In a full reversal that would be shocking if it wasn’t coming from the Big 12, Oklahoma president David Boren announced that the league is actively evaluating expansion in a way that gave the distinct impression that this was when and not if.
For months, both publicly and privately, league officials have mostly talked about expansion as a long-term issue. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said as much last month after league meetings. With the mess at Baylor — one Bowlsby acknowledges has thrown dirt on the conference as a whole — it figured the league had even more reason to slow-track expansion.
For what it’s worth — stop laughing! — I wrote in May that the lack of attractive candidates should mean the Big 12 stays status quo.
I still believe that, because if Houston and Cincinnati and Colorado State are as good as you can do in a league that used to have Nebraska and Missouri and Texas A&M, then you need to sit one out.
We’ve all eaten meals we didn’t want because it was convenient or we were bored, but you can burn those calories. Adding fat to a conference of major universities is — or should be, at least — a generational decision.
I also understand what’s changed. The ACC is finally getting a TV network, a 20-year deal that not only will likely mean more money than the Big 12 but comes with a grant-of-rights agreement that makes it unrealistic for a school to leave.
Bowlsby talked about exercising the league’s “pro rata rights,” which essentially means the ability to renegotiate for a bigger TV deal if the league expands, and they will want to use the ACC’s contract as a framework.
The Big 12 will hire consultants to guess whether this will all be worth it, and as a league administrator said recently, “consultants don’t get paid to not do deals.”
I haven’t done the research and don’t have the background to know whether expansion is in the league’s best short- and long-term interests financially. But I do think those of us who love and follow college sports can have educated opinions about what it does for the league’s stature, credibility and competitiveness.
And while we can all see the benefits certain schools would bring — Houston’s metro area and donor base, most substantially — expansion would almost certainly mean promoting a commuter-type school to the big leagues.
For those of us who grew up with the Big 8 and then the original Big 12, that’s hard to get used to. And it would further promote the perception that the Big 12 is a power five school in technicality (and the membership of Texas and OU) only.
I don’t know what will happen. I don’t think anyone in the league does. No league flip-flops as often or as freely as the Big 12. But I do think the ACC’s deal changed some perceptions and softened the stance of those who wanted to maintain the status quo and possibly wait for a longshot like an Arizona-Arizona State coup to be available.
The Big 12 could be changing again. And not for better, as much as to renegotiate a TV deal.
Speaking of all that, this week’s reading recommendation is Lindsay Schnell on Bowlsby showing a gross lack of understanding amid the Baylor scandal. The eating recommendation is the phad Thai at Thai House.
Well, of course there’s hope.
As of this moment, the Royals are 47-46 — eight games behind the Indians in the AL Central and five behind the Blue Jays in the wild-card race. That second race is a bit more complicated, because there are essentially eight teams scrambling for two spots.
Here’s an overly simplified way to look at it: the winner of the second wild-card spots in the last three years won 86, 88 and 92 games. The Blue Jays currently hold the second wild card with a 53-42 record, which is a pace for 90 wins. Let’s say that’s what it ends up taking.
The Royals, then, would need to finish 43-26 to get to 90.
That’s a big ask.
As it stands right now, every fifth game the Royals are hoping their fifth starter pitches above his head. Yordano Ventura is still unpredictable, an adjective that could also be used for the bridge from the starter to Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis.
The Royals’ offense is next-to-last in runs scored. Salvador Perez and Cheslor Cuthbert are the only regulars outperforming expectations*, and even that is a bit misleading, since Cuthbert’s good year doesn’t change the fact that the Royals miss Mike Moustakas.
* Eric Hosmer is having a good year, but as one scout said last week, “I love singles, but he’s got to produce.” Whit Merrifield’s average is down to .276, with little power, and he’s striking out five times as often as he’s walking. He’s still been good, in the grander picture, but the shine is off that hot start.
Hosmer said something poignant the other day, though.
“We know that if there’s any team out there that can pull something off, and go on another run, it’s us,” he said.
Two years ago, the Royals were 47-46, and would drop to 48-50. Then they won 24 of 30, took the wild-card and made that breathtaking run all the way to the ninth inning of game seven of the World Series.
So this group can do it. More remarkable and unpredictable things have happened.
