Sprucing Up the Museum

Credit: BaseballHall.org

On Sunday night, it was announced that the Today’s Game Era ballot had been voted on and they would be inducting Lee Smith and Harold Baines into the Baseball Hall of Fame this upcoming summer in Cooperstown, New York.

The 16-member committee for this ballot consisted of Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, John Schuerholz, Ozzie Smith and Joe Torre; major-league executives Al Avila, Paul Beeston, Andy MacPhail and Jerry Reinsdorf; and veteran media members/historians Steve Hirdt, Tim Kurkjian and Claire Smith. 

Smith getting inducted was no surprise, as he had reached as high as 50.6% on the BBWAA ballot and was a borderline candidate for years, mattering on where you stood on the induction of relievers into the hall. But Baines was another story.

Credit: MLB.com

Baines never received more than 6.1% of support on the BBWAA ballot and is probably the definition of a player with a good career that hung around long enough to compile some good numbers. Good, but not great. 

So how did Baines get in? Well, it probably helped that he had a former teammate (Alomar), a former manager (LaRussa) and a former owner (Reinsdorf) on his side. Also, Baines was always known as a good guy and a good teammate. For those within the game, that carries quite a bit of weight.

But for many of us, being a “great guy” doesn’t always qualify you for being a Hall of Famer. Cooperstown is the best of the best, and the numbers say that Baines isn’t one of the elite. But what if the hall honored those players who might not have been “the best of the best”, but were good for the game? What if there was a separate wing for those that were admired and loved outside of their accomplishments on the field? What if they included the true “characters” of the game? Maybe an award for the “nice guys” of the game?

Credit: Associated Press / Chris Cummins

This subject was actually broached to me last year by a friend and it was amusing because I had thought of the idea years ago. What initially sparked adding a separate wing for me was Buck O’Neil. Lets be honest: Kansas City loved Buck. He was not only a symbol of Kansas City baseball, for his ties to the Monarchs and his attendance at Royals games, but he was the benchmark of what is great about baseball in general.

Buck was friendly, cordial, and loved talking baseball with anyone  who wanted to. For him it wasn’t as much about giving back to the game as sharing something he loved with others. Who doesn’t remember Buck’s appearance in the Ken Burn’s documentary “Baseball”?:

In fact, despite not being inducted at Cooperstown, Buck did give a speech at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony back in 2006 to honor the pioneers in the Negro Leagues:

Buck O’Neil might not have been one of the greatest players in history, but he was the definition of what was great about the game. It was unfortunate that while O’Neil helped honor the greats involved with the Negro Leagues, he himself had been overlooked for induction despite all he did for baseball.

Buck would pass away in late 2006 and in 2008 the Baseball Hall of Fame would honor his legacy with the creation of the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. A statue was dedicated to the museum and every three years a new winner is announced. This is a great honor and one worthy of a man of O’Neil’s stature and character.

Now the Hall of Fame has done its due diligence when it comes to honoring those that are just as big a part of the game as the players. The Veterans Committe, which has lineage all the way back to 1939, would put together a subcommittee to consider candidates that not only involved players, but managers, umpires and executives as well. 

The hall has also handed out the Ford C. Frick award annually to honor a broadcaster for their contributions to the game. So there is no stone left unturned, starting in 1962 they would also honor a baseball writer annually, also known as the J.G. Taylor Spink award.   

But it would be nice if the hall could go a step further. The Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum and it would be fitting to include some of the more charitable and “class acts” that made the game better.

There would have to be a few guidelines to follow for this to happen. For one, the inductees for this achievement should be in a separate wing from the elite players who get inducted. There would have to be a definite difference between the two so fans are aware of this separate honor.

Credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame

Also, to show this is a different award it would probably be smart not to give them the same plaques as the greats of the game. Maybe instead of a plaque, present videos on each player and why they are worthy of this honor. Since this would be a different wing, it should have a different feel to it.

