I believe a lot of us make too much out of team chemistry. I’m saying “us,” because I know I’ve been guilty. When teams win, the athletes tend to be happier. When they lose, they tend to be less happy.
I don’t mean to say relationships and camaraderie don’t matter. They absolutely do, and not just because nearly every retired athlete says those are the things they miss most. Morale is important, just not as important as we often make it out to be. No matter how good your relationships are in the dugout, they can’t help you hit that backdoor slider.
All of that said, I will always believe the Royals needed Eric Hosmer’s attitude, cockiness, selflessness, and leadership to win two pennants and a World Series. They needed a lot, of course. They needed Lorenzo Cain and Sal Perez and a lights out bullpen and Hosmer’s talent and so much else.
But, they absolutely needed Hosmer’s attitude.
The franchise that drafted him stunk. The big league team he debuted with lost 91 games, with just one fluky winning season since a strike that happened when he was 4 years old.
Fans were jaded, and justifiably so. A loser’s mentality had taken hold in all corners, and starting with Dayton Moore’s hiring in 2006 they’d begun to chip away in parts, but the task was a little like eating an elephant with chop sticks.
Hosmer, more than anyone else, was the breakthrough. When the group went through the minor leagues together, he was the one who always seemed to be at the plate in the biggest moments, and the one who always seemed to come through. They still talk about a game winner in a Class AA playoff game.
That’s how it went in the big leagues, too, and it wasn’t just the Royals that needed it. The postseason drought was measured as a generation, and for so many who had come through the club it felt like a burden. Like a boulder too big to push.
Hosmer flipped the entire thing. He got his teammates to see themselves as the group that would change a franchise, that would be the ones to finally bring baseball joy to a city that had grown used to disappointment.
He got them to view the historical futility as an opportunity, not an obstacle.
Anyone can win in New York, but how many do it in Kansas City? The Yankees have won enough that it all blends together, but the group to do it with the Royals would be remembered forever.
Instead of being weighed down by that pressure, at some point they began to be lifted by the moment.
Even just writing these words, the whole idea feels a little too fairytale, and maybe this reads like finding a cause to match result. But I promise, if you were around the group regularly through the struggle, particularly by 2013 and 2014 when they began to win, you would’ve felt this same thing.
Hosmer wasn’t the only one responsible for the change in perspective. James Shields was critical, for starters. Wade Davis. Jarrod Dyson. Mike Moustakas. But Hosmer was always the alpha in the group that came up together, the one most responsible for changing the view.
There are a million reasons he should be remembered fondly, and the ones that stick out will be those moments — the triple in the Wild Card game, the sprint home in the 9th inning against the Mets, on and on we could go.
But I’ll also remember him as the one who shifted what a franchise believed was possible.
I love this question so much. This is nearly perfect. Encapsulates so much. The desperation of loving a loser, the joy of finally watching a winner, and the emptiness of going back.
We all do this, right? Not just with sports, either. The other day, it was 59 degrees on our first floor when I came downstairs. The furnace was out. I called the emergency repair number, did mental calculations of how much it would be, and made little deals in my head, like, OK, if this turns out to be nothing, swear I’ll reinsulate the back door.
Well, as it turns out, the furnace was out because I’m a dummy and didn’t put the cover on correctly after I changed the air filters. And I can promise you, I’m not going to reinsulate the back door.
I think about this with the Royals, all the time. For a generation — that’s not an exaggeration, it was literally a generation, from the time kids were 8 until they were in their 30s with kids and mortgages — fans have played these games.
In the beginning, all you want is to be competitive ... and once your team is competitive, all you want is a postseason run ... and once your team is in a postseason run, all you want is an actual postseason spot ... and once your team is in the postseason, all you want is a little postseason success ... and once your team has a little postseason success, all you want is a championship ... and once your team wins a championship, all you want is ALL THE CHAMPIONSHIPS FOREVER.
This is how Boston sports fans became so damn obnoxious.
