California Dreamin’

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I guess at some point we all knew this would happen. It was inevitable that the rocky relationship between Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia and former Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto would end up in a standoff. Almost from day one, Scioscia and Dipoto were at odds. The war was won by Scioscia, but there were some casualties and more than anything it doesn’t bode well for the Angels organization as a whole.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia and team general manager Jerry Dipoto stand with Mike Trout as he recieves the 2012 Rookie of the Year honor at Angel Stadium Saturday night. Trout was the second Angel to get the honor since Tim Salmon in 1993. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: hsmaya.0413 - 4/13/13 - ROD VEAL, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - The Angels take on the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium Saturday night.
ROD VEAL, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Now, this latest scuffle between the manager and the general manager wasn’t their first. Go back to 2013 and you see the initial rift between these two, which was smoothed over by Angels owner Arte Moreno. In fact most of the issues these two had started when Dipoto fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, a longtime friend and former teammate of Scioscia’s. Hatcher’s firing did not go over well with Scioscia, despite the positive words Dipoto used to discuss Hatcher:

“Mickey is a terrific guy, well-liked, very energetic and hard-working. This is about providing a different voice for our offensive players,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “It’s a results-oriented business we’re in and we need to find a way to string together something better than what we are right now. It’s a decision to find a different voice.”

It should be no surprise that this “first shot” would be just the beginning of a power struggle that has split this organization. Things looked good throughout most of 2014, as the Angels would roll to the best record in baseball before being swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. So far in 2015 the Angels have been hovering a bit above .500 while looking up to the Houston Astros while Albert Pujols has looked like the Albert of old, the one the Angels thought they were getting when they signed him. But considering they had the best record in the American League last year, there is a feeling this squad should be doing better than they are. That thinking is what started this whole mess.

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This most recent spat began a few weeks ago. The full story is up here but I will pass along the bullet points. A few weeks ago, Dipoto met with Scioscia and his coaching staff about relaying scouting information to the players. Dipoto has been trying to push for the coaches to use more advanced metrics when game planning and Scioscia and his staff are more old school, preferring to plan the way they always have. Apparently after this most recent meeting, one of the coaches responded angrily and Pujols even offered a “pointed rebuttal”. Dipoto would then go to owner Arte Moreno and things did not go Dipoto’s way. From the LA Times:

“Instead of Moreno realizing the tenuousness of the situation and mediating a truce, the owner simply backed Scioscia as he’s always done in making him arguably the most powerful single uniformed figure in all of baseball.”  

It’s easy to see why Dipoto left. It’s easy to see the power that Mike Scioscia holds.

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I am going to go on record here; I am and have been for a long time a big Scioscia fan. I have always supported his managerial skills(except for some of the bunting) and really feel he is National League guy managing in the American League. He has also long been a players manager, a guy who most of the players enjoy and feel he has their back. But there has been a feeling the last few years that Scioscia has been less player-friendly and the age gap seems to be widening by the day. Jeff Passan of Yahoo.com took a look at that this past week and how Mike has gone from a guy heralded in the clubhouse to one who rules with an iron fist. It’s been very well known for years that Scioscia has more control than any GM that is hired by the Angels and that has caused a number of problems over the years. Just look at Dipoto’s interim replacement: Bill Stoneman, a man who was in the Angels GM seat during their glory years in the early 2000’s. Stoneman is a man who worked with Scioscia for years, so to say he will probably let Mike do whatever he wants is probably a fairly true statement. The problem is that Stoneman has been out of the loop for a very long time and in a lot ways the game has drastically changed during his time away. The Angels will have a hard time finding a young executive to slide into the GM slot as long as Scioscia is around, and since his contract is a big part of the issue(he has 3 years and $18 million left on the initial 10 year deal) it’s hard to see things changing anytime soon. As much as Scioscia is a big part of the problem(and I fully acknowledge he is, as much as it pains me), the bigger issue in Anaheim is owner Arte Moreno.

