Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Whit not an All-Star (?), Jeff Long and KU, Chiefs fears, Odom's crossroads

Whit Merrifield follows through on an RBI single to score Adalberto Mondesi in the ninth inning of a July game at Kauffman Stadium.
Whit Merrifield follows through on an RBI single to score Adalberto Mondesi in the ninth inning of a July game at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

The Kansas City Royals are a professional baseball team that plays at the highest level of their sport. Their schedule includes games nearly every day. They have won exactly four times in the last 37 days.

The Kansas City Chiefs are a professional football team that plays at the highest level of their sport. Their schedule includes one game per week. They won five times in the first 31 days of their most recent season.

The 2004 Royals were so inept that four of their five starters had ERAs of 5.35 or higher, they promoted a nonprospect for a start at Yankee Stadium to save a few grand, and once batted Ruben Mateo cleanup. They never went 37 days with just four wins.

The 2005 Royals were so terrible they broke their joyous manager, lost 106 games, and once began a game with one out because they sent the wrong leadoff batter to the plate. They never went 37 days with just four wins.

The 2006 Royals were so lost they let their GM travel the country even after everyone knew he’d be fired. When the new GM took over, he was stunned at how backwards the organization was, but swore his new team would neither finish last or lose 100 games. They finished 34 games out of first, 16 games out of next-to-last, and lost 100 games. They never went 37 days with just four wins.

This franchise has a pretty high bar when it comes to stink, in other words, and this team is clearing it with style.

Last night, Danny Duffy struck out nine and walked just two over six innings. He was brilliant. The Royals lost.

Nine days ago, Brad Keller gave up just one run across eight innings. He’s one of the true bright spots in this miserable season. The Royals lost that night, too.

Last month, Ian Kennedy threw eight shutout innings against the Reds, one of baseball’s worst teams. In the last five years, teams are 495-42 when supported by such an effort. The Royals lost, of course.

They lost their season opener scoring seven, and they’ve twice lost giving up just one. They’ve lost from ahead, and lost from behind, lost because of errors and pitching and especially a lack of offense. They have lost, over and over and over again, enough that it should change the way the franchise sees its future.

Because, this is hard to believe now, but the idea was to put enough into this specific team to compete. Maybe not win, probably not make the playoffs, but at least enough to believe and maintain a competitive atmosphere for young players to develop.

That sounds a bit like a cruel joke now, but it’s true, and the lone positive to come of this is a new opportunity. Because out of desperation often comes inspiration, and without this silly self-assigned goal of pretending to almost be good enough to dream of a second wild card spot, the Royals can truly tear down without regret and start anew.

This week, we’ll have a comprehensive look at how the Royals got this bad this quickly, and an in-depth analysis of how they can get out. It will come in two parts, a state of the franchise now and in the future.

Please look for it later in the week.

The reading recommendation is Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax, and the eating recommendation is pepperoni and mushroom at Caddyshack.

Please give me a follow on Facebook and Twitter, and as always, thanks for reading and thanks for your help.

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Well, of course he deserved it.

But the All-Star Game is only sometimes about who deserves it.

I’m actually happy this turned out the way it did. Every year when awards or Hall of Fame selections are announced we get to hear how stupid writers and media are, but it’s nice to have a reminder that players get it wrong, too.

Some of this is that players are busy, and don’t put in the time. Maybe they vote for their friends. Maybe they vote for whomever they last saw have a good game on the other side, or a highlight on the TVs in the clubhouse.

Or — and this is wild, I know — maybe the selection of awards and All-Star spots is by definition subjective and personal to many and disagreement is both inevitable and part of the value.

Everyone has some sort of bias, and mine is pretty obvious here, but I believe this with all my heart: some collection of media members will produce the best and most thoughtful selections possible.

That’s not because we’re smarter. We’re not. But the vote* means enough to us that we will research, think, ask questions, and seek guidance from those in the game.

* And, if we’re honest, the potential blowback of bad selections.

No system will ever be perfect, and it’s true that a man with a .255 on-base percentage and by far the worst offensive numbers at his position should not be an All-Star. When that happens, it’s a miss, either because the wrong selection was made or the system requires a rep from every team no matter how bad they are or some combination of the two.

Whit Merrifield deserves to be in the game more than Sal Perez, but this is the system we have, and it’s worth noting that the system has been changed many, many times over the years. It’s always been imperfect, always will. People have always complained about it, and they always will.

If you’re absolutely honest with yourself, that’s part of the fun.

Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield turned in a five for five performance, for the first time in his career, during Sunday's July 8, 2018 game against the Boston Red Sox.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I will always say the royals missed on quick rebuild because of that mini-streak right before all-star break. The haul of prospects from trading away Hosmer, Moustakas, cain, Escobar, Herrera, Vargas, Minor, and Moylan should have accelerated the rebuild. Why didnt that happen</p>&mdash; Thomas Karlac (@ThomasKarlac) <a href="https://twitter.com/ThomasKarlac/status/1016333217916432386?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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This is hindsight, and even as the leader of the Needed To Choose Win Or Rebuild After 2016 train, I consider this unfair.

Dayton Moore was always going to give that group the benefit of the doubt, and on July 28 of last year the Royals had won nine in a row and were 2 1/2 games clear — not back, but clear — of a playoff spot.

The two teams immediately behind them in the playoff spot were the Rays, who could not hit, and the Twins, who quite literally had no intention of competing that year.

The trade brought in a veteran, reliable, and well-liked hitter to fill a hole in the lineup and some needed help with the pitching staff.

One day after being acquired in a trade, Melky Cabrera joined the Royals on Monday, July 31, 2017, in Baltimore.

Again, I thought the Royals should’ve blown it up or gone all-in the previous winter. That would’ve been best for the immediate and long-term future. But once you’re there, owners of a playoff spot in the last season of club control of a core that’s already won two pennants and a World Series, how could you possibly blow it up?

Particularly when everyone you mentioned with the exception of Herrera would’ve been a two-month rental? The haul would’ve helped, for sure, but it would not have been enormous.

No, the time to trade — if that’s the path you choose — was the previous winter.

Prospects break your heart, there are always more to get in the draft, and if you have that situation in front of you and blow it up I’m just not sure how you can have trust.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">When does the Royals’ “Kauffman is SO big you guys so we don’t need power and we want lots of flyball pitchers” narrative get called into serious question? Betts and Altuve going to the fountains every single time they come to KC kind of destroys that.</p>&mdash; Sweet Life Matt (@LMTYAMatt) <a href="https://twitter.com/LMTYAMatt/status/1016332699236225028?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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You guys, I definitely would’ve taken the under on “2 1/2 years after the parade before the Royals begin taking misguided and amnesic criticism,” but here we are.

THE ROYALS LITERALLY WON THE WORLD SERIES IN LARGE PART BY GOING ALL-IN ON BUILDING A TEAM AROUND THEIR BALLPARK WITH SPEED AND FLYBALL PITCHERS.

What’s more, the subsequent disaster was sparked at least in part by going away from that philosophy.

The Royals, like all teams, would love to have Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve on their team. That would be great!

But there are at least a couple things to keep in mind here.

1. When Betts and Altuve come here to hit baseballs into the fountains, they have the advantage of facing Royals pitchers. Their task would be much more difficult against even a mediocre pitching staff.

2. One of the Royals’ top and most interesting prospects — leads the minor leagues in home runs.

3. Part of the Royals’ focus on speed, athleticism, and flyball pitchers is that those attributes were generally undervalued in baseball. Moneyball was never about walks or on-base percentage. It was about zigging when everyone else is zagging. That speed and athleticism were generally undervalued was particularly helpful to the Royals, because those qualities “play up” at Kauffman Stadium.

4. Ballparks matter, and with Kauffman Stadium one of the largest in baseball, the Royals typically have a harder time signing free agent power hitters because they know their numbers will suffer.

In part because of the Royals’ success in 2014 and 2015, athleticism is being valued more. The Royals have to search for the next edge, and at least some of that may be in focusing more on the Pacific Rim and other parts of the non-Latin world.

OK. We’re at that point again where I’m tired of talking about the Royals. Let’s move on.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Since I know you don&#39;t want to answer any Royals questions this week, while it&#39;s still early, how much should KU fans be counting on having Silvio De Sousa next year? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MM?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MM</a></p>&mdash; JT (@TarH2O23) <a href="https://twitter.com/TarH2O23/status/1016324358535548928?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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My man.

I don’t think anyone knows exactly how the investigation will end. This is much bigger than De Sousa, much bigger than Kansas, and there are certain factors outside the school’s control.

Maybe the NCAA decides to go hardline on this. Maybe they decide that ignorance cannot be a defense, and that they need to be as strict as possible about rules and eligibility because the feds are involved and that might mean consequences for the sport and the future of administrators. Maybe that means harsh and unforgiving decisions.

That’s certainly possible.

But that seems unlikely.

