The Battle of Who Could Care Less

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Kansas City Royals
(Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY)

Headed into Spring Training 2016, the Kansas City Royals have very little when it comes to major concerns on their roster. There is right field (which looks like a platoon between Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando), the 5th spot in the starting rotation, the backup catcher battle and a few bullpen spots. But there also is a battle at second base, where Omar Infante looks to reclaim his spot while upstart Christian Colon looks to pry playing time away from the veteran. It would appear on first look that it is Infante’s job to lose, but there is always a chance Colon could take over, especially since Infante’s numbers the last few years have been less than stellar. Word last month from the almighty GM, Dayton Moore was that Colon would get a chance to win the job away from Infante this spring. So this begs the question: who should the Royals start at second base?

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Let’s start with the man we all figure will win the job, Omar Infante. Infante is getting ready for his age 34 season, year 3 of a 4 year deal with Kansas City. To say Infante has been lacking offense the last two seasons would be a bit of an understatement. Infante’s OPS+ the last two seasons has been 76 and 49(league average is 100), miles away from the 115 he produced for Detroit back in 2013. He was actually able to produce a positive WAR in 2014(0.8) but slipped to -0.8 in 2015. Pretty much every offensive statistic has suffered in his two years in Kansas City, although he did have a number of clutch hits for the team in 2014. It’s not even just the main offensive numbers; fly ball % is down, his groundball rate is up and his hard hit rate has suffered as well. None of this is too surprising, as Infante is at that age where regression starts to sit in, so a dip in the numbers shouldn’t be too shocking.

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Defensively, it has been a different story, as Omar actually held his own on defense this past year. Infante was able to post a positive dWAR, a big bump in his UZR, and a slight increase in his defensive runs saved. If ever you wondered why manager Ned Yost continued to pencil Infante into the lineup everyday, looking at his defensive numbers should explain it. The real detriment to Infante the last two seasons(and why there is at least some optimism in his return) has been the litany of injuries that he has dealt with during his time in Kansas City. In just two seasons, Infante has dealt with a jaw sprain, a shoulder sprain, an oblique strain(which sidelined him at the end of 2015), and a bone spur in his right elbow that required surgery this past November. Outside of the first week of the 2014 season, I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen a completely healthy Infante during his time in Royal blue. A healthy Infante would go a long ways toward not only sewing up a starting spot but also increasing his value in any way possible.

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So what about Christian Colon? Well, his numbers are a bit harder to decipher because of limited time in the majors. Offensively, he has been better than Infante the last two seasons numbers wise, but once again this is in limited action. Colon has put up an OPS+ of 139 and 91 the last two seasons, but that is in 21 and 43 games. He has compiled a positive WAR(0.7 and 0.6) and defensively has been a slightly above average fielder. I went ahead and looked at his numbers in AAA Omaha, and Colon played about how you would figure; an average hitter with little power, decent speed and a positive increase in his BB/K rate. It’s hard to really get a read on what kind of major league player Colon would be, but it would appear he is about replacement level.

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If you believe Moore, this will be a serious competition between the two players.  In fact he all but said that last month when talking to MLB.com:

“We’ll just evaluate,” Moore told MLB.com. “We’re going to play the best players. Omar is a terrific second baseman. I know offensively he has not performed the way he has liked or the way we expect him to. I just know we’re going to put the best team out there each and every night, and I know Omar is capable of being that guy. But we like Christian Colon, too. But you need them all to win, as you know. It’s a team, and you count on everyone to perform. I don’t know if Omar, at this point, is going to play 162 games.”

Go ahead, look at that last sentence. Moore basically implies they aren’t for sure Infante can stay healthy the whole season. You can understand why, after the list of injuries I mentioned above, but this also makes you wonder if something else is in the mix.

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There is something else in the mix, and that ‘something else’ would be hot prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. Mondesi is entering his age 20 season and finished last year in AA Northwest Arkansas in the Royals farm system.  Mondesi is still a very raw talent, but it is conceivable he could make a big jump this season. One downside is that Mondesi has only played 18 professional games at second base, although it will be interesting to see what they do with him when he starts the year in the minors. If he is playing second fairly often early on, then it is possible the Royals would be looking at him as a possible solution in the big leagues later in the summer. I don’t think we will see Mondesi in the mix to start the year, but I have a hunch we will see him before the year is up.

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So what is the final verdict? Going just off of numbers, it would seem like a dead heat. Infante and Colon’s ‘Steamer Projections’ are fairly similar: Infante has a projected line of .253/.284/.352 with a wRC+(weighted runs created) of 71, while Colon’s line would be .264/.316/..352 with an 83 wRC+.  The numbers show that Colon might have a slight edge offensively, but not by much. It would seem Infante would have the edge defensively, which the Royals highly value. Infante would probably also have the edge because of his contract; it’s hard to justify benching the guy who’s making $7.8 million this year, especially since he is almost untradeable. Here is what I believe will happen: Infante will win the job out of Spring Training and will hold onto it until/if he gets hurt. Even if Infante is able to stay healthy, I really believe by August we will see Mondesi holding down the second base job. The Infante-Colon combo is not a permanent answer, especially for a team that has aspirations of making the postseason again this year. Instead it is the current answer, not the permanent one. Come August, second base could look much different for the Royals.

Oh, What a Feeling: Your 2015 World Champions, the Kansas City Royals!

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The Kansas City Royals have waited 30 years to say they are World Champions. Whenever anyone around Kansas City talks about the Royals, it is inevitable that the 1985 Royals, the only other Kansas City team to win the World Series, are brought up. In some ways I’m sure it felt like big shoes to fill, living up to the legend of a team that made a lot of us(myself included) Royals fans. Now though is another champion for future teams to live up to. In what was possibly the most dramatic 5 game World Series in history, Kansas City can now call themselves ‘World Champs’!

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There are so many stories to tell here, and all deserve your time and praise, but let’s start with the beginning of the season. This was a team that felt like they had unfinished business, left with the bad taste in their mouth from being beat by the Giants the year before in the World Series. This was a team that was on a mission to finish what they fell just short of in 2014. Not only is it a difficult path to make back to back World Series in this day and age, but they were doing it without some big components from the year before. Billy Butler was gone. James Shields-gone. Nori Aoki jumped ship to the world champs. In their place was Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez and Alex Rios, two of which were coming off of disappointing seasons. In fact, guys like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer were also coming off of less than stellar campaigns, which is why the PECOTA projections had Kansas City at 72 wins. In fact, I was a bit skeptical of their chances, expecting them to be in the hunt while falling just short. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my team to ‘Take the Crown’; I just wasn’t for sure that a majority of the lineup was going to improve on their 2014 numbers. Luckily, I was wrong.

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What happened during the regular season would seem like a fairy tale written up by a Royals fan before the season began, while bordering on fan fiction(somehow Salvador Perez and his perfume would fit in here). The team got off to a hot start, took control of the American League Central and held it for 3/4 of the season. In fact, if it wasn’t for the surging Minnesota Twins stepping up near the beginning of the summer, the Royals might have lead the division all season long. There was so many highlights to the regular season, like Mike Moustakas’ offensive turnaround, as he learned to hit to the opposite field, forcing opposing teams to quit putting the shift on him and play him straight up. There was the monster comeback season by Morales, toppling 100 RBI’s while adding power to the middle of the order. There was another phenomenal season by Wade Davis and Volquez turned out to be a solid replacement for Shields. Lorenzo Cain really blossomed this year, putting together a MVP caliber season after dealing with injuries almost every year before. The team almost single-handedly took over the All-Star Game, with 4 Kansas City starters in the game and 8 total players representing the Royals. Hell, we Royals fans almost voted Omar Infante into the game, and most of us agree he was awful this year! Then in July, the Royals front office stepped up, acquiring Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist to further elevate their chances of capturing a world championship. Zobrist was a huge acquisition, as he filled in for left fielder Alex Gordon while he was out with a groin strain, then slid over to second base, taking over for the black hole of offense known as Infante. Cueto had very mixed results, sometimes looking like the ace he was in Cincinnati, other times looking like a back of the rotation arm who had to be perfect to succeed. Either way, Royals management did their part by giving the team the pieces to win, leaving it all up to the players to take it home. In fact, the Royals steamrolled through the competition most of this year, putting up the best record in the American League and garnering them home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This team was on a mission from day one and accomplished the first part of it; making the playoffs. Now it was time to do the hard part: advance to the World Series.

