Baseball Thank You’s

League Championship Series - New York Yankees v Houston Astros - Game Two

Thanksgiving is a great time to spend time with family and friends, eat lots of carbs and be thankful for everything in your life. Yes, we should be more thankful on a daily basis, but with the pace of life speeding up more and more, we sometimes forget to stop and smell the roses (so to speak). We probably don’t say it enough, but I am thankful every day that baseball appears to be on an upswing and is still such a large part of my life. I’m not for sure what the ratio would be, but the amount of joy that this great game gives me would appear to be greater than what I am able to give back to it. So for today, let me be thankful for all the glory that is this kid’s game that we adore…

Mike Trout

I am thankful for Mike Trout. Literally everything about him. Trout is that every day working man who goes out there and helps his team almost every game. Defense, hitting, hitting for power, running the bases; Trout brings it to every aspect of his game. We are seeing the best player in modern-day baseball and possibly one of the greatest of all-time when it is all said and done. I am thankful we get to see such a great player in my lifetime.

Almost the same can be said for Clayton Kershaw, only on the pitching side of the game. I’ve seen Maddux, Johnson and Pedro in my time, but Kershaw could be the best of the bunch. I am thankful for his precision, dedication and work ethic that makes Kershaw as great as he is.

I am thankful for the current playoff system. I was initially against the second wild card in the playoffs, but it has added a new, exciting element to the postseason and I feel it is for the better. The last four October’s have been spectacular and it has shown a steady uptick for baseball viewing among the general public.

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Credit: Chicago Tribune

I am thankful for the mass group of players that I love watching all throughout the baseball season.

Ben Zobrist’s versatility and patience.

Andrew McCutchen’s five tools.

Giancarlo Stanton’s unbridled power.

Yasiel Puig’s child-like enthusiasm.

Bryce Harper’s hustle and ‘Hair on Fire’ approach on the field.

Wade Davis’ ‘Vein’s of Ice’.

Jose Altuve’s ability to hit the ball “where they ain’t”.

Baseball not only has a great group of guys that encompass the immense talent in the game, but a group that are positive role models for the game and makes rooting for them even easier.

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I’m also thankful for all the retired players whose accomplishments I’m still in awe of today.

Ted Williams’ love and dedication to hitting.

Willie Mays’ grace.

Bob Gibson’s fire.

Yogi Berra’s understated play on the field…oh, and his sayings.

Tony Gwynn’s knowledge of the strike zone.

Greg Maddux’s precise location.

Edgar Martinez’s understated study of hitting.

Tim Raines’ speed and ability to put himself in a position to score.

Jackie Robinson’s patience, maturity and determination to prove his worth.

Hank Aaron’s power, quiet leadership and calm demeanor.

I could go on and on with some of the greats of the game, but more than anything I am thankful they were able to pave the way for the talent that would follow them.

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Credit: NPR

More than anything, I am thankful for my favorite team of the last 30+ years, the team I fell in love with as a child and the team that always reminds me why I love baseball, the Kansas City Royals.

Thank you George Brett, for the hustle and inability to give up that helped me love this game.

Thank you Bo Jackson, for doing the impossible on a baseball diamond.

Thank you Dan Quisenberry, for your unique delivery, late inning shutdowns and your sense of humor.

Thank you Bret Saberhagen, for being one of the best of your generation.

Thank you Mike Sweeney, for your loyalty.

Thank you Alex Gordon, for quiet leadership and ability to become a Gold Glover at a new position. Oh, and that home run in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series.

Thank you Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. Without you, 2014 and 2015 do not happen.

Thank you Salvador Perez, for your infectious smile and childlike love of the game.

Thank you Denny Matthews and Fred White. You were the voices of my childhood and will always be my favorite baseball announcers. The pictures you drew with your words made listening to a Royals game on the radio an absolute joy.

Thank you Kauffman Stadium, for being so beautiful.

Thank you, 1985.

Thank you, 2015.

Thank you, Kansas City.

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More than anything, thank you baseball. Thank you for loving me back. There will never be another like you. I could go on all day with the things I love about baseball, but more than anything, I love it all. I am thankful that baseball has been a major part of my life since the age of 7. I look forward to the many years ahead we have together. I will always be thankful for you. You’re the best, baseball.

 

 

 

 

The Drought Is Over

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On Friday night, the 29 year wait ended. On Friday night, the Kansas City Royals clinched a spot in the 2014 playoffs, assuring themselves of at least a Wild Card spot when the postseason starts next week. As most know, the Royals hadn’t reached the playoffs since the won the World Series back in 1985. During that span, anyone associated with the Royals, whether it be players, coaches, broadcasters, front office personnel, vendors and even fans have felt the weight of this playoff drought. It had almost gotten to the point to where that became the team’s defining talking point, not anything that was actually going on out on the field or within the organization. I’ve had a little over 24 hours to think about this and what this means personally to me. Like a lot of people, a hefty weight has been lifted off of everyone’s shoulders.

