I tried to get into the eclipse. I swear I did.
Well, let me be totally honest. I didn’t try that hard. I didn’t buy the glasses, and I didn’t drive to the Nebraska border, and I didn’t do much studying on what I’d see and why I should be impressed.
Some of that is logistical. I had a lot of work stuff yesterday — including Kansas City’s favorite piece of weekly gimmick sports journalism! — and our 1-year-old has no idea what’s happening and the 3-year-old is clearly just going to stare at the sun so driving three hours each way and making a day of it didn’t make much sense.
But, when it got to be 1 or so, all four of us went out to the deck to see what’s what. We stood there, the 1-year-old pushing a dump truck and saying DAH to literally everything* and the 3-year-old mispronouncing eclipse and yelling at us for not letting him stare directly at the sun.
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And when it happened, yes, it was cool. Got dark quick. Basically a full sunset in about one minute. Where we live, there was no totality. Darkest it got was basically dusk. But it’s a cool thing when you can sense so much light nearby and the best part was the birds and the cicadas quieting for a minute — they knew.
But, around 1:08 or whatever, we all walked back in. Wife started doing puzzles with the kids. I went back to work. It was like we all saw a fancy car driving down the street, admired it for a second, then went on with our lives.
My purpose here is not to diminish the joy and interest so many had in the eclipse. More like the opposite, actually. I get why it’s interesting, and wonder how much different I’d feel if we’d made a day of it and gone to the path of totality and all of that.
But I say this because, every once in a while, it’s good to know how non-football fans feel during the Super Bowl.
You guys have your obsessions, and I’ll have mine. More than enough for all of us.
The reading recommendation is Nicholas Thompson on the Instagram CEO’s attempt to clean up the &#%$@! internet, and the eating recommendation is the braised beef at Westport Cafe.
Oh, no, that’s really going to happen. Like, for sure, 100 percent. Dangit.
We’re going to get into plenty of Mahomes stuff here, but let me just drop an overview at the top. I think he’s going to be terrific. He’s more athletic than I thought, with remarkable arm talent, a work ethic everyone around him swears by, and better ball security than he’s typically given credit for.
But I do think the best version of him will come if he’s not rushed. I no longer worry that he’d have a setback if forced to play as a rookie. I think he’s in a good spot, not just with the coaches and players around him, but because he seems to be picking things up faster than expected.
One of the best things he has, then, is Alex Smith. Some of that is because Smith is a professional, with a track record that shows himself as one who’s willing to work with and even help a teammate he’s competing against.
But more than that, at least at the moment, he has Smith playing well in front of him. That’s best for all involved, particularly the coaches, but at some point Smith is going to struggle and a decision will have to be made one way or the other.
Last year, Smith threw terrible interceptions at the goal line against the Titans and Bucs, throws that helped turn the result of close games. The Chiefs still finished 12-4, and hosted a playoff game.
The year before, the Chiefs started 1-5. They finished 11-5 and won a playoff game*.
*Brian Hoyer, but still counts!
So they’ve been through some stuff before, and come out on the other side. Not where they wanted to come out, which is the Super Bowl, but still. They know they can get through some setbacks with him.
Right now, the coaches can view this in a vacuum, like it’s no decision at all, and I do think they want it to be that way. It’s better for everyone if it is that way.
But I get the feeling that Mahomes has a lot of support in the locker room. Maybe it’s just athlete stuff, guys being attracted to the spectacular, but if they’re forced away from Smith by injury I no longer worry that Mahomes would be overwhelmed.
First of all, someone please do me a solid and calm me down.
Second, I’m over, and, yes, I can believe it.
Some of this, we should all admit, is irrational. He’s played the equivalent of less than one full preseason game. He has not faced an NFL defense game planned against him, or had to lead after a failure. He has not faced the pressure of a regular-season game in September, let alone anything in December, or the playoffs.
He is a blank canvas, and we’re all just painting what we want to see.
He is incredibly talented. That part is undeniable. He appears to be coming along faster than expected, and at least in his early years should be surrounded by a good team and coaches. There is a lot to believe in here.
There is also something else here. Tom Brady just turned 40, and unless he really is a wizard, won’t play forever. Ben Roethlisberger is 35, and his body has been beat up more than most.
