Just When You Think the Market is Cornered on GRIT…

getzgordonFor the past two years, the brass of the Kansas City Royals have put a heavy emphasis on having gritty, hard-nosed players take up space on their roster. Manager Neddy(Frank) Yost and GM Dayton Moore seem to have a bromance with these players, almost to a laughable degree. But just when you think Kansas City is the only franchise who would rather have a player who gets his uniform dirty than having actual real talent, along come the Arizona Diamondbacks.

JUPThis past week, Arizona pieced together a massive deal to send star Outfielder Justin Upton to Atlanta, reuniting him with brother BJ. Arizona had discussed trading Upton for awhile now, which perplexed a lot of people within the game. Upton is only 25 years old and has an amazing amount of upside. Just two years ago, he put together a breakout season, hitting over 30 homeruns, an OBP of .369 and an OPS close to .900. Add in him cutting down his strikeout totals and seemed that Justin was starting to put the numbers up that Arizona expected when they drafted him back in 2005. But even as early as last offseason, the Diamondbacks were trying to deal him. Upton stumbled in 2012, and it just added fuel to the trade rumor flames. So why would Arizona want to trade one of the most talented younger players in the game? One word could probably sum this up: GRIT.

kirk-gibsonArizona manager Kirk Gibson was known for a variety of intangibles during his playing career. Maybe more than anything he is remembered for his hard-nosed, in the dirt type play and his win at no cost attitude. Right now you are probably picturing his walk off homerun in Game One of the 1988 World Series, limping around the bases and moving slower than former manager Tommy Lasorda. Gibson played the game like his hair was on fire, a model of the “take no prisoners” style of baseball. So it only makes sense that Gibby would prefer players that play the game the way he used to. There has been a thought that Arizona had a surplus of players that didn’t fit that mold. Chris Young was jettisoned early this offseason, shipped to Oakland. Stephen Drew: gone. Prospect Trevor Bauer was the most shocking trade this offseason, headed to Cleveland. Upton was thought to not fit the mold that Gibson wanted, as some within the organization felt he didn’t want to get his uniform dirty. Sure, Upton would spend extra time in the batting cage when struggling, trying to fix issues he was encountering last year. It’s not like JUp didn’t show a willingness to improve. He just wasn’t Kirk Gibson.

codyrossThis brings up a bigger question, and one that will show whether or not Arizona GM Kevin Towers and Gibson are correct. Which is more important, an all-out balls to the wall attitude or actual talent? In some ways, I am torn on this subject. I will admit I enjoy watching the players who dirty up their uniform and play the game like there is no tomorrow. But most of the time actual talent trumps a player who gives 200% out on the diamond. Sure, Gibson was a player who played the game with a lot of GRIT. But he also had talent. Same for Pete Rose. Now, let’s not act like the Diamondbacks didn’t get any talent in return for Upton. Prado is a former All-Star, and Randall Delgado is a top of the line future starter. The Snakes have also added some quality guys this offseason, as there is no reason to sneeze at guys like Cody Ross and Eric Chavez, along with the prospects they have picked up. The argument is that Justin Upton isn’t just a future star. Upton very well could be a future MVP and a guy to build your team around. Instead, Arizona has valued a mindset over tools.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Kansas City RoyalsArizona isn’t alone in this thinking. Over the past couple years, the Royals have gone out of their way to acquire players they think(and sometimes very heavy emphasis on the ‘think’ part)are hard-nosed, gritty players. The difference is that while the Diamondbacks have Prado and Ross, the Royals get Chris Getz and Jeff Francoeur. That is the difference between a team that can realistically make a go of the playoffs, and a team on the outside looking in. It is NOT the worst thing in the world to have players with those intangibles. It is bad when you don’t realize that talent will get you farther than the guy hitting .235 but gets his uniform dirty every game. I guess that begs the question: which would you rather have, Justin Upton, a guy who could be a future MVP, or Jeff Francoeur, someone who won’t even be an All-Star, but is a good character clubhouse guy(and someone who will deliver pizza to your fans)?

celebrate2013 will show whether Arizona was correct to build their ballclub around “Gibby Ball’ or they will have the proverbial pie in the face from traded talent like Bauer and Upton. Hey, it might work. If there was ever a guy I would trust to will a team to the playoffs, it’s Gibson. Talent is still there in Arizona, just no one player who can be the focus of the team. if it doesn’t work, Kirk Gibson’s head could be on the chopping block. If they feel like they aren’t quite there, Kevin Towers could always call the Royals. I’m sure Getz and Francoeur could be had for the right price.

