Here’s a true story:
I started to write this part of our weekly time-suck last night, in the eighth inning, when the Royals trailed by two.
“Right now, as we speak,” it began, “the Royals stink.”
I wrote about how they’d lost seven of their last eight (which would’ve been true had the score held) and about how their offense had sputtered and that Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas were the only guys hitting.
I went on about how they’re making bizarre defensive mistakes — Jarrod Dyson’s Nori Aoki impersonation, and Lorenzo Cain even making errors — and bad decisions on the base paths.
It’s a frustrating thing watching a baseball team struggle, but the part of what I wrote last night that I want to save went like this:
“The tendency here is to make a declarative statement, that either the Royals are beyond reproach and will snap out of this lickety-split or that they are fat and spoiled and that like so many before them, their World Series championship follow-up will end in disappointment.
“I happen to believe that both approaches are dishonest. Nobody knows. I could make a compelling case either way, and hope to do just that once I feel strongly enough about one side. In the meantime, would it really surprise anyone if they broke out of it this afternoon?”
As it happened, perhaps “this afternoon” is about 18 hours after the breakout.
Except, well, hello, Stephen Strasburg.
As always, thanks for your help, and thanks for reading.
I believe this is my favorite question of the week.
The Royals are now 14-12. They have not been below .500 since 2014. They are 4 1/2 games behind the White Sox, and a half-game behind the Tigers, who are real. It was not too long ago that this would’ve been enough for a parade. Today, it is enough for concern and worse.
But since they just threw the parade six months ago*, I would say that this particular 14-12 record is cause for encouragement.
*IT’S BEEN SIX MONTHS SINCE THE ROYALS HAD A PARADE, THIS IS AN OUTRAGE.
Encouragement? Well, yes. Alcides Escobar (.259/.288/.321), Alex Gordon (33 strikeouts, five extra-base hits), Lorenzo Cain (.302 slugging percentage) and Kendrys Morales (.208/.257/.323) are all off to slow starts. Very slow starts, actually. Chris Young (5.76 ERA) and Kris Medlen (34 baserunners in 20 1/3 innings) have not been good. Joakim Soria (24 base runners in 13 1/3 innings) has been both unlucky and ungood.
On the other side, nobody is performing over their heads to make up for it. Ian Kennedy’s 2.61 ERA will probably be higher by the end of the season. Mike Moustakas (.548 slugging percentage, and a big pinch hit Tuesday night) is off to nice starts. Eric Hosmer (.333/.383/.525) has been their best hitter, but it is the stance of the Minutes that he is in for a very big season.
Also, it’s May 3 and Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera have combined to surrender a total of zero runs. But they are also Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera.
The point is, the Royals have more guys under-performing than over-performing, and the bad starts are more extreme than the good starts ... and the team is still above .500.
You can pick apart certain aspects of their collective performance so far, but hopefully you do it in context, with the understanding that all teams have flaws, and not all teams have the track record of two straight pennants and a World Series championship.
I believe the following two statements to be true:
▪ Complaints from Royals fans will find little empathy this year.
▪ Nothing that’s happened so far makes me think they won’t be competing for a playoff spot in September.
Well, that was weird.
When the Royals left Kansas City, they were 12-6 and averaging 3.9 runs per game. That’s not enough scoring — for comparison’s sake, they averaged 4.5 runs last year — but the trains were moving on time.
On the trip, they went 1-5 and averaged 1.8 runs per game.
Some of that was the competition. Garrett Richards is a stud, Jered Weaver is exactly the kind of finesse pitcher that gives the Royals fits, Fernando Salas has been shutting down lots of teams, and Felix Hernandez is one of the best five pitchers in baseball.
Fans and media often digest the results of the team they follow through a narrow lens, as if the other side is merely a nameless group of henchmen, but they get paid, too.
I’d also point out that these things happen:
▪ The 2015 Royals were amazingly consistent, but they did lose four in a row and nine of 11 during a stretch of May and June, and eight of 10 during a stretch of September.
▪ The teams the Royals played in the World Series the last two years had losing streaks of five, seven, five, six, six, and five games.
