Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I will be appearing on MetroSports Thursday, taking on the posse in Braggin' Rights. I will lead my team to victory with my abnormal amount of inane sports knowledge.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Offense in witness protection program

The Royals lineup collectively witnessed a murder this week and as a result they've been under strict instructions to keep a low profile. Mission accomplished. Yeah they went 3-3 this week but had it not been for Bannister, Davies, Little Leo and the bullpen, this was an 0-6 week. The only respectable offensive game came Tuesday when the onlookers scored five runs. Since then their run totals have been: 2, 1, 1, 4 and 1. The two, by the way, was exactly nine runs short of what was required to tie the game thanks to our durable No. 5 man, Odie Perez. The sad thing is, ODP can pitch awful tomorrow and get away with it because I'm convinced that the weekly Buddy Bell poker game (already consisting of LaRue, Gload and Elarton) has another member. Once Jorge and Ducky come off the DL, Buddy will most certainly find a way to yank Nunez(1.9 ERA in 4 starts) from the rotation. Sorry, the Odie tangent was lingering inside for a while. But if we don't score at least six tomorrow night, we will lose. Some ways I would inject life into the lineup are as follows.
-Remove Mark 'GIDP machine' Teahen from the 3-hole for the rest of the year. My friend and I had a brief discussion last night about which Royals hitter is the worst at his role. Without hesitation, we both said Teahen. Yeah, you may say he's still hitting above .280 and Jason LaRue still plays for us but let's be honest, JRuey(you know what, he's not even worth a nickname) bats 9th and is a catcher. The backup catcher position is not one we place a lot of emphasis on. Teahen has flopped more than anyone else at playing his role. Extra-base power is a reqirement for the 3-hole, not a bonus. Instead of sparking rallies, Teahen kills them as he is tied for the league lead with 19 groundouts into double plays. He has not hit a home run since May 29. Every single Royal with the exception of Gathright has hit one during this stretch. Hell LaRue has four. Our .153-hitting catcher has one fewer home run than Teahen. He would have virtually no doubles if it weren't for those hustle plays that catch every centerfielder off guard still. Not that I don't love those, it's just that every time I see one, it just reminds me of how little power he posesses. Solution: Bat Gordon third and see if Teahen can get it going from the 7-hole.
-Cut Emil Brown. Now that Gathright has been able to do his thing at the plate and make spectacular plays in left, Emil, who already has no future beyond this year, has no use to this team anymore. I've defended this man in many debates but if Joey wasn't here, Brownie would easily be the biggest disappointment in the lineup. I am aware that he was not given sufficient playing time earlier in the season when it mattered for him to play but we're beyond that point now and there's a guy who does something different for us who is doing his job better. Solution: Bring up Craig Brazell and let him platoon with Gload. I don't want Huber or Shealy up when we have a man who has clubbed 34 home runs this season. He cannot possibly fail when compared to anyone in our lineup when it comes to power production. He could platoon with Gload at first and Gload, in turn, could get some additional playing time as a LF against lefties in Brown's old spot.
-Bat Gathright leadoff. This is the biggest problem with our lineup. We have our fastest and most consistent on-base threat batting 8th. Who does that? Oh wait, this is the same man who bat Shane Costa fourth twice. Joey has an OBP of over .410, which is by far, tops on the team. Slide DeJesus to 5th to be in position to drive in the likes of Grud, Butler or Gordon. Dave D is a better fielder and uses what speed he has better than Joey but instincts only take you so far. Joey is a natural leadoff hitter who has been the most pleasant surprise on the team. Give him his shot. It's not like we don't have time to experiment.
This leaves us with the lineup of Gathright-Grudz/German-Gordon-Butler-DeJesus-Gload/Brazell-Teahen-Buck-Pena.
Yes there are too many lefties but we have German to spell either Gordon or Gload against LHP's and I think we need to be more concerned with our hitting in innings 1-7 than worrying about matchup problems later in the game. I would think getting the best 9 on the field in an order that makes sense would come before late-inning statistical matchups.
See if this works until September and then re-assess. Couldn't possibly be worse.
Well here's to another ODP start. Only about eight more to go.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Young guns stymie Twins

