The Battle Between Heart & Mind Rages On

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I started this evening pondering why the Kansas City Royals offense has been so punchless the last few years and why nothing seems to change. New batting stances, a new spot in the lineup, a new approach; it just always seems like nothing really does the trick for these guys. As I was writing all of this out on the Twitter, the Royals offense exploded for eight runs off the Cleveland Indians. Yes, the superstitious part of me wanted to say it was because they wanted to prove me wrong. But the truth was they were facing a pitcher with great stuff but lots of issues in Danny Salazar. Let’s just call him Cleveland’s Hiram Davies. But while watching the Royals offense show what they are capable of, I realized something. It’s the battle that every fan encounters from time to time. I was letting my heart run the show instead of my brain.

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For example, two of my favorite Royals are Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar. I’m a sucker for the above average defender, and for the most part these two fit the bill. But both struggled mightily(at least offensively) in 2013 and there was no guarantee they would bounce back this year. I kept saying I thought there was a good chance they would, or at least be better than they were last year. I know, neither could have been much worse. But I was saying that just as much because I wanted it to be true as much as I really thought it would happen. Both got off to horrendous starts(they were the last two Royals regulars to get hits this year)and it was hard not to think that we were going to see a repeat of 2013. But then Esky got a hit, and he hasn’t stopped hitting since. Moose would be the last to get a hit, and despite him still hitting .138(and holding an OPS of .531), I held out hope. Part of it was his approach at the plate; Moose already has six walks on the year and has looked way more patient than I can ever remember him. But the other part was my heart wanting him to improve and be a vital cog in the Royals machine. I’ve been rewarded this week with home runs in three straight games for the man we call Moose. Obviously when it comes to some players, your heart as a fan wins out over what your brain tells you to feel.

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But there are times the brain wins out. Take for instance Billy Butler. I’ve been accused of being part of the Billy Butler fan club lately because I tend to stick up for him. To be honest, there are probably five to six Royals that I enjoy watching more than Billy, so he isn’t a top favorite of mine. But Billy has done one thing in the eight years he has been in Kansas City blue: hit. Butler has only had one season where his OPS+ was below 100 and has been the model of consistency for those Royals teams. So when Butler struggled a bit last year, I didn’t worry. When he struggled to start this year, you worry a bit, but your brain keeps telling you “he has always hit. He will hit again.” Your mind tells you to go with the pattern and know that the percentages say he will continue to hit, especially since he is still only 28. Consistency wins out almost every time. There are exceptions to that rule (like regression), but for the most part you should side with the consistent pattern. That is why I will side with Billy, until he proves otherwise.

Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Speaking of regression, that is the third part of this tale. Your heart will sometime lead you astray, and so will regression. The thing is regressing happens to every ballplayer whether they like it or not. That 96 MPH fastball you used to be able to catch up to? First you continually foul it off, then gradually it just blows past you. For a pitcher, you once were able to hit 96 on the radar; then you are only hitting the low 90’s. The thing with regression is you can see a player slowly aging, but still assume he can do the things he used to be able to do. Look at Albert Pujols. Pujols is 34 now. Injuries have slowed him down considerably to where he has gone from the best player in baseball three years ago to just a very good player. The thing is, despite his numbers declining, he can still be an elite player. Pujols is still capable(if healthy) of 20-30 homers, 100 RBI’s and a .300 average. Not bad, huh? What most expect from him is his old numbers: 40 homers, 120+ RBI’s and a .340 average. It really puts into perspective just how great of a player Pujols was when he could still put up top notch numbers but because it is so far below his old standard, he looks like a shell of his former self. This is what regression does. It takes longer for your mind to realize that time has taken it’s toll and your expectations should be lower than what the player was capable of in his 20’s.

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So which should you listen to more, your heart or your brain? Honestly, a little of both. Your mind will follow logic and allow you to separate the reality from wants and needs. But your heart…your heart gives you optimism and is more likely to believe in the unbelievable. Your heart will give you hope that otherwise might have been taken out to pasture years ago. Is it sometimes misguided? Obviously. But it also helps you get through a long season and see the good even within losses. Sometimes those of us that follow baseball so religiously forget that being a fan is equal parts optimism and evaluation. Sure, the snark will still be there at times and even hostility toward mistakes. But sometimes following your heart makes the game that we love that much more satisfying when something unbelievable happens. That’s why I still listen to my heart, even if my mind knows better. I want to believe.

