Spring Training on the Horizon

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With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Spring Training starting on Wednesday I felt like there is no better time than now to return to my blog after a few weeks away. This time of year is weird in that outside of a few minor signings and arbitration filings and signings, there just isn’t a whole lot going on. With that said there are a few key items I wanted to toss out there to get back in the groove. Call this a news and notes post or just ramblings of a bored baseball fan; either way here are a few topics of discussion to pass the time.

Shields ends up in San Diego

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One of the biggest questions over the last couple months is ‘just where is James Shields going to end up?’ . I pondered this question about a month ago and at that point basically had no clue what was going to happen. In fact with the way things were going it appeared at best he was going to end up with a 3 year deal in the $18 million a year vicinity, rather than the 5 year, $20 million a year he was shooting for. Color me shocked then when he got a a 4 year deal from the Padres in that $18-20 million range per year. Shields grew up near San Diego and is a perfect fit for their rotation of youngsters that needs a veteran to help guide them to the next level. Most of us Royals fans are familiar of how Shields helped the likes of Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy and I’m sure he will look to do the same for guys like Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner. It also seems fitting he ends up with a home ballpark that is sure to not only help some of his numbers but also hide some of the regression that I believe is on his doorsteps. Petco Park is a spacious park and, much like Kauffman Stadium, is not known for being a hitters park. Shields might have picked the best park for him at this stage in his career with the only possible downfall being his defense in the outfield(Kemp, Myers and Upton)will pale in comparison to the Royals outfield he has had behind him the last two years. With all the talk the last few weeks focused on how his agent might have hurt what he would get on the market, at the end of the day going to San Diego is probably the best place for him, both as a family man and as a baseball player. We will miss him in Kansas City but I’m glad the Royals don’t have him locked in for the next four years. He served his purpose and now he can serve that same purpose for the Padres.

Game 7 Question Answered…Maybe?

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The one question Royals fans have wondered all winter about has been whether or not 3rd Base coach Mike Jirschele should have sent Alex Gordon home on his extra base hit in the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series. Some people believed the team should have gone for it, especially with Salvador Perez up next and his propensity to swing at anything and everything(and the fact he had been hit by a pitch earlier and was hobbling most of the game). Some others(myself included) felt there was no way Gordon would have made it and Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford(an excellent defender) would have nailed him at home plate if he would have gone. Well, the Kansas City Star decided to test the theory out, using the Rockhurst University baseball team(a Division II school) to test out whether or not it was plausible:

Now what happened is not a 100% accurate portrayal of what would have happened, but it does appear that if they would have sent Gordon he would have been easily out. The team ran the play 6 different times with one of their fastest runners and he was nailed at home plate 5 out of the 6 times. I tend to agree with Rany Jazayerli on this one:

I get why everyone pondered this question and the possibilities of if Gordon had scored and tied the game up. But the thought of him being thrown out at home and sitting on that all winter sounded like a personal living hell for me. I would have rather taken the chance with Perez possibly wrapping the ball around the foul line at third(like in the Wild Card Game) then sit and wonder all winter why they didn’t just hold Gordon at third. People will still ask ‘what if?’ but it might now be time to just let it be, folks.

The Royals Have the Best Billboards

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If there was one thing the Kansas City Royals dominant at(besides bullpen arms and outfield defense) it would be their wonderful billboards. Above is this year’s, Jarrod Dyson taking off and burning the path behind him. Fantastic! It didn’t seem possible they could top last year’s,  which looked like this:

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…and this one as well:

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So the creative minds that put these together continue to excel with the Dyson billboard this year. Which apparently also lights up at night and makes people actually think it is on fire:

The bar is now set pretty high after two straight years of creative, out of the box thinking for their billboards. Makes me wonder what is in store for 2016.