But it would take a run this particular group in this particular season has not yet been able to sustain.
Wrote about the implications of this current stretch on the Aug. 1 trade deadline here. I hope you read it.
The front office wants to be aggressive, and would love to add a bat or starting pitching to help a playoff push. The problem is that they don’t have a lot to trade away, are not in a strong playoff position, and would be buying in what’s being widely called an extreme seller’s market.
That last part is an important factor, and it’s true on a few levels. There just aren’t a lot of great prospects in the minor leagues, and that’s particularly true for teams that might want to be deadline buyers. The Royals’ ability to make a deal would be further complicated by David Glass’ history of refusing to take on money at the deadline. If another team is able to take on salary, the Royals will have an even more difficult time winning the trade negotiation.
The front office doesn’t want to sell, but I believe they could be convinced if the team falls back in the playoff race. Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez and Luke Hochevar are all likely to be free agents this offseason. Teams can always use a bat, a starting pitcher or a reliever.
If the next week or so plays out in a way that makes the Royals’ front office see the postseason as a longshot, they would be in position to acquire something of value that could help them in 2017 — perhaps the last season of this window.
I don’t know. I believe the most likely scenario is no move, or at least no major move. But I also think that anything is possible.
Judging from my email, Twitter, Facebook and friends, you are very much not alone. This season has so far been the nightmare scenario for both Gordon and the Royals, and I hope you read Rustin’s story on Gordon the other day. There’s a lot in there, both analytical and personal.
As much as we talk about the Royals’ chances to make another postseason, I think we all understand that it would be incredibly difficult if Gordon does not improve.
His season has essentially been one long slump, interrupted only by a serious wrist injury, one of the worst maladies a big league hitter can have. Nobody is saying this out loud much, but I do believe the wrist is affecting him, and that it will be something the Royals talk about this offseason when trying to explain a disappointing season.
Gordon does not have enough plate appearances to qualify, but if he did, his adjusted OPS would be the eighth-worst of 162 regulars in baseball. Gordon is striking out way too much and has shown virtually no ability to get out of pitcher’s counts. But if you look at the numbers, there are indications of bad luck, with a career-high line drive rate (according to Baseball-Reference) but a batting average on balls in play that’s 50 points below his career average.
If he had the same luck on balls in play that he’s had the rest of his career, his batting average would jump 33 points. He’d still be having a bad year, that’s not the point. It’s just that there has been some bad luck amplifying Gordon’s struggles.
This is strange because Royals officials believed that Gordon’s athleticism, work ethic and diverse skillset would help him age well. Most around baseball shared that belief.
Right now, Gordon’s OPS is more than 150 points lower than last year’s and 130 points lower than his career average. A drop that drastic cannot be explained by just one thing. This has to be parts mechanical, mental, health and perhaps even something else.
One of the knocks on Gordon early in his career was that he wore failure terribly. Struggles ate at him, he internalized it and the whole thing snowballed. That was a long time ago — three All-Star games, four Gold Gloves, two pennants and a world championship ago — but it’s hard not to wonder if he’s trying too hard to live up to the contract and everything that came with it.
I don’t know. My guess is the wrist is bothering him more than he will ever let on, and that it’s affecting his swing and mechanics in ways that are hard to detect. I believe in Gordon. He’s too talented, too committed, too proven to be this bad.
The problem, though, is one of timing. The Royals need him now. Teams typically expect the last year of big-money free-agent contracts to be a bad investment, sort of the premium you pay on a guy’s last season to get the production of the earlier years. That was a calculus that particularly fit the Royals’ situation, because in all likelihood they won’t be winning in 2019 anyway, and would still be getting some value from Gordon being around the next wave of prospects.
But that only works if he’s productive in the other years of the contract, and so far he is having the worst year of his career — worse even than when people were calling him a bust, and he was demoted.
I root for Gordon. I’ve enjoyed watching his career develop, admire the way he handled those difficult early years and respect the way he is on the field, in the clubhouse and around town. I want him to do well. I believe he will get out of this.
But I never would’ve imagined him struggling like this.
