Self-awareness is an admirable quality, and something we should all strive to have, so in the spirit of the moment this is me:
My name is Sam Mellinger, and I sometimes criticize the NFL unfairly.
They make it easy, and too often I accept the invitation. The NFL does a million things wrong, but they don't need to be dinged for every little thing, and if we're honest a lot of the time even the fair criticisms are for decisions or policies that are simply a byproduct of being massively popular.
A startup can be nimble. Walmart can't.
Now, all that being said, one of the great things about my job is that if I ever write the three paragraphs above you and I both know there's a but coming so:
The NFL is making a brain-dead, out-of-touch, wet blanket, self-important, counterproductive, off-putting, and indefensible decision in not letting Chiefs right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif add "M.D." to the back of his jersey after earning a medical degree from McGill University in Montreal.
The NFL is refusing to explain its position on this, which only makes sense if the league can't come up with a reason that doesn't make it look small and anti-player.
The league allows "SR" and "JR." Why not "MD?"
The ugliest explanation is one that sticks in my head. There is a culture around football and those who work in it that football is the only thing that matters. Any moment spent away from football is a moment you're not getting better.
Many teams — and the Chiefs are very much among them — talk about signing players "who love football," which is often code for "will put up with all the ridiculous things the NFL requires of players, and doesn't care that the league may mangle his brain and will without hesitation cut him the moment his contract is a dollar more than his value."
Duvernay-Tardif has talked in the past about his draft process, and feeling that many teams were skeptical because he had another option. Ryan Fitzpatrick and others with Ivy League backgrounds have expressed similar experiences.
So, in the space where an NFL explanation might help, you start to wonder what the motivation might be and this is at least possible: the NFL doesn't want players advertising outside interests because the NFL wants everything to be about football.
The shame of it is that the league is missing the easiest opportunity imaginable to promote one of its players and education. If Duvernay-Tardif was allowed to add "MD," how many kids watching would notice, wonder what that meant, and perhaps be drawn into medicine?
The NFL has gone several standard deviations too far in policing personal conduct, so why is it standing in the way of highlighting a truly remarkable achievement by one of its own?
This is just nonsense, and for every criticism of the league that goes over the top, here is an example that fits every negative stereotype that's been earned over the years.
Kind of hoped you would approach this with Ned’s attitude— RoyalBall (@royal_ball) June 25, 2018
Oh, I can do that too.
/begins Ned voice/
What do you mean they're not doing it for you? What does that mean? That's a dumb thing to say, why are you doing this? What's the point? I mean, yeah, $15 is way too much to spend on a burger, and the gourmet stuff is overdone and exhausting, and Freddie's does make a good burger so I agree with your point 100 percent, it's a great point, good for you, and may I also say that's a nice shirt you're wearing?
/ends Ned voice/
I actually like, pretty much, all burgers. Except ballpark burgers, or any other burger that comes out of a steamer, with no effort, because the patty and bun just don't work in tandem and at that point you might as well just chew your own arm.
Again, when it comes to burgers, I'm a big tent kind of guy. The Kobe burger at Tannin is amazing, a double Winstead is a timeless classic, the double at Pigwich is amazing, and the dress-your-own at the Flea Market is great. I'm not sure any of those are particularly similar to the others, except that they're all delicious.
But, yeah. In general, spare the energy in trying to come up with The World's Most Interesting Burger. Give me two thin patties, toasted bun, ketchup, and one of two of the following — grilled onion, pickle, tomato, mustard — and I will be forever grateful.
Or, at least, grateful until I'm hungry again.
Sorry. We usually do this kind of thing toward the bottom. But the Royals stink, the Chiefs are idle, college stuff doesn't pick up for another month or two, and I will rarely pass up the opportunity to go Ned Voice.
Me and the family are headed to the K on July 4.Can you give me a reason not to skip the game entirely and just show up for the fireworks?— Chase Peeples (@ChasePeeples1) June 25, 2018
You guys. I get it. The Royals are horrendously bad. They truly are the worst kind of team — bad, old, boring, overpriced and without a wave of talent knocking 'em dead in Class AA or AAA.
But, come on.
You need a reason to show up to a game?
Brisket cheesy corn nachos served in a batting helmet, for one. Cold beer tastes better at a ballgame. That's just science. Kauffman Stadium is one of the best stadiums in baseball, which means it's one of the best stadiums in professional sports.
