Show Me Win: Royals Defeat State Rival Cardinals

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A couple times a year, the venom comes out in me. It’s a very specific time and it happens for a very specific reason. It happens because the Kansas City Royals play their state rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. Look, I respect the Cardinals organization and think they do a top notch job with their scouting and development throughout their minor league system. It’s obvious by the way the team churns out player after player that they know what they are doing. No, my distaste for this team is purely on their fanbase. You know, the ones that one time about 20 years ago were appointed “the best fans in baseball” by The Sporting News, a company based in St. Louis. The thing is, even though many of the fans there are fine, great humans and very respectful(Hi Ryan!), there have many I have met that are far from it. Every fanbase has them(I know some Royals fans that I wish I didn’t know), but there seems to be more of a sense of entitlement from St. Louis fans. So it brightens my day a little bit more when the Royals beat the Cardinals. Yes, I get a bit more joy from it then I should. Luckily, we saw 2 wins from Kansas City in this series, even if one of them was a rain shortened affair. So how did it come about? Just read on…

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Series MVP: Kendrys Morales

I will admit it; I didn’t like the Royals signing Morales. I felt his 2014 was the beginning of his regression, not the fact that he had missed Spring Training and didn’t play until June. Sure, we are only 2 months into the season but so far Morales has made me look like a big dummy. All he has done so far in 2015 is lead the league in RBI’s, be near the top in doubles, put up an OPS+ of 135 and a WAR of 1.1(which is all offense at this point since he hasn’t played in the field yet). This series he started out with a bang, as he would club a 3 run homer in the 1st inning:

Morales would follow that up in the 3rd inning with another blast to right field:

So if you are keeping count at home, that is 5 runs for Morales, 0 for the Cardinals. Yep, that was all the offense the Royals would need that night, as they would go on to shutout the team with the best record in the National League. Morales would end up 4 for 9 against the Cardinals over the weekend, scoring 3 runs while raising his slugging percentage by 45 points. I’ve recently thought about who in this lineup would be missed the most if they ended up M.I.A. and if it isn’t Mike Moustakas(who the Royals did miss in the Texas series) then it would be Morales. Hopefully he keeps it up and he can continue making the case for American League comeback player of the year, which is seems like he is on track for.

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Pitching Performance of Series: Chris Young

When Young signed with the Royals in March, it seemed like the rotation was already set and Young would be the odd man out. The team explained early on that Young would be on the Opening Day roster, even if that meant he started the year as a long reliever. I was personally fine with this, as every team needs extra pitching at some point in the season and Young was coming off being named the ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ for Seattle. Young got his first start of the year on May 1 and since then he has probably been the Royals best starter. On Friday, Young continued his high level of performance with another stellar outing against the Cardinals. Young got 6 innings of work in, giving up 6 hits, and no runs while walking 2 and striking out 2. His ERA lowered to 0.78…and 0.40 in his 4 starts!

In my eyes Young deserves to stay in the rotation until he proves otherwise. With Danny Duffy scuffling and Jason Vargas on the disabled list, it is an easy answer; Young stays put. But I have a feeling at some point a harder decision will need to be made…and if Young is still worthy, he should still be holding onto a spot in the rotation.

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#ShortstopJesus

If you watch Alcides Escobar every day, from time to time you utter the phrase “I can’t believe he just did that”. It’s almost been a crime that Escobar has barely warranted attention to being nominated for a Gold Glove award(which he was last year), let along the fact that he still hasn’t won one. On Friday night Escobar showed why many of us refer to him as “Shortstop Jesus”:

Just amazing! Maybe it’s because the Royals had Yuniesky Betancourt for years at shortstop, but I feel like we should be thankful every day that we get to watch the golden defense of Escobar. Funny thing is, that wasn’t the only great play he would make in this series:

 

I talk very glowingly of Alex Gordon in left field, but I am almost as impressed with Escobar on a daily basis at shortstop. The Royals are lucky to have him locked in for awhile and to be a steady force in the infield. His offense might not always be perfect, but I have zero complaints about the defense. He is purely of another world.

