R-E-S-P-E-C-T, That is What it Should Mean

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I was ALLLL ready to spend this time discussing the 2013 Kansas City Royals season, and how well they played, but pressing matters made me go a different direction. Wednesday night in Atlanta, sparks flew between a very bad team and a soon-to-be playoff team. In what can only be described as an ugly scene, the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves threw punches over an unwritten baseball rule that wasn’t just broken, but smashed wide open.

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In the first inning, Carlos Gomez of the Brewers came up to face Braves pitcher Paul Maholm. Over the years Gomez has had his way with Maholm, and Maholm has hit Gomez at least twice in his career. To say these two probably don’t like each other would be an understatement. Back to the at bat…first pitch from Maholm and Gomez swings as if he is trying to knock in five runs with one swing. He then proceeds to stare down Maholm, which could be counted as the first thing Gomez did wrong. In fact, it wouldn’t be outside the unwritten rules of baseball for Maholm to turn around and nail him in the ribs. Trust me, if that had been Bob Gibson that Gomez stared down, he might get a little bit of sweet chin music. So Gomez finally stares back in and Maholm’s next pitch was killed by Gomez…

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…and Gomez just stood and watched. Then started a slow walk. A slow walk that not even Babe Ruth should be able to get away with, let along one Carlos Gomez. If you listen in the background, you could even hear Braves catcher Brian McCann suggest to Gomez that he should start moving, yet in a very expletive manner:

So started the jaw-jacking. Gomez started yelling back at McCann. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman had a few choice words for Gomez as he rounded first. Gomez kept trash talking as he rounded the bases, making what was already a bad situation downright ugly. By the time Gomez rounded third, McCann had moved about ten feet up of the plate, standing in the way of Gomez. What proceeded was more trash talking and eventually both dugouts emptied.

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It also gave all the creative people on the internet the opportunity to look at all of the crazy faces of Carlos Gomez.

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I guess at this point you can look at the developments one of two ways. One, you can be the person who says if the other team doesn’t want to see such antics play out then don’t give up the home run. There are those that agree with that and think that baseball’s unwritten rules are outdated. Or two, you are like me and believe this comes down to a matter of respect, or lack of respect in this case.

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Baseball’s unwritten rule says that as a batter you don’t go out there and show up the other team. For years the unwritten rules have been used as a way to police matters on the field and keep a certain line of decorum. Some of these rules are outdated, but some are still there for a reason and help keep things from falling out of whack. What Gomez did was going way over the line. I understand Maholm and him have a long history against each other, and at this point probably don’t like each other. But that doesn’t excuse Gomez’s behavior.

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This is going to sound a bit old school on my part, but there should be a level of respect out there between the batter and the pitcher. I’m not saying you have to like each other; hell, you can hate each others guts for all I care. But there needs to be a level of respect, and that seems to be lost just a bit every year. I don’t want to just blame hitters here, but there are a lot who go up to the plate and think they own it and the pitcher is just there to serve up a giant meatball. Hard for these batters to have a bunch of fear when they are allowed to go up there with so much armor that they look Robo Cop. The pitcher has just as much a right to pitch inside as the batter does to lean over the plate. But if you lean over the plate, crowding it, then you can’t be all up in arms when you get plunked.

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I wish there were more pitchers today like Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale and Pedro Martinez. None of those guys would have put up with Gomez’s crap and he would have been drilled. Instead pitchers are afraid of being ejected, as the umpires have taken away their power by controlling and overreacting to these actions instead of letting the players police themselves. Sure, there are times things get out of hand; just look at the Dodgers/Diamondbacks game from earlier in the year. But instead Gomez took Maholm hitting him earlier in the year as personal, despite the fact that nothing about that plate appearance made it seem as if it was intended in the first place.

Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves

I hope hitters have taken something away from this. If anything, they need to realize that not every time you are hit is it done on purpose. Sometimes a pitcher is just trying to throw inside and the ball gets away from them a bit. They are trying to get you out just as much as you are trying to get a hit against him. It’s a back and forth chess game, not an ego driven plate appearance. Hitters, it is not all about you. What it is about is respect, and it needs to come from both sides. If you don’t show the opposing team that respect, don’t expect any back…and don’t walk to first. You can watch the ball but you need to be at least jogging to first. If you don’t, well, don’t be surprised if the other team takes offense to it. Because if we learned anything this week, it’s that Brian McCann is your judge, jury and executioner.

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EMILIOOOOOOOOOOO!

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Second base has been a black hole of talent for the Kansas City Royals these past four years. To be honest, we could probably go back farther, but for now let’s stick to the current regime. Ever since Chris Getz was acquired from the White Sox, the Royals have been in some sort of weird bromance with Getzie and subsequently left a hole at the position. Sure, Johnny Giavotella never stepped up to take over the position(and yes, the argument could be made that he was never given much of a chance to), and anyone else who stepped near the position didn’t really shine. The closest might have been Miguel Tejada, but alas, he was brought down by Bud Selig’s white men in the black suits. So when Emilio Bonifacio was acquired from Toronto on August 14th it seemed like just another middle infielder that wouldn’t do much but take up space and fill out a batting order. But something happened when Emilio actually got some playing time…he…he actually played pretty good. Good enough that he might be the Royals starting second baseman on Opening Day 2014.

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When I first heard that Bonifacio could be a starter next year, I had mixed emotions. On one hand, he’s an upgrade over Getz, which at this point makes me happy. Hey, a guy can only put up with the bunting, and the little things, and the inability to hit the ball with authority so long before you just want it to stop. I know, I know; Bonifacio does a lot of those things. Main difference is he does them good, which I can live with. That’s actually my first thought: “I can live with him at second.” My next thought was that he is more valuable as a super utility guy. In fact, I still feel that way. Bonifacio is able to play second, short and third in the infield, and all three outfield positions. More and more, a guy like that is invaluable to a team, especially a team who has dreams of playoffs floating in their fountains. So what should the Royals do with Emilio?

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Looking at his numbers this year makes you wonder if he would be able to keep those numbers up if continuing to play full time. Thirty nine games is a small sample size, but his numbers he has put up so far are very comparable to his career year, which was 2011 in Florida. In fact, that year he would play in almost all of the Marlins games, hitting . 296 with a .753 OPS and 40 stolen bases. He’s never going to be a big power guy but he does get quite a few extra base hits, as his 222 total bases attest to. So far with Kansas City he has hit . 290, with a .717 OPS and 15 stolen bases in 17 tries. He does strike out a bit more than I would like, but hey, anymore everyone strikes out a ton and no one bats an eye. If he could keep up these numbers for a whole year consistently(and really that is the key word), then he would be a great fit at second next year.

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But let’s say the Royals like having him as a super sub, someone who plays almost as much as a regular but bounces from position to position. I personally feel he has more value here, especially if Mike Moustakas continues to struggle or if any regular goes down for a long period of time. The Royals could go out this winter and look for a younger second baseman that could start(Logan Forsythe, anyone?). This would free Bonifacio up to bounce around and contribute to the team in a various array of ways. Need Bonifacio to give Alcides Escobar a day off? There ya go. Need him to pinch run late in the game for Billy Butler? At your service, sir. Want him to come in as a defensive replacement in the outfield? Aye Aye, Captain! He could also be insurance if the second baseman you acquire sucks pond water and Getzie’s all over the place. He could be described as the most valuable player on the team if they go this way, just in the different ways he could be used. The last few years the Royals have had a miniscule bench, and having someone like Bonifacio who could literally play everywhere could be a secret weapon in 2014.