The Royals have a reputation of crushing hard pitching. Think about the struggles they’ve had against soft-tossers like John Danks and the success they’ve enjoyed against hard throwers like Carlos Carrasco. I know two scouts who make fun of me for constantly writing about the Royals’ resilience in late-inning comebacks, saying instead that it’s just the result of them going against the harder throwers that tend to be at the back end of bullpens.
But, an interesting thing just happened. I looked up some data and, according to Baseball Reference, the Royals have been better against finesse pitchers than power pitchers in each of the last two seasons.
So, I don’t know. Maybe the fastball thing is just a narrative we’ve all created to explain the swing-first, ask-what-pitch-it-was later Royals.
I do think this is worth passing along: last year, the Royals were baseball’s third-best hitting team against fastballs. For an offense that was — on the whole — mediocre, that’s worth noting. Particularly since they are just 13th against fastballs this year.
What you’re missing here is that John Elway is a legit wizard — as in he practices sorcery — and could probably fit Lionel Messi’s contract under the salary cap if he needed a kicker.
I believe the best thing that could happen for other AFC West teams would be for Von Miller to have sat out the 2016 season. The second best thing would be for Miller to have not signed a long-term contract, and instead missed training camp and unhappily played the 2016 season in less-than-great shape before hitting free agency next year.
But, well, that’s probably what’s going to happen with Eric Berry.
I understand what you’re saying about cap space, and the Broncos’ ability to do something in the future, but they also locked in one of the best two or three edge rushers in the league for many of his prime seasons.
Now, there’s another truth here, which is that the Broncos are due for a fall back. I don’t know that it’s enough for the Chiefs to win the division, but it is something. And not just the quarterback thing*, and not just losing Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan among many others.
* I know the comeback to that is Peyton Manning was among the NFL’s worst quarterbacks last year and the Broncos still won the Super Bowl, but c’mon. His replacement is Mark Sanchez.
There are trends that show teams that rely heavily on defense and win the Super Bowl fall off more than teams that win with offense, which seems counterintuitive, but it’s there.
I haven’t been terribly impressed with what the Chiefs have done this offseason. They have a lot of talent — nine players on the NFL Network’s top 100, for whatever that’s worth — but I wonder about depth and some specific weaknesses and, well, there is plenty of time to get into all of that.
But, I guess what I’m saying is, “sweet, my team’s rival just signed its best player long-term” is a curious case for optimism.
Yes. They did pay him his full salary after he went on the non-football injury list after his diagnosis, but I would like to pump the brakes on the idea that an NFL team electing to not cut pay when one of the most popular players on the team receives a cancer diagnosis is some act of principled heroism.
Our teams and athletes have given me a lot of easy columns to write — special thanks here to the 2014-15 Royals, and to Scott Pioli — but “the Chiefs just cut Eric Berry’s pay for getting diagnosed with cancer” would’ve been an all-timer.
I’m not saying the Chiefs deserve no credit for that. Football is a cold business, and surely there are organizations out there that would’ve gone a different way. But I’m saying that if the Chiefs expected Berry to automatically knock off $5 million from his asking price or whatever, well, that’s a terrific way to make sure a deal that absolutely should’ve been done doesn’t get done.
Look, I am not blaming the Chiefs more than I blame Berry and his agent, Chad Speck. This took both sides. I get that there are legitimate football reasons for the Chiefs to not give Berry big money*, and I get that Berry has reasons to not take less than he believes he’s worth**.
* Non-premium position, weakness covering tight ends, just for starters.
* He’s already made more than $50 million, so he’s not financially strained, and money equals respect.
Two things to watch going forward here. First, let’s see what this does to the relationship between Berry and the Chiefs. From some of the stories leaking into the media — particularly about the Chiefs wanting Berry to take out a disability policy — it’s clear that Berry’s camp is disappointed and perhaps a little bitter. He is an unquestioned leader in the Chiefs’ locker room, and he now has every reason to skip most of training camp, as well as be a little disengaged when he returns.
Also, it will be interesting to see how this plays among his teammates. Just from social media, it’s obvious he is beloved, and that most of his teammates were rooting for him to get paid. Teams know that a significant part of these long-term deals is the message it sends to the rest of the locker room. Stay loyal, work hard, buy in, produce, and get paid.
Berry did all that, and didn’t get a deal.
