Sam Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: Chiefs on the edge, Alex Smith is bad, Royals’ last week, and happy birthday to Negro Leagues Museum

Chiefs coach Andy Reid is among those to blame for the 38-28 loss at Green Bay on Monday night.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid is among those to blame for the 38-28 loss at Green Bay on Monday night. deulitt@kcstar.com

Anniversaries are fun, and I promise we’ll get to a terrific anniversary here in a few paragraphs, but to get to the happy you have to go through the sad.

Five years ago next month, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was in as desperate a place as it has ever been. Greg Baker, a man with no connections and very little ability, had predictably failed as the museum’s president. His resignation was muddy, and his time in charge was incredibly costly to the museum — not just in money blown, but in credibility lost.

There were conversations about whether the museum should be moved to Kauffman Stadium or Cooperstown, and about whether the museum could continue to exist in any form. It had been mismanaged by a dim-witted board of directors, a series of obvious mistakes combining with the financial crisis to put the museum on life support.

Here now, then, we get to a great American comeback story.

This week marks 25 years since the museum opened in a one-room office that required a small group of believers to rotate the monthly rent payments.

It is without question or exaggeration one of jewels of Kansas City, a connection to an important part of American history, and it has survived its darkest days to see what might be its most encouraging time since Buck O’Neil was spreading the message on David Letterman’s show.

Twenty-five years. It’s a heck of an accomplishment for any business, particularly a non-profit museum, and it would not be possible without a generosity and genuine love from the community, as well as the hard work of many involved.

The most visible and important of those people remains Bob Kendrick, who was alongside Buck on the museum’s rise before being stupidly passed over for Baker in the board’s vote about seven years ago. Kendrick has steered the museum out of those petty, self-destructive days and into a new optimism.

Last week, the museum hosted an announcement for the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy, a project that has — no exaggeration — the potential to change the lives of kids in Kansas City and the relationship people here have with baseball. The Royals toured about five sites for the academy, but putting it at 18th and Vine in what is basically the museum’s backyard is wonderful on so many levels.

It will be a living connection between kids and the generations who came before them, between baseball’s future and its past. Both sides benefit. The stars and brilliant minds who come to speak at the museum can walk over to run clinics with the kids at the academy, who will be better taught an important piece of American history.

It’s the kind of thing that was just so hard to even dream of five years ago. The future of the museum, as it turns 25 years old, is as bright as any point in recent memory.

This week’s eating recommendation is the cheeseburger at Westport Flea Market, which is going for 1985 prices as long as the Royals are playing this season. The reading recommendation is this oral history of Vince Carter’s dunk over — literally, over, like, he jumped over the man — a 7-footer in the 2000 Olympics.

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

Guys. That was rough. And Team Alex is, well, like I wrote last night, we are doing some soul searching.

There is nothing good here. You can blame the coaching if you want, and Vahe made a lot of good points here. The play-calling in the Denver game was garbage, and by all appearances, the preparation for the Green Bay game was worse.

I mentioned this in the column, but when a coach repeats the same non-answer for every question, he either doesn’t know the answer or doesn’t want to say. Reid is a proven coach. He’s been doing this a lot of years. I’m curious to look at the game from last night again, but at some point, you have to believe his play-calling is an indication of the trust he has in Smith to make certain throws.

I’m not fully giving up on Smith, and I’m not advocating for Chase Daniel to start. What I’m saying is that a crucial season for Smith has the look of a moldy piece of bread at the moment. The Bengals are good, too. And this game is on the road. On a short week.

Pretty much. That’s part of what I’m referring to with the trust from Reid. There are other examples, too, most of them play calling decisions that almost always err on the side of caution.

I don’t want to make this all about Smith, though. Or even all about Reid. The Chiefs screwed this one up in many ways. Marcus Cooper had a nightmare, but some of that is on Sean Smith for crashing into a light pole instead of hiring a sober driver, and some of it is on John Dorsey for not having better options. Same with the offensive line.

Dustin Colquitt played well. Jeremy Maclin got loose in the second half. I’m sure there are a few others who played OK.

Well, I assume they did, anyway.

Maybe.

They do have talent. We all see that. Jamaal Charles, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry and Travis Kelce all have varying chances of making the Ring of Honor someday.

But results matter. This is only the third week, so maybe we look back on this the way we look back on the season opener against the Titans last year, but this is an ugly trend.