Your Promotional Schedule is My Wet Dream

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Back in 2013 I was less than enamored with the Royals promotional schedule for that season. In fact so much so that I wrote my own ideas about what I felt they should do to improve their giveaways. One of my big beefs in 2013 was that they were doing condiment bobbleheads rather than the actual players on the field. You see, I love bobbleheads and love collecting them each season. Last year they took a step in the right direction by giving away Alex Gordon, James Shields and Salvador Perez bobbleheads(all of which sit in my house). What they are doing for this year not only tops 2014 but might be even better than any idea I could have come up with. Here is a look at the Royals bobblehead giveaways for 2015:

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Good God almighty I need all of those! The fact that the team went with key moments from the playoffs was a genius idea and made me wish I had thought of it first. You have Perez celebrating after his walk-off hit in the wild card game. You have Lorenzo Cain sprawling out and making an electric catch in the outfield. You have Yordano Ventura tossing a gem during Game 6 of the World Series…and most importantly you have Mike Moustakas making a diving catch on top of the third base dugout suite in the ALCS against Baltimore. These bobbleheads are so great that it almost puts a tear in my eye. I also fear I won’t be able to go to all of these games and will have to purchase them on ebay, which will probably cost me an arm and a leg. Good thing I only really need one of each!

And the Projections are In… 

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One of the interesting items of interest before the season starts are projections of where everyone believes the Royals will end up this season. PECOTA projections have the Royals at 72-90, which would net them 4th place, still ahead of the Twins. David Schoenfield of espn.com has the Royals at 80-82, which would net them 3rd place in the American League Central. Finally, Bovada Official in Las Vegas has the Royals at 80.5 wins for 2015, in case you are the betting type. The consensus is that the Royals will slide a bit from their 89 wins in 2014, which I can see why. The Royals key 3 free agents they lost (James Shields, Billy Butler and Nori Aoki) have been replaced on the roster by Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios. It’s not hard to see how these three are a step down from the players they are replacing. You could also factor in on whether or not you believe Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie will be solid contributors to the rotation and whether or not their young lineup stalwarts(Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez, etc.) are able to improve on their 2014 numbers. I personally have my own thoughts of how I think this season will go(which I will reveal at a later date), but it’s safe to say there is no reason to get upset about any of these predictions. These are just predictions, guesses and estimates on a season that hasn’t even started. Some guesses are better than others, but there is no real clue as to how the season will go. A team could get hit with injuries and cause a major hole in their lineup. A player could come out of nowhere to put up career high numbers and elevate the team. Yes, a players career projection normally doesn’t adjust very much season by season, but it could happen. That’s the beauty of baseball; there is no definite until the games are played. So any Royals fans that see these “guesses” and gets bent out of shape, just remember; the season hasn’t started so nothing is etched in stone. No need to get upset about these projections…yet.

Division Series - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Kansas City Royals - Game Three

So there you go. Just a few notes of interest over the last few weeks. Here before too long we’ll be able to discuss actual games and roster moves that will affect the Royals going into this 2015 season. Just the fact that pitchers and catchers are reporting tomorrow brings a smile to my face and puts a little hop into my walk. So get ready; the defending American League Champions are headed back soon. The 2015 season is just on the horizon!

 

California Cat Fight-The Dodgers/Padres Brawl

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This past Thursday, the Dodgers and Padres became involved in one of the bigger baseball brawl’s in quite some time. There has been a lot said about what instigated this fight, and the fallout from it. There is even more intrigue for us Kansas City Royals fan, as former fan favorite and current Benedict Arnold impersonator, Zack Greinke, was the center of attention in this brouhaha. So what fueled this struggle on the coast? Read on.

Marty Foster, Matt Kemp

In the previous inning, the Padres threw a pitch high and tight in to Matt Kemp, a pitch that was dangerously close to Kemp’s head. There is no way of really knowing if that was done on purpose or not, but I tend to think that was just a pitch that got away. No harm, no foul, right? I think so. I don’t think the Dodgers, or Greinke were looking for payback. I don’t think the Padres think that either. Except for maybe Carlos Quentin. This leads us to the bottom of the inning.

 

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres

If you actually watch the at bat Carlos Quentin has against Zack Greinke, you can actually figure out what Greinke was trying to do. He starts by working him down, then Zack starts working on the outside of the plate. With a full count now on Quentin, and mind you with runners on base, Greinke then throws his 3-2 offering to Quentin and hits him in the shoulder. It was obvious Greinke, after throwing him away most of the at bat, was trying to then throw inside to Quentin, hoping to catch him off guard. But the pitch got away from Zack, and hit Carlos. But Quentin is notorious for leaning over the plate and crowding it to a point to where it is hard NOT to hit him. This can’t be mentioned enough, but plays into this scuffle and the history between these two.  Quentin led the NL in HBP(hit by pitch) last year. He led the AL the year before. He averages 26 HBP per year, and has the all-time minor league record for HBPs in a season with 43. Even Craig Biggio and Don Baylor think that Quentin gets hit a lot!! This is probably where we should also mention that Greinke has hit Quentin twice before, and Carlos had mentioned to his teammates that the next time Zack hit him he was going to go after him. Nevermind that Quentin is the only person to blame for getting hit. I would love to see a player like Quentin try his little tricks against someone like Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale. I don’t think he would like how those plate appearances would go. So Quentin gets plunked and we are off to the races.