I stand with my friend Rustin Dodd in saying the Royals have done their fans and legacy a severe disservice by not playing Minnie the Moocher, but they're doing a better job than ever in fully utilizing that gorgeous video board.
Sal Perez is one of baseball's best catchers, particularly when a runner is trying to steal or taking too much of a secondary lead. If you have a kid who wants to play middle infield, Whit Merrifield's footwork and baseball IQ are top shelf.
Mike Moustakas' power and defensive instincts can swing games. Alex Gordon, for anything else you might say about him, remains one of the very best defensive left fielders in the world. Jakob Junis' slider, when it's on. Tim Hill's funky delivery. Brad Keller's progression. Adalberto Mondesi's athleticism.
Also, the Royals are playing the Indians on July 4. That means Francisco Lindor, who may be my favorite and the most exciting player in baseball to watch. Jose Ramirez is 25 years old and a star. Michael Brantley. Edwin Encarnacion swinging hard. No way to know who'll pitch, but it might be Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer or Mike Clevinger's hair.
There's always reason to go to a ballgame, is what I'm saying.
What excites you most about this team and gives you hope for another playoff run in the future? (i.e. why should fans continue watching this season and next?)— Aaron Diffenderfer (@atdiff) June 25, 2018
So, this is a bit different question, and let's be clear:
There is little about this team that excites me. Let me be clear. There are moments. These are good players. I will never turn away from Moose with two on. Perez against a base stealer. Next time Mondesi hits one in a gap, watch him run, tell me that's not exciting.
But I think what you're asking here is more about the future, and the best and most logical reason to hope is that the leadership structure is virtually identical to the one that turned 2006 into a World Series championship.
The farm system isn't nearly what it needs to be, but there are some potential guys there, even before a draft loaded with college pitchers who should move fairly quickly. Seuly Matias continues to hit balls over fences. Nicky Lopez is part of the future. Khalil Lee. MJ Melendez. Nick Pratto. There are others, and the good thing about riding a bullet train toward 100 losses is that it guarantees more prospects on the way.
This is not me telling you another championship is coming soon. If we're honest, the chances of that happening are decidedly less than 50-50, but that's more a statement about what they're trying to accomplish rather than who they are and how they're trying to accomplish it.
Rebuilds fail more often than succeed. The same is true of draft picks, free agent signings, and diets.
But that doesn't mean you don't have a plan. Doesn't mean you don't hope.
Who is next team to win a game - Royals or Chiefs?— Mr. Brightside (@Change_Up19) June 25, 2018
Everybody's got jokes.
Here's a hot take that I may or may not believe by the time the Chiefs season starts: they're going to be the most interesting 8-8 team in recent NFL history.
Since you brought him up, any scuttlebutt about why the Reds cut Herrera?He seems too talented to give up on so quickly.I'm sure he won't be THIS good forever, but he seems to have some value...— rick mathieu (@Rick_M_Olathe) June 25, 2018
Apologies in advance, but man, this is the kind of thing you only talk about around bad teams.
I mean, I get it. He's athletic, a switch-hitter, versatile, fast, competitive, energetic. Still just 25. There's a lot to like.
But it's also true that he's been with the Royals for about 12 minutes, and especially after Friday there is reason to be excited, but "THIS good" means slightly above average production over 5 percent of a full season. He's got a ways to go to catch Lorenzo Cain, is what I'm saying.
I don't know why the Reds gave up on him. Bad teams should have a place for an athletic 25-year-old on the 40 man roster. He has a .346 on-base percentage in 502 plate appearances at Class AAA, so he might be able to get on base and be a problem once there.
My guess is the Reds wanted more power, and more of a projectable hitter, and fourth outfielders should be easy to find. His age isn't a negative, but 25 isn't 22, either. It's also true that all teams make mistakes in personnel evaluation.
Also, my guess is that if Herrera is a part of the future, it's a small part.
With Bonifacio due back. What is this outfield going to look like when the season ends compared to what we started with?— Lucas B (@LucasBerger1) June 25, 2018
We talked about this on the Border Patrol, but even if all he turns into is a cheap fourth outfielder who can play some third base in a pinch, well, that's a positive.
The key is to not let losing seasons become lost seasons, and between Herrera, Brad Keller, Tim Hill, Jorge Soler (if/when he comes back), Jorge Bonifacio (back this week), and a few other potential pieces, the Royals are on the right path.
The opening day outfield: Jon Jay in left, Alex Gordon in center, Jorge Soler in right.