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So which of these will actually happen? In my mind, Bonifacio ends up being the starter on Opening Day 2014. I will say I don’t think that guarantees he will still be in that spot by the end of the year. There is a good chance that Dayton Moore will go out and try to acquire another second baseman or give someone like Christian Colon a shot at the job and move Bonifacio to the utility spot. The best part of all of this is that for the first time in a number of years, the Royals actually have options and a bit of depth.

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Without a doubt it’s clear to see that acquiring Emilio has been a great pickup by Moore and one that has not only paid off on the field, but also in the clubhouse. His energy at the top of the order has helped the Royals get back on a hot streak in September and even stuck them in a pennant race for awhile. All this for a guy picked up off waivers from a fledgling Toronto ball club. I can easily see Bonifacio staying in a Royals uniform for a few years, and hopefully he will still be here when his brother, Jorge, makes it to Kansas City. No matter which direction the Royals go with Emilio, I am comfortable with either choice. For the first time in a long time, I’m okay with how second base looks for Kansas City. It’s not Frank White, but those shoes aren’t easy to fill. For now, Royals fans everywhere should do this when Bonifacio steps up to the dish:

 

 

Just Another Boring Walk-Off Grand Slam

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So I’ve been sitting around for the last few hours, pondering what I witnessed today.  I journeyed to my home away from home, The K, to take in the final home game of the 2013 season for the Kansas City Royals.  I spent a lot of the season bitching and complaining about Royals management, but come September, I(like most Royals fans) got swept up in the realization that they were actually playoff contenders. I always try to go to the final home game of the season, since I know it will be months before I get to go to another baseball game. Little did I know what I was walking into today…

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As we sat down to watch the game, nothing really seemed out of the ordinary. In fact, it seemed like every other game in this series between the Royals and their opponents, the Texas Rangers. Great pitching from both sides, great defense, and little offense. My son wanted to see Royals catcher Salvador Perez throw someone out; he threw out two guys. We got to see Justin Maxwell(who will be brought up again) make a sprawled out dive in right field early in the game. Alex Gordon showed(once again) why anyone who runs on his arm is stupid, catching Alex Rios for an easy out at third to kill a Texas rally. When it went into extra innings scoreless, it was a foregone conclusion that we could be there awhile.

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Top of the tenth rolled around, and Tim Collins held the Rangers in check. To the bottom of the tenth we went, and the Royals, who to that point had only mustered together two total hits on the day, were looking to start a rally. Eric Hosmer led off the inning and slapped the ball to left field, sliding into the bag at second for a double. With Billy Butler coming up next, the Rangers brought in reliever and former Kansas City All-Star closer Joakim Soria, who would proceed to intentionally walk Butler. This led to a chorus of boos, as most of us wanted to see what Billy could do against his former teammate. Chris Getz would run for Butler, in a move that puzzled me, both because Butler wouldn’t have been the go ahead run(thus taking out one of your key hitters for a runner who might never matter), and because if you wanted anyone to pinch run, Jarrod Dyson should always be at the top of your list. Salvador Perez would hit a liner to shortstop, tying up Elvis Andrus who couldn’t get Getz out at second(who I will give credit to here; knowing that the first baseman was not holding him at first, Getz took a more sizeable lead than he normally would. If not for that lead, Andrus would have gotten him out). The bases were now loaded with no outs for Mike Moustakas. Moose would hit a weak pop up to third, making one out. George Kottaras(or he we haven’t seen in about two weeks) would come up, pinch hitting for Lorenzo Cain. Kottaras would hit a ball to second, with Ian Kinsler getting the force out at home. The bases remain loaded for Maxwell with two outs, who had an interesting day to that point. I mentioned the great catch, but he also had struck out earlier in the game, throwing his helmet and bat down in disgust. The umpire had pointed it out and made a gesture that he wasn’t pleased with Maxwell’s actions. One wonders if lady luck had been shining on us since he hadn’t been ejected from the game. Maxwell would work the count full, before….before…well, just watch this:

 

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:9710648&startTime=00:30

Just WOW! Not just a walk-off, folks. A WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM!  This Royals team has found time and time again new ways to win and help this team stay in contention. Kansas City showed once again they aren’t dead yet, even if they are 3.5 games out of the wild card with only seven games remaining. That blast to left, off of Soria of all people, will be ingrained in my brain for years to come. You couldn’t have asked for a more dramatic win.

