Jet City Jaunt: Royals Win Series Against Mariners

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Coming off of a disappointing series against the Boston Red Sox(which between that and the fact I am on vacation I chose to not write about), the Kansas City Royals ventured to the West Coast and started the week with a 3 game set against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have been a major disappointment so far this year and most of the hope was that Seattle wouldn’t start finding their way back during this series. There were a number of positive developments in these 3 games for Kansas City, many of which helped them take 2 of the 3 games. So how did they do it? Let’s venture onward into a series that kept the Royals in first place in the American League Central.

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 22:  Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals scores on an RBI double off the bat of Mike Moustakas in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 22, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Series MVP: Alcides Escobar

I’ve made no secret over the years that Alcides Escobar is one of my favorite Royals and has been since his acquisition from Milwaukee back in December of 2010(for some guy named Greinke; what is he up to lately?). There have been a lot of questions surrounding Escobar and whether he should be hitting leadoff for Kansas City(and I go back and forth on this topic) but if the main purpose of hitting at the top of the order is getting on base, then Escobar did that in spades in this series. Escobar went 7 for 13 in these 3 games with 2 RBI’s and a BAbip of .583. He would also score 3 runs and raise his average to .285 on the year. Escobar was a big part of the 7 run 4th inning on Wednesday night and his double later in the game pretty much sealed the deal. Escobar has been All-Star caliber this year and looks to be finally getting the recognition he has been deserving of these last few years. As long as he gets on base at a clip like this I am okay with him batting at the top of the order and helping to make things happen offensively for the Royals.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Joe Blanton

I think we all knew when this series started that Joe Blanton would outduel “King” Felix Hernandez on Monday night in Seattle. Um, you didn’t? Well, pretty safe to say none of us would have. Blanton was flat out dealing on Monday, going 6 innings, 2 hits and 1 run while walking none and striking out 7. In fact, Blanton held Seattle in check after Robinson Cano’s home run in the bottom of the first inning and didn’t allow another hit until Austin Jackson’s double in the top of the 7th inning, which lead to him being taken out of the game. This was only the second start for Blanton this year and he would put up a game score of 71 with this sparkling start. In fact, in Blanton’s last 6 appearances(2 starts, 4 relief outings) he has gone 19 innings, given up 2 runs, striking out 19 and allowing batters a BAbip of .229. Blanton’s signing has looked like a genius move by GM Dayton Moore and has shown that added depth within any and all organizations is a must. The Royals have been hit hard by pitching issues so far in 2015, and luckily the Royals had a Joe Blanton tucked away in Omaha to start the year and pick up some of the slack. Sure, Joe Blanton isn’t going to any All-Star games any time soon(although we Royals fans would vote for him, wouldn’t we?) but that doesn’t take away from his importance to this ballclub. Who knows how many more starts Joe will get, but he has at least shown that if the Royals need him he can be a very serviceable replacement in a tight squeeze.

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Now onto some news and notes on the Royals 3 games in the Pacific Northwest:

  • Omar Infante had a big 3 run double in Wednesday night’s game and within the last couple weeks has not looked like the guy we’ve all wanted to take a long walk off a short cliff this season. Since the beginning of the Milwaukee series, Infante is hitting .395, driving in 5 runs while getting 4 doubles in that span. Before that Infante hadn’t gotten an extra base hit since he had a double in New York on May 17, almost a month before. I don’t know if the All-Star balloting has lit a fuse under him or if is just seeing the ball better, but if the Royals are stuck with his contract for 2 more years, they are going to need more hot stretches like this to validate his spot in the lineup.
  • Mike Moustakas put together another solid series, going 5 for 13 with a home run on Wednesday night and 3 runs driven in. Moose would also have a pair of 2 hit games in this series, 25 multi-hit games so far this season. To break that down by month, he had 11 such games in April, 6 in May and 8 so far this month. I know there has been some concern about Moustakas’ power and how it seems to have been sapped a bit by his new approach to hitting the ball to the opposite field, but if that means he sacrifices some power and gets on base more, I am all for that. To top off all the great Moose talk(and so far he has been my favorite story to follow this year), he is now sitting at 83 hits on the season. In 2014 he got 97 hits total. Total. Chew on that for a bit.
  • Danny Duffy returned to the team on Wednesday and threw a very positive outing on his return. Duffy only went 4.2 innings, giving up 8 hits and 1 earned run while walking none and striking out 4. His pitch total was a bit high(88 pitches through not even 5 innings) but in a lot of ways this start wasn’t about 3/4 of these numbers. What was most impressive was that at some point during his stint on the disabled list he worked on his motion to the plate and smoothed it out. In fact, that is the smoothest I have ever seen Duffy throw. I don’t know if this was worked on in his side sessions with the team, or if it was worked on while he was in the minors, but whomever got in his ear, “kudos”. The one stat that was the most evident of this new motion was the zero in the walks column. Duffy has long had issues with control, but he was consistently ahead in the count in this start and it proved to benefit him well. Now, let’s see just how consistent this makes him…
  • Former Royals prospect Mike Montgomery shut down Kansas City on Tuesday night, throwing his first major league shutout. Montgomery went 9 innings, giving up 5 hits and no runs while walking zero and striking out 10. Montgomery was once a top prospect in Kansas City’s farm system but started having control issues in 2010 and seemed like a lost cause by the time he was packaged in the James Shields deal in December of 2012. Tampa Bay dealt him to Seattle this spring and has found some success so far in Seattle. I’m really glad to see him make it to this point but a part of me can’t help but wonder if he would have been able to turn things around with Kansas City.
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 23:  Center fielder Lorenzo Cain #6 of the Kansas City Royals makes a running catch on a ball off the bat of Dustin Ackley of the Seattle Mariners in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on June 23, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Tweets of Royalty

