Bleeding Royal Blue Radio-Episode 3

Home Run Derby Baseball

With the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby in the rear-view mirror, Scott Hayes joins Sean to talk about the game and the derby, looking at the Royals first half and what to look forward to in the second half, the Cubs and what they need to do in the second half of the season and discussion on who should be the ‘Face of the Game’. Lots of fun baseball talk that you can listen to. The podcast is a new thing here on Bleeding Royal Blue, so I would love any feedback on what you think. Any and all comments are appreciated and thanks for listening!

 

Country Breakfast is Bay Area Bound

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It was inevitable that Billy Butler would be leaving Kansas City this year, the only question was where he would be landing. We got our answer Tuesday night as it was announced that Butler was headed to the west coast to join the Oakland A’s, agreeing to a 3 year/30 million dollar contract. I have seen a lot of varying opinions on the signing and it’s affect on both Kansas City and Oakland, so let’s look at the fallout from Butler’s signing.

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Let’s start with it’s affect on Oakland. They get the right handed bat they wanted for the middle of the order, and they plan on playing Butler at both DH and first base. Where will he bat in the order?

So there you go. Billy had been wanting to play some more first base the last few years and that just wasn’t going to happen in Kansas City, unless Eric Hosmer would injure himself again. Oakland also has a number of run producers in the middle of their offense, guys like Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss, so Butler won’t be asked to be the main cog in the offensive machine. A lot of times in Kansas City Butler was asked to be “the guy”, which just wasn’t realistic. This will give Billy the chance to perform with a little less pressure than he had for the Royals. For all we know, Oakland’s hitting coaches Darren Bush and Marcus Jensen will be able to unlock some of the power that has been missing from Butler’s bat the last two seasons.

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The affect on the Royals will be quite pronounced, as the team will finally be able to use the DH as a rotating position like they have wished for the last few seasons. This will give guys like Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon days off in the field, and even help a veteran like Omar Infante rest a day if they are experiencing minor injuries. In my mind this also means they need to sign not one, but two OF/DH types this offseason. If they are going to not only replace Butler’s numbers but also gain on them, they need more than just one bat. The honesty of this situation is that the Royals are not a great offensive force, and even to say they are “good” might be questionable. So if they are wanting to improve the offense, acquiring just one bat seems very shortsighted. Getting two bats, plus throwing in Jarrod Dyson occasionally gives them a chance to rotate players and use the DH the way they have dreamed of since 2012.

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So despite seeing how this could be major plus for both teams, I’ve still heard a few fans make the comment that Billy didn’t really want to stay in Kansas City, and I just don’t believe that is true. I think Butler meant it when he said he loved Kansas City and wanted him to stay. I just don’t think Royals management was as keen about keeping him around. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star has done a good job of chronicling the Butler situation this offseason. Money was obviously an issue:

Plus there was this comment from Butler’s press conference with Oakland today:

There is also David Glass. I really feel his quote speaks volumes:

So as you can see, things weren’t as rosy and sweet between Butler and Royals management as some seem to think. Do you remember earlier in the season, when Butler’s production was coming into question while other Royals who weren’t producing(ie. Hosmer) seemed to be ignored? Or September, after Hosmer came back from injury and manager Ned Yost seemed to favor Josh Willingham at DH instead of Butler? After all this, and the expectations from fans for him to repeat his stellar 2012, it makes you wonder a bit why he would even want to come back. So the fact that he gave the Royals last chance tells me just how much Billy Butler wanted to stay a Royal:

So how much of this was about money?

Billy Butler

As with baseball in general, money is always an issue. It plays an issue here too, but so does playing time and years on the contract. I personally feel like Butler would have taken less money if it meant he would get the same amount of playing time and only a 2 year contract. Instead the Royals had already planned to not have a fulltime DH and weren’t willing to go more than 1 year on a new deal with Butler. Plus, let’s be honest and frank here(or Susan, if you don’t like being frank). A baseball player has a very short shelf life when it comes to active playing time and years to really make big money, since most players don’t make a bunch of money early in their career. So when a player is approaching 30 and looking for a new deal, they are just as big on years as money when it comes to guaranteed contracts. So when the A’s offered more years(3) and more money than Billy made in 2014(8 mill in ’14, 10 mill in ’15-’17) it’s hard to turn that down, especially when you are coming off of the worst year of your major league career. Plus, it seemed like Oakland wanted Butler, which I’m not so sure about when it comes to the Royals. It’s easy for any fan to sit there and say “he just wanted the money”, but in his situation, the desire to be wanted outweighs a dollar total. Like this:

