(Editor’s note: This week’s Mellinger Minutes were written before Tuesday’s Danny Duffy news.)
By the time Jakob Junis throws the first pitch against the Rays on Tuesday night it will have been approximately 100 hours since the Royals last scored a run. Fifty-five full games will have been played in the four days since Brandon Moss’ home run last Thursday, with — ahem — 472 runs scored.
The Royals have scored none, but they’ve made up for it by giving up 32 of them.
If you have been a Royals fan long enough to remember Tony Peña and Buddy Bell then you have seen Royals teams quit at this point of the season, and if that’s your diagnosis here then I’m not sure anyone not employed by the team who will argue the point with passion.
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Whatever it’s worth, I don’t think they’ve quit. Baseball is an inherently streaky game, and the Royals have fundamentally streaky players — more on this later — so some of this can be attributed to the natural rise and fall of a season.
But not all of it, and probably not even most of it, because the Royals are now working on the longest scoreless streak by an American League team since the mound was lowered and the designated hitter invented.
I wonder if, more than anything else, this team is just dog tired.
Eric Hosmer has played every game, and even in the best season of his career, can only be expected to carry the offense for so long. Alcides Escobar has also played every game. Lorenzo Cain has played all but four.
Sal Perez is back from the disabled list, but clearly playing hurt, an admirable sacrifice by him but one that’s left him 3-for-18 with no walks and eight strikeouts since the return. Whit Merrifield has been the Royals’ best player at times, but he’s 11 for his last 58, and four of those hits were in one game.
This is a proud group with accomplished ballplayers but also one that was always built with little margin for error, operating under a larger organizational philosophy of winning-and-rebuilding that was the equivalent of walking a tightrope in a wind storm.
I do not believe they’ve quit. I think that’s almost always a lazy analysis, one done based much more on results than effort, but again it’s not a point I’ll argue with much passion.
Because they do look a little tired to me, these dog days of August that everyone in the game talks about perhaps zapping that last burst of juice. I expect them to get it back, by the way. At some point between now and the end of the season, they’ll win four or five or more in a row, and people will talk about a championship core making one last push.
Problem is, by now, it might already be too late.
This week’s reading recommendation is new father Greg Bishop on Jordan Reed and whether NFL players are too big and fast now, and the eating recommendation is the Smores at Betty Rae’s*.
* I know I am shamefully late to the party here, but I finally tried the burnt ends ice cream, and I wouldn’t say this if we weren’t all friends here, but I don’t know how you could eat an entire scoop of that stuff. I adore the ambition, and the idea, and am strangely proud that Kansas City is the only place in the world where someone would come up with the idea to make an ice cream with burnt ends and barbecue sauce, but it’s like eating spaghetti with mayonnaise. But, if you haven’t been to Betty Rae’s, you should go tonight. It’s amazing. Much needed, too, after Murray’s closed.
Hard to imagine the Chiefs cutting Kareem Hunt, Charcandrick West, or C.J. Spiller. Before Spencer Ware’s injury, I was curious if they’d find a way to keep all four, actually.
We talked a little about this on the Border Patrol, but Ware going down is simultaneously rotten and manageable.
Rotten, because even after an inconsistent — is that the right word? — 2016 he was their best back. A good combination of skills. Running, blocking, catching. The fumbles came out of nowhere, his yards per rush dipped from 5.6 to 4.3, and if we’re honest he was pretty ineffective down the stretch.
But, still. He runs hard, is versatile, and there are times that the Chiefs’ offensive line does not give the running back a chance*.
* I don’t expect that to change this year, by the way.
But if you were told you had to pick one starter, one guy at the top of his position group, and lose him for the year with an injury, I think you might pick Ware. The depth at that position, specifically Hunt, made Ware imminently replaceable.
I hope Hunt is being overhyped in Chiefs-centric circles, but he has the chance to be really, really good. If you watch his college tape, you rarely see the first guy get him. You have to account for the level of competition — the MAC is good, but it’s obviously not the SEC or even the Big 12 — but he’s dominating his level and the talent has seemed to translate to training camp and preseason games.