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Quentin charges the mound, a few words are spoken and Greinke throws his glove down. There has been some debate as to what Greinke should have done here. Obviously, he couldn’t just run away. Could you imagine him trying to live THAT down? Maybe he should have been a bullfighter and moved at the last second to ole Quentin. There was also the option of jumping on Quentin’s back and riding him around the infield. Go ahead, get that visual in your head. Instead, Zack lowered his body and shoulder-blocked Quentin. What ensued was this.

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and this…

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and then it turned into this…

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More than anything, this fight was over Carlos Quentin getting hit by Zack Greinke for the third time in his career. This is what happens when you lean over the plate. You get hit. This wasn’t revenge, this wasn’t retaliation. I mean, if it was payback for the Kemp at bat, why would Zack do it on a 3-2 count? He wouldn’t. With runners on base? Nope, no way, no how. It was too close of a game to even chance it. Not even Zack Greinke, a flake if there ever was one, would do that. This obviously angered Matt Kemp quite a bit…

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and it didn’t exactly make Jerry Hairston happy either…

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In fact, this brawl continued after the game. It seems Matt Kemp had some choice words for Carlos Quentin in the parking lot after the game…

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I’m pretty sure Kemp didn’t wish Quentin a good night’s sleep and good health:

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So what did all of this solve? Well, Greinke broke his left collarbone and will be out close to two months. Quentin received an 8-game suspension for his actions while Jerry Hairston was given a 1-game suspension. Both suspensions are being appealed. The Dodgers are now without one of their top pitchers for awhile, and Quentin has soured his name, as many of his Padres teammates have said they don’t agree with his actions. This is probably where I should mention that the Dodgers and Padres play in the same division, so they play each other about 18 games each season. Oh, and if you thought the flames would cool by the next time these two teams play each other–the Padres travel to Los Angeles to kickoff a three game series on Monday. So there is that as well. Two lessons have been learned from this brawl. One, if you crowd the plate you are very likely going to get hit and two, when a batter is charging the mound, do NOT lower your shoulder and ram it into a guy who outweighs you by forty pounds. I have a feeling we might be hearing more about these two teams the first part of next week. Stay tuned…

 

Buying High, Selling Low: The Boston/LA Story

This past weekend, a trade of Herschel Walker proportions took place in major league baseball. In one fell swoop, the Boston Red Sox unloaded their excess baggage, and the Los Angeles Dodgers picked it up at the baggage claim, showing baseball that they are serious about buying a World Series…I mean, trying to make the playoffs. So I thought I would take a look at this monumental trade and just what it means for the parties involved.

“I hated Boston too, Adrian…”

Adrian Gonzalez is the key to this trade for the Dodgers. They have coveted him for quite awhile, and finally they were able to bring him back to the California sun and drop him into the middle of their batting order. The pluses of having Gonzalez are many and widespread. For one, he is a California boy, born and raised. Bringing him back to Cali can only be a positive, as he loved his time in San Diego and the attitude there fits him better than the one in Boston. In Boston, the media is constantly scrutinizing everything that is done and everyone lives and die by what the Red Sox are doing. California is more laid back, with the joke always being that Dodgers fans wait until the third inning before they show up. Gonzalez’s attitude is more LA than Boston, so just in this regard it should be a plus. Add in stellar defense, and a potent bat in the middle of the order, and you have a guy who can help a team like the Dodgers go the distance. There really only seems two negatives to getting Gonzalez. One, a few scouts have mentioned that Gonzo’s bat speed seems to be slipping. Now, he is still a guy I would want in the middle of the batting order. But normally if bat speed starts to slip, it will never come back. The other negative is the contract he has. It is massive, and still has 5 years left on it. If he continues to slip offensively, those last few years of the contract could feel like an albatross around their neck. All in all, if Gonzalez is what they wanted, they could have done a hell of a lot worse.

