The danger of being a billionaire — the only danger that comes immediately to mind, really — is that you leave the real world. You don't live next to regular people, you don't do regular things. The people who work for you tend to always say yes. Your perspective can become a little warped.
Your life has been spectacularly successful, which is great, good for you. But it can become difficult to read trends, particularly trends that come from outside your bubble of influence.
The men and women who own the NFL franchises are deep in that inconvenient truth right now, as President Donald Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles to a White House celebration of their Super Bowl championship.
Their new policy surrounding the national anthem is less than two weeks old. No games have been played, and won't be played for months. But already, Trump showed them why it was hamfisted, counterproductive, and, if we're being honest, the kind of thing anyone with a bit of common sense could've talked them out of.
Never mind that no Eagles players kneeled during the anthem last season.
Let's be clear about something. What we're talking about today is not politics, or the right to nonviolent protest, or the military, or racial equality, or respect for the flag.
This is about common sense. This is about a group of successful business owners effectively squirting ketchup all over themselves.
Billionaires: they're just like us.
NFL owners created a new policy requiring players and league personnel to stand for the national anthem, or remain in the locker room. Violations are subject to fines. The policy was silly on many levels.
First, and this should've been the most obvious, but the protests were diminishing on their own. Players had largely moved on, taking their voices and actions into communities. Fans had largely moved on, because nothing stays in the news for long anymore, other than Kanye West.
There were other reasons. Owners did not consult with players, which apparently violated some promises and unnecessarily harmed the business model's most delicate relationship. Owners presented this as unanimous, but with abstentions and at least one owner saying he'd gladly pay fines we know that's not true.
But the most critical reason this was silly is that it was so clearly aimed at Trump. He elevated the controversy last fall, and reportedly told this to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: "Tell everybody, you can't win this one. This one lifts me."
He was dead right, but the owners couldn't help themselves, so they thought they could please the president and make the whole thing go away with this awkward and rushed policy pushed through against no tangible deadline.
Presumably, and incredibly, they thought this would get Trump off their back.
Predictably, and spectacularly, he body slammed them less than two weeks later.
NFL owners showed Trump they could kick them, so they have only themselves to blame for Trump so quickly kicking them.
This issue was fading. People were tiring. A partnership between players and owners was building, if slowly, progress for the league at least possible.
The owners panicked, pushed through a strategically brain-dead new policy, and, well, here we are.
Good effort out there, owners.
From the bottom of my heart: if you hear anyone offer a definitive take on any baseball draft, you should remember their name so that you never listen to them again.
All drafts are unpredictable. Baseball's draft is a baby's mood.
I have no idea if Brady Singer will be as good as some people say. All I know is he clearly has talent, and that talented players picked 18th or higher have both failed and succeeded spectacularly.
But, seriously: Anyone with a definitive take on who was taken should not be taken seriously.
If the Royals lose 100+ this year, should fans be worried, or is this just the price you pay for WS winning trades in 2015 and holding steady at the trade deadline the last two seasons?— The Real Tom Watson (@tRileyWatson) June 4, 2018
You can make a compelling case, either way.
The reason to be concerned: The Royals really are horrendous, their 21-39 record putting them in a peer group with teams like the White Sox and Reds and Orioles and Marlins that aren't trying to win. The Royals' front office thought they had a 70-win team, at least, that signing Mike Moustakas, Jon Jay, Lucas Duda and others would help them stay competitive while the farm system reboots.
So, yes. If the losing continues like this — even after winning seven of 13, the Royals are #OnPace for 105 losses — then Dayton Moore and the rest of the front office got this very, very wrong. That would be the continuation of a trend that began, basically, immediately after the parade. The second Alex Gordon contract, the second Chris Young contract, the Joakim Soria contract, the Ian Kennedy contract, you know the list. If Moore was hired after 2015, and not in 2006, there would be credible questions about his job security.
The reason to not be concerned: The record this year simply does not matter in any material baseball way outside of draft position, and in that context the more losing the better. Also, the micro with this team is much better than the macro. Jakob Junis is part of the future, and he looks very much like a productive and reliable starting pitcher. That is a big deal. Brad Keller is a Rule 5 guy who's been so good they're transitioning him to the rotation. Kevin McCarthy has the look of a valuable bullpen piece for a contender.
Jorge Soler is OPS-ing .844*, which makes him part of the future or perhaps a trade piece, and speaking of trade pieces, with the exception of Danny Duffy**, they've been mostly nails.
* He's under club control for three more seasons, and in the last 20 years, here is the complete list of Royals to OPS .844 or higher at the age of 26 or younger: Butler, Beltran, Dye, Sweeney, Damon.