 

Kansas City's Alex Rios beats the throw home to Seattle catcher Mike Zunino, scoring on the bases-clearing 3-run RBI double by Omar Infante.  Kansas City scored 7-runs in the inning.   The Kansas City Royals played the Seattle Mariners Wednesday, June 24, 2015, at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Last week there was two ways to look at the series against Milwaukee and Boston; either worry about the way Kansas City played against Boston or figure the team went 5-2, which is a record I will always take every week. So far this week, the team is 2-1 with 3 games scheduled against Oakland this weekend. You know, that A’s team that Kansas City had issues with back in April. You don’t remember? Here is a refresher article if you forgot what happened that series. I know I’m hoping for a calm 3 games where no fireworks are set off(we have a week before that holiday hits). Also, the All-Star balloting is still going on and obviously we are all voting Royal and last week I took a look at how ridiculous people are being about the voting. Finally, it will be nice to see former friend Billy Butler this weekend, but anything less than winning the series this upcoming week will be considered less than a success. The Royals are up 3.5 games over Minnesota as of this writing and hopefully that can be stretched out to 4 or 5 games by Sunday. Let’s get off the West Coast and head back to the midwest on Monday against Houston. This very well might be the Royals longest stretch this year on the road and the team won’t be back at home until July 2nd against Minnesota. Until then, the Royals are stuck living off the road and fighting off the competition.

 

 

 

 

And the Winner is…

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The 2014 Major League Baseball season has come to an end, which also means that all ballots have been turned in to decide the winners in the awards to be announced this week. I was fortunate to turn in my first ballot as a member of the IBWAA, the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, this year and realized a few things. One, this isn’t as easy as one thinks it is. I spent a lot of time thinking about who I really felt should win these awards and who truly should be honored. I also realized that it is MY vote, and though I am positive some will disagree with it, it is just one man’s opinion. I also should stress this: I turned in my ballot about two weeks before the end of the season. In hindsight, I probably should have waited, but that is a lesson learned and will prepare better for 2015. So without any further ado, here are my winners for the 2014 season…

American League MVP: Alex Gordon, Kansas City

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We can probably all agree that Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels had the best numbers for a player in the American League this year. I don’t argue that, nor am I trying to take that away from him. But my vote was based more on who was more valuable to his team this year in the league, and in my opinion that man is Alex Gordon. Not too long ago I made Gordon’s case for MVP, as I felt he shouldn’t be overlooked when it came time for the voting. I know I am a bit biased, if for no other reason than the fact that I watch the large majority of Royals games during the season. The thing about Gordon is his numbers don’t tell the whole story; he is the leader of this Royals team in so many facets of the game. Obviously his defense is of another caliber, as most know. His WAR numbers get a nice bump from his defensive metrics, as he finished the year 7th in the AL in bWAR with 6.6 and 5th in fWAR with 6.1. You could also add in the 27 defensive runs he saved this year on defense, 1st in the league with Josh Donaldson far behind in 2nd place with 20 DRS. Gordon is also an excellent base runner, and was most valuable when the Royals needed him to be. Gordon basically carried the team on his back in August, a month where the Royals made one of their biggest pushes for a playoff spot. Gordon had a slash line of .292/.356/.585 with 9 home runs and 16 RBI’s. Alex was what the Royals needed when they needed it this year to help propel them to the playoffs. This Royals team doesn’t go on the run they went on in the playoffs if not for Gordon being a leader during the regular season. In fact, without him this Royals team doesn’t even get to October. For that, my most valuable player vote goes to Alex Gordon.

