So–This Winning Thing is Fun

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

When events happen the same they always do, year after year, it’s easy to recognize them, curl up next to them and wrap yourself in it’s comfortable blanket. It’s easy to fall back on old vices; they are familiar and you know how to deal with them and what’s coming next. But when things go awry…well, then it’s hard to know how to react. That’s why the way the Kansas City Royals are winning has been hard to just embrace. It’s not just that they are winning; no, it’s that they are doing it convincingly and trying to make even the most bitter of us fans smile again.

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The Royals limped into the All-Star break, not giving us fans much hope that good times were just around the corner. No, in fact the opposite happened. After a hot April, a putrid May, and a better June, it was hard to tell just what we should expect from this team. Were they the team that made it look easy early in the year? Or the team that couldn’t hit the side of a barn if plopped right in front of said barn? The team who’s pitching was amazing early on? Or the team that forced the team to bring George Brett in to help the offense because everything else hadn’t worked? This team was all over the place, to the point I wanted to re-name them ‘Sybil’. So when General Manager Dayton Moore said this team could go on a tear and win 15 of 20, we laughed. We mocked. We snarked. We did everything but believe they could actually do that. But they did it, and in the process completely turned this season around.

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Not only have they played better than 15-5, they are at 16-4 since the All-Star break and looking to win again as I write this. How have they been doing it? Well, it’s more than just one thing or another. Early on, the pitching was carrying the team. It’s no surprise, really, as the pitching has been a plus for this team all year, but when you have a few clutch hits, out comes an 11 game winning streak. Since June, Eric Hosmer has been red hot and looked more like ‘Rookie’ Hosmer than the abomination he was last year. Mike Moustakas flat out sucked in the first half, but so far in the second half he is hitting over .300 and found his power swing. But there’s more; Alex Gordon seems to be coming around, Billy Butler is picking it up, and Miguel Tejada doesn’t look like the 84 year old that he is. This team has started to hit and be a threat whether they are playing the Twins or the Red Sox.

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I’ll even admit, I was probably a ‘Negative Nelly’ when this streak started. Not only did I not think they had it in them, I was angry about a move that occurred right before the second half. Royals management(read: Moore) said that when Johnny Giavotella was called up that he was going to be given a chance to win the second base job. As Royals fans, we had heard that before, and we thought the worse. But it was almost worse than even we could have imagined. Gio lasted ten games(those that he actually played; a number of games he was benched in favor of Tejada or Elliot Johnson) and 38 plate appearances before being sent down and (ugh) Chris Getz was called back up. Again. Look, it wasn’t even about Getz being called back up, although let’s be honest, it felt like they just weren’t getting why he WASN’T  a real option. Getz is what he is. No, the problem was more being lied to by management about Giavotella being given a chance. So, I didn’t watch any games. To be 100% honest, I was pretty stress free during those first seven games or so. The Royals were winning, but I just couldn’t enjoy it, even if I had wanted to.

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Then one night, the light bulb went off. Sure, I didn’t agree with management. Sure, I wanted Moore and manager Ned Yost fired, that wasn’t going to change. But all I’ve wanted the last 18 years is for this team to win again. Deep down, I wanted to have fun watching MY TEAM play ball rather than feel bad about how much they sucked pond water. The Royals were winning, and I was missing it! So, I tucked my pride away, tucked all the anger in the closet and started watching again. What a saw was a fun baseball team, a team that played with boundless energy and determination. This is a young team that doesn’t realize they shouldn’t be playing this good. They don’t realize the big bad Tigers in their division are playing EVEN BETTER, yet the Royals still go out there and win. At the end of the day, they are doing the one thing all of us longtime Royals fans have wanted to see: winning.

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So now is as good a time as any to ask the question we are all wondering; is this team for real? Or more importantly, can they keep it up? I have no clue. The funny thing about baseball is that it never really follows a continuous pattern. Some things in the game just defy logic and you just have to go with it. As Royals fans, that’s what we should be doing. Just enjoy the winning and hope it continues. I know there was a lot of talk in the off-season that this team would contend for the playoffs, but most of us thought a record right around .500 was more realistic. The Royals are now 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card with right around 50 games left. Weirder things have happened, folks. It would be fabulous to finally have October baseball in Kansas City again. It’s what we all have yearned for. But even if it doesn’t happen, let’s all just promise each other one thing. Let’s just promise to enjoy every win. Because we are officially in uncharted territory. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to act.