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

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

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Yordano Ventura

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

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Danny Duffy

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

Brad Penny

Brad Penny 

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

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Luke Hochevar  

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

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Wade Davis    

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

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

The 2013 Kansas City Royals: Like Mike Ness said, “I Was Wrong”

My mother once told me I was both stubborn and bull-headed. I remember asking her how I could be both, and she said that there was a difference. The difference was if you were bull-headed, you would purposely do things just to spite others. Or not admit you made a mistake. Well, I can freely say that some things have changed since my childhood(some), and I can say like that Social Distortion song, I was wrong about this Kansas City Royals season. I initially thought this was a 78-80 win team and thought there were problems within the team that were being ignored. Okay, I wasn’t completely wrong. So let’s do a fun exercise today, folks. I will go through my predictions for the Royals before the season, and we’ll find out what I guessed correctly and what I was badly incorrect about. Nothing like pointing out all your mistakes…although to be fair, baseball can do that to you!

What I was right about: 

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

1) The starting rotation was better

I know, this isn’t really going out on a limb. The 2012 Royals rotation was awful. Putrid. Atrocious. Deplorable. Offensive. Pretty much any negative synonym you can think of would describe how bad they were. Improving the rotation was Dayton Moore’s main goal last winter and improve it he did. James Shields came in and was the ace the Royals needed every fifth day. Jeremy Guthrie was above what most predicted for a large portion of the season, but the real surprise was Ervin Santana. We will cover him in things I got wrong, although I wasn’t alone when it comes to “Magic”. I was also right that Wade Davis would struggle, and it took most of the season before he was sent to the bullpen. But don’t fret, children; put money on Davis starting next year in the rotation. Or as I now call him, Hiram Davies III. The rotation being better made a lot of the Royals flaws less noticeable. It just goes to show that once again, if you have pitching and defense they can mask a team’s ills.

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2)The bullpen was an elite bullpen   

This, once again, wasn’t a shock. The year before the pen had been fabulous and had pitched waaaaaay more innings than they should have. This year they got some relief of their own from the rotation, but it almost didn’t matter who came in; this unit was the best in baseball. They were led by All-Star closer Greg Holland, who has an argument for being the best closer in baseball this year–not for him breaking the team’s saves record(maybe the most worthless stat in the sport) but for striking out 103 batters in 67 innings thrown. Insane. After a rough first week #DirtySouth held things down and rolled successfully most of the year. After Holland, it was literally a who’s who of solid relievers; Hochevar, Collins, Coleman, Smith, Crow, and Davis(once he was shipped out there). Really the only one who slumped was Kelvin Herrera, and it’s not like he is a lost cause. Bullpens normally don’t have a long shelf life, so next year they could implode, but at least for 2013 they can say they were the best.

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3) The offense struggled 

During Spring Training, I felt like a kid in a car, yelling while the windows are rolled up. No one would hear me as I kept saying that the offense struggled in 2012 and the Royals did nothing to remedy it. By May, I was not only correct, I was ridiculously right–and I hated it. The offense struggled so much that even players that you thought would be fine had their issues. Billy Butler caught a lot of scorn this year, as his numbers were down from the year before. But by the end of the season, he was the team leader in RBI’s and outside of some of the power numbers, he had a close to normal season for Billy. Alex F. Gordon played Gold Glove defense, and was a team leader that they needed. But Alex struggled off and on all year and he just didn’t have the typical Gordon season. Alcides Escobar fell way off of his 2012 numbers. Likewise for Mike Moustakas. Right field and second base were black holes until David Lough and Emilio Bonifacio started getting regular playing time. The only real shining light was the return to glory of Eric Hosmer, but even that took bringing in a Hall of Famer to fix his swing. Hosmer went from purely a singles hitter in May to looking like the rookie who was going to be an MVP some day. All in just a few short weeks. The good news for Kansas City is hopefully Dayton will target a right fielder in the offseason with some pop…and the only direction to go for most of these guys is up next year. Let’s hope.