He’s a terrific fit for Andy Reid, tough enough to get yards between the tackles, shifty enough to make linebackers miss, skilled enough to run routes, and willing enough to block.
Really, the biggest impact here might be for anyone who had Hunt in fantasy.
I’m still not sold on Charcandrick West’s health, even though he’s looked better, but with him and C.J. Spiller — who looks, surprisingly, like C.J. Spiller again — the Chiefs are still in a strong position at the, um, position.
The only guarantees in the NFL are that the owners will make gobs of money and the players will be injured. All teams have to overcome this stuff, and the Chiefs will be fortunate if this is the worst injury they have to overcome.
Well, it better, right?
I believe in my mind, heart and soul that Justin Houston’s health is the single most important thing in determining the success or failure of the 2017 Chiefs.
Even with the disclaimer that we all tend to overanalyze single factors, no matter what else happens, it would be surprising if Houston was injured again the Chiefs were able to advance even to the AFC championship game.
I caught up with him after the Cincinnati game, and I do believe everything looks good at the moment, but I also believe he’s coasting through these preseason games — which he should! — and that it’s not nearly as important how he feels now as how he feels in December and January.
The Chiefs defense is a strange thing to try to breakdown. Statistically, they actually have a track record of being fairly average.
That might be kind, really. Last year they were 27th against the pass and 24th against the rush. The year before they were ninth and eight, in 2014 it was 13th and 18th, and in 2013 it was 25th and 22nd.
That said, those numbers can be misleading, particularly with a system and philosophy like the Chiefs, where they’re OK giving up yards between the 20s, but preventing big plays, tightening up in the red zone, being aggressive with turnovers, and playing field position.
I don’t believe the Chiefs have the capability of having a dominating defense. There are some corners to throw at, and the run defense has a long way to go just to be average. But it’s a winning defense, and if Houston is healthy — he’s still just 28, and the last time he was healthy for an entire season he had 22 sacks — this can be a great defense.
How much time you got, buddy?
I actually don’t think we’ll get to that point. Not anytime soon, anyway. Not in my lifetime, and I hope to live to be 264 years old.
Apologies in advance for the morbid turn this is about to take, but I think it would require players dying on the field, to be honest, and I’m using the plural here. Players. Not player. It’s happened in high school, including here locally, but not so far in the NFL.
I just think most people have made their peace with their conflict. I thought Vahe’s column on this was incredibly well done, and I have my own. I adore football, for lots of reasons, for the spectacle and athleticism and power and speed and beauty and skill and strategy and, yes, the violence. It is probably my favorite sport to watch.
But I also feel a guilty drop in my stomach when a player is carted off with anything that looks like a head injury, and feel terribly for all the players who gave their hearts and souls to this sport without fully knowing the dangers, and I’ll never get over my disgust with how the NFL has handled it.
But I still watch, and still make my living in large part by writing about football, and still am more likely to watch football with free time in the fall than just about anything else other than play with my kids.
Speaking of kids, we have two boys, and they’re young enough that this is many years away, but I think all the time about the confrontation we may have about them playing. I want them to be able to do what they want, to follow their passions, but barring some major medical breakthroughs I hope they don’t want to play football.
I know there are many — thousands and thousands if not millions — exactly like me.
But I don’t think football will ever go away. Look, people often like to compare the NFL’s handling of hand injuries to the tobacco industry’s handling of lung cancer research, but think about everything we know now about the dangers of smoking. Think about all the laws that have been passed, and the efforts to effectively turn smoking into anti-social behavior, and STILL millions of people smoke.
Tobacco remains a wildly profitable business. Last year, Phillip Morris pulled in more than $25 billion alone, ranking 104th on the Fortune 500 — that’s ahead of Kraft Heinz, Deere, McDonald’s, US Foods Holding, Starbucks, and many others.
So, I don’t know, maybe you’ve completely removed yourself from caring about or watching football. I think I probably share many of your concerns, but I still, somehow, love the sport as much as ever.
I know that’s hypocritical, and I know there are many, many, like me.
