Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Chiefs’ best playoff matchups and why Sal Perez won’t get a new contract

jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Baseball teams are flush with cash, almost to the point of hilarity, and, well, no, check that.

We are well beyond the point of hilarity because we are now at a moment in history where Johnny Cueto is offered $120 million and says, eh, no thanks, not worth my time.

Baseball's shopping season is open, and this is a world where Jordan Zimmerman — a fine pitcher, and one with major injury red flags — will make an average of $22 million over the next five years.

I say this without even a drip of alarm, or a call for caution, because Major League Baseball is trucking toward $10 billion in revenue with much more on the way and unless teams are going to share that money with fans — Ha! — it should go to the athletes more than the owners who take on no risk and add very little value. So, if Cueto can get more than $120 million, great for him.

I am bringing all of this up because the Royals have some important shopping of their own to do this winter, and this seems like a good time to say something that might seem harsh but is nonetheless true: Salvador Perez will not get a new contract.

OK, and this might be harsher, but is also nonetheless true: He shouldn't get a new contract, either.

You might remember over the summer, when Perez and his new agent — not the guy who "negotiated" that terrible contract he signed, because that guy's credibility sleeps with the fishes — made noises that they wanted a new contract.

The Royals were gracious yet noncommittal about it, and the issue has bubbled back up now that the offseason is here.

In a fair and just world, Perez would get more money.

He has deserved it, then earned it, and then done it all again. His original contract covered five years and guaranteed $7 million. He has reached performance incentives that bumped next year's salary from $2 million to $3.8 million, his 2017 club option from $3.75 million to $5.1 million, and his 2018 club option from $5 million to $6.2 million.

He is still grossly underpaid by major-league standards, and his contract is still talked about by many in the game as one of the most club friendly in recent baseball history.

So, in a fair and just world, yes, Perez would get more money.

But like many other parts of reality, baseball does not operate in a fair or just world.

Because in a fair and just world, the Royals could go to Fox and get a new TV contract, to replace the one they stupidly signed, the one that pays them — and this is a conservative guess — $40 million less than their current market value.

Or, in a fair and just world, the Royals could take some of the $7.5 million they paid Omar Infante last year, or some of the $17.75 million they owe him over the next two years, and give it to Perez. They could take some of the $7 million they gave Noel Arguelles and give it to Perez.

As of press time, Fox, Infante, and Arguelles had not agreed to redo their deals.

Let's go one step more — Royals fans should not want Perez to get more money.

Giving him a contract extension would mean committing big money after Perez's 30th birthday, a milestone that scares many scouts who see a big body already racked with abuse unable to withstand the rigors of being a catcher that far into the future.

And if Perez has to move to first base, his value plummets.

Giving Perez more money means having less money for Mike Moustakas, or Lorenzo Cain, or Eric Hosmer, or even Alex Gordon. Giving Perez more money does not make the Royals better.

This is not the NFL.

Perez's only recourse is to hold out, something that never happens in baseball, and something Perez would be incredibly unlikely to want.

The Royals try to say they were accepting risk with the contract, and it's true that Perez had fewer than 40 games of big-league service time, and that he suffered a major knee injury shortly after signing. This was not true then, and it's not true now, because by any measure a $7 million commitment over five years is minuscule for a baseball team, and less than what many backup catchers make.

But they shouldn't feel the need to apologize. Negotiations are about leverage, and Perez had none. He wanted the long-term guarantee, and good for him. He made a choice.

There is no compelling reason for the Royals to offer a redo, the same way there is no compelling reason for Fox to give them a bonus for the great ratings these last two seasons. It’s just business.

This week's reading recommendation is not sports, and it is incredibly well done — Sarah Schweitzer on the life and times of Strider Wolf. The eating recommendation is the meatball panini at Cupini's.

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

This is probably a more complicated answer than is necessary or that you're looking for, but I generally think momentum is both a real thing and a vastly overstated thing in sports. More often than not, I believe momentum is the coincidence of like results happening in bunches.

I do think there is something to the idea that the Chiefs lost their way after the first Broncos game, particularly in the loss to the Bears. I also think there is something to the idea that they were playing very good teams, and that their five straight wins have "coincided" with them playing lesser competition.

The answer is both simple and complicated, but I believe it to be true. The break in the schedule allowed the Chiefs to be what they are meant to be — defense and ball security, following the boring but time honored philosophy that far more NFL games are lost than won.