National League MVP & Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles

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What else can be said about Clayton Kershaw’s season that hasn’t already been said? Kershaw had a season for the ages, one that was so good that the comparison’s toward all-time great Sandy Koufax don’t really feel far-fetched anymore. Kershaw lead the league in Wins(if you like that sort of thing), Win-Loss Percentage, ERA, Complete Games, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, Strikeouts per 9 inn., Strikeout to Walk Ratio and was an All-Star as well. Oh, and he threw his first career no-hitter, a game so dominant that only one other pitcher(Kerry Wood) has thrown a better game, and that was just a piddly 20-strikeout game. All this while missing the entire month of April(after throwing the season opener in Australia)! Kershaw was so dominate this season that I also felt like he was the MVP of the National League, which some folks in baseball(hello, Tommy Lasorda) feel a pitcher shouldn’t win the award for Most Valuable Player. But when a pitcher has a season like this (and no other major candidate really sticks out) it throws that pitcher into the MVP conversation. I had seriously considered both Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh and Giancarlo Stanton of Miami for the award, but alas I felt Kershaw was more valuable to the Dodgers success than either of those two were for their teams. Kershaw winning MVP isn’t like Willie Hernandez winning American League MVP back in 1984; Kershaw is not only an elite pitcher at the moment but if he continues on the path he is going he could be an all-time great. So as preposterous as some believe a pitcher winning MVP is, just remember it in the proper context; Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and it isn’t even close.

American League Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle  

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Out of all the votes I had to place, this was easily the toughest decision to make. It came down to Hernandez and Corey Kluber of Cleveland and honestly, a pick either way didn’t feel like a bad one. As someone who watches close to every Royals game during the season I had seen Kluber several times and saw just how dominant he was for the Indians this year and in some ways that almost swayed my vote. Obviously in a close vote you compare numbers and once again, they were pretty damn even. David Schoenfield goes into great detail about just how close this race was and why really neither pitcher was a bad choice. My only hope is no one voted for Kluber just based off of win totals; that would just seem silly. I think the biggest argument for Hernandez(at least in my eyes) was his streak of 16 starts of at least 7 innings giving up 2 runs or less which he held this year until August 17th. The previous mark was set all the way back in 1971 by Tom Seaver as he set the mark of 13 starts. In this day in age, where most starters have a rough time going more than 6 innings a start and where teams employ lockdown bullpens as part of their strategy, the fact a starting pitcher could accomplish this feat is borderline amazing. The fact that Hernandez was able to accomplish this really swayed my vote and was enough to warrant his second Cy Young award. The real point of this is that if I would have gone with Kluber it wouldn’t have been a bad choice either; there was no bad choices. Just two pitchers who had excellent seasons and both deserved consideration for this award.

American League Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu, Chicago   

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox

This was about as easy a choice as possible. From almost day one Abreu showed he was the real deal, which is never a certainty with any talent from Cuba. But Abreu made sure it was known early he was as advertised, hitting 29 home runs, a slash line of .292/.342/.630 and an sOPS+ of 169 in the first half of the season. His power numbers went down in the second half, hitting only 7 home runs while producing a slugging percentage of .513 and raising his batting average and sOPS+. I’m sure the longer season wore on Abreu, but all in all he put in a rookie season that should be praised for years to come. It’s a bit unfortunate that Abreu ran away with this award, as the American League put together a nice crop of rookies in 2014, from New York Yankees Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Bettances to Kansas City’s flame-throwing hurler Yordano Ventura. All had really solid opening campaigns but none matched Abreu who should be a solid bat in Chicago’s batting order for years to come.

National League Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati

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This race was much closer than it’s AL counterpart, as it came down to New York Mets pitcher Jacob DeGrom and Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton. Honestly, an argument for either rookie is valid and a part of me almost voted for DeGrom. But I liked all the different area’s of the game that Hamilton helped the Reds this year. Everyone knows of Hamilton’s speed, he of the 56 steals this year. But he also produced 200 total bases only grounded into 1 double play this year and 39 extra bases. There was a small downside to his year; Hamilton struck out a ridiculous amount for a top of the order guy, 117 times, and was caught stealing 23 times. Both of these facets will need to be improved upon in 2015 for him elevate his game. Defensively Hamilton was more than solid; 14 defensive runs saved in 2014, 10 assists and an 1.8 dWAR. Overall a more than solid rookie campaign for Billy Hamilton(and likewise for DeGrom) and for the Reds sake(especially if they want to contend in 2015) hopefully he can grow on it.