The Royals are going to stink this season. Like, seriously, have you guys tried to come up with the Royals’ lineup? It’s really hard, and not in a good way. Here is me spitballing:
Whit Merrifield, 2B
Jorge Bonifacio, RF
Sal Perez, C
Alex Gordon, LF
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B
Paulo Orlando, CF
Hunter Dozier, 1B
Jorge Soler, DH
Alcides Escobar, SS
My goodness, you guys, that stinks. The pitching isn’t much better, either. Only four pitchers in baseball had more than 150 innings with a worse ERA than Ian Kennedy (5.38) and he might be the No. 2 starter.
It’s going to be bad. It has to be bad. The memories of the Wild Card game or the parade or any other number of things won’t make watching that lineup any easier this year, and nobody can blame you if check out for a while.
The Royals are in the entertainment business, and they’re probably not going to be very entertaining.
Another good question. You guys are on fire this week, and you’re not going to like my answer.
This is probably 2007, mayyyyyyybe 2008.
In terms of both the big league roster and farm system this is probably 2006, maybe 2007. There just isn’t much here. Think about it in terms of big league players other teams would give up prospects for. The list is Merrifield, Perez, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, and that might be it. Perez would bring back a big package, and Duffy would do the same particularly with a strong start to 2018.
But, really, this is a team of spare parts.
There are some bring spots in the minor leagues. Raul Mondesi is hyper talented. The Royals are high on Khalil Lee. They have some nice power arms. But there are no top 100 prospects here, and that’s a major problem.
Now, the reason I’m putting the clock at 2007 and maybe 2008 instead of 2006 is that the culture is fixed and that matters. The Royals of 2018 are no longer the Royals of the early 2000s.
They no longer skip team pictures because nobody wants to remember the teams, they no longer skimp on minor league equipment, they no longer are run on Lotus, they no longer go to work in a miserable place to work.
I hadn’t thought of this until just now, but in some ways, perhaps this gets at part of why they didn’t re-sign Eric Hosmer. The Royals are no longer desperate for credibility, in the way they were when they signed Gil Meche.
None of this means the second rebuild will work like the first. There is a compelling case to be made that it won’t. But, yeah. Worth considering. And the roster and farm system have a looonnnnnggggg way to go.
I have conflicted thoughts about this.
There’s too much money in sports, and I believe ticket prices should lower, but since that’s not happening I’d rather see that money go to the players than owners.
I’m less passionate about this in baseball than football, but I’ll never hold it against an athlete for getting every dollar he can. Because you’re right, $17 million or $22 million per year, Hosmer can buy a boat. But you know who else can buy a boat, no matter what? David Glass. Does $5 million really matter for him?
Hosmer may be wildly rich either way. Glass is wildly wealthy either way.
I doubt any of us would be unhappy to do our jobs for $17 million a year, but I also doubt any of us have turned down a million dollars.
Here’s another thing that’s true: Hosmer doesn’t owe Kansas City a dime. Doesn’t owe the Royals loyalty, doesn’t owe them a discount, doesn’t owe them a call back. All he owned them was his best effort while he was employed, and there is no doubt he did that.
There has never been loyalty in sports, on either side, any more than there’s been loyalty in other businesses. Mike Moustakas played hard for the Royals, too, and was in the middle of their greatest successes but he’s not getting a nine-figure offer. Danny Duffy has been loyal, but he might get traded.
Fans aren’t loyal to athletes, either. Not in a grand sense, anyway. Mike Sweeney took less to stay, then his back gave out, and he was booed regularly at home. Alex Gordon didn’t take less, but he stayed, and an anonymous fan bought him lunch the day the news broke but now fans can’t wait to get rid of him.
You’re only as good as your production, in other words, so I can’t find it in me to be bothered by any employee trying to get as much as they can.
Especially when their employer is a billionaire who demands massive tax breaks to build stadiums for his foolproof and private business to make more profits.
A list? A list!