** He took an L last night, bizarrely unable to get a strikeout or groundout, but he's looked much better lately. He's too talented and committed to continue to struggle like that.
Moustakas is #OnPace for 32 home runs and, more importantly, #OnPace to bring back a good prospect or two at the July 31 deadline. Kelvin Herrera has been absurdly efficient — two earned runs, no walks, and 19 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings — and all contenders can always use relief pitching. Whit Merrifield presents an interesting possibility in the trade market and, nobody wants to hear it, but if the Royals are trying to reload the farm system Sal Perez should also be available.
The point I'm making here is that the stuff that truly matters is far more positive than the ugly record.
Unless you believe that Moore and his assistants have simply lost it.
For the record, I happen to think that's ridiculous. I happen to believe that if Moore quit today the Royals should want to hire someone with a track record of building a farm system, preferably with a championship history, an ability to work well with David Glass, to be able to win with financial constraints, and a commitment to Kansas City, which is essentially a description of Moore.
But, sure. Absolutely. I get that the last few years have been disappointing.
At this point, who SHOULDN’T the Royals sell? Besides Whit and Dozier, I could talk myself into anyone else getting traded.— Blake Molina (@BlakeMo92) June 4, 2018
Why shouldn't the Royals be open to trading Whit Merrifield or Hunter Dozier?
There is a difference between actively trying to trade someone, and being open to trading someone. The Royals should be actively trying to trade Mike Moustakas, for instance. He's a good player, but would be better somewhere else, in a smaller ballpark, with better lineup protection. If the Royals do not trade him, they will receive no compensation in the offseason.
Literally, any return that improves any minor-league affiliate is better than holding onto him. That's how the system is set up.
The Royals should not be actively trying to trade Merrifield, but part of the calculus must be weighing his value now compared to his value when he's 32 or 33 and the Royals are ready to win again.
He's a terrific athlete, with diverse skills and versatility. Those players tend to age better, but if the Royals are presented with a package of players they believe will be more valuable in four years than a 33-year-old Merrifield, I say pull the trigger.
Once again, in its own paragraph, because I believe it in my heart: They should do the same thing with Sal Perez.
Now, something of a disclaimer is probably in order here. I recognize that I'm on an extreme here. I understand that I'm a sports columnist, and don't have to care about things like ticket sales, and that I don't share the Royals front office's very reasonable view that a winning culture must be maintained.
I believe that if you have a group of minor leaguers who develop that culture together that they can establish that culture in the big leagues. The best example of all time might be the Royals' last championship core, though that process was rough and turbulent and required some good fortune in addition to talent.
To me, this front office should have a lot of credibility with fans. They've built it before, from nothing, so they earned the benefit of the doubt in doing it again. Restocking the farm system should be the primary goal here.
Can you see a scenario where the Royals contend in 2020? A couple of the hitters in A ball pan out, Junis/Duffy/Keller anchor rotation, get at least two legit pieces back in summer trades, this draft has at least one fast track prospect, and then some $$ to spend on FA in '20?— Tucker Hagedorn (@Tuckhag) June 4, 2018
That's aggressive. Actually, that's very aggressive.
If a club goes from one of the worst at both the big-league and minor-league levels to contending in two years, the front office is likely full of wizards and should not be wasting its time with baseball. They should go fix world peace, or figure out a way to make Cheetos that don't leave your fingers orange.
You alluded to this in the question, but the biggest advantage they'll have in 2020 compared to today is money. Jason Hammel is off the books after this season, and Alex Gordon after next season. That's $29 million they're paying in 2018 that won't exist in 2020, and if they don't screw up the TV contract negotiation, that's another $30 million or more, depending on how they structure.
Now, it's not quite that simple, of course. The Royals will not want to use all that money for free agent contracts they'll soon regret, and in 2020 it's likely the roster will be such that the smartest baseball move will be to have a small payroll. The smallest payroll since 2005 was in 2011, the year that — deep breath — Sal Perez, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, and Kelvin Herrera all debuted. It was also the year Lorenzo Cain first played for the Royals, and Greg Holland first closed. That's a lot of league minimum salaries.
So, anyway, no, I would not expect them to be able to compete in two years. The fair expectation in 2020 is significant progress in the minor leagues, payroll flexibility in the major leagues, and a long-term extension or two for anyone who proves worthy.
The first rebuild took seven full seasons before a winning record, you guys, and in some ways this one will be harder.
Why are Chiefs fans so cocky? They haven't won a championship since 1970. During my lifetime, it has been like clockwork. Do well during the regular season, then get bounced in the first game or maybe second if lucky.— Terry Heffern (@BoJacked85) June 4, 2018
Whoa. Let's slow down a little.