Questions With Getzie: The Omaha Road-Trippin’ Edition

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The Kansas City Royals finally wised up and sent their second baseman, mistake-free Chris Getz, to AAA Omaha. So it seems only appropriate to have Chris answer you, the fans, questions (or how I think he would answer them)before he hits the road and takes his one-man bunting show up north. So time once again for Questions with Getzie!

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Chris, Say it ain’t so??!!-Clint, Blue Springs, MO

Golly gee, I wish it wasn’t true. I know it was a hard decision for Yosty and Dayton, but I understand. I’ve been spending extra time in the batting cage, but I just haven’t been able to find my power stroke. Hopefully I can find it in Omaha.

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Chris, what do you plan to work on while you are down in Omaha?-Troy, Lawrence, KS

Well, a number of things. For one, I’m going to try and find a consistent stroke and stance. I’ve been tinkering with different stances all year, and even hit a home run at one point. I need to get back to that place where my power shines. I also need to go back to basics and work on my bunting. I’ve really let Neddy down this year and just haven’t been bunting how we all know I should be. Shucks, I’m just going to work on all of these things and hopefully I can be part of the big league club again soon.

Chris Getz

Getzie, so sad to hear about your demotion. How do you think Elliot Johnson will do in your place?-Connor, Odessa, MO

Wow, good question! Elliot has been doing a great job over the last couple months and I am fully confident that he will continue to do a great job. I just hope he is ready for me to make my way back and win my job back this season!

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Please God, NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!-Lee, Kansas City, MO

Ummm, I don’t know how to react to this. There, there, Lee. I will miss you too, buddy. Call me.

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Chris, I just can’t believe it. Dayton Moore needs to be fired! How dare they send down the best second baseman we’ve had since Frank White. Don’t worry Getzie, we all support and love you!-Steve, Emporia, KS

Thank you. But please, this isn’t Dayton’s fault. I’ve played pretty bad and just haven’t been full of my normal Getzieness. Just remember, Steve; that restraining order is still in effect, even with your support.

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Suck it, bitch!-Johnny, Metairie, LA

Golly, you sure are a funny guy, Johnny! How’s your dream of being a major league ballplayer going? Haven’t heard from you in awhile. I thought you had fallen off the face of the earth!

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HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!-Sean, Emporia, KS

Shucks, nothing makes me happier then to know others are happy and joyous…even if it is at my expense.

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Chris, can you take Frenchy with you? He might be even worse than you are…-Rick, Excelsior Springs, MO

I see where this is headed…

Kansas City Royals v Texas Rangers

NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! Take me, not him…NOT HIIIIIIM!!!!-Lee, Kansas City, Mo

Okay, Lee, I need you to get a grip. This isn’t goodbye. Just goodbye for now.

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Chris, this is the Royals trainer. We need you to return your uniform, cleats and your Royals footie pajamas. Thanks.-Nick, Kansas City, MO

Oh, okay. Sorry about that Nick. I’ll get them to you soon. I need to wash the pajamas, though…

Golly gee, that is all for now. I’m really going to miss you guys. Hopefully, the Lord that graced me with this great athletic ability will help me return to where I belong. When I come back, we’re all going to drink milk and eat cookies. Count on it! Well, gotta go. Gio is picking me up and driving me to Omaha. He’s such a great guy! Later guys!

West Coast Jaunt

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I always hate when the Kansas City Royals play on the west coast. I just don’t get much of the games actually watched. So this week has been one big blur for me. I know Billy tore up the Angels pitching. I know the Angels looked pretty bad all series and I know Jarrod Dyson is the first Royal to go on the DL this season. Since it’s been such a haphazard week for me, I thought I would just go over a few topics just to touch base as the Royals continue their ‘West Coast Jaunt’