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So what did I take away from one of the most exciting Royals games I have ever seen? For one, this is a TEAM.  For them to get to this point, the Royals can’t just rely on one player to lift them up, they need all 25 guys. That is a sign of a true winner. Go ahead, check playoff pasts. The teams that play like a team tend to go further into October. I’m not saying destiny is on Kansas City’s side(I haven’t completely lost my mind!), but I think there is something to say for how this team wins in spit of their flaws. I also saw a group of guys that really enjoy not only themselves, but each other. We hope in a few years these guys will want to stay and won’t wander off through free agency. The argument can be made that they like each other and who doesn’t want to play a kids game with your best friends? But more than anything else, I saw a team who wants to win. I saw a fanbase that wants to win. Both played their parts yesterday and made for one of the most exciting times I’ve ever had at the ballpark. So exciting that you can’t tell who is more excited, myself or my son:

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Seven games are left in the regular season. Logic tells me that will be it, but the little boy in me wants a playoff game. In a week, we’ll know if destiny is on the 2013 Kansas City Royals side.

This 2013 Kansas City Royals Season

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This 2013 season for the Kansas City Royals…the comment that has been made a lot the last couple months is how this season has been a roller coaster for Royals fans. So let’s start where all good stories start, the beginning.

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April was a great month for the Royals, as they would string together their first over .500 month of the season…but we weren’t for sure they were actually contenders. The team would travel to Philadelphia that first weekend of the season and Mike Schmidt and George Brett would throw out the first pitch simultaneously. Schmidt would also discuss how he had hemorrhoids during the World Series in 1980 but didn’t talk about it like George. Philadelphia would also be the sight of Greg Holland’s first blown save of the season; Royals fans would freak out. But the real shocker in April happened on the 16th. In an event that I thought would force the end of the world, Chris Getz hit a home run. Seriously, a real over the fence, over the right fielder’s head and in the air home run! In other news, someone saw a unicorn in Atlanta that night. April would also see the Royals stranded in Boston, as a manhunt to find terrorists was going on, locking down the entire city. The Royals were back in action the next day, just in time to hear David Ortiz sound like Tony Montana.

Kansas City Royals v St. Louis Cardinals

Jeremy Guthrie would throw his first ever complete game shutout on the 3rd of May and…well, May sucked for the Royals: A-LOT. May was also the month Ned Yost asked if he should spank his players for their bad performance. Really. The team was so bad in May that they started the month in first place and by the end of it they were in last. It was so bad that on May 30 the Royals threw a Hail Mary and hired George Brett to be the hitting coach. All this stuff happened the first two months! I’m still shocked Chris Getz hit a home run.

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Moving on to June, Brett and assistant hitting coach Pedro Grifol would work with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and on June 14th, we began to see improvement in Hosmer. By June 17th, the Royals were back at .500, even if the team was winning with smoke and mirrors. Then on June 22nd, an angel swung down from the heavens, and sent little Christopher Getz to Omaha. I was elated. Lee Judge was probably in tears. Wil Myers was also recalled in June. Unfortunately, it was for the Tampa team that Kansas City traded him to. I still cry when watching his highlights. By the end of June, Hosmer had homered and looked like he did his rookie year, while Moustakas had pushed his average up over .200. June 29th, Johnny Giavotella was recalled by the Royals, as he was told he would be the starting second baseman by Dayton Moore. He would last a whole ten games and 38 plate appearances. In a corresponding move, Jeff Francoeur was let go by the team, which left a giant hole on Frenchy Quarter Thursday’s, but gave David Lough a chance to play a good right field for Kansas City, something we hadn’t seen since 2011.