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4) Bringing back Getz and Francoeur was pointless 

Most anyone with a pulse was smart enough to realize another season of Frenchy and Getzie would lead to failure. Most anyone isn’t Dayton Moore and Ned Yost. I’ll be honest when I say a lot of my predictions were based on these two still being around. Luckily, Moore didn’t completely want to tank the season so Getz was sent down to Omaha in June, while Francoeur was cut just a few weeks later. Neither had even close to an average season, let alone a passable one. Getz would get recalled before the start of the second half of the season, but he didn’t see as much playing time and by September was riding the pine except for the occasional start or pinch running assignment. Francoeur was picked up by the Giants, but that didn’t last long. Just thinking of what the season could have been if the Royals had just cut ties with these two might have garnered them a few more wins…and maybe the chance of a wild card spot. I can only hope ‘the coaches son’ will be gone next year, so I don’t have to mention how Moore and Yost hold onto guys who no longer carry any value.

Ned Yost

5) Ned Yost will screw something up when it counts

Nothing new here. Been calling it for close to two years now. He does not deal well with pressure. Or allows his starter to stay in despite him getting very lucky. Oh, and keep him in for a chance at a ‘W’. Bunting in the early innings. Weird choices late in a pennant race game. More bunting. I’m to the point that I am tired of talking about it. Let’s move on.

Okay, now onto what I got wrong:

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1) The Royals finish above .500

This should probably count for like 3-4 things I got right. But…I’ve never been so happy to be wrong about something! Nothing really compares to playing meaningful games in September. Nothing made me happier than to see a packed house at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals didn’t seem to me like an above .500 team most of the year, if for nothing else than the fact that this was the streakiest of streaky teams that I have ever seen. It would have been nice for our sanity if the Royals had been a bit more consistent this year. At the end of the day, I was way wrong about this and fully admit it. But I’m glad I was wrong. As a diehard Royals fan, I just want to see my team compete and win. They did that this year, even if it might have been at the cost of another year of Dayton Moore and Ned Yost, or mortgaging the future thanks to the Wil Myers trade. Step 2 is now to actually reach the playoffs. That window is closing, so it’s time to jump through.

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2) Ervin Santana was ‘Magic’

There was no way I thought Santana would be as good as he was for the Royals this past season. Honestly, I’d like to know who actually DID think he would be this good. Santana was coming off of what was quite possibly his worst season in the majors, a season that saw him lead the league in home runs allowed despite the fact he spent 2012 pitching in one of the bigger ballparks in the big leagues(the Angels’ Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Geez, even their stadium has a giant name!). In what will go down as one of Dayton Moore’s better trades, Santana was a legitimate number two starter in the Royals rotation. His numbers do not lie. I was of the thinking that he would spend most of the year injured…yep, shows you what I know. Santana is a free agent this winter, and odds are the Royals aren’t going to be able to afford his lofty cost(both years and dollars). Santana was the most unexpected surprise Kansas City had this year, and a surprise most of us didn’t see coming. It’s too bad ‘Magic’ probably won’t be back in Royal blue, since he would be a welcome return, even if he would end up being overpaid for too many years.

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So in all fairness, I wasn’t really too far off. Sure, I thought this was an under .500 bunch, but that was with the thought that Getz and Francoeur would see the majority amount of time most of the year and with the offense never really figuring it out. Instead, Kansas City wised up, and Getzie and Frenchy were either exiled to AAA or sent packing when they didn’t produce. History showed that Dayton Moore didn’t have an endless leash on these guys, and their replacements, for the most part, improved on their positions. The bats were still streaky, but had enough glimpses of what everyone THOUGHT  they could do and got great starting pitching to keep them in way more games than in years past. I am willing to be wrong more often if it means the Royals win and keep themselves in a pennant race. I probably had more fun in September than I have had in a long time as a Royals fan. Hopefully they will continue to prove me wrong in 2014 and we can have a discussion about how I never thought they would reach the playoffs. I’m willing to look the buffoon if it means playoffs. A little bit more optimism wouldn’t hurt me, even if the realist in me finds it hard sometimes. I just have to remember the little kid growing up that loved his Kansas City Royals. He is still around; he always makes an appearance every time I walk into Kauffman Stadium.