There is enough going against the Royals that this may end up being worth freaking out about. But as it stands now, this is a very good team, with a tremendous track record, with a tough spell that they may or may not be out of now.
So, it’s an interesting question.
I do think part of Cain’s slow start is that he’s being pitched differently, and he hasn’t yet adjusted. The biggest thing is he’s being pitched like a No. 3 hitter is typically pitched. Carefully, more nibbling.
He is hitting far too many fly balls — a hidden strength of his has always been his ability to collect infield hits — and if you look at some of the Pitch f/x data he is making far less contact, particularly when swinging outside the zone. There’s a lot to unpack here, and at least from what I see it looks like a combination of falling behind in the count, and getting away from what’s made him successful.
It seems like he had been trying to pull everything, and that in the last week or so he’s made a conscious effort to get out of that. For what it’s worth, he’s 8 for 22 (a .364 average, but no walks or extra base hits) in his last five games.
I think there might be some symbolism in what’s going on around the lineup. Again, I cannot emphasize enough that this is not meant to read like a freakout. I hope it doesn’t come across that way.
But, in general, teams are throwing the Royals fewer fastballs. This is smart, because the Royals’ lineup is loaded with terrific fastball hitters. The Royals are actually swinging at fewer pitches outside the strike zone, but when they do chase, they’re making less contact.
Some of this will normalize, but it is interesting that doing less of part of what the Royals have been criticized for — chasing bad pitches — may actually be fueling a slow start with the bats.
I do wonder if the league in general, after watching the Royals’ success, has made a conscientious decision here to pitch the club differently. If you go out of the zone, make sure it’s with stuff that can’t be hit. And don’t get beat on your fastball.
I have to say, it’s how a lot of us have figured the league should be approaching the Royals. It’s smart. Any baseball season is a six-month series of adjustments, then counter-adjustments, then counter-counter-adjustments, and so on.
Yost’s contract runs through 2018. I would be mildly surprised if he finished it, and shocked if he managed beyond it.
My sense has always been that he wants to manage this team until it’s no longer this team, which is another way of saying he wants to manage this core until it’s broken up. I actually thought there was a chance he’d retire after last season — because what more is there to do after managing the Royals to a World Series championship? — but am convinced he loves this group enough that he wants to ride it out.
If you are a Royals fan, you probably don’t need to be reminded that as of now, Wade Davis, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Danny Duffy are set to be free agents after the 2017 season. There are some mutual options that could add to the list, but the way the Royals structured contracts for Alex Gordon, Ian Kennedy and Sal Perez makes it obvious they expect their other costs to go down significantly after 2017.
So, with money to bet, I’d put it on Ned managing this season and next, and then taking some vague consulting job with the club that allows him to shoot all the deer and ride all the tractors at his farm in Georgia.
After that? I don’t know. That’s a long way off. Raul Ibañez might be managing somewhere else by then. The choice would depend largely on what the team needs. I think Jason Kendall would be a terrific manager for a specific kind of team, and a bad one for a different team, for instance. You could say the same about a lot of guys.
The point is, it’s entirely likely that managing the Royals in 2018 will require something very different than managing them in 2017, or, for that matter, even than what was required when Ned took over a very young team in 2010.
Taking your question literally, it would require chairman Clark Hunt making a decision bigger than football.
I do believe that the anger surrounding Hill makes it tougher for him to make the team. If there’s a tie to be broken, it will probably go to the guy whose inclusion on the roster won’t make thousands and thousands of fans furious.
We talked about this on the radio, but I keep trying to figure out what the Chiefs were thinking, and this is the best I can do:
The decision was made by football guys. That’s it. Football guys. They aren’t smarter or dumber than anyone else. They’re football guys. They have dedicated their lives to this one specific thing, and they’ve become very good at it, and very well respected for it. They have an eye for identifying football talent. Here, they identified a football talent. They knew about the monstrous act, but were thinking primarily about the football talent.
Because they’re football men.
They did not think beyond that, which was a significant mistake.
