The first overlooked part of the Jose Bautista-Rougned Odor bout was Odor’s “throw” to first base, pantomiming what a second baseman looks like when he turns a double play.
If you watch the play, Odor is not aiming that throw at first base so much as he was aiming it at Bautista’s nose.
The second overlooked part was the whole thing started because a rookie pitching in his second game did something that sure looked intentional and was undoubtedly stupid. Matt Bush — the No. 1 overall pick all the way back in 2004*, who has his own interesting story — chose the eighth inning of a one-run game in the seventh and final matchup of these two teams this regular season to make a stupid point.
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*Bush went No. 1 overall and was released by the Padres before making it out of Class A ball. Justin Verlander went No. 2 to the Tigers and has won a Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award in Detroit.
The reaction to the melee was entirely predictable, up to and including calls about the game’s unwritten rules and need for players to be allowed to police themselves. The problem with those unwritten rules is that they’re, well, unwritten. And nobody — including the players themselves, which is really all the matters here — agrees on exactly what those rules are.
Maybe Bush didn’t intentionally hit Bautista. It was a fastball in the ribs, which had all the markings of a purpose pitch, but whatever, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Bautista sure thought it was intentional, because an intentional HBP there would’ve fit into at least one popular version of the unwritten rules, but Odor has a different version and the result is that the self-policing some old-school ballplayers call for ended in a 50-man brawl.
Now, I don’t mind the fight. It was interesting, people watched, all that stuff.
But let’s not forget that the old-school ballplayers who want the self-policing ignore the fact that their own demographic can’t agree on the rules, and that a neophyte member of the club just touched off a bench-clearing brawl with a stupid and unnecessary and overzealous show of force.
This week’s reading recommendation is Robert Klemko on How Quarterbacks Are Made, and the eating recommendation is the chicken fried chicken at Summit, which may be a sneaky top 10 meal in Kansas City.
I’M TEACHING YOU A LESSON DAVID, YOU CAN’T GO THROUGH LIFE THINKING EVERYTHING YOU DO IS SPECIAL.
Can we get started now?
I actually like Jose Bautista.
I said it.
I believe him to be baseball’s No. 1 villain, and I believe our sports entertainment can always use a good villain. Bautista’s bat flip — which, eventually, led to this whole mess — is one of the iconic moments of 21st century baseball. It is glorious, it is deliberate, it is enthusiastic, it is defiant, it is absolutely appropriate for the moment and any Royals fan who says otherwise is lying or in denial of who the Royals are.
Bat flips are fun, and I like when sports are fun.
I also appreciate that he’s honest about the business side of baseball when a lot of guys play dumb. Now, the problem with Bautista is that he’s a bit of a bat-flip hypocrite, or at the very least is trying to have only one foot into the Make Baseball Fun Again movement. He tends to talk down to everyone in interviews.
But, that bat flip. I can’t be mad at that.
All that said, yes, of course, Rougned Odor is the most popular baseball player in Kansas City who is not and never has played for the Royals.
He also plays second base, and can hit a little, which means anything less than a trade package of Wade Davis, Eric Hosmer, Sal Perez and Alex Gordon would probably be welcomed in certain circles.
Speaking of second base…
This is something the Royals are and should be considering. There are some roster issues to think about, but with the Royals severely limited in their ability to improve through trades, it’s one of the few ways they can improve from within.
Cuthbert has played all of two innings in the big leagues at second base, and that was the tail end of a blowout loss to the Indians last July after coming on as a pinch runner. He played three games at second base at Class AA Northwest Arkansas in 2014, and committed two errors.
Switching positions is not as easy as some fans sometimes think, particularly moving toward the center of the diamond. Outfielders start in center, then move to a corner. Infielders start at shortstop, then move to the corners. Mike Moustakas was drafted as a shortstop, for instance.
There is also the matter of the Royals seeing themselves as a defense-first organization, and then essentially giving a guy a big league tryout at a position he’s never played.