After a run-of-the mill Bannister game(7 IP, 1 ER, W) Tuesday, and a run-of-the-mill ODP start last night(lots of hits, lots of earned runs, L) fans were understandably unsure about today's outcome. Fortunately for those 14,000+(according to the likely bogus attendance figure) of us loyalists to made their way to the K today, Kyle Davies and Joakim Soria did not disappoint. I was vehemently against the Davies trade as it's the same man who sent my fantasy team into the crapper in April and was eventually sent down. Today made me a believer out of this trade. Davies mixed up his pitches very well and carried a no-hitter into the fifth. Of course it never fails, I didn't notice it until my friend Brad reminded me and seconds later, it was gone. KD still got the win though, throwing 6.2 innings of shutout ball. Joakim came in for a crucial(for fantasy points as well) four-out save. Masterful pitching from our three 23-year-old right-handers.
-Everyone has been to a game where they sat near someone who they wanted to strangle. I've probably been to at least 20 of them. Today was the most recent. A man in a black Earnhardt T-shirt(bad sign already) with hair just long enough that you knew a lengthy mullet once existed, was that token drunk guy. Normal commentary like tirades against Buddy Bell or why player x didn't get a hit when he was talking them up ensued for about seven innings until two unique things happened.
1. With a man on first and one out, Greinke was dealing with the top of the order. Three times he threw over to first to check on the runner. All three times this mundane move happened, our token obnoxious fan yelled, "Oh yeah!" I don't think it was the alcohol either. This man was completely enamored with the pickoff play. I'd never, in 15+ years of watching baseball, have talked to anyone who remotely enjoyed the pickoff play. Usually drunk fans yell at managers or argue balls and strikes from the nosebleeds but never have I seen someone focus so intently on such a routine aspect of the game. It got even more surreal when Zack stepped off the rubber and had a meeting with LaRue. After he stepped off, he screamed, "Oh yeah, he knows what's goin' on. Yeah!" My friends and me were laughing it up the whole game but were perplexed as to this guy's fascination. I can't imagine what would've happened had Zack actually picked the guy off. I think an extremely rare, one-man standing ovation would've occurred. I'm almost certain of it.
2. After Greinke walked the aforementioned batter(I was probably too caught up in fan x's pickoff rant to remember who was up), Buddy yanked him and put in Gobble to face Morneau. This guy, in Randy Quaid-fashion, was livid and stormed out of his seat. Apparently he had had it with Buddy's lefty-lefty matchup scenarios. I could understand this if we were down after blowing a lead or something but we were up 1-0 in a series-clinching game. He didn't return until the ninth. He must've been cursing in an empty bathroom while Gobble and Soria got the last two outs.
The win put us at 50-63, 14 out and at .442. Our numbers at this time last year were 40-73, 35.5 out and at .354. 10-game turnaround is staggering after we sputtered out of the gates almost as badly this season as last. It took us until September 2 to win our 50th last year. This is truly amazing and fans should really appreciate the effort and progress. No chance at losing 100 and maybe(not likely) a chance we won't lose 90. That'd be amazing. I'd take 73-89 this year in a heartbeat. Hopefully we can take two of three from the Jays with Nunez, Meche and Bannister pitching.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