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  • Sad news for most Royals fans this week, as longtime Royals radio announcer and one of the most all around nicest guys you will ever meet, Fred White, passed away. White was part of Royals broadcasts from 1973 to 1998, when he was then replaced by Ryan Lefebvre, who is still with the team doing both radio and TV. Fred was fabulous on air, as him and Denny Matthews gave fans such a great description of the baseball game, making you feel as though you were there in person. While Denny came off as a seasoned journalist, Fred was a friend you would watch a game with, cheering when the Royals did something good while being upset when something didn’t go the team’s way. Most fans hated when Fred was replaced in the radio booth, to the point that most didn’t give Ryan a fair shake for at least a couple of seasons, myself included. White stayed with the team after he left the on air part of the job, working with the Royals radio network and with the Royals alumni. He would also occasionally fill in on Royals broadcasts when Matthews scaled back his schedule and quit taking a lot of the Royals road trips. Of course, when Fred showed up on the air it was always a treat. Over the years, I have talked to a few people who met Fred, and I’ve never heard one person say a cross word about him. Even till the end, he felt like he was just like the rest of us, just a fan. My memories of Fred are that of listening to the radio with my grandma, hearing Denny and Fred banter back and forth while the Royals do battle out on the field. I could probably go on and on about Fred and about how good of a person and broadcaster he was, but this article could stretch on for quite awhile if I did. What I will say is that Fred always felt like he was the lucky one, getting to go to the ballpark and interact with everyone. The truth is, we were lucky to have HIM. Some teams go years before they find a voice for their ball club. We had two. I’ll miss you, Fred.

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  • We all know the mess that is right field for the Royals. Jeff Francoeur has manned the position the past few years, and last year put up an epically bad season. It was often referred to as one of the worst, if not the worst, of 2012. Our Obi Wan Kenobi, Wil Myers, was traded in the offseason, and the Royals were intent on Francoeur bouncing back this year. Only that hasn’t happened. I don’t even want to write down the numbers in here. If you are so inclined, read Frenchy’s stats here. Unless you have a queasy stomach. Then I recommend you avoid that link. Anyway, the team had said in the off-season that if Francoeur was still playing bad 5-6 weeks in, there would be a change. Over the past couple weeks, Jarrod Dyson has started seeing more playing time in center, moving Lorenzo Cain to right and Frenchy to getting splinters in his butt. In fact, Dyson has been playing against righties, while Frenchy has started against lefties. I believe we call that a platoon. Well, we do. Ned Yost doesn’t. Unfortunately, Dyson has come down with an ankle injury from climbing the wall in Anaheim the other night, which has placed him on the disabled list. Our worst fears were that it would mean more playing time for Frenchy, which would mean more dreadful play. David Lough was recalled to take Dyson’s place, and it seemed inevitable that he would lose out playing time to Francoeur. But miracles occasionally occur. For tonight’s lineup against Oakland, Lough is in the lineup which continues the “platoon”, at least in our crazy heads. Once again, if Nedder is to be believed, it is NOT a platoon. So it appears Nedly might actually do the sane thing and give Lough Dyson’s playing time and not regulate him to the bench. We will see if this holds up, but at this point Lough’s play can’t be any worse than Captain Nut-Tap’s has been so far this year.

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  • The other black hole in the Royals offense has been at second base, where Chris Getz has played…well, played like most of us always figure he will play. It’s hard sometimes to understand why Royals management likes this guy so much. “He does all the little things.” “He’s great defensively.” “God, that boy can bunt!” You get the point. Royals management has some odd, almost creepy infatuation with a player who would be a backup on 3/4 of the teams in the majors today. Yes, I’m looking at you Dayton, Neddy….and you, Rex. The last couple of seasons, many Royals fans have clamored for the position to be taken over by Johnny Giavotella. Unfortunately, between the Royals never committing to playing Gio on a full-time basis and Gio not seizing the opportunity when it is given to him, we are back at square one with Getz still patrolling at second. That is until about a week or two ago, when Elliot Johnson started seeing increased playing time since Getz has been downright dreadful. Here are more ugly stats. After four seasons in Kansas City, I am pretty sure we know what we are going to get from Chris Getz, and it isn’t acceptable. Johnson isn’t the answer either. I personally feel like it is time to give Giavotella one last chance. A REAL chance. Call him up, put him in the lineup everyday, and tell him the position is his for the foreseeable future. To be honest, he can’t be any worse than Getz. If he still hits below, let’s say .250, then you know he shouldn’t be with the team and you cut bait with him. But if he hits above that…We all know that his offensive numbers in the minors have been fabulous and they just haven’t transitioned over to the majors. I would rather see him than Getz, or Johnson, or grandfather Tejada. I’m not totally sure Gio is really the answer to the Royals second base hole, but right now they have no other REAL options and Christian Colon’s bat is nowhere near major league ready. Give Gio a chance…I have to believe he can hit at least .193 like wonder boy Getz is.