American League Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, Oakland 

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I mentioned earlier that I should have waited and locked in my votes during the last week of the season and this selection is a big reason why. Do I think Bob Melvin did a fabulous job managing the A’s in 2014? Of course. This was a team that was one of the elite in baseball for a large chunk of the season, a team of no superstars, compiled together and platooned–yet they still reached the playoffs. But just barely and Oakland’s second half collapse almost cost them that postseason spot, one they didn’t clinch until the last weekend and left them in Kansas City for the one game “battle to the death” Wild Card game. For that reason I feel like I should have waited to vote, as Buck Showalter deserved high praise for this honor and very well might have been my vote. Hell, throw Mike Scioscia’s hat into this argument as well, as the Angels came from behind to not only win the American League West but put together the best record in the league. Lesson learned by me, but I still think Melvin should get a ton of credit. No way does Oakland even sniff the playoffs if an average manager is in charge of this team. Melvin maneuvered and coddled this roster and got top notch performance out of his team. Something has to be said for being able to get the most out of the talent you have, especially when your talent doesn’t always match up with the best teams in baseball.

National League Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh 

MLB: NL Wild Card-Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates

The easy thing is to say Hurdle deserved this honor more in 2013. That year he guided Pittsburgh to their first playoff spot in over 20 years and helped the Pirates slay some demons. But for all the love Hurdle got in 2013, he deserves even more for his managerial work in 2014. Hurdle helped the Pirates reach the playoffs again this past season and did it without their ace from 2013(A.J. Burnett), their closer fizzled out and was eventually traded(Jason Grilli), they lost their star(Andrew McCutchen) for a few weeks and lost their future ace(Gerrit Cole) multiple times to the disabled list. Despite all of this the Pirates made back to back appearances into the postseason and although that only lasted one game(thanks to Brandon Crawford and Madison Bumgarner) it just showed the great job Hurdle did as manager this season. Honorable mention should go out to both Matt Williams of Washington and Mike Redmond of Miami. Both did a great job with their team this past year and that was not lost on me. It just felt like Hurdle accomplished the insurmountable and continued to show that he has been one of the best Pittsburgh acquisitions the last few years.

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So there you go, my picks for the 2014 IBWAA end of season awards. This was a great learning experience and makes me even more pumped for my next ballot, the upcoming Hall of Fame vote. Voting seems like an easy chore from the outside looking in, yet there is a decent amount of pressure if you take them seriously. I have a feeling that the next vote will go a bit smoother. The great thing about the voting process is that they inspire endless debate. One man’s vote is another man’s worst nightmare…that was mainly meant for anyone who voted Ned Yost ‘Manager of the Year’. So you might not agree with my vote’s, just know that can go both ways. It is all just a matter of opinion at the end of the day.

Alex Gordon, MVP Candidate

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With the Kansas City Royals poised to garner their first playoff spot in 29 years, it seems only appropriate that one man would lead the charge and carry this team on his back. It happened in 1985, as George Brett had one of his best offensive seasons, leading the charge to the franchise’s first World Series title. So it seems only right that Alex Gordon would carry this team on his back. Over the last month it has appeared that Gordon has almost singlehandedly thrust this team into the top position in the American League Central. But he has also slid his way into the American League MVP conversation.

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Now, I should go ahead and preface this with the fact that if I was a betting man I would bet that Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels will end up with the MVP trophy and I have no issue with that; Trout has had a fabulous season and is probably the best player in baseball right now(outside of maybe Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers). But Alex Gordon should be getting some votes and there are a number of reasons why there should be heavy consideration for his candidacy. Let’s start with the defining of “Most Valuable”. This can be taken a number of different ways and no one opinion of its meaning is more right than another. It is very subjective and means different things to different people. I tend to think it’s the most valuable player to his team, where if you took him out of that team’s lineup they would not be in the position they are currently in. This would also imply that the winner should be on a team that is going to the playoffs. For the most part I agree with that, but there are exceptions; the Marlins aren’t even sniffing October baseball but I do believe Giancarlo Stanton should be at the least considered for NL MVP this year. With that said, it is pretty obvious this Royals team wouldn’t be even thinking about the playoffs this year were it not for Alex Gordon. When the Royals offense has gone stagnant these past few weeks, Gordon has been the one consistent bat in the lineup that has produced. Gordon has not only produced, he has produced in high-leverage situations. This year, Gordon has a slash line of .330/.441/.580 in those situations. If you are a believer in clutch(and even if you aren’t, there is something to be said for timely hits) then Alex Gordon has been as clutch for this team as any player has this year in the big leagues. Just take last Tuesday night against the Twins for instance:

Before that game winning shot, the Royals had produced only 4 hits and one walk. The Royals have a very topsy turvy offense, one that can be electric when it wants to but also has many flaws. They are notorious for not taking many pitches(hence not many free passes) and sometimes seem like they swing at every pitch thrown their way. This leads to a very inconsistent offense but Alex Gordon has been the one consistent batter this team has seen for the majority of the last few months.

