Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Are Royals perfectly bad? Also, Kietzman’s Reid comment & more

Kevin Kietzman let go from 810 for comments on Andy Reid’s family life

Kevin Kietzman, the former host of Sports Radio 810 WHB's Between the Lines, made what many called controversial comments on Andy Reid's family life.
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Kevin Kietzman, the former host of Sports Radio 810 WHB's Between the Lines, made what many called controversial comments on Andy Reid's family life.

The first question answered here was going to be a simple one submitted by Brandon Sieckman:

How awful are the Royals?

But then, going through the questions, you fine folks submitted enough variations of the same theme that I thought we’d just handle it here. We’ve addressed this before, many ways, about how the 2019 Royals are a bizarre juxtaposition of encouraging individual performances surrounded by enough stink and bad luck, but mostly stink, that they are tracking toward 107 losses.

But I’m not sure we’ve ever put it this plainly. The question is direct, and it deserves a direct answer.

The Royals are perfectly awful.

Effectively awful.

Productively awful.

I mean, here we are, 79 games in and a rare positive stretch of four wins in five games halted by three losses in four (including Wily Peralta giving up the walk-off homer in Cleveland on Monday night) and for those of us who see value in losing it’s hard to say how this season could be going better.

I don’t mean that literally, of course. One way it could be better is if they were 52-27 instead of 27-52. But that was never realistic, so if 2019 was always going to be a step toward competing in 2021 or so this has been a masterclass in how to lose effectively.

This is a list of the most important things for the Royals to accomplish coming into this season:

Do everything possible to support and help Adalberto Mondesi become a star.

Give opportunities to younger players and hope some emerge.

Develop the next core of stars, most of which began the season in the low levels of the minor leagues.

Continue to put high-end talent into the farm system.

I mean, 4-for-4, right?

Mondesi is on the injured list, and his production has slipped recently as he’s appeared to grow tired at times and frustrated at others, but he’s on pace for 33 doubles, 16 triples, 12 homers and 55 steals. His defense is transitioning from flashing to consistently great. The plate discipline still makes him vulnerable to slumps, and he still needs to prove he can stay healthy focused, but this is an unequivocal success so far.

Gleyber Torres is the future of the Yankees, even with all the talent around him, and he’s been worth 2.2 WAR compared to 2.1 for Mondesi, according to FanGraphs.

Hunter Dozier is the other one doing the most with the opportunity, currently sixth in slugging and fifth in on-base percentage. Jorge Soler is on pace for more than 40 home runs, and there are signs that his ability to get on base is coming back. Brad Keller has been inconsistent but mostly good. Jakob Junis, Jorge Lopez, and others have struggled but this is what progress looks like.

In the minor leagues, Bubba Starling is having the best season of his professional career. Brady Singer forced his way to Double A quicker than planned*. Daniel Lynch is rising. Jackson Kowar has a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The hitting numbers in Wilmington are basically a crime zone, but this is positive in the aggregate.

*He’s still looking for those sea legs, by the way. Has given up 15 earned runs in his first 16 2/3 innings there.

Additionally, No. 2 overall pick Bobby Witt Jr. might be the highest-ceiling prospect the Royals have ever drafted.

Which brings us to the true genius of the Royals’ brand of stink: they’re tracking for the No. 2 overall pick again next year, in what is said to be a terrific draft class.

When the winning time comes the Royals will need to be more than the sum of their parts. That’s how they did it in 2014, and that’s how they’ll have to do it again.

But until then, it sure doesn’t hurt to be way less than the sum of their parts. It’s how you draft the next wave of stars.

Club officials won’t like reading any of this, but on some level they know it’s true. Losing 107 is worse than 95 for fans, and worse for clubhouse morale.

But it’s brilliant for the future.

Now, the catch: if Mondesi doesn’t rediscover his mojo when he’s back from the injured list the whole thing will start to feel a little different.

This week’s reading recommendation is Ben Reiter on The Improbable Reinvention of A-Rod, and the eating recommendation is the potato nachos (curly fries obviously) at Talk of the Town.

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

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That’s an owner decision, obviously, and without talking to him (David Glass didn’t return messages for this recent column) my guess on an answer is this:

A lot.

My sense is that Glass and Moore have a strong relationship.

Moore is very loyal, and will forever appreciate that Glass promised and followed through with the most important parts of why he left what was basically a GM-in-waiting situation in Atlanta.