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Now onto a few notes from this I-70 Series:

  • Danny Duffy was originally scheduled to start on Sunday but was pushed back due to shoulder stiffness:

I’m playing a bit of ‘Devil’s Advocate’ here but I would almost bet money he doesn’t start on Tuesday. My gut tells me Vargas will come back and Duffy will take his spot on the DL. I’m not saying Duffy isn’t injured, but it would give the Royals a reason to send him down to AAA(on a rehab assignment) while also not using any of his options. It isn’t the worse idea, with the way Duffy has been pitching as of late.

  • Rain shortened Saturday’s game, as the Royals ended up with a 6 inning win by the score of 3-2, thanks in large part to a 2 run Alex Gordon home run. I know some Cardinal fans felt jipped, but I ask this question: who were the Cardinals going to score off of-Herrera, Davis, or Holland? I will wait for your answer…
  • After Friday’s night game, the Royals had the best record in baseball:

I don’t know about anyone else, but this was about as good a feeling as a baseball fan can get. To go from laughingstock of the sport to best record in baseball in just a few short years? Yep, it feels pretty darn good!

May 22, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals second basemen Omar Infante (14) attempts a throw to first over St. Louis Cardinals base runner Peter Bourjos (8) during the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Tweets of Royalty

 

Kansas City Royals' Alex Gordon, right, celebrates with Kendrys Morales after Gordon hit a two-run home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A small part of me(fairly small) really badly wanted a sweep, but there will be no complaints from me with a series win over the Cardinals. If anything it is some good mojo headed into New York to take on the Yankees for 3 this week. This road trip should be fun, as there is the games in New York and then 3 in Chicago against the Cubs. Hopefully the starting pitching can continue their streak of good starts and the offense can look past Sunday’s game against St. Louis. We are almost in June and talking best record in baseball; it’s hard not to feel like someone should pinch me. A 4-2 road trip is optimal but 3-3 would probably keep Kansas City’s lead in the Central. So for another week, the eyes of baseball are on the Royals. As much as it is weird, it is nice as well. A guy could get used to this kind of attention!

 

 

 

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Royals Off-Season Needs: Second Base

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So far we have taken a look at right field and starting pitchers, the two main areas of concern this off-season for the Kansas City Royals. Now we take a look at the other need, which is second base. The only thing is I’m not so sure it’s of huge concern to this team. Sure, the Royals would prefer to use Emilio Bonifacio in a super utility role, which I also think is the best spot for him. But there’s also been word going around they would be okay if Bonifacio started the year playing second. Since there is a good chance at least that the Royals will browse the second base market, let’s take a look at some of the options and the likelihood any of them will be acquired by Kansas City.

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Robinson Cano

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

No. Won’t happen. Period. But man, would that confuse some Royals fans. Do you boo or do you cheer?

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Mark Ellis

This would be interesting, just for the reasoning that Ellis was originally drafted by the Royals. Ellis has put together a pretty successful major league career since his days in the Royals farm system, and would at least be a solid player at second base. He won’t hit a lot of home runs, or knock in a ton of runs. He won’t play flashy defense or wow you with his speed. But he is solid. At 36 his best years are probably behind him, but if he hits .270, plays solid defense and is a clutch bat in the lineup, he would be an improvement and good for a one or two year deal. Ellis isn’t a long term solution at the position, but it could happen.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers

Omar Infante

Infante is a lot like Ellis. Solid bat, solid defense and is even a bit younger. I’m not so sure Infante will want to leave Detroit, but for the right price I think Dayton could swing this. Infante would be a good bat to put in the second spot of the batting order and is a good contact bat. Like Ellis, not much power, but he is nothing to sneeze at and would actually make the lineup a bit more credible. He can also play around the infield and outfield, so if someone came down with an injury, Infante could bounce around. Definitely one worth consideration.

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Brian Roberts

Roberts is an interesting player, just because it’s been so long since he has been healthy. Last year was the most games Roberts had played in since 2009 and he only played in 77 games. Roberts has been the walking wounded for so long you wonder just how much of his skills are still intact. If healthy, Roberts can provide some pop and a bit of speed, even though that has eroded a bit thanks to the injuries. Roberts can probably be had pretty cheap, but there is no guarantee he will stay healthy. If Dayton would go this route, he will have to have a backup plan, as Roberts just isn’t reliable. That last sentence alone will probably be why the Royals stay clear of him.