Here’s a #hottaek for you: it’s not in my top 10 sports weekends.
I love college football. The passion, the tradition, the innovation, the talent, the energy, the pageantry, all of it. Truly, it’s a magnificent thing.
But the first weekend doesn’t do much for me.
I think it’s because I’m not ready for it. Football is fall to me, and I know that’s superficial, but it’s just how I feel. I like the college football buildup, too, the way non-conference games simply set the table for conference games.
But even with the early games between top teams — and Alabama-Florida State is a doozy — there is a bit of potential emptiness because preseason college football rankings are among the most flawed we have in major sports.
Now, those two programs, in this season, feel foolproof. It’s easy to image the national championship game being a rematch, even. So this particular example is probably a bad one.
But I still enjoy the buildup of the college football season.
Now, my top 10, at least as I’m sitting here at the moment in this overstuffed chair with my dog on my feet:
10. Premier League opening weekend. You’re either going to nod your head, or roll your eyes, and nobody’s likely to change your mind. But I’m all in with it. Especially because by opening weekend, Arsenal hasn’t totally embarrassed itself yet.
9. Super Bowl Sunday. The next day really should be a holiday, and if I was commissioner I’d multitask: arrogantly make WAY more money than I’m worth, AND figure out a way to play the Super Bowl the day before Presidents Day so more people could be hungover in the comforts of their own homes.
8. College football championship game. The mix of scouting NFL talent and getting lost in the biggest moment of most of the players’ lives is tough to beat.
7. MLB Division Series. Noon-to-midnight playoff baseball. Nothing wrong with that.
6. First blockbuster weekend of college football. I know this isn’t really A Thing, but this is that buildup I’m talking about. There’s always a weekend, usually in October, where the season really hits a stride. We’ve had some time to see everyone, many against decent competition, and then there’s a week you look at that Saturday’s schedule and do a double take. You start to make plans with friends, either at someone’s house or a bar, to watch the whole thing. You wear jeans, at least a long-sleeve t-shirt.
Part of the beauty is that you never know exactly when that weekend is coming, but October 21 looks strong: Oklahoma-Kansas State, Louisville-Florida State, Michigan-Penn State, Oklahoma State-Texas.
5. College football semifinal weekend. One of the games will probably be a blowout, but the other one will be fun.
4. MLB opening day. I don’t want to get into all the corny phrasing about spring and new life, but MLB’s opening day — sort of like the first big college football weekend, really — is bigger than sports to me. It’s a milemarker of the calendar year, the symbol to me that the season is changing.
3. League championship weekend NFL. Much better than Super Bowl Sunday, to me, because it’s two games and still very much more about the football than who can do the longest pregame show.
2. NFL divisional playoff weekend. Much better than league championship weekend, to me, because there’s twice as many games and at this point they’re all good teams because the crappy Texans have lost.
1. First weekend of college basketball tournament. Nothing even close.
Honorable mention: Masters, Thanksgiving NFL, NBA Finals, Christmas NBA, Second weekend of NCAA Tournament, Final Four weekend, NFL opening weekend, MLB wild card games.
I haven’t done exhaustive research on this, but I’ve done some, and the 2012 A’s are tough to beat here. That was a wild team. They had a nine-game winning streak and a nine-game losing streak. They were 26-35 on June 10, and 68-33 the rest of the way.
They had 14 walkoff wins, and seven walkoff losses, and I can’t say I’ve spent a lot of time with comparisons on such things, but that sounds like a lot. Basically, once a week they’re walking off or getting walked off.
Anyway, other than that group, I do think this Royals team is as streak as most any you’ll find.
The nature of sports in general and baseball in particular means there will always be streaks, but I don’t know how many teams you’ll find that are below .500 after the All-Star break and play their way to within one swing of a world championship like the 2014 team, or follow a 7-19 month with a 20-9 month like the 2016 team, or start 10-20, momentarily climb into a playoff spot, and immediately follow a 10-1 run with a 2-10 run like this 2017 team.
Ned Yost has tried to downplay that streakiness this season, and I think he’s trying to protect a group that by now should be better at getting out of the bad funks, but in the past he’s joked that his clubhouse is so tight they all get hold and cold together.
