We can handicap this sort of thing differently, but it is more likely than not that Mike Moustakas' time with the Royals is coming to a close. Seventy days, 58 games, 27 of them at home until the July 31 trade deadline.
He's unlikely to make it beyond that with the Royals, even as the market for third basemen is said to belong to the buyers. Some of the same factors that drove him back to the Royals for $6.5 million guaranteed in the offseason are still in play, though Moose does have the juice and dexterity to play first base or DH.
But the point here is not to talk more about his trade prospects. The point here is to take a minute to recognize a remarkable career with the Royals that in so many ways defines the most successful era for a small market team in modern baseball history.
He was the first official draft pick under Dayton Moore, and ripped through the minor leagues — 36 homers and 41 doubles in 2010, his third and final full season in the minors — and then struggled for most of his first four big league seasons.
He was the inspiration for Ned Yost's "third base tree" rant, a former power hitting prodigy who was struggling at baseball for the first time in his life. The Royals sent him down in 2014, when he was hitting .152 in the middle of May. Many wondered if he was broken.
He returned, and hit five homers in the playoffs, including the winner in extra innings of the first game of the first series in Anaheim. He made the All-Star team and an iconic catch on the way to a world championship the next year, lost virtually all of 2016 to a freak knee injury, then broke a 32-year-old franchise record for home runs in 2017.
This year, he is more productive than ever, pacing for the season of his professional life — he's sixth among third basemen in slugging percentage this year, and over the last two years only Josh Donaldson, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Jose Ramirez have slugged higher.
His career is marked by promise, then doubt, then demotion, then a spectacular rise that coincided with the team around him. He is in some ways the essential modern Royal — enthusiastic, hyper competitive and a good teammate.
Neither player nor team expected to be reunited this season, and in some ways, the situation is less than ideal. The ballpark is a bad fit, and the lineup offers little protection and fewer RBI opportunities than other places. Many of his closest friends from the celebration years are gone.
But he has not complained publicly, not about the demotion, not about the knee injury, not even about being drilled in the leg by the pouty Bruce Rendon last year, a fastball that hit him enough to affect his swing but not enough to take him out of the lineup. He has not complained about doing all the things that are expected of a ballplayer, earning his free agency, and then losing millions of dollars as he became the embodiment of a market that turned against players.
We've been surprised here before, but Moose will probably be traded in a couple months to a team pushing toward the playoffs. He will hit free agency, and without being tied to draft compensation will have a much better chance at a contract worth generational wealth.
He will look strange in a different uniform, but at some point he'll return to Kauffman Stadium, take a left out of the bottom floor elevator instead of a right, dress in the visitors clubhouse, and receive a well-earned standing ovation his first time up. He'll receive another when he's put into the Royals Hall of Fame.
Everyone should be able to have such a career. His will be used by the Royals as a model for years, of how draft selection means nothing, about the importance and difficulty of dealing with failure, and about the rewards and success possible for those who are able to navigate the demands of big league baseball.
This week's eating recommendation is the breakfast burrito at McLain's, and the reading recommendation is Baxter Holmes on when the Warriors hit the turbo button.
Has there ever been an NFL QB that you can think of over the last 10 years that is out and in the public eye at every single event in his city like Mahomes has? In the infield at NASCAR, in the stands at Sporting and gets regular seats at Royals games. Is he already a KC icon?— Kyle Coffey (@kylecoffey11) May 21, 2018
The kid is making himself known.
I won't claim to be an expert (or particularly interested) in the social schedules of other quarterbacks, but Patrick Mahomes is playing this perfectly well.
He is, well, yeah. Everywhere. The jorts-and-cutoff-T-Bones jersey at the NASCAR race is legendary. There will absolutely be fans at Arrowhead and on Halloween wearing the same thing. He rocked a throwback George Brett powder blue on opening day, and I think a Bo Jackson to one of the Yankee games, where his seat was placed perfectly for the first base camera to catch him signing autographs in the background whenever a right-handed hitter was up.
Kansas City has never seen an athlete quite like him, or at least a quarterback quite like him, and maybe it says something about how conservative that position has been that Mahomes sticks out like this. But it's still all true.
I truly believe this: he is Kansas City's most hyped athlete since at least Bo Jackson.
I believe this is a different context he's walking into than 37-year-old Joe Montana, and bigger than even the two standing ovations before Alex Gordon's first big league at bat.
Chiefs fans have literally been waiting for him since before he was born, and this is now his city in a way that no player has had since at least Tony Gonzalez.
