Royals Take Over Wrigley: Royals Split Series with Cubs

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Wrigley Field is a very special ballpark. It’s one of the last standing parks where stadiums were built to have their own personality and give their team a bit of a home field advantage. Since the Chicago Cubs are in the National League, the Kansas City Royals only visit Wrigley once every 6 years. This year, a number of Royals fans made the trek to the ‘Windy City’ to take in their Royals playing the Cubs and to visit their iconic ballpark. The Royals were also looking to bounce back from a rough series in New York and were looking to gain some ground in the American League Central. One of those items were kind of accomplished, one was not. Onto a look back at a special 2 game set.

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Series MVP: Alex Gordon

If there is one thing you can say about Alex Gordon, it is that he is a streaky hitter. The last few weeks Gordon has occasionally added production, but nothing consistent to make him really stand out. That changed in this series, as Gordon would go 4 for 8, including a 3 hit game on Sunday(with a walk). Gordon seemed to be in on all the action this weekend, starting with his home run on Friday, and then knocking in the first run of the game on Sunday in the 7th inning:

It normally goes without saying as well that Gordon contributed defensively, throwing out Dexter Fowler at home(thanks to a nice play from Salvador Perez) in the bottom of the 11th inning on Sunday. It appears as if Alex might be hitting a hot streak right now, and if that is so it’s not the worst idea in the world to move him up in the order. Alcides Escobar has been struggling a bit at the top of the order and Gordon has a history of performing well in the leadoff spot. With the Royals runs per game dipping in May, it might not be a horrible idea to shake things up.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Yordano Ventura

A large chunk of the success on this season hinders on the performance of young starters Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Duffy currently is inhabiting the disabled list, while Ventura seems to have found his groove. Ventura had his second best game score of the season on Sunday against Chicago, going 7 innings giving up 4 hits and 1 run while walking 1 and striking out 6. Ventura did all that in less than ideal weather conditions and if not for his lone walk in the 7th inning, one wonders if he would have left the game without giving up a run. One also wonders how Chris Coghlan was able to hit Ventura, since no one else on the Cubs had a clue. The best part of the game for Ventura is that he has gone 7 innings in 4 straight starts while keeping his walk total down. Starts like these make it easier to see why he is the ace of this staff and why baseball in general is so high on this young flamethrower.

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I’m Going for a Walk… 

Walks can kill a pitcher. I mean, they are called ‘free passes’ for a reason. This was none more evident than on Sunday, as walks given up by Royals pitchers in both the 7th and 11th innings would come back and bite them in the arse. In the 7th, Ventura would walk Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, and following a wild pitch and single to center by Coghlan, the Cubs would spoil Ace’s shutout, tying the game up at 1. With the score still tied in the 11th inning, Royals reliever Ryan Madson would walk the only two batters he faced, Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant, which would lead to his exit and Jason Frasor to come in. Frasor would intentionally walk Starlin Castro after Fowler would be thrown out at home plate, but then David Ross would get the game winning hit falling in between Gordon and Escobar in left field(which was almost caught over the shoulder by Escobar).

The 2 walks by Madson killed the Royals and goes to show you just can’t allow the other team to have extra base runners on the base paths. The Royals are normally applauded for their defense and stingy bullpen. The pen loses that credit when the walks start flowing. It also goes to show why some of us(myself included) put such a heavy emphasis on having the offense take bases on balls.

Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar can't make the catch on a single by Chicago Cubs' David Ross during the 11th inning of a baseball game, Sunday, May 31, 2015, in Chicago. The Cubs won 2-1. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Now, lets proceed to look at some news and notes from this shortened series:

  • Alex Rios was activated from the disabled list on Saturday and would return to the lineup on Sunday:

Rios has been out since the third series of the season in Minnesota. Rios was hitting well before getting hit on the hand, so hopefully he can return to that form on his return.

  • Rios being activated meant that someone had to be sent down and Paulo Orlando unfortunately drew that card. Orlando had been playing good, despite him slumping at the plate a bit as of late(.174 over the last 2 weeks):

Personally, I would prefer one less reliever on the roster and have the extra outfielder. In fact, Orlando has been much more valuable to manager Ned Yost this year than Jarrod Dyson has. I have a feeling we will see Orlando again soon, possibly even within the next month.