10. The Kicker Who Shall Not Be Named. I know! Sorry. I promise I’m not trolling, and I also acknowledge I’ve spent about three minutes total coming up with this list. But, hear me out. You said “important,” not “best,” or “loved,” or “competent.” Like it or not, Chiefs playoff failures are a major part of sports history in Kansas City and no athlete encapsulates that better than The Kicker Who Shall Not Be Named.
9. Willie Wilson. The Royals of the 1970s and 80s were about speed, and triples, and the AstroTurf and nobody represents that better than Wilson.
8. Matt Besler. Soccer’s rise is a huge story in Kansas City sports history. Besler isn’t the best player in Sporting KC history, but there’s an argument that he’s the most important.
7. Eric Hosmer. So, I suppose my answer to your question is “yes.” He was always the alpha in that leadership core, both from a personality and talent standpoint.
6. Lorenzo Cain. I’m putting Cain one spot ahead of Hosmer here because I believe he was the team’s best player the last four or five years. It’s a hard thing to judge, though, because the strength of that group was always its balance. Should Sal Perez be here? Moustakas? Greg Holland? Wade Davis?
5. Frank White. A very good player, but also much more. Grew up here, went through the Royals Academy, literally helped build Royals Stadium as a member of the construction crew, then became a coach and broadcaster. The current disconnect between man and franchise is part of the story, too.
4. Tom Watson. For a while, he was literally viewed as Kansas City’s third professional sports franchise.
3. Derrick Thomas. No better representation for the 1990s Chiefs.
2. Len Dawson. Still.
1. George Brett. Obviously.
I know I’m probably forgetting about some, and let me say right here that I may be taking your question too literally but Buck O’Neil isn’t included here because his importance here isn’t as an athlete. It’s bigger than that. It’s as an ambassador, a spokesman, a personality.
And the college loyalties are too split to include anyone at that level, though there’s an interesting case to be made for Darren Sproles.
Again, sorry about No. 10. But I hope you can see the point.
This is a reference to the column in today’s paper, or on the internet. As always, I hope you read it, and not just because I have a family to support.
If — and, I disclaimer’d the bejeezus out of that column, but I do want to say if — my theory is right and Glass put the kibosh on the Royals approaching the Padres’ offer this is not like the meddling of yore.
This is far different than Glass straightjacketing his scouting and development staff, far different than Glass paying for a burger and expecting a steak, far different than Glass allowing Carlos Beltran to walk over $1 million, and FAR different from Dan Glass blocking a trade.
First, and this is obvious: owners set the payroll. That’s their job and, literally, their right as the owner of the team. The Yankees’ payroll is set by management, the Marlins’ payroll is set by management, and everyone in between.
Second, and this is important: it’s the logical baseball decision.
Dayton Moore has had full confidence and trust in Glass from the beginning. That’s been part of what’s made their partnership work. So he probably disagrees with this, and he knows more than I do, but it’s hard to imagine a $140 million (or so) contract would not limit flexibility when the Royals are ready to win again.
My hunch is that’s part of why Glass was skittish about doing the deal.
Another point I’d make is that Glass has been a good owner since 2006 or so. We can always quibble. I think he got greedy and cocky after the World Series, expecting to be able to win and rebuild simultaneously in perpetuity, when he should’ve either gone for it or rebuilt a year ago instead of trying to do both and accomplishing neither.
But for the most part, starting with hiring Moore, Glass has done all the things a small money owner should do. He invested heavily into the minor league system, at one time breaking the record for draft spending. Two or three offseasons in a row he gave out the biggest free agent deals in the division, and he routinely pushed payrolls to franchise records when the talent deserved it.
Glass will never fully live down how wretched his leadership was before 2006, and in some fans’ eyes he will never even partially live it down. That’s natural. But if you’re willing to chop up his ownership into segments, he’s proven to have learned from mistakes.
So, even if we assume my theory is dead on accurate, I don’t see this as Glass Iz Cheep. I see it as him making a reasonable decision, one he’s absolutely entitled to as the owner.