Positively Royals

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Less than thirty games remain in this 2013 season, and the Kansas City Royals are on pace for their first winning season since 2003. For most organizations, that isn’t considered a big deal, but in Kansas City it’s big. Coming into the season there was a lot of hope with equal parts criticism(myself included), and at some points in the year the Royals have looked like a playoff team. It seems highly doubtful that will happen this year, but 2014 seems reasonable for a playoff push. Whichever way you look at it, there has been improvement with the Royals, and as fans we can walk away with some positives from the 2013 season. With that in mind, here are five positives that the Royals will bring into next year and hopefully help set the foundation for a contender. See, I CAN be positive!

Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas

1) Eric Hosmer & Mike Moustakas have started hitting

If the first two months of 2013 were what we should have expected from Hosmer and Moustakas, then it looked as if the two linchpins of this Royals team were going to be a bust. Moustakas got off to an awful start that saw his average dip into the .170’s while Hosmer showed no power and had become an opposite field singles hitter. Hosmer’s 2012 had already put a seed of doubt into many a Royals fan’s mind, so when he AND Moustakas struggled early on, we all felt that disgusting feeling in the pit of our stomach’s. But then the Royals fired hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David(why does that feel like it was three seasons ago??), brought in some guy named George Brett and Pedro Grifol, and they immediately started to work with the Dynamic Duo. This dynamic duo:

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Hard to imagine these guys not being taken seriously, right? The work with Hosmer showed immediately, as he started hitting not only to right field, but to right field with power! Moustakas has gone from a .215 hitter in the first half of the season to a .299 hitter in the second half. I’m a little bit weary to say they are both fixed(although I feel a LOT safer saying that about Hosmer), but it sure appears as if whatever was ailing them earlier this year is now gone. You hate to pin success on a team on one or two players, but as these two go, so go the Royals. The offense at times has really lagged for Kansas City this year, and there are still concerns that this is a very streaky Royals team, but if Hos and Moose can be more consistent then we should also expect more consistency from the entire offense. If anything, it has been nice to see these two climb out of their early season slumps and show the promise they once had when they first arrived in the majors. But for the Royals to jump into that next level, they need them to do this on a consistent basis.

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2) Glorious Starting Pitching

We all knew going into this season that the Royals starting pitching was going to be better than 2012. That seemed pretty obvious, as it couldn’t have been much worse than it had been. Actually, after 2012 it almost would have been an improvement to trot out the cotton candy vendor, the ticket lady, Ned Yost’s Grandma, and the ghost of Hiram Davies(he is dead, correct?). So the shock this season wasn’t that the rotation was improved, it was just how much it was improved. The Royals went from having one of the worst rotations in baseball(that could barely get through 5 innings each start) to one that was clearly one of the best in the sport. James Shields immediately took the reigns of leader of the staff, and has shown that on the mound this year, despite his record(Kill the Win? Indeed). Jeremy Guthrie had a wonderful first half, and while he has come back down to earth here in the second half, he has still been a very serviceable starter. The big surprise has been Ervin Santana, who few of us thought was even going to be an average pitcher. Santana has exceeded expectations, lowering his home run rate and allowing his wonderful infield defense to take care of things for him. It’s possible the Santana trade could be Dayton Moore’s best trade to date, and one that could continue to benefit Kansas City. Santana is a free agent at the end of the season, and his value has skyrocketed this season, even for the team he seems to love now. The Royals might be able to re-sign him, but if they do it will be at a hefty price. Throw in the occasional Wade Davis start(or my new name for him, Hiram Davies III), a splendid second half by Bruce Chen(throwing a steady diet of slop, courtesy of Chuck Samples), and the return of Danny Duffy and you have a rotation fighting with Texas over the best ERA in the American League. Hopefully the team can keep most of this group intact and grow on it come 2014.