The Memory Remains

baseball-loses-best-cardinals-slugger-stan-musial-orioles-manager-earl-weaverThis past weekend, two baseball legends passed away on the same day. Longtime Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver and 92 year old St. Louis icon Stan Musial were mourned over this past weekend by many for good reason. Weaver was ahead of his time, pushing a team with great pitching and waiting for the three-run homerun. Weaver would have fit in perfectly in the late 90’s baseball picture. He was just as colorful in interviews and would fit like a glove in today’s soundbite era of sports coverage. Musial has to be listed as one of the greatest players EVER, and the numbers back that up. Musial didn’t get the press of a Ted Williams or a Joe DiMaggio, but he was every bit the player they were and in some ways put up those great numbers for a longer period of time. Both are huge losses for the game, and it will be felt within the baseball community. Both were also before my time, as I only remember Weaver faintly for the end of his managing career. But it did get me thinking; how will I react when the players that I idolized as a kid start passing away? What affect will that have on me?

brett-swings-350George Brett is my all-time favorite player. As a Kansas City Royals fan since I was a kid, Brett was the definition of greatness for those 1980’s Royals team and was THE fan favorite. We all knew how special he was and loved not only his great hitting and fielding, but his hustle and determination out on the field. I have heard many a story over the years about how George wasn’t always the nicest person in the world, but he is still my favorite. He is what I love about the game. To think that someday I will have to mourn him makes me think that a piece of my childhood will die with it. Maybe it will, but then I remember that I will always have the memories. I always think about how Buck O’Neil loved telling stories about the old Negro League players, and I can see the same happening with my generation and the great Royals’ teams we saw. Brett is looked at the same way Musial is in St. Louis; he is a part of the fabric of the community. Brett is an all-time great that won’t soon be forgotten, but it will be a sad day for not only us Kansas City fans, but baseball as well.

cal-ripken-streakOne great thing about being a long time baseball fan is the history you have seen over the years and the players you watched that were just as great of role models as ballplayers. Cal Ripken Jr. is one of those players and one who will go down as not only a great player but one who you would want your kids to emulate. All Ripken did was go out there every game, day after day, injured or healthy, on a hot streak or in a long slump, and played the game as hard as he could. I still fondly remember him breaking the consecutive games streak, and can recall the goosebumps I had while watching him walk around the stadium shaking hands. Moments like that are the ones I love to pass on to my son and I can only hope that someday he can experience the same thing.

Van slykeNow, not all the players I loved growing up were Hall of Famers. Andy Van Slyke was not one of the greats, but a good ballplayer during his time. The thing that I always loved about watching Van Slyke was his hustle. Didn’t matter what part of the game it was, Andy was diving all over the field, getting his jersey dirty and doing everything he could to help his team win. Van Slyke played on some great Pittsburgh Pirates teams, and though he was never the focal point of the team(hello, Barry Bonds!), he was a vital cog in their playoff teams. Van Slyke will never be in baseball’s Hall of Fame, but I’ll always remember him fondly and can remember why he was an easy one to cheer for.

rickeyIt’s never an easy thing to watch your idols pass on, especially those that you have looked up to since you were a kid. But one day it will happen, and there won’t be anymore returns to the field they once graced. No more reunions, no more old-timer’s days, no more celebrations of their great career accomplishments. One day, it will come time to celebrate a life, not a career. In some ways, that is a greater celebration than what these great ballplayers did on the field. You can only hope when that time comes that they will be remembered for everything great they did, and the stories will never stop. Over the last few days, Earl Weaver and Stan Musial stories have been told ad nauseum. That is the true barometer of just how entrenched into the game you were. When the stories stop, that is when you should worry. I’ll have no problem telling stories of the heroes of my youth. I’ll be able to honor them the best way possible; by keeping those memories alive.

Questions with Getzie-Premiere Edition


Welcome to a new regular feature here on Bleeding Royal Blue, “Questions with Getzie”. What this will be is Kansas City Royals mild mannered second baseman Chris “Getzie” Getz. Chris will answer questions from you, the fan, and get better insight into the mind of this infamous slugger. Or at least this is how I think it would go. So without further ado, here is the premiere edition of “Questions with Getzie”.