According to new charges filed April 10, 2018 against Adidas executive James Gatto, a mother and guardian of the two unnamed KU players are said to have benefited from illicit payments, which were made without knowledge of the university.

Assuming no Kansas employees or boosters handled cash or otherwise can be connected to overwhelming evidence they knew of payments, and assuming the university did not hold back any evidence during the process of De Sousa reclassifying* then it’s hard to see how this dents the program.

* And, let’s be honest, if either of those happened KU deserves whatever penalties it gets just for being dumb and/or arrogant and/or irresponsibly sloppy.

Again, assuming none of the above happened, penalties from the NCAA would essentially be an admission of the governing body’s own incompetence.

Punishments for Kansas would have to be mirrored across the country, from blue bloods to mid-majors to one-bid leagues, and would irrevocably harm the NCAA’s biggest cash cow, which is the men’s basketball tournament.

This is obviously super cynical, but any of that happening would be a surprise.

My hope has always been that the FBI has “the goods” on everyone, and by “the goods” I mean a clear picture of the reality created and incentivized by the NCAA’s outdated and dishonest ways.

My hope is that with the information, the NCAA can stop its pearl-clutching, and address the world it created. That doesn’t have to mean salaried players.

It could just mean allowing athletes to be paid for ads, or receive financial incentives for staying in and progressing in school, or some other form of change to make college athletics more honest, less exploitive, and easier for fans to embrace.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">&quot;Can you talk a little bit about Barry Odom?&quot; Has there been a local coach in recent memory more at a crossroads? Pretty sure everything from COY to fired is on the table, based on expectations for this year...</p>&mdash; AJ (@AJTrueSon) <a href="https://twitter.com/AJTrueSon/status/1016326626559307782?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Huh. This is a good question.

You’re right about Odom. To me, he’s in the process of proving his worth, but you can certainly imagine a four-win season with a quarterback who turned down the draft and will receive at least some Heisman consideration being tough to recover from.

He hasn’t had a clean year yet. The six straight losses to FBS competition in 2016. The 1-5 start last year. I can sit here and honestly say it’s impressive and a sign of coaching chops to get that group to recover with six straight wins but the bowl game was a disaster and memories tend to run short in college football.

The 35-3 loss to Purdue was the most concerning moment of last season, and now Mizzou plays in West Lafayette. The conference schedule is doable, at least by SEC standards, but still includes a game in Tuscaloosa and a home date with Georgia.

But I don’t think I’d call any of this unprecedented. This is what coaches do. They arrive at crossroads. The most dramatic might be Ned Yost, who I still think might’ve been fired if the Ventura mistake in the Wild Card game led to a loss. Instead, he’s the winningest manager in franchise history.

Bill Self had one. Remember when he lost in the first round two years in a row? Bruce Weber has been through this, every year it seems. If Frank Martin didn’t feel like he was at something of a crossroads, maybe he wouldn’t have left. Looking back, Norfolk State may’ve been Frank Haith’s crossroads moment. How much different might Mike Anderson have looked at Mizzou and vice versa if they’d won the 2009 regional final?

This is how it goes.

My bet would be that Odom and Mizzou have a nice fall. I believe that coaches and athletes reveal their worth in times of crisis, so I believe Odom has shown significant chops already and now has his most talented team.

But, if you asked me in the sixth inning of that Wild Card game, I would’ve told you my column was going to be about how Yost needed to be fired.

Missouri Tigers football coach Barry Odom, speaking on June 13, 2018, believes he has the right veterans in place to help Mizzou have a productive summer of workouts.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">What&#39;s the most disappointing possible outcome for the Chiefs? Would a sub .500 record, or a 13-3 record with a home loss in the divisional be worse?</p>&mdash; Chandler Wilson (@cjdub11) <a href="https://twitter.com/cjdub11/status/1016328695852814336?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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The Kansas City is strong in this question.

The most disappointing possible outcome for the Chiefs is that Patrick Mahomes is not, in fact, one of the best players GM Brett Veach has ever seen in his life.

The most disappointing possible outcome is that the hype has gone so far past the substance, and that Mahomes doesn’t stop trying to be Superman on every snap, and that the best and most amazing throws happen with the Chiefs down 10because he’s thrown two interceptions already.

But you’re not giving me that as an option.

The more disappointing would be the bad record, because if your first-year quarterback goes 13-3 and then loses his first playoff game you can sell that. Dan Marino lost his first playoff game. John Elway lost his first two. You can believe in 13-3 and that the experience of being in the playoffs so quickly can only help.