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I immediately thought of all the people involved within the organization who had been around forever. People like Denny Matthews, who has been with the team since the beginning and has dealt with all the highs and lows. I made sure Friday night that I was listening to Denny’s call, if for no other reason than it is comfortable listening to him. Art Stewart came to mind, the long time Royals scout and even guys like Mike Swanson, VP of broadcasting, who has had a couple tours of duty with Kansas City, going all the way back to the 1970’s. I thought of how happy guys like George Brett, Mike Sweeney and Jeff Montgomery would be, former players who were still around and working within the organization. If anyone understood how it was for us fans, it would be these folks, who have endured just as much heartache as we have.

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I also thought of former Royals no longer with us. Dick Howser came to mind, as he was the last man to take the Royals to the postseason. Howser came down with brain cancer into the 1986 season and passed away in June of 1987. Dan Quisenberry and Paul Splittorff both came to mind as well, longtime Royals who also lost their battles with cancer. Former Royals announcer Fred White passed away in May of 2013 and if ever there was a good trooper for the organization, it was Fred. White was still with the organization when he passed away and no one would have loved seeing the Royals celebrate a playoff berth like Fred White. There are probably others I have forgotten about, all who would have loved this moment.It goes to show how much this team meant to so many different people.

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I then thought of my Grandma Thornton. Craig Brown has a great read about him watching games with his Grandfather and my story is somewhat like that. When I first got interested in baseball around 1984, I would go listen to Royals games at my Grandma’s, as we would listen to Denny and Fred call the play by play on the radio. She would tell me stories about growing up listening to the Yankees as that was the only team in the area that stations would broadcast, since there was no local team yet. Listening on the radio made you picture the action in your head, as Denny and Fred would weave their words to give us an idea of what was happening on the diamond. I fell in love with baseball and shared that with my Grandma for many years. Once the Royals started being on television more we would watch the games and  talk about what was happening. I sometimes wish I could go back to then, when I was more innocent and just watched the game without questioning managerial tactics or analyze statistics like I do today. I think I was one of Grandma’s favorites(easy for me to say!) and part of that reason was we both loved this game. Before she got sick she gave me some of her baseball memoribilia she had purchased over the years, as she wanted me to have them. At the time I felt weird about it, since she wasn’t even sick at that point, but I know now that she wanted me to have these items and was afraid I wouldn’t end up with them if it got into the hands of other family members. I still remember her sternly telling me I was to take them and this wasn’t up for conversation. I took them, even if it was reluctantly, and the baseball signed by all the 1990 Royals still sits on a shelf in my bedroom, along with other signed balls. I’m sure if she was still around she would have loved seeing the Royals in the playoffs, which puts a smile on my face every time I think about it.

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Lastly, I thought of Dayton Moore. Over the last few years I have been very vocal about whenever I felt Moore had madea move I felt was less than great. Most of the time it was earned, and when a General Manager is in charge as long as Dayton has been and not produced a playoff team it is only natural to question whether or not he is suited for the job. I still am not the biggest fan of him, but I will give credit where credit is due; Dayton did it. He assembled a team that got the Royals to the playoffs. I don’t agree with how he built the team and there will still be a few doubts about “the trade”(and I’m sure it will get brought up again in the future) but for now none of that matters. All that matters is that Dayton kept his word and got this team to posteason play. For that I will give him a “thank you, Dayton” and hope that this will just be the first of many appearances. Adding Jason Vargas has helped this team in 2014, but credit also must go to all the players drafted, signed and developed during his tenure. Sure, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are still question marks, but look at guys like Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy as two guys that have been huge for this team. Look at the profits of the Zack Greinke trade, as Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain are regulars in the lineup(and Jake Odorizzi helped bring in James Shields and Wade Davis). Even the bullpen has Moore’s fingerprints on this team, as both Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera were developed in the Royals organization. Moore has made some questionable moves over the years and probably will again in the future, but for now he backed up what he promised, and that is what matters in the present.

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I have been critical of this organization in the past, and I will again in the future. It’s not out of spite or to complain, it’s out of love. I love this team, and I love all the joy that being a Royals fan has given me over the years and I always want them to succeed. Sure, there have been huge bumps in the road, but it has made this season even more special. On Friday night I sat there and thought about all the things I love about this team and this game and I am so glad I stuck with them. Sure, the Royals might play the wild card game on Tuesday and lose, and just like that it will be over. Or they will keep playing. And keep playing. Either way, the Royals have done what many of us weren’t for sure they could do, and that is break the drought. For that, I am perfectly fine with being wrong about this team.  I bleed Royal blue and will till the day I die; let’s make this a yearly thing now, boys!

 

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.

 

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