So who exactly should be honored for this award? The criteria would obviously be quite a bit different, as statistics wouldn’t matter as much as the footprint you leave on the game. In my vision of this honor, it would be about everything that is great for baseball. The eligible should be those that are great ambassadors, those that were genuine big-hearted and charitable that didn’t cause any issues and even the players who made the game more fun.

In my eyes, this honor would be about players like Andrew McCutchen, who has spent years giving back with his charitable work and when he was in Pittsburgh, giving back to the community. It would also be for someone like former Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney, who has put together baseball camps for kids and has always been one of the great guys in the game. 

Credit: Sports Illustrated

It would also include some of the players who made the game so much fun to watch. Take Bartolo Colon for example. Colon has played into his mid-40’s and has a child-like demeanor when he is out on the field that makes it easy to cheer for. The same could be said about former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych. “The Bird” had a short career with a number of highs and lows, but was one of the most entertaining players in baseball history.

These players make the game better and while they won’t go down as one of the “all-time greats” in baseball history, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be honored. Some of the greats weren’t good human beings, like Ty Cobb and former Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who both have been elected to baseball’s hallowed halls. Since this is a museum, you sometimes have to take the bad with the good, which is why it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to include more of the benevolent people involved within the game.

From every story or conversation that has been thrown out this week, Harold Baines appears to be one of the great guys that helped build a solid foundation for baseball. Maybe if a separate wing is put into the hall for guys like him, there won’t be a need to slide someone in where they might not fit. This way we could talk about why they deserve an honor instead of why they don’t.  

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A Bronx Beating: Royals Take 2 of 3 from Yankees

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As most of you know, the Royals and Yankees used to be a very heated rivalry. Back in the day, the Royals hated the Yankees and the Yankees hated the Royals. There is a variety of reasons to not like the Yankees(I’ll remember at some point to compile a list) but I am one of the old school Royals fans who remembers this feud and despite this rivalry being very one-sided the last couple decades, I still hold on to my dislike for the Bronx Bombers. So to start this weekend with these two teams clashing, my feelings are already heightened. Add in that both teams came into the series in first place in their division, well…lets just say it had some added fuel. Would that fuel start a fire? Or would it just stink up the joint? Let’s dive in.

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Series MVP: Lorenzo Cain

Before the season started I made the comment that I was most intrigued this year to see if Lorenzo Cain’s development would continue and 6 weeks into the season I have to believe that is a big ‘YES’! Cain’s impressive offensive output continued this weekend, as he would go 4 for 11, with a big 5 RBI game on Friday night and 3 runs scored this weekend:

Tack on a few more shoestring catches and a running grab near the wall and you have yourself a guy who continues to excel. It did appear throughout the weekend that anytime there was runners on base, Cain was in the middle of the action:

I made the comment earlier this spring that I didn’t know if Cain could hold up his .380 BAbip from last year, but so far he is sitting at .377, which is pretty darn close. I love the idea of having a number 3 hitter in the order who has speed, which is one more weapon to worry about if you are fielder and Cain hits the ball to you. We are still about 2 months away from the All-Star game in Cincy, but it would appear that Cain has quite the argument for being on manager Ned Yost’s squad.

 

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Edinson Volquez 

The fact that I had three options for this spot is good news and the performances of Chris Young and Joe Blanton will be mentioned in just a bit. The starling start of Edinson Volquez though was a masterpiece and one of his best outings so far this year. Chalk up another quality start for Volquez as he would go 7 innings on Sunday, giving up 3 hits, no runs and 1 hit batter while striking out 5. This lowered his ERA to 2.74 and was much better than his last two starts. Volquez had great stuff today, mixing up a solid 2-seam fastball with some great off-speed stuff. This kept the Yankees offense off-balance and kept them off the basepaths. It seems that when Volquez keeps the ball down like he did Sunday he is fine. When he gets the ball up in the zone is when he normally finds trouble. These would also seem to be some words of wisdom for Danny Duffy as well, as he has struggled with that same issue so far in 2015.