So, this is really interesting. The Falcons cut most concession prices by 50 percent when they went into the new building, and recently said the average amount spent per fan went up by 16 percent. Total concession sales went up 53 percent, though the team’s profit went down.
They’re serving bottomless sodas, $2 hot dogs, $5 cheeseburgers, and that’s just the beginning.
There are lots of benefits here. Fans get into the stadium earlier, which drives up gross sales, and helps at the gates. It’s a nice gesture, if nothing else, an acknowledgement that if billion dollar foolproof private businesses are going to hold taxpayers hostage for help building new palace stadiums to drive up revenue then LITERALLY the least they can do is not price gouge you on a plate of average nachos.
Now, at least two disclaimers here. Fan spending would presumably go up in a new building, no matter what, assuming the new building has more points of sale* and the Falcons sold personal seat licenses which helped make up for any lost concession revenue.
* All new buildings have more points of sale and, actually, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has two-thirds more points of sale than the Georgia Dome. More places to buy means shorter lines, and more people encouraged to buy stuff.
It’s a complicated situation. Concession sales are among the revenue streams shared throughout the league, so there could be pressure from the group not to cut this form of profit.
The Chiefs, to me, would seem to be an ideal franchise to give it a try. The club is often frustrated at late arriving crowds from the parking lot. Doesn’t look good on TV at kickoff, and it can create a bottleneck at ticket gates.
Chiefs fans have more reason than most to stay in the parking lot as long as possible, not just because of the concession prices but because of the tailgate scene. Clark Hunt, fair or not, is seen by many to be a revenue grabbing Scrooge so selling Cokes at reasonable prices would be a nice PR move.
So, it’s possible, and I haven’t talked to anyone with the Chiefs about this but I’d be surprised. Clark is A League Guy, and if there is any pressure from other clubs to resist making the Falcons a trend, I’d expect him to go with the crowd.
Without question. Huggins is a terrific coach, and I wrote that in the column off Saturday’s game. Twice, actually.
One thing I wish I could’ve included in there is that Huggins makes, to me, an irrefutably good point that officials should be made available for questions the same way coaches and players are.
I don’t know that we need press conferences, and I do understand some of the reasons leagues are against this, but it’s time to bring the policy on this point into the 21st century. On rare occasions, a designated pool reporter can ask a referee or umpire about a specific call but there are far too many hoops to jump through and far too little accountability in the answers.
Keep cameras off for the officials if you want. Limit the questions if you have to. Make clear that certain topics can’t be discussed, such as referees’ view of styles or specific players. But there needs to be more accountability, more transparency, more answers.
Huggins is 100 percent correct on this.
I also understand why he’s frustrated with officiating. His teams are routinely called for more fouls than their opponents, and even the most Kansas friendly view of Saturday’s game must include at least a little bit of, Holy crap, 35-2 is really bad.
My point on Huggins is that he’s far too good of a coach to whine about officials, and far too smart of a basketball man not to acknowledge that his team shot a bunch of spot up jumpers and fadeaways, giving the officials rare opportunities to call fouls. I didn’t know this when I wrote the column, but apparently Jay Bilas spent much of the broadcast talking about fouls on West Virginia that went uncalled.
If you only look at the box score, you would come to the conclusion that West Virginia took one of the all-time hose jobs in sports history. But if you watched the game, your opinion would be different.
But more than all of that, I’m annoyed at this blame-shifting, because there has never been a more predictable blown lead than West Virginia going into prevent offense with 9 minutes left. This is not hindsight. I tweeted it at the time.
It’s easier to talk about officials than his own mistakes, is the point. We’re all adults, so we understand that Kansas gets calls at home, and I’ll say this one more time: you don’t get to 35-2 without some misses. But that wasn’t a horrendously officiated game, and if you put numbers or perspective to it, KU’s whistle at home isn’t an outlier. Ken Pomeroy has a metric that says KU has the 38th best home foul advantage in recent seasons.