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3) Defense for Royalty

Most Royals fans acknowledge that the team’s defense has long been a strong point for this team, even if the numbers didn’t always point that out. But this year, with a healthy Lorenzo Cain, an improved Hosmer, and the usual great ‘D’ by Perez, Escobar, Gordon and Moose, this team has been excellent defensively. Remember, numbers don’t lie:
2013 American League Defensive Summary

The biggest factor there is the ‘Defensive Runs Saved Above Avg.’. It’s obvious having such a good defense has made other facets of the Royals game(ahem, the pitching) even better than originally thought. I personally believe that Cain has been a big part of this, as when he went down with his most recent injury the team seemed to shuffle. Having his glove, and the ground he covers, on the field every day has been a major boom for Kansas City and has helped those defensive numbers a lot. For the Royals to continue their success in 2014, they need the defense to continue to put up these kind of numbers.

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4)#DirtySouth

The last couple years, Greg Holland has been one of the Royals top relievers. His 2011 season was phenomenal, as he proved he deserved a shot at closing for the team once Joakim Soria left for greener pastures. It took the team trading away veteran Jonathan Broxton, but finally Holland was given closing duties late last year, and he stepped up again. Slide back to the first month of this season: Holland struggles and crazy Royals fans with pitchforks want Kelvin Herrera to take over the closers job after Holland’s early struggles. Before Thursday’s game against Seattle, Holland had given up only four runs since April. Four. Sure, Mariano Rivera is still the best. Aroldis Chapman consistently lights up the radar gun with triple digits, and Craig Kimbrel might be having the best season of a closer this year. But make no doubt about it, ‘Dirty South’ is right up there with him. Just look at his K/9 ratio: 13.8. 89 strikeouts, 14 walks this season. Insane. Holland is having a season that the only other Royals closers can even compare to are two guys named Quisenberry and Montgomery. Holland more than earned his All-Star nod this year, and the sad part is trading Holland might actually be the smart thing for Kansas City to do this year. But if he isn’t dealt, we can deal with having one of the best closers in the game.

5)The Final Episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’

Whoops. My bad. I was just really excited after that shootout Sunday night. Whoops again. Spoilers.

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5)The Royals are Winning! 

It’s September 9th as I write this, and the Royals are still in the Wild Card discussion in the American League. I know, I didn’t expect that. But it’s nice, real nice to see the Royals go out there and compete every night and feel like they can win the game. We’ve all watched some real lousy baseball over the years(and some in spurts this year) but to see a team in playoff contention this late in the season is splendid. Wonderful. It makes me happy and puts a smile on my face. This is all we’ve wanted, guys. We just want to win and know we can be in the same discussion as the other teams making October plans. Early on this year I didn’t see them playing good enough to be in the conversation, but it’s happening. Soak it up, Royals fans. We could definitely get used to this!

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Hopefully  in a year from now, this list is twice as long. Hopefully we are still talking playoffs, and hopefully it is Division title talk. This team has grown as a group since the early parts of the year and have really earned the spot they are at right now. It’s so much nicer talking about positive baseball than all the bad things that can develop during a season. Hopefully in a year, we can retire the term ‘Yosted’ and ‘Royalling’…because winning makes all those things go away.

My Top 5 Most Hated Royals

If you are a fan long enough of one team, you gradually start to demise certain players. There could be lots of reasons, although normally it is just bad play on the field that makes you wish they were executed in a field by a couple of guys wearing jumpsuits. Being a Kansas City Royals fan for close to 30 years has not only made me a bit jaded, but I’ve also accumulated my fair share of hatred for certain players. I’ve noticed I don’t have much venom for players during my youth. It must be how naive I was, or maybe because when I was young the Royals weren’t one of the worst teams in baseball. Either way, I’ve only ever really hated (HATED) a handful of Royals over the years, with some just a passing thought. Before we dive in, I do have to throw out a couple of honorable mentions. First, Miguel Olivo gets an honorable mention for his atrocious defense. I know I’ve heard broadcasters mention how good Olivo is defensively, but I don’t remember that guy. I remember the guy who spent half his time at the backstop of the K, looking for the baseball that got away from him (again). Between that and his knack of being a ‘all or nothing’ hitter at the plate, I wasn’t sad when the Royals let him go as a free agent. Another honorable mention should go out to one Jonathan Sanchez. Yep, a guy gets a mention even though he was with the team for only half a season. That’s how bad he was. It wasn’t just that Melky Cabrera got off to a great start for the Giants, or that Sanchez couldn’t seem to get past the fifth inning. No, the worst part was it seemed that Sanchez just didn’t want to be in Kansas City. If his goal was to receive a one way ticket out of town, he got it. The amazing part is that even though Sanchez was really, really bad (really), someone was willing to take him. Thank you, Colorado. Not only did you give us Jeremy Guthrie, but you took the albatross that was around our neck.  Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get to the top five.

