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.