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July brought us the All-Star game, where three Royals were selected which hadn’t been done in…sorry, ran out of fingers. Let’s just go with it’s been a long time. Or 1988. This is also the time where people started noticing just how dominant Greg Holland has been this season. Right after the All-Star game, Dayton Moore said the Royals were capable of winning 15 of the next 20 games. Most of us laughed, mocked and threw some snark around…and then the team went out and won 16 of 20! The Royals would stand pat at the trade deadline, not dealing Ervin Santana, but would also lose George Brett, as he stepped down as the hitting coach on July 25th. Hey, we got two months out of #5…the golf courses were calling him!  Things were going so good in the second half of the season that Bruce Chen was inserted into the rotation and has been a pleasant surprise.

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers

August started and the red-hot Royals continued to win. Everything the Royals were touching turned to gold, as even new acquisition Justin Maxwell got off to a great start for Kansas City, hitting over .400 while hitting a couple of big home runs for the team. All the while, the Royals had sneaked back into the wild card hunt, pushing themselves to within 2 games of the second Wild Card spot. The Royals would come down to earth a bit by the middle of the month, as middle infielder and soon to be Royals retirement home inhabitant Miguel Tejada was suspended by Major League Baseball for twice testing positive for amphetamines. No word on if Chris Getz was tested after his long bomb in April. Injuries would also hit the Royals, and looked as if the end was near for our boys in blue.

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September would roll around though, and the winning would pick back up. Ever so slowly, the Royals crept up this month, closer and closer to the second wild card spot in the American League. Close enough that playoff tickets are getting printed off just in case. Close enough that other teams are already saying they don’t want to face Kansas City if they make it to the playoffs. Close enough that some of us aren’t sure how to act in a pennant race. We are sitting here, two weeks left in the season and the Royals are contenders. Sure, they’ve taken the long, weird and nonsensical way to get here, but they are here. This, THIS is all we have asked for the last eighteen years. Let’s hope this becomes a regular occurrence in Kansas City. This 2013 season…

Positively Royals

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Less than thirty games remain in this 2013 season, and the Kansas City Royals are on pace for their first winning season since 2003. For most organizations, that isn’t considered a big deal, but in Kansas City it’s big. Coming into the season there was a lot of hope with equal parts criticism(myself included), and at some points in the year the Royals have looked like a playoff team. It seems highly doubtful that will happen this year, but 2014 seems reasonable for a playoff push. Whichever way you look at it, there has been improvement with the Royals, and as fans we can walk away with some positives from the 2013 season. With that in mind, here are five positives that the Royals will bring into next year and hopefully help set the foundation for a contender. See, I CAN be positive!

Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas

1) Eric Hosmer & Mike Moustakas have started hitting

If the first two months of 2013 were what we should have expected from Hosmer and Moustakas, then it looked as if the two linchpins of this Royals team were going to be a bust. Moustakas got off to an awful start that saw his average dip into the .170’s while Hosmer showed no power and had become an opposite field singles hitter. Hosmer’s 2012 had already put a seed of doubt into many a Royals fan’s mind, so when he AND Moustakas struggled early on, we all felt that disgusting feeling in the pit of our stomach’s. But then the Royals fired hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David(why does that feel like it was three seasons ago??), brought in some guy named George Brett and Pedro Grifol, and they immediately started to work with the Dynamic Duo. This dynamic duo:

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Hard to imagine these guys not being taken seriously, right? The work with Hosmer showed immediately, as he started hitting not only to right field, but to right field with power! Moustakas has gone from a .215 hitter in the first half of the season to a .299 hitter in the second half. I’m a little bit weary to say they are both fixed(although I feel a LOT safer saying that about Hosmer), but it sure appears as if whatever was ailing them earlier this year is now gone. You hate to pin success on a team on one or two players, but as these two go, so go the Royals. The offense at times has really lagged for Kansas City this year, and there are still concerns that this is a very streaky Royals team, but if Hos and Moose can be more consistent then we should also expect more consistency from the entire offense. If anything, it has been nice to see these two climb out of their early season slumps and show the promise they once had when they first arrived in the majors. But for the Royals to jump into that next level, they need them to do this on a consistent basis.

