Sam Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: Royals struggles and wins, soccer’s profile, and ice cream helmets

Carli Lloyd (right) celebrated with teammates after Lloyd scored her third goal against Japan during the first half of the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship Sunday in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Carli Lloyd (right) celebrated with teammates after Lloyd scored her third goal against Japan during the first half of the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship Sunday in Vancouver, British Columbia. AP

The Royals are struggling offensively again. They’ve scored three or fewer runs in all but one of their last seven games, and in 12 of their last 17. I do not bring this up for a cheap reason to link to this column, which could basically run in the paper again this morning, but to point out a subtle but encouraging fact.

Of the last 15 games in which the Royals have scored three or fewer runs, they have won six. They managed to win two out of four against the Twins over the weekend despite scoring nine runs, total.

Now, winning six of 15, or even two of four, is not what good teams strive to do. Obviously. But consider that major league baseball teams this year are winning just 22.8 percent of games in which they score three or fewer. Here, it’s probably also worth mentioning that, despite recent appearances, the Royals are scoring three or fewer runs in exactly the same percentage of their games (47.4) as the rest of the American League.

You probably remember a year ago, when Ned Yost and the Royals talked constantly of getting to four runs, because their record was astronomically better once they reached that threshold. The truth, actually, is that four runs is a significant threshold for all teams, but eventually, as the offense continued to lag, the talking points from the team subtly turned to winning as many of those three-runs-or-fewer games as possible.

Even now, the Royals rank ninth in runs per game. That’s where they ranked last year, too (though their average is up from 4.02 to 4.19).

They are winning their low scoring games at a slightly better rate this year — 26.3 percent, as opposed to 25.3 percent last year, so basically a tie — but this one of those subtle places where the Royals can make a profit. That’s particularly true for a team built on run prevention, and particularly true at a time when they’re struggling to score runs.

“Yeah, it does,” Royals manager Ned Yost said when asked if the low-scoring wins feel different. “It does. It feels a little bit different, especially knowing we’ve been struggling a little bit offensively. But even though you’re struggling, you’re still finding a way to win games, and big games.

“It’s an inner confidence I think everybody has when they walk through that clubhouse door every day: ‘We’re going to win today. We’re going to find a way to win today, no matter what happens.’ That’s a great attitude. That’s a winner’s attitude.”

The Royals can’t survive like this forever. Everyone understands that. But every team has stretches where it struggles to score. The Royals’ ability to keep those stretches from turning into huge losing streaks is one of the reasons they lead the division with what has so far been a mediocre offense.

This week’s reading recommendation is William Browning on a fugitive’s hike from the law, a really outstanding story, and the eating recommendation is, well, we’re all friends here, right? I mean, I’ve been carrying around this burden for a few months now. I haven’t been sure how to admit this, out loud, but am I the only one who didn’t know you could order one rib a la carte at Joe’s? The other day I got burnt ends, fries, and one rib. It was magnificent, and I don’t care that it took me this long to realize this was possible. So, you know, this week’s eating recommendation is anything at Joe’s with a side of one rib.

As always, thanks for your help and thanks for reading.

We don’t usually do this, but we’re going to start off with the videos here.

Lloyd’s first goal:

The third goal, scored by FC Kansas City’s Lauren Holiday:

And Lloyd’s third goal, from mid-freaking-field:

My favorite thing with sports is when it’s more than sports, and what the women’s national team did in beating top-ranked Germany and then defending champs Japan certainly qualifies. The rush will be to determine what this means, or to throw these grand expectations on how this will all change women’s soccer. I’m hoping to take a look at that this week, actually, because I’m genuinely curious about what might happen.

I think there can be some seeds planted, some progress made, some obstacles knocked down. The TV numbers have been gigantic, the most-watched soccer game in US history (despite the blowout), and numbers that match or surpass championship games in the NBA, NHL and MLB. I also think there is a long way between here and a time where professional women’s soccer is a major sport and viable business. So, I don’t know. I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

For now, I think it’s plenty to enjoy Team USA’s win for what it is.

Now, see, this I don’t get. I assume Michael is making a joke, and way too many of us take way too many things on Twitter way too seriously. But I do think it’s representative of a feeling that many have, where it’s not enough to not be into soccer, but you have to really be not into it. You have to let people know you don’t like it.

That’s fine, I suppose, free country and all of that. But, like, I don’t like NASCAR. Just haven’t ever been into it. Wasn’t raised with it, didn’t get into it later, and have just never felt what other people feel watching a race. But I don’t scream about this, or feel the need to rip NASCAR or call it boring or whatever.

I don’t know. I might need more outrage in me.

Jose Altuve

Mike Trout

Nelson Cruz

Albert Pujols

Josh Donaldson

Alex Gordon

Lorenzo Cain

Salvador Perez

Alcides Escobar

And, yes. I realize the four Royals are at the bottom of the order. Those other guys are having better years.

This is a very, very good question. Going into Monday’s games, Cain ranked sixth in Fangraphs’ version of WAR among position players, and one of the five ahead of him is Miguel Cabrera, who is out for six weeks.

I’m going to say yes, because I believe in his talent, and think the Royals are going to continue to win. The Royals are balanced, that’s one of their strengths, so Gordon or Perez or Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer could still emerge as the candidate of choice, but I think Cain has a head start from where we sit right now.

I do have to note that this depends on his hamstrings holding up.

Well, first, that whole “most votes ever” thing is sort of fraudulent. It’s technically true, but meaningless, because the way MLB did the voting this year meant all the vote totals were super inflated, which of course is what the league wants.

But after Donaldson, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Sal Perez, Miguel Cabrera, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar all received more votes than the previous record (Josh Hamilton in 2012).

