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Bleeding Royal Blue

Inside the mind of a Kansas City Royals fan

Month

February 2014

Up For Grabs(Cause You Can’t Have 5 Guys Rotate as the 5th Starter)

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Spring Training is not only underway, but games have begun and the Kansas City Royals will start defending their 2013 Cactus League title later today(I’m sure it’s just a slight that the flag isn’t up at ‘The K’ yet). That also means the biggest competition this spring has begun, that being the fight for the 5th starter spot for the Royals. Five pitchers are battling for the spot, which is a great thing to have that many options. Today let’s run down these five warriors(it sounded good in my head) and the chances of them winning the spot.

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Yordano Ventura

Ventura is the most intriguing out of the five candidates for this spot. Ventura, a 22 year old fireballer, got a taste of the big leagues in September last year with mixed results(he had a great start against Cleveland, but got roughed up a bit by the White Sox). Ventura easily has the best “stuff” of the five pitchers, as he complements his triple digit fastball with an improving curve and change-up. His WHIP was a bit high last year for AAA Omaha, as he gave up more hits than innings pitched, but he also struck out more than a batter per inning. If Ventura can improve the number of baserunners allowed and continue his strikeout rate than we could see a lot of Ventura in Kansas City this year. My guess is that unless Ventura blows everyone away this spring, he’ll start the year in Omaha. I love the idea of Yordano being brought up later in the year, almost like a mid-season acquisition. Either way, I think we see Ventura contribute this year for the Royals.

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Danny Duffy

Duffy has to be the sentimental choice for most Royals fans. We love Duffy, just as much for his fan interaction on Twitter as his blazing fastball. Duffy put up good numbers in 2013 for the Royals but two issues keep popping up with him; injuries and high pitch counts. Duffy has electric stuff, mixing his fastball with a change, sinker and curveball. Duffy is another guy who has good “stuff”, but hasn’t been able to really harness it. If Duffy is healthy, he would be a great choice for the 5th spot. But even if healthy, his high pitch counts mean he doesn’t get far past the fifth inning in any of his starts. For him to be successful, he needs to start going deeper in games, even if the Royals bullpen is one of the best in baseball. I would have to think Duffy has a good chance to be in the rotation to start the season, although the Royals have kicked around the idea of him coming out of the bullpen to start the year. I actually really love that idea, as he wouldn’t have to worry about pitch counts and could just ‘air it out’ for the inning or two he pitched. Only issue with putting Duffy in the pen is how the Royals already have a full bullpen(and then some). It’s at least a solid idea being thrown around if Duffy doesn’t take the 5th spot.

Brad Penny

Brad Penny 

Penny probably is not making the team out of Spring Training, but he is in the 5th starter conversation, and could be solid insurance going forward. Penny sat out 2013 and will turn 36 in May. But if he is willing to go to AAA and be ready if needed, then Penny could be useful. It’s a long season and injuries and slumps happen. You hope they don’t, but they do. Penny has playoff experience and is a veteran who at this point probably just wants to play, no matter the role. I highly doubt Penny heads north with the team, but he would be good to keep around.

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Luke Hochevar  

Yes, Hochevar is a serious candidate for the 5th starters spot. I’ll even got a step further; I think he is the favorite. Do I agree with that? No. Not at all. The story has pretty well been told: pitcher sucks at starting, moves to bullpen, finds success. In fact, Hochevar became one of the best relievers for Kansas City in 2013, posting an ERA under two, a WHIP below one and a WAR of 2.0. Hochevar was so successful as a reliever that late in the season he was called upon numerous times to hold a lead–and he did! That might not seem like that big a deal, but Hochevar was never good in pressure situations as a starter. In fact, if he allowed a baserunner, we fans immediately started sweating. It was easy to say that Hoch could not deal with the pressure of having runners on base when starting, and earlier on in 2013 it was still a concern out of the bullpen. But he’s going to be given the chance to start and the Royals are hoping that what he learned slides over to him starting. Hey, they convinced him to get rid of his slider and go back to the cutter, which garnered him success, so maybe the Royals are right. But in my eyes, the Royals and them wanting to put Hochevar in the rotation is the definition of insanity; to try something over and over again while expecting different results. It would seem the smart thing to do would be keep Hochevar in the bullpen and let him continue to pitch good. But I’m pretty sure he will see him start before 2014 is over. Just remember this when Hoch is back in the pen by July…