Heck, that argument makes a lot of sense to me. Mahomes is 22 years old. This is not a finished product.

But if they go 6-10 or something, it probably means that Mahomes didn’t hold up, and those concerns are much bigger.

Speaking of 6-10...

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">More likely to happen:<br>Chiefs go 6-10 or 10-6. <br>Detailed answer please</p>&mdash; Tyler Watterson (@thebiggszone) <a href="https://twitter.com/thebiggszone/status/1016374145469186048?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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10-6.

They went 10-6 last year and should have a better defense, and more talent surrounding the quarterback.

A lot of this depends on injuries, obviously. If you tell me Eric Berry will suffer another season-ending injury in the opener, or that Dee Ford and Justin Houston will have their backs and knees go out, or that Travis Kelce won’t play, then this all changes.

But the division isn’t very good. The quarterback might be excellent. The run defense will almost certainly be better — or at least not as bad? — and Berry might be that side’s single most important player.

It seems more likely that this is will be a good team than a bad one, is what I’m saying, but 6-10 is well within reason and without using the injury excuse this is how it would happen:

Justin Houston just isn’t the same. Lacks the explosion, which makes him good instead of great, which is a particular problem because Ford’s speed rush only does so much and there’s nobody on the other side to keep Houston from facing constant double teams.

Meanwhile, Chris Jones is the only dangerous player on the line, which means the run defense is still poor and even though Kendall Fuller is a stud and Steven Nelson is far better than most Chiefs fans accept there is too much time for quarterbacks to make plays.

Maybe that would all be OK, but the offensive line takes a step back, which means the 14 running backs are all held down and Mahomes is forced into far too many quick and desperate decisions. They lose a string of games in the 30s because they’re always playing from behind, and the offense-defense divide that all football teams face builds in a real way.

All of that is possible.

I tend to believe this group has proven too much to believe any of that is likely, but it’s there, lurking.

The Kansas City Chiefs will play in primetime six times in 2018. Once on Thursday Night Football, three times on Sunday Night Football and twice more on Monday Night Football.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">There’s a huge non-con game in Week 2 of the College Football season in Manhattan, versus Mississippi State. You see yourself being there to cover it?</p>&mdash; Neal Hargate (@knealio1) <a href="https://twitter.com/knealio1/status/1016329414903132161?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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You sound like a man who wants a list of the top 10 area college football games:

10. Kansas vs. Oklahoma State, Sept. 29. A token inclusion of a KU game, chosen because this might be the first game after David Beaty is fired.

9. K-State vs. Mississippi State, Sept. 8. MSU shows up in some top 25 polls, and this is K-State’s first look at an FBS squad. I wish I could be there, but will be flying to LA that day to see the Chiefs’ opener at the Chargers.

8. Mizzou at Purdue, Sept. 15. We mentioned this earlier, but that drubbing against Purdue last year was the low point of the season. The symbolism of the rematch will be hard to ignore.

7. K-State vs. Texas, Sept. 29. Looking forward to people being surprised K-State beat Texas again.

6. Mizzou at Alabama, Oct. 13. Drew Lock against Nick Saban? Yes please.

5. Mizzou at Florida, Nov. 3. This is one of those games that will swing Mizzou’s season, and determine progress in the SEC East.

4. K-State at West Virginia, Sept. 22. Road game, and West Virginia is generally picked to finish similarly to K-State.

3. Mizzou at South Carolina, Oct. 6. Similar to the Florida game, a matchup that will go a long way in the season’s success. This is Mizzou’s first game after the bye.

2. K-State at TCU, Nov. 3. Late in the year, solid program, you can imagine this being the difference in what kind of bowl K-State makes.

1. Mizzou vs. Georgia, Sept. 22. These rankings are obviously something of a dart throw, but this one has all the ingredients: Lock against a premier defense, at home, a puncher’s chance at a season-defining upset.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Was Jeff Long a good hire? His main football hire, Bielema, had a bad first and last year, but was pretty good in between, and went to 3 straight Rose Bowl games at Wisconsin. He’s not bad. Also, who does he go after once Beaty likely gets let go during or after the season?</p>&mdash; Kyle Coffey (@kylecoffey11) <a href="https://twitter.com/kylecoffey11/status/1016335406303006720?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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The hire makes sense. Jesse Newell covered some of this, but Kansas needed someone with football credibility, fundraising chops, and it would always help if the hire felt like a real change from Sheahon Zenger.

Long checks all the boxes.