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The west coast jaunt continues tonight in Oakland, and I’m hoping to at least get to watch the weekend games. The Royals then travel to Houston, which most of us hope helps revive some of the Royals slumbering bats. Then Kansas City returns home to face the Angels again, which hopefully by that point we can discuss a long winning streak. May is going to be the true test to see whether this Royals team is a contender or a pretender. Some changes are needed, but none that can’t be moderately fixed and fixed now. Standing pat isn’t an option with this Royals team. Not when you are trying to win.

 

Moose’s Struggles

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This time of year you often hear about how we are only a few weeks in, it’s early, and everything is a small sample size. All that is true, which is why longtime fans never get too worked up throughout the first month of the season, as we’ve seen this all before. Teams play above their expectations, guys you never thought would be stars all of a sudden break out, and player’s struggle. It’s almost a longstanding tradition for someone to have a cold start to the season before righting the ship. Seventeen games in, and Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas is mired in a major slump, and having witnessed the same thing just one year ago with first baseman Eric Hosmer, fans are already asking: “How long does Moose have before the Royals have to send him to AAA?”

Mike Moustakas

During the first half of the 2012 season, it looked as if Mike Moustakas was having his breakout season. Not only was he hitting the ball with authority, but his defense had improved to the point that his name could be mentioned in the Gold Glove conversation and not be  laughed at. All signs pointed to him improving faster than golden boy Hosmer. Then in late July, Moustakas sprained his right knee in Seattle and the season went downhill from there. After batting .268 in the first half, Moose batted a paltry .211 in the second half of the season with his slugging percentage dropping from .490 to .325. Most everyone put the blame on the knee issues and figured if he got healthy during the offseason, we would see more of the Moose we saw in the first half of last year in 2013. But so far, that has been the farthest thing from the truth.

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Now remember, before we delve into this, we are about three weeks into the season and there is more than enough time to turn things around. By no means is this a declaration of the sky falling and the world caving in. But there are some worries. Moustakas has gotten off to a rotten start so far and his numbers show it. Through the fifteen games he has appeared in, Moustakas is hitting a putrid .158 with an even uglier slugging percentage of .193. He has walked five times, which is a tiny consolation, but he was intended to work in the middle of the order for the Royals and he has done nothing so far to deserve to stay there. So far he only has 2 extra base hits and one lonely RBI to account for, but there are other numbers that don’t completely explain what is going on. His average facing lefties and righties are very similar, and his road and away numbers aren’t so far apart that you can really gauge something from it. So what numbers do help explain some of the problems?

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The numbers that really stand out to me are his batting average in certain counts. In counts that favor Moose(whether that means first pitch or counts with more balls than strikes), he seems to be making better contact. But when you venture into the counts in the pitchers favor, Moose’s numbers’ plummet. Take a look here. This shouldn’t be completely surprising, as it makes sense that if you are down in the count, it is in the pitchers’ favor. But if you are ever going to be a successful major league hitter, you have to do better in those situations. So far, it seems to be making matters worse for Mr. Moustakas.

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox

Is there anything else that stands out? If you are like me, and have watched the majority of the Royals games so far, you have probably noticed the high rate of popups that Moose has hit. This probably means that he is getting under the ball and his timing is off just a hair. It would also explain a lot of the other problems, as he is just not hitting the ball with any authority. If you remember the beginning part of last year, Hosmer was lining out a lot and hitting the ball right at the defenders. Call it bad luck, or good shifts, but he was at least getting a good read on the ball. Moose doesn’t look like he is doing that so far, and in fact looks lost a lot of the time. That is not a good sign, and could make for more problems in the coming weeks. With the Royals offense still sputtering, they need Moose to find a groove and start hitting the ball with a little bit of oomph. Instead I’ve started counting the pop ups and wondering if I should yell ‘Too High’.