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Moreno is the one who has given Scioscia this power. He is an owner in the same vein of a Peter Angelos or George Steinbrenner; an owner who pokes his wants ahead of the direction the GM feels the team should go. Moreno is the one who pushed for the Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings .From the New York Post:

“In addition, Moreno is seen as the driving force — without his GM’s blessing — in signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract and Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal. The Hamilton decision, in particular, blew up on the Angels. Hamilton had a substance abuse relapse, and Moreno essentially ran Hamilton out of town by eating most of his contract to trade him within the division to Texas.”   

There are a number of faults in doing this. For one, he has superseded his GM, which has been the big part of this power struggle. It also puts Scioscia in a bad situation. Scioscia is a guy who likes to use speed on his team, like stealing bases and utilizing the hit and run. The last few years the team has added lumbering sluggers like Pujols and Hamilton, which make it a lot harder to use that speed. In some ways, the Angels have gone from an exciting offensive team to one that only moves station to station. To me, the Angels play in a big ballpark and need to use that to their advantage. Instead, with Moreno’s need for power(and obviously chicks aren’t the only one’s who dig the long ball), it has taken two of the main weapons out of the Angels arsenal–speed and Scioscia’s National League brand of baseball. At the end of the day you always need an owner who supports your team and is willing to go the extra mile to help your team win. But that support means very little when you aren’t allowing your manager to have the best team on the field to help them achieve victory.

during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 5, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.

So how should the Angels handle this dilemma? What would seem like an easy answer is to decrease Scioscia’s power and allow whomever is in the GM seat to be able to do his job accordingly. But if Moreno didn’t allow that to happen with Dipoto I doubt he would let anyone else. The best thing would be for someone interviewing for the Angels GM job to flat out tell Moreno they won’t take the job unless they are truly in charge. The likelihood of that happening? Nil to none. There is always the chance that Scioscia could leave after this season, as he does have an out clause in his contract. Once again, I just can’t see that happening. In some ways the best thing that could happen is to officially announce Mike Scioscia as the Angels GM, since in a lot of ways he already holds that position, just not in name. Otherwise, it looks like the Angels will continue to be relevant but fall just short of their true goal, a World Series title. A lot of the pieces on the field are already there; unfortunately management is blocking something greater.

Questions With Getzie: The Front Office Edition

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       “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in…”

It’s hard as a writer to lose one’s muse. The muse becomes a never-ending fountain of productivity and topics. Sometimes you lose that muse and you never get it back, a whisper in the wind. Sometimes the muse returns and becomes part of the front office of your favorite baseball team. The last time we checked in with one Christopher Getz he was getting cut by the Toronto Blue Jays and was ready to visit that special place in the baseball sky(retirement, not heaven). Well, since then Getz became a part of the Kansas City Royals front office, as he is now an assistant to Royals GM Dayton Moore. With that said (and the Royals back in first place) I thought it would be a great time to let the Phoenix rise again and let Christopher answer some of your questions (or how I think he would answer them). So without further ado, here is the glorious return of ‘Questions With Getzie’!

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Getzie! Great to have you back!-Ryan, Overland Park, KS

Thanks! Golly, it is fantastic to be back. I haven’t had a chance to interact with the fans much since my return but it is great to hear from you guys and that you all remember me!

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Chris, give us an idea on what your job entails, especially the player development portion of it. Thanks.-Brandon, Odessa, MO

Shucks, that is a great question! The player development part of my job is fun, as I go around within the Kansas City minor league system and get to work with all the young prospects the Royals have. We work a lot on fundamentals, like fielding ground balls:

Also, lots of bunting. We work on LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTS of bunting.

As to the assistant to the GM part of my job, I get a lot of coffee. I think it wouldn’t hurt if Dayton cut back a bit.

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Chris, any advice on dealing with bloggers who like to downplay your performance on the field?-Omar,  Puerto La Cruz, Anzoategui, Venezuela. 

Gosh, that’s a tough one. The media can be difficult at times but you have to learn how to deal with the lows and highs and try to even them out. I had a blogger write about me a lot. He at least amused me. In the end, there are lots of ways to deal with pressure:

Also, it would help if your OPS+ was better than the 43 you currently are sitting at.