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The Moose is Loose

On Friday night, Mike Moustakas almost put himself into the Kansas City record books as he ended up just a home run shy of the Royals first batter to hit for the cycle since 1990. Who accomplished that feat? None other than old #5:

 

So history was on the line when Moustakas came up to the dish in the 7th inning, and we were all hoping for a ‘Moose Bomb’. Well, hoping, since most of the time the percentages say the chances of completing the cycle is not very good, let alone finishing one off with a home run. Moose would not get his dinger to finish the cycle, but he came about as close as a batter could without actually accomplishing the feat. Moustakas lofted a fly ball to left field, and the ball bounced off the left field wall, missing a cycle by a mere 4 feet. I initially thought there was no way he would finish the milestone, but as that ball traveled down the left field line I couldn’t help feeling like Moustakas just might do it. Alas, he came up just short, getting his second double of the night and finishing the evening going 4 for 5 with an RBI and 3 runs scored. It’s not quite a cycle, but it’s still a pretty good night.

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Now onto the news and notes from another series win for the Royals of Kansas City:

  • Danny Duffy went out Saturday night and performed better than he had the last 2 starts(he did go 5 innings in this outing) but still wasn’t the Duffy we saw throughout most of 2014. The improvement was he had a much better control over his off-speed pitches and didn’t seem to be missing the strike zone by much(he still walked 4 Yankees in the game, though). The bad news is he still allowed 4 hits, 4 free passes and left a fastball over the middle of the plate for Chase Headley to hit into the Royals bullpen in left field. It does appear as if Duffy’s leash might be shortening a bit:

Duffy still has options, so if Jason Vargas is able to come off the disabled list this week then Danny could be the casualty. I’ve mentioned it before, and I will again: maybe Duffy should give old pal James Shields a call. At this point it couldn’t hurt.

  • On the other side of the spectrum is the performance on Friday night of Chris Young. At this point it is just another ho-hum start for him, as he went 5.2 innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 run while walking 2 and striking out another 2. It’s his third straight stellar start and with the way Duffy is throwing it’s hard NOT to keep Young in the rotation when Vargas comes back. In my eyes, he has earned a spot in the rotation.
  • I’ve mentioned it a few times, but it really needs to be stressed just how good of a season Kendrys Morales is having this year. Morales is leading the league in doubles and RBI’s, and his BAbip has risen over 100 points. He has been a pleasant surprise for Kansas City and has calmed any worries I had when the signing occurred. There is still a lot of baseball to be played, but so far this signing has been a major positive for GM Dayton Moore.
  • Watching the Yankees this weekend really made me appreciate this Royals defense. Not only is this New York team older, it also seemed to have some issues throwing the ball. Teams like the Yankees and Indians really make a person really understand just how stellar this Royals defense really is:

  • Eric Hosmer’s 12 game hitting streak was broken up on Saturday against New York’s CC Sabathia. Someone asked me the other day about how Hosmer has been hitting and I pointed out how quiet his body is at the plate this year. It feels like night and day watching him this year compared to last.
  • What a Royals debut for Joe Blanton? Blanton came into Saturday’s game, taking over for Duffy and it was hard to tell that he hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. Joe threw 4 innings, giving up 5 hits and 1 run while walking none and striking out 2. He wasn’t dominant but he helped give the rest of the bullpen a break and showed that he has more value than just “a guy who is security in AAA in case the team needs another starter for a start or two”. Blanton looks to be taking over the long reliever spot that Chris Young held earlier this year.
  • Sunday was one of my favorite games of the year, the Salute to the Negro Leagues. I was unable to attend the game(I had a graduation to attend) but while watching the game later in the day I noticed the Yankees wore their usual threads. I am a big fan of the history of the game and the Negro Leagues have always been one of my favorite things to read and study about. I’m not one to tell the Yankees what they should or should not do, but it just felt wrong that they didn’t participate in this great event and have actually never worn any kind of throwback jersey’s ever. By the way, if you have not already you definitely need to go and check out the Negro League Museum in Kansas City(I love it!) and their website.
  • Speaking of, the Yankees look to be doing right by the Negro League Museum and will be donating other items to help the museum bring some money. Thank you, New York.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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So now the first place Royals(!!!) will take Monday off while waiting to open their interleague schedule in 2015 and take on the Cincinnati Reds in a two game series on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. One does wonder if the Kansas City scouts will be taking an extra look at Johnny Cueto on Tuesday, as he could be a possible mid-season acquisition if the Royals are in the market for a starting pitcher. This series will also set up a nice rivalry weekend, as the Cardinals will come in for three. Let’s hope for a change than the last few times the Cardinals have been in Kansas City; I would rather see a sea of blue in the stands than a sea of red. A sweep of Cincy would go a long ways toward building momentum against St. Louis and keeping a little bit of distance between the Tigers and Royals. No matter what, it should make for a fun week at ‘The K’ this week, so make sure you head out if you can!