5) Yuniesky Betancourt

“See no ball, field no ball…”

I’m sure my hatred for Yuni is bigger since he donned the powder blue more than once. I know some thought that he welded a solid bat, or they didn’t realize just how bad his range really was. But I saw a player who had amazingly regressed throughout his major league career, and was to a point where he had no game plan at the plate and no clue on defense. Sure, he’d occasionally pull out a good play on the field, but only if the ball was hit right to him. Forget him getting something to his right, and his left wasn’t much better. The worst part of having Betancourt on your team would be that occasionally he would show flashes of what was once a good player. A clutch hit here, a nice play there. But they were so few and far between that it couldn’t make up for all the holes in his game. The fact that Royals management thought that he would be a solid backup infielder shows just how little they actually pay attention to the play on the field. For all those reasons, I will forever hate the one I christened ‘Jabba the Betancourt’.

4)Luke Hochevar

I can only hope he was hit by a comebacker in this photo…

A part of me wonders if Luke would be on this list if he wasn’t still in a Royals uniform. Part of me wonders if he didn’t show signs of talent from time to time if I would loathe him so much. But the truth is he is still a Royal, and from time to time we see this guy put it all together. But right there is why he comes in at #4. Hochevar has good stuff, which would explain why he has been drafted in the first round by two separate teams.  In fact, maybe we should blame this on the Dodgers. If only they had signed Hoch when they drafted him the year before the Royals did(or even back in 2002, when they drafted him then), then his mess wouldn’t be on our hands. Instead, he goes unsigned, played some independent ball, then is drafted by the Royals in the first round of the 2006 draft. The rest is history, as in the past five years, Hochevar always seems at the cusp of being a solid major league starter. Well, it’s not quite history yet, as the Royals still trot him out every fifth day, and that is where the problem lies. Five years is more than enough time to know whether a guy can pull his weight in the majors or not, and Hochevar seems to do just enough to keep a job. He is probably one of the most frustrating players I have ever watched,  which makes me dislike the guy more and more. I want to think he can be the solid starter the Royals need, but alas it seems he is destined to just be what he is. A guy who occasionally goes out and dominates. Or the guy who goes out and gives up eight runs in less than two innings. It’s hard to root for a guy who can’t decide if he wants to be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.

3) Neifi Perez

My guess is Neifi didn’t hit this pitch.

Ask any Royals fan from a decade ago, and Neifi Perez evokes either anger or sadness. Perez was the Royals big gain from the Jermaine Dye trade(in fact, their only gain) and was coming off a couple of very good seasons in Colorado, including winning a Gold Glove. Some baseball folks even thought he was one of the top Shortstops in the National League. Dye was a fan favorite, but the Royals thought he was getting too pricey and needed help in the middle of the infield. In came Perez, and it was obvious very early that he wasn’t the player the Royals thought they were acquiring. Perez barely managed a .241 average those last 49 games of the season with only nine extra base hits. 2002 wasn’t much better for Perez, as his bat vanished and his glove seemed to as well. You couldn’t rely on Neifi to do much of anything at the plate, and even less on defense, which used to be a positive for him. Instead we ended up with an infielder who couldn’t hit, field and cost just as much as Dye would have. Why this trade was made makes absolutely no sense not only to me, but to most Royals fans. To top it all off, Perez complained about his playing time, only to then refuse to enter a September game as a defensive replacement. To sum it up for newer Royals fans, Neifi was Yuniesky Betancourt, only with even less value. The day the San Francisco Giants signed him was almost a holiday in Kansas City, as fans rejoiced everywhere. To this date, I can’t think of one positive thing Neifi did in a Royals uniform. Not one.