So was this about money? Maybe a bit. But it was also about more than just money. The honest truth is if the Royals had really wanted Butler back, he would be in Royal blue. Instead he will be wearing white cleats come February:

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I am like most Royals fans in that I would have liked to have seen Butler return to Kansas City. But I understand that sometimes the financial aspect of baseball makes it hard for a team(especially a small market team) to keep a player for the duration of his career. It was a great 8 years that Billy Butler and the Kansas City Royals got to share together. I know I will never forget hearing Kauffman Stadium chant Billy’s name at the 2012 Home Run Derby. There was definite love that night between the fans and Butler, as there was during Game 3 of the ALDS this October when Butler stole second base. Butler loved Kansas City and for the most part Kansas City loved him. I wish the best for Butler in Oakland and plan on cheering him when he returns to ‘The K’ in April. We still have the memories, folks. We should always remember though that nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain. The new chapter for the Royals involves no Billy Butler, as it should. Life and baseball moves on, as it always will.

Celebration At 1 Royal Way

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This past Sunday night the Kansas City Royals completed their sweep of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Divisional Series with a resounding 8-3 victory, advancing the Royals to the American League Championship Series. 29 years of no postseason action makes for many demons, not only with the organization but with the fanbase as well. The good thing is that the Royals have been purging many of these devils this October. For many of us, our mantra became “we just want to get to the playoffs”, as we knew how uplifting it would be for the franchise, the city and the fans. I was lucky enough to be one of the 40,000+ this past weekend to witness the completion of the sweep in person and purge my own demons at ‘The K’.

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A few days before this game I lucked myself into a playoff ticket thanks to a friend. There was no way I could turn down getting to see my favorite team for 30 years break down the walls and be part of the playoff atmosphere. Little did I know when I bought the ticket that the Royals would be in line for a sweep if the cards all fell right. As I made my way to the gates to enter Kauffman Stadium, it felt like any other time I have been there. There was a bit more energy in the crowd than normal, but for the most part it felt like it had most of this season at my home away from home. As I walked around, I noticed little differences. Postseason banners hung from the rafters and there seemed to be more urgency in getting Royals merchandise from the team store. I found my seat(upper deck, right behind home plate) with about 90 minutes before first pitch and got myself settled. From my vantage point I could see everything; I might have lucked into the best tickets for what was about to go down. Before too long pregame would start up, and that was when it really hit me; I was at a playoff a game, a Royals playoff game! I could lie here and say it didn’t affect me, but it did. During the introductions, watching the crowd go nuts for players like Terrance Gore made me just smile from ear to ear. Even while the announcer was trying to get everyone ready for the National Anthem, the crowd loudly(and I mean LOUDLY) started a ‘Let’s Go Royals’ chant, one so loud you couldn’t hear Mike McCartney. You could tell he was talking, but that was it. This rabid fanbase was ready and dying to see their boys in blue finish the sweep. As the flyover occurred at the end of the anthem, I teared up. For 29 years I just wanted my Royals to go out there and reach the playoffs. I was now not only at one of those games, but one with a bunch of crazy bastards who completely understood how I felt. It was hard not to just break down in happiness at what I was about to witness. I was about to fulfill a dream that I had started to believe would never happen.