But I wish Huggins could’ve admitted he didn’t do his team any favors by spending the last 9 minutes asking his point guard who struggles to create his own shot try to create his own shot at the end of the clock.
Again, he’s a terrific coach. He had a bad night. That happens.
I’m here for all of it. The Royals are bad enough that I may be tempted to resurrect it, but back when Joe Posnanski had this job he used to write a very tongue-in-cheek column every spring training about How The Royals Will Win The Division.
Well, the absolute best nugget in that column’s history was a scout telling Joe that Brett Tomko would win 15 games in 2008. You might not remember Brett Tomko, and if you don’t you are not wrong.
Tomko was known throughout baseball as one of the best human beings you could have on your team. That spring, I was standing next to someone who worked for the Royals when Tomko walked by. The man, whose name I won’t use here because I think he was half-joking, said, “I love that guy. I just wish he could pitch worth a (spit).”
Tomko went 4-12 the previous season for three different teams, with a combined 5.55 ERA. He had never won 15 games in any season, though he did win 13 in 2003, when he had a 5.28 ERA and led the league in hits and earned runs. By the time the Royals got him, he was 35 years old.
Took won two games, with a 6.97 ERA, before the Royals released him.
This Royals team is full of potential Best Shape Of My Life stories, too. Jorge Soler. Ian Kennedy. Jason Hammel (at least until he’s traded in a salary dump). Miguel Almonte will make an appearance, I reckon. Kelvin Herrera, even.
You can never literally write a Best Shape Of My Life story about Alex Gordon for obvious reasons, but the theme will be hit, I’m sure.
I might even be the one who writes it. I can’t help it. I think he’ll have a decent year. Pray for me.
No idea. I mean, that’s not true. I definitely have an idea about why some Chiefs fans are wishing him away.
It’s the protests during the national anthem, and the general and significant gap between Kansas City and who Marcus Peters is as a man.
But the trade stuff is really bizarre. Even if Justin Houston is healthy, and even if Eric Berry returns to Full Eric Berry, Peters is no worse than the Chiefs’ third best defensive player. He plays a critical position, one where the Chiefs are woefully shallow, and is still on his rookie contract.
The only way this makes sense is if Peters has told the Chiefs he won’t play in Kansas City, or at the very least won’t sign an extension here. I suppose that’s possible, but I don’t have any knowledge or even suspicion of that. And even if he’s told them he won’t sign an extension (again, big if), the Chiefs realistically control him for three more years. That’s a lot of time for him to change his mind, and a lot of time for him to be one of the best corners in football for them.
Peters is a wonderfully talented player, the NFL’s leader (by five) in interceptions since his rookie season, fully committed as a teammate, and performs in the biggest moments.
The Chiefs need more players like that, not fewer. That’s true of every team in the NFL, actually, which is why the following is the much better Marcus Peters question:
They have what’s called a fifth-year option this offseason, the decision due by early May about whether to pay Peters through 2019.
That seems like a very easy decision to me.
Normally extensions are done a year out, so if that holds the Chiefs would approach Peters’ agent sometime during the upcoming season and get serious with negotiations after that.
An extension would probably make Peters the highest paid cornerback in football, at least until the next top-shelf corner hits the market.
The Chiefs don’t have much cap space at the moment, but that can change fairly quickly. Their quarterback will be on a rookie deal for four more years, and Justin Houston will come off the books in a year or two. They can save $14 million in cap space if they cut him in a year, or $17.5 million if they cut him in two years.
Houston is their best defender when healthy at the moment, but these things change fast, he’s been hurt often, and he’ll turn 30 after this season. When I wrote about Brett Veach making the Chiefs younger, particularly on defense, I wasn’t guessing.
Peters is 25 years old. He’ll be 27 in his last season under club control. Even with Veach’s preference of youth, Peters is so good, at such an important position, and figures to age well. A six-year deal that you can get out of after three would make sense, but this is just a guess.