This is an astounding fact: already, the 2017 Royals have been shutout 13 times. The last time a Royals team was shutout more often was 1989, which means even at the depths of the Board of Director and Early Glass Years you never saw a Royals team be a limp noodle more often.
It’s even more incredible when you consider how often runs are being scored around the league.
You can convince yourself that there are reasons for this. It used to be a group that didn’t know how to win, or hadn’t yet earned its confidence, but I also think there are some underlying baseball factors that feed into this.
It’s a bunch of streaky performers, particularly the hitters. They’re aggressive, nearly all of them, which means they’re booming when the timing and confidence and talent and luck and scouting reports are right, but digging deeper holes when things go off track a bit.
For most of the last four years or so, they’ve at least been able to count on a lockdown bullpen, but that’s no longer there, further exposing them to highs and lows.
You guys are so nice, consistently giving me a chance to say the Royals hurt themselves by trying to win and build at the same time, a decision that was bad in real time and looks worse with each loss.
But the centerpiece of this point has always been both what it caused, and what it prevented.
Because by trying to eat dessert and lose weight at the same time, the Royals could not sign Josh Reddick — currently slashing .306/.351/.474 for the Astros — and put themselves in a world where trading away Wade Davis for Jorge Soler made sense.
Just guessing here, but having Wade Davis on this team would probably be worth three or four wins, at least, and as it’s turned out they would’ve been better off with Jorge Bonifacio in right field the whole time anyway.
It really was a mistake on just about every level.
From the 30,000 foot view, it was an impossible errand to be running, an unwillingness to either do what’s needed to win or what’s required to build. The Royals (and others) expected Soler to struggle early, but not like this, indicating a scouting mistake.
And perhaps most troubling is that it’s also a self-scout mistake, because if the Royals thought Bonifacio (who’s younger than Soler, by the way) could do this they would not have felt such desperation for a corner outfielder.
This Royals front office has always been pretty damn good at scouting their own players, but combined with taking Raul Mondesi over Whit Merrifield on opening day, these are two significant whiffs.
When I talk about Alex Gordon on here, I always have to remind myself to think about my own biases. Because I really do like Gordon. With on and off the field stuff, he might be my favorite Kansas City athlete in the last decade.
I love the resilience, and professionalism, and edge, and cool confidence. I love how hard he plays, what he’s been through professionally, and that he was drafted by Allard Baird but was in many ways the face of the franchise’s rise to the top of the baseball world.
Obviously, he stinks right now. And it would be a hell of a story if he played well enough the next two years that the four-year, $72 million contract he signed wasn’t remembered as the worst in franchise history.
So he is absolutely fair game for criticism, and just like when he was younger, back when he was struggling the first time, the easiest thing is to say he spends too much time in the weight room. I assume there are also people who think he just doesn’t care anymore, not after signing that contract.
Those were the most popular criticisms of him early in his career, too, and they were just as misguided then as they are now.
I know some ballplayers who like to joke you need a little fat on you, just so people can trust you, but can we stop for a second and think about the logic behind criticizing an athlete for being in too good of shape?
Is that where we are?
I don’t know what’s wrong with Gordon. He seems brain locked at times, and overpowered by even average fastballs. There doesn’t seem to be any power left, and he’s struggled against the shift.
The most logical explanation for this year’s struggles would be that it’s mental, that he’s trying too hard to live up to the contract, and white-knuckling his way to the worst season of his career. But in the context of who he is and what he’s done, that makes very little sense.
He’s leapt much higher mental hurdles than this already, including a new contract to live up to.
So, I don’t know. Maybe I should just pick a theory and bang it into the ground, but that’s not how I operate, so I’m left in this sad and confusing state of not knowing what’s wrong, but hoping against fading hope that he’ll get out of it.
But if you’re telling me he’d be better off fat, we’re going to disagree on that.
It’s unlikely they sign each of them, and, at least as I sit here now, unlikely they sign any of them.