Royals Divison Postseason 2014 vs Angels Game 3 KC

Once the game started the insanity didn’t stop. I have always said the loudest I have ever heard that stadium was during Robinson Cano’s weak effort at the Home Run Derby in 2012, but Sunday night it was louder. The crowd yelled, stomped and waved their blue and white towels(homer hanky?), cheering on their team and cheering on the fact that the Royals had made the playoffs. The crowd early on hung on every pitch; Mike Trout tried to upset the mood with a 1st inning home run off James Shields, but it only calmed us for a bit. The Royals would retaliate in the bottom of the inning, as team leader Alex Gordon continued his clutch ways with a bases clearing triple, putting the Royals up 3-1. Insanity ensued. At that moment any chance of me being even slightly sane went out the window. Complete strangers started high-fiving each other, as we were almost all of the same mind and soul. If we had to, we were going to will this Royals team to a victory. Luckily, no willing was needed as the Royals continued the onslaught, not bothering to let up on the Angel’s throat. Eric Hosmer would add a two run home run in the bottom of the 3rd and Mike Moustakas added a scorcher of his own the following inning. Not even an Albert Pujols solo job could deter things. By the 4th inning I was texting a friend, asking him if it was too soon to start counting outs. He said too soon; yep, we are a superstitious bunch. The roof about came off the place when Billy Butler stole a base; if there was ever a sign that the Royals were going to win, that was it. Billy Butler???

That’s what speed do! Between this and two amazing catches by Lorenzo Cain, it just seemed to spell doom for the Angels.

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Numerous times during the game I would look around me, look to the left and then to the right. Happiness, all around me. So much suffering was being let go that night and words can’t even describe how glorious that was. More than anything it felt like a giant weight was being lifted off of the collective shoulders of a fanbase that honestly could have just walked away and chose some other team to cheer for. Instead, we all stayed and were being rewarded for our loyalty.

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Before the top of the 9th, a video played on CrownVision. I wish I could remember it verbatim, but instead here was the synopsis; this is what we had waited for. It was almost time to celebrate the Royals advancing to the ALCS. Three outs later, everyone in the stadium lost their collective minds. I have never heard ‘The K’ that loud, and I seriously wonder if I ever will hear it louder than that. Strangers high fived, hugged and grown men openly wept. I have been a huge baseball fan for 30 years, and at that moment I had never been happier in my life. Sure, I remember 1985, but I was younger and thought that the playoffs would come again soon enough for Kansas City. This meant so much more to me, more than I can even try to describe here. We all yelled and cheered, hoping the moment would never leave. I know whenever I am old, and my mind starts to fade, there is a good chance I will remember this moment, as it will be hard to ever replace the emotion I was feeling at that time. To give you an idea of just how jubilant everyone was, as we piled out of the stadium, complete strangers started high-fiving everyone who walked by. There was no way I was not joining in, as I became part of the insanity. I would eventually walk out of there, and the rain would come. I was drenched and couldn’t care less. The Royals were going to the ALCS, and I got to be there to be a part of one of the greatest moments in Royals history.

Eric Hosmer

I’ve had a couple of days to reflect, and to be honest I can’t get the grin off of my face. I have felt over the years that I have been a very fortunate man to have gotten to experience some great baseball moments. Without a doubt in my mind, this was the best baseball experience of my life. It’s hard to really describe to people, especially those that aren’t Royals fans. This let out a lot of venom, a lot of pent up anger that I have held against this franchise for past mistakes. All I feel right now is love, to a team that I have loved since I started collected baseball cards and would try to get all the Royals player’s as soon as possible. The only thing that could have made this experience better would have been if my son, my grandma, my dad or girlfriend had been there(or all). In some ways though, it might have been good to let me have this all to myself. I have loved baseball for so long that I don’t remember not loving it; it has given me so much happiness over the years and I hope much more in the future. For one night 29 years of anger, sadness, stupidity, carelessness, and bad mojo just got swept away. Thank you, Kansas City. Damn that was awesome!

 

Two Days of Baseball Heaven

(Writer’s Note: I originally wrote this a couple of years ago for a weekly feature I do during the baseball season for 14 KVOE Emporia.  I stumbled across it today(ie. I cleaned my desk) and wanted to share it with everyone)

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Last week I had the privilege to be a part of the massive media that took over Kauffman Stadium for the 83rd annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby. To say it was a once in a lifetime event is an understatement. When I decided to write about my experience, I wasn’t for sure at first what I should talk about. Then it hit me; why talk about all the stuff that you are used to hearing about the festivities when I could talk about the odd stuff that occurred during my time there? So let’s go with that, the quirky moments that I will never forget from my time at baseball’s mid-summer classic.