  • Mother Nature won again on Saturday, as the contest between the 2 teams was rained out. I don’t know what it is, but it appears the last 3 times the Royals were scheduled for a nationally broadcasted game, they have been hit hard by the rain bug. The Royals will travel back to Chicago and make up the missed game on September 28.
  • Danny Duffy threw a couple of bullpen sessions this weekend:

Nothing major to report, other than the stiffness in his shoulder was still there. I tend to think he will make a couple of rehab starts in Omaha before he returns to the main roster. Also, the beard is gone. A city mourns.

  •  Alex Gordon chalked up another achievement on Sunday:

I’ve said it a million times, but if Gordon walks after this season that will be a giant hole to fill within this team. I would love for the team to work out an extension sooner rather than later.

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Tweets of Royalty 

 

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Unfortunately, the loss on Sunday pushed the Royals back to 2nd place in the American League Central, half a game behind Minnesota. Yep, the Twins are in first. Baseball truly is a crazy sport and it goes to show that anything can happen, no matter how many different ways you crunch the numbers(and that is coming from a stat guy!). The Royals will take Monday off (Sal Rest) and will return to action against Cleveland in Kansas City. This home stretch with Cleveland and Texas coming into town is big and the Royals need to go at least 4-2 during this stretch. The offense seems to be slumping and one wonders if maybe a shuffle of the lineup would do the ballclub some good. Jeremy Guthrie goes for Kansas City on Tuesday(looking to avenge his awful start on Memorial Day) and the Royals will go up against Corey Kluber on Wednesday. I think we can officially say this team is in the midst of a slump, which is fine considering it’s really the first one they’ve had this year. Let’s just not make it a sustained slump, okay guys?

 

 

 

 

What the Royals Managerial Candidates List Should Look Like

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It is a well known fact I dislike Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. I’ve been saying for years that the Royals will never reach the promised land as long as he is in charge, and so far he has proven me right. This isn’t an(other) article explaining why Yost should be vanquished. Ken Rosenthal appears to be doing that for me. And Craig Calcaterra. No, his time is getting closer every day. With the Royals continuing to struggle during a season where many feel they should be sniffing the playoffs, and no help in sight in the minors or in a trade, there is an outside chance(albeit it a very outside chance) that Yost could find himself in the unemployment line soon. So if that happens, here are five managerial candidates that the Royals should be considered, at least in my eyes.

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Mike Maddux

Sure, Maddux has the pedigree to help any team with their pitching. Being the older brother of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux helps, but Mike has done a great job on his own with Texas’ pitching staff and Milwaukee’s staff before that. Maddux has been mentioned in the past as a managerial candidate for the Red Sox, Cubs and Tigers, and it’s conceivable that in the right situation he would be a perfect fit. Mike is a smart baseball man who is hard working, dependable, well liked and respected by his players. He also seems to be a calming influence on the clubhouse, which could go either way for a team like the Royals. Some might say the Royals would be better off with a guy who has a bit more fire, but my gut tells me the Royals should go with the best candidate. Maddux appears to be in that upper echelon and should be at the top of most lists for managerial openings.

Dave Martinez, Joe Maddon

Dave Martinez 

There is something to be said for coaches that have worked for smaller market teams. A lot of times those coaches have had to do more with less to get their team to be contenders. One man who fits that criteria and is heavily underrated is Tampa Bay’s bench coach, Dave Martinez. It’s almost amazing at this point that Martinez has never managed in his career, especially while spending so much time under the tutelage of Joe Maddon. Martinez has an array of positives; he is willing to think out of the box(he is supposedly the mastermind behind the Rays defensive shifts), has worked as a translator before for the Rays young Latin players and has worked with many of the younger talent that has come through Tampa’s system. Add in that he thinks a lot like Maddon and you have a guy that could be very successful if given the chance. Martinez seems like a great fit for the young Royals team and would definitely bring a different vibe to the Royals clubhouse. I would not be surprised to see him get a managerial job sometime within the next year; I can only hope it will be with Kansas City.