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Wade Davis    

Wade Davis reminds me a lot of Hochevar, who reminds me a lot of Hiram Davies. All three guys have great “stuff”, all three had tons of potential, and all three were given probably more chances than they should have to prove to the Royals that they deserved to be in the rotation. Davis was considered a big part of the Wil Myers trade last year and pretty quickly it was evident that Kansas City was going to give him every chance to succeed. Davis did not back up that chance and before the season was done had been sent to the bullpen. His numbers last year were bad; like, “Hiram Davies” bad. There was a reason I started referring to Davis last year as ‘Hiram Davies III’. His ERA was well over 5, his WHIP was creeping up on 2 and his WAR was -2.1. Yes, that negative in front of the number is supposed to be there, and really proves how bad he was.  To give you an idea of how bad, you all remember Jeff Francoeur’s putrid 2012, right? The one where he was the “worst everyday player in baseball”? Well, that season Frenchy had a WAR of -2.3. So Davis almost reached that, and that was even with him having a solid September out of the bullpen. So once again, the Royals are giving Davis an opportunity to redeem himself and give him a shot at the 5th spot in the rotation. Will he? It’s possible he will get that chance. I know at one point Royals GM Dayton Moore referred to Davis as the ‘key’ to the Myers trade, and we all know Kansas City doesn’t want to be the ones to lose that trade. I’m not so sure Davis has it in him, since he did the same thing in Tampa. Struggled as a starter, was more than solid out of the pen. Sounds like Hoch, right? Davis could get a shot this year, but the leash will be very short. The Royals know they are in it this year to contend, and if Davis falters he’ll end up back in the pen faster than you can say ‘believeintheprocess’.  If that happens, it’s not the worst thing in the world. You just hope Davis isn’t allowed to stink up the joint as long as he did last year.

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With Spring Training games just underway, we’ve got a ways before we find out who wins the 5th starters job outright. In fact, there is a good chance the pitcher who wins this battle won’t still be the 5th starter come August. By then, we could be seeing Kyle Zimmer make his way to the big leagues or one of the five guys who didn’t make the rotation could slide in there and take over. More than anything, it is nice to sit here and know the Royals have solid options and only one rotation spot is up for grabs. Right there that is already an improvement over where Kansas City was even two years ago.

Just a Few Thoughts on Derek Jeter

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Last week, longtime New York Yankees shortstop and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter announced that the 2014 season will be his last. Not a shock if you have paid any attention to the Bronx Bombers, as Jeter struggled to stay healthy last year and his defense(which was never as top shelf as many thought)has gotten to a point to where he might be better suited to be the team’s DH. But this isn’t about Jeter’s poor defense or his body falling apart. Nope, this is about how much respect I have for Derek Jeter despite my hatred of the New York Yankees.

FILE: Jeter Signed To One-Year $12 Million Deal Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees

As a very young man, I understood why I needed to hate the Yankees. Growing up a Royals fan, there was no greater nemesis for Kansas City than the Yankees. Kids today might not believe us, but back in the late 70’s/early 80’s the Yankees and Royals were about as heated a rivalry as you can get. Knowing this, I hated the Bronx Bombers. I’ve held onto that hatred all these years later and for the most part the Yankees make sure I should hate them. But like anything in life, they are exceptions to the rule. Derek Jeter is one of those exceptions.

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I specifically remember the Yankee teams of the late 90’s. These weren’t your normal Yankees. They consisted of homegrown talent(Rivera, Jeter, Williams, Posada) and veterans that weren’t star players but were fantastic role players(Brosius, O’Neill, Martinez). They weren’t a team consisting of the biggest contracts or the biggest stars. They weren’t a team built by outbidding all the other teams. They were a team made of savvy veterans and top prospects. As much as I hated the Yankees, I had to show these Joe Torre led teams respect. They did it the right way and were fun to watch. Sure, I still wanted the other team to win but I wasn’t upset the Yankees won during this period. In my eyes, they had earned it and Jeter was a big part of it.

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Over the years, the legend of Derek Jeter grew. Whether it was rallying his team to victory or running into the stands to make a catch, Jeter did what needed to be done.

There is the great defensive play against Oakland that is ingrained in most of our minds:

and there is Game Four of the 2001 World Series that anointed Jeter “Mr. November”:

Derek Jeter might have very well been the face of Major League Baseball during a period of giant behemoths, clobbering their way to baseball immortality(even if it wasn’t the way they wanted to be remembered). If you were to explain to someone foreign to the game why we love baseball, we would show them clips of Derek Jeter. Jeter has been what is best about the game for years now and I say that with full confidence. Derek wasn’t the best hitter, or hit the most home runs or stole the most bases. But what he did do was play the game like you should and performed at a top level for two decades. When the only thing you can really knock him for is his defense being about average for many years than you have a great example of a great ballplayer.