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Speaking of offense, Gordon’s numbers aren’t going to just jump out at you if that is what you are taking into account for MVP. He currently sits at .279/.355/.459. His OPS is at .814(which is pretty good but not great) and an OPS+ of 124(league average is 100). Since I know some enjoy the classic numbers, he has 19 home runs this with only 65 driven in, which neither are numbers that will make you swoon. The numbers show a very good offensive player who despite his team’s lack of offense is still able to put up solid numbers. He is leading the team in most categories this year and has really been big for the Royals in the last month. If you are someone who likes a player who performs down the stretch, Gordon sits at .298/.373/.615 over the last month with over half of his home runs hit in that span. It’s obvious that Alex has elevated his game when the team needs him to,but this hasn’t painted the whole picture.

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It’s hard having a conversation about Alex Gordon and his true value to this Kansas City team without mentioning his defense. It is safe to say that Gordon is probably the best left fielder in the American League and maybe in all of baseball, especially on the defensive side. He is a three time Gold Glove winner(the last 3 years) and it is safe to say he will win his 4th this year for defensive excellence. Alex Gordon is about as smooth in the field as humanly possible and this from a guy who started his pro career at third base. Going off of his numbers, he is having the best dWAR year of his career, sitting at 2.1. Since 2011 he has a combined dWAR of 6.5 and has 82 defensive runs saved in that time, 22 just this year. Gordon is on another level defensively and has gotten to the point where runners don’t dare run on his arm, as he has thrown out 61 runners over the last four years, but only 7 this year. It tooks almost four years, but runners have finally figured out not to run on Alex. All these numbers are great, but I feel unless you watch him play everyday(and I am normally either watching or listening to the broadcast most nights) you don’t really truly understand just how great he is defensively. We are getting to see a defensive master in Kansas City, one that might rival Frank White and his 8 Gold Gloves at second base, including 6 in a row. Gordon’s defense adds to his value to this Royals ballclub and makes it to where he is near the top of the WAR leaderboard of the American League.

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Ah yes, the WAR argument. There is a division when it comes to the true value of the WAR stat, which is understandable with the uncertainty of accuracy when it comes to defensive metrics. But there is also no other stat that truly encompasses the true value of a player the way WAR does(factoring in offense, defense and baserunning into its equation). It’s pretty simple to see that it is a stat that truly likes complete players. In the American League, Josh Donaldson of Oakland leads with a bWAR of 6.9, 0.3 ahead of Mike Trout. He is followed by Felix Hernandez in third, Adrian Beltre in fourth and…Alex Gordon in 5th with a 5.9 bWAR. Even to be mentioned in the same company of the other 4 players shows just how valuable Alex Gordon is to this Royals team. Gordon also sits 2nd in fWAR at 6.2 behind only Mike Trout. You don’t have to believe that WAR is the end all be all to factor in the true value of a player, but you do need to recognize that it helps someone understand the greater value of that player to his team. Gordon is on a level with true superstars and shows that his “value” is great enough to be considered “Most Valuable”.

Alex Gordon

Numbers don’t tell the whole story when it comes to Alex Gordon but they do show that his value stretches across the entire board not only for the Royals but for the entire American League. Without Gordon, the Royals aren’t preparing to play in the postseason for the first time since Ronald Reagan was in office. I know where my vote is going to land. Voters, I’m not saying that you have to vote Alex Gordon for American League MVP. What I am saying is that it would be a mistake if he doesn’t end up in the top five, because I think it is safe to say that he is one of the five best players in the league this year. There is nothing wrong with voting for Mike Trout, as he has had another stellar season for the Angels. But Alex Gordon is closer than you think and deserves your consideration. It’s a good thing for you to stop and pause to think about it; Alex Gordon has earned that extra thought.

 

These Are Just Some of My Favorite (Baseball) Things–Right Now

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I’ve been in a bit of a baseball funk lately, or at least a Kansas City Royals funk. I don’t like what the front office is doing, which has pushed me to a point of taking a “vacation” from watching the Royals. I’m not a big fan of just writing negatively all the time, so it would seem between the Royals and the Biogenesis scandal, I’ve done about all the negative I can do for awhile. It literally is enough doom and gloom to fill an episode of “The Killing”. So instead, I’m going to go through some of the fun things about the game that I love. Things that the players of today do that puts a smile on my face. So, these are just a few of my favorite things…

Mike Trout Running

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Originally,  I felt like I could just put down “watching Trout do anything”. Folks, he’s that good! But when I broke it down even farther, I realized I love watching him run. It is just insane to see this man take off, whether it is in the outfield chasing down a fly ball or stealing a base, watching him run is a beautiful thing. God, help us if he ever comes down with a leg injury. Don’t believe me? I give you Exhibit A:

Still one of the best catches I have ever seen. Up there with Bo Jackson running up the wall…which also happened in Baltimore. If he keeps it up(and right now it looks like he just might), Trout could be this generation’s Willie Mays. Hey, but no pressure. In case that doesn’t happen, just enjoy watching this man run.