He was the first College Football Playoff selection chair, led a $320 million fundraising project at Arkansas, and comes with a relative national gravitas that Zenger always lacked. Hiring a football coach at Kansas is a very different thing than Arkansas or any other SEC school, but the Bret Bielema hire was surprising, out-of-the-box, and generally praised at the time.

That Long stood by his coach can only help him when he’s looking to make a hire at Kansas.

I don’t know who Long will hire. Nobody does. We can come up with names, think of who he’s “connected” to, but we don’t know who would be interested and what parameters he might have.

Zenger was limited in his last hire, for instance, unable to pay buyouts or a market wage. I assume Long got some assurances that he could make a competitive offer on the next coach but he also got a sweetheart contract that includes a $1.5 million salary and protection against possible sanctions from the FBI investigation.

That’s good work if you can get it.

The hire makes sense, is what I’m saying, but most hires make sense.

Fewer work out, and this is a monumental task in front of Long, to save football by completing a massive fundraising project for a wretched program, and hire a competent coach to what might be the most difficult job in major college football.

But, yeah. Getting paid six figures per month makes it easier.

Jeff Long will be the new athletic director at the University of Kansas, the school announced in a release Thursday afternoon. Long, who was previously athletic director at Arkansas from 2008-17, replaces Sheahon Zenger, who was fired on May 21.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Do you have a take on that NFL fans ranking that came out a couple weeks ago?</p>&mdash; Jonathan (@jzad_2011) <a href="https://twitter.com/jzad_2011/status/1016336758311735297?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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I do.

The ranking, like all rankings of fans, is garbage. Pure garbage. There are lots of reasons for this.

First, if you just looked at the list, you might mistake it for a ranking of franchise success, or pure brand recognition.

What makes more sense — that Cowboy fans are simply superior to a random college of humans interested in the other 31 teams, or that the franchise’s brand and history has generated a self-perpetuating business success?

What makes more sense — that Patriots fans are legitimately the second-best in the NFL, or that their ridiculous success makes it easier to engage when compared to, say, Browns fans?

But here’s something else. Cowboys fans aren’t all that different from Saints fans or Jets fans or Raiders fans or Chiefs fans or Minnesota Lynx fans.

We’re all people, with our own lives and priorities and random crises and meetings we have to attend. The difference is in the teams we choose to root for. Some of that means self-selecting, because naturally more people are going to gravitate to the Patriots than the Jaguars, but more than that it means teams generally get the fan support they deserve.

There are exceptions, because the Browns left Cleveland once and more than zero people paid money to watch the 2012 Chiefs, but generally this is true.

That might be my biggest annoyance with this list, or any like it. The mere creation of such nonsense turns the tables away from reality, creating this illusion that it’s up to fans to support teams and not up to teams to make sure they’re worth supporting.

That reality has always existed, but never more than today. We have long been at the point where being an American often means having to actively filter out activities you would be interested in with enough time and money.

Right now on my Instapaper feed are hundreds of pieces I am sure are terrific, but I just haven’t found time to read. We have a weird spot in our law where we took down two enormous weeds we used to think were just large if ugly bushes. That’s a weekend, at least, to get where we’d want it.

Our kids need to be played with, we have friends we want to see, jobs we have to do, bills we have to pay, books we’d like to read, things around the house that should be fixed, shows we’d like to watch, a dog we’d like to walk, and food we’d like to cook. We are, in other words, probably a lot like you and many people you know.

That’s a big wall to climb for a sports team to be worth your time and money, and let’s be honest, you sometimes give a team time and money not because you’re A True Fan, but because you want something to do on a Saturday.

This whole nonsense about fans needing to prove their worth is so off base, insulting, and dangerous to teams if they buy into it.

So, yes. I do have a take on that dumb list, but it has nothing to do with the Chiefs ranking 30th or the Patriots ranking second or anything else you might think.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Most hyped athletes KC area has had, maybe ranked in some form of list? Mahomes seems like the leader by a wide margin</p>&mdash; JHirst (@JHirst941) <a href="https://twitter.com/JHirst941/status/1016358345459019776?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Welllllllll, I’m quite certain I’ll forget about some, but why the heck not. Let’s do this, and for our purposes here, my definition of hyped is the level of discussion and expectation before the athlete in question played for a local team.

This definition makes it impossible to include the Rush brothers, for instance, or Tom Watson, but I think the spirit of your question is more about pro and college teams anyway.

10. Bubba Starling. Maybe this is recency bias, but I do recall a Royals official calling Starling’s selection the most important draft pick the franchise would ever make. His point was about the athleticism, the local connection, the building of a star that could make the Royals a bigger deal in Kansas City.