“Beer and Chicken on me if we win.”

Josh Beckett might just seem like an addition to the trade, a contract to heave off for Boston. But in reality, it might be a shroud move by LA. Beckett was never going to get the Boston faithful back in his good graces, as he is now perceived by them as a guy who just wants to pitch every fifth day and not care about the team the rest of the time. Chicken, beer, and video games will do that to a guy. But I also feel Beckett is the type who could be angry about the move, and proceed to pitch like a guy with a chip on his shoulder. Add in his postseason experience, and this could be a coup for LA if they make the playoffs. Beckett still has it in him to be a pitcher who can carry a team on his back in the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened.

“He found out what Pesky’s Pole really means…”

When it comes to players who this trade benefits the most, Carl Crawford has my pick for ‘best in trade'( by the way, I see him as a labradoodle). Crawford, when healthy, is a game changer, as his speed disrupts pitchers and defenses alike. He also is a solid bat in the lineup, despite what his time in Boston has shown. If ever there was a guy who needed a change of scenario, it would be Crawford. He felt uncomfortable from the time he entered Yawkey Way, and add in a struggling bat and injuries, and you have a recipe for disaster. Even if he would have stayed, Crawford would have had a hard time showing the Boston fans what he can really do. Crawford just had the Tommy John surgery, so he won’t be back till early next season. But once he does come back, he will be part of a loaded outfield in LA. How does this sound: Left Field, Crawford. Center Field, Matt Kemp. Right Field, Andre Ethier. If healthy, very few balls would drop in that outfield, and offensively they could be a juggernaut. Crawford gets a new lease on life with this trade, and I can only imagine he will like the view at Chavez Ravine.

“I would take that same picture if I was a fan…Punto is a fan, right?”

Nick Punto. Well, I like him as a backup infielder. But lets be honest, he’s just along for the ride. He will always be referred to as ‘the other guy in that big trade’. I guess that is better than nothing. He is a good replacement for Jerry Hairston while he is out. But Punto is what Punto is; an afterthought. Have fun in Los Angeles, Nick!

“James Loney, making it look easy.”

Now, time to look at the Boston side of this trade. James Loney has been with the Dodgers the last seven years as their First Baseman. Loney is a good, solid hitter with a great glove, but has never shown the power that most teams want from their first basemen. He is a free agent at the end of the year, so there is a good chance his time in Boston will be short. Still, not a horrible job by Boston on replacing Gonzalez, at least for the rest of the year.

The major part of the trade for Boston was to give them flexibility. Having Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford on their payroll, (along with Ortiz, etc.) would have made it hard for the Red Sox to rebuild this upcoming offseason, which they drastically need to do. Boston was able to unload $260 Million in contracts, while giving Los Angeles about $12 Million. Not only does this give the Red Sox room to operate this offseason, it also gets rid of three players that the BoSox fans were tired of. It only made sense to restructure and dump what they could, and Boston did that, along with picking up some prospects as well.

The other four players in the trade are either major league ready or very close. Rubby De La Rosa is the gem of the trade, but won’t be ‘officially’ announce until after the season. He is coming back from Tommy John surgery, but was just up in the bigs for the Dodgers and has electric stuff. Jerry Sands is the other ‘player to be named later’ in the deal, and once he is officially acquired he’ll add some depth to their outfield corps and could even compete for a starting job in spring training next year. Ivan DeJesus, Jr. is an infielder that probably won’t start in Boston, but it does give them more depth and has been up and down between AAA and the majors part of the season. Allen Webster is the last player involved and had a less than stellar start the other day for Boston’s AA team, but he still could be in the pitching discussion for next year in Boston. Overall, not a bad haul of players for Boston in this trade.

This trade is a once in a lifetime trade, and one of the likes we won’t see for a very long time. At the end of the day, this trade did what both teams wanted it to do. For the Dodgers, they get veteran players to help their push for a World Series and to help them win now and for years to come. Boston, meanwhile, needed payroll flexibility and to rid them of players that didn’t fit into the Beantown atmosphere. Payroll was shed and younger, cheaper talent was added. This was a win-win trade for these two teams, and a trade that will be scrutinized for years to come. Time will tell just who gained the most from this monster of a deal. Until then, fire up your gaming system and see if you can do what the Dodgers and Red Sox did; make a trade that my ten year old tries to make with his video games.

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