The Chiefs seem very cocky at the moment, as evidenced by Matt Miller's piece here. We talked about it on the Border Patrol, but my feelings could be summed up thusly: I love it as a sports columnist, and am baffled by it from the Chiefs' perspective.
Now, about the fans, yes, 100 percent, some are very cocky.
I also know Chiefs fans who want to curl under the covers and find a pacifier whenever their team plays. I know Chiefs fans who called the blown lead against Tennessee the minute their team went up 18. I know Chiefs fans who believe the most consistent part of their adult lives is that their team will let them down.
Maybe I'm too much into semantics here, but it's simply impossible to accurately describe any group of people as large as an NFL team's fan base with broad strokes.
The excitement around Patrick Mahomes is real, and I've lived in the Kansas City area my whole life so I am fundamentally incapable of speaking to this with authority, but I assume that's how all fan bases are when their team drafts a quarterback high.
I mean, maybe Cleveland would be the exception. Should be, anyway. Same way Kansas City is the exception to the "when your team is up three scores in a playoff game you're safe to start celebrating" rule.
It's a nice story. It's an encouraging development. It could turn out to be a night we look back on, with some substance, a mile marker in the building of a roster that's primarily or at least substantially homegrown.
But, for now. It's a nice story.
Daniel Salloi could be special. He's coming on fast, turning into a real piece for Sporting Kansas City, and that goal from outside the box on Sunday was gorgeous. He creates mismatches all over the field, because he's always working, always moving. The confidence he plays with is obvious. He's 21.
Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal scored on a quick reaction, one-touch goal through traffic. I have no idea what to make of him. You might know he's the first player to progress from the Academy to the Swope Park Rangers to the first team. He was more than the goal, too. He was part of the play, showed himself to be a reliable passer, hey, heck of a debut. He's 19.
Jaylin Lindsey is the other player you're referring to. He's a defender who played 30 minutes, and made himself part of the action. Again. I have no idea what to make of him. But it's a nice first impression. He's 18.
That the win pushed Sporting into first place makes the story even better. This has always been Peter Vermes' vision of Sporting's best self, a homegrown, young, fast, active, athletic group with the coach's personality embedded in their soccer instincts and worldview.
I don't know what it all means. You don't. Vermes doesn't. Nobody does.
If Sporting continues to build and the roster continues to fill with homegrown players and the club continues to win trophies, this will be a little like Sal Perez's debut against the Rays. If these players fall off, and the impact from the Rangers isn't sustained, then this will be a little like Marcus Cooper's first few games.
I don't know what to think. It's promising as hell, and what Vermes talks constantly of working toward.
But there's a long way to go.
should we politely correct aloof baseball fans at a game?— Ryan Atkinson (@ryandatkinson) June 4, 2018
Dude in front of us Friday night was booing Jed Lowrie because "he hurt one of our players or something that one time."
Another thought OPS stood for "opposite" batting avg.
Well, yeah, that's unfortunate. What is an opposite batting average, anyway? The rate at which you make an out? Your average batting to the opposite field? I need answers, man.
My policy has generally been silence. I took the family to Sunday's game, and the dad in front of me was asking if Billy Butler was still in baseball, and the dad behind me was saying Jon Jay should bat lower in the order because of his power, and I kept a tight lip on it.
Some of that, I have to be honest, is because I just want to watch the game and talk to my family. Watching my 4-year-old be enthralled by baseball is one of the coolest experiences I can imagine, and I don't want to miss that by telling a stranger that Jay hadn't homered in nearly a full year.
But there are also times that people around you ask these things with a sort of wandering eye contact that makes it known the question is open for anyone, in which case it's completely acceptable to explain the difference between Jed Lowrie and Brett Lawrie, or the strengths and flaws of OPS, but those are decisions you have to make on your own.
Because, at least for me, if my son misses a chance to high-five Sluggerrr because I was talking to some guy behind me about why I don't think big-league managers matter all that much then I'm having a really bad day.
Let's say u owned a NFL, MLB & MLS in another market.If u could hire one KC coach or front office guy for one of you're 3 teams, who would that hire be?— Chris (@bballkansas) June 4, 2018
I believe Eric Bieniemy has a real chance to be a coaching star. I know he's never been a coordinator before, but all the ingredients are there. Players respect him, he's smart, he's confident, he's been surrounded by strong coaching talent in an environment that's produced coaching stars before.
But that would not be my answer.