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Rafael Furcal

Furcal is a real possibility at this point, at least in that the Royals have at least shown interest in him. Furcal is coming off of Tommy John surgery, which is a bit different for positional players compared to pitchers. Carl Crawford came back from it and seems as good as new. Furcal probably will as well, and I would assume his gun of an arm will still be a weapon. Furcal is still a risk, but a risk worth taking. The injury should make it to where he could be had at a bargain, and he would be a nice addition to the top of the Royals lineup. Even if he isn’t what he was during his prime, he still has moderate speed and a bit of pop in his lineup. He would need some time figuring out second base, as he has only played 36 games at second in the majors, and most of those were early in his career. For the right price, Furcal could be a steal for Kansas City.

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Yuniesky Betancourt

Seriously, I would like to think this is a joke. Really, I wish I was just being a smart ass here. But…Dayton has acquired him twice. Yes, once wasn’t enough. You wouldn’t think they wouldn’t want to acquire him, let along play him regularly at second base. Anyone who has seen him play on a regular basis blatantly sees his flaws. But there is something about him that Dayton Moore likes. What? I don’t know. So he is an option…until he isn’t an option.

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Jerry Hairston, Jr.

Sure, Hairston isn’t a permanent solution. In fact, he is probably a lot like Miguel Tejada last year for Kansas City-on his last legs. But I like Hairston, as he is incredibly versatile and is able to do about anything that a manager asks of him. Actually, the more I think about this, I would prefer the Royals sign Hairston for their bench. A signing like this would give Bonifacio the second base job and give a solid backup for about anywhere on the diamond. Hairston’s best days are behind him, but every good team needs a solid bench if they expect to go anywhere. Hairston would give the Royals just that.

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Michael Young

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: Michael Young will probably be a Kansas City Royal in 2014. In what role, I don’t know, but I can see this happening. It could be at second base. It could be as a DH, if the Royals trade Billy Butler this off-season. Either way, I easily can see this happening. Do I agree with it? No. I would have loved having Michael Young 5 years ago. Today? He is a backup at best, and I’m not even for sure he is good at that. I hope they avoid Young like the plague. But I have a feeling…

Brandon Phillips

Brandon Phillips

I thought I would throw Phillips in, since Cincy is shopping him, but let’s be straight up right now; I don’t think this is going to happen, and I really hope it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Phillips is a fun player to watch. But…his offense is not as great as some think. In fact, I would almost say he is regressing. He can’t take a walk, and let’s be honest-we have enough of those players already on the Royals. His defense? Not as good as you think it is. Sure, he’s flashy and can pull off plays a lot of guys can’t. But his range is slipping and sometimes messes up the routine plays. Add in how he can be a headache at times and his huge contract, and it is safe to say Phillips is a no-go. Let’s hope the Royals look at him the same way.

Kansas City Royals second baseman Chris Getz (17)

Looking at this list, and I almost think the Royals will start the year with Bonifacio at second. I think Furcal or Young have a decent chance of being there, but outside of that I don’t think there is much more than a slight chance for the others I listed. If it’s Bonifacio, I’m okay with that. He did a great job taking over the spot late in the year and that doesn’t mean the Royals won’t try to find someone during the season. Above all else, Bonifacio starting probably means one more thing; Chris Getz will be gone. Just throwing that out there puts a smile on my face. Whichever way the Royals go in 2014, second base will be a Getz-free zone. That within itself is an improvement.

For the Love of God, Stop Bunting!

Chris Getz

Last night, the Kansas City Royals encountered a tough loss to division rivals, the Detroit Tigers. It was a back and forth game between the two ball clubs that saw the Royals leave a bunch of runners on base and ended with the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, take Aaron Crow deep in the 9th inning to win  the game. Some Royals fans were outraged that Crow pitched to Cabrera instead of intentionally walking him. I was more outraged that the Royals bunted during the top of the inning with two outs and a runner on third.