Salvador Perez gunning down runners

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If you have not had the opportunity to see Kansas City’s Salvador Perez throw a runner out, you are missing a beautiful thing. Sure, Yadier Molina would fit in this category to, but there is something a guy who is figuring himself out on a daily basis and watching him progress that just feels really special. He can throw them out while stealing-

-Or catch them leaning off a base:

Perez is really special–NOW. Just imagine how this guy is going to be in a few years? Tony LaRussa was asked last year who Perez reminded him of, and he said Molina. I see it. Not many come down the pike like them–and we have two of them playing at once. Trust me, we Kansas City fans know we are lucky to have one of them on our team.

Miguel Cabrera hitting

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As a Royals fan, we see way more of the Detroit Tigers than we’d like. Especially when the team owns the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is far and above the best hitter I have seen since Barry Bonds retired. Cabrera’s knowledge of the strike zone is unparalleled, other than maybe Joey Votto of Cincinnati. Not only is he as good as you think, but he makes it look easy to. Like this:

http://wapc.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=28701943&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

I hate when he destroys the Royals…but I also realize that we are watching something really special with him. He is Cooperstown bound, no doubt, unless he screws something up.

Alex Gordon throwing out a runner

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There is a reason Alex Gordon has won two straight Gold Gloves. He IS that damn good! The best part of his transition to Left Field a few years ago was his rocket of an arm. It’s amazing to me that people still try to run on A1, but they do. Why? No clue. The best thing is he makes it look easy. Just remember, this is a guy who didn’t move to the outfield till 2010. By now, runners should know better; but they don’t. Fine by me. I still love watching it.

Andrew McCutchen do everything

Andrew McCutchen

I have a very small list of guys I could watch play everyday right now. Mike Trout. Alex Gordon. Miguel Cabrera. But maybe the man I put head and shoulders above them is Pittsburgh’s own Andrew McCutchen. What a player this guy is! I’ve always had a fondness for the players who can do everything: run, hit, hit for power, steal bases, play defense and throw. Cutch can do all of those things, and not only do it good, but make it look easy. I can’t remember the last player I watched who did all of these things and was so smooth about it. McCutchen makes it look like he was doing this out of the womb. Here is video of McCutchen; it’s six minutes long, but well worth your time.

To me, there are very few like Cutch today. Even better is he wanted to make Pittsburgh proud and get them back to the playoffs. Let’s hope this is the year!

King Felix pitch

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When thinking about what pitcher I like watching the most, Felix Hernandez of Seattle always comes to mind. It’s not the strikeouts, even though he gets lots of those. It’s not the nasty stuff, which is also enticing. Nope, to me the best thing about King Felix is how he matured and turned into a PITCHER. Now, if you follow baseball, you know there is a difference between a thrower and a pitcher. Most younger pitchers are throwers, guys who throw really hard but have no control over what they are doing and no game plan. A pitcher, meanwhile, knows what he is doing, and has perfected his art. He knows it’s not all about the speed as much as changing speeds and the placement of the pitches. Hernandez has already learned this at such a young age.

The scary part is he is just getting started. This kid is as good as advertised, and will be for quite awhile to come.

Stanton crushing the Ball

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There was no bigger disappointment to me last year than to not have Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins in the Home Run Derby. To me, Stanton is THE true power hitter of baseball. There are very few that you can even mention in the same breath as Giancarlo, and his home runs remind of some of Bo Jackson’s classics. Although, there is one above the rest. Here is a highlight of his longest home runs of last year, but pay attention to the one in Colorado. Ridiculous.

http://wapc.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=25544631&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

So my dreams of seeing him in a Derby were crushed. But maybe someday…

Alcides Escobar on defense

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From the moment I first saw “Shortstop Jesus” play on defense, I knew he was special. Sure, maybe the bar was set much lower than it should have been. I admit that following Yuniesky Betancourt doesn’t take much. But Escobar is just amazing to watch. Sure, he still occasionally has a mental error, or fumbles the easy play; I know it happens. But then there are things like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Okay, I better stop. I can watch Alcides play shortstop all day long. Suffice to say, I think he is highly underrated. Watching him is a privilege at this point, trust me.

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Those are just a few of the things in baseball that I love watching. But this has gotten me to think…what are some of my favorites of ALL TIME??!! Hmmm, I see a sequel in my future. Until then, find what you love about the game and enjoy it with all you got.