Football games and seasons are often decided on a razor’s edge, and coaches spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to get the intangibles to line up. It’s possible — possible, is what I’m saying — that these failed negotiations will undermine some of that work.
Well, yeah. Of course. There is that. I could make the argument that in fantasy football you can win money, where as in Pokemon Go you can’t*, but I can’t make that argument with any passion. You could also wonder why I need to pay $100 or whatever to keep track of stats with my friends, and I’d tell you, basically, “I just do, OK, so stop giving me a hard time jeez!”
Look. I make a genuine income sitting in a chair and typing words about sports. I support a family in part by doing this weekly time suck, where we talk about the Chiefs in July, and fantasize about Ned Yost someday managing a game without pants, and, well, Pokemon Go.
What I’m saying here is that I am in no position to judge how anyone spends their time. I fundamentally do not get the P-Go craze*, but, well, I live a very short drive from two of the best barbecue restaurants in the world and spent much of my Sunday smoking pork and brisket.
* Does anyone call it P-Go? I kind of like it. It’s catchy!
We all have ways to spend free time. Some of us read books, or go to museums, or watch movies. The best of us try to help people, to make the world a better place.
Others of us obsess over how to clear cap space in a dynasty league — I DON’T WANT TO TRADE LE’VEON BELL IS WHAT I’M TELLING YOU — and should probably never judge how anyone else spends their time.
I’m not sure there’s much difference, actually. Mack Rhoades did not hire Kim Anderson, and by some accounts did not hold him in high regard.
If anything, a new hire might give Anderson some time, if the new person — depending on when the permanent hire is made — decides there are more pressing needs and is willing to show a little patience on the basketball coach.
That’s another moving part here. It’s uncertain when that permanent hire will be made. Logically, it seems the university should move on a permanent chancellor first.
I wrote about this, but the best course for Mizzou would be to use this time for a full and brutally honest self-evaluation. To figure out exactly what’s gone wrong in the athletic department, what’s needed to fix it, and who the best candidates are to lead what is hopefully a new day.
My sense is the problems are too big and the answers too layered to be fixed by one athletic director, which is why that has to be only part of a bigger movement. More communication, more responsiveness, more time and energy spent to make the university and athletic department something alums can be proud of.
In that kind of scale, the basketball coach is just one small piece. And even if you end up firing him anyway, a little patience might allow for a clearer picture of what’s needed.
God bless you.
I, too, am anti-umbrella. They are cumbersome, inconvenient and not all that important for all but the heaviest rains. I mean, honestly, how often do you have to be in a heavy rain for more than a few seconds? I literally cannot think of the last time that happened to me. I assume walking out of a Royals game that got rained out.
Now, all that said, I do have to mention that I found a use for an umbrella a few weeks ago. The neighbors had a pool party, and there wasn’t much shade for the baby, at least not in a place where it was convenient to talk with people, so my wife grabbed an umbrella out of my car* and set it up so the little guy wouldn’t turn into a raisin.
* It came with the car, which just seems so strange. Buy this new car and we’ll throw in a $10 umbrella!
So, there’s one good use for an umbrella.
I am exactly annoying enough to softened my Boulevard loyalty from quite strong to merely strong when Duvel bought them. I understand all of the logical reasons why that’s dumb, and I appreciate that by all accounts — from both what’s on the shelves and what I hear from friends who work there — the product and creativity have not been compromised.
Even still, there was an extra little joy in drinking a beer that was imagined, conceived, created and bottled here, and for which the money would stay here. Most of that still exists, and my garage fridge is still stocked with plenty of Boulevard, but there is a small something missing.
Anyway, that’s a sort of long way of saying I’ve been sampling lots of other local beers.
I don’t know your definition of small. Does Tallgrass count? Free State? Mothers? Well, whatever, this is my list so here are my 10 favorite non-Boulevard local beers:
Tallgrass 8-Bit. Just a great and simple and tasty beer, and I like the Pac-Man can. Their explorer series is terrific, too. Wooden Rooster 4Lyfe.
Mothers Lil’ Helper. A staple at the Mellinger house. But if anyone from Mothers is reading this, please correct your egregious mistake in no longer making the Spring Batch. It is embarrassing how much I looked forward to that beer coming out.
Crane Brewing Kumquat Weis. Yes. The name made the 12-year-old inside of me giggle, too. I hope that’s OK.