But, guys, let’s also keep in mind that Cuthbert is batting .222/.243/.361 this season. He had hits in his first seven games, and the bar for production out of second base is low, but let’s not pretend he’s going to be Rogers Hornsby.
So, all of this is a long way of saying: no, I don’t think it’s realistic.
Also, I don’t think the Royals are so desperate that they need to try it. Christian Colon can play. He hit .290 with a .356 on-base percentage in spot duty last year.
If being selective with a playing time split gets the best out of him and Omar Infante, that makes a lot more sense than shoving a square peg into a round position that said square peg has never played, particularly when said square peg is not blowing anyone away with his bat.
Analogies, y’all. That’s why they pay me thousands of dollars every year.
Danny Duffy is 27 years old and has never pitched 150 innings in the big leagues. If you stopped 100 Royals fans and asked them what they think of Duffy, the consensus would probably be, “love him, root for him, but he hasn’t lived up to his potential.”
I believe in Duffy for reasons including but not limited to the following:
▪ He is wildly talented, even by the standards of major-league baseball. Here is a complete list of left-handed pitchers averaging 95 mph or more on their fastballs: Danny Duffy*.
*Aroldis Chapman does not have enough innings yet.
▪ Here is a partial list of pitchers whose fastballs aren’t as high the 96.2 mph Duffy has averaged this season, or the 95.7 mph he averaged in his spot start Sunday: Gerritt Cole, Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg, Danny Salazar, Max Scherzer, Jake Arrieta.
▪ Two years ago, Duffy was the Royals’ best starting pitcher for five months, until he got hurt. Good Yordano and James Shields were on that team, which made it to the World Series, which the Royals may very well have won if Duffy had been fully healthy.
▪ Duffy’s pitch selection, movement, and velocity in 2016 are awfully similar to 2014. And he’s actually missing more bats.
▪ He is a diligent worker who keeps himself in good shape, and is undeniably devoted to the cause.
▪ For whatever reason, Duffy’s failures tend to get more attention than his successes, but other than his rookie year — when he was 22 years old — he has not posted an adjusted ERA below the league average. That means that even when Duffy’s been bad, he’s at least been league average. And when he’s been good, he’s been terrific.
▪ The comparison to Zack Greinke going to the bullpen and then becoming a different starting pitcher is a little off, for a few reasons, but if the Royals could find even half the same effect they have a damn good pitcher.
▪ You don’t give up on starting pitchers until you have no other choice, and the Royals have plenty of choice, especially right now.
The Royals want to limit Chris Young’s innings, anyway. Kris Medlen has been a significant disappointment. The injury was undoubtedly some of it, but not all. Mike Minor is making progress, but the Royals don’t have a better option than Duffy.
That’s not a backhanded compliment, either. Baseball is full of teams that would kill for Duffy to be their seventh starting pitcher.
He was the best starting pitcher for five months for a team that made the World Series, and was the No. 2 starter to begin the season for a team that won the World Series. Nobody knows nothing, but you could do a hell of a lot worse than giving Duffy a chance.
There is no wrong answer. This is an individual thing, and it’s not a huge tangent to quickly mention a pet peeve of mine is when athletes, coaches, broadcasters, writers, and especially other fans make out like criticizing or complaining about or otherwise questioning a team makes a person a bad fan, or not a real fan.
We all consume sports differently. And sometimes the teams we love do dumb things, or lose games we think they should win. Pointing that out doesn’t mean you don’t love the team anymore than being disappointed in something your kids do means you don’t love your children.
People I like, and respect, get too close to doing this far too often, and they should stop it.
OK, tangent over. To me, any ending other than another World Series championship will feel like a disappointment. That’s the standard now, but it’s also not exactly what you’re asking.
The standard for success, to me, is getting back into the playoffs. Baseball’s postseason tournament is unpredictable enough that anything can happen, but not at least getting back there would be frustrating. The Royals have a terrific core of talented players, and in all likelihood have just this season and next to collect hardware.