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I plan to root against the Yankees this year like I do most years. But deep down, I will probably be rooting for ‘Number 2’ to be able to go out on a pedestal the way Mariano Rivera was able to this past season. I hope that even the people who jeer for Jeter realize we probably won’t see one of his caliber for years to come. Derek Jeter was great for baseball and everything he stood for. I can try to guess what his greatest achievement was all these years later(and being single most of this time while staying out of the tabloids might rank up there with his achievements on the diamond) but it’s hard to pick just one. I think if forced to, I would say his biggest accomplishment was elevating his teammates up to his level. Being the captain of the Yankees all these years means greater responsibility but it also means being able to pull greatness out of players who might not be great. Jeter was a great motivator and made his teams better just by being around them. That should be his lasting legacy. He was what most baseball players should strive to be. For that I respect the hell out of Derek Jeter. Even if he was a Yankee.

Taking the Offensive

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A lot has been said the last few years when it comes to the Royals offense. What looked to be a lineup that was making strides upwards took a step back in 2012, then only slightly improved in 2013. Going into this 2014 season many feel as if the team has improved their offense, with upgrades at second base and right field. It would appear that adding Omar Infante and Nori Aoki to the mix will fix what ails this team, and they just might. I’ve felt for awhile one of the bigger issues the team had was the top of the order not getting on base, which is what will be expected of those two. If I was a betting man, I would say the Royals pitching won’t be as spectacular as it was in 2013, which is not a knock on them; the pitching was just that good last year. For the Royals to really shine, there are certain areas offensively that they are going to have to improve on. Here are a few that I feel need work and would help their chances as they try to reach their goal this year of playoffs.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Kansas City Royals

Yes, I’m going for a Walk–Not the After Dinner Kind

For anyone who has followed the Royals long enough, you know that this team just doesn’t walk. This isn’t anything new and isn’t something that has been going on for just a few years. It has been like this for decades now. As someone who understands why a team would want to see more pitches and would want the opposing pitcher to throw as many pitches as possible, it drives me crazy that this team doesn’t walk more. Last year the Royals were 13th in the American League in walks and was well below the league average. Sure, Billy Butler walked 79 times, a career high for him. But you get past that, the next closest on the team is Alex Gordon with 52. In fact, Eric Hosmer is third with 51…and after that is Lorenzo Cain with 33! Walks aren’t the end all be all, but here is some food for thought: if you see more pitches, and take more walks, that means the opposing pitcher throws more pitches. If he throws more pitches, he will be out of the game faster and the other team is in their bullpen. If it comes down to bullpens, I love the Royals chances. But this would mean Kansas City hitters need more patience, and I have yet to see that really preached by this organization. While reading the new Baseball Prospectus recently, I was reading the Boston Red Sox section and what was said about almost every one of their prospects? “Patient at the plate, walks a lot”. This is an organization that has been a regular in the playoffs for years, and I firmly believe this is one of the reasons why. Like I said, not the end all be all, but if this team walks just a little bit more(like league average), this will help their offense oh so much more.

Jamey Carroll, Eric Hosmer

Hit ’em in the Gaps

Some might look at the team being last in home runs in the AL last year as a sign they need to hit more homers. As much as that wouldn’t hurt, I tend to think the bigger problem is not hitting enough extra bases in general. The Royals play their home games in one of the hardest parks to hit the ball out of the yard in, Kauffman Stadium. But that doesn’t mean that ‘The K’ is a pitchers park, as you can still accumulate a lot of offense there by hitting the ball in the gap. That ballpark is made for a team to drive the ball into the outfield on a regular basis and take advantage of their large outfield. In fact, if you are an old enough fan you remember the Royals teams of the late 70’s-early 80’s were not home run hitting machines. No, they hit the ball in the gap and ran for days. They realized they weren’t going to hit a bunch of long balls and decided to instead take advantage of their stadium. I feel that is what this team should do, especially since most of the team just aren’t big sluggers and won’t be chasing Steve Balboni’s season record for homers. Last year the team was 12th in the league in doubles while Hosmer lead the team with 34. In the past few years both Gordon and Butler have racked up 50 double seasons. It can be done again, and honestly should  be done. You don’t have to hit a bunch of home runs to win ballgames; but you can’t just ‘single’ teams to death. If this team is hitting more extra bases, they will score more runs and win more games. Simple math really.

Alcides Escobar

#StopBunting

37  sacrifice bunts. 4th in the American League. Just looking at that number doesn’t immediately make you go out and pillage. Sure, some of you love bunting. Love It! Obviously manager Ned Yost loves it and I have ranted quite a bit about my dislike of bunting. I should clarify here: I don’t mind it if used in the proper situation. Late in the game when you only need one run and need to move a runner into scoring position? Fine by me. Jarrod Dyson? He can bunt every time if he wants to, cause the chances of him beating it out is pretty high. But early in the game? No way. Yost has them move runners over way more than they should. You are giving away free outs and taking the bat out of a batters hands that might be able to do more damage. The numbers even say so. If the Royals continue to struggle, giving away free outs isn’t the answer. Like I said, I’m not saying never do it. But be smart about it. Don’t do it 37 times in a year. Be like the Oakland A’s and do it about 21 times. That is more reasonable and should give your batters more of a chance to drive in runs. This team is not made for small ball; so quit acting like it.