Because the way it stands right now, the Chiefs are showing a lack of self-awareness or an ugly level of arrogance. The franchise of Jovan Belcher cannot do this. Hell, even the Ravens — the franchise of Ray Lewis’ obstruction of justice and Ray Rice’s videotaped beating of his then-fiancee — backed off Laremy Tunsil for a weed video.
Think about that. When it became apparent that Tunsil smoked weed in college and tried to help pay his mother’s bills with the help of the billion-dollar industry he works for, the Ravens took him off the board. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have been rocked by the worst kind of domestic violence and still found it smart to draft a man who said in court he hit and choked his pregnant girlfriend.
This was part of the column, but even judged from a football perspective it’s hard to understand. All of this for a kick returner? A kick returner with a reputation for going down easily, and who did not dominate after being shoved down to Division II?
At some point, there should have been a stronger voice from someone in the room to essentially say:
Hey John and Andy, I know you weren’t here, and had nothing to do with it, but less than four years ago our starting linebacker murdered his girlfriend with nine gunshots and then killed himself in the practice facility parking lot. We’ve spent the last three years talking about our emphasis on character, and drawing a direct link between that and the success we’re all so proud of. I know we need a kick returner, but we cannot draft a guy who, according to a police report and a probable cause affidavit, beat his pregnant girlfriend into the emergency room and later pleaded guilty to domestic abuse by strangulation. We just can’t. Not worth it. Draft someone else.
The Chiefs have been vague about what they found that made them comfortable with Hill. They have essentially asked for trust, which I believe is a mistake. Fans need and deserve more than that. Some details about the vetting process have come out. The Chiefs did talk to many of Hill’s former coaches, though not all. They talked to the district attorney, but only heard what was public record. The bigger point, perhaps, is that the idea you can “vet” something like this sure seems like a fallacy.
There are no plans for Clark Hunt — who, unlike Reid and Dorsey, was here for Jovan Belcher — to speak. I believe this is also a mistake.
I believe Hunt is a strong leader, or at least a stronger leader than he cares about showing publicly. Hunt has always preferred to let the football men make the football decisions, but I’m surprised he OK’d the men who work for him drafting a guy with such a horrific act on his record so soon after his franchise was rocked by Belcher’s monstrous act.
Doing that and then ordering the guy to be cut would be out of character, but at some point the Chiefs will have to weigh what this guy does to the business as well as the football team.
Glad this question was asked.
Yes, there are second chances. I love second chances. I hope Hill never hurts anyone the rest of his life, and even becomes an advocate for victims and a voice against domestic violence. That would be amazing, and the best possible outcome of all of this.
I also believe the following things to be true:
▪ The penalties for domestic violence are shamefully insufficient when compared with other crimes, and the process of prosecution is stacked against victims.
▪ Domestic violence is a major problem in our country, in society as a whole, and less importantly in football.
▪ “Second chance” does not mean “the same chance you had before, as if nothing happened.”
▪ The Chiefs, for a lot of reasons we’ve mentioned here and in the column, are perhaps the last team in the league that should be vouching for a male who pleaded guilty to choking his pregnant girlfriend.
▪ The Chiefs’ handling of this has been woefully insufficient. The explanations from Dorsey and Reid were vague and rambling and awkward. Without Clark Hunt speaking this week, or any further word from the team, or information about why they felt comfortable doing this, the organization is allowing perception to grow worse.
Well, yeah. Of course.
We are, roughly, at the quarter-mark of the MLS season and Sporting is in sixth place in the conference, three points behind the co-leaders, but with more games played. It’s nothing that can’t be overcome, but they have now established a bizarre and frustrating trend of not being able to score when up a man.
The draw with the Galaxy makes four times in 10 matches and a total of 157 minutes that Sporting has played with a man advantage. They have one goal in that time, and for much of it have struggled to even get a shot on goal. The draw with LA — which did include this spectacular goal by Brad Davis — was particularly concerning with Sporting’s use of a lineup heavy on firepower.
There are tactical reasons for this that we can point to. Sporting has traditionally struggled against teams that bunker down, which is what tends to happen when guys are sent off.
But, I’m of the belief that this is more about execution than strategy. In theory, at least, this should make it easier to fix. The talent is there. The desire is there. The results should just be a matter of time.