In turn, Glass has, in some ways, learned how to be a good owner from Moore. The plan that Moore presented in the interview process™* has become reality.

*See what I did there?!?

Glass went from a reputation as one of the game’s worst owners to winning a World Series championship in a small market. That’s a hell of a thing, and Glass is smart enough to know the baseball people he hired made that happen.

Also, let’s just be honest here, Moore does a good job keeping the payroll low. That’s important to a businessman.

Right now, the indications I can see — one more time, I want to be clear I haven’t talked to Glass — are that the owner is committed and prepared to see another rebuild through.

That means he’s braced for a bad record this year, another one next year, and maybe even another one in 2021. Now, there are degrees here. If this thing tumbles and the Royals lose 112 or something this season and 110 more next year, well, deuces.

But Glass also did this once already, and would presumably have more confidence and patience than he otherwise might because he has a picture of himself holding the World Series trophy on his wall.

The success of 2014 and 2015 doesn’t earn Moore a lifetime scholarship, but it is the most emphatic bit of proof possible that he’s capable of leading the Royals back to the playoffs.

I guess I’d say it like this. Glass trusts Moore. He does not trust him blindly, or without reservation. But he trusts the man.

As long as that holds, Moore will be the general manager.

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Jason Vargas told a beat writer he’d “knock you the (eff) out, bro,” and that is neither common nor unprecedented.

Work in or around sports long enough and you will see stuff like this. I’ve seen managers F-bomb writers, and executives poke reporters in the chest with a finger, and athletes use threats and insults both direct and indirect.

Sometimes, it should be said, the media members have earned it.

Rarely, it should also be noted, is it specifically or solely about an athlete and a reporter.

Most times, it’s the symptom of a context that’s long gone tense. Most times, it’s about a manager without job security, or a player worried about a demotion, or someone trying to prove a point or just change the energy in a season going the wrong way.

Vargas always seemed laid back to me in his four years with the Royals. He answered every question I asked, almost always as quickly and plainly as possible. He was neither friendly nor unfriendly. He was ... fine.

I’ve been cursed out by coaches, athletes and executives in the pros, and by coaches in college. It’s inevitable. Once, when I was covering high schools, I was literally called into the principal’s office. That was weird, but also fine.

There is simply no way for me to do my job and coaches/athletes/executives to do theirs without tension. It is my job to ask and write about the most important moments of their professional lives.

These things are almost always resolved quickly, and usually end with the involved parties having a much better relationship. I can only think of one source who F-bombed me and won’t talk to me anymore. I could name a dozen or more who’ve yelled at me and are now some of my best sources.

Some of them I’d even consider friends, which is sort of the point, because at some point you’ve probably yelled at or cursed some of your friends, right?

There’s one conversation that sticks in my mind. I won’t use this person’s name, because that’s not the point, but he called me angry about something I’d written. I listened, understood his point, but then presented mine.

“I guess I can see where you’re coming from,” he said, or something similar.

Then: “Anyway, you need anything from me?”

That’s how these things should go. We’re all adults.

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Let’s be honest: .500 is a lot to ask. But they’ll sustain a decent pace if the lineup balances out and the pitchers steady.

They won’t if they can’t find ways to make up for bad hitting days with good pitching days, and vice versa.

Look, they’re up against it right now, and this is largely what I was talking about in this column. They’re not as deep in talent as a lot of clubs, but they can make up for that with what we often shorthand as “fight” or “guts.”

That was always the genius of the group that made a parade*. They were talented, but that’s only the cover charge. They also fought like animals, and believed when nobody else did.

*Drink.

That will be the ultimate test of this group. It probably won’t be answered this year, it will eventually, one way or the other.

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I did say this. And I do believe it.

First, maybe we can define “successful” here. To me, it’s a five-year stretch with three or four bowl games and finishing in or close to the top half of the league. That’s fair, right?

You probably know that this has never happened, ever. Earth has never seen a five-year stretch where Kansas and K-State each made at least three bowl games.

Most of that is on KU, of course. KU made four bowl games in the six seasons from 2003 to 2008 and, well, that’s it.

When I say infrastructure, most of what I mean is recruits and facilities. In the class of 2019, only 10 high school kids from Kansas were labeled with four stars. In 2018, that number was six. In 2017, it was one.

That’s 17 high level recruits over the last three years, and none signed with KU or K-State.