Dan Wheeler

If there is one thing that I absolutely loathe about this Royals team(and thank goodness, there aren’t as many things to hate as say, last year) is that they consider bunting a big part of their game. Manager Neddy Yost loves bunting. LOVES it. The last couple years we’ve had to hear about how good a bunter Chris Getz is, even though he has failed to put down a bunt countless times and even injured himself trying to bunt. How many tweets have I seen this year that beat writer Bob Dutton has put out(tweeted out?)  talking about the team practicing bunting during batting practice? Too many. I sometimes feel like this team thinks it’s 1982 and there are still stadiums with AstroTurf on them. The honest truth is I used to not hate bunting so much. All we have to do is go back to 2010…

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How many remember the 2010 Kansas City Royals? If you do, you remember that they didn’t have much punch on that team. That team had Billy Butler, Jose Guillen…and…and…well, Yuniesky Betancourt was tied for the team lead in RBI’s-with 78. This was also a team with Scott Podsednik and David DeJesus at the top of the lineup, so if this team relied a bit more on small ball, that was fine. The honest truth was that team probably wasn’t going to score much if not for small ball. It was fun watching this team built more around speed work that speed to their advantage and have a very good April, before they fell off the map later on in May. For that team, it made a bit more sense to use bunting as a weapon. But the last two years? Absolutely no reason to use it at all.

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Now, there are a few times that bunting is acceptable and even the best course of action to take, but for the most part it isn’t, and the numbers prove it. If you are in the bottom of the eighth or ninth, and really only need one run, and you have a runner on first with no outs, a sacrifice bunt is acceptable. In fact the percentage chance of scoring one run actually goes up in that case. But if you aren’t playing for one run(and let’s be honest, you rarely should be), this is an awful choice, as your run expectancy goes down. Don’t believe me? Read here. For the most part, you should always be playing for more than one run, as only a fool thinks you should stop at one if you have a chance at more. Letting the batter go ahead and hit makes your chance of scoring go up and give you an opportunity to put more runs on the board. There is nothing more frustrating to me than seeing the Royals bunting…IN THE FIRST INNING!!! Everytime it happens, all I can think of is former Orioles manager Earl Weaver. Weaver once said “If you play for one run, that’s all you’ll get”. It might not be like that 100% of the time, but if you look it up, Weaver is right. Playing for one run just seems like a flawed theory and an easy way to have your team playing from behind.

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There is one exception in my mind for bunting: if Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson wants to bunt, you let him. Hell, at times you force him to bunt. Dyson has ridiculous speed. Like ‘Herb Washington only pinch runs because he is a world-class sprinter’ type speed. There are certain players in the game that can use their speed as a weapon, and Dyson is one of them. He has game changing speed. Dyson is a guy who can bunt for a hit and even if the infield is in, will probably get it. So in this situation, I am fine with bunting. A speedster like Dyson can completely change the game plan of the other team or even worse for them, wreak havoc on a fragile pitchers psyche. In this scenario, let him bunt.

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Unfortunately, the Royals don’t seem to use their bunting in correct or even logical situations. Alcides Escobar is guilty, especially when he was batting second, of bunting in the first inning. Second Baseman Chris Getz can barely get the ball to the outfield sometimes, so bunting is a big part of his game, and not always when he really should. I would like to say here that it is just a situation of the team not having guys who are good hitters, but it goes deeper than that. This organization loves bunting. The manager and the GM are on the same page, both heaping high praise on the players who bring bunting into the game. Well, unless you are Escobar. Then sometimes Neddaniel will throw you under the bus. But for the most part, they applaud the use of the bunt, and that is just as big a problem as the player who goes out there and thinks it gives them a better chance of scoring then standing in the box and actually trying to hit the ball.

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So, are there times that bunting is not only acceptable, but should be expected? Of course. But for the majority of time, it should probably be discouraged and left for only certain situations or for certain players. I know the bunt used to be a big part of the game years ago, but the game is in a constant flux of change, and will for the rest of eternity. The numbers don’t lie and show that bunting actually hurts your team’s chances of putting runs on the board. The Kansas City Royals, a team that can’t allow for many mistakes, would be wise to learn a proper time to use the bunt and when it is detrimental. Bunting with two outs in the 9th and a runner on third? Not the right time. When that happens, a loss shouldn’t be a shock. I can only hope the Royals learn this lesson before it hurts them during a crucial time, like making a playoff push.       