We talked about this on the Border Patrol, but there is a catch to all of this. He hasn't lost a game. He's still a blank canvas, one that we can all project our grandest expectations and somehow it feels reasonable. But he's 22 years old, and how will people react when he throws four interceptions in a game, or fumbles on the final drive?
He's making himself part of Kansas City, and that's good. He's doing it while saying all the right things, and (largely) staying out of commercials, and that's better. You see him at these events, and he's the one people talk about but he's always surrounded by teammates, too.
He's hitting all the right notes, you might say. But the song hasn't even begun yet.
What is Zenger’s ultimate legacy at KU? Is it failure of football program, or the fundraising he did for non-revenue programs, which in turn allowed possible renovations to an aging Memorial Stadium?— Kyle Coffey (@kylecoffey11) May 21, 2018
Sheahon Zenger should be remembered as a man who genuinely loved the place he worked, and the people he worked with. This job was personal to him, and if you watched him, if you talked to him, you could see each success lift him and each failure eat at him.
But if you're talking about a legacy, I don't think there's much room for nuance anymore with legacy, so I'm assuming most will remember him as the guy in charge when the football program went from bad to horrendous.
I don't think that's necessarily fair.
I do think it's reality.
I wrote about Zenger and KU here, and obviously I hope you read it and are so moved by the insight that you donate thousands of dollars to my kids' 529s, but if not allow me draw your attention to what I thought was the best thing I've heard anyone say about Zenger:
"The truth is he may have (messed) this place up for a decade with one bad hire, but you won't find anyone here who doesn't like him as a man and leader."
That came from a department employee, and someone who really liked Zenger and appreciated what he did for KU. It also came from a realist, although singling out Zenger for the football program's demise does let Lew Perkins off easy.
Perkins ran off Mark Mangino, and here are some facts about Mangino:
He coached four of the 12 bowl teams in Kansas football history.
He is the only coach to go to more than two, and the only one to go to consecutive bowls.
He coached the only three winning teams since, um, 1995.
But, sure, if Mangino had to go, he had to go. That was never going to be a long-term relationship. But to replace him with Turner Gill is rather unforgivable, and to guarantee Gill $10 million over five years was just arrogant business when he would've taken the job for much less.
I'm not trying to push blame from Zenger here. That's a big boy job, and he can take what people throw.
But Perkins lit the original match for this dumpster fire.
Which job starts in worse shape: AD for a KU football program in 2018 or Royals GM in 2006?— Corey Anglemyer (@canglem) May 21, 2018
So, I actually think they're fairly similar situations.
Dayton Moore turned that unspeakable odor into a championship, and this is by no means meant to diminish that accomplishment because I say without hyperbole that it's one of the great magic acts in the history of professional sports.
But one thing he had going in his favor was the desperation of the moment. It meant he could secure some promises from David Glass before accepting the job, and turn those promises into action once in the job.
It meant he could build an international scouting department from the ground up, with proper funding, and start drafting the best players instead of the best bargains.
Moore and his assistants still had to do a million things right, and catch a few lucky breaks, and one more time I'm not diminishing an incredible accomplishment.
It's just that sometimes the jobs that look the worst on the surface have some hidden benefits, and one of them is that perception is in your favor either way. If Moore failed, nobody would've blamed him. Look what he took over, they'd say. If the next AD at KU fails with football, nobody will blame him or her. Look what they took over.
But if the donors aren't already tapped out, and the new AD can get assurances that he or she will be able to hire the best person instead of the one they can afford, then maybe there's a way out of this.
The institutional desperation I keep writing about is real. There is a fear in and around the department about what would happen if the basketball program slipped to third or fourth in the league, and about how much a continually uncompetitive football program might hurt the university's future when the next round of conference realignment comes.
That's the similarity I see between the AD job now and the Royals GM job in 2006. Maybe the next AD can use that desperation productively.
But, you asked a question, and to me the KU job now is worse just because there's the added unknown of perhaps needing to hire a new basketball coach. If that happens, the AD's hire will have virtually nowhere to go but down, and any hit on the value or profitability of basketball will be felt around the department like a punch to the face.
Long as we're talking about department heads being fired...
What is the deal with Dayton Moore and his job security? There seems to be little to no discussion from the media & fan base for a GM in the last year of his contract with an organization with little impact talent above A-ball.— Scott Taylor (@Scott_ZT) May 21, 2018
One more time: I believe finding a championship out of the mess he took over in 2006 is one of the great magic acts in the history of professional sports. I'd err on the side of faith for a guy who restored credibility to the organization, and I can promise you Glass knows what Moore and his team have done for the value of the franchise and his own reputation around baseball.