A winning team would have a much different reaction after the Broncos game. A winning team would not no-show the first half of a Monday night game, would not be called for twelve men on the field (twice), would not wipe away turnovers with penalties, and would not have a head coach who essentially punts the postgame press conference for lack of answers, lack of willingness to talk, or general defeat.

That’s an awful, terrible, horrible, ridiculous loss, that only goes worse-er when you look at the context.

There’s too much talent, and Reid is too good a coach, to believe they’re about to tank. But there are too many flaws to believe they’re about to prove everyone wrong, too.

Talk to my boss!

I can’t but be struck by how different the general feeling is now, compared to last season at this time. The Royals really did change so much with that Wild Card game — their own history, the city’s love for baseball, and the motivation and swagger to (literally, in some ways) run to the World Series — so maybe this is just the difference between hoping to win and expecting to win.

But there seems to be a general fear of disappointment among many fans that I find interesting. The fears are not without merit, of course. Johnny Cueto has struggled. The Blue Jays are playing like a juggernaut. Alcides Escobar is struggling at the plate, Alex Gordon is still working back to full strength, Greg Holland is hurt, on and on.

It’s just that, well, there’s a lot to like about the team, too. Everyone has holes, and the Royals have considerable strengths. Wade Davis is, immediately, the best closer in the American League. Their offense is better than a year ago, and if Cueto proves those five starts to be the outlier they appear to be when viewed in the context of his career, then rotation’s better, too.

There are no guarantees, of course. Baseball’s playoffs are like four parts luck, three parts guts, two parts skill. But that unpredictability isn’t as fun when you’ve front-run virtually the entire season, and you don’t have a 29-year playoff drought to bury.

Going to be a heck of a party, though.

Speaking of parties …

… BOOM. Gonna be hard to stay humble now, you guys.

A quick follow to that column, too.

The Chiefs would love to do this. The Royals would, too, and internally are kicking around the idea of hosting watch parties at Kauffman Stadium for road games. This is a thing that could happen, relatively easily. It’s hard to get people to talk on the record for this, but the hangup is MLB wanting to protect the TV ratings for a core market.

I understand the desire to protect a property, particularly something with so much money invested, but there has to be common sense in here somewhere. There has to be the ability to say, hey, here are 20,000 people — I don’t know what the number would be, just throwing something out there — who aren’t counted in these outdated and clumsy metrics. Let’s factor that in, as well as look at this beautiful scene we’ve created that will be shown across the country and create lifelong memories.

There are logistical concerns, of course. But even if 30,000 people showed up at Arrowhead, there would be fewer people in the sports complex than for a Chiefs game. Also, ask questions about having the watch party at, say, Sporting Park and you get the same answers about TV ratings.

Anyway, I do think it’d be cool. I hope they do it. I’m not all that optimistic, particularly for home games.

I love Gordon leading off. I don’t know, maybe this is what happens when the team wins, but really, I’ve been on board with most everything they’ve done this year. Love giving Duffy a chance to be the seventh inning guy. Love the rest they’ve given guys. Loved moving Escobar out of the leadoff spot.

Batting orders are waaaaay overanalyzed, so I never really said much about Escobar leading off, but it just makes no sense to give the most at bats to a guy who makes outs at one of your highest rates. If nothing else, stick your best hitters at the top of the order. The Royals are doing that with Gordon, Ben Zobrist, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Kendrys Morales.

I’d be very surprised if Chris Young isn’t on the playoff roster. I’d be mildly surprised if Young makes a start.

Young is better than Jeremy Guthrie, and the fact that Guthrie got that start last week is a bit perplexing, but I’d rather have Kris Medlen making playoff starts. He’s had some command issues lately, so maybe you look at Young as more of a sure thing. But especially against the Blue Jays, or at Yankee Stadium, Young’s lean toward fly balls could hurt you. It’s close enough that the last week of the season matters.

But, speaking of playoff rosters…

… here’s one man’s current list:

Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, and Kris Medlen.

Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Danny Duffy, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales, Chris Young, Luke Hochevar.

Sal Perez, Eric Hosmer, Ben Zobrist, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Rios, Kendrys Morales, Drew Butera, Christian Colon, Jarrod Dyson, Jonny Gomes and Terrance Gore.

A few caveats:

▪ Gomes does not have a hit in 15 at bats since Sept. 3. I like the idea of having Gomes on the bench to hit left-handed pitching. This is one specific skill that can help the Royals and affect what the opposition does. I love the idea of bringing in Gomes to face a lefty, and then pinch running with Gore to steal a run. But if the Royals have concerns about Gomes’ ability to hit right now, this is a different conversation, and Paulo Orlando gets to play.