These Are Just Some of My Favorite (Baseball) Things–Right Now

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I’ve been in a bit of a baseball funk lately, or at least a Kansas City Royals funk. I don’t like what the front office is doing, which has pushed me to a point of taking a “vacation” from watching the Royals. I’m not a big fan of just writing negatively all the time, so it would seem between the Royals and the Biogenesis scandal, I’ve done about all the negative I can do for awhile. It literally is enough doom and gloom to fill an episode of “The Killing”. So instead, I’m going to go through some of the fun things about the game that I love. Things that the players of today do that puts a smile on my face. So, these are just a few of my favorite things…

Mike Trout Running

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Originally,  I felt like I could just put down “watching Trout do anything”. Folks, he’s that good! But when I broke it down even farther, I realized I love watching him run. It is just insane to see this man take off, whether it is in the outfield chasing down a fly ball or stealing a base, watching him run is a beautiful thing. God, help us if he ever comes down with a leg injury. Don’t believe me? I give you Exhibit A:

Still one of the best catches I have ever seen. Up there with Bo Jackson running up the wall…which also happened in Baltimore. If he keeps it up(and right now it looks like he just might), Trout could be this generation’s Willie Mays. Hey, but no pressure. In case that doesn’t happen, just enjoy watching this man run.

Salvador Perez gunning down runners

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If you have not had the opportunity to see Kansas City’s Salvador Perez throw a runner out, you are missing a beautiful thing. Sure, Yadier Molina would fit in this category to, but there is something a guy who is figuring himself out on a daily basis and watching him progress that just feels really special. He can throw them out while stealing-

-Or catch them leaning off a base:

Perez is really special–NOW. Just imagine how this guy is going to be in a few years? Tony LaRussa was asked last year who Perez reminded him of, and he said Molina. I see it. Not many come down the pike like them–and we have two of them playing at once. Trust me, we Kansas City fans know we are lucky to have one of them on our team.

Miguel Cabrera hitting

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As a Royals fan, we see way more of the Detroit Tigers than we’d like. Especially when the team owns the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is far and above the best hitter I have seen since Barry Bonds retired. Cabrera’s knowledge of the strike zone is unparalleled, other than maybe Joey Votto of Cincinnati. Not only is he as good as you think, but he makes it look easy to. Like this:

http://wapc.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=28701943&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

I hate when he destroys the Royals…but I also realize that we are watching something really special with him. He is Cooperstown bound, no doubt, unless he screws something up.

Alex Gordon throwing out a runner

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There is a reason Alex Gordon has won two straight Gold Gloves. He IS that damn good! The best part of his transition to Left Field a few years ago was his rocket of an arm. It’s amazing to me that people still try to run on A1, but they do. Why? No clue. The best thing is he makes it look easy. Just remember, this is a guy who didn’t move to the outfield till 2010. By now, runners should know better; but they don’t. Fine by me. I still love watching it.

Andrew McCutchen do everything

Andrew McCutchen

I have a very small list of guys I could watch play everyday right now. Mike Trout. Alex Gordon. Miguel Cabrera. But maybe the man I put head and shoulders above them is Pittsburgh’s own Andrew McCutchen. What a player this guy is! I’ve always had a fondness for the players who can do everything: run, hit, hit for power, steal bases, play defense and throw. Cutch can do all of those things, and not only do it good, but make it look easy. I can’t remember the last player I watched who did all of these things and was so smooth about it. McCutchen makes it look like he was doing this out of the womb. Here is video of McCutchen; it’s six minutes long, but well worth your time.

To me, there are very few like Cutch today. Even better is he wanted to make Pittsburgh proud and get them back to the playoffs. Let’s hope this is the year!

King Felix pitch

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When thinking about what pitcher I like watching the most, Felix Hernandez of Seattle always comes to mind. It’s not the strikeouts, even though he gets lots of those. It’s not the nasty stuff, which is also enticing. Nope, to me the best thing about King Felix is how he matured and turned into a PITCHER. Now, if you follow baseball, you know there is a difference between a thrower and a pitcher. Most younger pitchers are throwers, guys who throw really hard but have no control over what they are doing and no game plan. A pitcher, meanwhile, knows what he is doing, and has perfected his art. He knows it’s not all about the speed as much as changing speeds and the placement of the pitches. Hernandez has already learned this at such a young age.