Other than those two, the only active quarterback to represent the AFC in a Super Bowl since the 2002 season is Joe Flacco and, well, come on.
So the AFC is about to open up in the next few years in a way it just hasn’t been for a while. I believe Mahomes will be a terrific NFL quarterback, and I believe he’ll often be surrounded by good or better talent.
If he’s good enough to have a long career with the Chiefs, he’ll be good enough to make a Super Bowl.
Living in this area my whole life gives me many advantages in doing my specific job but one place it doesn’t help is in answering questions like this.
Because, let’s be real, I don’t know that Kansas City is unique here.
In many ways, I believe the fatalistic nature of some fans and the assumption that things will soon go bad is probably stronger here than many cities around the country. As I’ve said so many times my boss will cringe when I write it here once more: we come to our skepticism honestly.
But if we’re talking about fickleness, well, I just don’t think we have the market cornered. Many fans everywhere are fickle. Many fans everywhere think parade after wins, and fire the manager after losses. Maybe the feeling is a little stronger in Kansas City, but I don’t know that for sure.
The difficult thing with this specific Royals team is that you can make a convincing case either way.
You can talk about a championship core, with Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer on career years, and Sal Perez due back from the DL, and Lorenzo Cain still underrated and Danny Duffy and a deep if star-starved bullpen and a playoff race that remains wide open even to teams below .500 and argue with certainty that this team has the goods to make it.
You can also talk about a rotation that’s leaking oil, and a bullpen that gives it up far too often, and a lineup that still contains too many holes too many nights, and a feeble 15-1 drubbing the first two games against an Indians team coming off a doubleheader and argue with certainty that this team just isn’t good enough.
We can all see whatever we want.
I continue to think, basically, what I’ve thought all along. That the front office made it unnecessarily difficult on the 2017 team by taking this win-now-but-also-build-for-later-but-also-harness-payroll strategy, that the talent is good enough to make the playoffs but likely lost too many games early, that it would’ve been indefensible to sell at the deadline, and that the nature of the double wild-card format means the Royals are absolutely still in this thing.
The only people who are dead wrong in any of this are the ones who believe with any degree of certainty that they know how it will end.
Lot of people spent most of 2014 thinking they had no chance, and a lot of people spent most of 2016 thinking they’d be in the playoffs.
I’ll continue saying it because it continues to be true: the original sin of the 2017 Royals was in trying to both win and build for the future.
That was a decision made by both Dayton Moore and David Glass, and one I feel confident in saying both agreed on. Neither had it in them to tear everything down, Glass didn’t want to extend payroll, and Moore is uneasy about building through free agency anyway.
So the decision was natural, but for me, someone should’ve been in the room to point out the flaws.
When I call it the original sin, I mean it. The limit-payroll-and-build-for-later side of it meant depleting the bullpen by trading Wade Davis. The win-now part of it meant signing Brandon Moss.
The much better path — and this isn’t hindsight; I wrote about it in the offseason — would’ve been to keep Davis and sign a corner outfielder like Josh Reddick. You’re stronger in two spots, and if it doesn’t work, you can always trade Davis at the deadline or Reddick in the future.
All of this would be true even without the reality that building is easier when you’re losing, because you get higher draft picks, and have more freedom in who you can play and how you can play them.
There is no question that Moore has had a rough run. The Gordon contract is pacing as the worst in franchise history, by a bunch. Chris Young. Joakim Soria. The Davis trade*. Mondesi over Merrifield was bizarre at the time, and stranger now, though decisions like that are more jointly made with Ned Yost and the coaches.
*I know a lot of you will include Greg Holland in here, too, but I don’t think that’s fair. The Royals tried to sign Holland. I wrote about this. Holland elected to rehab on his own, instead of with the Royals’ medical team, and then signed a contract with Colorado that could pay him up to $35 million this year and next. I certainly don’t knock Holland for signing that deal, and can’t see a fair criticism on the Royals for not beating it.
So how much blame you give him is entirely up to you, though I’d argue it should be in proportion to how much credit you gave him for 2014 and 2015.
For me, he’s had a bad go since the parade. And much of this can be traced back to the original sin of trying to do everything at once.
All of that is true and so is this: I believe he’s the best general manager in Royals history.
My top three: Dayton Moore, Cedric Tallis, John Schuerholz.