We don't have to play the Yankees anymore

That is the only positive thing we can say about our boys' effort in the Bronx last weekend. Typical ODP game Friday coupled with a disastrous Elarton-esque first inning Saturday by trade acquisition Kyle Davies were much easier to predict than a horrid Meche outing Sunday. Side note: Who couldn't see this coming? The guy had about a 6 ERA in the NL and is immediately plugged into our rotation in Yankee Stadium. Talk about a sure-fire way to kill his confidence and a game at once. Anyone who can tell me they think this was a good deal with a straight face is dillusional.
Bright spot I guess would be Joey Gathright's 4-for-4 performance Sunday(much to Splittorff's shagrin.) It was hilarious watching Joey double off the wall Friday night and stride out of the box to second for a double. Instead of being happy for Joey or praising his ability to slap doubles the other way, Splitt laid into Joey for not hustling out of the box. I don't think he's used to dealing with a natural athlete of Joey's calibur. Not everyone is Mark Teahen on this team and Joey's Eric Dickerson style of running really had the color man steamed. It was the second time this week Splitt went off on our left fielder(I guess I should pay more attention as he surely has to do this to Emil Brown to preserve any kind of credibility.) Funny stuff. Anything to take my mind off of Bobby Davis.
A rare non-Royals topic to this blog has to be discussed on this off day.
This Mike Vick thing obviously sickens the majority of people. Who would purposely choose to cold-bloodedly murder a dog? These four men look to be behind the eight-ball and I feel no sympathy for them. Why would you risk doing anything like this when you're the second-richest player in the NFL? It's just as dumb as it is sick. Who could possibly do this to so many animals? I hope it brings this issue to light as it probably goes on more than people think. It looks bleak for Vick now as one of his defendants has turned on him and will testify for the government. I personally think he had knowledge of this ring and financed it. This is one of the sickest things sports has seen in my lifetime.
The deeper issue of this case is the racial impact it has. I guess everyone needs a support system but what I'm seeing out of the black population in Atlanta is disturbing. Yeah, I'm white and I don't take a lot of pride in my race and I'm sure I would if I was a minority. But I also believe I would know when to draw the line in terms of who I'd publicly support. When a man is buried this far into a corner for being involved in horrific acts like this, it boggles my mind that strangers would come to his aid on television simply because of the color of his skin. The only reason this is a racial case is because the crime in question stems from a mostly black activity. I understand about taking pride in your race but this is just the kind of thing that divides us. People blindly throwing support out to a man who could be one of the darkest humans to ever put on a football uniform. This is obviously the picture television wants to create as the PETA protesters shown have been all white and the picketers for Vick have been all black. If you want to support Vick because you're a Falcons fan or because you think he's been unfairly charged, fine. But don't do it because he's black. And I get the feeling(strictly because of the images showing all ages of black people holding up signs of support) that this is the driving force of most of these people. If this was an assault, burglary, or even a rape case, I could understand the support but we're talking about hundreds of animals being forced to fight or die. Hundreds of dogs being brutally murdered for no reason whatsoever. This is the animal equivelant of the awful Chris Benoit incident. No white person would dare get behind that would they? It's just disgusting to me that these supporters would want to see these men get off the hook. The NAACP's involvement is even weirder to me. Look, race is a big deal in this country and will continue to be forever. Is the system screwed up? Yes. Are far too many black families living below the poverty line? Yes. Does racial profiling exist? Yes. But in a matter of this much severity, skin color is irrelevant. Race can't be blamed for everything. Do people really think that if the police found 63 dead dogs on Tom Brady's property that this would be swept under the rug? Get a clue. Some people are just sick and Americans should not care whether a sick criminal is white or black.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Another sweep?

This week is one that really separated this Royals team to the completely pathetic 2006 one. After dropping three straight games to the Yankees, our boys have rebounded by winning four straight to preserve a winning week. In that process we blew out(with the exception of Dotel's 9th innning scare on Saturday) Texas in each of the three games this weekend.

The Elarton game coupled with a blowout loss in a Meche start would've sent 2006's squad into a seven to eight game tailspin. This group just has an uncanny knack for driving in runs and turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Seems like RISP(runners in scoring position) was an achilles heal for this team up until about mid-May, now it's something that these men do with regularity. Even John "King of the solo home run when the team is up or down by three or more runs" Buck went three-for-three with two RBIs Saturday. And was it not a joy to watch fellow Domincans Leo Nunez and Peralta shut out the hapless Rangers while the bats consistently strung together hits in the double-digit murdering yesterday? I watched until the last out because watching a team who is used to being on the other side of this outcome pound an opponent into submission like this is a definite sign that this is a vastly different team.

Went to the K Friday for free thanks to my buddy Surf's work connections and watched Brian Bannister go seven strong innings of shutout baseball. That man is now just as reliable as Meche with inferior stuff. Billy Butler blasted a three-run shot that I knew would be our only one of the series. One thing we do not do well is hit home runs, which is one of the reasons this team is ignored on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight. So to finally have a meaningful blast decide the game was very refreshing.