9. Clint Hurdle. Guy was on the cover of dang Sports Illustrated.

8. Andrew Wiggins. I’ll admit it. I went to his first scrimmage and wrote about it. Not my proudest moment.

7. Eric Hosmer. The single most significant moment of the Royals’ rebuild was his debut in May 2011. I had to skip a concert with my wife that night, and she wasn’t even a little mad.

6. Michael Porter Jr. The nation’s No. 1 recruit, with such deep ties to the university, signing with a program that had spent the previous three seasons throwing up on itself. His on-court production was obviously a huge disappointment, but his presence was an undeniable positive and a real help in building back credibility.

5. Tony Van Zant. I’m taking the old-timers’ word on this.

4. Wilt Chamberlain. Same.

3. Alex Gordon. The comparisons to George Brett were as inevitable as they were ridiculous. I covered the Royals at the time, and promised myself I wouldn’t write about them. But once George Brett himself said he was honored by the comparison, well, I had no choice. Gordon received two standing ovations before he saw a big league pitch.

2. Joe Montana. Did you know he was 14-5 in the playoffs with four Super Bowl wins with the 49ers? You did? OK, did you know he was 2-2 with a concussion and zero Super Bowl appearances with the Chiefs? You did? And you want me to do what to myself?

1. Patrick Mahomes. You guys. I believe this is true. I believe the combination of his talent, the Chiefs’ 34 years without drafting a quarterback in the first round, the playoff disasters, and the culture of 2018 have given us the most hyped athlete in Kansas City history.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I think it’s a good idea for media to have a burner account, so they can like things they don’t want public. But to reply to your public account is bad look. What say you?</p>&mdash; Steve Mac (@GoodRoyals) <a href="https://twitter.com/GoodRoyals/status/1016328422811815937?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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I could not care less about burner accounts beyond the ability make and laugh at jokes.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Are the Royals finding the right balance between playing youth and keeping veterans on display as trade bait?<br><br>Now my serious question: When the Royals trade Whit, are you will to act as an interim &quot;sexiest dude in Kansas City&quot; until we can find a better choice? God help us.</p>&mdash; Tim Fitzgerald (@LifeofFitz) <a href="https://twitter.com/LifeofFitz/status/1016351538699276288?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Fitz.

Also, the answer to just about any “sexiest in Kansas City” question is Patrick Mahomes because there are thousands of guys in town who would enthusiastically drop their girlfriends for him.

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I’m probably like a lot of you in we have dozens of cookbooks in our house, and we hardly look at any of them.

There’s a braised short rib recipe from Carolina Cooking, which my mom got us shortly after we got married. I’ve made it every year at Christmas, and it’s delicious. We have the short ribs for dinner, and for brunch a variation of an egg strata which I first had at a friend’s house.

I’ve done beef skewers from a Williams-Sonoma book, and breakfast tostadas from Sarah Foster’s Casual Cooking, and I bring all this up because my mom got us those books, too, and I was raised to believe she’s reading this right now so I want to tell you the cookbooks aren’t a total waste.

But most of the stuff we cook is either word of mouth, or just winging it. I use the beef stroganoff recipe my mom raised us on. Most of what I do with my smoker is at least indirectly related to an absurdly generous email from an amazing reader named Evan Rist, and the best burgers I’ve ever made came from a recipe by Kenji Lopez-Alt, which I saw from Mitchell Schwartz’s Twitter feed.

I’ve since marked like a dozen more recipes to try from Kenji’s website, including jerk chicken, egg mcmuffin, and lobster rolls..

But we do wing it a lot. One of my wife’s great gifts is this ability to recreate something she had at a restaurant. We’ve done her favorite sandwich from a place that no longer exists in Lawrence, a bunch of salads, and something relatively close to a Chipotle bowl.

The internet is great for a billion reasons, but it may be best for cooking. Any recipe is available immediately, often with video explainers, and the ones with reviews are essentially like word-of-mouth.

If you have some stuff I should try, please let me know.

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I did almonds last week. You have to put some fat in there to get them crispy, and it’s a total crapshoot with the seasoning, they turned out pretty good. I like mine spicy, but generally used this recipe. The problem is it seems like a lot of work to get the smoker going just for some almonds, but I just let the fire keep going after a brisket.

This week, I’m particularly grateful for a night with some of my best friends in the world last week. A few of them live overseas, so we don’t get together as often as I’d like, but I don’t know the last time I laughed so often or so hard.

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