Great Scott! What If…Wil Myers was Never Traded

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On Tuesday, Wil Myers made his major league debut for the Tampa Bay Rays, going 0-4 in the first game while collecting his first major league hit in the second game of their doubleheader with the Boston Red Sox. All eyes were on Myers, not just by Rays fans but Kansas City Royals fans as well. You see, there is a large portion of Royals fans who were not in favor of the trade that sent Myers to Tampa for James Shields. There are some that hope Myers flops so the Royals don’t look so bad for trading him. There are even some who hope he tears up the league to show that the Royals were wrong in trading him away. I’m in the camp of wanting him to have as much success as possible, as he was still developed by the Royals. But all the hype over Das Wunderkind made me think–what if the Royals hadn’t traded Myers? What if he had stayed a Royal? So let’s jump into the Delorean…

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…stop Dayton Moore from trading Myers…

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Press Conference

…but still be able to acquire James Shields(hey, it’s my article; in my realm Dayton is a modern day Don Draper with the other GM’s–just not in a sexual way)…

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Press Conference

…and then realize you have both James Shields AND Wil Myers on the same team…GREAT SCOTT!

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December 9th-Royals GM Dayton Moore makes a blockbuster trade, dealing one of his top hitting prospects, Jorge Bonifacio, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named later. The Rays had been pushing to acquire Royals top prospect Wil Myers, but Moore held tight and wouldn’t budge on trading him, saying he was “practically untouchable”.

April 1st-The Kansas City Royals kick off the 2013 season in Chicago…without Wil Myers. Myers, despite having a solid spring, was left off the roster for two separate reasons. One, the Royals want to make sure they don’t start Myers’ arbitration years too early, so they will have to wait until at least June to keep his Super 2 status. Two, the Royals still have Jeff Francoeur(yes, even in my bizarro realm, the Royals still believe in Frenchy) and want to see if he has something left in the tank. So Myers starts out the year in AAA Omaha.

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June 12-After tearing up AAA pitching for a .321/.563/.935 line, the Royals call up their outfield savior to join them for their series in Tampa Bay. The Royals hope playing on the road will put less pressure on him in his debut and gear the fans up for when the team returns to Kansas City the following week. Myers will take over for Jeff Francoeur in right field, as Frenchy has put up some very sad numbers(.214/.257/.592) for the Royals and had lost playing time to David Lough because of it.

June 13-Myers is in the lineup for Kansas City, batting 7th and playing right field. Myers goes 0-3 in his debut with a walk, as the Royals beat Tampa.

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June 14-Myers collects his first major league hit, a single to center.

June 16-Myers gets his first major league RBI, knocking in Lorenzo Cain with a double in the gap of right center. The ball gets thrown back to the dugout and his teammates decide to use a separate ball dipped in chewing tobacco spit and tell Myers that is his RBI ball. Only later does he learn that the real ball is fine, safe and sound. Jeff Francoeur is behind the prank.

Kansas City Royals Non-Roster Invitees

June 21-Wil makes his debut at the K, to a thunderous applause. Despite him only hitting .244 at this point, the fans go nuts as Myers gets his first multi-hit game in the big leagues, driving in two on a double off the wall. The Royals are 5-3 since Myers was called up from Omaha.

June 25-Myers goes hitless, dropping his average to .252. But he does get to meet Braves broadcaster and former Atlanta star Dale Murphy…

kc9…wait. Murphy looks a lot like…

kc10…wow. If Murph wasn’t such a stand-up guy, I would think that he has a love child. I mean, both started their careers as catchers. Both moved to the outfield. The similarities are uncanny. Note to self: question former Brave Bob Horner and find out if Murph was a hit with the ladies.

Anyway, Myers makes an outstanding catch in the outfield in this game, a catch that Francoeur would still be running to try and get to. Speaking of Frenchy, he has fallen so far down the food chain that the only action he sees this week is in the condiment race. He races mustard, ketchup and relish,as he dresses up as Captain Nut-Tap. Frenchy wins, nut-tapping everyone. All other condiments aren’t able to finish the race, curled up in a ball in foul grounds.

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July 3-After waiting almost three weeks, Myers hits his first home run, a deep shot into the fountains in left center field at the K. Myers average is slowly creeping up, as he is hitting .260 at this point.

July 9-Myers makes his first trip to New York as the Royals take on the Yankees, and he proceeds to have his first two home run game of his short career. The Royals gain a victory on this night, pushing them into second place in the American League Central, just 5.5 games behind Detroit.

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July 24-Myers is asked by Royals manager Ned Yost to bunt over Mike Moustakas. Myers does as he is told, even though he doesn’t understand why he can’t just swing away. Myers should get used to bunting…

August 12-The Royals start a series against Miami, and Myers and Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton put on a power show. Myers hits one to dead center that is registered as 445 feet, while Stanton almost bounces a ball of the Royals Hall of Fame in left. Myers now has 8 home runs on the season, which is third on the team and only 6 behind leader Billy Butler.

August 23-Myers starts his first game in the cleanup spot, as Billy Butler takes a day off(no word if it is BBQ related). Myers goes 2-3, drives in 3 runs as the Royals defeat the Nationals. Kansas City is still trailing Detroit in the Central, but have moved to only 3 games out.