I assume most would have Schuerholz first, and that’s fine, but we should all agree it’s a joke that Tallis isn’t in the team Hall of Fame.
That’s a column for another day.
Well, the most famous example is probably Ryan Leaf going 15-for-24 for 172 yards in a blowout of the Colts — who’d just drafted Peyton Manning — in the first preseason game. Leaf ran for a touchdown, and set up another with a long pass. He played well the entire preseason, and the Chargers won their first two regular season games with him and then … yeah, you know what happened then.
Patrick Mahomes is better than the Chiefs expected, and quicker. I believe this, have heard this from people in the organization, and wrote it after the Bengals game.
Doing it with the ones, and against Cincinnati’s ones, especially when he didn’t know he was going to play that early, is a very positive step. But even as someone who waaaaaaay overdrafted him in a fantasy football league, it doesn’t guarantee a thing.
The hardest thing about playing quarterback is making critical decisions in a blink against disguised coverages and blitzes, and then continuing to do that after defenses have seen you enough to know your tendencies and weaknesses.
Mahomes hasn’t done any of that.
He could absolutely be a bust. You don’t know. I don’t know. Andy Reid doesn’t know. He has passed every test so far. He looks slimmer than he did at Texas Tech, or even during rookie minicamp. He looks more athletic. Physically, he can do things that no Chiefs quarterback has done since, well, this is not hyperbole: ever.
But he’s 21 years old. His first throw in Cincinnati could’ve been intercepted, and there are mechanical things he needs to clean up. He will fail, at some point, by throwing a terrible interception and then he will need to look into the eyes of grown men who are supporting families with this and be even stronger. More confident.
Every bit of what we’ve seen and heard is positive. But every bit of what we’ve seen or heard needs a qualifier:
I like to keep it simple.
Flour tortillas (I prefer Mama Lupe), tomato, avocado, cheese, and salsa. Cabbage sometimes. Pan fry the fish with a mix of spices, but the key is to get it cooked right — not enough and it’s gross, too much and it loses taste.
If you really want to get after it, try this batter. It’s made by a great man named Charlie who we fish with every summer. Tell him I recommended it, but believe nothing he says about me.
You talking about Alex Smith?
I know you’re not, of course, but: he’s had three drives this preseason, with two touchdowns and a field goal. That doesn’t suck.
I do think the Chiefs offense will be mildly improved this year, and more aggressive, but think that will have more to do with Tyreek Hill and a fifth year of the system than anything else.
But, I know you’re talking about Patrick Mahomes.
I think you probably know what I think about Mahomes. I’ve probably made that obvious. But I also hope we can keep something close to level heads about this. That first pass he threw in Cincinnati was a bad idea, and could’ve been picked, and if so you’d be hearing much different stuff around town.
He is naturally more aggressive than Smith, and that means he’s going to make some spectacular plays, but he’s also going to make some mistakes that Smith avoids. Now, Smith threw two terrible interceptions at the goal line last year that were big swings in losses to the Titans and Bucs, so he’s certainly not perfect.
And like we’ve talked about before, the narrative that Mahomes is some wild man with his decisions is exaggerated and overblown.
But there are some rough edges to polish, and my guess is we’ll see more of that as the preseason goes on and, more importantly, would see if he had to play in regular season games as a rookie.
I believe the biggest difference, particularly for a quarterback, between the preseason and regular season is the lack of specific game planning and diminished importance of reading disguised coverages and advanced blitz packages.
He’s not seeing much of that now, which helps his remarkable physical gifts to shine. But when the games matter, everything’s going to be thrown at him, and it’s going to get progressively more difficult every week as defenses learn his tendencies.
He has a bright future, and there is enough talent and support around him that I don’t think he’d drown if Alex Smith is injured. But I do believe, strongly, that Smith is the better option for 2017.
I’m sorry to pick apart the wording here, but you’re assuming that a team that’s only 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot at the moment won’t make it. All teams have flaws, and 10 of them make the playoffs.
So if I can alter your first question a bit, to “would Wade Davis make enough of a difference for this team to hold a playoff spot at the moment?” then my answer is easy:
Because he’d improve the Royals in at least two spots. He’s a better closer than Kelvin Herrera, and Herrera would be a better eighth-inning guy than Joakim Soria and everyone else who’s tried this year.