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In the American League Division Series, the Royals would play the Houston Astros, a young team that gave Kansas City trouble during the regular season. This series pretty much dictated the Royals fate and what we should have expected from this Royals team. Royals would lose Game 1, but then would mount one of their famous comebacks late in Game 2 to pull out a victory. Game 3 went to Houston, as Dallas Keuchel shutdown the Royals offense, and at this point it was ‘do or die’ for Kansas City. In Game 4, Houston took a four run lead into the Top of the 8th, which seemed like a death kneel for this Royals team. The Royals ‘kept the line moving’ in this inning, with a bit of help from Carlos Correa, and would not only storm back, but would end up taking the lead, taking the game and forcing a Game 5.

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Game 4 of the ALDS might be the greatest summary of what this Kansas City Royals team did this entire postseason. When their backs were against the wall, they didn’t give up. The picked and picked, battling  pitchers while finding a way to get on base and keep a rally going. The word ‘relentless’ has been used at great lengths these past few weeks, but I also think you can use the word ‘stubborn’. This Royals team just would not quit, which was night and day from what we saw just a few years earlier. Once you get in the playoffs you are playing nothing but great teams, and the Royals frustrated every last one of them. The philosophy of ‘putting the ball in play, forcing the defense to make the play’ really has worked for this team, and I’m not for sure it can be duplicated. You would think Game 4 of the ALDS was a standalone game, one that was the outlier of the group, but it isn’t. The Royals entire postseason was some variation of that Monday afternoon in Houston, where even myself doubted this team would come back and win. Game 5 was almost a non-contest, once Johnny Cueto got past the Luis Valbuena home run. It was smooth sailing after that blast for Cueto, as the Royals punched their ticket to the ALCS.

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Before we move on to the ALCS, I want to point out something here. I have long criticized Ned Yost and his managing style. Before last September, he seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. There was concern that the same mistakes he made in Milwaukee would be repeated in Kansas City, costing the Royals any semblance of glory. But sometimes people surprise you and change their ways, and Yost did just that. Starting in late September 2014, Yost started listening more to his coaching staff and venture outside of the box some more. It was very slight at first(letting Kelvin Herrera pitch more than an inning at a time), but by the playoffs he made almost every logical move a manager could make. That continued this year and to be honest, a lot of it was just letting the players go out and play. Trust them. The players stepped up this year and deserve a lot of the credit, but Yost’s more laid back managing style was a welcome plus. I’m still not a big Yost fan, but I will give the man credit when I feel he deserves it. Quite a bit of the Royals success this year can be tied into Yost relaxing his style and allowing himself to not be confined to an old way of thinking that had held him back in the past.

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 28: Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals and Alex Rios #15 of the Kansas City Royals celebrate with Kendrys Morales #25 of the Kansas City Royals after scoring runs in the fifth inning against the New York Mets in Game Two of the 2015 World Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 28, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

This would lead to the ALCS, the match-up that almost everyone wanted, Royals vs. Blue Jays. These two teams had some issues this past August and despite the fact that no one expected any extra fireworks this series(I mean, it is the postseason; no one wants to lose time in October over something stupid), some of the bad feelings were still lingering. Game 1 went to Kansas City, thanks to another solid postseason start from Edinson Volquez and some timely hitting. Game 2 was the perfect definition of #RoyalsDevil Magic, as Kansas City looked lost for 6 innings against David Price, to the point Price had retired 18 straight batters before heading to the 7th inning. Then it happened; Zobrist hit a fly ball to right field that fell in between Ryan Goins and Jose Bautista in what looked like a miscommunication. What followed was the Royals doing what they do, or what they call ‘keep the line moving’. By the end of the inning the Royals had taken the lead and put a seed of doubt into the Blue Jays’ minds on their ability to stop this Kansas City team. Game 3 went to Toronto, as the two teams ventured north of the border, which was  followed by a Royals offensive slaughter of the Blue Jays in Game 4. The Royals could have clinched the series with a win in Toronto for Game 5, but Marco Estrada shut down Kansas City, which meant the series would return to Kauffman Stadium, with the Royals only needing one win to head to the World Series.

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I think when we really dissect this postseason for the Royals, what we will find is a number of games that will go down in Kansas City history as some of the most memorable games in team history. Obviously Game 4 of the ALDS ranks high on the list, but the argument can also be made for a couple of the World Series games and for Game 2 of the ALCS. But without a doubt, Game 6 of the ALCS will be on that list, as it turned into another classic nail-biter that left Royals fans on the edge of their seats. The Royals would take the lead early on thanks to a Ben Zobrist and Mike Moustakas hitting solo home runs, and would hold the lead until the Top of the 8th. Jose Bautista would club his second home run of the game, a 2 run shot, that would tie the game at 3 and had sucked a lot of air out of the ballpark. There would be a slight rain delay before starting the bottom of the inning(could it have been building to the drama that was to happen?) but it didn’t slow down the Royals. Lorenzo Cain led off the inning with a walk, then Eric Hosmer would stride to the plate, yet another clutch situation for him in a postseason filled with clutch hits for the Gold Glove first baseman. Hosmer would line a single down the right field line, which meant no matter what Cain was getting to third. But the Royals scouts had noticed earlier in the series that Bautista would always throw the ball into second base with runners on first, while third base coach Mike Jirschele had also noticed it was normally done in a lackadaisical manner. The Blue Jays were not prepared for Cain to be racing home on the play, as Troy Tulowitzki was caught a bit off-guard when after receiving the ball from Bautista, he turned around to notice Cain was headed home. Cain was in safely, giving the Royals the lead and giving Kansas City another memorable moment this postseason.

Cain’s play was even more impressive when you realize he was tracked at nearly 21 mph by Statcast on his trip around the bases. The almost unstoppable Wade Davis would come in to pitch the top of the 9th, and despite the allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to get on base to start the inning, Davis would shut down the Blue Jays, getting probabley future AL MVP Josh Donaldson to ground out to end the game and give Kansas City back to back World Series appearances for the first time in team history.

The Royals were now only four wins away from a World Championship, their first in 30 years.

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So the stage was set for the Royals returning to the World Series, this time to face the New York Mets. It was interesting to notice the narrative thrown out by the media during this series, as it focused on New York, making their first World Series appearance since 2000, trying to bring the trophy back to the ‘Empire State’. Should it have been the narrative? Probably not, as it should have been the Royals trying to do what they couldn’t do last year and win their first Championship since 1985. But because New York is considered the center of the sports world(or even just the center of most things in this country, whether you are talking about entertainment or sports), the focus was bound to be on the Mets. I wasn’t overly bothered by it, because once again it made the Royals the underdog, a role that this team cherishes. This series would get off to a hot start, as I think it safe to say Game 1 will go down as a World Series classic. There are so many little tidbits from this game that I loved, and maybe it was because it was my first ever World Series game to be in attendance for, but here is just a snippet of what all happened in this game:

  • The game started out with the news leaking on Twitter about Edinson Volquez’s father had passed away earlier in the day, unbeknownst to Eddie. The crowd, in support, chanted “Eddie” numerous times throughout the contest.
  • Alcides Escobar would hit the first inside the park home run in World Series history since George “Mule” Haas of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1929. Escobar’s hit was on the first pitch of the bottom of the 1st inning.
  • The Mets would take a 4-3 lead in the Top of the 8th thanks to an Eric Hosmer error, allowing Juan Lagares to score from second. It was an odd sight, since the Royals had been almost spotless defensively during the playoffs this year before that, and since Hosmer is normally so sure-handed.
  • The Royals would tie the game back up in the bottom of the 9th with an Alex Gordon homer off of Jeurys Familia, the Mets closer. This was a monster of a shot that Statcast had at 438 ft, off of a 97 mph sinker:
  • Chris Young, who was scheduled to start in Game 4 of the series, would come in and throw 3 shutout innings, stifling the Mets. This might have been the biggest pitching outing of the series, outside of Johnny Cueto’s Game 2 start.
  • The game was won in the bottom of the 14th by Kansas City. I was live tweeting the game for work, and might have foreshadowed the win as I sent this out in the middle of the 14th:

Bottom of the 14th would start with Escobar reaching on an error by David Wright(which I had wanted to tweet out ‘costly error?’ but since I was on the work account I figured I shouldn’t), followed by a Zobrist single and a Cain intentional walk. This led to the bases loaded with no outs and Hosmer at the plate, hoping to redeem himself for his error back in the 8th. Hosmer would lift a fairly deep fly ball to right field, scoring Escobar and giving the Royals a Game 1 victory. This game was the third World Series game to go 14 innings and undoubtedly will go down as a classic. In a lot of ways, this game set the tone for the rest of the series.