Chris+Getz+Kansas+City+Royals+v+Baltimore+9LRKkWFiV6WlChris, do you ever worry that if you are going back on a fly ball in right field that you will run into Frenchy?-Robert, Topeka, KS

Well, Robert, I’ll admit that it does pop in my mind a time or two. I mean, who wants to run into an Adonis of a man like Jeff. But at the end of the day I know that there is no way Frenchy is near the ball by then. I hope it never happens. If there is anyone we can’t afford to lose, it’s him. Neddy even told me so.

getz and gio

Getzie, what do you feel are your chances of winning the second base job this year?-Bob, Overland Park, KS.

Golly gee, that is a great question. I’m looking forward to going out there and competing with Johnny, and may the best man win. But Neddy has told me not to worry about it. Then he smiled and winked at me. So it should be fun!

yuniChris, who has taught you the most from working with them in the middle infield?-Sam, Lee’s Summit, MO

Wow, so many great guys that I’ve had to chance to work with. Obviously, Alcides is amazing at shortstop and is a special athlete. Hos has shown me how to look cool out on the field. I try, but who’s as cool as that guy?!  Yuni last year taught me a lot. He really pushed me as an athlete, as he always used to tell me that if the ball was hit to either of us, I needed to get it. He was very adamant that was my responsibility, and since he is a veteran, I trust him. I ended up working twice as hard when out on the field with Yuni, and I think it’s made me a better player. So, thank you Yuni!

Chris+Getz+neddy What can I do…I mean, what can a player do to get on the good side of manager Ned Yost?-Johnny, Metairie, LA

Shucks, Johnny, that is an easy answer. Neddy is such a great guy and he really loves his ballplayers. The simple answer is to bunt. Neddy loves bunting! Also, every player should try to go hunting some winter with him and Jeff Foxworthy. Foxy and Neddy are swell to hunt with, and there’s a good chance too that Frenchy will be with them! If all else fails, Neddy likes gritty ballplayers. I just seem to have gotten lucky as he tells me all the time how much GRIT I have. So Johnny, the best answer is just to go out there and be yourself. Great question!

buntingChris, are you worried about bunting this year, as an attempted bunt finished your season in 2012?-Mike, Blue Springs, MO

Golly, Mike, I hadn’t really thought of it. Bunting is really my whole being. I’m sorta kinda nothing without bunting. I’m just going to have to go out there, look fear in the face, and bunt like I’ve never bunted before. I don’t want to imagine a world where I can’t bunt.

Getzie, big fan here. I’m looking forward to you making a comeback in 2013. I have co-worker’s who think you are a backup and prefer Johnny Giavotella over you. Crazy, aren’t they?-Steve, Emporia, KS

Steve, thanks for being a fan. But it seems like you should listen to your co-worker’s. They sound like they are knowledgeable baseball fans that don’t just copy the opinions of the writers for the Kansas City Star. You would be best served to be quiet every once and awhile and listen to what they actually say. Your opinion isn’t the only one out there.

Matt+Treanor+Chris+Getz+Tampa+Bay+Rays+v+Kansas+RHyDcDzvuvRlWell, golly gee, that’s looks like it’s all for now everyone. Hope you enjoyed “Questions with Getzie” and I can’t wait to answer more questions soon! Let’s go bunting!

Just to Clarify: the Baseball Hall of Fame is NOT a Church


This week the BBWAA will announce if there are any new inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and no matter the results there will be controversy. The biggest names of the “Steroid Era” (Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens) are finally eligible for the Hall, and despite their career’s being Hall of Fame worthy before they took any illegal substances, most voters won’t bother even giving them a passing thought. Soon, the Hall of Fame ballots will be inundated with players who probably should be inducted, but because of the suspicions of PED use, they will not get the 75% of the votes that are required for entrance into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. But they should be in, and here is why. The Baseball Hall of Fame is not a church. It might be sacred ground for those of us that love the game, but it already has cheaters and players with shady character issues roaming the halls.

hall-of-fame11 Having players in baseball cheat and do whatever they can to get an advantage is as old as the game. We’ve all heard the stories about players using spitballs, or scuffing the ball to get more movement when they pitch. Batters have long used items like pine tar and cork to help them hit the ball farther. None of this is new. It’s been going on since the beginning of the game, and will be going on long after you and I are gone. Doesn’t mean it is right, but lets not act like the game is 100% pure. In fact, a pitcher named Pud Galvin is said to have injected monkey testosterone back in 1889. With that line of thinking, are we to believe that there is no one in the Hall of Fame with a shady record or who didn’t follow the rules of the game all the time? None of us are that naive, but it’s amazing how many of the writer’s will crucify everyone who used steroids, or is even suspected, yet they idealize former players whose character would be thrown into just as much of question. Two of the biggest in history would not be categorized as “Angels”, and I don’t mean the ones that roam the outfield in Anaheim. Exhibit A: Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.