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Getting Doubled Up

In what should be no big surprise, the Royals were near the top of the league in hitting into double plays in 2013. Billy Butler lead the league in the statistic and Salvador Perez is no speed demon either. In that regard, those two might be near the top of the leader board again this year, but there are ways to lower the rate of it happening. For one, start the runners more when the two of them are at the plate. Obviously you aren’t going to want your runner to get caught stealing either, but putting on the hit and run more should help a little bit. I also feel like Butler needs to drive the ball more and not hit it on the ground as much. Just like his lack of speed hurts the team, hitting the ball on a line will cause that to happen a lot less. Just like you don’t want Dyson to hit the ball in the air, you don’t want Butler to hit the ball on the ground. Play to your strengths. The team actually lead the league in stolen bases last year, so this team is fairly used to moving runners along by any means necessary. Hitting into less double plays could help the team save some outs and give them a greater chance of keeping an inning going.

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So those are just a few things the Royals can do this year to increase their offensive production. With the Royals starting rotation not looking quite as strong as last year, the team is going to need their offense to live up to their expectations and start producing like everyone has expected the last couple years. They need Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar to not be the black holes of suck they were last year. In what was shocking to me, the team was actually last in strikeouts, which means they are at least making regular contact. But they need more runners on base and to at least be league average on offense. A bump in offense could very well mean a bump in the wins column. If they are serious about contending this year, they have to step up their game. They only way to be elite is to play elite.

 

 

Exclusive: Interview With Mike Swanson

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I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the Kansas City Royals Vice President of Communications & Broadcasting, Mike Swanson, a few weeks ago for my job(www.kvoe.com). Mike has been in Major League Baseball for 35 years and has worked for the San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and two stints with the Kansas City Royals. In the interview we discuss being a part of a start-up organization in Colorado(which he did again in Arizona), the use of social media by the Royals and teaching the young players how to properly use it, the front office’s view on the forthcoming season, the Royals shuffling Steve Physioc and Ryan Lefebvre between television and radio and who’s idea it was, and much more. To listen to the interview, click here. Enjoy, and if you would like to follow Mike on twitter his handle is @swanee54. Thanks.

Dayton Moore’s ‘State of the Royals’

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Earlier today, Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore held a Pre-Spring Training media conference at Kauffman Stadium and talked about a number of topics with reporters. I thought it would be fun to look at some of the topics covered by Moore and what we can take away from them.

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Ervin Santana

Moore said that Santana was the most asked topic he has encountered this off-season, but that they knew early on that working out a long term deal with Erv was probably not going to happen. He was asked where things stood now and Dayton said that he really isn’t for sure where things stand since he hasn’t spoken to them “in at least a couple of weeks” and there definitely has been no contact since the team re-signed Bruce Chen.

Zimmer, Kyle 1211 (Mitchell).jpg

5th Starter Competition

Moore discussed the fifth starter spot and how content he was with the competitors for that spot(Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy). One name not mentioned there is former first round pick Kyle Zimmer, who’s chances for that spot have diminished as he recovers from arm problems. Dayton mentioned that Zimmer probably won’t even start throwing again until late March:

“He’s not even going to pitch until probably the end of March. We’re going to go slow with him,” Moore said. “He finished last year on the disabled list; he had a bicep tendinitis issue. When he had his throwing program this year, he still felt a little discomfort. We brought him in and had him checked out medically. It looks really good and our medical people really aren’t that concerned. But his body’s going through adaptive changes, and we’re really going to go slow with him.”

However one other name was thrown into that mix that would be considered kind of a wild card: Chris Dwyer:

“Chris Dwyer is a pitcher that’s a little under the radar for us, but we like him a great deal,” Moore said. “He’s got a great overhand curveball, a pitch that a lot of left-handers don’t have in the game today and therefore it makes it tough on the hitters. He’s got a changeup that is really good, and his velocity picked up a little bit last year and his command really improved, so he’ll got a shot to compete as well.”

Also talked about during the discussion was how there is a good chance Duffy starts out the year in the bullpen and if Ventura doesn’t make the rotation out of camp, there is always a chance he could be slotted into the pen. Personally, I don’t understand that. With a guy like Ventura you keep him as a starter. If he doesn’t make the top five starters out of Spring Training, you send him to Omaha and recall him during the season. Putting him in the pen would seem to stunt his growth. I do like the idea of Duffy in the pen; only problem is Kansas City already has a crowded field in that spot.