The scary part is he is just getting started. This kid is as good as advertised, and will be for quite awhile to come.

Stanton crushing the Ball

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There was no bigger disappointment to me last year than to not have Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins in the Home Run Derby. To me, Stanton is THE true power hitter of baseball. There are very few that you can even mention in the same breath as Giancarlo, and his home runs remind of some of Bo Jackson’s classics. Although, there is one above the rest. Here is a highlight of his longest home runs of last year, but pay attention to the one in Colorado. Ridiculous.

http://wapc.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=25544631&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

So my dreams of seeing him in a Derby were crushed. But maybe someday…

Alcides Escobar on defense

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From the moment I first saw “Shortstop Jesus” play on defense, I knew he was special. Sure, maybe the bar was set much lower than it should have been. I admit that following Yuniesky Betancourt doesn’t take much. But Escobar is just amazing to watch. Sure, he still occasionally has a mental error, or fumbles the easy play; I know it happens. But then there are things like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Okay, I better stop. I can watch Alcides play shortstop all day long. Suffice to say, I think he is highly underrated. Watching him is a privilege at this point, trust me.

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Those are just a few of the things in baseball that I love watching. But this has gotten me to think…what are some of my favorites of ALL TIME??!! Hmmm, I see a sequel in my future. Until then, find what you love about the game and enjoy it with all you got.

Losing Might be the Best Path to Take

Ned Yost, Dayton Moore

I’m not a happy Kansas City Royals fan. Oh, I love that they beat the Atlanta Braves last night. I love that Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas seem to be coming around. I’m definitely pleased with how the starting rotation has performed so far this season. But I cringe a bit inside every time the Royals win. Not because of the way they win, although there are games like that. No, I cringe because losing is probably the best path for this franchise if they want to move forward. Losing means GM Dayton Moore and Manager Ned Yost will be fired and replaced.

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Now before the pitchforks come out, by no means do I enjoy the losing. The losing is what has gotten me to this point. The losing has spread throughout this organization for almost twenty years and has made some of baseball’s best fans bitter and angry. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing for this team–to win, to make the playoffs, and to be perennial contenders every year. But this is where some of you take a different road, and others of us take the one less traveled. Really think about what it will take to make this team a winner. I mean, really sit there and think about it. Take your time. In my mind, to have a winner at Kauffman Stadium again would mean getting rid of the management that is currently in place and has been for over seven years. It means cleaning out the manager’s office and getting rid of the guy who has occupied it for the last three plus years. It means getting rid of the seven year long process.

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A little over seven years ago, Dayton Moore was hired to be the Kansas City Royals General Manager. He had been working in the Atlanta organization for many years and most of felt he was going to bring that winning atmosphere to Kansas City. The Braves have always been an organization that would build from within and that has had one of  the best farm systems in baseball on a regular basis. It made sense that Moore knew what he was doing, as he was the assistant general manager in Atlanta. Dayton early on said all the right things; draft correctly, build from within, and add good veteran presence around these younger players. Moore referred to it as “The Process”. Moore was given a long rope, as most of us knew he was basically building this team from the ground up. We knew it wouldn’t come overnight. We knew it would take time. But as these players started trickling up the big club, more and more of them started to struggle. Last year serious questions were being asked about the minor league development of these players and why they struggled once they made it to the majors. The team had also not produced a regular starting pitcher during this time, as all the major pitching prospects either went to the bullpen or struggled in the minors. Some even became regulars on the disabled list, with pitchers like Danny Duffy and John Lamb even needing the dreaded Tommy John surgery. After seven years, we should have started seeing improvement. Instead we saw more struggles. But it wasn’t just the homegrown players that made everyone scratch their head.