Maybe you see that as momentum. I see it as a recalibration, eased by a softer schedule, and time for the coaches to figure out their best offensive line.

A hundred things could derail the season, because even by NFL standards, the Chiefs' margin for error is small. I saw the same thing you did on Sunday, but I still don't like the Chiefs' chances of coming from behind, so if they're in a position where Alex Smith has to make some downfield passes, and the pass rushers on the other side are able to get a rhythm, this will go back to a mediocre team with remarkable quickness.

If Justin Houston's knee injury keeps him out, the Chiefs are without their best player. Houston is the Chiefs' best pass rusher, obviously and by a huge margin, but he is also versatile enough to play the run much better than a lot of people realize.

The Chiefs are, really, the team a lot of us thought they were before the season. I thought 10-6, with a chance at 11-5, which is where they are. You'd bet on them to make the playoffs, but not advance once there, right? So, like a lot of teams they've had.

Now, about that 10-6 ...

... yes, I have watched a season of Chiefs football before. More than one, actually, though I'm at the point in my life where I'd rather not count.

And, yes, absolutely, I think the locker room is night and day compared to even three years ago, when Scott Pioli and overmatched coaches and different priorities turned the Chiefs into the league's biggest mess.

You don't lose five in a row without significant flaws, but you don't win five in a row without some strengths, too, and the ability to follow the dip with the peak is a credit to both the coaches and the locker room's strongest personalities — Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Jeremy Maclin and others.

But, also, I just don't think winning four of the remaining five is that much of a stretch. The Chiefs opened as a three-point favorite at Oakland this weekend, which at least on paper is their hardest remaining game. I happen to think they'll lose this weekend, and then win the next four — Chargers at home, at Ravens, Browns at home, Raiders at home.

I don't know if it's the deep ball, as much as it is the Raiders are a pretty good team. Their offense is explosive, and might be back on track after back-to-back stinkers against the Vikings and Lions. They've gone over 400 yards of offensive six times. I also believe their defense is better than the numbers show, particularly up front, even as the suspension of Aldon Smith and the injury to Justin Tuck diminish them.

But, mostly, I just think it's unlikely the Chiefs can beat the Raiders twice. The Chiefs have swept the Raiders just once since 2006, and that was two years ago, when the Raiders were a mess.

The Chiefs can win, sure. They are probably better than the Raiders, and certainly playing better at the moment. Watching the Chiefs' defense against the Raiders' offense will be a lot of fun, particularly the matchup of Sean Smith and Marcus Peters against Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.

This just feels like the game for them to lose.

Everything is relative, and Manning was terrific in that job, a presence for the players, particularly the post players, and deserves some of the credit for the development of guys like Thomas Robinson, Cole Aldrich, Jeff Withey and the Morris twins.

But I'd also point out that Withey was good as a senior without Manning, and that Joel Embiid did OK. Cliff Alexander was a disappointment, and that would be where you'd make your case for Manning, but I think the problems were deeper. He was playing hurt, and the investigation robbed him of his chance at the end. Perry Ellis is a unanimous all-conference player. Not bad.

I also think that college sports, particularly college basketball, is about replacing people. Seniors graduate, younger players leave early for the pros, and you move on. Manning is a legend at KU, and for good reason, and I think he's a good coach so I don't mean this to discredit him at all, but: I believe there are many KU fans looking to confirm their fears about losing Manning.

He's a good coach. KU has good coaches, still. And when those coaches leave, they'll hire more good coaches.

Sure, what could go wrong? It'd be fun.

I actually think the Chiefs are lined up for a good matchup in the wild card game. The most likely opponents at the moment seem to be the Colts, Texans and Broncos. The Chiefs won in Denver and Houston, and the Colts can be had. The nightmares about the blown 28-point lead, or no punts, or Lin Elliott, that's real only for fans. It gives us a lot to talk about, and certainly adds to the drama, but it doesn't matter in the execution of the game.

If I could choose the opponent, and wanted the Chiefs' playoff win drought to die at 22 years old — old enough to legally drink, and by all appearances, has been drunk for quite some time — I would go Texans, Colts, Broncos.

The Broncos' defense is the best unit of any of the six, and while I'm sure some holes will pop up with Brock Osweiler as teams get more looks at him on film, he looks at least capable. I should probably respect the Texans more than I do. Their defense is terrific, allowing a total of 35 points in their last four games. They've won four in a row, including at Cincinnati.