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Game 2 would see Johnny Cueto put up the best game score for a Royals pitcher in a playoff game in history, as the Royals would go up 2-0 in the series with a 7-1 victory. The two teams would travel to New York for three games, and the Mets would take Game 3, 9-3 as Royals starter Yordano Ventura saw a loss in velocity and the Royals never seemed to find their footing in this game. Game 4 would be another close one that the Royals took, 5-3 and gave Kansas City a 3-1 lead in the series, needing only one more win to be world champions. This would lead to yet another classic Royals comeback in Game 5.

Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer celebrates with his teammates after scoring during the ninth inning of Game 5 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the New York Mets Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

For 8 innings in Game 5, it looked as if the Royals number might be up, as Matt Harvey was dominating Kansas City, looking as sharp as I have seen him all season(in what starts I have seen him in). Harvey would come out for the Top of 9th, which seemed fine since he had been handcuffing the Royals all night long. He would allow a leadoff walk to Cain, who would then steal second base. Eric Hosmer, who to this point had been hitting about .111 in the series, came up big again with a double off the left field wall, scoring Cain and cutting the Mets lead to 2-1. Familia would come in for New York and he would get Moustakas to ground out, moving Hosmer to third. So with one out and the Royals down by one, Salvador Perez would hit a slow chopper to David Wright at third. Wright would glance back at Hosmer, who was just a little bit of the way down the line at third, then toss to first. Hosmer, in what would be equal parts genius and stupid, took off for home once Wright slinged it over, causing Lucas Duda to hurry a throw home. The throw would be wide of catcher Travis D’arnaud, as Hosmer slid into home safely.

Now, I know the broadcasters said it was good baserunning by Hosmer, but like I said, it was just as much a lucky play. Probably nine times out of ten, that throw is accurate and Hosmer would have been out by a mile. Royals scouts had told the team to run on Duda and D’arnaud as much as possible, and it seemed Kansas City picked an opportune time to take advantage of that knowledge. But as most everything this postseason, the play went the Royals way and the game was now knotted up at two. It would stay this way until the 12th inning, as Jarrod Dyson was on third and Christian Colon, former #1 Draft Pick for the Royals, making his lone postseason at bat and he would deliver big:

The Royals would tack on four more runs and then would hand the ball over to the best relief pitcher in baseball the last two years, Wade Davis:

For the first time since 1985, the Kansas City Royals are World Champions! For everything that the city of Kansas City, the organization and even us fans have endured, this was the sweetest victory that one could imagine. Demons were purged, losses have faded and now here they stand, the best team in baseball in 2015.

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When the 2015 season started, 30 teams all wanted one thing, to call themselves the World Champions. Only one team gets that distinction, and this year it is the Kansas City Royals. For years this team has heard about the ghosts of Royals past: George Brett, Willie Wilson, Dane Iorg, Jim Sundberg, Bret Saberhagen, Darryl Motley and so many more. Those ghosts will no longer haunt this team, as they have accomplished their only goal this season: win the World Series. It has been a crazy ride all season long, one that could make this team the greatest Royals team of all-time(they have competition with those late 70’s teams that faced the Yankees in the playoffs) and will hopefully not leave ghosts of their own for future generations. What this team did was the equivalent of slaying the dragon, or blowing up the Death Star. What this team did was put the focus back on an organization that for years was one to duplicate throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Celebrate this victory, Kansas City. Your Royals are the World Champions!

It’s Not Easy Being On the Royals Playoff Roster

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It’s that time of year, where the leaves turn colors, the hoodies are dragged out of the closet and, if you are lucky, your favorite baseball team can start thinking about the playoffs. This also means that as a fan you can start piecing together how you think your team’s playoff roster will look. As a Kansas City Royals fan, we never knew this was a ‘thing’, since up until last year we never had to worry about the Royals playing October baseball. But with Kansas City’s magic number currently sitting at ‘3’, it is pretty safe to say they will be playing past October 4th and hopefully deeper into the postseason. With that said, I was asked over the weekend what I thought the Royals playoff roster would look like. So here is my guess, although to be honest it looked a bit different than on Friday.

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Catchers(2): Salvador Perez, Drew Butera

Infielders(5): Eric Hosmer, Ben Zobrist, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Christian Colon

Obviously, this was fairly easy, since you have the four starting infielders and a backup. Originally I felt like Omar Infante would get picked over Colon, despite the fact that Colon is more versatile whereas Infante is solely a second baseman. Then Omar came up with an oblique injury on Friday, which could sideline him for close to a month if not longer. As most also know, Zobrist can also play the outfield so he could almost be counted as an infielder and an outfielder if necessary.

Outfielders(5): Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Rios, Jarrod Dyson, Jonny Gomes

There was some debate just a week ago that Rios could be on the outside looking in for a roster spot due to his poor performance most of this year. Then he went out last week, continuing his hot hitting since his return from the chickenpox(which is not a minor league team in the Frontier League) and pretty much sewed up a spot for the playoffs. In my mind this pushed Paulo Orlando off the team, as I think the Royals will want Jonny Gomes’ bat for pinch hitting late in the game or against a tough lefthander. I had an argument with someone over Gomes being on the team, as I am of the belief that he was acquired for the sole purpose of being used in the playoffs while this other person who will not be named believes he won’t because the Royals aren’t using him much. I guess we will see, but in the playoffs I can’t see the reasoning behind six outfielders, or having Orlando on the team for solely defensive purposes. But, there might be a spot for him otherwise, which I will get to later.

DH(1): Kendrys Morales

Starting Pitchers(4): Johnny Cueto, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Kris Medlen

This seems pretty self-explanatory, especially once Danny Duffy was sent to the bullpen. I still laugh when thinking about some of the Royals fans believing that Cueto might not be on this roster if he continued to under-perform. The wild card in this group is Yordano Ventura; if he pitches like he has over the last 4-6 weeks then he will be a solid number two. If he reverts back to his form from earlier this year there could be an issue. I also think Medlen could be a major player, which seems a bit inconceivable considering where he was at when the season started(starting the climb back from Tommy John Surgery). This isn’t the most solid group but if they can go 5-6 innings every game in the playoffs, hopefully the bullpen can do the rest.

Relievers(8): Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales, Danny Duffy, Luke Hochevar, Chris Young, Greg Holland

Speaking of, the bullpen is still a strong suit for this Kansas City team but not quite the monster it was last year. Greg Holland has fallen from grace and it was announced earlier today that Wade Davis is the closer going forward while Holland’s role on the team is to be determined. It also came to light that Holland has been dealing with an elbow issue since the All-Star break and isn’t reliable enough to close games for Kansas City. I’m not shocked to learn Holland was hurt, as I have suspected it most of this year, but this puts a giant question mark into the playoff roster. Can Holland be relied on to perform in any close game, even if that means coming in as early as the 6th inning? Or is he past the point of being trusted in such a situation and be completely left off the roster? I really don’t have an answer to this, but I also know manager Ned Yost is a loyal person and might keep Holland around for that reason only. The other options would be to leave him off while adding Paulo Orlando to the team, trusting that a 7-man bullpen is good enough in the ALDS, or you add young pitcher Miguel Almonte to the pen. Almonte has been a mixed bag so far in September and probably isn’t ready for the big stage, but he does have electric stuff and if used in the proper situation could be a viable option. IF Holland is left off the roster, Orlando very well could be the one given the nod.

July 03, 2015: Kansas City Royals Manager Ned Yost relieves Kansas City Royals' starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (11) in the seventh inning during a Major League Baseball  game between the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The Royals won in ten innings, 3-2.

The other roster question for the bullpen is whether to go with Chris Young or Jeremy Guthrie as the long reliever. I know there some Royals fan snickering right now for even mentioning Guthrie, but hear me out. Over the weekend I felt like it could be Guthrie, since he was given the starting nod once Duffy was shuffled to the pen and because Chris Young hasn’t been used much over the last couple months. In fact, in August Young didn’t throw more than an inning in any outing, and only appeared in five games during the entire month. Young does have a 2 and a 3 inning outing so far in September, but I would imagine his arm isn’t stretched out like it normally would be. Plus, I couldn’t imagine Young, an extreme fly ball pitcher, to see any action in Toronto, New York, or even Arlington or Houston’s ballparks. Those ballparks are pretty much all hitter’s parks, or in other words a nightmare for a guy who gives up lots of fly balls. So the only action Young would see would probably be at Kauffman Stadium and that cuts down how often you could use him. But then Guthrie looked atrocious on Tuesday night against Seattle and pretty much assured that he would be left off of any and all playoff rosters. Great guy, but Guthrie has had an awful season that isn’t getting better. So Young gets the nod over Guthrie, but hopefully there won’t be much of a need for him come October.