My guess on the most common outfield from here out: Gordon in left, Herrera in center, Bonifacio in right.
Herrera could be a small flash in a sad pan, but there's enough there to be worth an extended look, and I may be the only person in Kansas City who believes Escobar will stop playing everyday at some point. Plus, even if he does, assuming Moustakas is traded, he can play at third.
Whit Merrifield will probably get some time in center, too, particularly on the days Ned wants to play Mondesi and Escobar in the middle infield together.
Well, the biggest one would be trading Sal Perez. The Royals are under no pressure to trade him, but if they made themselves open to the idea, and could get two top prospects or more, I believe they'd be silly not to do it.
The return would be worth more to the Royals in 2021 and beyond than Perez will be, and that's the only thing that should matter at the moment.
I'd listen on Whit Merrifield, too. I'd listen on anyone, actually.
Mondesi would be treated basically the same — prioritize his development, but do it gradually, three or four times a week in the beginning and ramp up from there.
I'd make sure that by the end of the season I have the best possible idea of what Hunter Dozier, Rosie Herrera, Mondesi, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller, Kevin McCarthy, and Tim Hill can be.
I would posture as much as possible, but I would absolutely take the best offer for Mike Moustakas, even if it was the kind of soft return that would anger some fans. I would do this for a lot of reasons, including that he offers no draft pick compensation through free agency, that he'd be a lot happier and deserves to play for a winner, and those plate appearances and time at third can be better used to prepare for the future.
Who knows, if the market craters again this offseason, I'd look into signing him again.
That's the big stuff.
And I'd push the marketing folks to bring back Minnie the Moocher. Rustin's right, you guys.
Which happens first; Royals win a playoff series or the new KCI airport is finished?— Craig A. Brenner (@craig_a_brenner) June 25, 2018
Craig's got jokes.
Looks like the airport will now open sometime in 2022, which is on the ambitious side of the Royals' timeline.
Internally, I believe the Royals are optimistic they'll be competitive sooner than later. I believe that's why they went so heavy on college pitching, and part of why they won't trade Perez. Only four players are signed beyond next season, and only Duffy and Perez are signed for 2021.
If the plan hits, and the prospects come, that's a lot of money they can use to fill some gaps.
I suppose I could be described as skeptically optimistic that this rebuild will work, and I don't think you should be able to just completely fabricate a contradictory new phrase without being mocked and forced to explain so here goes:
I'm skeptical that it'll work, because the history of sports in general and baseball in particular shows that most rebuilds don't work. So it's not skepticism as much as it's realism.
But I'm also optimistic because the club's leadership has done this before, and is presumably smarter and more aware of the challenges now. The loopholes used to get Wil Myers and other "over slot" picks are closed by the current CBA, but those were going to be closed by richer teams catching on anyway.
The pathway to competitive baseball is open, for the right teams that make the right decisions, and even as there are lots of things I disagree with the Royals' leadership on I'm aware they have much more information and experience, and have successfully done this before while I'm still trying to successfully get my kids to pick up their toys.
So, if the new terminal opens in spring or summer 2022, I'm taking the under on Royals' playoff series wins before that but believe it's entirely plausible this ends up as a close race.
Looking up and down this Royals roster, SOMEONE has to represent theteam this year. While I'm guessing your answer will be Moose, who onthis team is most deserving of said Mark Redman Memorial All-Star Gamespot. #MM— JT (@TarH2O23) June 25, 2018
Might end up being Sal Perez.
He's fourth in voting, and a namebrand ballplayer in a way that Moose isn't. Perez is having the worst offensive year of his big league career, but he's made the game five years in a row and I'm not sure anyone would put up a fuss if that turned into six.
Wilson Ramos is winning the vote at the last update, and Gary Sanchez is second. Both are having better seasons than Perez, but after that the drop-off is pretty drastic. If there's room for three catchers, Perez might be your best choice anyway.
The problem with Moose is similar to the problem he had in the free agent, and that the Royals will have in the trade market. He's having a fine year — .255/.312/.463 — but there are a lot of third basemen having better years.
Jose Ramirez is a star, and deservedly leading the vote — .296/.402/.616 with 23 homers and 12 steals.
But even after him, Miguel Andujar (.836), Alex Bregman (.820), Jeimer Candelario (.802), Matt Duffy (.802), and Matt Chapman (.793) are having more productive offensive seasons. Yangervis Solarte (.772) isn't far behind Moose (.774).