But Brian Hoyer can't be as good as he's playing, and they can't run the ball. Cover DeAndre Hopkins — and the Chiefs can cover — and get some pressure on Hoyer and you should be able to win.

Sure, but the Chiefs did this to themselves. I thought it was very disingenuous for them to express disappointment in how the schedule laid out when they chose to give up a home game for London, and asked for two — TWO! — weekends off to host the American Royal and Mizzou-BYU. If you do that, and you end up with two home games before Thanksgiving, your complaints cannot be taken seriously.

Even when the Chiefs are good, they have a hard time filling seats after Thanksgiving. The first Sunday is always tough, with travel and family plans, and in December the weather can be nasty. I don't know that it will make a difference on the field. If the Chiefs lose home games to the Chargers or Browns or Raiders with a playoff spot on the line, they should blame themselves.

But it is costing the team money, there is no question. And I'm sure they have your appropriate sympathies for that.

Well, it's certainly a mouthpiece, and I say that without journalistic malice. It's just a fact. It's a place where athletes can deliver a message exactly the way they want, with no editing, often with questionable statements left unchallenged. Which is completely fine. They should be able to speak in such forums when they want.

None of that means it can't also be an additive. Mouthpiece and additive don't have to be mutually exclusive. I don't need to read a poem to find out Kobe Bryant will retire, but if there are people who want that kind of content, cool. There should be a place for that, and the market should decide what's important.

The stuff I've seen on the site has been — and, again, I say this without malice — boring. Athletes aren't professional speakers, or writers, and there are good reasons people don't generally crave press releases.

Actually, I don't think either upsets him all that much. First, he is not allowed to be upset at anything Bill Self does or says anymore than I can be upset at something my boss does or says. They can compare paychecks to see who has more power there.

And with the football team, it's hard to believe they expected much more. You'd want to beat South Dakota State in the opener, obviously, but would 1-11 be awesome? And how many people expected more than that?

David Beaty could be a great coach, or he could be a rotten coach, and I don't think we'd have any real idea until at least 2017. Probably longer, and I think we probably have to wait until 2019 for any judgments about Beaty to be more than a guess. He just took over such an awful spot.

If Zenger is going to be mad about 0-12, he should be mad that he hired Charlie Weis.

Woof. This is a good question, particularly now that you apparently only need to go 5-7 to make a bowl. Schedule three cupcakes in the non-conference, then find two more in the conference schedule, and you theoretically have a chance.

Let me start by saying you would be smart to bet against either of these happening. Each program is so far from that kind of success. But I do believe it's easier to turn around a basketball program, and Anderson doesn't have as far to go. Get one stud, a few players to fill around, and take your chances. So there's your answer.

But, again: woof.

Let me start by saying there is virtually no chance you will agree with this list.

1. USC: this is not much of a debate. Location, recruiting base, history, resources, do we need to go on? No? Cool.

2. Miami: there are flaws here, particularly some uncertainty about the athletic department, and resources, particularly with salary, but you have a terrific recruiting base, great history, and can win a national championship.

3. Maryland: here's where my list probably starts to veer away from yours. I think this is a terrific job. I know there are reasons to be cynical about it being overhyped, and the recruiting base isn't there, but if the Under Armour commitment is real, you're in the Big 10 with all the resources you could expect, ready to compete.

4. Missouri: nationally, people would probably have Missouri under the next two schools on this list, and I know the questions about the boycott and what's happening on campus will be asked, but this is a damn good job. Motivated donor base, improving infrastructure, decent in-state talent with no real competition, and a recent culture that's shown loyalty to its coaches.

5. Virginia Tech: another terrific job. There's an institutional commitment, great fans, and a recruiting base that's long been established. You're also on the right side of the ACC. The downside is following the man who created the whole damn thing, which is no small challenge.

6. South Carolina: most people would have this job higher, but I think it's a trap. You're following a successful coach, and before he got there the program had been consistent crap. Your in-state talent is split with Clemson, with other powers like Georgia coming in, too. There's a reason nobody won before Spurrier, and it's not all about money.

I'll stop there, because I think this where there's a gap before you get to Central Florida, Illinois, Syracuse, etc., and it drives home the point that this is a bad year for Missouri to be looking for a new coach. There is always going to be competition, and besides, fit is as important as anything, but that's a lot of good jobs you're trying to hire through.