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Chris, why won’t you return my calls?? Why???? I miss you!!!!-Lee, Kansas City, MO

Seriously, get a grip Lee. You have to move on without me. I am glad you tore that shrine of me down in your house. It always made me uncomfortable.

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What’s it like hanging out with George Brett while watching a game?-Joel, Eudora, KS

Gee, it’s great! I could do without a lot of the swearing, especially since that gets worse as the game goes on. Also, I’ve heard his story about crapping his pants in Las Vegas like 23 times now. I think I get the point.

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Chris, just wanted to let you know I’m glad you got to return to Kansas City. I am really enjoying myself in Anaheim. I’ve never seen so much playing time! Plus that Scioscia guy is a great manager. All my best!-Johnny, Metairie, LA

Glad to see things are you going well for you, you whippersnapper! Sciosc is a great guy and it’s good you are getting to work with him. I mean, he’s no Yosty, but he’s got some great qualities. Keep up the great work…oh, and I’ve also voted for you 35 times in the All-Star balloting. Just don’t tell Omar!

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Getzie, who are some of your mentors throughout all your years in baseball?-Darin, Lone Jack, MO

Gosh, I have so many! Here are some of them:

Those guys were all great, even my dad. But none have really been the wind beneath my wings like Dayton and Neddy. Those two guys are my heroes and are the reason I am here. No one else has ever believed in me like they have. They even thought I was ‘mistake free’! Also, Frenchy was a great mentor. I miss that guy.

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Chris, at your best were you better than Omar Infante is this year for the Royals?-Craig, Gardner, KS

Yes.

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Getzie, what are some of your greatest moments during your time in baseball?-Pete, Independence, MO

I actually have talked about this before:

Also, that one home run I hit in Atlanta. The stars were aligned that night.

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Chris, Mark Teahen said he leased his apartment to you when you were first traded to Kansas City. He made it sound like you were going to make a mess. Is that how it went down?-Jeffrey, Columbus, MO

Okay, first here is what Mark said:

Here is the truth. Mark’s apartment was a mess. There was plastic on the furniture because Mark didn’t use silverware…or plates…or cups. It was a pigsty when I got there. By the time I left it was spotless. He also charged me an arm and a leg for rent. He should have been paying me for making that place look like an immaculate palace. Silly Teahen.

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Christopher, I can’t believe I am about to say this, but I almost miss you. Omar is awful. You might just be better than he is at this point. I can’t believe I just said that. I just threw up in my mouth a bit.-Sean, Emporia, KS

I get it. It shouldn’t be that way. Carlos Febles, Tony Abreu, Luis Alicea, Esteban German, Ruben Gotay, Tony Graffanino, Jed Hansen, Tug Hulett, Steve Jeltz, Chico Lind and the ghost of Jerry Adair are all better than Omar is right now. Frank White would roll over in his grave right now if he wasn’t alive. Actually, Frank at 64 could hit better than Omar right now. At the very least Christian Colon deserves the bulk of the playing time right now at second. We at least agree on this.

Royals Spring Training workout

Golly gee, it was so great to catch up with all of you. We should do this again sometime soon. Also, Dayton told me to tell you guys to go to royals.com and #voteroyals. If you write in my name for the All-Star game balloting that would be swell. Have a great day everyone and I’ll catch you in the funny pages!

 

 

And the Winner is…

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

American League MVP: Alex Gordon, Kansas City

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

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

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

American League Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle  

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

American League Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu, Chicago   

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox

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

National League Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati

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

American League Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, Oakland 

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

National League Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh 

MLB: NL Wild Card-Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates

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

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

Royals Questions That Need to be Answered

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It sure feels like forever since the Kansas City Royals had their long winning streak and were one of the hottest teams in baseball. Remember when there was all that talk about the Royals making a push for the playoffs? Remember the talk about whether we should order our tickets now or wait until tomorrow? Remember when we started planning the parade? It only takes a few weeks to kill all those hopes, as the Royals seem to be on the downside of the roller coaster we call the 2013 season. Sure, we kind of figured the Royals would lose the series to Detroit a little over a week ago. But none of us saw Kansas City getting swept by Chicago, and just how bad the Royals would look against the Pale Hoes. The offense apparently is on vacation again, and it seems at this point that as it goes, so goes the Royals as a team. So, with just a bit over a month left in the season, there are a few questions to pose.