I believe Dayton Moore headed one of the great magic acts in modern professional sports history. Inheriting the 2006 Royals and turning it into a 2015 parade is an achievement that, quite literally, has no precedent. He's done it while cultivating a work environment that's generated strong loyalty, and there is a case to be made that the best thing he's done in Kansas City isn't building a world champion but is in the legacy and progress and improvements possible in the Urban Youth Academy.
But that would not be my answer, either.
Peter Vermes is my answer.
The mess that Vermes inherited was not as bad as Moore's, but it's also true that he coached supposedly Major League Soccer on an Independent League baseball field. Players used a port-a-potty, and there is an analogy to be made there.
Vermes, with the significant aid and support of a strong ownership group, has turned Sporting Kansas City into a model MLS franchise. It is a consistent winner (which is more than the Royals can say) with championship success (more than the Chiefs can say) while dealing with some significant financial constraints.
He doesn't get enough credit for this, because his personality allows people to assume he's a drill sergeant who demands the game be played His Way, but he's proven himself flexible strategically and able to adapt different styles to different skill strengths. Sporting has won as a pressing club, and it's won as a counter attacking club. Sporting has won with strikers scoring goals and, as you may have heard, it's won with strikers not scoring goals.
I get that the stakes are lower in MLS, so these comparisons aren't all apples. The Royals and Chiefs are competing in the best leagues in the world. There are different ways to rank, and certainly soccer is a more popular sport globally than baseball or football, but Vermes is finding his success in a lower league.
But, anyway, yeah. Vermes is my answer. What he's done for soccer locally in Kansas City is pretty sweet, too.
Is the story about Mahomes turning down endorsement money— Coleman Brockmeier (@cbrock126) June 4, 2018
a) spun really well but just really so he can make more after starting or
b) is he really stronger willed than any reasonable human?
Hot take: I don't think this is that big of a deal.
I believe the story. Don't get me wrong. I just don't see this as some grand piece of proof that Patrick Mahomes is Doing Things The Right Way, or that he's misguided for turning down money.
He did, I believe, what he should have done. Would have been a bad look to put himself on billboards around town while the backup quarterback. In a league obsessed with Eliminating Distractions, that would not have endeared him to his coaches or new teammates.
But, also, let's be real. The amount he would've commanded as a backup quarterback ain't exactly LeBron James money, you know? Mahomes' contract provided a $10 million signing bonus. He's not exactly in need of meal money, so I'm not sure that turning down a local car dealership (or whatever) is a significant display of sacrifice.
Quarterbacks are different. They need to play the long game, and in that way, Mahomes appears fundamentally aware of and willing to do all the right things. Kept quiet and worked as a rookie, and now as the starter is taking on a little more voice and leadership while still deferring to certain veterans publicly.
Cashing in quick would've given him a free car, or money to help a friend, but it would've chipped away at his reputation because that's how the NFL works.
He was smart to choose to do it this way. But the reaction of some that this is Proof Of Character is a sign of the hype being out of control, or not enough to talk about, or both.
Speaking of Mahomes hype ...
Afternoon Sam! Do you give any credence to the concerns that Mahomes has not been performing up to expectations during OTA's? Or do you think he will be ready and awaiting the snap come SEP. 9 against the Chargers?— Blind Quarterback (@blindquarterbac) June 4, 2018
... No, I don't give any credence to any concerns about anybody not performing up to expectations during OTAs, and I'd say that even if I believed he was not performing up to expectations.
You know how we always couch reactions to preseason games? Well, OTAs are way less meaningful.
You know how we always couch reactions to training camp? Well, OTAs are way less meaningful.
I believe Patrick Mahomes is going to be a star. I really do. Or, a more specific way of saying it: If Mahomes ends up as a bust, I don't yet know why that would be. It's all there. The talent. The athleticism. The brain. The commitment. The respect.
But I think we do a great disservice — to him, to us, to fun, to football — if we demand he be perfect every step of the way. He's going to throw some awful interceptions. He'll make terrible decisions. He'll looked overmatched. He will, in other words, be a new NFL quarterback.
It is very likely that Mahomes will be statistically inferior to Alex Smith's 2017 season, for instance, and if people aren't prepared for that they're only setting themselves up for disappointment.
The key is in the progress. The improvement. The playmaking. But we don't get any of that if we think he needs to be Seventh Year Aaron Rodgers in his first year as a starter.
are you able to give your honest opinion on Kietzman in a public forum like this? His meaning to the KC sports landscape?— Jordan Kelsey (@jk1021) June 4, 2018
I can give you my honest opinion about anything here.
Kevin Kietzman, best I can tell, is among the most influential people in Kansas City sports media over the last 20 years or so. That's a strange title, super specific, but I do think it's true. He helped build WHB into a place of influence. The Royals walkout in 1999 was a masterpiece of sports talk radio promotion and #BrandBuilding.