I'm not shocked by much, but Glass firing Moore would be astounding.
Now, sure, yes, absolutely, Moore has made mistakes. Pretty much every decision since the parade has backfired, no matter how sound the reasons were at the time. The drafts haven't been good enough, and he usually stays out of it but ultimately that's on Moore.
One mistake I believe he shouldn't wear alone is the biggest mistake I believe the Royals have made since the parade, which is the decision to attempt to win, rebuild, and limit payroll simultaneously.
I've written about this a bunch, so I'll keep this short except to say that kind of decision isn't made by the GM alone. There was a clear direction from Glass that this is what he wanted to do. Moore has been persuasive with his boss in the past, and maybe he should've then, too.
But, if you're asking about why Moore isn't being fired, imagine who you'd want to replace him:
Someone with experience rebuilding, ideally done through building a farm system, and it would be really great if you could find someone who'd even won a championship. You'd want someone who could have a good relationship with the owner, and who would enjoy Kansas City and be in this for the long haul.
You would want, in other words, someone exactly like Dayton Moore and, to borrow a phrase, there is no GM tree.
This summer, my man. We talked about Moose at the top, but I'd also be surprised if Herrera finishes the season here. Lucas Duda and Jon Jay and others will be available and, depending on how much the Royals want to commit to a rebuild, I could see Merrifield and even Perez being moved for the right price.
Junis is interesting. Personally, I'd be in no hurry to move him. He's only 25, and won't be a free agent until after the 2023 season. This season, he's making $554,250. If someone comes in over the top with an offer you can't turn down, fine, and I am open to the case that you could be selling high.
But I believe he's for real, and potentially a No. 3 or even No. 2 type pitcher on a championship roster, with basically 5 3/4 seasons of club control. No reason to rush that kind of value out the door, because you say the Royals need to do something for the future and I agree.
I'm just saying Junis is part of that future.
Nothing happens in a vacuum, these things are all interconnected, but yes, I believe his problems are mostly mental.
Now, sometimes those types of problems can manifest themselves mechanically, or in pitch execution or selection, but my armchair diagnosis is that Duffy's biggest problem right now is himself.
I am wrong all the time, not that you needed to read that, but I've never been so convinced that an athlete is in his own head. That an athlete is the embodiment of the old cliche, that he's trying too hard.
Duffy wants this so bad. It's one of his best traits. It's what makes him so popular with teammates, and with fans. But if he's trying to make every pitch perfect, and crushing himself when it's not, the results are going to snowball the wrong way.
It's a difficult thing to manage, because you don't want to tell him to stop caring. If I'm right about this, the problems are coming from a good place, and you have to find a way to manage it without changing who he is, because who he is helped him become successful.
I don't have an answer for you. If it were up to me, I'd try to find someone who Duffy trusts completely and sort of get away from baseball for a little bit each day and just talk. Don't try to fix it in one day, or one start, but try to be supportive and caring and see where that goes.
I say that, and the Royals may very well already be doing this.
What's the eating recommendation for NBA-KC's first game at Sprint Center? I'm a hot dog guy but am willing to hear alternatives.— Andrew Posch (@atpcharlie) May 21, 2018
You guys, color me skeptical on this. Jarrett Sutton is a friend, very connected in the NBA, and I have no doubt that a league executive really said this to him:
NBA Executive: “Jarrett, going to be real honest with you, Kansas City will get an NBA team at some point. It’s a real thing I’ve heard from multiple sources. Just a matter of time. Seattle and KC to me are most valuable markets for league expansion when it makes sense.”— Jarrett Sutton (@JarrettTSutton) May 18, 2018
But, well, what does "a matter of time" mean? Two years? Twenty years? Fifty? I would think Kansas City is down the list from Seattle, and I'm not sure why this would be a more attractive market than Las Vegas, or a second team in Toronto, or Chicago, or St. Louis, and you get the point.
The Sprint Center is 10 years old now. It's a nice building, but it's not the decided advantage it used to be. Local ownership has always been the biggest hurdle. The local billionaires have been interested in other endeavors, and maybe that could change, but that's an unpredictable and uncontrollable thing.
So, who is our advocate? Who has the money and motivation to put a team here?
There are ways to get a franchise without a local owner, but that's more moving parts, and if the billionaire has no tie to Kansas City it becomes more difficult.
How much tax money would be required to update Sprint Center?
What kind of guarantees could be made from the nation's No. 33 market that already claims the NFL, major league baseball, MLS, a NASCAR track, and loads of interest in college sports?