While the on-field action captivated most, the real memorable moment for me came in-between innings. The PA announcer's street-cred(if he had any to begin with) was shot down in a mere second as he made a crucial and hilarious mispronunciation. In the song choice game, choice A was Bonnie and Clyde by Jay-Z and Beyonce but let's just say our subject probably hasn't put on an R&B tune for a while. Instead he chose to utter: Bonnie and Clyde by Jay-Z and Beyonc. The interesting part was the man didn't pause or panic when the name appeared, he just went with his gut and hilarity ensued. Needless to say, the next two tracks I think were Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder, who are probably safely in his comfort zone. Good laugh by the crowd and despite the zero response to hear that Beyonce song(aside from me screaming we want Beyonc! Just so he'd be forced to say it again) the girl picked the new tune. Not surprisingly, the announcer avoided the name this time around. The humiliating gaffe gave his staff enough jokes to last the rest of the season and, if they were true pranksters, they would pencil in some Amerie or Toni Tony Tone or Rihanna for future contests of this sort.

KC actually made national news this week with our beloved leftfielder Emil Brown's pellet gun incident where he shot KMBC reporter Karen Kornacki in the eye. Of course he didn't mean to as he was going for Tony Pena Jr. as Tony was being interviewed(I have no idea why, maybe the no-walk streak.) After wallowing in relative obscurity his whole career, Brown has placed himself on the map.

The trading deadline is less than two days away and the team is still intact. Players I want to see traded: Brown, Sanders, LaRue, Dotel. Though I love Octavio Dotel as he's a quote machine and a pretty stable closer for these parts, he can get us a ML ready OF or a AAA-ML pitcher. I've heard rumblings of Reggie for Wily Mo Pena but I don't think that'll happen. Dotel will go despite wanting to stay here, but maybe there could be a hand-shake agreement and under the table cash exchange between David Glass and Dotel after the season so even though he'd leave, he could re-sign here in five months. Heard of shadier arrangements in my time.

Sanders or Brown have to go. I think Reggie will go somewhere and Emil will stay as he's less attractive to other teams with his .230 average, lack of a glove or home run power and no playoff experience. But if someone were to take him off our hands, most fans would be eternally grateful. LaRue sucks so bad, we're stuck with him most likely.
If Greinke is dealt than I have lost all confidence in this rebuilding job because that man is a future dominator as a closer and has the best stuff on the team. Trading a 23-year-old flame thrower with that much talent is criminal and when I hear the name circulating it induces a bit of panic. He and Soria are our two untouchables. They've completely turned this bullpen around. Maybe the front office doesn't remember how much of a joke it was last year. 53 percent save rate, which means that after the seventh inning, teams had just as likely a shot at beating us with a three-run lead. Maybe they would like some more future Burgos and Sisco's, who currently reside with their clubs' Triple-A affiliates. We have proven young arms and breaking up this would kill the team's momentum this year and set them back for next. Well all this talk is making me angry, here's to four in a row and a fifth in the dome tomorrow.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Notes from a Yankee slaughterhouse

Man, that was as depressing of a game as we've had in a while. Some old elements like stranding numerous baserunners or leaving a starter in just one pitch too long crept back to the forefront last night. Not much to write about but here are some random thoughts
-It's ironic Ross Gload is the only one hitting with any consistency this series. The Fly(that's the name I've given to him as this man is right up there w/ Reche Caldwell at the top of the creepy bugeyes list) just wants to be noticed as he'd lost about 40 points off his average in the month since he's come of the DL while his team prospered and now has seven hits in a series where none of his battery mates are matching his efforts. Go figure.
-Sad day for Royals nation as Girls' night has finally arrived at the K, signaling the end of one of the most infectious silent promos in history. Yes, that's right, we will no longer see one of the happiest girls ever decked out in her pink Royals' attire with the monstrous grin lighting up the screen for an astounding 19 seconds. Surely they'll have to bring her back for backpack night or something after such a memorable performance. I've seen many smiles in my life but none as glowing or painfully staged as the one on this girl's face. A bright future awaits as she could definitely parlay this spot for a gig in a toothpaste commercial or at least a gleeful picture on a travel brochure. If she only had lines in this spot, i'm sure she could've given the Ovaltine kids a run for their money for sheer joy.
-Elarton was finally waived, putting him out of his misery for at least the rest of this season. Sad to see the whole thing happen because, despite being the worst pitcher in nearly seven years, Elarton sounded like a decent guy. The troubling thing was Buddy Bell said he talked to Scotty for nearly two hours. Two hours?? Wow. I'm not sure Vermeil put in that kind of time. That's pretty rarefied territory and borders on unhealthy when a coach/manager is that attached to a terrible player. Buddy is very loyal to his "guys" and I think it affects his judgment as Scotty made about six starts too many. LaRue and Gload have received similar treatment as our loyal manager is probably very close with them as well. No other way to explain their substantial playing time given their limited production.
-As much as I loathe Bob Davis and believe me I do, he clearly wants this team to win badly. When John Buck twice stranded two baserunners, he could barely get the calls out with his voice lowering considerably with each rally-killing out. Have to respect a TV announcer for risking his credibility to be that loyal. Maybe he's just beginning to suck up to the higher-ups so they'll allow him to keep his job next year as the coverage shifts to Fox Sports Midwest.
-I think Billy Butler may be a closet hot-head. Being seemingly composed for a 21-year old, the grind of a whole month in the big leagues may be taking its toll. Twice in three games, he's nearly been tossed by an umpire for arguing clear strikes. Saturday he had to be restrained for his behavior after grounding out then snapping at the home plate umpire about a called strike two pitches ago. That was strange enough but Tuesday he did it again for a called third strike in the middle of the plate. To cap off his week of mental frustration, he decided to go from first to third on a routine single to center and getting thrown out by five feet, nearly nullifying Grudz's run. Not a good week upstairs for our young clean-up man. Could be water under a bridge but I hope not, we could use one of these young guys to be a bit of a character. Gordon and Shealy seem like stiffs out there so seeing Mike Sweeney's fat kid brother going off for nearly no reason is somewhat comical.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Unthinkable act