Jeff Francoeur press conference

If the development of the homegrown talent wasn’t bad enough, the questions started to arise about the players that Moore was bringing in. For every James Shields that made sense, Dayton would bring in a Jeff Francoeur. Or a Yuniesky Betancourt. Or Chris Getz. It wasn’t always that Moore would bring these guys in; it was more about how Dayton didn’t know when to let them go. Sure, Francoeur had a solid 2011, but what has he done since then? To be honest, last week was the perfect opportunity to send Frenchy packing. Instead, Jarrod Dyson came off the DL and made it five outfielders the team now carries. All because they aren’t ready to admit that Francoeur has no value anymore. Chris Getz was sent down instead, and he is another guy that the Royals just can’t seem to give up on. Getz has never really hit, only plays average defense and more than anything just isn’t a very good major league baseball player. So when they sent him down, do they mention that he hasn’t been playing good? Nope. Manager Ned Yost tells everyone that Getz had options, which is why he got sent down. While I do believe him having options played into it, Getz has been the drizzling shits this year. Don’t believe me? Just look here. These are players who if on winning ball clubs would have been jettisoned a long time ago. But Moore and company still see value in them, which is a problem. This is where I remind everyone again that Moore has been in charge for seven years.

Jeff Francoeur, Ned Yost, Dan Iassogna

So what about Yost? Well, there are normally two trains of thought when it comes to “The man known as Frank”. One is that Yost isn’t great but he isn’t as bad as some perceive him to be. Then there are people like me who think he does nothing but damage this young team.  I often hear that managers don’t make nearly as much of an impact or matter as much as most people think. For a veteran ball club, I completely agree. If you have a team full of veterans, you let them go out and play and just move the pieces so you have a happy and loose clubhouse. But if you have a younger team,  a manager can make or break your team. Younger players are completely new to the major league experience and aren’t always sure how to handle themselves in pressure situations. That is where a manager steps in and helps them cope with the day to day grind of a slump. It is more than just being patient, which I do think Yost is. It also about being consistent, which Yost is not.

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals

More than anything else, younger ball players need consistency. Even if it is just knowing where they are going to bat on a day to day basis, or knowing they are in the lineup every night, they need that consistency. Yost doesn’t supply it. Instead, he changes the lineup about as much as he changes his underwear(I assume that is on a daily basis; if not, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know). One minute you are hitting 5th…the next 2nd…the next 3rd. No wonder these guys have a hard time getting comfortable! If they knew where they were batting every night, they would know before  a game how to prepare and know what is going to be asked of them in that spot. Instead, they are bounced around on a regular basis and never really can get in a regular rhythm. Yost also has a bad habit of changing the offensive attack on a regular basis. One minute he wants to play small ball and asks his players to bunt a lot. Then he wants them to hit for power. Then he wants them to bunt again. I feel like we should call him Cybill instead of Neddy(or Frank). Bottom line, there is no consistency. I feel like a broken record, but it always comes back to this. This team deserves a better person to learn from.

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I’ve felt for awhile that this team isn’t a team that can contend and that the Shields trade didn’t get them as close to the playoffs as they thought. If that is the case, then management basically gave away 6 years of controlling Wil Myers for 2 years of Shields with just an outside shot at the playoffs. After seven and three years respectively, less than a winning team at this point is just not acceptable. Moore continues to hold onto players that hold down the team(Francoeur, Getz, Hochevar, Chen) while Yost can’t decide on a lineup and has lost any idea of what strategy he wants to take anymore. Just this past week, Yost changed the lineup for the umpteen bajillionth time, moving slumping Alcides Escobar back into the number two slot in the lineup. Nevermind that Eric Hosmer had started to really hit out of that spot. Nevermind that Escobar has not offensively been the player he was in 2012. Nevermind that Salvador Perez had been slaying the ball in the 3rd spot. Nope, need to change the lineup again. The worst part is that Yost has gone back to focusing on bunting, which I assume is why Esky is back batting 2nd. They even did bunting drills before the game yesterday. Yes, in 2013 they still want to emphasize bunting.