 

My Baseball Bucket List

(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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Most people have a bucket list, a mental list of places or things they want to do at some point in their life. I have a baseball bucket list, or baseball related places I want to visit at some point before I die.

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The big thing on that list is to visit every one of the Major League baseball stadiums. So far, I’m not very far into that, as I can only count three on my list, including Busch Stadium in St. Louis this past weekend. The initial plan was to do this some summer when I retire but I’m thinking more and more of going to a different stadium every year.

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Also on my list is to visit the ball field where the movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed. It seems a bit corny but I’ve always thought the look of the field was reminiscent of the old ballparks, which I am a sucker for. The farm where it is located was sold this past year and plans are to expand it into a baseball and softball complex to be named All-Star Ballpark Heaven. Maybe on a return trip back from Minnesota I could swing through Iowa and visit this iconic baseball field.

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Speaking of old ballparks, I would love to visit the former sites of Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds in New York. Both are stadiums that had their own unique feel to them and to see where they once stood would be an interesting peek into baseball history.

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Last on my baseball bucket list is to visit Omaha and attend the College World Series. Sure, it’s not quite the same as when Rosenblatt Stadium was still the home park, but it is still the College World Series! To take in this once a year event and get a feel for it would be a really cool experience.

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Of course there is more I would like to do that just isn’t on my list. I would like to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown again, as I was able to go back in 1999, so it is not an urgent requirement. I also plan on going to the Negro League Museum in Kansas City but I am planning to cross that off my list later this year(writers note: I visited the museum in October and it was fantastic!). Also, to attend a World Series game would be pretty thrilling but I’m holding out for the Kansas City Royals to get back to the Fall Classic. I know, I might be waiting awhile but I can still hold out hope. Overall, it’s a pretty long list. But when someone has a dream, anything can be accomplished.      

Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day

(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 and wanted to share it with everyone)

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Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day around the Major Leagues and it’s great all these years later that Robinson is honored for his grace and courage in handling a situation that could be both difficult and even dangerous at times. Robinson’s number “42” has been retired by all Major League teams in honor of not only his legacy that he has left with the game, but also for what he stood for. Sixty Five years ago, Robinson appeared in his first game, the first man of African American descent to suit up for a Major League team. Integration was not popular back in 1947, and he was treated accordingly. But for all that Robinson did(and he truly was the right man at the right time), there are other men that roamed the fields in the Negro Leagues for years that deserve praise too, even if they might have never played for a Major League team.

LARRY DOBY

Larry Doby is the first to come to mind, the first African American to play in the American League. Doby debuted for the Cleveland Indians just eleven weeks after Robinson, but is largely forgotten. Doby incurred the same indignities that Robinson did, with nowhere near the media attention and implicit support.

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Another man was Satchel Paige, a man who played twenty one seasons in the Negro Leagues and is considered by some to be the greatest pitcher in Negro Leagues history. Paige would make the big leagues in 1948 and played six seasons in the Majors.