Even if that changed, and the local schools made significant progress, they’re fishing in shallow waters.

Add in all of the challenges KU faces with facilities upgrades, money, and fan interest ... it’s just hard to expect.

The challenges are different now, and mostly bigger. Neither school relies entirely on in-state talent, but pipelines in Texas and other places are more difficult to establish and maintain. There are simply more programs spending more money, and I underestimated the impact that A&M joining the SEC would have on Texas recruiting.

I guess your answer to this question depends on your answer to this:

Have the programs never succeeded simultaneously because of their specific and inherent challenges, or have they never succeeded simultaneously mostly because Kansas has been a dumpster fire outside of one six-year stretch?

I happen to believe both are true, but that for Kansas to become competent again it will have to take at least some of what has made K-State successful.

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Probably a little worse?

I’m not sure Sporting’s attendance is a big factor, and the hotels have been on the way for a while.

I do think the Bayern-Milan match being moved is a bad look.

I want to be clear: I haven’t been able to get anyone from the Chiefs or Sporting to deviate from the company line about too much rain slowing an offseason renovation to seats at Arrowhead Stadium.

But I also want to be clear about this: I find that explanation farcical.

We talked a lot about this on SportsBeat KC, but ticket sales were much slower than expected, which was either a mistake by the Chiefs in thinking they could sell it or a failure in marketing. The answer is probably a little of the latter, and a lot of the former.

The idea was always for that match to be sort of a dress rehearsal for the World Cup. That’s the way organizers had long thought of it and talked about it. This was a chance to show that Kansas City would support international soccer. At best, that opportunity is now gone.

At worst, it was bailed on because the Chiefs saw they were running uphill.

What matters here isn’t what anyone says publicly, or what the dumb local sports columnist thinks.

What matters is the truth, and whether that’s the Chiefs’ public stance or my read on it you can bet that the World Cup 2026 committee will know. That won’t be the only factor, or the biggest.

But in a process where the committee is looking for reasons to eliminate host cities every little thing matters. You can’t initially present this as an opportunity to show the world Kansas City can support international soccer on a grand scale and then honestly deny this is — in the absolute best light — a missed opportunity.

The people I’ve talked to believe there are seven or eight sites that are locks to host games, and that Kansas City is among the cities pushing for one of the other two or three spots.

We have geography and Pinnacle on our side, but it also seems entirely plausible that we end up as a base camp site and local officials are left selling that as a win.

One more time: even if I’m right about the reasons for switching the game, I’m not presenting that as a deal breaker.

But it sure as hell won’t help.

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Three reasons.

First, players come and go. A team stays, relocation jokes aside. Fans cheer for players, that’s true, but they cheer for those players as long as those players are wearing the right logo. Team first, especially if the player isn’t happy with the team.

Second, sports are an escape for almost all fans. A way to get away from real life, or a way to feel emotionally invested and connected to a childhood or hometown or whatever. Any reminders that we’re actually rooting for or following a business can feel like a slap in the face.

Third — and this is the one that’s easiest to overlook — the owners keep their books private. A quick Google search can turn up the exact income of virtually any professional athlete, and those incomes start in the top 1% and go up. For someone working a real job for $40,000 or whatever it’s easy to be turned off.

The owners, of course, make the top 1% look like poverty but as long as their books remain closed it’s hard to put an exact dollar amount on it. So in this way, fans can wonder why an athlete needs another million dollars without wondering why an owner needs another 10.

One tangential point here is that in the NFL owners can only spend so much. Let’s just look at Chris Jones’ situation. The Chiefs can (and will) present their side as minding the salary cap, with the idea that every dollar above fair value that goes to Jones is a dollar that can’t go to another worthy player. The team is trying to get out of cap hell, so frugality can be sold to fans as the best way to win games.

It’s a pretty brilliant system for the owners, and even those of us who want players to get every dime possible can recognize that.

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This question comes up most weeks, and understandably so, and I’m sticking with the stock answer:

I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does.

Tyreek Hill and the NFL will meet this week and I still don’t know that we have a firm timeline.

Here’s where I’ve been for a while on this — almost literally any outcome is possible. Almost literally nothing would surprise me.

Just from optics, the NFL would probably want a punishment announced close to the start of training camp. Announce it now and it lingers in a news vacuum. Announce it ahead of camp and the cycle speeds up a bit.

Also, stuff usually doesn’t happen without a deadline. The next deadline is training camp.