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First, there is Cano-Gate. I have been at “The K” countless times over the years, to the point that I am insanely comfortable when I am there. But I have never heard the stadium that loud. It was deafening and I loved every minute of it! It really showed just how passionate Royals fans really are. There is a pretty good chance I will never experience something like that again.

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I also got to ride up in an elevator with Dayton Moore. Well, the two of us and about six of our closest friends, crammed in there like sardines. The amusing part to me was that Mr. Moore is about my height, which is saying he is very short. Neither one of us will get mistaken for giants, nor even being of average height.

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Speaking of odd places to run into people, I had a nice conversation with Rick Sutcliffe in the tunnel, as I was preparing to walk out onto the field. Sutcliffe was a player I watched a lot when I was a kid, as I watched endless hours of Chicago Cubs games on WGN. Real nice guy and I’m sure Scott Hayes was just a bit jealous of me!

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I also almost ran over Scott Boras. Yes, super agent Scott Boras! I could have seen if he would negotiate my next contract here at the radio station but I have a feeling I wouldn’t be able to afford him.

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There was Chris Berman complaining down in the tunnel Monday afternoon about something in the Boston/New York game from the night before.

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Maybe the weirdest thing that happened to me in Kansas City was the gang of baseball mascots about running me down. I was headed up to the press box via the stairs, and at about level 3 or 4, the mascots came scurrying out of their dressing space. I might have thrown them off, as Mr. Met about ran straight into the wall…or it could be the giant baseball he has as a head!

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But one of the oddest realities that sunk in for me was during the barrage of media on Monday, as the press conferences and player availability took place. I would look to my left and there was FOX Sport’s Ken Rosenthal, a man who’s columns I regularly read and someone who I have a ton of respect for. To my right, Rob Neyer, a writer and former Royals’ fan who is a major supporter of the Sabermetric community in baseball. Here were guys who I read on a regular basis and I am in the same place as them. Talk about feeling like I was in way over my head!

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All in all, it was two days of baseball heaven for someone like me. I’ve always said that baseball is my first love. Monday and Tuesday in Kansas City was me being around the thing I love the most. I wouldn’t trade my memories for anything in the world. It was even better than I ever imagined.

My Letter to Ken Davidoff

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It amazes me how the whole #BooCano thing is still not understood from the mainstream media. They think it is as cut and dry as us Royals fans booing Cano for not picking Billy Butler for the Home Run Derby last year. Nope, he was booed for saying he would pick Butler, then going back on his word. Let’s be honest, it’s not an admirable trait to sit there and say you are going to do one thing, then not. We teach our kids not to do that. Ken Davidoff wrote an article for the New York Post today about the Derby last night, referring to the booing from last year and calling us Royals fans ‘small market hayseeds’. Davidoff, like the rest of the east coast, still doesn’t get why we booed. Yet we are bad sports. I would link the Davidoff article, but to be honest, he doesn’t deserve your clicks. Avoid his crap writing, because to be honest, that whole article was a steaming pile. In response to his droppings, I sent Mr. Davidoff a letter. Below is the letter in full.

Dear Mr. Davidoff,

     As one of those ‘small market hayseeds’ from Kansas City, I’d like to thank you for continuing to prove that none of the mainstream media understand why Mr. Cano was actually booed. Sure, it WAS in part because Butler was not picked for the Derby. But the real answer that none of you ‘big market simpletons’ have figured out is that it wasn’t JUST because Butler wasn’t picked. About a month before the Derby, Cano said he would pick Butler for the Derby. Then, when the time came to select, he didn’t. He was booed because he went back on his word, not simply for not selecting Billy. If Cano had never said that, he might have gotten a few boos, but not at the volume he received at the K. He earned those boos for making a stupid comment, then going back on it. The next time one of your ilk decide to write an article that makes us look like we are unintelligent hicks, you might want to actually do some research instead of sounding like an uninformed ‘hayseed’. As someone who was part of the media at the All-Star game festivities last year, I would hope you would try to use some journalistic integrity the next time you write something. Maybe then I would want to actually read your material, rather than now, when I want nothing to do with your drivel. I will instead actually choose to read writers who do their research and don’t paint a picture that isn’t the truth. 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sean Thornton 

If I wanted to be a real jerk, I would have stuck a ‘suck it’ on the end. It would have been appropriate.

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