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So there you go, my guess as to what the Royals first round playoff roster will look like. Like I said, there could be a few slight changes to this and with a week and a half left in the season there is the possibility someone else could get hurt or there could be a need for a bit more depth in an area I hadn’t thought of. At the end of the day it is great to even be able to have this conversation, no matter how much bickering goes on about which player stays or goes. With September being a rough month, I think I speak for lots of Royals fans by saying “let’s just start the playoffs already”. Trust me, it will be here soon enough, as we get to engulf ourselves in another ‘Blue October’.

Walk-Off Wonders: Royals Split Series With Twins

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It’s amazing what a walk-off can do for a team’s outlook. The Royals were coming off of being swept by the Houston Astros earlier in the week before the Minnesota Twins came to town on Thursday to kick off a 4 game series and a long homestand for our boys in blue. The Royals offense has been scuffling as of late and the starting pitching has been its normal up and down self. Coming into this series, the Royals were 4.5 games ahead of Minnesota in the American League Central and the hope was for Kansas City to win the series and extend their lead in the division. Instead…well, instead we are where we were earlier in the week. With all that said, there is a some good feelings by the end of the series. Let’s dive in!

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Series MVP: Lorenzo Cain

A few seasons ago(hell, even just early on last year) there was some concern Lorenzo Cain might never be able to go a complete season without getting hit with a major injury. Last season he avoided anything major and played in 3/4 of the Royals games, putting up solid numbers and playing his normal jaw-dropping defense. Going into this season I was really intrigued to see if Lorenzo would grow from his sparkling play in the playoffs last October. So far to date Cain has done that and he once again put together another stellar series against the Twins. Cain was 6 for 14 in this series with 3 walks, 3 RBI’s, and a BAbip of .545:

The most important though of Cain’s stats was the 3 runs scored, 2 of which were game winning runs scored off of walk-offs. Cain will be a starter for the American League at the All-Star game in a week(more on that in just a bit) and you won’t convince me he doesn’t deserve that this year. His play in this series showed not only how important he is to the Royals lineup, but also how when he is playing well and getting on base, the Royals seem to find a way to score him when it counts the most. There is a number of issues we could nitpick about the Royals offense(and most of it would probably be deserved) but Lorenzo Cain is not one of them. Call it what you want, but it’s easy to see that Lorenzo Cain is having an All-Star season.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Danny Duffy

On Sunday, Danny Duffy had his best start since coming off the disabled list a few weeks ago. Duffy went 6.1 innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs while walking 3 and striking out 1. Duffy had a bit of an issue with his control, especially with his slider, but he was able to pitch into the 7th inning and was able to get out of a couple tough situations. In fact, Duffy can probably thank Torii Hunter for part of that, as Hunter hit into 2 double plays to help squelch a couple of Minnesota rallies. That fruit basket will be on its way soon, Torii. Duffy’s start gives the Royals some hope that he can be a quality starter for the rest of the season, allowing the Royals to focus on second base and right field before the trade deadline at the end of the month. It’s just one start, but it at least gives the team hope that the rotation might be coming back to full strength soon, as you can add Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura and Kris Medlen to the list of starters coming back soon, as the last two are currently on rehab assignments in the minors. A Royals rotation of Edinson Volquez, Duffy, Ventura and Medlen would be an upgrade over the Blanton’s and Guthrie’s of the world. If that happens, it would make for a solid rotation if the Royals reach October and it all starts with the return of Danny Duffy.

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Hey Now, They are All-Stars

You heard all the uproar, all the whining and all the complaining that us Royals fans were making a mockery of the voting system for the All-Star Game. All of that time spent by folks who want to believe this exhibition game still matters. Hey, it’s a fun game that I look forward to every year, but I don’t take it very serious. With all that being said, the baseball Gods must have fixed the monstrosity that us fans have manipulated and after the possibility of up to eight Royals starting in the mid-summer classic, it turns out only four will actually start this all important exhibition:

Only four? I know, I know. But still, that is pretty impressive:

Yep, in fact four is the number of Royals that have started in the All-Star Game over the last 25 years! The funny about this whole All-Star hoopla is that the four Royals starters(Perez, Gordon, Escobar and Cain) are all legitimate candidates to start. The best part of this whole thing is that the Royals have four worthy candidates and will be representing Kansas City in Cincinnati next week. Let’s just say Kansas City has earned this honor:

That is where the Royals have been. This is where they are now.

 

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It was a long series for the Royals and Twins, so let’s look at some news and notes from the last four days:

  • Just looking at his base numbers and you would think Alex Gordon had a less than stellar weekend. But if you look deeper, and scratch away the 2 hits in 12 at bats, you see 4 walks(1 intentional) and an OPS of .750. Need more? How about two great catches on Sunday afternoon, robbing Trevor Plouffe both times of extra bases:

In my household, Alex Gordon is the standard-bearer on this Royals team. This weekend showed why he is looked at in that manner.

  • It appears as if Eric Hosmer is once again in his yearly summer swoon. Over the last month Hosmer is hitting .258/.307/.312. Now, we have all seen Hosmer hit worse(much, much worse) but it also obvious that once again he is trying to pull everything and has had poor pitch selection in his at bats. The poor pitch selection has led to his power numbers taking a dip; just look at that .312 slugging percentage over the last month. Yikes. He has hit only 3 extra base hits in that span, and luckily for Kansas City one of those was yesterday’s walk-off double to score Lorenzo Cain:

His timing was great there, but hopefully Hosmer picks up the pace and compile a few more extra base hits and help produce some more runs. Just know that Neddy won’t budge him from that 4th spot in the order.

  • You have to feel for infielder Dusty Coleman, who was called up during this series, as Christian Colon was sent down to Omaha to get some more at bats(trade bait?). On Friday night a ball is hit to right field. Coleman, who came in as a pinch runner, was at third base getting ready to tag up. Once the ball was caught by Aaron Hicks in right field, Coleman took off. But halfway down the line he stopped, trying then to return to third base. He was easily tagged out and at the time it seemed like a huge opportunity for the Royals, squashed by Coleman’s indecisiveness. To say the fanbase was angry would be an understatement. Luckily, things were corrected in the bottom of the 10th:
  • Before this series, Jarrod Dyson was hitting .368 over his previous 7 games and had been a spark on both the basepaths and on defense. He went 0-fer in this series, but delivered the chopper on Friday night to score Lorenzo Cain. Expect to see more of Dyson in the future as long as Alex Rios is struggling and Cain is fighting a hamstring issue.
  • Speaking of Friday, Jeremy Guthrie pitched a hell of a game that night, tied for his best game score of the season. Guthrie went 7.1 innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs while walking 1 and striking out 4. Guthrie has been like a roller coaster for much of this season but it goes to show when he is locating his pitches good and working the corners he can be a plus for the rotation.
  • On the other hand, Joe Blanton probably worked himself out of the rotation on Saturday. Somehow he did go 5 innings in the loss, giving up 9 hits and 4 runs while striking out 4. Blanton’s stuff has been good on his return to the big leagues, but when he doesn’t locate well he gets hammered. He left a couple of balls over the plate in this game which ended up costing him.
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon makes a diving catch for the out against Minnesota Twins' Trevor Plouffe during the fourth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 5, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Tweets of Royalty

 

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So it wasn’t the series win that most of us wanted, but it did keep the Royals on pace and didn’t let the Twins gain any ground. The Royals really need to get the offense going and the Rays(the Royals next opponent) lead the American League in Left on Base %(77.1). There are only seven games remaining before the All-Star break and it would be great for Kansas City to stretch their lead in the American League Central over 5 games. The Rays will be tough, but they are also 2-8 in their last 10 games. Let’s hope the Royals can pounce on that and get the offense going again. This series could also see the return of Yordano Ventura to the team, which would be a much-needed shot in the arm. Anything less than a series win against Tampa Bay should be taken as a disappointment. Also, the All-Star reserves will be announced later on Monday, which should be interesting to see just how many Royals make the team. 5? 6? 7? My guess is Wade Davis and Mike Moustakas get added to the team, rolling their team count to 6. It should be a fun week and hopefully a winning one at that.

 

 

 

Our Defense is Better Than Your Defense: Royals Roll Over Twins, Take Back First Place

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When last we checked in on our Central Division heroes, they were wrapping up a series with the Rangers thanks to the power of one Salvador Perez(or should we start calling him ‘The One’?). So expectations weren’t too high headed into Minnesota, as Kansas City had been floundering offensively and the hope more than anything was to not fall back any farther in the division. But what wonders do amaze, as the Royals came into town, showed a little bit of offense that we had been missing, a whole lot of defense that we have gotten used to and some very solid pitching. This formula apparently gains you a series sweep and a 2 game lead in the American League Central. Niiiiiiice! So lets journey up north and dissect a fun 3 games.