baseballhall9   Two of the greatest baseball players of all time are Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, and neither would be considered of being of great character. Cobb was a known racist, and would sharpen up his spikes so when he slid into a base he would go in with his spikes high. Yeah, real nice guy, huh? To say the least, Cobb was not liked by many, and that includes his teammates. Ruth, while liked by his peers, wasn’t a saint. Ruth was a known womanizer, and poured more than his fair share of alcohol and tobacco into his body over the years. Don’t believe me? Here is an actual quote from “the Bambino”:

“Sometimes when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. I think, ‘It is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.’”

I can not tell a lie: that is a real quote from Babe Ruth!! Now, Babe Ruth is still one of the greatest(if not THE greatest) ballplayers of all time. But these men weren’t saints and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t take them out of the Hall of Fame, now would you?

6-gaylord-perry_display_imageMaybe the most notable player in Cooperstown that is known for cheating is the great Gaylord Perry. Perry made a career out of playing with the batters head. Perry would go through a whole routine on the mound, including wiping his brow and rubbing behind his ear before throwing a pitch. Did he throw a spitball all the time? No. Did he make the batter think he was? Yes. That was part of his game. The other part of his game was simple; Gaylord threw a spitter. The problem was, there was never any hard proof in a game. There were many attempts to catch him, but most futile. But since his retirement, Perry has admitted to adding a little somethin’ somethin’ to the ball, to give it a little bit of added english. Perry won over 300 games in his career, and won the Cy Young in both leagues, while totaling five 20 win seasons. Pretty safe to say, he is a Hall of Famer; a Hall of Famer that cheated.

mickey_mantleMaybe one of the biggest cases of a player who probably shouldn’t pass the character clause in the rules of voting for the Hall is Mickey Mantle. I know there is a whole generation that worships “The Mick” and who think he walked on water. I will never deny he was a hell of a ballplayer, possibly even one of the best. But Mick also had a major drinking problem and cheated on his wife. He also didn’t have the greatest relationship with his sons, but that is neither here nor there. Everyone loved Mickey Mantle, but he made life rough for anyone who was around him. Dealing with an alcoholic every day is tasking, and that is how most friends and family members felt about Mantle. He deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but his character should have been brought into question. Here is where a section of the baseball writers aren’t able to separate their feelings about Mantle while in the same breath crucify steroid users. Hell, Mantle was even given a shot that included steroids back in 1961 to help his ailing hip. Yes, that would “enhance” him being able to play on the field, which would in effect give him an advantage. Are you starting to see where some of the hypocrisy of the writers is seeping in? All that, and I haven’t even mentioned “greenies” yet.

greenies“Greenies” as they are called, were regularly used throughout  the years in baseball, while most prevalent in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Amphetamines(or speed) allow a player to be able to bounce back from a long night and perform at a higher level than they would have clean sober. How prevalent were “greenies”? The percentage of players that used them during that period would be near the majority, where even a player like Willie Mays was known to have amphetamines located in his locker(although no one has ever come out and said they saw him use them). It was common practice for players to use amphetamines to help them recuperate, but there is no scrutiny laid at their feet. Once again, this helped “enhance” their performance, much like PED use would. There is no doubt in my mind that there are players in Cooperstown who used this substance to help them get through a grueling season. It doesn’t make me think less of them, but it once again shows that PED use isn’t an island onto itself.

plaqyesThe point of this is to not knock down some of the greats of the game. They are humans just like the rest of us and in a lot of ways should not be placed on the mantle we like to put them on. The point is that there is a segment of the writers who won’t vote for anyone who is even suspected of using steroids, and while that is their prerogative, it also takes away from what the real purpose of the Hall of Fame is. Baseball’s Hall of Fame is a museum for the game and everything it encompasses, good and bad. Throughout history, bad things have gone hand and hand with the good in the game. The “Steroid Era” is a part of the game, and baseball allowed to it happen. It wasn’t against the rules, and players took advantage of that, making everyone richer. It also put a stain on the game, but it’s a stain we are stuck with. Just like the “Black Sox Scandal”, just like Pete Rose and just like the racism that permeated in the sport for decades. While Cooperstown is the closest thing to Heaven for us fans, it is not Church. Let’s try not to treat it that way.

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