Emilio Bonifacio

Emilio Bonifacio

When asked about Boni, Dayton made this comment:

“There were some clubs that were interested,” Moore said. “It just didn’t happen for us.”

That would be because the Royals asking price was too high. My complete thoughts on the team getting rid of Emilio are here.

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Going to Arbitration with Greg Holland

Greg Holland is the lone Royal left unsigned going into this 2014 season and it looks as if an arbitration hearing is in their future. Just as a side note, Dayton has never had an arbitration case go to hearing in his 8 years with the team:

“Getting a deal prior to a hearing is going to be more challenging for us going forward as long as we having players excelling and doing well,” he said. “Holly had a terrific year, he’s one of the best closers in the game and we’ll see what happens.”

I should probably mention here that there have been rumors that Holland and the Royals have been working on an extension. If that is true, that would explain why this has been dragged out.

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Kansas City’s Depth

Dayton talked very glowingly about the team’s depth:

“We do have depth — depth in the outfield, depth in the infield, depth at the backup catching spot, we certainly have depth in the bullpen,” Moore said. “We’re probably not going to move any of our pitching unless it’s really something that overwhelms us.”

I don’t really agree with this. Or to be more exact, I don’t agree with the assessment that they have depth in the infield. Sure, you have Danny Valencia in case Mike Moustakas struggles at third base again. But cutting ties with Bonifacio hurt the team’s depth and having Pedro Ciriaco and Christian Colon as your infield backups don’t exactly make me feel comfortable. You have to take the view that the team has enough depth to weather a major injury in the infield(worst case scenario) and right now I don’t think they do. If Alcides Escobar or Omar Infante go down, the Royals are probably in trouble. Colon plays good defense but hasn’t proved he can really hit. Ciriaco has hit decently in his short time in the big leagues, but his defense is nothing to rave about. Neither seem like a solid replacement if someone goes down. That is where losing Bonifacio is going to hurt.

Moore also said this about the team in general:

“We feel like everybody on our roster is improving. There isn’t one guy we say, ‘they’re on the downside.”

I would also disagree with this. I can’t see a 32 year old Omar Infante being on the upswing, as most players his age start to regress. Not saying he is going to suck, but I don’t think you will really see his numbers improve. Since it is a young team, what Dayton is saying is probably fairly accurate. But there is no way everyone improves. Percentage wise,  it just won’t happen.

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Royals Payroll

Yes, the Royals payroll will be the largest in Kansas City history. But Dayton sure makes that sound bleak:

Alright, I get that the Royals have a payroll limit. I should probably mention here that it is David Glass’ money, not mine. But…to only raise the payroll $9 million from last year(when every MLB team was awarded $25 million as part of their TV deal) is insulting. I’ve always said that if you want to make money in baseball you have to spend money. I was never a big fan of George Steinbrenner, but he understood that. David Glass must not understand how small the Royals window to win is. It also makes him look bad that he tells people he wants to win, yet doesn’t seem to be all in. Look, payroll isn’t everything; just look at the Oakland A’s, year after year. But the Royals probably need one more starting pitcher, and a guy like A.J. Burnett is out there for the taking. You can’t tell me that adding someone like Burnett would not help this team immensely and immediately push them into major contention for a playoff spot this year. Once again, it’s not my money. Obviously they feel even $3.5 million over that limit is too much, which is why Bonifacio was cut when Chen was added to the roster. But if you put a legitimate winning team on the field, more fans will come to The K. More fans at the game mean more money being spent inside the stadium(merchandise, concessions, etc.). That also means more money from parking at the stadium(and we can all agree those prices have been too high for awhile now). Win enough and you can sell out almost every game, which means more money. Win now and it will probably buy you a couple of years of loyalty from an already very loyal fanbase. Make the playoffs and other players will want to come play for your team, solid players. You might spend extra now, but in the long run it will come back twofold. I like that the Royals are spending money now; but it’s not going to be easier from here. If some of these guys take off(Eric Hosmer, Ventura, Moustakas, etc.) they will want to be paid. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler have contracts running out after the 2015 season. They will cost more. Spend the extra now and you will be rewarded, Mr. Glass. Or worry about your bottom line now and suffer in the long run. Once again, it’s not my money.

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So that is some highlights from Dayton today. Look, I think this is a good team and they should be over .500 again, but I’m not 100% sold they are a playoff team. I want them to be a playoff team, but I need more convincing. With that being said, I feel good going into this season. Yes, there is a ray of optimism there. Soon enough we will find out whether Dayton has constructed a team that will pay off or if they stay pat. He did say something that I feel he had to say, especially after years of hearing about the process and patience. Moore said “We want to win now. That’s what we’re here for.”  Good, that is where we should be now. Take it home, GMDM.