Davis is perfect in save chances this year, and Herrera has blown three. Soria has given up too many runs in important spots, but even if you think the difference in all of that is only two games — my guess would be about four — then the Royals are a half-game up in the wild card.
When the front office made that trade, they knew it would weaken the 2017 team. But this is turning out much worse than they could’ve fared.
Now, for the second part of the question, it’s possible. Soler has been awful in his brief time in the big leagues this year — his .520 OPS is worse than Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon.
He’s 25 years old, which certainly isn’t the sunset, but also not so young that it’s an excuse.
I talked to a few scouts after the trade, and I believe all of them mentioned they expected Soler to struggle early. One in particular talked about the league switch, and a personality that would have him trying to justify the trade with every swing.
But he also hit 22 homers in 668 plate appearances in 2015 and 2016. Scouts like to say power comes last, so if he progresses the way you might expect, he’ll be a real threat going forward.
Assuming he’s not wrecked mentally, there’s no reason he can’t be a productive player going forward. If that happens the trade will be what we all thought: bad for the 2017 Royals, good for the 2018-20 Royals.
Well, yeah. Boulevard is my favorite. Tank 7 and Saison Brett are top 10 beers for me, and Rye on Rye on Rye may be my No. 1. They do a good job with variety (so I’m not going to be bothered by another sour or radler) and seasonal stuff (so there’s always something to look forward to).
Also, I have to admit relief over the last few years because I did have some fear that the feel of the place would change after they sold.
I am fully aware that if I lived somewhere else I’d probably have a different favorite. Some of that is emotional, because I like stuff from Kansas City. Some of it is more logistical, because I’m just more aware and able to buy more of their stuff here. Like, I’d never have even heard of Requiem for a Pancake if I lived in Chicago or Denver or somewhere, but I live a few houses off State Line Road so I know it’s delicious.
So, if you’ll allow me, the rest of my top 10, with the caveats that I’m probably forgetting a couple and that this list would like different next week and the week after:
2. Founders. A murderer’s row of beers, particularly dark beers, which daddy likes very much. KBS is the rare beer worth the hype, but even the easy-to-find stuff like Centennial IPA and Breakfast Stout are delicious.
3. Firestone Walker. Wookey Jack is a top 10 beer for me.
4. Bell’s. Two Hearted is my favorite IPA; Expedition and Kalamazoo Stouts are each delicious.
5. Russian River. Not available here, which is too bad. Pliny the Elder is probably their most known beer, but Damnation and others are terrific, too.
6. Prairie: The Bomb is a top five beer, and a deep roster of good beers would be higher on this list if it wasn’t so expensive.
7. Surly. I can’t decide if I’m putting this too high because it reminds me of an annual fishing trip to Minnesota, or too low because of Furious, Abrasive, Darkness, and others.
8. Ballast Point. Just guessing, but Sculpin is probably the most popular IPA in the country. They do a great Porter, too.
9. Lagunita’s. Lil Sumpin is a top 10 beer for me.
10. Victory. Another that doesn’t distribute to Kansas City. Their Pilsner is really good, as well as Golden Monkey and some others.
Honorable mention, in no particular order: Deschutes, Dogfish, Green Flash, Indeed, Nebraska, Mothers, Tallgrass, Free State, Allagash, SweetWater, Brooklyn, Left Hand, Cigar City.
Meh, not really.
MLB.com’s projections give them a 1.1 percent shot, which seems about right to me. The Indians are 69-54. If they finish 19-20 — and they’re 21-9 in their last 30 — they’ll be 88-74.
That would mean the Royals would need to finish 26-13 just to tie.
You can come up with a scenario where that’s possible. Maybe the Indians fall apart, and don’t win even half their remaining games. We’ve seen the Royals get hot, and we’ve seen the Royals come back after being written off.
But at this point, if you’re scoreboard watching and you’re focused on a team that’s seven games ahead of you with 39 left to go, you’re doing it wrong.
Seeing and hearing a lot of this lately, and this is something we talked about on the Border Patrol. I’m skeptical that the Jaguars would give up a first- or even a second-round pick and have to pay around $17 million this year and more than $20 million next year before he hits free agency.
Steven brought up a good point that with Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin in charge of the offense the Jags might value an old-school, protect-the-ball presence like Smith, but that’s still a really big price.