Color me skeptical that a multi-billion dollar industry is going to be taken down by what amounts to the free market working the way the free market is supposed to work.
It’s easy to punish isolated cases, but it becomes much more cumbersome when the problem is systemic, embedded, and quite literally encouraged by the NCAA’s antiquated and hypocritical rules.
You mention KU. I assume rules have been broken at KU. I assume Adidas has helped steer kids there, with or without coaches or school officials knowing about it. I assume the same thing is true at Duke, with Nike. I assume the same thing is true at North Carolina, with the Jordan Brand. I assume the same thing is true with Kentucky, with UCLA, with Michigan State, with Michigan, with Ohio State, with Texas, with everyone, and do you see where this is going?
Even if you can prove rules were broken, and even if you can prove they were broken with the knowledge or even encouragement of the coaches, are you really going to suspend all of them?
Or, wouldn’t the more logical outcome be that right-minded people decide that if EVERYONE is breaking rules the problem might be with the rules and not the people?
This has felt like a truly stupid scandal from the beginning, and I think I’d feel that way even if the only real college scandal I can think of in my lifetime — systemic, institutional, and massive academic fraud at North Carolina — wasn’t loopholed away from punishment.
So the only outcome that will make any sense is if the NCAA becomes so embarrassed about the “scandal” and its own arcane rules feeding the whole thing that it finally drags itself into the reality that these basketball players might be worth more than a scholarship and small stipend.
The NCAA has had plenty of opportunities to update itself, and fix its obvious problems. But it has repeatedly dragged its feet and lived in denial, undoubtedly because it technically didn’t have to pay players anything.
Well, here comes a situation where the institution may see that more reasonable guidelines are in its own best interest, even if it cuts into the profit margins a bit, or means a million less for a coach, or hundred thousand less for a redundant administrator.
I’m sorry. I know I went way off on a tangent here. But, no. I don’t think the Big 12 is any more danger than any other major league.
There aren’t many more tradeable baseball pieces than a good left-handed pitcher with a club-friendly contract, and I actually wonder if the Royals would’ve traded him already if he had a better 2017.
This will be a heck of an interesting situation to watch, because Duffy has been so vocal and vulnerable about his desire to stay in Kansas City.
But if the franchise’s goal is to reset, and be as good as possible in 2021 or so, well by then Duffy will be 32 and in the last year of his contract. Is that more valuable than the prospects he could bring back in a trade? Those prospects would cost less, and perhaps be as or more valuable.
The key to this is how well Duffy performs early. If he’s 8-3 with a 3.01 ERA in July, well, there will be lots of contenders who could use him.
I believe in Duffy. I believe in him as a player, and a teammate. I believe he’s sincere in his desire to be a leader, particularly after his arrest for DUI last summer. There is value in that for a building team.
But if he’s good early, the bigger value might be in clearing the money, and bringing back those prospects.
Maybe? I think so?
I hope so?
Let’s try it!
Virginia, Villanova, Duke, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Purdue, North Carolina, Texas Tech, Gonzaga, Kansas (I guess), Xavier, Wichita State, Missouri (Porter), Clemson, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Texas (I don’t know either), Nevada, St. Mary’s, TCU, Auburn, Arizona, Kentucky (whatever), and Michigan.
Basically, this is a bet about whether some really random team like Alabama or New Mexico State is going to make it. Which is always possible.
But I like my chances.
Sometimes you just get lucky, but there are a few things I think that can help. You gotta get them in the right mood, usually by making the trip to Costco somehow seem dangerous or cool. The other day, I played up the samples — shoutout to the lady passing out cookies — and tried to make the refrigerated room seem like a club.
The biggest thing is you have to stop the first one from going crazy, because once he goes crazy, the second one is going crazier.
Or, at least, you know, that’s what a friend told me?
This week, I’m particularly grateful for grandparents. I started doing this weekly gratitude when my mom died last year, and there isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t think of her, but I also know our kids are lucky to have my dad and both of my wife’s parents around and active and interested. Not everyone has that.