 

 

Bonifacio Put Through Release Waivers

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Originally I was going to just discuss the Dayton Moore ‘State of the Royals’ press conference from today, but with the news of Emilio Bonifacio being put on release waivers I felt like I should cover that as well. So look for the Dayton article later.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers

First off is Bonifacio. As most know, he was designated for assignment 10 days ago, which gave the Royals ten days to find a suitable trade partner. I know I was personally upset that the team was getting rid of Boni, as he was a great addition by Dayton Moore late in 2013 and had solidified the second base job. I felt even back when Kansas City acquired him that Emilio would be a great super-sub, someone who could play about any position on the field and get 3-4 starts a week. He also gave the team great depth in case they lost somebody to a major injury, which was another plus to having him on the roster. A major weakness for the team over the last few years has been the lack of depth, which luckily hasn’t majorly affected them as the Royals haven’t been hit with any major injuries during that time. So in other words, I felt like the team was weakened by getting rid of Bonifacio. But I had also heard rumblings that he didn’t want to be a backup and that was even a big part of why Toronto had dealt him to the Royals in the first place. As if that wasn’t enough, getting rid of Bonifacio also seemed to be a money move by the Royals, as they had just added Bruce Chen(who had just signed a one year, $3.25 million dollar deal) to the roster. Chen and Bonifacio make about the same amount, so it seems Kansas City has hit their ceiling when it comes to payroll. It’s sad that as little as a shade over $3 million is just too much for this team, especially when they are thisclose to being serious contenders in the American League Central.

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So it was already upsetting to know the Royals were losing Emilio. To then find out today that they weren’t even able to get anything in return was even more upsetting. I mean, they should have been able to get something, even if it was just a minor leaguer. But it got worse.

Look, I am the first person who will tell you I feel like the Royals should not make a deal unless they are getting real value back in return. I’ve felt that for a long time the Royals weren’t always good about doing that. But if you are going to designate someone for assignment(especially someone like Bonifacio who has real value) then you need to get something(anything) in return. At this point, we can only hope there is a team(Baltimore?) that is willing to claim him off waivers, as that would save the Royals having to pay any of his salary this year. If he isn’t claimed, the Royals will have to pay $600,000 and he would then become a free agent.

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I think to me the worse thing here is the Royals got nothing for him. To me, it felt weird they would DFA him when they did. His value would have been much higher if they had waited until Spring Training had started. All it would have taken is for someone to get hurt or someone not playing up to expectations and the Royals could have traded Bonifacio to that team in need. In other words, his value would have greater than to wait until a week or so before Spring Training starts and most teams have already completed additions to their roster. Now we just have two days to wait and see what happens, although I tend to think he will be claimed. If he does, that is the best scenario for the Royals. If not, it is a wasted opportunity. Small market baseball teams can’t waste opportunities. Yes, it is a small deal. But a small deal can point out a bigger problem.

Greatest. Billboards. Ever.

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I know I throw a lot of criticism to the Kansas City Royals organization, albeit mostly healthy criticism. This off-season has felt different, as it has been mostly positive news from the organization. That streak continues, as they have put together one of the coolest billboard designs I have ever seen. Just awesome. I felt like this deserved proper credit and as much as I am iffy on the new slogan(Be Royal??Oooookay…), I am fully on board for these billboards. Apparently the credit goes to Jeff Chase, as credited by Joe Posnanski:

After seeing the great design by Mr. Chase and seeing Alex Gordon slide headfirst into second, I felt like that couldn’t be topped. I might have been wrong. See for yourself.

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Yes, that is James Shields throwing a ball to catcher Salvador Perez, and the ball ripping the billboard! Amazing! Once again, major credit going out to Jeff Chase. If you want, find him on Twitter at @jeffchasius and tell him what a great job he did. Once again, good job, Royals! At least our billboards will make us feel like we won the World Series…

No Baseball Makes Me Crazy!

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This happens every year. Some time in January, I start to get “baseball antsy”. What that means(since I just coined the term) is I get to a point where not even Hot Stove talk keeps me satisfied. I get to a point where the only thing that can keep me from going completely out of my mind(or crazy insane, got no brain) is for Spring Training to get here…or for me to create baseball stories to keep me occupied. Now, I’m not saying this is healthy. In fact, I can feel them sizing me up for a straightjacket. But it keeps me even keeled and able to function like a normal human being, not as a baseball junkie who is frothing at the mouth and needs his fix. Hey, just because I daydream of Tim Kurkjian being my best friend doesn’t mean I have a problem!

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Okay, I have a problem. Anyway, here is my delusional baseball dreams that have kept my mind occupied the last couple of weeks. I promise none have Tim Kurkjian playing doctor. That even disturbs me.