Actually, if you're filling out a team with the everybody-gets-at-least-one rule, Whit Merrifield might make more sense than Moose. There would be worse ideas than bringing on Brad Keller for a potential inning.
But, Perez. Especially when the game doesn't matter, put in guys who fans have heard of.
With Felipe Gutierrez coming back and possible reinforcements coming during the summer transfer window, does SKC win any hardware again this season?If so, which ones?Peter Vermes is coming close to cementing a status few will attain.— Tom Hoffmann (@countzerokc) June 25, 2018
I do not claim to follow Sporting the way many do. I watch them when I can, follow as much as I can, but particularly when we're talking about comparisons and projections like this I'll bow to others who put in more time.
That said, yes, absolutely I'd expect Sporting to win something this year. We're only approaching the halfway point, but Sporting is winning the West with the best goal differential. It's currently second for the Supporters Shield, two points behind Atlanta with a match in hand.
The problem recently has been finding goals, but between Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi and Diego Rubio and you mentioned Gutierrez, that's a pretty good place to start. Tim Melia continues to be one of the best keepers in MLS, if not the best. The coach is strong, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler are studs, there are other pieces like Ilie Sanchez and Gerso Fernandes and others, we could go on.
This is a really cool thing happening. It sometimes feels weird talking about Sporting here, because the people who follow it know pretty much everything I'm writing, and it still feels like the people who don't are hard to convince.
But, this is a really, really good team, and the win on Saturday was the kind of thing that seems to happen when teams have special seasons.
This could be another moment for Sporting, you know?
/thinks about USMNT/
/stares into the distance/
Would you let your children play tackle football?— J-D JR (@jimmyjay555) June 25, 2018
Look at Jimmy over here, going for my throat.
The first honest answer is that I don't know. They're 4 and 2, so we've got time, and it seems likely that the decision in 10 years will be easier than would be today — we'll know even more about head injuries, and know more about what can be done to limit them.
The second honest answer is that I hope I don't have to decide. I hope I don't make the decision. I hope they're not interested. I hope they love football, I hope they want to watch it, but I hope they play other sports.
I do think about this a lot. Feels hypocritical to love a sport you don't want your kids to play. Feels hypocritical to make a living in no small part because of a sport you don't want your kids to play.
Scratch all that. It is hypocritical. But that's where I am.
I want my kids to be independent. I want them to make decisions for themselves, and I want them to pursue what they love. In a perfect world they go to college on basketball scholarships, then grad school on academic scholarships, and become independently wealthy by curing all cancers. I also hope they continue to love wings and tacos.
But I don't know how any of this is going to go, and I don't want to be the parent who demands his kids do any certain thing, or strictly forbids them from doing any certain thing. I've seen kids with overly strict parents go off to college. I know how that story too often ends.
So I don't have a great answer for you. Don't have a definitive answer. Just my most honest answer. The only thing I know is that I want what's best for them, like all parents. Figuring out if football is part of that will be difficult, and anxious, but the same can be said of a million things watching them grow up.
Ok. Legit question for the Minutes:— Jon Stephens (@RockhillStrat) June 25, 2018
Of all the famous regional foods, “Maine Lobster, et cetera what is the most overrated? #MellingerMinutes
Well, I assume you mean the second most overrated, behind that weird chili-on-spaghetti-noodles thing in Cincinnati that you should keep away from my face or prepare for fisticuffs.
This is actually pretty hard for me, because I tend to get behind any regional food if it's done right and with passion. People love to argue about pizza, right? Maybe you think deep dish is casserole*, or that St. Louis pizza is gross because Provel isn't a real kind of cheese, and that's all fine. I believe these arguments are performance, and that all pizza is at least good pizza. I'll have some Provel in St. Louis, and I'll eat with a fork in Chicago. I won't leave either table hungry.
*If you haven't seen Jon Stewart's rant on this, it's hilarious, no matter which side of the aisle you're on.
I love Texas brisket, and cajun in New Orleans, and lobster in New England, and cheesesteaks in Philly, and even if I think they're trying a little too hard with the fries on the sandwiches in Pittsburgh, sure, why not, let's go to Primanti Brothers.
But you asked a question, and I'm going to give you an answer, because I genuinely believe with all of my heart and soul that they do barbecue completely wrong in North Carolina.
I've tried it all there. Trust me. My mom lived there for 20 years or so, and she really wanted me to love the barbecue there. She used to tell me the trick was to not actually think of it as barbecue, to think of it as something else entirely, and to not compare it to the places back home.