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Series MVP: Salvador Perez

When you’re hot, you’re hot. Perez continues his stealth hitting at the dish with a 5 for 11 series against Minnesota, including a home run on Tuesday that was a no-doubter:

Just perfect(outside of Physioc on commentary) and even Sal knew that was gone. Salvy would also take a walk in this series(color me shocked!) and raised his slugging percentage almost 20 points. Maybe the funnest stat from this series was Perez’s BAbip of . 500 in this series. In a lot of ways Salvy is the heart of this team and he adds so much to this team not only on the field but in the clubhouse. He also makes sure his pitchers have plenty of baseballs:

When Perez is cold he has even worse plate discipline than normal and seems to swing at every pitch thrown his way. But when he is hot it feels like no one can get him out. Lucky for the Royals he is on the hot side of that spectrum right now and is help an offense that has been lackluster over the last few weeks.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Chris Young

During some of the Royals series’ there isn’t one starter who performs good enough to get this honor. Then there are times when all 3 outings are deserving, like this week. I’ll discuss Jason Vargas’ outing on Monday and ‘Easy’ Ed Volquez’s start on Wednesday later, but the man of the hour was the almost flawless outing of Chris Young on Tuesday. Young would throw into the 7th inning on that night, finally leaving after allowing his first hit of the game to Trevor Plouffe. Yep, on the same night of the Giants Chris Heston throwing a no-no against the Mets, Young held the Twins hitless for over six innings. Chris would go 6.1 innings, allowing 1 hit and no runs while walking 3 and striking out 2. Another great outing for Young and he continues to make it hard on the Royals when it comes to what to do with their rotation, especially once Danny Duffy is ready to return off the disabled list. I’ve even heard mention that Young deserves an All-Star spot this year; look, I know we are voting for as many Royals as possible this year but this might be just a tad far-fetched(just a bit; I’ve been pleasantly surprised at Young’s results so far this year). What I can tell you is that until Young struggles on a regular basis, he will be a part of this rotation. The Royals don’t expect him to perform like this all year, so they are already thinking ahead to ‘Plan C’. For now though, lets just enjoy the ride.

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Sparkling ‘D’, As Always  

The Royals defense has almost become a thing of legend these last two years. On a weekly basis, we could sit here and sift through highlight reels of the Royals making sensational play after play. This week there were a number of phenomenal plays, like Alex Gordon’s great catch on Tuesday:

There is a reason that man won the Platinum Glove Award last year for the American League. Not to be outdone, Alcides Escobar put on quite the display on Wednesday:

 

Oh, there was also this play on Monday:

Finally, #ShortstopJesus made one more phenomenal play on Tuesday:

If you want an idea why Kansas City continues to stay at the top of the division while Cleveland bounces back and forth, all you have to do is look at the two teams defense’s. The Royals have 42 defensive Runs saved, Cleveland has -12. The Royals UZR is is 30.2, the Indians is -11.8. I’m not trying to pick on the Indians as much as point out how two teams that I have often felt are very similar seem to play the game in two completely different ways. One wonders if we would be discussing a Cleveland/Kansas City pennant race if the Indians defense improved even to just league average.

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And the Best Throw of the Series Goes to…

Look, baseball has a very long season. Loooooooong. There is going to be times you lose your cool as a player and vent on the field. It happens to the best of them. On Wednesday night, Torii Hunter of Minnesota lost his cool, big time:

Well, if I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I would have brought some one dollar bills! I know there was some snarkiness coming from Royals twitter this week about Hunter, but at the end of the day this stuff happens. It’s not like Hunter represents the organization like this on a weekly basis. The man lost his cool, was aggravated and then vented. Probably won’t be the last time that ever happens in his career either. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this. Plus, he had great form on that jersey throw. I’m not so sure the Royals right fielder could have pulled that off. I just hope Hunter realizes he might have gotten Royals manager Ned Yost excited:

Oh, Neddy!

 

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Onto the news and notes section of this series held in the Twin Cities:

  • I mentioned earlier how the rotation put up some quality starts during this series. On Monday, Jason Vargas put together his best start of the season(according to his game score and my eyeballs) by going 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and no runs while not allowing a walk and striking out 2. Young followed with his superb outing and then Edinson Volquez sparkled as well, going 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and 1 run while while walking 3 and striking out 6(and compiling the same game score as Vargas this week, a 64)on Wednesday. Two months into the season it is obvious the rotation is the weak link on this team, but when they pitch like this it gives one hope that they might be turning a corner.
  • I’m starting to think Jason Frasor is the bullpen version of Jeremy Guthrie. Over his last 8 outings he has not allowed an earned run, but good lord has he allowed baserunners! Over those 8 innings, Frasor has given up 10 hits and 7 walks while striking out 2. He also might be the poster boy for anyone against pace of play in the game, as Frasor feels like the pitching version of Mike Hargrove’s ‘human rain delay’ routine. Bottom line though, he has  a big zero in the runs column, and at the end of the day that is all that matters. I just wish he wouldn’t walk the tightrope every outing.
  • Raise your hand if you thought halfway through June that Mike Moustakas would still be hitting regularly to the opposite field? Not so fast, Neddy. You can’t blame any of us for feeling this wouldn’t be a regular thing. But now that it is, I have become giddy:

Moustakas has rejuvenated his career and it makes one ask the question we asked when Moose and Eric Hosmer first came up; if you can only keep one of them when free agency hits, who do you keep?

  • It’s safe to say that Alex Rios might have some lingering effects from his hand injury earlier in the season. In the 9 games since his return, Rios is hitting .129/.182/.161 and has a BAbip of .167. If you remember, Rios had a lingering hand issue last year that sapped his power while he was playing for the Rangers and even that injury has not completely healed. In those 9 games he also has only one extra base hit, a double on June 7th. The Royals need a healthy Rios to produce but hand injuries have a tendency to take longer healing. I hope the Royals have Paulo Orlando on speed dial.
  • Speaking of slumping hitters, the Royals fanbase has been wondering just how long manager Ned Yost will stick with Omar Infante at second base with his lackluster play this season. I decided to look at just the past month(May 10th through June 10th) and the numbers are frightening. Infante has a slash line of .174/.179/.217 and his BAbip is .200. Even worse, he has only 3 extra base hits in this span and WALKED ONLY ONCE!! Look, I firmly believe that if you aren’t producing, the very least you can do is get on base in some capacity, either by walking or stepping into a pitch and taking one for the team. Infante is doing none of that and his defense, while not bad, hasn’t been as sparkling as it should be. Christian Colon has only started twice in this span and Infante has only sat out a game once. At the very least, Infante should be sitting a few days a week if this is what he can do at this point. There’s also this little nugget of information:

Don’t feel sad enough yet? Omar still has two years left on his contract. Ugh.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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The sweep puts Kansas City in a prime position this weekend, 2 games ahead of Minnesota in the American League Central as the Royals head to St. Louis. It should be another heated weekend as the best record in the AL meets the best record in the NL. Hopefully Kansas City can ride this hot streak through the weekend and into next week’s matchup against Milwaukee. Best case scenario? Win the series against the Cardinals and extend their lead in the division. Worst case? Lose series to St. Louis and let Minnesota and Detroit catch up to them. Either way, it’s nice to be back on top.

 

Questions With Getzie: The Front Office Edition

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       “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in…”

It’s hard as a writer to lose one’s muse. The muse becomes a never-ending fountain of productivity and topics. Sometimes you lose that muse and you never get it back, a whisper in the wind. Sometimes the muse returns and becomes part of the front office of your favorite baseball team. The last time we checked in with one Christopher Getz he was getting cut by the Toronto Blue Jays and was ready to visit that special place in the baseball sky(retirement, not heaven). Well, since then Getz became a part of the Kansas City Royals front office, as he is now an assistant to Royals GM Dayton Moore. With that said (and the Royals back in first place) I thought it would be a great time to let the Phoenix rise again and let Christopher answer some of your questions (or how I think he would answer them). So without further ado, here is the glorious return of ‘Questions With Getzie’!

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Getzie! Great to have you back!-Ryan, Overland Park, KS

Thanks! Golly, it is fantastic to be back. I haven’t had a chance to interact with the fans much since my return but it is great to hear from you guys and that you all remember me!