I will say this about the Royals and the playoffs, though. Even with all of the perfectly plausible ways the last two postseasons could’ve turned out differently — the A’s don’t give it up in the 2014 AL Wild Card Game, or the Astros don’t collapse in Game 4 of last year’s AL Division Series, or the rain holds up a few minutes longer in Game 6 of the ALCS — the Royals are probably a better playoff team than regular season.
Two weeks ago today, when the Royals came back from two down with two outs to go in the bottom of the ninth against the Nationals, when the then-struggling Lorenzo Cain won it with a sharp line drive, I thought that might be the kind of win to get things going.
I thought that even as a staunch There’s No Such Thing As Momentum In Regular Season Baseball guy. I just felt like the Royals needed a little energy, a little shot, and I thought that might be the shot.
The next day, they lost 13-2.
The game after that, they lost 7-1.
What I’m saying here is that, like always, nobody knows nothing. More than that, what I’m saying here is that we often see what we want to see, and seeing Sporting dominate a game but then still go down a goal at home, and then win like that — the highlights are worth your time, if you were watching the Royals, or otherwise missed the game — feels like it should be a turning point.
It was the Sporting’s first win in more than a month, and a loss while dominating the play like that would have been demoralizing. Jacob Peterson had what will be one of the great one-game performances for a Kansas City athlete in 2016.
The biggest problem, clearly, has been a lack of goal scoring chances, and the creativeness and danger to put a fear in defenses.
I have zero statistics to back this up, but it sure feels like one game’s result impacts the next game’s result far more in soccer than baseball, so in that way — particularly if Sporting has found something in its attack — then Sunday’s win may mean more for Sporting going forward than the Royals.
What’s also true is that both teams are too good to have the results they’ve had.
The teams we follow and root for are businesses. The men who run these businesses are wealthy, and expect their investments to make them even wealthier.
Right now, as I type this weekly silliness, I am quite certain the NFL is focus grouping to see how angry fans would be with ads on jerseys, researching how much they could sell for, and trying to figure out if the money lost from anger is less than the money gained from putting the United Airlines logo on the Bears’ uniforms.
That conversation is absolutely happening, and it’s probably happening within MLB, too. These are businesses, and businesses are in the business of making money.
Corporate sponsorships are ingrained into NASCAR and European soccer, for instance, in ways that would undoubtedly make Roger Goodell envious if he was capable of human emotion.
You could argue that NFL and MLB uniforms already have advertising, if you include the swoosh or Reebok logo.
Honestly, like marijuana or bat flips, this is one of those issues that in 20 years our kids are going to be stunned to know was ever controversial.
Well, again, I kind of like Bautista. And Belle’s perma-frown became a sort of cartoon act, to the point that when Tom Keegan — now of the Lawrence Journal-World, then of the New York Post — asked if Belle would talk one day, he didn’t get a verbal response, but did write in the next day’s paper:
“Albert Belle glared exclusively at the Post.”
But, yes. I know what you mean. Here, then, is my list:
Dwight Howard*, A.J. Pierzynski A-Rod, Floyd Mayweather, Brett Lawrie, Jay Cutler, Jonathan Papelbon, Kurt Busch, Phil Rivers, Tony Stewart, Ndamukong Suh, and Cardinals fans.
*Just so we’re clear here: the NBA’s most popular show invited Dwight Howard on to talk about little other than why everyone hates him. It was amazing.
Just kidding about that last one.
I dig it. Best idea I’ve heard so far, and by far.
Because, let’s be honest. You’re not going to make Kemper — or, really, anything in the West Bottoms — a destination unless it’s a place they have to go. That’s why restaurants, even good ones, have a hard time there. It’s just not a place that people go.
But if it’s a youth sports center, it’s a place that people will have to go. A lot of its downsides (nothing much around) don’t matter, and a lot of things that otherwise don’t matter (central location in the metro area) are strengths.
It’s a ton of space, lots of parking, and I assume appropriate stuff — casual restaurants, and a Target would kill there with a growing downtown population — would build up in due time.