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Who can forget Josh Gibson, maybe the greatest power hitter ever, if only the Negro Leagues had kept statistics all those years ago. Gibson never made it to the big leagues, but nonetheless is still a member of the baseball Hall of Fame.

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Hank Aaron is one of the greatest of all time, but Aaron had to deal with insurmountable pressure back in the 1970’s as he approached Babe Ruth’s all time home run record. Aaron even received death threats but pushed on to break the Babe’s record, only to eventually be toppled by Barry Bonds back in 2007.

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The list could go on and on. Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, and Smokey Joe Williams are all players that never received their just do. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier was for those players. Robinson not only broke a color line that needed to be broke, he also excelled and turned it into a Hall of Fame career.

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One last person should be mentioned if we are giving credit. Branch Rickey, then the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was the man who not only signed Robinson but also believed that Jackie was the right man for the job. Rickey once told Robinson, “I know you’re a good ball player. What I don’t know is whether you have the guts.” Robinson then asked Rickey, “Mr. Rickey, are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” Rickey shot back, “I’m looking for a ball player with guts enough not to fight back.”

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Jackie Robinson Day has been celebrated for years in the Majors and for good reason. It is not only celebrating a special part of baseball history. It is celebrating a man who did something no normal man would have been able to do. For that, we thank you, Jackie.

Sure, Your Promotional Schedule is Okay, But…

promotionsYep, I’m one of those fans. Every year when the baseball schedule comes out, I eagerly await the promotional schedule put out by the Kansas City Royals, and to a degree, base my going to the ballpark around it. There are exceptions, but if there is something I really want, I make sure to try and be at that game. Looking at the 2013 promotional schedule, I felt very underwhelmed. Sure, the Billy Butler bobblehead is a fantastic idea, and should have been done a long time ago. I always love when the A’s come to town and the Royals pay homage to the old Kansas City A’s. But looking past those items this year, the promotions are sorely lacking. Does any self respecting fan think they need a mustard, relish and ketchup bobblehead? They would just seem out of place on my shelf with Carlos Beltran and Joakim Soria. A cooler that looks like a gun case? A scarf on Mother’s Day? To save Royals management, I, free of charge, will give them some ideas for promotions. Granted, the schedule has already been made, but these can be used in the future. Or you can make your own. Whatever. I just came up with ideas. Here we go.

1) Mike Moustakas Powder Blue Dirt Shirt

mooseYou might be wondering what this even means. Well, as you can tell from the above picture, Mike “Moose” Moustakas is known for getting quite dirty while out on the field. To celebrate his likeness with Pigpen, the Royals could have a powder blue shirt for Moose with dirt on the shirt. Well, not REAL dirt, but it would look like dirt. The Royals did this a few years ago with a George Brett shirt, putting what looked like pine tar on a powder blue shirt. It looked like this:

Brett_shirtPretty cool, huh? Do this same kind of shirt with Moose, add some dirt, and the fans will flock. It also promotes one of your younger fan favorites, which they should be pushing more, in my opinion. If that doesn’t work, make a Moose stuffed animal that when you press its feet it makes the “Moooooooose” cheer you hear from the fans at the ballpark.

2)Anything with Bo Jackson

bo_openingdayAll these years later, and Bo Jackson is just as wildly popular in Kansas City as he was during his prime. Bo knows popularity. ESPN’s 30 for 30 on Bo was one of the most talked about in a long time and brought Bo back to the forefront of everyone’s mind. Jackson even made an appearance in Kansas City at the celebrity softball game during the All Star Game festivities this past year. So what better time to jump on the Bo bandwagon then now? Now, what you do with the promotion doesn’t matter. Bo sells himself. Bo knows variety. Bo bobblehead. Bo replica jersey. Bo camo hat(I think Bo would dig this). Bo cooler. Bo doggy outfit for Bark at the Park day. Make Bo show up to race mustard, ketchup, and relish(seriously, who thinks they can outrun Bo??). Bo knows condiments. You literally could do anything involving Bo Jackson, and it would be a winner. Jackson was one of the most popular players in Royals history, so it seems only fitting to somehow make him a promotion at some point. Safe to say I will be at the ballpark that day. Bo knows Sean still thinks he is great.