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1)      Should Dayton Moore and Ned Yost be fired?

The easy answer to this is yes. Dayton has had seven years to put together a winning team in Kansas City, and at this point not even .500 is guaranteed this season. Moore bargained the future to reach the playoffs sometime in the next few years, and with Shields gone after next year, the clock is ticking. That being said, I think Moore will be back, and could possibly gain an extension. I don’t feel like he deserves it, but I’m not the one running the team.

Now, when it comes to Yost it gets even more interesting. With the way the last few weeks have gone, Neddy sounds more and more like a beaten man and someone who isn’t for sure he wants to continue managing. Yost’s contract runs out at the end of the year, and with that in mind I wonder if he won’t get fired. Instead, I can see him going back to his front office job and let the Royals go after their next manager. That way, he doesn’t get fired, he can stay in the organization and not have to deal with the headaches of managing that obviously seem to bother him. If this is the case, I imagine guys like Vance Wilson and Pedro Grifol will be heralded as his replacement, or they could go after a proven manager, such as a Charlie Manuel or a Mike Scioscia(if he is available; yes, he is my dream manager!)Either way, I don’t picture Neddaniel being around next year.

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2) What do the Royals need to go after in the off season?

In a very un-ironic way, they need the same things they needed last off season; starting pitching, a second baseman and a right fielder. The difference between this year and last year is that Dayton didn’t see a need for two of those things, and how did that turn out? More than likely they will have to find someone to replace Ervin Santana’s rotation spot, as I have to believe someone will offer him more money and years. It would actually be wise to maybe stock up on two arms, which can be done even if financially they try to be frugal. Chris Getz has never been the answer at second, which has been extra evident this year and as much as I like watching David Lough play, I’m not 100% sure he is the answer in right field. Same goes for Justin Maxwell. Since the Royals need some power in the lineup, right field would be a good spot to look for some pop. I know the Royals only have so much money to use, but with a number of players coming off the books (Chen, Francoeur, etc.) and the money they will get from the new MLB TV deal, they should be able to fill these holes and do it within budget.

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3) Has the 2013 season been a success?

This is totally open to interpretation and what your expectations were this season. Some Royals fans will be happy with .500. Some like myself see it more as failure on Moore’s part, as the promise was to contend for the playoffs. The whole point of the Shields trade was to get the team over the hump. Shields will be a free agent after next year, which seems to be how long the window is open. So two years of James Shields was worth more than six controlled years of Wil Myers, the slugging bat the Royals really need? Yes, I know the Royals needed starting pitching, but it could have been done without mortgaging the future. Hey, if you are happy with .500 and MAYBE contending next year, while then having to start all over, then you are easier to please than me. For me, we have been told for years that we needed to trust the process, that once the prospects were up that the Royals would start winning. Yet here we sit, wondering if the team can even hold onto their .500 record with a little over a month to go. I know we have seen losing baseball for a long, LONG time in Kansas City, but that doesn’t mean our expectations should be lowered. We deserve better, and after seven years, it appears Dayton Moore might not be the General Manager to make that happen. This season has been a roller coaster season for the Royals, and at times you can see that glimmer of hope, the team that can contend for a playoff spot some day. But we equally see the team that struggles to put it together offensively and relies on their pitching and defense too much. What we deserve is someone who can see this vision and put the proper pieces in place for success. Sorry Dayton, I don’t think that man is you. Too bad for us, as I believe he will be back. Take that however you want, Royals fans…

Missed Calls & The Battle for Instant Replay

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So you thought you had a rough week? Try being a Major League Baseball umpire. This week shone a giant light on the element of human error in the umpires and put more emphasis on instant replay. Let’s start with what went on in Cleveland Wednesday night.