The Royals brass managed to erase all of the momenum the team had created on their 5-4 road trip through the three best teams in the AL. Whomever had the final say in this matter(starting Kansas City's gift to baseball, Scott Elarton), be it Buddy Bell or Dayton Moore, suffered a major mental setback with what ensued last night.
It was probably the most predictable disaster in recent memory. Right up there with Art Shell being re-hired by the Raiders or the greenlighting of Big Momma's House 2. Who in their right mind could possibly think Elarton could even disguise himself as an average pitcher after what has transpired? The man has done everything a pitcher can do to convince a team that he is not capable of throwing baseballs in a major league ballpark. Here are some of his qualifications:
1. Sport an ERA over 9 in eight starts - check
2. Give up at least one HR for every 3 IP - check
3. Fail to go 5 innings on a consistent basis - check
4. Allow 4 HR's on multiple occasions while in Omaha - check
5. ERA over 6 on latest "rehab" assignment - check.
The man was practically shouting his own demise but no one would listen. Instead Buddy trotted his 3-legged horse out there one last time(I hope and pray). When he call to start last Friday, how could that conversation possibly have gone? Has there ever been a pitcher with weaker credentials given this long of an opportunity? Boy to have been a fly on the wall when Elarton got the call, that would've been some conversation. On the awkward scale, this one probably would've trumped the William Forrester-Jamal Wallace scenes.
The only good thing that came out of this was no home runs were allowed. Every other thing that could've hurt the team's chances of winning Tuesday or either of the subsequent series games did happen. 7 runs in less than 2 innings of work for poor Scotty, who must've had some of the worst sleep last night. Once he came out for the second inning, you kind of felt bad for him because he, every compitent fan in the stadium and the Yankees knew he had nothing left. I didn't even blame him for this as the higher-ups made this debacle a reality.
Nevertheless, Elarton, with this start now stands near the top of a nearly unheard of hall of shame. His 10.46 ERA is third all-time for pitchers who've made eight starts in one season. This version of Scotty is the worst pitcher in Royals history, just to put this horrible saga in prospective.
Congrats Dayton and Buddy, your decision taxed the vaunted bullpen, making them go a season-high seven and a third innings, thus forcing Meche or De La Rosa to each go about seven innings in their respective starts to even have a chance at evening the series. In a season where the team is making everyone forget what it was like to watch the Royals from 2004-2006, they cram three years of pain into one night(just so the bandwagon and T-shirt grubbing fans could be warned one last time what they are getting into). This night signified everything that is wrong with the Buddy Bell era. And if last week gave him any hope of sticking around for 2008, tonight's effort slammed that door. He will surely remember this one when he's stuck as the first base coach of the Pawtucket Red Sox next season. Sadly this may not be the last time this happens as Elarton's slot could be filled by the bearded home run machine on Sunday. If that were the case, this brutal scenario would be rehashed and the season would be impossible to put back together. But knowing Bell and this organization, one trial of humiliation may not be enough.