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.