Pete Grathoff, who here notes Leicester City had 5,000-to-1 odds at the beginning of the season, relayed a line from a broadcaster whose name I forget: this week was the first time in the more than 130-year history of Leicester that it even had the chance to play a game that would win England’s top league.
I’m not sure there is an equivalent in American sports. The Royals’ World Series championship was spectacular for a lot of reasons, including that it was essentially without precedent for a small market team in modern baseball. But the financial disparity in the Premier League dwarfs that of MLB, and England’s relegation system means there cannot be a direct comparison to anything here in the States.
Two years ago — two! — Leicester was playing in England’s version of Class AAA baseball, or the NBA’s D-League. Seven years ago, Leicester was in the league below that — this would be Class AA baseball, or, I don’t know, Big 12 basketball. Leicester has spent more seasons in England’s lower leagues than its highest leagues.
For years and years and years, the Premier League has been controlled by the richest clubs — mostly Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United. I’ve seen some people say this would be like a third-party candidate winning the presidential election, but I’m not even sure that does it justice.
This is like a man quitting his job as an Olive Garden busboy and then immediately winning the presidential election as a third-party candidate.
Or, maybe this: what Leicester just did is vaguely as likely as Omar Infante being the one to break Steve Balboni’s home run record.
Oh, hey, a Chiefs draft question that’s about football! Fun!
Is Hogan universally viewed as being bad at throwing footballs? I was not aware of this. Pro Football Focus had him as the No. 15 quarterback in the class, and ninth-best accuracy percentage at 75.8 percent. He’s a big, strong, athletic guy with a strong arm, a history of winning, and a lot of experience at a high level. The scouting reports, in general, say his throwing motion is a little long, and his accuracy is inconsistent.
But, come on. This is a third-day draft pick. I don’t know what we’re expecting here. You take a chance on some talent, because he’s a quarterback, and maybe it works out. This is what a team should be doing.
I’m going to steal this opportunity to talk about the part of the draft where the Chiefs did not offend basic decency, because the rest of their draft looks, maybe, as far as you can say about these types of things, pretty good.
Again, I can’t stress this enough, that instant analysis of the NFL Draft is a waste of time, but what the Chiefs did with their other picks makes sense. Chris Jones is an athletic, raw, explosive defensive tackle who figures to be ready when the Chiefs need him in 2017. They loaded up at cornerback, which was a position of need, took the sort of strong and big receiver they lack, and filled in at other positions.
The truth is that the 2016 season was always going to be about the players Chiefs fans already know, not the ones they’re now getting to know. In a different world, we’d all be talking more about that.
Instead, well, we’re not.
Stupid, thoughtless, or arrogant. One of the three.
I don’t get it. I don’t understand $100 million on something that’s handled fine by buses, covers just two miles, and doesn’t get to the stadiums (which would be useful) or the airport (which would be even more useful).
I should say that I’m not the demographic for this. Four years ago, I lived downtown, and perhaps if I still lived there — loved it — I’d feel differently. But it seems as if the best use for this would be if you live in the Crossroads, and want to go to City Market, or Cosentino’s. Or if you live in River Market, and work in the Crossroads, or whatever. Not a huge demographic, and I know I’m missing some.
I also understand that the end goal for the streetcar is something that will connect the urban core, and that long-term plans include expansion around the city. Maybe I’ll feel differently then. But for now, it just seems like an unnecessary and very expensive toy that’s redundant on existing public transportation and unlikely to spur the kind of boom that backers are hoping for.
I hate saying all of this, because investment is good, and Kansas City is on a promising run with a lot of major projects, but I don’t understand this one. Kansas City is a driving town, and so spread out, it just doesn’t seem as if this much money to cover a two-mile stretch of downtown is a smart investment. I hope I’m wrong.
On a somewhat related note, I was surprised and, I have to say, mildly disappointed that the airport project is being “delayed.” You may know that I love KCI, and believe it to be the best hometown airport in the country because you can park for $15 a day and be through security within 10 minutes. That’s absurdly convenient.