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Puig is My Surfing Buddy

Yasiel Puig is misunderstood. Sure, he seems cocky and one of the few people in the world to pull off pink jorts. The jorts make me think that he is probably a great surfer. I’ve never surfed, but I have a feeling Puig can do everything at least fairly good(once again, pink jorts). I picture him teaching me the way of the ocean, where I learn to listen to her and connect with my inner chi. Not only would I learn how to surf, but we would have long discussions about the true meaning of life and why Jack Johnson is just misunderstood as a musician. I would probably ruin it by saying that Bo Jackson was a better athlete than him, but before that we would start a Beach Boys cover band with less Brian Wilson substance(you can take that either way; they both fit in this scenario). All in all, it would be a great five days on the beach. I’m going to go practice saying ‘Puig’ like Vin Scully now…

Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod Was Framed 

Most of us are pretty sure that Alex Rodriguez wasn’t framed and that he probably had this coming at some point, karma and all. But what if this was all an elaborate setup like we see on the fifty gajillion crime shows on television? Here we go: baseball Commissioner Allan Huber Selig is fed up with Rodriguez’s great play and his ability to serenade a mirror. The last straw is Rodriguez stealing Selig’s supermodel wife away from him because she isn’t fond of Wisconsin as a whole. Selig plots to get A-Rod banned from the game that he loves. He starts by getting the media to believe that Rodriguez is fake and the least genuine person you have ever met. After that seed is placed, he uses water torture to get A-Rod to admit to steroid use during his time with the Texas Rangers. When that doesn’t get him to retire, Selig hatches his grand finale. He hires a comedic actor to play Tony Bosch. I’m picturing someone with range like Dom DeLuise. At first no one believes this Bosch character, but then Selig schedules a 60 Minutes interview for Bosch and himself the day after having Rodriguez suspended for the 2014 season. In the interview, “Bosch” pulls off a great performance and have people actually believing that A-Rod was a big time substance abuser.  Selig  makes an appearance as well and makes it sound like Rodriguez is the worst person he has ever meet, just because the supermodel doesn’t find six different kinds of cheese fascinating. Selig even pays off A-Rod’s lawyer to be even shadier than he usually is, so now everyone thinks Alex is worse than Hitler. Of course this means a sleuth detective needs to get on the case and try to clear A-Rod’s good name. What is Monk up to these days?

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Baseball Celebrates First Cyborg Player

It was easy to wonder why Chris Davis had such a breakout season in 2013. For years Davis was a mild mannered, free-swinging giant of a man that could crush the ball whenever he wasn’t helping out the breeze around the ballpark. What looked to be hard work and better plate discipline turns out to be that the ‘Real’ Chris Davis died a few years ago and Cyborg Davis took his place. Half-man, half-machine, Davis is now a power hitting threat with no real emotion at the plate. Machines aren’t perfect, which explains the 199 strikeouts, and he sometimes needs oiled when out on defense. Since baseball rules say nothing about Cyborg’s being against the rules, Davis will be allowed to play again in 2014 with opposing pitchers now knowing his weakness against the knuckle-ball and bad accents. He’s also playing for the perfect manager, Buck Showalter, who is also part robot. Expect the Orioles expenses to go up this year, as they have to add WD-40 to their team rider.  Time will only tell is Davis ends up taking his real name, F630Z.

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Wilson Gets Off-Season Job 

Years and years ago, most baseball players had to get a job in the off-season. Back then players didn’t get paid as much so they needed some extra scratch to get them through the entire year. Lou Brock operated a flower shop. Paul Splittorff used to work in a dairy. Davey Lopes was a teacher. Nowadays this doesn’t happen as much, but it didn’t stop Brian Wilson from working kid’s birthday parties as a clown. It really isn’t hard to picture Wilson putting on a rubber red nose and the big floppy shoes. Actually, he’s been close before-

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Granted, that’s a bit more “selling men’s aftershave” than “clown for kid’s birthday party”, but you can tell he loves dressing up. I’m sure the kids would love the crazy baseball player who can tell them not only about pitching in the World Series but taking Big Foot to an awards show as well-

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Kids will love him, dammit! If anything, this gives Brian something to fall back on once his arm finally falls off and the beard just doesn’t amuse us anymore. Now, he needs to see just how many people he can get into his car at once…

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Hunting With Neddy 

It really wouldn’t be a successful off-season unless you get to go hunting with Royals manager Ned Yost. Neddaniel normally goes with pal Jeff Foxworthy, but I tend to think I would run him off. I can only imagine that Yost is a better hunter than baseball manager, so I could learn a thing or two while out in the rough with Yosty. For one, he only has focus on one main thing instead of a bunch of small things. You also wouldn’t need to bunt while in the wilderness. I also wouldn’t have to talk baseball with him, which will save me from losing my mind. Just focus on the hunting and we can be simpatico. Even better, Neddy wouldn’t have to deal with the media.  Nope, the only issue would be him naming the deer as they frolic by. I will have a hard time keeping my trap shut when he refers to a deer as ‘Wil Myers’. On the plus side of that, I would look forward to shooting the deer named ‘Frenchy’. Good to see Yost spends his off-season not thinking about baseball. It’s not like there is any pressure on this upcoming season or anything. On second thought, the best part of this trip might be if I just pull a ‘Dick Cheney’. It wouldn’t be the first time Dale Sveum was asked to step in for ‘The Man They Call Yost’.