I don’t think Donaldson’s vote total is a fraud, both because he’s having a hell of a year — he might be the league MVP at this point — and, if we’re being real, because Canada. That is a parochial place, incredibly so. If you are Canadian, or play for a Canadian team, you have a country of 35 million people following you like you’re their cousin.

Also, Kansas City isn’t the only place where people have extra email addresses and time on their hands.

Again, I just don’t get this. I love a good conspiracy, and I’m not going to defend MLB on this except to say that if they are telling the truth, roughly the same percentage of votes were voided this year as in years past. I assume the Royals had more votes voided than other teams, but they also had more votes not voided than other teams, and I’m not sure what else we should expect when so many Royals fans were openly flaunting the system.

The idea that Royals fans — even as the loudest and, um, web-savvy fan base in baseball — could completely shout down 29 other fan bases to shove in seven or eight All-Star starters was never going to happen.

It’s also hard for me to get too worked up about Omar Infante not making the team. I mean, that would’ve been funny, I guess, but also kind of sad. The system worked, somehow. The fans picked a good team. I can’t be mad at that. They also picked four Royals to start the game. I’m not sure why you can be mad at that, either.

No, I don’t, and I hope I never said that.

/checks last week’s Twitter Tuesday/

/reads “I just don’t see the wisdom in doing that”/

OK, good. So, anyway, like I was saying, no, I don’t think the Royals will make a big move, if we’re defining “big move” as a frontline starter — the kind of guy who starts opening day. I think the Royals will make a move, probably, but we’re still two weeks or so from having a solid feel for what the Royals will be at the deadline.

This team is in first place, by a bunch. Things are moving along, and they’re moving along with through a lot of obstacles. I mentioned this on the Border Patrol yesterday, but I expect the Royals to have a better record going forward than they’ve had so far, mostly because I think the pitching will be better and they’ve dealt with a lot of injuries.

I understand the desire to take advantage of the now, but I don’t think this is a time you mortgage a big chunk of the future for a two-month rental.

I don’t believe I know anyone named Andy.

Word. Not going to happen, though.

Look, I wish Kansas City could get a team. I would love it, both professionally and personally, and I understand the argument some are making that if Columbus or Buffalo can have a team, then why not Kansas City.

But there are just so many problems with Kansas City as a viable hockey market. I don’t want to rehash the column here — I really hope you read it, especially if you think KC should have a team — but who is going to own the team?

The idea of paying $500 million to put a hockey team in what would be a nine-year-old building in a city with virtually no hockey culture and a relatively small and very overextended market in a league that is so driven by local TV money is more than a small stretch.

Two of the leading candidates to own a team agreed in the column, the first I’ve seen or heard either of them say that. Maybe I’m missing someone. I’d love to be wrong on that column.

Now, I do think there is another side to this. Kansas City has a hockey team. It’s just in the ECHL, which is sort of like Class AA for the NHL. Lamar Hunt Jr. — you may recognize that name — is the team’s owner, and focusing on a lot of the infrastructure that could, potentially, support an NHL team. Mostly, that’s about adding sheets of ice for youth practices and games, and generally promoting the sport around town.

I suppose that, in the long-term, if that type of thing is successful enough then we might be in a position where the NHL could work here. But the way it stands, Kansas City has had rotten timing, remains a bad fit for the NHL’s economic structure, and is apparently without an owner with the means and motivation to get this done.

I’m not sure how you could argue that it’s not on the rise, unless you’re saying that soccer will sort of pitter out in a few years, like TiVo, or Larry Johnson.

But I actually think the opposite is much more likely.

Soccer’s fan base is, generally speaking, young, into technology, and making more money every year. More parents are going to be pushing their kids to soccer rather than football, and the emergence of the Premier League and other top global leagues on over-the-air and basic cable TV is only going to promote the sport’s popularity.

I am not one of these people who thinks football is doomed, but I am also not one of these people who thinks football has to be doomed for soccer to thrive. There is room for both. More than 10,000 people packed the Power and Light District the other day for a women’s soccer game. That’s not nothing.

I guess we can all have different definitions of success. Like I say, I don’t think soccer has to be as popular as the NFL or even major league baseball or the NBA to have “made it.” I say that knowing that, in some measurements, the sport has surpassed leagues in the so-called “big four.”

But think about kids. They are growing up right now in a world where soccer has always been on broadcast TV, always been played in a major league in the United States, and where technology’s ability to shrink the globe plays perfectly in soccer’s favor. FIFA is a horribly corrupt organization but also a badass video game, whether you’re a soccer fan or not, and don’t overlook that as a way to build the game.

Again, I’m not saying any of these other leagues are going away. But I do think this. The same way I think it’s weird that my dad grew up when horse racing was a big deal, my one-year-old son is going to think it’s weird that I grew up when professional soccer was not a big deal.

Oh, man, speaking of being a kid, this answer used to be easy: ice cream helmets. So great. And, now, because the internet has this strange way of simultaneously making things much more awesome and much less awesome, I see that you can order a complete set of every MLB ice cream helmet for $34.99.

I really want to rant here about how back in my day, you had to actually go to each stadium, and eat the ice cream, and keep the dirty and kind of smelly bowl long enough to get back home and wash it for you to just get one ice cream helmet. I had the Royals, Cubs, White Sox, and Cardinals as a kid, because we did our traveling in the Midwest, and now there’s some little snot with his dad’s credit card who can just order all 30. I hate that kid.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, right. Beer cups. Definitely the beer cups.

But, I’m sure you can order them all online, too. I don’t have the heart to Google it.

This is simple. First, you need to come to a mutual agreement on a future date and different type of meat. Because neither of you could win, you both need to get the appropriate amount and type of beer for you and an odd number of friends who will serve as judges.

Let the best man win.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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