A few points:
▪ First, and this may be the only reason that matters, it is EXTREMELY rare for a guy to hit free agency and sign back with his old club. If a guy is going to stay long-term, it’s almost always done with a year or two left on the contract, because then he’s gaining security and the team keeps him away from the lure of free agency bidding.
▪ BUT WAIT, maybe you’re saying, Alex Gordon hit free agency and signed back with the Royals last year and you were the dummy who kept telling us that wouldn’t happen so why should we believe you now?
And it’s a good question!
First, Gordon’s situation was rare, for lots of reasons. He had a genuine affinity for his old club in a way most players don’t. He wanted to go to free agency, at least in part because he never had.
But once he hit free agency, most of the people I talk to in the Royals’ front office expected Gordon to be gone. And he would have, if the market didn’t break a few different ways, all of which pulled him back, most notably Jason Heyward signing with the Cubs, who had Gordon No. 2 on their shopping list, and would’ve easily outbid the Royals.
Gordon, as far as I can tell, had other opportunities but no offers bigger than the Royals’. Maybe he would’ve taken less money to stay, but when’s the last time a player hit free agency, then turned down the biggest offer from a very good team?
▪ OK, now to get more specific on these three guys. I believe all of them genuinely like the Royals, and Kansas City, just like I believe all of them rightfully feel they don’t owe the organization a dime. They were major parts of reversing a well-earned franchise narrative, and a championship that literally changed a city’s relationship with baseball.
▪ Eric Hosmer is having the best year of his career at the age of 27, with good defense, athleticism, and skills that should age well. He is a widely recognized leader, terrific in the community, and has proven postseason success. All of that, and he’s hitting a market in which the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels will be among the teams who could upgrade the position.
▪ Mike Moustakas is having the best year of his career, and he’s about to turn 29, but that’s still in line with most first-time free agents. He plays a difficult position to fill, and even if his range isn’t what it used to be, he has terrific hands and a strong arm and can help a team in the field or at the plate. The Angels will likely be looking for a third baseman, and I have no inside knowledge reason to say this, but I’ve always believed Moose would like to get back to southern California if everything else was close to equal.
▪ Lorenzo Cain remains one of the game’s better center fielders — currently sixth in FanGraphs’ version of WAR — and at age 31 has never had a major payday (by major league baseball standards). This will be his best and perhaps last chance, and it’s hard to imagine him wanting anything other than every last dripping cent. It’s just as hard to imagine the Royals investing major money into a guy who will be 32 next April and asked to continue covering one of the sport’s biggest outfields.
So, no. I wouldn’t bet on each of them to sign back, and at even money, would bet against any of them to sign back.
This is the business side of baseball, the players’ one chance to maximize their value. This is how it works.
Just to reset what we talked about: Alex Gordon is guaranteed $20 million next year, Joakim Soria $9 million, and Brandon Moss $7.25 million. Assuming Ian Kennedy does not opt out of his contract, he’s owed $16 million. I can’t remember if we mentioned Jason Hammel, but that’s another $9 million.
That’s about $60 million five pieces you probably don’t have much confidence in. All together, they have slightly more than $100 million on the books for next year.
It’s probably not quite as bad as the above paragraph makes it sound. Danny Duffy is good at baseball, and so is Sal Perez. Whit Merrifield will be back, Jorge Bonifacio should be better, Cheslor Cuthbert would be a reasonable and cheap replacement for Moustakas at third, Jorge Soler is still young enough to turn it around, and pieces remain for a decent bullpen. Raul Mondesi is crushing in Omaha. He could be a star.
But I don’t know that there is the flexibility and potential to truly compete next year, and the money isn’t getting any better: Gordon is owed $44 million over the next two years, and Kennedy is owed $49 million over the next three.
Industry consensus is the Royals’ farm system is bottom-third, and even acknowledging the front office believes it has more than that, this isn’t the 2010 system that had some projected stars to build around.
So as I fight the urge to once again say this is all more reason they should’ve tried to win or build this year, not both, I’ll instead just say they’ll need a lot to go right to compete for the division next year or the year after.