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Adam Rosales of Oakland stepped to the plate against Cleveland’s Chris Perez with Cleveland leading 4-3. Rosales hit a blast to left center field and it looked like it hit off the railing in the seats and bounced back onto the field. The umpires called it a double, claiming it hit the wall. Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin came out to dispute the call, and the umpires reconvened to look at instant replay. After viewing the video(which was blatantly a home run)the umpires came back and the double held up. Melvin was infuriated and rightfully so, as the umpires have more than one angle they can look at the play from and have more than one feed for it as well, with both the Oakland and Cleveland broadcasts available. Somehow, the umpires still felt the ball hit below the top of the wall. Melvin was eventually ejected from the game and Oakland would lose by that 4-3 score.

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Major League Baseball declared the next day that it was an improper call made by Crew Chief Angel Hernandez, but the call would stand. But the story doesn’t end there. How can you screw up instant replay, especially when it seemed so obvious what the call should have been? Peter Gammons seems to think this was done on purpose as an objection to instant replay. Make sure you click and read that column. WOW! Now, Gammons doesn’t ever just throw out accusations like that, as it just isn’t his style. So for him to go out in a public forum and say that must mean there is a lot of validity behind that statement. So some of the umpires don’t want instant replay? I’m not shocked, but in the end we will get more instant replay. But Hernandez’s gaffe wouldn’t be the only one by an umpire this week.

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During Thursday’s Angels/Astros match up, Houston manager Bo Porter decided to make a pitching change in the 7th inning. He brought in reliever Wesley Wright, while Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to use a pinch hitter to combat Wright coming in. Porter then called for another reliever to counteract Scioscia’s move, bringing in Hector Ambriz. The problem is by major league baseball rules that is a no-no.   Rule 3.05b says: “If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.” To make a tad bit simpler, if you bring a pitcher into the game, he has to pitch to at least one batter before you can take him out and put in a new pitcher. This was, of course, Scioscia’s argument and led to a long heated debate between himself and the umpires. There is normally a four man umpiring crew, yet all four men in blue believed Porter could bring in another pitcher without Wright pitching to a batter. Think about that for a bit. The four guys who are in the game to uphold the rules didn’t know what the actual longstanding rule was! Scioscia would then protest the game, as it continued and eventually the Angels would win in spite of this entire mess.

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Major League Baseball reacted fast again, suspending Crew Chief Fieldin Culbreth for two games and fining Adrian Johnson, Brian O’Nora and Bill Welke. This is almost uncharted territory, as very rarely do umpires get suspended, especially for just a missed call. Granted, this was no normal missed call. But it does show that Major League Baseball is paying attention and realizes that umpires should be punished for their mistakes, just like players and coaches are. But the hot button topic that these two miscues seemed to have elicited is instant replay.

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Instant replay has been maybe the most discussed topic in baseball circles for years now, yet we still see very little actually used during games. The most widely discussed argument is that the human element has been used for years and the percentage of mistakes an umpire actually make are few and far between. There is truth in that statement, but it ignores the main issue that keeps the topic from continually popping up: the actual mistakes. It seems odd that in 2013, with the technology that is available nowadays, that baseball still hasn’t adopted instant replay. When people at home can EASILY tell when a call is blown, it makes no sense to not use the technology out there and make sure the umpires get the call right. It’s as simple as putting a 5th umpire up in the press box and giving him a very short amount of time to look at the play and render a decision. Why it isn’t as easy as that is a completely different conversation.

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So why are we still waiting on Major League Baseball to adopt full blown instant replay? There are two factors. One, Allan H. Selig and the rest of the good ole boys that are the major league owners are very old-school and don’t want to change with the times. Look, I’m an open minded traditionalist when it comes to baseball, but just since Selig has been in office, baseball has added the wild card, started interleague play and added a bit of instant replay. So that reason shouldn’t fly. No, the real reason is money. It cost extra money for the equipment. It cost extra  money for a 5th umpire. The NFL spends about $4 million a year on instant replay, while baseball has ten times the amount of games football does, it would knock that cost well into eight figures. But the sad part is baseball can afford it. Look at the recent TV deals. Baseball is swimming in money, so they have no excuse not to pony up the cash and equipment and make instant replay happen. It makes the sport look bad when everyone else can see what they choose to ignore. Unless somehow they get some sick pleasure from their umpires screwing up calls on a nightly basis. If that is the case, we might be waiting awhile.

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