But, you know. I am but a man.
The sauce is thin and often flavorless. The brisket is too often dry and thinly sliced. Some of the meat is good — they can throw hickory chips on the coals and set a smoker to 250 like anyone else — but they screw it up in too many ways.
I don't say this mockingly. I don't say this with accusation. I say this with sadness, with empathy, with a desire to help.
Because I just don't get it. People there have traveled to Kansas City. They've been in Texas. They've eaten there. I respect the pride, and in some ways the stubbornness, but there has to be a point you accept that you've been lapped. Concede the hole, tip your cap, and give your meats some flavor.
What is your earliest KC sports memory, what drew you into this career?What would you be if you weren’t a sports writer?— J-D JR (@jimmyjay555) June 25, 2018
My first sports memory was the 1984 NLCS, between the Cubs and Padres. It's funny what sticks in the mind, you know? But my grandma was the biggest Cubs fan in the world, and I never heard her swear, but I'm quite certain the closest I ever got was when that ball went through Leon Durham's legs.
That was the seventh inning of the deciding fifth game, the inning the Cubs went from ahead to behind, and I swear I heard her say that backup Bill Buckner should've been in the game.
My earliest Kansas City sports memory came in the next year's playoffs. I remember watching, mesmerized, as it felt like the entire world was watching our team.
I remember the stadium lights shining off the helmets, creating a sort of comet across the old televisions screen when guys were at the plate.
I remember when the Royals went down three games to one to St. Louis, hearing one of my dad's friends say they'd just win the next three like they did against the Blue Jays.
I remember The George Brett Game, and I remember Jorge Orta and Dane Iorg and my mom asking if Denkinger really missed the call.
"Yep," my dad said. "Bad call."
I remember Joaquin Andujar losing his mind, I remember Darryl Motley homering down the left field line, I remember the final out and Bret hugging Brett.
I can't say whether that pushed me into this job. I'm sure it had a part, but there were too many other moments I fell in love with sports to say any of them were definitive. Mostly, I just knew that I loved most everything about sports, and that I also liked writing.
We had four newspapers delivered to our house when I was a kid, so as soon as I realized sports and writing could be combined in one job, that seemed like the one for me. Literally, I've never seriously thought of doing anything else. I'm well aware how weird this all is.
I've thought a lot about what I'd do if forced to find a real job. If I could start over, in college, and at the risk of going George Costanza here, I'd try to get into architecture. I used to draw buildings and stadiums all the time as a kid, and every trip to a big city included walking around and staring at all the buildings. We used to go to Chicago three times a year to see my grandparents, and I had to go to the Sears Tower each time.
But, if The Star wised up and fired me tomorrow, I have zero idea what I'd try to do.
I'd probably try to get my friend Jeremy Danner fired, and then take his job as "ambassador brewer," because if there's one thing I've proven as an adult it's the ability to continually make a living despite not having a real job.
This is like asking who Mizzou should use to print this year's Final Four banner— Scott Cruce (@SLLKC) June 25, 2018
I enjoyed this exchange.
For the record, Mizzou making the Final Four is much likelier than Kansas making a bowl game.
Like, by a factor of eleventy hundred.
I'm a movie buff. Baseball movies have always been special to me. What are your top 10 baseball movies? (please don't have Bull Durham ahead of The Natural and why doesn't 61* get more attention?)— Tanner Funk (@FunkT50) June 25, 2018
A list? A list! Mine will not be popular. Bring me your ill-informed takes.
10. Bull Durham. Maybe it's fatigue — of Costner, of the lines, of whatever — but I consider it vastly overrated.
9. A League of Their Own. Hanks.
8. Rookie of the Year. Completely preposterous premise. I like it anyway. Bonus points for the Barry Bonds strikeout scene.
7. Field of Dreams. Completely preposterous premise. The kind of movie I feel like I should hate, but somehow works. Fathers and sons and baseball, man.
6. 61*. Love history, especially baseball history.
5. 42. Same.
4. Eight Men Out. Same!
3. The Sandlot. Just a masterpiece for a certain generation of kid.
2. The Natural. I believe it's one of the best movies ever.
1. Major League. A damn classic.
This week, I'm particularly grateful for the way our kids look at their older cousins, who are in town visiting for the week. I know there will be a point when peer pressure is terrible, but right now peer pressure is encouraging the older one to swim without his floaty thing and the younger one to talk so I'm all in.