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2) Glorious Starting Pitching

We all knew going into this season that the Royals starting pitching was going to be better than 2012. That seemed pretty obvious, as it couldn’t have been much worse than it had been. Actually, after 2012 it almost would have been an improvement to trot out the cotton candy vendor, the ticket lady, Ned Yost’s Grandma, and the ghost of Hiram Davies(he is dead, correct?). So the shock this season wasn’t that the rotation was improved, it was just how much it was improved. The Royals went from having one of the worst rotations in baseball(that could barely get through 5 innings each start) to one that was clearly one of the best in the sport. James Shields immediately took the reigns of leader of the staff, and has shown that on the mound this year, despite his record(Kill the Win? Indeed). Jeremy Guthrie had a wonderful first half, and while he has come back down to earth here in the second half, he has still been a very serviceable starter. The big surprise has been Ervin Santana, who few of us thought was even going to be an average pitcher. Santana has exceeded expectations, lowering his home run rate and allowing his wonderful infield defense to take care of things for him. It’s possible the Santana trade could be Dayton Moore’s best trade to date, and one that could continue to benefit Kansas City. Santana is a free agent at the end of the season, and his value has skyrocketed this season, even for the team he seems to love now. The Royals might be able to re-sign him, but if they do it will be at a hefty price. Throw in the occasional Wade Davis start(or my new name for him, Hiram Davies III), a splendid second half by Bruce Chen(throwing a steady diet of slop, courtesy of Chuck Samples), and the return of Danny Duffy and you have a rotation fighting with Texas over the best ERA in the American League. Hopefully the team can keep most of this group intact and grow on it come 2014.

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3) Defense for Royalty

Most Royals fans acknowledge that the team’s defense has long been a strong point for this team, even if the numbers didn’t always point that out. But this year, with a healthy Lorenzo Cain, an improved Hosmer, and the usual great ‘D’ by Perez, Escobar, Gordon and Moose, this team has been excellent defensively. Remember, numbers don’t lie:
2013 American League Defensive Summary

The biggest factor there is the ‘Defensive Runs Saved Above Avg.’. It’s obvious having such a good defense has made other facets of the Royals game(ahem, the pitching) even better than originally thought. I personally believe that Cain has been a big part of this, as when he went down with his most recent injury the team seemed to shuffle. Having his glove, and the ground he covers, on the field every day has been a major boom for Kansas City and has helped those defensive numbers a lot. For the Royals to continue their success in 2014, they need the defense to continue to put up these kind of numbers.

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4)#DirtySouth

The last couple years, Greg Holland has been one of the Royals top relievers. His 2011 season was phenomenal, as he proved he deserved a shot at closing for the team once Joakim Soria left for greener pastures. It took the team trading away veteran Jonathan Broxton, but finally Holland was given closing duties late last year, and he stepped up again. Slide back to the first month of this season: Holland struggles and crazy Royals fans with pitchforks want Kelvin Herrera to take over the closers job after Holland’s early struggles. Before Thursday’s game against Seattle, Holland had given up only four runs since April. Four. Sure, Mariano Rivera is still the best. Aroldis Chapman consistently lights up the radar gun with triple digits, and Craig Kimbrel might be having the best season of a closer this year. But make no doubt about it, ‘Dirty South’ is right up there with him. Just look at his K/9 ratio: 13.8. 89 strikeouts, 14 walks this season. Insane. Holland is having a season that the only other Royals closers can even compare to are two guys named Quisenberry and Montgomery. Holland more than earned his All-Star nod this year, and the sad part is trading Holland might actually be the smart thing for Kansas City to do this year. But if he isn’t dealt, we can deal with having one of the best closers in the game.