Tallgrass Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat. Mmmmm. Buffalo Sweat.
Torn Label Bloody Christmas. The name threw me off at first, too. But it is delicious.
Free State Stormchaser. Also like their Iron Man imperial stout.
Torn Label House Brew. Lot of interesting stuff out of Torn Label.
Double Shift Black IPA. There are not enough black IPAs in this world.
Martin City Hard Way IPA.
Kansas City Bier Company Weizenbock. Had this for the first time the other day, I believe at Summit. So good. Better than the Dunkel, I think, which is also delicious.
Yes. I know. I need to drink more beers that are neither IPAs or stouts. But you live your life, and I’ll live mine, OK?
First, I want to say that Gary wasn’t the only one to lose his job at the Journal-World this week. I don’t know the exact number, it was in the dozens, hardworking people who loved that paper and needed those jobs to support families.
Two of them are photographers Richard Gwin and Mike Yoder, absolute institutions there. I saw someone say they have been so good for so long that if you ever look through the last 40 or so years of Lawrence, you will probably be seeing it through their lens.
Another is Andrew Hartsock, one of those people whose name doesn’t often appear in the paper, but whose talent and energy is all over the product. Drew was there when I was barely 16, working at the J-W for free because I wanted to see if I really wanted to do this for a living. He was kind, thoughtful and always treated me better than a know-nothing teenager probably deserved.
There are many others, but Gary’s is the name people are the most familiar with, and he deserves all the love he’s received, so, here goes, a Gary Bedore story:
This was back in the late 1990s. I was in college, at Kansas, working at the Topeka paper helping cover high school and KU sports. The KU beat writer then was Kurt Caywood, a great guy, solid as oak, funny, helpful. All of it. He picked my up at my crappy apartment one Saturday morning to go cover a football game.
It’s been long enough that I can’t swear whether I lived this story or he merely told it to me, but it seemed that Roy Williams — then the basketball coach at KU — had gone on a recruiting trip. I forget the prospect’s name, or even if he ever played at KU, but Gary called the kid’s mom to see how the visit went.
The visit went great, because they always do, and at one point in the conversation the mom mentioned that she made Williams her banana nut bread. Williams seemed to enjoy the banana nut bread, the mother said, so of course Gary asked her for the recipe and printed it in the next day’s paper.
“So now every KU fan can make the banana nut bread that Roy liked,” Caywood said with a smirk.
There was a pause.
“You know, I’ve come to accept that there are certain things Gary’s readers will know that mine just won’t.”
That is Gary’s reporting: thorough, often to hilarious extremes. I remember another time the Journal-World ran a headline on the cover of the sports page: “Williams has flu.” This was in May. Williams made a recovery by basketball season.
This is tough to comment on only because I was sad, angry, frustrated and shocked to see Gary go. He is an institution on the Kansas basketball beat. He is among the most hard-working and best reporters I know. His work ethic, kindness, respect, knowledge and production are beyond reproach.
My first “job” — and I put that in quotation marks only because I didn’t get paid — in journalism was at the Journal-World, the day after I turned 16. That was more than 20 years ago, and even then, Bedore was an established figure on that beat.
Firing him — the official term will be laid off, or more likely bought out — is an egregious, bone-headed, and tone-deaf mistake by the new owners of the Journal-World. Getting rid of Gary is a terrific way to instantly sap the paper’s credibility, and to become less relevant and less respected on — by farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr — the most important and read beat at that paper.
I understand that the media business is often brutal, unforgiving and cold. I think all of us who’ve stuck around have to understand that. Particularly in sports, our jobs are strange and would be incredibly difficult to explain to someone unfamiliar with sports. We’re all replaceable, even those who might be so delusional to believe otherwise.
But this one is impossible to understand — laying off a well-liked, well-respected, incredibly productive and loyal employee just to save a few thousand bucks on a salary? It’s a destructive message to send.
There are fundamental realities that are above all our heads and control our fates. The media business continues to shift, and companies are trying to make money by largely giving away information for free. Journalism is an expensive business. Salaries, benefits, travel, equipment, the whole bit.
People who own companies are obviously free to do what they believe is best. It’s just frustrating to watch a new owner who apparently has no feel for that community do something so counterproductive, particularly for those of us who know and respect Gary.
