a .259 on-base percentage. He was the replacement for Kendrys Morales, supposed to bring pop and help lengthen the lineup. Not so far.

1. Alex Gordon. Remember the bit about Escobar’s historically awful OPS? Gordon is at .496, which is also sub-Pena Jr., and a mark of futility that hasn’t been achieved by a regular hitter since 1967 — before they lowered the mound. Gordon is on the biggest contract in franchise history, and if he was a rookie, the Royals would be thinking about sending him to Omaha to work on his swing and confidence. He has been, to be blunt, absolutely horrendous.

Honorable mention: Matt Strahm. Mostly because of this stuff.

Same as with an ankle sprain or knee injury, naps affect us all differently. I’m actually a fairly staunch anti-nap man myself, which is probably one of those things that Twitter yells at you about.

But, perhaps ironically, my stance comes from my deep devotion to sleep. Too often, a nap means I have trouble sleeping that night, and there are few things I despise more than not being able to sleep at night. If taking a nap means I’m robbed of one of those I-was-so-tired-I-went-to-bed-at-9:30 type of deep sleeps, and instead stay up too late and have six hours of tossing and turning, then that’s not a trade I’m willing to make.

Now, some of you know my wife and I have two small children, so I also understand that exceptions need to be made. When those situations arise, I have one rule:

Never, ever, ever, ever, e-e-e-v-v-v-e-e-e-r-r-r nap under a blanket in a bed.

Do this and you end up sleeping far too long, which wrecks your day, and leaves you unable to sleep that night. Now you’ve screwed up two days. When possible, I prefer to nap in a chair, because this ensures I get the bare minimum amount of shut eye, which means I’m refreshed enough to combine with a cup of coffee and get on with my day.

If you’re looking for a number, 30 minutes is a nice sweet spot.

In some instances, a couch is a great option, even with a blanket, but the conditions have to be right. If it’s a lazy day with no work or anything real to accomplish, there are few things better than a nice nap under a blanket on the couch with a game or golf tournament on the TV.

But, seriously, try the coffee nap. I first heard about it because of Ali Krieger. She drinks the coffee before the nap. That’s some master-level power napping that I haven’t tried, because I feel like it would put too much pressure on me to sleep RIGHT NOW, which would ruin the whole thing. So I take the coffee after.

But, you know. You have to find what works for you.

No.

Ben Zobrist is the best addition to Kauffman Stadium.

Craft & Draft might be second, though.

Two things. First, I know this is only a snippet of what happened, but if we’re calling what’s on this video a brawl, then the terrorists have won.

Also, of anyone in my family, the one I’d most want with me in a fistfight is my sister. And, yes, I do believe we’d hold our own.

Rex isn’t a fighter. Rob’s the only one you have to worry about.

Take me to church!

No, I actually like the summer. For one, I take, basically, all of my vacation for the year between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Makes for a pretty stress-free existence, and lots of time with family and friends. We travel, we laugh, we eat, we drink. It’s great.

The neighborhood pool has a bar, and it doesn’t suck to go there around 5 on a Friday, have a beer, wear the kids out, walk to a restaurant, have dinner, walk home and then put them to bed exhausted.

But I do look at the summer heat with a hatred as ferocious as a hundred grizzly bears. I’ve been very lucky in my life. But one thing the good lord has made me deal with from a very young age is the understanding that anything above 73 degrees makes me sweat, and anything above 75 degrees means my shirt is going to have pit stains within one hour’s time.

I love to sweat when I’m doing something. It feels good. Get that poison out of your body. You an feel everything working. But sweating while sedentary — often in the shade, I’m comfortable enough to admit to you — is a frustration I’ve had to deal with as long as I can remember.

In a few weeks, I assume it’ll be so hot the house can’t stay cool, and every time we open the sliding glass door to let the dog out we’ll be slapped in the face with the heat. Leather car seats and steering wheels will burn to the touch, and we’ll have to sleep on top of the sheets, with fans going, still sweating through the night.

It’ll be too hot outside to run, or bike much, or at times even play in the backyard. Just grilling — either on the smoker or the Weber — will feel less like an escape and more like punishment.

The respites are nice. Ice cream, the pool, that first blast of AC when you come indoors. But I mean this when I say it: the summer heat is the only thing I hate about living in Kansas City.

Anyone who tells you there is only one answer to this question does not deserve your trust.

Even if you narrow it down to barbecue — and, if you’re in KC for the first time, you probably want to have some barbecue — I can’t tell you whether to go to Joe’s or Slap’s or LC’s or Q39 or Arthur Bryant’s or any of the other dozen delicious places we could name here.

There are a thousand great Mexican places, especially along Southwest Boulevard and in KCK. If you want to sit down and have a few drinks and a waiter and some Italian, Garozzo’s and Osteria Il Centro are both great.

But if I can plan your day … go to Joe’s for lunch, the gas station location, especially if it’s a Monday or Saturday, because those are the days they have burnt ends. Spend the afternoon however you’d like, but I’d humbly recommend the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, or if you want to have a few beers outside, Up-Down, Char Bar, or Gram and Dun. Then, after the game, go to The Peanut for wings.

The next day, exercise, and maybe mix in a salad.

OK, thanks for reading. This week, I’m particularly thankful for my father-in-law organizing a fishing trip in which we do very little other than make jokes and memories. This was the sixth year I’ve gone, and third with my dad. It has, literally, changed my life.

Sam Mellinger: 816-234-4365, @mellinger

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