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So what are the Royals to do? For now and the immediate future, the best thing is for Mike to continue to work with hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David and hopefully get these issues straightened out. But so far the Royals are getting great outings from the starting pitching, and there is only so long they can tolerate someone(anyone?) hitting below .200. The question then gets asked ‘how long does Kansas City stick with him before sending him to the minors?’ I think the team will give him a long leash, as there doesn’t seem to be one solid answer for the team in the minors and Moose is still playing good defense. If it does happen, we will probably see someone like Anthony Seratelli or Brandon Wood called up, or possibly even Irving Falu. Whoever would get chosen would probably split time with Miguel Tejada and Elliott Johnson, unless one lone player stood out from the bunch. Unfortunately, none of those players do, so none are really a long term answer if Moose can’t find his swing. The depth just isn’t there for the Royals. But as of right now, I think he has another 3-4 weeks before that conversation is had. But at that point, something will probably have to happen. If it does, it isn’t the end of the world for Moustakas. Some kid named Brett got sent down to the minors early in his career, and eventually he came back and held third base in Kansas City for a very, very long time. He wasn’t too shabby of a ballplayer either. So by no means would this mean the end of the world for Mike. But something has to give, and probably soon. If not, he will be correcting his swing in the minors.

 

Questions with Getzie-Beginning of Spring Training Edition

getz1Spring Training started this week, so it’s only appropriate to have Kansas City Royals Second Baseman, mistake-free Chris Getz, to once again answer you, the fans, questions. We’ll dip into the mailbag and find out how the Royals spring is going so far, in the words of one Chris Getz(or how I think he would answer). So time once again for Questions with Getzie!

hochGetzie, how do you think Luke Hochevar will do this year? Is this the year he finally turns the corner?-Rob, Liberty, MO

Wow, great question right out the gate! I always root for Hoch and think he is one good outing away from being the ace of the staff. Neddy and Davey, our pitching coach, both think he’ll win 15-18 games this year. All I know is those two are never wrong! If the ball gets hit to me during one of Hoch’s outings, I’ll do my gosh darn best to be as mistake free as I can.

elliotChris, the Royals acquired Elliot Johnson this week from the Rays. Are you worried that there is another player on the team who is as gritty as you?-Clint, Olathe, KS

Golly Gee, I love it! I firmly believe that no team can have too many players who are as gritty as we are. Neddy has told us countless times he would rather we play gritty than do things like get on base and work the count. Or hit the ball. Or keep a tight defense. Neddy loves him some players with dirt on their uniform, so he’ll love Johnsy!

getzy2Manager Ned Yost had mentioned that you had put on some muscle this offseason. Shoudl we expect your power numbers to go up this year?-Mike, Odessa, MO

Gosh, I hope so! I know my power numbers aren’t as good as Moose, or Billy, or Jarrod, but I’ve worked hard the last couple years to make myself better. My new stance last year got me a few more extra base hits. Hopefully this muscle can make it to where I hit the ball to the warning track! I think it’s just a matter of time until I show my true power potential. But bunting will always be my true love…

gioChris, thanks for answering my question last time! Love your work. So here is my next question for you: How do I…I mean, a player, go about having Neddy notice that he hit over .300 in the minors and could actually be useful if given an actual chance to play? I’ll listen off air…-Johnny, Metairie, LA

Thanks for writing me again Johnny! Loved your question last time. Well, it’s pretty simple. Go out there, get your uniform dirty, get some sacrifice bunts on your stats, be mistake free, and smile all the time! Neddy notices stuff like that, and loves his players to smile on the field and look like they are having a blast, even if they are getting pummeled. I hope you keep writing me. You keep it up and maybe someday you’ll be a major league ballplayer!

Jeff+Francoeur+Chris+Getz+mXraJM_l412mGetzie! Love this mailbag. I have to know: Who would win in a fight; a bear or Frenchy?-Craig, Lawrence, KS

Holy cow!! That might be the toughest question I’ve ever gotten! Well, bears are pretty tough. I mean, you see what happens when they catch a fish in their mouth, right? But Frenchy…man, Frenchy might be the toughest person I have ever met. I heard he once turned a giant rock into dust with his bare hands. True Story. But if I had to pick someone to win, it would have to be Frenchy. That bear wouldn’t know what to do with his speed and that cannon-like arm! Awesome question!

Thanks a ton for answering my question last time, even if you were a little harsh with me. I mean, I know a lot about baseball. My co-worker’s are just kids. Well, except for Scott. Anyway, there is no way you don’t win the second base job this spring. You are without a doubt the best second bagger the Royals have had since Frank White!-Steve, Emporia, KS

Wait, is there a question there? Golly, I appreciate the support, but…just stop. Please. You are only making this worse. And embarassing yourself. Just say no. Please.

Looks like our time is up again, Getz-Heads! I look forward to talking to you all soon! Let’s go bunting!

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