1. Ability to put together a strong coaching staff. We often give too much credit and blame to head football coaches, which I suppose isn't unfair, because they're the ones making the money, but the assistants are the ones doing the lion's share of both recruiting and coaching. If you don't have good assistants, you don't have a chance. As much as anything else, this was Gary Pinkel's success.

2. Recruiting. Pretty self-explanatory. The ability to land the best talent, and to find the undeveloped or overlooked talent is crucial.

3. Charisma. Maybe it sounds hokey, but it's essential. Helps with recruiting, helps with attracting and retaining good assistants, helps with motivating players to go hard, helps with the media, helps with everything you do. Charisma buys the benefit of the doubt — Mark Mangino's career has shown how important that is.

4. Game coaching. Most people would have this higher on the list, but I believe talent wins, and that the assistants do more coaching than many people think.

5. Donor relations. It's important, but way down on the list for me, because it should be pretty easy — shake hands, tell a few jokes, and you're good — and if you're doing the other things right, you're winning, so the donors are going to love you.

Each of these factors has its own subsets, of course, and each of the factors are different at different places. Recruiting at USC is very different than recruiting at Virginia Tech, most obviously.

No. Jamaal Charles is an elite running back. He has no weaknesses, other than the ligaments in his knees, I suppose, and combines superior talent with relentless work ethic and an attitude that makes him one of the locker room's most popular players. There is nothing not to like about his game or, as John Dorsey would put it, "his person."

Running backs are, by nature, replaceable, which is why he makes about half as much as Alex Smith, and less than half as much as Justin Houston. But he is a terrific player. Just because the Chiefs are not headed toward 3-13 does not change that. They would be a much more dynamic team if Charles had two healthy knees.

The easiest thing in the world is to spend other people's money, and, I feel like this should go without saying, but I am ALWAYS available to prove this point in real terms. Seriously. Just send me money, and I will spend it. We'll have fun.

But, all that said, I believe I've been responsible and reasonable when talking about how much Glass spends on the Royals. That's meant a lot of people getting angry that I haven't criticized his spending since 2006. When the Royals said they were at risk of losing money last year, when a lot of people screamed, I did my best to check the math, and, sumbitch, turns out the Royals were right.

The Royals should have their 2016 budget soon, and I haven't gotten anyone inside the organization to say it to me, but it is almost literally impossible to believe it won't go up from the $112 million of last year, and probably up by a significant amount. The Royals took in, probably, $15 million from the playoffs. Maybe more. This isn't much of an increase over last year, obviously, but still. Hard to see where the Chiefs could've lost money in 2015, or even come close.

I don't know how the TV deal factors in here. The Royals have four more years on what really might be the worst contract in major American sports, which means they can probably do the renegotiation in two years, maybe three. Regardless of the TV deal, MLB is drunk with cash, even without counting the brilliant investment in BAM Tech.

I haven't gone over the numbers, so I want to be sure I can take this back with vigor, but $130 million seems like a very doable payroll budget for the defending world champions. They have, realistically, two more years to win with this core group. If you stretch into a one-year loss, you know you have the TV money and lower salaries as you rebuild with younger players in a few years. So, yeah.

But first, I wasn't joking, I am very available to spend your money.

Foursquare can go play in traffic. Here is the top 10:

10. Hide and seek. A classic, but pretty weak. Not built for playground attention spans.

9. Freeze tag. Not tag. Freeze tag.

8. 500. I could play this game all day, throwing or catching.

7. King of the Hill. Just the right amount of Lord of the Flies.

6. Keep away. Just the right amount of childhood cruelty.

5. Capture the flag. Send a few buddies on a kamikaze mission, then swoop in among the chaos.

4. Basketball. Shut up. Great sport. There's a reason there's always so many rims on the playground. Horse is acceptable.

3. Football. Pull the legs of your sweats over your calves and you just knew it made you faster.

2. Kickball. Everybody can play kickball.

1. Dodgeball. You can lay in the back and coast, but the glory and excitement is in taking control, risking a blind shot by scooting up to the line to advance by knocking some poor sucker in the face. Dodgeball is life, man. And life is dodgeball.

I stand by my reporting of how to pronounce my name. Thank you for double checking.

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