I desperately want Jarrett's source to be right, and soon. Obviously, at least some of this is personal. An NBA (or NHL) team would be good for business. But it'd also be fun, personally, and good for Kansas City.
I just can't get too into this, not without something tangible.
What happens first - KC gets an NBA team or KC gets a downtown baseball stadium?— G Low (@KCPRGuy) May 21, 2018
Holy crap I would love for both of these things to happen. I've really shifted my thinking on a downtown ballpark. Fifteen years ago I thought more about how nice Kauffman Stadium is, how easy it is to get in and out, how accessible it is at the intersection of two interstates, you know the usual arguments.
But I look at these things differently now. I look at what's best for Kansas City, and that calculus has massively changed with the improvements and growth downtown. It would just be a really cool and productive thing for Kansas City, right down to the fact that the world's capital for sports architecture would take that kind of project personally.
But, this depends completely on David Glass. As long as he's the owner and unless he changes his mind, the team isn't moving downtown. He likes the stadium where it is, for a lot of reasons, so unless the city gave him a sweetheart deal — and the city should not give him a sweetheart deal — the stadium stays.
Now, David Glass will turn 83 this year, and I don't know if he wants to own the team forever. It wouldn't shock me if he sold. If that happens then we have a new set of facts to deal with.
But the answer to your question is a downtown ballpark, because I'm just really skeptical about Kansas City landing an NBA or NHL team.
Before an NBA/NHL team, or even the Royals moving downtown, KC needs to greatly improve public transit, a hotel or seven, and the airport to begin with right?— Joseph Boeding (@JoeBoeding) May 21, 2018
This is really hard to balance. I have always believed Kansas City's biggest priorities should be improving schools and lowering crime, even while recognizing the complexity and layers involved in either.
But I suspect you're talking strictly in terms of supporting a major pro team downtown, and if that's the case, no, I don't think those things need to improve.
There are loads of teams that play in building that are relatively inaccessible to public transit, but the Sprint Center is a short walk from the streetcar, and a downtown ballpark would likely be the same. Hotels have been and are being built, and the airport is happening.
But if you're suggesting that Kansas City would benefit more from civic energy being devoted to issues like public transit or crime or schools, then you have my enthusiastic co-sign.
Brother, don't get me started.
Baseball should be leading the way with this stuff, and instead the sport is falling behind. It's a conversational sport. Nobody has 100 percent attention on every pitch in every plate appearance in every inning. You might miss something, and when you do, that's an opportunity for major league baseball to use technology and the gorgeous video screens in most of their stadiums to highlight the best moments.
Be a gathering place, not a second rate version of what you could be. They've made strides in some areas. They used to not show any replays of close plays, because the umpires' union is way too smart and way too paranoid. Instant replay changed that, but a lot of times the replay programming seems to be done with the assumption that fans' faces will melt if they see a nice play by the visiting team.
So, yeah, if you didn't see it live and they won't show it on the $8.3 million TV screen paid for in part by taxpayer dollars then you can watch it easily on your favorite device:
I don't know why MLB does this. They're not as bad as the NFL, and in some ways they're getting better. But the NBA is rising in popularity, and at least some of it is how the moments that make fans are made so accessible in stadium and through social media.
You have to go where people are, and it's arrogant and ultimately counterproductive to expect them to come to you in the same numbers.
With Peter Vermes new extension when all is said and done how close to KC Mt Rushmore will he be?Currently involved with 6 of 7 of the clubs major hardware.Hall of Famer, in conversation of best MLS all time managers, along with major strides as technical director— Tom Hoffmann (@countzerokc) May 21, 2018
Well, first, I don't know why we decided everything had to be a Mount Rushmore. Why only four? Why not five? Or three? Or six?
It also depends a little bit on your criteria. Most influential? Because now we're talking about Lamar Hunt. Most accomplished? Because now we're talking about George Brett.
Vermes is in the meaty part of his suit career, so it's premature to talk about this with any specificity. He could win the next four MLS Cups and someday lead the US Men's National Team, which would certainly change things, or he could burn out and be fired, which would certainly change things.
I know we've done similar lists before, so I'm probably going to contradict one of them in some way, but using the general criteria of some combination of importance, success, and love from the city, here goes at the moment:
1. George Brett
2. Len Dawson
3. Tom Watson
4. Lamar Hunt
5. Derrick Thomas
6. Ewing Kauffman
7. Frank White
8. Peter Vermes
9. Buck O'Neil
10. Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig, because I'm not sure how to separate them.
This is really hard, obviously, because how do you separate the athletes we all care about watching from the executives who put those teams together or the owners who put the teams here?