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Chris, give us an idea on what your job entails, especially the player development portion of it. Thanks.-Brandon, Odessa, MO

Shucks, that is a great question! The player development part of my job is fun, as I go around within the Kansas City minor league system and get to work with all the young prospects the Royals have. We work a lot on fundamentals, like fielding ground balls:

Also, lots of bunting. We work on LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTS of bunting.

As to the assistant to the GM part of my job, I get a lot of coffee. I think it wouldn’t hurt if Dayton cut back a bit.

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Chris, any advice on dealing with bloggers who like to downplay your performance on the field?-Omar,  Puerto La Cruz, Anzoategui, Venezuela. 

Gosh, that’s a tough one. The media can be difficult at times but you have to learn how to deal with the lows and highs and try to even them out. I had a blogger write about me a lot. He at least amused me. In the end, there are lots of ways to deal with pressure:

Also, it would help if your OPS+ was better than the 43 you currently are sitting at.

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Chris, why won’t you return my calls?? Why???? I miss you!!!!-Lee, Kansas City, MO

Seriously, get a grip Lee. You have to move on without me. I am glad you tore that shrine of me down in your house. It always made me uncomfortable.

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What’s it like hanging out with George Brett while watching a game?-Joel, Eudora, KS

Gee, it’s great! I could do without a lot of the swearing, especially since that gets worse as the game goes on. Also, I’ve heard his story about crapping his pants in Las Vegas like 23 times now. I think I get the point.

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Chris, just wanted to let you know I’m glad you got to return to Kansas City. I am really enjoying myself in Anaheim. I’ve never seen so much playing time! Plus that Scioscia guy is a great manager. All my best!-Johnny, Metairie, LA

Glad to see things are you going well for you, you whippersnapper! Sciosc is a great guy and it’s good you are getting to work with him. I mean, he’s no Yosty, but he’s got some great qualities. Keep up the great work…oh, and I’ve also voted for you 35 times in the All-Star balloting. Just don’t tell Omar!

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Getzie, who are some of your mentors throughout all your years in baseball?-Darin, Lone Jack, MO

Gosh, I have so many! Here are some of them:

Those guys were all great, even my dad. But none have really been the wind beneath my wings like Dayton and Neddy. Those two guys are my heroes and are the reason I am here. No one else has ever believed in me like they have. They even thought I was ‘mistake free’! Also, Frenchy was a great mentor. I miss that guy.

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Chris, at your best were you better than Omar Infante is this year for the Royals?-Craig, Gardner, KS

Yes.

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Getzie, what are some of your greatest moments during your time in baseball?-Pete, Independence, MO

I actually have talked about this before:

Also, that one home run I hit in Atlanta. The stars were aligned that night.

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Chris, Mark Teahen said he leased his apartment to you when you were first traded to Kansas City. He made it sound like you were going to make a mess. Is that how it went down?-Jeffrey, Columbus, MO

Okay, first here is what Mark said:

Here is the truth. Mark’s apartment was a mess. There was plastic on the furniture because Mark didn’t use silverware…or plates…or cups. It was a pigsty when I got there. By the time I left it was spotless. He also charged me an arm and a leg for rent. He should have been paying me for making that place look like an immaculate palace. Silly Teahen.

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Christopher, I can’t believe I am about to say this, but I almost miss you. Omar is awful. You might just be better than he is at this point. I can’t believe I just said that. I just threw up in my mouth a bit.-Sean, Emporia, KS

I get it. It shouldn’t be that way. Carlos Febles, Tony Abreu, Luis Alicea, Esteban German, Ruben Gotay, Tony Graffanino, Jed Hansen, Tug Hulett, Steve Jeltz, Chico Lind and the ghost of Jerry Adair are all better than Omar is right now. Frank White would roll over in his grave right now if he wasn’t alive. Actually, Frank at 64 could hit better than Omar right now. At the very least Christian Colon deserves the bulk of the playing time right now at second. We at least agree on this.

Royals Spring Training workout

Golly gee, it was so great to catch up with all of you. We should do this again sometime soon. Also, Dayton told me to tell you guys to go to royals.com and #voteroyals. If you write in my name for the All-Star game balloting that would be swell. Have a great day everyone and I’ll catch you in the funny pages!

 

 

In the Eye of the Tigers: Royals Split Series With Division Foe Detroit

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May came in with a flurry on Friday and it also meant the Detroit Tigers were in Kansas City for a 4 game series against the Royals. I can’t even remember the last time a series in May(May!!) brought this much excitement, as many believe the American League Central could come down to these two teams in September. Not only was this a big series early on, but the fans of Kansas City showed up at ‘The K ‘ as if the division was on the line. In fact attendance has been spectacular so far in 2015, as even night games in the middle of the week are showing good attendance numbers. But the games still have to be played and this series had a little bit of everything in it. As a longtime Royals fan, it was nice to have this kind of excitement and the ‘October Buzz’ floating around this early in the series. So what all went down? Venture on for an in depth look at October feelings in May.

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Series MVP: Eric Hosmer

It wasn’t a blow away series for the Royals offense this past weekend, but it was a very productive one for Eric Hosmer. Hosmer went 5 for 16 this weekend, accumulating 3 extra base hits, including his 3rd home run of the season. It was probably his best series of the year, as he stockpiled 10 total bases, and slugged at a .625 clip with 2 RBI’s. Maybe the most impressive stat on Hosmer this series was a BAbip of .444. To me, having Hosmer excel in a big series(even in May) is what the Royals need and hopefully he continue his consistency as of late. He still sometimes swings at pitches that he shouldn’t even be acknowledging, but his approach at the plate has improved and the numbers show that so far. My favorite stat of his so far this year are his numbers in high leverage situations. The last few years Hosmer has struggled in clutch situations, but so far in 2015 he has looked like a different batter when it really matters. He is only hitting .176 but he has an OBP of . 364(thanks to 5 walks in the clutch) and a slugging percentage of .588. He has 2 of his 3 home runs in these tight spots, driving in 6. The numbers show a batter who has been a little bit ‘all or nothing’ in these spots(mainly homers and walks), but overall we might be seeing a batter start to really show the potential we have been salivating over for the last 5 years. I will take these numbers from Hosmer every time Detroit and Kansas City clash; at this point lowering his strikeouts would be about the only complaint I really have with Hos.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Danny Duffy

I’ve been a little down on Duffy so far this season. He hasn’t pitched horribly, mind you. But he has looked more like the Duffy who had high pitch counts and wasn’t very efficient than the Duffman we saw in 2014, the one who felt like a legitimate top of the rotation starter. On Thursday night he looked like last year’s Duffy and it was glorious. Duffy threw 7 innings, giving up 7 hits and 1 run while walking 2 and striking out 7, all in 101 pitches. In the biggest series to this point in the season, Danny Duffy went out there and was very gnar.  I think we all hope at this point that this is  the Duffy we will see the majority of the time going forward. The Royals rotation definitely needs it and I still believe that Duffy is the key to this season. The rotation has had question marks as of late and Duffy’s start was one of 3 really great starts in this series. More on that in just a moment.

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When Kelvin Met Miggy 

Friday night had one of those epic moments that make you love being a baseball fan. There is nothing quite like a fastball pitcher battling it out with the greatest hitter of this generation(I’m assuming no one is going to argue with me on that point?). In the 8th inning on Friday, with the Royals up 4-1 over Detroit, Kelvin Herrera would walk Ian Kinsler, bringing Miguel Cabrera up to the plate with the bases loaded. I can’t do this at bat justice, as it was easily one of the best things I have seen so far in 2015, but Craig Brown of Royals Authority did a great piece on the 10 pitch battle, really going in-depth and breaking down the at bat. Good stuff. At the end of the day, Herrera would get the better of Miggy and send him back to the dugout. Herrera was shaky that inning, but in the end he kept things in line and left Kansas City with the lead. Just an amazing at bat, and one you should watch if you have not already seen it. The look on Cabrera’s face at the end is worth another view, even if you have seen it.