Especially as the Indians remain strong, the Twins are ascending, and the White Sox are getting better.
I doubt it.
Part of that is simply the baseline I start with this type of thing. He’s 50 years old, and is already in his eighth full season as Sporting’s coach and 11th season as technical director.
Give him to 65 — and Peter seems like the kind of guy who will work past 65 — and that means basically a quarter century running the same franchise. That just doesn’t happen often.
Being in soccer means there are always options for the talented, and I could see Peter trying something overseas, but the most likely thing has always been the US Men’s National Team. I mean, who wouldn’t want that job?
Peter is already involved at the national level, and has a good reputation throughout the sport. He’s innovative, energetic, smart, confident, a lot of qualities you want in that position.
That’s always been the job I thought made the most sense for his ambitions, and if it happened, who in Kansas City could fault him for leaving?
Honestly, I have no idea, and I don’t think anyone can give you anything more than a guess on this. I also don’t think it’s the point.
Matthews is already in the Royals Hall of Fame, and in 2007 was presented with the Ford Frick Award by the National Hall of Fame. So he’s recognized plenty, but that’s never the point.
Denny is a local play-by-play guy, and I have no idea how to compare local play-by-play guys, or even how a local play-by-play guy gets national recognition without moonlighting on national games.
I don’t know anyone who would say Denny is as recognized as Harry Caray, Vin Scully, or Bob Uecker. But those are one-offs, and even so, come with unique circumstances.
Caray broadcast three different teams, became part of the show himself, and was without question boosted by the national reach of WGN. Uecker was flamboyant in his own way, and had the acting to go along with it. Scully was just freakishly good, an absolute artist, as good at what he did as anyone I can think of is at what they do.
Matthews isn’t like any of those guys, but I’ll say this again because it’s all that matters here: that’s never the point.
He’s a local play-by-play guy, consumed almost entirely here locally, or by die hard Royals fans in the region or nationally. That’s his audience, and those are the opinions that matter.
Look, just like I could give you dozens of names of local sports writers I believe are terrific at what they do, I’m sure there are broadcast nerds — I say that with endearment — who can intelligently discuss and rank each team’s local play-by-play guy.
But whoever tops that list now that Scully is retired, that broadcaster is known mostly and best by his local audience.
So to me, it’s both the wrong question, and a question that’s impossible to answer you like Denny, and how other Royals fans like him.
I know I’ve been critical of ESPN at times, and I mean every word of it, but I also hope we can keep some perspective: ESPN is still, by far, the best in the business.
For all its problems, it still employs many of the best journalists in the game, and remains profitable with (by far) the best bag of live events in the country.
But, yes, I do believe your idea is an upgrade. If the suits and consultants have decided that’s largely outdated, fine, keep covering the WWE and embracing debate and everything else you do on SportsCenter, but put a more highlight-centric show on ESPN News at least.
I rarely watch sports highlights on TV anymore, and I know there are many like me, and maybe we’ll never go back. But there has to be an audience for that kind of thing, with the added benefit that it would be a pretty cheap thing to produce.
I have an even better idea. When you create an account with ESPN, it asks for your favorite teams, and stories about those teams are on the home page when you go there. That’s cool, I guess, but I don’t understand why they can’t use that technology to give you a personalized SportsCenter.
You pick your teams, and leagues, and every morning when you get on your computer or phone there’s a personalized highlight and news reel waiting for you. A minute or so on each team’s game, another minute or three on league-wide stuff, a rundown of news headlines that might affect your teams ... this isn’t complicated.
Yahoo has something that’s sort of like this, but you have to click through to each game. Same with MLB and NFL websites.
Maybe what I’m talking about exists somewhere, and if it does, PLEASE tell me, but if the people in charge have decided that video is the future of the business this is pure gold: regular, daily video that people would gladly sit through an ad for.
This one’s simple: the Royals’ landscape in re-signing (or signing) free agents will not change as long as David Glass is in charge of the team.
He is about to turn 82 years old, and you show me an 82-year-old man who’s had success doing something one way who all of a sudden decides to change and do it another way.
Particularly if that new way involves spending more money.