In short: the Foutch Brothers will be printing money if this thing is approved. Genius idea. Good for them.
I’m actually not a huge seasonal drinker, or, if I can just say it more clearly instead of whatever that was: I tend to like what I like no matter the time of year.
That said, I do know what you’re talking about, and I do have a few that I pick up more often this time of year: Mothers’ Lil Helper*, Ballast Point Pale Ale, Tallgrass 8-Bit, Free State Stormchaser, Green Flash Le Freak, Deschutes Twilight, Brooklyn Summer Ale, Allegash White, and Bell’s Oberon.
*Though me and Mothers have beef stemming from their unconscionable decision to discontinue Spring Batch.
Also, Saison-Brett needs its own paragraph.
Also, I need to stop this list at some point.
But you asked for just one. My go-to. At the moment, it’s Lagunitas Lil Sumpin. So delicious.
Yeah, it kind of sucks.
There are more spots in garages — particularly the one at Power & Light — than you might think, and the streetcar’s best utility may be that it ends the need to park close. For instance, I live a few miles south of downtown, but if I can just get to or around Union Station, I can get anywhere downtown relatively easily. This doesn’t do much good if you’re just trying to get one thing done quickly, but still, it’s something.
The best development may be this technology that can detect open parking spaces, and relay that information in real time to an app. At that point, it becomes a race between you and whoever else has the app, but in the meantime, I’ve had good luck with paying for parking with my phone. The best part of that app is you don’t need spare change in your car, and you don’t have to worry about getting to the meter before it runs out.
Also, I’ll say this about parking in downtown: it’s not super convenient, but I do think it’s better than we probably think. I have this theory about Kansas City:
Most places you want to go to around town you park within 50 feet of the door, traffic is almost always clear, and lines for everything from movies to airport security to dinner are almost always short. It is so ridiculously convenient here that our circuits tend to fry when we encounter inconvenience.
It’s part of the appeal of living here, but in the moments of inconvenience, it’s worth remembering.
So, let me disclaimer this with something that’s probably obvious but I want to say anyway: I don’t want my kids to like sports because they feel like they have to. If they’re into piano, or art, or singing, or science, or whatever, I will be absolutely thrilled and probably annoy them with support.
But, yeah. I like sports. So it would be easier, for me, if they like sports. The first five that come to mind:
▪ I would love for them to find sports as a way to get to know each other, and bond. They’re two years apart, which I hope works with the older one teaching the younger one without being bored or condescending, and the younger one finding one or two things he can beat the older one at.
▪ Similar to the above, but I would love for them to use sports as a way to build friendships, and learn all those lessons — the value of hard work, practice, winning, losing and competing — that some of us think can be learned from sports.
▪ I don’t golf much. But if I think it might be a way for me to steal some hours with them, I will try to learn how to live with my slice.
▪ If they do play sports growing up, I hope to protect them as much as possible from what I think is a growing amount of horsebleep in youth sports: overbearing parents/coaches, schedules that leave kids burned out, and a general de-emphasis of the fun parts of sports in favor of turning ever 10-year-old tournament into an Olympic gold medal game.
▪ When I was growing up, my dad and I used to take a weekend every summer and road trip to a minor-league baseball game. Most years it was either Omaha or Wichita, but I loved those weekends. The smaller, more intimate ballparks were cool, but mostly, it was just the journey. Hours in the car talking about the most and least important things imaginable, finding a steakhouse and stuffing our faces, and trying to guess which pitch is coming and where. I want to do that with my kids, too.
Oh, man, in college, there was this epic night when I …
… stayed in to study, because I’m responsible.
Like: good beer, spicy food, empty Saturdays smoking a piece of meat, and self-deprecating humor.
Don’t like: unearned arrogance, and above all else, people who take themselves too seriously.
I do like the ratio here, too. Four things to like, two to not like. We all get too caught up in the things we don’t like. Most of them don’t matter, and the ones that do are outnumbered by the good stuff.