Also, if I’m the Chiefs, I’m chasing a Super Bowl and want to do everything possible to make that happen. Giving up my starting quarterback — no matter who the backup is — does not advance that mission.
I understand what you’re saying, about the possibility that Mahomes passes Smith, but we’re not there yet. The Russell Wilson thing was aided by Matt Flynn not being good. Smith has been good for the Chiefs, and is having a terrific preseason. The Chiefs know they can win with him.
I’m as high on Mahomes as just about anyone, but that’s not a trade I’d make, even as I expect the Jags will be picking high.
They saved themselves last year with very good special teams, and very good red zone defense.
I do think the special teams will continue, because Dave Toub is still employed by the Chiefs, and Andy Reid still emphasizes it more than most.
The red-zone defense is a little more guesswork, because they were fourth in touchdown percentage last season, but 21st the year before. I tend to think they’ll be in the top half in 2017, because some of this goes along with the bend-don’t-break philosophy of Bob Sutton.
But I think it’s also true that those numbers you reference in the question are unsustainable.
The Chiefs will have to be better defensively, against both the pass and the run. There are some worries about the pass defense, because the corners below Marcus Peters on the depth chart still have to play.
They can scheme to that, to a point, but will also rely on a better pass rush if Justin Houston really is fully and finally healthy, and if these flashes from Dee Ford on the right side are to be believed.
I’m more confident that they’ll be better against the run, though. Houston’s health is a big part of that, but I also believe that Bennie Logan is an upgrade on Dontari Poe, and even if Derrick Johnson is down a step compared to 2015 if he plays a full season it’ll help.
But, for the most part, it’s unrealistic to expect drastic differences — good or bad. It’s largely the same personnel, particularly at key spots, and the same defensive coordinator with the same defensive system.
It’s a lot of things, but mostly a combination of philosophy, priorities, and personnel.
I know you asked for the primary cause, but it’s really all three. Andy Reid likes screens, and which means the priority is on athletic linemen. The group is pretty good on the whole, and should get better as they age together. They’re terrific in space, at getting downfield with their blocks.
But except for Mike Trout and LeBron James, no athlete can be good at everything, so the tradeoff is they’re not very good at the point of attack, of pushing the big guy in front of them back to get a yard or two when they need it.
You probably saw where Parker Ehinger is off the PUP list, and that should help. I actually think the Chiefs’ best line is with him at guard, but he probably needs to work his way up to that point. Ehinger, perhaps more than anyone else in the group, is physical and mean and built for short yardage.
So maybe that will help, a little.
Well, Game of Thrones is the obvious answer.
I have not watched a single episode. I’ve tried, I think thrice, but have never been able to get through more than the first 10 minutes or so. I will say, the same thing happened to me with The Wire, but then a friend swore he’d stop bugging me about it if I watched the first two episodes and wasn’t intrigued.
I did, and he was right, it’s a terrific show, even if it’s sort of like SEC football — awesome, but also overrated, because the people who are into it are so obnoxious about it.
All that said, I’m very mediocre with a lot of pop culture. Never watched the Sopranos, which is something my wife had to consider before she said yes. I’ve never been into the Grammys, or Emmys, or ESPYs, or any other award show.
I’m only now watching Mad Men, never got into The Simpsons, never watched a second of Friday Night Lights, and have never been tempted by Harry Potter — though I was an early adopter with Breaking Bad?
I’m also terrible with movies. This is embarrassing, but I think I’ve admitted this before, so here goes: the last movie I saw in a theater was Entourage. I am shame.
Some of this is having two young kids and a job that requires a lot of nights and weekends, but most of it is just personal preference. I love watching documentaries, and love reading — books if I can, but more often well-done longform from newspapers, magazines, and websites.
Seeing how much so many are into GOT has me curious, and envious. At some point I’ll probably give it another try. It’ll be in like three years, long after everyone else has moved on, and when I tell a friend how into it I am they’ll sort of nod their head, like I’m adorable, bless my heart.
This week, I’m particularly grateful for some good neighbors and good fortune that have conspired to give us regular care for both kids twice a week this fall, which will allow my wife a much-deserved break and consistent time for her interior design business. It’s the best thing in the world when you find convenient solutions that benefit everyone involved.