5)The Final Episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’

Whoops. My bad. I was just really excited after that shootout Sunday night. Whoops again. Spoilers.

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5)The Royals are Winning! 

It’s September 9th as I write this, and the Royals are still in the Wild Card discussion in the American League. I know, I didn’t expect that. But it’s nice, real nice to see the Royals go out there and compete every night and feel like they can win the game. We’ve all watched some real lousy baseball over the years(and some in spurts this year) but to see a team in playoff contention this late in the season is splendid. Wonderful. It makes me happy and puts a smile on my face. This is all we’ve wanted, guys. We just want to win and know we can be in the same discussion as the other teams making October plans. Early on this year I didn’t see them playing good enough to be in the conversation, but it’s happening. Soak it up, Royals fans. We could definitely get used to this!

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Hopefully  in a year from now, this list is twice as long. Hopefully we are still talking playoffs, and hopefully it is Division title talk. This team has grown as a group since the early parts of the year and have really earned the spot they are at right now. It’s so much nicer talking about positive baseball than all the bad things that can develop during a season. Hopefully in a year, we can retire the term ‘Yosted’ and ‘Royalling’…because winning makes all those things go away.

The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates=The 2014 Kansas City Royals?

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The Pittsburgh Pirates are guaranteed their first .500 season since 1992 and are now setting their sights on a playoff spot, also the first since ’92. For all the talk about how great this is for the city of Pittsburgh and their fans, this is also a sign that with the right pieces, some smart moves, and great drafting, a team can pick themselves up and push toward the top of their league. In fact, the Pirates model this year might just be the one the Royals should copy going into 2014. I’ll even go a step further; the Pirates and Royals have a lot of similarities, which makes me think Kansas City could be in the same spot Pittsburgh is in come one year from now.

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For instance—the Pirates have an All-Star outfielder who is both fabulous at the plate and in the field in Andrew McCutchen. The Royals have Alex Gordon. Pittsburgh has a pitching staff led by a few veterans littered with a couple of younger arms. With the return of Danny Duffy to the Royals staff, you can say the same thing about Kansas City. The Pirates have a closer that no one could have ever envisioned he’d be locking down games for them. Not many saw Greg Holland doing much but being a setup man for the Royals, and he’s turned into one of the best closers in the game. Russell Martin is a solid pitch caller behind the plate that Pittsburgh’s pitchers love to throw to. Ditto Salvador Perez. Pittsburgh even has a third baseman that looks to be a clone of Mike Moustakas in Pedro Alvarez, a guy who many thought was a bust before he finally started showing some pop in his bat.

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At the end of the day, the Pirates are a team that have a nice mix of youngsters and veterans, cast-offs and surprises. Sounds like a certain Kansas City team, doesn’t it? In fact, the Pirates and Royals seem so much alike that a part of me wonders if the Pirates have a second baseman in their minor league system that they keep saying they are going to give him a chance when the reality is they just aren’t that into him. Now, if I had to pick a difference, it would be that Pittsburgh built their team with smart front office moves and are led by a manager who has been there before and understands how to get a team prepared every game to go out there and win. Dayton Moore has made some solid moves over the years, but I’m not for sure if I would say he is at the level of the Pirates GM, Neil Huntington, although both have taken the long way to get to a winning season. Meanwhile, Royals manager Ned Yost is no Clint Hurdle. I think the Royals will go for some improvements in the off-season, and I could easily see manager being one of them. I could throw out a lot of names right here, but it is all conjecture until Yost is gone from his post.

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Whichever way you view it, the Kansas City Royals are looking at being serious contenders next year, and with Pittsburgh’s success it appears their chances aren’t just a shot in the dark. As happy as I am for Pirate’s fans, I think all of us are ready for our turn, the Royals first shot at real contention since 1994. Time to break those chains, Royals fans. Following a successful model like the Pirates have shown seems to be a solid way to gain what we all want-playoffs.

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