2) Hiram Davies

“Hiram, in all his glory.”

For anyone wondering, since the day after his release, I abstained from referring to him by Kyle. No, from that point forward, I will call him by his given name, Hiram. Davies was a Dayton Moore acquisition from his time in Atlanta. Hard to believe, but when Davies first reached the majors with the Braves, he reeled off 3 scoreless outings in his first three starts. Kansas City got him for gypsy reliever Octavio Dotel, and was seen as a future part of the rotation. In fact, in Hiram’s first full season in KC, he actually had a decent record(9-7) and ERA(4.06). Unfortunately, he seemed to slide backwards in 2009, with an ERA well over five and a WHIP of 1.5. Probably my biggest complaint of Davies was his lack of attacking the strike zone. No great pitcher ever got anywhere by nibbling constantly, yet that was almost the biggest part of Hiram’s repertoire. Davies was known to have good stuff, and his strikeout totals show that. Unfortunately, he never learned that if he threw more strikes, he could last longer in the game. It never failed, the fifth inning would roll around and Hiram would be approaching one hundred pitches. It was fairly certain that if a guy throws that many pitches, he is going to end up out of the game early, and will tax your bullpen. Davies never got around this, and when it was all said and done, it cost him his job in Kansas City. Hiram Davies was so historically bad that unless former teammate Luke Hochevar passes him in the next couple seasons, he will continue to hold down the title of ‘Worst Starting Pitcher EVER’! Davies has the highest ERA and WHIP of any pitcher who has started 90% of his games and thrown over 700 innings. Ever. That covers a lot of ground, folks, and most of it is charred earth. It can be really simple sometimes in baseball. For instance, if you throw strikes, you are more likely to succeed than if you don’t. Hiram Davies learned this the hard way. Davies didn’t leave on the best of notes, as he was arrested the day before he was released last year for disorderly intoxication. Now, I have no way of knowing or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear ol’ Hiram found out that day he was going to be cut by the Royals and decided to tie one on. Far be it from me to blame him for that, but it does make for an interesting story. Davies signed with Toronto’s AAA team for the remainder of last year, but no team has taken a chance on him in 2012. I hated watching Davies pitch, and in some ways I’m glad he hasn’t signed elsewhere. God forbid some longtime fan has to sit through watching Hiram throw his version of craptastic magic for over thirty starts a year. We Royals fans took that medicine, and now can only hope we will forget it someday.

1) Michael Tucker

“I’m surprised he got that close to the ball. That would take effort.”

Michael Tucker, how I hate him so. I could tell you so many reasons why, but the main one is that Tucker was a lazy bastard. Here is a guy who might not have ever been a five tool player, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities that he could be a four tool player. He had speed, good defense, hit for average, smart baserunning skills, but not a lot of power. Unfortunately, he didn’t do any of these things as well as he should have, because he always seemed to half-ass it when playing. Here was another former Kansas City first round pick that just never lived up to expectations. He was good on defense…when he wasn’t loafing it to the ball. He could hit for average…when he would actually focus. He even screwed up being speedy, as he just didn’t hustle every time he was on the field. Here was a guy with all the talent in the world, but maybe used only a third of it. Instead of being an All-Star, or even just a full time starter, Tucker was at best a platoon player who never learned to hit lefties. Guys like David Eckstein and Chris Getz would kill to have the kind of talent that Tucker had, yet it was given to a guy who preferred to coast. Tucker actually had a few decent seasons in Atlanta, but in his two stints in Kansas City, he was an average .260 hitter with a .330 On Base Percentage. You would think someone with that much speed would steal a lot of bases, or at least a decent amount. Not Tucker, as he could only muster 43 in four seasons for the Royals. Tucker would actually have a long career, lasting twelve seasons in the bigs. But at the end of the day, he was a platoon player at best who never learned how to up his game. Guys like Michael Tucker never figure out what god given advantages he has. Instead, guys like him piss it away to ‘just get by’. That is why he is my host hated Royal. That is why I will always refer to him as ‘Michael F’n Tucker’!

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