▪ Gore could be seen as expendable. He only does one thing, and Dyson could be used as a pinch runner. Same thought process here as with Gomes, though: he does one thing extremely well, a skill that can help the Royals and change what the opposition does.

One thing about keeping Gomes and Gore is that it puts extra stress on the rest of your bench. In the scenario I imagined two paragraphs ago, you’re using three subs — Gomes to hit, Gore to run, and then Dyson to play for him. Particularly if the Royals aren’t sure about Gomes, it may make more sense to keep Orlando.

▪ I’m assuming Omar Infante is unavailable.

I think that’s a pretty good playoff roster.

Your uncle and I are going to disagree here.

If you move somewhere and want to take up with the new teams, cool, I’m not going to fault you. But to me, you root for the teams you grew up rooting for. Most times, I think, those are the teams from where you grew up, but whatever, doesn’t have to be. As long as that means you’re not a Yankees fan with no connection to New York and no blood relative who played for them, you’re in the clear.

There are positives about either side of this, really. But to me, one of the best things about sports in general and rooting for teams in particular is the connection it gives you. A connection to your childhood, or to your friends, or to your hometown. I’m projecting here, because I’ve lived in the area my whole life, but I would think those things would become even more important when you move away.

It’s easier than it’s ever been to follow teams out of market, and it’s only getting easier. I say take advantage of that.

Wear the Hosmer jersey, is what I’m saying. But enjoy Target Field. Cool stadium.

Poor Archie Eversole. That really was like 15 minutes for him, huh?

His time has passed, a strong allegiance thrown to Fetty Wap, from kangaroo court fines for players not dropping 1738 references in interviews to the song being played constantly — you can hear it in the background of Ned Yost’s interview below after the clinch, at the 2:03 mark — to the group even coming to Kauffman Stadium to hang out and, presumably, drinking champagne.

After the Royals clinched the AL Central Division on Thursday night, The Star's Sam Mellinger and Andy McCullough assessed the team entering the playoffs (video by Chris Fickett, cfickett@kcstar.com)

But the chances are strong. I’m a little annoyed at myself for looking this up, but the group is playing in Virginia on Oct. 8, which is the first game of the Division Series. They don’t have any shows scheduled again until Oct. 22 in Brooklyn, Oct. 25 in Chicago, and Nov. 1 in Vegas. Seems like they could make something work.

This is, of course, just a hunch but if the Royals win the World Series, I’d expect Ned to be done managing. He asked for only a one-year extension to cover next season, but did leave himself some room to manage longer if the desire stayed with him.

But this has long been personal for Yost in that way that many of us who are invested in our jobs tend to make it personal. If the Royals won the World Series, I believe Ned would feel like he had nothing left to do, that he had seen this group from the virtual beginning to the glorious end, and besides, there’s deer to hunt back home.

He could take a victory lap, of course, but I don’t think that’s in his nature. He’d sign on as a front office assistant, or something, maybe do some spring training stuff, or talent evaluations, but mostly stay away from the public view except for his induction to the Royals Hall of Fame.

That’s what I think, anyway.

I think Baylor will win the league. I’d feel better about that prediction if the TCU game was at home, but also, I might pick TCU if I thought their defense was better. Trevone Boykin is great, but he needs some help.

Making the playoff, give me Ohio State, Baylor, Alabama and Notre Dame.

Wife’s not going to like me leaving out Michigan State, but holy crap Ohio State is loaded. Actually, I am quite sure she does not care who I pick. Ours is a love that goes deeper than such trivialities.

OK, in order: 3.5, 2, 3, 4 (when Hansbrough is healthy) and 3.

You didn’t ask about the defense, though, which is fantastic. Maybe it’s a bit of a different way to win, and losing to Kentucky is a stumble, no matter where it was played or what the line was, but it’s still a way to win.

Season is feeling rather Texas Bowly at the moment.

Chris Young says it perfectly: baseball has a way of making people very irrational.

I’d say the same is true of other sports, golf especially, but baseball might be the most extreme. There is too much failure to forget, too many games to grind through — too many long hours preparing for four at bats which can take like a total of a minute — to go through it completely rational.

But just make sure you wash your clothes. Irrationality needs to have its limits.

Sam Mellinger: 816-234-4365, @mellinger

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