But I’ve also become increasingly convinced that we need something new, especially if the airlines are willing to take on the financial risk. I’ve always liked the mayor, and respect his decision to put down his sword, but it’s frustrating when something that is so obviously going to happen is put on hold.
The biggest issue in Kansas City, at least in my mind, continues to be fixing the KCMO school district. I don’t know if that’s actually feasible, but if the mayor can better focus his energy and resources on problems people are more open to fix, then maybe this is a good thing.
The best thing about being a sports fan in 2016 is that you only see what you want to see. I happen to agree with you, and think that Skip Bayless is uninteresting and not entertaining, and so I have not watched or read or listened to anything he’s said in years. Lots of years. I do not feel as if I’m missing anything.
I don’t begrudge Bayless his financial success or his platform. When he left ESPN for what I assume is more money at Fox, my reaction was, basically, good for him, and good for ESPN.
We can all create our own sports worlds, is what I’m saying. In my sports fan world, I like PTI, listen to specific podcasts, read my favorite writers, and watch the games I want to see. There are media members or outlets I think are a joke, or not credible, and so I ignore them. It’s a beautiful thing.
This is a tangent I’m probably going to regret going on, but I’ll do it anyway: I believe this ability to create our own worlds is a significant part of why America is so divided politically. We don’t have to listen to the other side, so we don’t. It’s why there are so many Trump supporters, and so many people who can’t fathom why anyone would support him. We live in the same space, but don’t know or listen to each other.
That divisiveness plays well in sports. It doesn’t matter that a Royals fan doesn’t have to pay attention to the worries or desires of a Yankees fan. In fact, that’s part of the point.
Some of this is why I don’t understand why some people who don’t like soccer, or women’s sports, or NASCAR, or whatever, feel the need to be so vocal about their dislike. With a few notable exceptions, sports are so irrelevant to real-life matters, why waste that time on the stuff you don’t like?
Well, this answer has taken some sharp turns, huh? Anyway, yes, Skip Bayless is the worst, and those of us who believe that should be happy we never have to pay attention to him.
That’s the only advice, really.
But, doing some quick math in my head, I believe I’ve moved six times since graduating college and hired movers just once, and even then my wife and I did a lot of it myself, so I get it.
So, short of hiring someone:
▪ If you’re not hiring anyone, you’re probably asking friends for help, in which case you need to treat those friends like kings. That means beer, food, compliments, everything.
▪ Schedule at least a day more than you think you’ll need, and hopefully you have room for two.
▪ Go into it knowing you’re going to lose some stuff.
▪ Go into it knowing this is the best opportunity possible to get rid of a lot of crap you don’t need.
▪ If you haven’t used it or worn it in a year, dump it.
▪ Unless it’s your old baseball cards. Don’t ever throw away your old baseball cards.
▪ Think of it as exercise! And a chance to listen to your favorite music or podcasts!
▪ Reward yourself at the end of each day. For me, that was a good beer or whiskey. For you, maybe that’s a funny movie, or a big plate of nachos. Whatever. Just have something to look forward to.
▪ Reward yourself a bunch after the move is complete. Have a good meal. With your friends. Toast to your new place. I recommend Tank 7, or Blanton’s. Laugh at the unpacked boxes.
▪ Also, you’re going to bang up your walls. Know that going in, that you’re going to have to do some touch-up paint. Not a big deal.
Kansas City Kings is strong, still, after all these years.
And AEG would’ve had that new terminal built already, by promising each Kansas Citian their own 757.
OK, this is my favorite question of the week.
It’s a strange thing. We can pick off stupidity from social media, but I believe that most Royals fans understand it’s a long season, that this is a group of players with a proven track record, and that a team with Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer and Wade Davis and we could go on, but that a team with such depth in talent and experience in big moments will come along.
After all that’s happened in the last week, they’re still above .500. It’s not like the season is getting away from them, would have even with a loss Tuesday night (or will with a loss Wednesday afternoon).
But, all that said, they did have a rough stretch. A huge part of the Royals’ success has depended upon their remarkable ability to perform like bosses at exactly the point in which outside fear and freakout start to spread.
Maybe Tuesday night will prove to be the most recent example.