I’ve also never believed Glass has been all that concerned with the franchise value. He bought it for such a sweetheart price that he’ll make many fortunes when and if he decides to sell, and besides, I think he wants his son Dan to run the team next.
I mean, it’s a total waste of time. The hours watching some college game you don’t care about, or some random website’s ranking of tight ends in PPR keeper leagues, or looking through your league’s rosters to find potential trades, or the obsessive need to know about hamstrings and groins especially on Sunday late mornings, it’s all way too much.
We’re all busy, we have lives, friends, family, work, movies to watch, kids to play with, food to cook, messes to clean, cars to fix, clothes to buy, grocery lists to clear, what are we doing worrying about whether C.J. Spiller will get enough touches to be worth a roster spot on a fake team?
What’s more, it changes the way you watch the real games. You start to root and follow these completely artificial, real-to-nobody-but-you measurements, where you’re ticked off because Tyrod Taylor threw the touchdown pass to the wrong guy against the Jets.
Why do you care about the Bills and Jets?
I started playing fantasy football when I was about 16, before anyone I knew had an internet connection, when you had to wait for the USA Today to get to the box scores and add up all the points by hand. It was intoxicating. I loved it. I was obsessed. I cared about games I never cared about before, had reason to call up a friend or talk trash, there was literally not one thing I did not like about it.
Eventually, I don’t know, I was probably 25 or 30, I just stopped doing it. I found the act of setting a lineup felt more like a chore than anything else, the guys in my league were way more into it than I was, and if you’re not willing to put way too much time into it you’ll always have a crappy team. I forgot to set lineups, the Thursday games always messed with me, and at some point I just quit.
It felt good, at first, but eventually I missed it. I missed having an interest in all those random games, and I missed watching a college game and thinking I saw someone I wanted to draft, and more than anything else I missed the excuse to talk with my best friends.
They’re all over the place, from Phoenix to Oman to Saudi Arabia, and I missed the regular and completely irrelevant trash talking. So I got back in, and it’s probably easier now to get by without putting a lot of time into it, because if nothing else there are rankings and advice everywhere on the internet.
And I’m glad I did. I can’t say I give even a tiny damn about how my team does, not in any real way, but I still find myself reaching out to my guys about trades or whatever. I know that’s probably dumb, and anyone who’s more socially adjusted than me and my idiot friends probably wonders why we need make-believe football teams to talk to each other, but that’s just the way it is sometimes.
So, I like fantasy football. At least, I like how I do it.
There are several possible answers, and I know a lot of you will say turkey or salad, whatever they put on the menu to be somewhat healthy, but I’ll passionately disagree with that and here’s why:
That’s a way to get more people into the restaurant, people who you may be friends with or even dating or married to, and the existence of something non-gluttonous on the menu means you can pig out on burnt ends and ribs and fries, then you should thank that restaurant for whatever kale concoction they came up with to allow that meal to happen.
My answer is clear: pulled pork.
It’s a staple everywhere, and I don’t get it. My suspicion is people buy it because it’s cheapest, and it’s a smoked meat, so same thing, right? I want to tell those people it’s cheapest for a reason, it’s boring, and because of the way restaurant pricing works the pork is overpriced and the burnt ends are underpriced.
In effect, you’re choosing the lowest meat on the hierarchy so the guy in line behind you can get a discount on his brisket and ribs.
So I beg you: spend the extra dollar or two for the better meat.
Unless that meat is brisket, and you’re at a place that cuts the brisket thin like deli meat. I don’t know why places do that. Seems to be much more common in Kansas City than other places, but it needs to stop. Cut it thick. Let the flavor gang up on you.
This week, I’m just thankful for good health. We had a bit of a scare with our one-year-old last week. It’s a long story, but they did a bunch of tests, kept him overnight, and eventually gave us the best possible news. Nothing to worry about. I don’t brag about much, but I do think I’m good at keeping perspective, and separating what’s irrelevant from what needs to get done from what’s truly important. But, still. I think we can all use a reminder now and again, and a bit of a reset to think all the good thoughts.