Sports talk radio exists to make connections, and get reactions, and Kevin has done that. I've disagreed with him often, and at least a time or two strongly enough to say something publicly or privately. He's handled it professionally, and I respect that about him.
Now, the other side: I believe his influence has diminished over the years, either because of more choices, more competition, or a certain loss of edge or connections made. My sense is he can still be great when he wants, with the right topic or moment, but those topics and moments aren't showing themselves as often as they used to.
* He also said he'd love to see Steve Kerr take a vacation in some place better than America, which is so bizarre, because there are a million amazing places to go vacation outside of America, but whatever.
The idea that MLS or soccer needs to American-ize itself is ridiculous, and something that I thought ceased to exist a decade ago, at least. Soccer doesn't have to be for everyone, but factually speaking it is for more people around the globe than any other sport we have.
MLS is growing, and if you include interest in overseas leagues soccer is approaching and in some demographics surpassing baseball and basketball here in America. Insinuating the sport needs to alter itself to appeal to one's own self-interests is some combination of narcissistic, myopic, arrogant, and out of touch — it's yelling at the clouds.
But we all have dumb thoughts at times.
Once, I thought Marcus Cooper was going to be a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback.
Damn, sorry about the ankle, my man. That stinks.
I'm actually in need of some recommendations myself. My wife and I both really liked "Ozark" and "Bloodlines." "Evil Genius" is something else. "Sons of Anarchy" is wild. Loved "Billions," but they took that off recently, and I am now sad about that.
What else is out there, you guys? Help Dan out.
On a scale of 1 to 53, how many of these #chiefs players will be playing fortnite in the locker room before a game (like the royals playing clash of clans).— KCGameOn (@KCGameOn) June 4, 2018
REALLY looking forward to the story quoting an unnamed Chiefs source saying he's concerned the team won't reach its potential because the millennials are all wrapped up in their video game machines.
I want to say this, too: "Fortnite" is one of these apparent pop culture phenomenons that comes completely out of nowhere for me, an unnecessary but appreciated reminder that I am so far removed from the glorious days of being 24 and without any responsibility outside of work.
I say that not with scorn or contempt, but with jealousy.
Play those games, young fellas. Play them until your heart is full. Someday you'll find yourself saying dumb things like, "I need you to be a listener, pick up that Cheeto or you'll go to your room."
What story of yours has surprised you the most in terms of views/reaction, be it good or bad?— Will Weber (@WeberwillKU) June 4, 2018
This probably happened more when I started this job. By now, I have a pretty good feel about when a coach or exec is going to call, or when a player is going to be pissed, or when a bunch of fans are going to call me a name.
I also think I have a pretty good feel for when something is going to connect, though sometimes there are stories that connect a little more or less than I expected. I attribute the surprise on both sides to my own failings — didn't write it or report it well enough when it doesn't connect, or was too dumb to see that it would.
There aren't any specific examples that come to mind, but there is one fairly consistent theme. The degree to which college sports fans take things written about their school personally is really remarkable.
A coach can be fired, and if you write about it, you're just looking for the negative. A team can win a championship, and if you write about it, fans of some other school will say you're just a homer.
I have literally written things that coaches or athletes have told me, often on the record and even in press conferences, and heard fans of that school tell me I'm too negative and shouldn't be trusted.
I'll also say this: As much as people like to say K-State fans are sensitive, or KU fans arrogant, or Mizzou fans angry, this is something that holds tremendously steady across all three fan bases.
Like all things, there are exceptions.
But, literally every time I write about a local college team I know I'm going to hear from someone calling me a homer or a hater or often both.
I think I'm going to start introducing these people to each other over Twitter when possible.
What is the best beer to consume after a good round of yardwork?— Andrew Robinson (@robinsonandrew) June 4, 2018
You guys. I know I'm biased, but I'm telling you, Doubleshift's Citrus Farm is delicious and refreshing and easy to drink and also 6.8% so be careful, but get you a growler and pour yourself a reward.
Now. Other acceptable post-yardwork beers include Lagunitas Sumpin' Sumpin', Mothers' Lil Helper, Tallgrass Coastal Fusion, Boulevard Vamos, Torn Label Alpha Pale Ale, Bell's Oberon, Brooklyn Summer Ale, and, you know what else?
A gosh dang Pacifico.
Or a Miller Lite so cold it's almost ice.
This week, I'm particularly grateful having one drop-off and pickup for the kids this summer. The way their ages and our schools are, we won't have this again until the fall of 2020. Granted, my wife does the bulk of this, because she's awesome, but convenience is great.