But that is only a guess, and so is this: a case that was always going to be difficult to find clarity in has only been muddied. The Star and other outlets have reported that Hill is no longer involved in a criminal investigation, so the Chiefs’ worst outcome appears to be out.

The child was removed from the home, and the team effectively suspended him while child protective services investigated, so the Chiefs’ best outcome also appears to be out.

Sources have ranged from tight-lipped to without information, and from bracing for a release or major suspension to optimism that a punishment could be short. In other words, nobody really knows and I’m not sure what end is served by pretending otherwise.

But, you asked a question so I’ll give you answer. My guess is he’ll be suspended for four or fewer games.

As for the reaction when he returns, I think his teammates will embrace him like a brother and fans will embrace him with the loudest Tyreek chants we’ve ever heard. He’ll be heckled on the road and loved at home.

Actually, that last paragraph is the only part of this story I feel confident about.

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I’ve thought about this a lot. More than I should. More than anyone should, really, and my preference would be to stay out of this. I went after him a month or two back for a dumb thing he said and aside from the wasted time I’ve realized this:

There are many things I don’t want to be in this life, and a Kevin Kietzman watchdog is comfortably somewhere on the top half of the list.

All that said, here we are, better or worse.

First, here is the audio. The part we’re talking about starts around the 21:50 mark.

Here is the transcript:

“Andy Reid does not have a great record of fixing players. He doesn’t. Discipline is not his thing. It did not work out particularly well in his family life, and that needs to be added to this, as we’re talking about the Chiefs. He wasn’t real great at that either. He’s had a lot of things go bad on him, family and players. He is not good at fixing people. He is not good at discipline.”

Kietzman tried to walk this back a bit on Twitter, and with an email to Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing. The tl;dr version is that he meant it as part of a broader criticism of the Chiefs, and claimed that Reid’s son’s death “never once” crossed his mind.

You can choose to believe that if you wish. I’m just not sure how else those words are supposed to be heard.

Either way, there’s a lot to unpack here, and if I’m reading your question correctly you’re asking me to comment on what’s in his heart, or what’s motivating him, and I have no way of doing that. I have theories, some of which I’ve shared here about him being insecure at his slipping profile and trying to make up for it with shortcuts.

I don’t know. I can’t know what motivates him, and if we’re being totally honest here there is a little guy on my shoulder telling me to stop typing because what’s the point?

But I’m still typing, and I’ll tell you why.

Because bringing up Reid’s family is not just an awful thing to say. It’s also dangerous.

Mental health and addiction are wildly misunderstood. We’ve made a lot of progress in recent years, but not enough, and whenever someone with a platform misrepresents reality it deserves to be shouted down.

That’s true whether the misrepresentation comes from ignorance or malice. Doesn’t matter. Either way, anyone listening might be led to believe that mental health can be cured if a parent is “good at discipline.” Someone might get the idea that addiction is a failure of a parent, or something that can be “fixed” if an authority figure just cares enough.

That’s not just wrong, and not just ignorant. It’s destructive.

In his email to Bucholtz, Kietzman says he’s worked with charities in Kansas City to address teen suicide. “I’m the last guy that would ever” blame parents, he wrote.

The absolute most charitable view of this is that he misspoke, and the words came out in a way he didn’t intend, but Kietzman won’t even do that dance.

In the same email thread, he’s claiming not to reference a man’s family while justifying a reference to a man’s family. He’s clinging to some nonexistent high ground. The attempts to have it both ways are dizzying.

So, look. I’m not here to say what’s in his heart. But I can judge what he says out loud, and here it was awful, destructive, and only made worse by a laughably shallow non-apology that basically blamed people for hearing what he said.

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Like any American I turned to Google for this and I have to admit I’d never heard of ESPN’s World Fame 100 before.

I was also a little surprised that Patrick Mahomes didn’t make the list. He’s the MVP of the richest sports league in the world. I understand we all have our bias, but there are 11 cricket players on here, a video gamer, Carson Wentz and even Dwight Howard.

Christian Pulisic signed with Chelsea, one of the world’s biggest football clubs. He’s 20 years old, and already the most expensive American soccer player in history.

The potential appeal here is massive, but even if we limit this to the Premier League Pulisic is behind Kante, Harry Kane, Paul Pogba and others. Broaden the field to world soccer and you have Messi and Mbappe and many others.