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September 4-Myers gets his first golden sombrero in the big leagues, striking out four times against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez. Francoeur scoffs in the dugout, claiming he could get a ‘titanium sombrero’, or striking out six times in one game.

September 13-Myers takes over the team’s home run lead with 15 home runs on the season. With 15 games remaining in the season, Myers is hoping to reach 20 before all is said and done.

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September 21-Myers goes 3-3 and ups his average to a high of .268. Wil has spent most of the season between .250 and .265.

September 29-Myers wraps up his rookie campaign hitting . 262/.355/.742, hitting 17 home runs, driving in 53 while taking 27 walks. Myers would finish 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting. Not a monstrous season some people were expecting, but a nice beginning to what looks like a promising career. The Royals have a cornerstone of their team for the foreseeable future, as he helps them finish in second place, with 84 wins and missing the wild card by a mere five games. The future looks bright for this young man.

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So that is kind of what I would have expected if Myers had stayed a Royal. It’s probably a bit on the positive side, but I think he is a special talent that will eventually be a big star in the majors. Sure, he has his flaws(the strikeouts will be an issue), but nothing that can’t be worked on. The Royals mortgaged the future to contend in the now, and if you watch this team for any amount of time, you realize that this team is not a contender. If Dayton Moore had been patient, we would have had Wil Myers for at least six years and the window to win would have been a lot larger. Instead, Moore traded away the top prospect in baseball. So like this article, it’s all just a dream at this point.

Cheering for the New Kids

If one thing stands out when it comes to the teams looking to make the playoffs this season, it would be a new batch of younger, hungry teams look to be October bound. There is nothing like rooting for the underdog come the playoffs, hoping they can knock off a team like the Yankees. Three teams stand out to me this year as teams to root for in the postseason.

1) Washington Nationals

No one is surprised that the Nationals are making their first trip to the playoffs. What is a surprise is that it came this early. Washington is a team that did it the right way. Most of the Nationals talent are homegrown, from Stephen Strasburg to Bryce Harper. Sprinkle in some veteran pitchers(Gio Gonzalez), some cast-offs(Mike Morse), and one big free agent signing(Jayson Werth) and you have a team that could be a regular in the playoffs for years to come. Credit Gm Mike Rizzo for piecing this team together, and credit Manager Davey Johnson for getting them to gel. They will be interesting to follow, since Strasburg has been shut down, but this is a talented team that can go a ways just on their pitching. My guess? A NLCS appearance, before being knocked off in six or seven games.

2)Oakland A’s

In my On Deck Circle last week(which is weekly on kvoe.com), I discussed just how this team has been winning. If ever there was a team of nobodies that are surprising baseball, this is the team. Not only that, they are doing it in a rough division, which has the Rangers, Angels and Felix Hernandez. The fact they have gotten this far should be a sign of the great work of Billy Beane and Bob Melvin. But it is also a sign of what young talent can do, especially young pitching. Don’t expect any name players, or any stars to step up and dominate for this team. The concept of team is vital for this ragtag bunch, and so far it is guiding them to October. The A’s will probably be one of the wild card teams, so it’s a 50/50 shot of where they will end up. Either one and done, or going on to the ALDS. I wouldn’t expect them to go much farther, but so far they aren’t following convention. So if they go farther, don’t be surprised.

3) Baltimore Orioles

Now, here is a team I can get behind! The Baltimore Orioles are having one of those miracle seasons that are just amazing to watch. This is another team built around youth and veterans, and the mixture is working so far. Buck Showalter continues his career trajectory of turning every team around that he touches, as the Orioles are poised to make their first playoff appearance since 1997. There are stars on this team, like Adam Jones, and there are some great young talent like Manny Machado. Throw in some Jim Thome, a dash of Mark Reynolds, and a pinch of Nate McLouth and you have a recipe for a resurgent Baltimore franchise. This team has gotten by this year thanks to great relief work, clutch hitting and late inning heroics. Those are actually all great qualities for a playoff team, so don’t be surprised if this team makes a big run. World Series, possibly? Possibly. Yes, it seems crazy, but there is no reason to doubt them now. This team has been winning when they need to all year, so another rush of wins isn’t out of the question. If not, it is still a great story to follow. What was once a storied franchise could now make a case to add to their legacy…and we gain by watching it!

So there you go. Three teams to watch in the playoffs this year that can fill your heart with shock and awe. October can be a kooky month, so don’t be surprised if one of these teams makes a late appearance. Before you snicker and say no, who had the St. Louis Cardinals as the World Series Champions a week before the end of the 2011 season? Didn’t think so. So get ready folks, the playoffs are coming and don’t expect to see it coming. Trust me, it will be worth it.

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