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Dale Sveum

Look, the Royals like to hire from within. I like minor league manager Vance Wilson, but he is probably still a few years away from being ready to manage a major league club. From the minute Sveum was hired it was hard not to see that he could be a possible future Royals manager. Hell, he was the guy who took over for Yost when he was fired from Milwaukee! Sveum has the managerial experience the team likes, as he was the Cubs manager the last few years and was well liked by the players and staff. There has been some concerns about his helping player development, or more to the point, the development of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo for the Cubs. Sure, both regressed last year. But I tend to think part of Castro’s problems were that the team was trying to change his approach at the plate(take more pitches, work the count, not swing at so many pitches outside the zone,etc.), which was more of an edict of upper Chicago management, not Sveum. Castro has gone back to his old ways this year and has been vastly improved, which would seem to back up this point. Either way, he would be a solid candidate if Yost was yanked and would be a new voice in the clubhouse. When it comes to in house candidates, Sveum is a much better option than say, Jason Kendall. That thought frightens me.

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Tim Wallach

Wallach is another former player that has turned baseball into a lifetime career, albeit now coaching. Wallach is currently a coach for the Dodgers but has managed before, in the minors for the Dodgers AAA team. Wallach managed for two seasons in Albuquerque and was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009 as well as Baseball America’s “Best Manager Prospect” .  Wallach has also been interviewed by both the Tigers and Mariners this past year for their managerial openings. When Wallach interviewed for the Tigers job, their GM Dave Dombrowski(who was also Wallach’s GM in Montreal when he was a player) had nothing but positive things to say about him: “Quality person on and off the field, good family man, good work ethic, and a knowledgeable baseball person.” Wallach had been asked how he would describe his managing style and he said “Work at it, interact, communicate, and hopefully guys will take to what I’m saying. That’s pretty much what it comes down to. It’s about the players. You have to put them in the right spots to succeed. That’s probably my biggest job. Have them play hard every day and put them in the right spot so they can be successful.” It seems as if nothing but positives come out when people around baseball talk about Wallach. He has been on countless managerial lists, so it’s only a matter of time until someone gives him a chance. I could easily see him in Royal blue, managing the Royals.

MLB:  Greenville Drive

Gabe Kapler 

Kapler is my dark horse candidate and one that I think will have a successful career managing if he ever decides to do just that. He managed one season in the minors, for the Boston Red Sox as manager of their Single-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive, for one season in 2007. He didn’t have a successful campaign(58-81) but he learned a lot that one season and used that to return to the big leagues in 2008. Since he retired in 2011 he has worked around baseball, whether it be as a television analyst or as a coach for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic in 2013. What intrigues me about Kapler is his solid baseball mind. Kapler penned a column last year where he discussed how many current and former players would be wise to smarten up to advanced metrics. It is that forward thinking that I like and is of a guy who doesn’t seem to be trapped into a box with his way of thinking. Kapler might not have much experience, and might very well need a few more years managing in the minors, but with managers getting hired today with no experience whatsoever, it’s not completely foolish to keep Kapler in the conversation. To add to that, I have to feel that him being retired from the game for only a few years makes him more likely to understand the current player and his plight. If Kapler decides he wants to manage, I’m pretty convinced he will be one of the good ones.

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That is my top five list. You can play at home and add yours as well. I know guys like Joey Cora and Manny Acta came to mind for me as well. If you noticed I picked a few guys with no big league experience and I did that for a reason; I just don’t think it is that important. There is a bunch of former big league managers that get cycled in and out of jobs only for the reason that they have experience, even if it is not a good one. The game is evolving and even the guy in the dugout needs to evolve. Managers like Mike Matheny of St. Louis and Brad Ausmus(who I’ve always liked, even back when he was a player) have shown that you don’t need managerial experience to succeed in the big leagues. In no way am I saying this entire fiasco in Kansas City is Yost’s fault, either. The hitters aren’t hitting and at some point they have to take the blame for it and GM Dayton Moore should shoulder part of the blame. But the Royals appear to be going nowhere fast with Yost in charge and if things don’t get better I can see a change happening. If that happens, I would like to see a fresh young face take over the ballclub. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it will be someone like Yost who doesn’t challenge the status quo. That is unfortunate, because the option is there; you just have go out on a limb and take it.

 

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