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Now, onto more newsworthy notes of this epic battle between the 1st and 2nd place teams in the American League Central:

  • I mentioned earlier that Danny Duffy’s start wasn’t the only great start of this series, and in fact there were 2 other great candidates for the pitching performance of this series. On Friday, Chris Young got his first start as a Royal, filling in as Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura were both serving their suspensions. He only went 5 innings, gave up 0 hits, 0 runs, walking 3 and striking out 9. Just a phenomenal start for a guy who is basically the 6th starter for the Royals(in other words, the guy you use to ‘break glass in case of emergency’). Sure, the no-hit thing is great, but 9 strikeouts?? From a guy who only throws in the high 80’s? Just awesome. Then on Saturday night, Volquez returned from his suspension and pitched a classic pitchers duel against Detroit’s David Price. Just another quality start for Eddie, going 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs while walking 3 and striking out 4. The walks were a bit up for Volquez but he was able to get out of some tight spots. This weekend showed that when the rotation wants to it can be a plus for the team. Now they just need Guthrie and Vargas to pick up some slack.
  • Alcides Escobar was placed on the 7 day disabled list at the beginning of this series, but Christian Colon has looked like a very competent replacement. Colon is riding an 8 game hitting streak at the moment, going 4 for 13 this series and playing some sparkling defense as well.
  • Lorenzo Cain dropped his appeal of his 2 game suspension on Sunday, meaning he will return to action on Wednesday night against Cleveland.
  • Yohan Pino continues to excel out of the bullpen for the Royals. In 10.2 innings, Pino has given up only 7 hits, 0 runs, no walks and 8 strikeouts. This from a guy who was basically signed to be insurance down in Omaha. There is unfortunately a roster crunch if closer Greg Holland comes back this week and it looks like Pino might be the one who gets sent down. Even if so, I have a feeling we will be seeing him again this season.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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So the Royals split this series with the Tigers and the Royals will travel to Detroit this upcoming weekend for 3 games in the Motor City. I know I should be happy with a split, but after those first 2 games of the series I was really hoping for a series win. The Royals have Cleveland up next, as the Indians are in for 3 at Kauffman Stadium and one can only hope this series goes like the one in Cleveland last week. The Royals will get Cain back from suspension on Wednesday and Yordano Ventura should be back on Friday. May has always been a tough month for the Royals and hopefully they are able to not endure the cesspool that has been May the last two years. If it does, Dale Sveum should start looking for work. The Royals now sit in 2nd place in the Central, just 1/2 a game out of first. A solid week could return them to first as they battle within their own division. Contending baseball is fun folks. This is what Kansas City Royals baseball is in 2015.

 

Drama Free For Three in KC: Royals Down Twins, Win Series

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After an eventful weekend at ‘The K’, there was hope as Minnesota came into town that there would be a tad bit more normalcy to kick off a new week for the Kansas City Royals. Luckily, normalcy was the “modus operandi” and the Royals came away with another series win, winning games 1 and 2 in the series while being shutout in game 3 on Wednesday night. Then again, as much as things seemed normal, that doesn’t mean everything made total sense. I mean, this was against the Twins, a team that has caused the Royals fits over the years. Seriously, just last week the Twins ended the Royals winning streak while also delivering Kansas City their first losing series of the season. So it makes sense that things veered a bit off the beaten path when the Twins came to town. With that said it is time to look back at what was.

Mike Moustakas, Christian Colon

Series MVP: Mike Moustakas

When the season started manager Ned Yost inserted Mike Moustakas into the 2 hole in the lineup, a move that got many(myself included) to shake their heads and wonder why. Sure, Moose had a great spring training and was consistently hitting the ball to the opposite field, but we’ve been down this road before; the road where Moustakas has a great spring and elevates our hopes for him for the season. With that said, so far so good when it comes to his new approach at the plate and it continued in this series. Moustakas would go 4 for 13 against Minnesota this week;Chris a homerun in game 2 and 3 RBI’s(including the game winning hit on Tuesday night). Moose also collected a big opposite field double in game 1 that helped get some runs on the board. I still want to see if this new approach will last throughout the long summer, but so far he looks amazing at the plate and has made me start to believe that maybe he is for real. Add in his solid defense and quiet leadership and he might end up being the building block we hoped he was when he was drafted.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals

Pitching Performance of the Series: Chris Young

After a rough outing in Minnesota last week that saw the scoreless streak of the Royals bullpen go up in smoke, Young bounced back this week with a solid 2 innings in Tuesday’s night game where he gave up 0 hits and 0 runs with 1 strikeout, as he picked up the slack of starter Jason Vargas who exited the game in the 6th inning. In fact since Young and Ryan Madson gave up 3 runs in the final game of the series last week against the Twins, the Royals bullpen has yet to give up another run, so another scoreless streak has begun. A nod also goes to Yohan Pino and Edinson Volquez in this series. Pino went 3 scoreless innings on Wednesday night and pushed his scoreless streak to 7.2 innings; it definitely seems as if he is making the case of keeping a roster spot when closer Greg Holland returns from the DL. Volquez had another solid start on Monday night, allowing 5 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 5 strikeouts in his 7 innings of work. Volquez has easily been the Royals most consistent starter so far this season and has really meshed well in the clubhouse as well. So far the bullpen has been amazing for Kansas City while the rotation has had a few questions early on in 2015.

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Other notes from this series:

  • I’ve mentioned the last few years how Jeremy Guthrie is a modern marvel, allowing many a baserunner while letting very few cross home plate, as his numbers seem to defy logic. One wonders if Guthrie has started his regression as he has yet to post a quality start yet in 2015. Guthrie struggled again on Wednesday night, only throwing 5 innings, allowing 6 hits, 6 walks(1HBP) and somehow only 3 runs. The Royals do have options if Guthrie can’t bounce back(Pino, Young) but the preference is to have him rebound and pitch more like he has the last 2 seasons. Guthrie still has this and next year on his contract, so I can’t imagine him being let go or traded if he doesn’t improve. It does appear the Royals will give him a long leash, so an improvement is needed sooner rather than later.
  • Kyle Gibson finally looked human against the Royals on Monday, tossing 5 innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 earned runs with 4 walks and zero strikeouts. The Royals seemed a bit more patient with him and that helped provide enough offense to knock him out of the game and take the victory. The Twins hurler has dominated Kansas City in the past but hopefully they have found a chink in his armor, as the team will have to face Gibson a few more times before the season is done.
  • A big kudos going out to Christian Colon and his at bat in the 8th inning on Tuesday night that helped spark the comeback against the Twins. It wasn’t an at bat that will show up in the box score but he worked the count against Casey Fien before eventually grounding out to second base to get Dyson across the plate and tying the game. It was a professional at bat where Colon did what he had to do to help get a run across the plate and not just a wasted out. Colon would also get an RBI double in the 6th inning to help the team keep it close against Minnesota. With second baseman Omar Infante dealing with a groin issue(and with his injury history), the Royals need Colon to be a solid replacement for moments like this. Colon will probably never be more than an average hitter, but he is versatile and plays good defense. Add in a solid bat and you have a guy who could keep a major league job for quite some time.
  • Speaking of clutch hitters, Paulo Orlando continues to impress at the plate for Kansas City. Orlando now has 5 triples on the year and got a big single in that 8th inning on Tuesday night. He would proceed to steal second and put himself into scoring position. Orlando might have had to wait until he was 29 years old to get a major league job, but so far he is taking advantage of his opportunities. To me he has locked himself into a roster spot and is more of a 4th outfielder at this point than Jarrod Dyson is.
  • If we are handing out kudos, a big one also needs to go to Eric Hosmer and his approach at the dish as of late. Hosmer got 6 walks in this series and officially only had 5 at bats. In the last week Hosmer has walked 9 times and despite not driving the ball much he is still getting on base and contributing. We’ve been gushing about Moustakas all season but a little gushing Hosmer’s way is deserved as well.
  • Alcides Escobar returned to the lineup on Monday and was 4 for 12 in this series. There is still a noticeable limp when he runs but he appears to at least not be letting the injury slow down his hitting.
  • The Royals were hit by pitches 2 more times this series. I can promise you neither one was intentional.
  • And Alex Gordon chimed in with his first home run of the season on Tuesday night. I think a hot streak from A1 is just around the corner.

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So that is how you extract revenge. The Twins won the series last week and the Royals returned the favor this week. I think the biggest worry so far into this season is the shaky starts from the back end of the rotation, as Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie makes one wonder just when Kris Medlen could contribute to this team. The Royals will now head to Chicago and take on the White Sox, who they swept in Kansas City the first week of the season. Kansas City will continue the tour of the Central Division with 4 in Chicago, then 3 in Cleveland next week before headed home for 4 against Detroit. May is creeping up and our Royals seem to be a contender, one that will be in the race all season. A good series in Chicago would go a long way toward setting up a great matchup next weekend against the Tigers.