Well, she is the greatest women’s tennis player of all-time, which is a pretty good place to start.
I know there are arguments to be made for Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova, who is so famous that the autocorrect on my word program here helped me out with her last name just now.
But I do belief Graf indirectly benefitted from Monica Seles’ career being cut short by the stabbing, and as much as I’d love to see Navratilova and Serena play each other at their peaks, it’s just hard to imagine a focused and prepared Serena losing to anyone.
I’m trying to think of who might be in the argument, even if we use Jordan’s real retirement (from the Bulls in 1998) and not his technically last retirement (from the Wizards in 2003).
Depending on how you viewed the timeline and steroids, you might make a case for Barry Bonds. Tom Brady has won four Super Bowls since Jordan’s push off in Utah*. LeBron just accomplished something truly historical, and in my mind is clearly the best basketball player since Jordan**.
* I’m kidding! Mostly!
** And maybe before Jordan, too.
Nobody had a run like Tiger, and Michael Phelps should be in this conversation, too. I’m probably forgetting someone at the moment.
But, all that said, yeah. I think I’d take Serena. We all have our own way of judging these things, and when viewing careers I tend to value peak over longevity, but Serena has both. The nature of tennis is different, and Tiger did some things nobody has ever seen, and Phelps has been a force of nature, but I just don’t know if I can think of a combination of dominance and time quite like Serena.
It’s news when she loses in a way I’m not sure has existed for anyone else. And when you watch her play, it feels like mental gymnastics to think of a way she could lose.
So, well, yeah. I think she’s it.
I feel so bad for Kyle Zimmer. He signed for $3 million out of college, and that’s great, but that was also four years ago. The Royals’ original plan was for him to break into the rotation in 2014. But now, with the news that Zimmer will undergo shoulder surgery, he is at least a year away from pitching in the big leagues, and even that prognosis feels Leslie Knope-level optimistic.
This is just the latest health setback, and if they’re being honest, Zimmer and anyone with the Royals can’t be expecting it to be the last.
Pitching prospects break. That’s what they do. So none of this is necessarily surprising, but it’s a huge part of why the Royals have a hole in their rotation. It is not an exaggeration to say that if Zimmer’s career had met reasonable expectations the current Royals season would have a significantly different look.
But, also, I just feel bad for Zimmer. I can only imagine how frustrating that would be. He has the talent, and by all accounts the focus and work ethic to be a good big league pitcher. That would be such a great life, the one he’s worked so hard for.
The four players drafted in front of him in 2012 have all made the big leagues. Carlos Correa, the top pick that year, is a star. Zimmer hasn’t made it past Class AA, and has thrown a total of about 90 innings the last three seasons. His life is the monotony of Surprise, Ariz., what must feel like an endless string of rehab and surgery and chain fast food, over and over on a loop.
That sucks. Stay strong, Kyle.
I’m on a different team.
One of the strange things about going through your 30s, particularly once you have kids, is that there is an incredible amount of things that happen to and with famous people that you just never know about.
One moment you are obsessing over every conspiracy theory about why Dave Chappelle ended the best sketch comedy show in TV history, and the next moment you are legitimately surprised that Kim Kardashian news is still A Thing.
I can legitimately sing the songs for more kids’ cartoons than songs that have been released in the last two years, and I can’t decide whether it makes it sadder that the score would be something like two cartoons and zero real songs*.
* I’m pretty sure the answer is “sadder.” But the kid loves Chuggington and Wonderpets.
So, yes, I play for a different team. I play for Team Found Out A Trick That Seems To Lower The Chances The Toddler Pees The Bed And That’s Amazing. I play for Team Now Gets Hungry Around 5:30 Or 6 Because That’s When The Toddler Gets Hungry. I play for Team Doesn’t Even Get Annoyed Anymore When The Toddler Wakes Up At 6 Anymore.
Most of all, I play for Team Had To Look Up What The Hell You’re Talking About With Taylor Swift And Am Just Fine Having Not Known About This.
They would be largely hated and distrusted, but yet rich and ubiquitous, followed even by people who tell themselves they should spend their time doing something else.
They would be, now that I think about it, the NFL.