Soccer is a more popular sport globally, which is what I think you’re getting at, but I’ll take a rising 23-year-old MVP quarterback who essentially became THE story in the NFL last year over a promising talent in the Premier League.

Pulisic probably has more potential for global stardom, strange as that is to say here in Kansas City. The Premier League is watched by more people around the world, and he has the chance to be the face of an American soccer rebirth.

But at the moment, give me the MVP.

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Look, I love to grill. I spend way too much time thinking about grilling, and worry way too much whether whatever I grill will turn out OK. I took last week off work, mostly to do some family stuff, but included in that family stuff was smoking a salmon and then a brisket. I’m only disappointed I didn’t get to ribs or burgers.

I feel strongly about charcoal.

I love the way it smells when it gets going, and the way it smells once it’s cooking. I love the way it alters the taste of the food. Not a lot, but enough.

And if we’re totally honest, there’s probably part of me that knows I make a living typing words about sports and have an SUV with a back door that opens by pushing a button so I also like the idea of using fire to cook food for my family.

All that said, if you want to use gas then anyone who gives you grief about it can go play in traffic. There is no wrong way to grill, and the charcoal snobs can go play with the craft beer snobs and have a whole lot of not fun.

Besides, the best burgers are smash burgers, and those don’t even benefit all that much from the flame.

Can I be totally totally honest here? Trust tree?

I miss my gas grill. If it was up to me, I’d have three grills — gas for quick dogs and burgers, a smaller charcoal for in between jobs, and one alpha for smoking and bigger cooks.

I also have an amazing wife, and have learned to pick my battles, and understand why she wouldn’t want to have three freaking grills on our patio. So we just have the alpha, though I kept the smaller charcoal grill in the garage because I have a dream of using it to tailgate sometime.

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Congratulations!

The fact that you’ve come here for advice is an honor and I’m also choosing to believe you’ve asked others who might actually know what they’re doing.

You will be and probably already have been buried in new tasks, new challenges, new worries, and new priorities. I had quite literally never changed a diaper before our first child was born. I had no idea what a changing table was, and tried to hide my side eye when my wife said we needed a rocker.

There is so much stuff. So, so much stuff. All the bottles, and apparently you’re supposed to change the nipples based on certain clues, and meanwhile you’re either supposed to not give your kid peanut butter or give your kid ALL THE PEANUT BUTTER IMMEDIATELY, and the advice on that seems to change every month or so, but don’t worry because all that will happen if you do it wrong is your kid might get violently ill and require a trip to the ER.

There are theories on how to put them down, but to paraphrase Mike Tyson, everybody has a plan until their kid throws up in their face at 2:30 in the morning.

Point is, there are a million things to worry about. And you probably should worry about at least some of them. This kid’s survival depends on you, after all.

But the best piece of advice anyone ever gave me was to enjoy changing dirty diapers.

That sounds like a joke, or dismissive, but it’s not. And it’s brilliant. The point is that as parents we can get buried in the worries and self-judging and comparisons and mile markers on when they’re supposed to eat solids, or get out of a high chair, or crawl, or walk, or talk, or be able to say 50 words, or any number of other things.

But if we can remember to genuinely enjoy changing dirty diapers we will have the whole thing nailed. Changing diapers is sort of the cliche awful parent chore, but if you think about it, it’s a pretty incredible thing.

Your child needs something from you, and you are there and fully capable of providing. It’s just you and the kid in that moment. Nothing else matters. It’s intimate. You look them in the eyes, they look you in the eyes. They might be screaming and kicking — usually they’re not; the movies totally exaggerate that stuff — but there you are together.

And if you can flip that act on the head — if you can take the thing so many parents complain about and turn it into something you enjoy — then you can probably do just about anything.

I’m not saying this is the secret to making every moment of parenting enjoyable. There are still mood swings, and messes, and whining, and the apparent need to ask most questions 42 times before getting an answer.

But what I’m saying is that if you can find the fun and connection in changing a diaper, you can probably find the good in just about anything. Our younger boy is potty trained now, and he’s a rock star. Doesn’t need help with anything, up to and including the wipe. It’s amazing.

I can’t say I miss changing his diaper. But I am realizing that kids need you a little less every day, and if we don’t find and treasure the joy in those needs then we’re ignoring and missing out on some of the best stuff.

This week, I’m particularly grateful that we finally broke down and bought a king bed. My goodness my life has changed. I feel like I just discovered sunshine or something.

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