3) Negro League Video Night

negroleaguesbaseballmuseum006aalrOne promotion that is always a plus for Kansas City is the night they honor the Negro Leagues. The players dress up in the old uniforms, and throughout the night they honor the old Negro League players. But with the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, they can take it a step further. Put together a video of the history of the Negro Leagues. Give it away to the first 5,000-10,000 fans that come to the ballpark. Make them realize not only how fascinating this era was but how great these players really were. This is a win/win, as the Royals get a great promotional night, while putting out some plugs for the museum. This should be a partnership that helps both sides and seems like a perfect match.

4) Girls Night Out Photo Night(AKA Quit being drunk ass idiots at the ballpark)

7-2220girlsThe Royals Girls Night Out is one of the team’s highest attended promotions. It is also one that I dread every year. Every year, a bunch of women flock to Kaufman Stadium for this yearly event and a large portion end up sloppy messes by the end of the night. Sure, who doesn’t love their women to be loud, abrasive and completely unaware of their surroundings? I’m sorry, but when I got to a ballgame, I want to sit back, enjoy the action and pay attention to what is happening on the field. On Girls Night Out, that isn’t possible. No, on Girls Night Out, I have to listen to these drunk women blather on about their pitiful lives and how men have done them wrong. Then, if you are sitting anywhere near them, you have to get up every 10-15 minutes to let them out so they can either go pee/get more drinks/find their other friends who can’t find them. I’m sorry your bladder is full, Cindy Jo, but can I please just watch the damn game? So my idea is to have a photo night about a month before Girls Night Out, handing out photos to all these women, showing them for the drunken messes they were the previous year. Sure, it probably won’t do any good. I mean, they will probably just find it funny and continue to make a horse’s ass out of themselves like they do every year. But maybe, just maybe–someone will realize how embarrassing it is and decide to stop after two beers instead of seven. I can only pray. I just want to watch the game. That is why we pay for a ticket, correct?

5) More Bobblehead Nights(of actual players, not condiments)

royalsbobbleheads Anyone who knows me knows that I love bobbleheads. Baseball bobbleheads are even better. Over the years, the Royals bobbleheads have been fantastic, and if you take a second to hop on over to ebay, you find most of these there, granted for a hefty price(except for Larry Gura. Sorry, Larry!). The Billy Butler one this year looks great. But the condiments are an awful, awful idea. All these years of great Royals players, and they are bumped for the stuff I put on my hot dogs? It’s not hard, guys. Amos Otis doesn’t have a bobblehead. Great player back in the day, former All Star and a vital part of the championship Royals teams. Seems like a slam dunk. Hal McRae? Another good choice. I could literally go on forever. Mark Gubicza, Al Cowens, Kevin Seitzer, Jeff Montgomery, and Kevin Appier just to name a few of the players from the past. Hey, just look at the here and now. Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, a miniature Johnny Giavotella, or Bruce Chen. Sure, I don’t particularly like Jeff Francoeur, but if they had a bobblehead of him with an actual cannon for an arm, I would want it(thank you for leading me to that idea, Anna). It is so simple. It is also an easy way to get me to the ballpark. Let’s make a deal now, Royals promotion department; no condiments next year. Worst. Idea. Ever.

6) Disco Demolition Night

discoMaybe this time it will end different…

…and if not, can we destroy every existing copy of ‘Friends in Low Places’?

garthGod, I hate that song. Make it go away. Forever.

So those are just a few ideas. I can only hope that for 2014, the Royals step up and give us promotions worth being proud of. If not, we will have our own Royals promotional night at my house. For a fee, of course. I’m not just giving away those Ned Yost shirts I have tucked away in my closet…

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