 

Defying Logic

Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v Kansas City Royals

Tuesday night the Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals played an American League Wild Card game that will go down in history as legendary. A back and forth contest where any time one team looked to gain the advantage the other came back to retaliate. Or more appropriately, the Royals kept coming back and just would not die. This isn’t an article going into mass detail about the game, breaking it down point by point. This isn’t even one going over the main points. We all know about the bad decision manager Ned Yost made in the 6th inning, bringing in rookie Yordano Ventura out of the pen rather than a lefty or just going to ‘old reliable’, Kelvin Herrera. We all know about the bunting, oh the bunting! You know it’s a good game when I don’t even have issue with 3/4 of the sacrifice bunts that were laid down. There is the A’s outfielders colliding on a ball hit by Eric Hosmer in the 12th inning and the subsequent squibbler hit by Christian Colon to score him. It’s not even about Salvador Perez, coming off of a plate appearance where he swung at three pitches low and outside that weren’t even in the vicinity of the strike zone, who came through with the clutchest(new word) of hits to win the game and advance the Royals to the American League Divisional Series. No, this column is simple; this team defies logic, no matter how many times I try to make sense of their winning.

Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v Kansas City Royals

This is a team that plays like it’s 1982, where power hitting isn’t as important as speed or doing the little things. The Royals are all about pitching, defense, speed and some timely hits. Screw plate discipline, hitting for extra bases or taking walks. This team plays like a team of a bygone era, when bunting was a weapon and game winning RBI’s were on the back of your baseball cards. If you are a stat guy(or gal) in any way, this team frustrates the hell out of you. Take a few pitches? Nope, too busy trying to make contact. Drive a ball into the gap? Sorry, we need to move a runner over into scoring position and take one for the team. For anyone that believes that “numbers don’t lie”, this team is your worst nightmare.

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The thing is, at this point I don’t care. The Royals are winning and moving on in the playoffs. That is all I care about at the moment. It might be bowling shoe ugly at times, but who cares? This Royals team knows how to play one way and that way is helping them not get eliminated. This club, built by GM Dayton Moore, is not a team I would have put together. But it’s working. Logic tells us this team shouldn’t even have gotten to the playoffs. The last Wild Card team to make the playoffs with less than 90 wins was all the way back in 1996; this year both the Royals and A’s made it below that number. So everything that has happened so far this season has seemed to be off-base, so why would that change now? It’s almost like recently this Royals team woke up one day, realized what their weaknesses are and said ” You know what? Let’s play to our strengths.”

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So bring on the Angels. Let’s find out just how far this team can take things. Tuesday’s game had so many twists and turns that I felt like a schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder. If playoff baseball means I spend the entirety of every game on pins and needles, then I’m all for it. We’ve waited 29 years to be in this moment and something as minor as the ups and downs of a close game isn’t going to scare us away. This Royals team has spent the majority of this season winning in spite of their flaws, so they might as well continue on the path they have worn. I’ve spent years just saying I wanted the Royals in the playoffs; well it is here and in all of it’s nailbiting glory. Thank you, Kansas City. Let’s win 11 more games!

Buy or Sell, There is No Standing Pat

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Hey, have you heard the trade deadline is this week? If you have, you know that the Kansas City Royals have been connected to many a rumor, as they fly around like texts from Billy Butler this time of year. This is just a smattering of names rumored to have Dayton Moore’s interest right now: Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, Antonia Bastardo, Chris Denorfia, Andrew Miller, Jonny Gomes, Dayan Viciedo, Ben Zobrist, and even a hint of Ryan Howard(although I don’t think there is must interest on KC’s part as much as Philadelphia wanting to dump him on someone). It’s apparent the Royals are going to have to pick up another bat if they are serious about contending for a playoff spot. If they aren’t serious(and seriously, what team will really admit that?) then they need to be sellers. But the reports that are leaking out make one wonder if much of anything is going to happen.

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Let’s begin with the trade that went down today. Earlier, the Royals traded Danny Valencia to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for two players who have been playing in AAA, Erik Kratz and Liam Hendriks. By no means is this a “blow the doors off the barn” type of trade, but it does upgrade a few minor things for Kansas City. Kratz will take over the backup catcher spot for Brett Hayes(who was Designated for Assignment to make room for him) and will add a bit more offense to that spot. The move also allows the Royals to carry a backup infielder again, as Christian Colon will be recalled from Omaha. Yep, the Royals have been playing without a true backup infielder for a few weeks now. To make matters worse, it’s not the first time that has happened this year. Roster management isn’t exactly Dayton’s strength. The move also shows that the team has faith that Mike Moustakas has gotten past his struggles of earlier this year(and last year). I’m not 100% convinced Moustakas will ever be anything more than a guy who hits .250, slams around 20 homeruns and plays good defense. But that is another topic for another time. If anything, this move tightens up the bench, which is a must for any team who wants to go deep into the playoffs. Or is this a precursor to a bigger move?

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Unless this is all just a major smokescreen, it looks like there might not be a bigger move. Alex Rios of Texas was discussed for quite awhile; it now looks like his salary is an issue and would hold Kansas City back from acquiring him. Marlon Byrd? He looks like a no-go as well, as he has a no-trade clause and won’t waive it unless the team acquiring him picks up his 2016 option. The Royals are pretty set on acquiring a right handed bat(which I feel is a bit short-sighted; if there is a quality bat out there, you go after it, no matter what side of the plate it is) and the options are limited. The scary part is up in the article talking about the Royals bowing out of the Rios talks. It’s been mentioned a few times that salary is a key factor in a move not being made, as in “the Royals don’t want to take on more salary so they will hold off on a deal until August.” This blows my mind. We’ve heard for years by management that “2014 is the season” and “we are all in”. If that was true, you pick up the extra month of salary and give your team the best option of winning. It seems odd that money is now the issue, since Royals owner David Glass has stated he is “obsessed with winning”. If you are obsessed with it, you go all out to make it happen. You are not obsessed with it if you have a limit. This also opens up the other issue; even if the purse strings were opened, is this team a “real” contender?

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays

As of this writing, the Royals are 5 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central standings and only 2 games out of the second wild card spot. Technically, they are contenders. But…that second wild card is a bit of an illusion. Sure, it is a reachable goal. But is it worth it to trade off part of your future(a prospect) for a few months of mild improvement(a right handed bat)? I am about as torn on this as I humanly could be. On one hand, the Royals haven’t been to the playoffs in 29 years. We are all dying to get there and there might not be a better chance for a few years. On the other hand, this team just doesn’t scream playoff contender  to me, and hasn’t most of the year. This is a wildly inconsistent offensive team and I doubt even acquiring any of the names mentioned earlier will stabilize this bunch. So with that said, is it worth it for this team to go out, pick up players, get the second wild card spot, play one playoff game on the road, lose, then turn around and lose James Shields and Billy Butler at the end of the season? That is the million dollar question.

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I’m not trying to be a downer, but the realist in me knows we wouldn’t be having this conversation if that second wild card didn’t exist. If the old playoff system was intact, the Royals would be sellers, pick up a nice haul for Shields and start preparing for 2015. Unofficially, that second wild card is a version of beer goggles to some teams that would normally be sellers. That is why there isn’t much out there talent-wise and why a team like Tampa Bay, who once was in the cellar in the American League East, now believes they can get to the playoffs(they are currently only 4 games out of the wild card) and probably won’t be trading David Price or anyone else for that matter. But…that second wild card DOES exist and teams who normally wouldn’t be in play ARE in play. This includes the Royals and is why as much as part of me would like to see what they could get for Big Game James, I know they have to go for it.

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But are they? It doesn’t feel like they are. My dad would say they are “half-assing” it. What team, especially one with the offensive holes this Royals team have, thinks that the likes of Raul Ibanez, Erik Kratz, and Jason Frasor shows that they are “all in”? I’m not saying go out and kill the farm system to make this team better, but this team needs more than a 42 year old outfielder, a backup catcher, and a middle reliever to get them to “the promised land”. I have to believe this team will take a step back in 2015, so if they are going for it they can’t just wait until August to make a move, when players have to slip through waivers just to make something happen. No, the time to go for the kill is now(actually the real perfect time would have been when they were still in first place) and instead it feels like no matter what move is made, it will feel like a letdown.

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After 8+ years of the current Royals regime, it feels wrong that a simple thing like a few $100,000 will be the difference between an upgrade and the status quo. Sure, it’s not my money, but winning means more butts in the seats at “The K” and more filled seats mean more dollars. It’s a simple equation that ownership refuses to learn and in the long run it will cost them. For some, the Royals hovering around .500 is good enough for them and will satisfy their needs. But for some of us, we want more. We want what we had in the 70’s and 80’s. We want consistent winning, consistent contending and management that “gets it”. Instead, we get a GM who values the wrong things and an owner who thinks you should run a baseball team like it is Wal Mart. Folks, we deserve better. We deserve to see October baseball. I’m not sold we will see it this year. What I do know is right now is not the time to straddle the fence on what to do with this team. It’s quite simple; as Yoda would say ” Buy or Sell, there is no standing pat.”

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