Streaker  Photo by Rick Giase

Okay baseball, time to come back. I’m already having dreams of doing bad things to Ned Yost. That’s a sign that I need a distraction. How about you come back here in a few weeks and we can discuss how everyone is in ‘The best shape of his life’. Or how Carl Pavano will get hurt this year. Or how Luke Hochevar is ‘just about to turn the corner’. Baseball, you are my sanity…

It Is Still a Kid’s Game

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Let’s be honest for a moment: as adults, we take sports too seriously. I know I am just as guilty as anyone else. You have seen my rants about Ned Yost, right? Because we take something like baseball seriously we sometimes forget that it is a kid’s game being played by adults. We forget that most of us fell in love with baseball as kids. But we do have reminders every now and then that take us back to when we were kids and just loved the game blindly. That reminder came to me this week as my son got to meet his favorite baseball player, Billy Butler.

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I feel like I need to tell the back story of how this came to be. For the first time in quite awhile, the Royals Caravan planned on making a stop this year in Emporia. I found out about it and planned on getting my son’s baseball cards signed, since the event was going to be held while he was in school. Honestly, I hadn’t thought the whole thing out yet. One of my close friends, Scott,  called me later that day, asking if I had heard who all was going to be here for the signing. While discussing it, he made a great point-as a kid I would have done anything to meet my favorite player, George Brett, and get an autograph. It would have meant the world to me and I would recall that memory still to this day. Why not give Levi that memory? Scott was dead on. I made sure it was okay to take him out of school that day, and once that was cleared we were good to go. Except for one thing…

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I love surprises. Plus, I knew if I told him what we were going to do, he would be worthless at school that entire morning. So instead, we told him he had a dentist appointment that day, which would be why I was taking him out of school. So instead of him bouncing off the walls leading up to that day, I got to hear him complain about going to the dentist. It was great! Everything was set and I went to pick him up at school. Once we got into town, I turned on a street that leads to Bruff’s Sports Bar & Grill, which was holding the event. I handed him his Royals hat and told him to put it on. My girlfriend handed him his baseball cards and told him he was going to need those. Levi still looked completely puzzled, until I told him he didn’t have a dentist appointment. The light bulb went off, and he know knew what we were doing. That moment was priceless.

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We pulled into Bruff’s and the parking lot was already filling up. We went inside and waited for the Royals to show up and Levi tried being mad at me that I didn’t let him in on what we were actually doing. Sorry son, I can tell you aren’t mad when you are grinning while trying to play angry. Finally the players(and Sluggerrrr. and Steve Physioc, who I have to believe could play a mean Joker. Smile away, Steve!) arrived and we got in line so Levi could get his autographs.

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First was Brian McRae, former Royals center fielder. Levi really didn’t know who he was other than Hal’s son, who he only knows from me talking about him.

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Next was Aaron Crow, current Royals reliever. Levi was excited to see him, but we all knew who he was there to see…

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I wish I could have gotten a better picture. You can’t even imagine how big my son’s smile was. He had told me later that he wanted to tell Billy he was his favorite player, but he got nervous. Trust me, I totally get it. The one thing I think of in this picture is how creepy Physioc looks. I laugh every time I see this. Sure, my first thought is how happy my son was in this moment. But my second thought was “Physioc could play a villain in a superhero movie. Or chase after people with a chainsaw while only wearing sneakers”. One of those two. I almost lost Levi after this, as he seemed to be floating away on cloud nine. He got to meet his favorite player and got his autograph. It’s probably similar to when I was in Cooperstown. I could have died and I would have been a happy man. Levi was more than happy at this moment.

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This is the grin I saw the rest of the day. He has learned from me, as he was insanely careful with his Billy Butler card and made sure it didn’t touch anything else, even the other baseball cards. At the end of the day, I was able to give him a memory that he will remember when he is old and gray. It was my reminder that really we are all still kids when it comes to the things we love. I’ve often been told that I become a little kid again once I am at the ballpark. That’s probably true, as there is just something about being around baseball that makes me happy. I totally understand how Levi felt this past week.  He can’t trade away this memory. I’m just glad that I could make it happen. He probably has no clue that I was just as happy as him, only for a different reason. It made my day as well. It was also the best dentist appointment ever!

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