I tend to side with the athletes, because they're the ones who make us love sports, but in a list like this that's specific to a market — especially Kansas City — I understand the argument for the owners who buy and keep teams here.
There is an interesting case for Dayton Moore for the list, or John Schuerholz. Carl Peterson, perhaps more than anyone else, created what we now know as the Arrowhead Stadium experience. Carol Marinovich saved KCK in some real ways, and created a part of town that welcomed Kansas Speedway and Children's Mercy Park and the T-Bones. Joe McGuff and Stuart Symington played instrumental roles in creating the opportunity for Ewing Kauffman to buy the Royals.
I know I'm probably forgetting about a few people. Please forgive me.
If Bill Self doesn't jump to the NBA this summer, is that a good sign he thinks KU will probably weather the Adidas storm?— Marshall Miller (@iammarshall913) May 21, 2018
Meh, not really.
Most of what I think about the investigation and KU's reaction to it is in this link, but unless it can be proven that Self or one of his coaches knew about and approved a payment, then I'm not sure there can be any significant penalty.
And if it can be proven that Self or one of his coaches knew about and approved a payment, then they deserve to be fired with shame because there are few things dumber for a college coach, particularly when the rules have been so easily worked around for so long.
I'd be mildly surprised if Self left this summer, mostly because the jobs I think he would most be interested in* aren't open.
* The Thunder, sure, but also the Spurs. Very much the Spurs.
I do think Self will coach in the NBA at some point. I base that less on anything he's told me than what I think I know of him. Just seems like he'll want that challenge while he still can, just to be able to say he did it, if nothing else.
He's won a championship at Kansas. Made Final Fours. Been inducted to the Hall of Fame. There isn't a lot more for him to do, other than someday answer questions about what went wrong if they finish second in the league.
I think he sees next year's team as one of his most talented at Kansas, and perhaps his most talented at Kansas. So the timing isn't right for him to leave right now.
But no matter what, I don't think it's an indication of what he thinks about the investigation, because I don't think he believes any significant penalties are coming.
How do you see streaming, viewing experience, virtual reality good prices etc. Will affect stadiums as they are built in the future?Specifically when arrowhead needs rebuilt.Also overall sports landscape?(Attendance is down)— Andrew Corrao (@penguinxcrossin) May 21, 2018
I love this question. I could, and perhaps will someday, spend 3,000 words on it for the newspaper.
But for now: I believe stadiums are going to be drastically different. If you've ever been to whatever they call Cowboys Stadium, you have undoubtedly been mesmerized by the video boards.
They're so incredible, you find yourself watching them instead of the game, and I think this is the future except AT&T Stadium (OK, fine, I looked it up) is enormous. Seats 100,000. That's unnecessary in the future, because I believe in the future fewer tickets will be sold, but they'll be sold at higher price points and include more luxuries.
I mean, look at this rendering of the Las Vegas arena. This is spaceman stuff, and it won't be paid for by $25 tickets.
I believe the future will be stadiums catering more and more to Audi drivers, and trying to reach Chevy folks through merchandise, sponsorship partnerships, non-game events and things like that.
The good news for fans is a lot of them may not care about being priced out of stadiums. The home viewing experience will only continue to improve, and who knows what virtual reality will be able to create in 10 years, so even without price it may literally be a better experience to have a dozen friends over than fight traffic for a seat in the stadium.
I've been fascinated by this issue for years, maybe a decade or more. Maybe I need to get started on those 3,000 words.
How many peanut wings can you eat in one sitting? #mellingerminutes— Evulm0nkey (@Evulm0nkey) May 21, 2018
I consulted with my friend Jason King on this, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who knows King, and he reports that our person record is 18 between us. I know that came with fries, too, and I would be thrilled to tell you I did more than half of the 18 but that would probably be giving myself too much credit.
If I was just trying to Kobayashi the thing, and was prepared with a big appetite and time to take a nap after, I think I could do a full dozen. I really do. Last week, on George Brett's birthday* I went to the Peanut downtown and had what I consider a top five meal in Kansas City — three wings, a triple BLT, fries, and a Tank 7.
But I'd love to take a run at a dozen some day. That would be a good nap.
This week, I'm particularly grateful for air conditioning. Look, I know I'm weird. But I think about this stuff constantly. AC wasn't always a thing, and I sweat like a dang pig, so if I was born 100 years earlier I'd just be sitting there wearing it like a dog in wool clothes or something and the craziest part is I might not even know how miserable I was. Modern life makes us soft, you guys.