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At this point, Yost has no clue how to get this team going and is just going back to the only thing he knows. He has no new ideas. Hiring George Brett was a Hail Mary pass that only landed out of frustration. Management is out of good ideas and is just going to let this team go out there and do whatever comes about. So why do I want this team to lose? Because at this point, the only way to truly make change is for Moore and Yost to get fired and bring in completely new management. New minds, fresh ideas and hopefully someone who doesn’t think Jeff Francoeur is a good ball player. What the Kansas City Royals need is for the team to embarrass Owner David Glass and force his hand. I don’t want to be the guy who prefers his team to lose. God knows in a lot of ways it kills me. But I also know that is the only way change will occur. If they win and finish over .500, I firmly believe we are looking at another two to three more years(at least) of Moore and Yost. Now ask yourself: Can you stand two to three more years of this? I can’t. So I’m going to hope they lose. If there ever was a time to ‘take one for the team’, this is it. Losing this year is the best path for a brighter future in Kansas City. I can’t be alone on this thinking.

 

Warming the Heart of a Jaded Royals Fan

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Younger fans don’t remember, but when baseball went on strike back in 1994, the Kansas City Royals were making a run for the playoffs. The Royals were 64-51 when baseball shut down, 4 games out of first and closing on the division leading Chicago White Sox. The season had started slow for Kansas City, but Hal McRae’s squad was one of the hottest teams in baseball at the time and there was a good chance that team could have made it to the postseason. But instead, the strike happened, McRae was fired, and the Royals team that took the field in 1995 when baseball came back was not the same team. Since that year, the Royals have only one season of above .500 play. One winning season, that is it. ONE. Sure, the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992. Poor Pirates fans. I’m sure they understand us Royals fans. They understand our pain, the misery we’ve seen. Every year, we keep asking: is it OUR time. Wait, bad choice of words. Royals fans keep asking: is this the year we finally have a reason to cheer? Is this the year we don’t have to look for silver linings? Finally, in 2013, we might have. Yes, I am showing up late to the party. But after this past weekend, I might finally be a believer. This Royals team could possibly contend this year.

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals

So let’s start at why I didn’t think this team would be where they are this year. To be honest, I saw a team that looked a lot like the 2012 team, just with some new pitchers. Now, granted those pitchers didn’t seem all that horrible. I knew James Shields would hold his own, and I was happy with Jeremy Guthrie coming back. But I was unsure about Ervin Santana and I think we can all say there was skepticism with Wade Davis. But outside of that, it was the same cast of characters. The offense couldn’t score runs last year, and they brought back the exact same lineup. The bullpen was still good, but manager Ned Yost was coming back too. It just didn’t feel like anything had changed. Now, to be fair here, some hasn’t. Davis hasn’t shown that he can completely revert back to the rotation yet, and Yost is still, well, Yost. Frank Yost, that is. The lineup had trouble early on, but they seemed to have improved over the first couple weeks of the season. None of these factors though are why my mind has shifted since Opening Day.

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No, the change is with the mentality. This team believes. They believe they can win. They believe that no matter the deficit, they can get back in the ball game. I know Shields has been a big part of this transformation,  as he wanted to bring over the winning environment he was around in Tampa. The rumors of him being a big time leader seem to be true, as he has this young group of players believing they are Superman and no one has their Kryptonite.  I mentioned the offense earlier and their struggles. They still aren’t kicking on all cylinders, but they’ve received something that winning teams have; clutch hitting. Get your hits when it counts, and it won’t matter where you rank in the league. Just ask the 2012 San Francisco Giants. The starters have stepped up too, making sure the team is always in the game. Can’t remember the last time a Royals team did that? Me either. All this team seemed to need was some big wins under their belt, and the newfound confidence would do the rest.  But there is some credit I probably should hand out.

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First, credit needs to go to Dayton Moore. I know, I rag on him quite a bit, and most of it is deserved. Seriously, he acquired Yuniesky Betancourt twice. You get flogged in other countries for worse crimes. But he knew his butt was on the line this offseason and went out and picked up pitching. Shields, Guthrie and Santana have been better than advertised and have helped change the atmosphere at the K. Santana more than anyone seemed a long shot. Here is a guy who was awful for the Angels last year, gave up the most long balls in the league, and had a 12 million dollar contract(albatross) around his neck, yet Moore was still willing to take a flyer on him. So far, it’s working. Moore also put trust in his offense, expecting the youngsters to step up and improve this year. Now, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer aren’t quite where we wish they would be, but you still see glimmer’s of hope. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are still the pillars of the offense, and Alcides Escobar has even turned into a really good offensive player. Lorenzo Cain is in the top ten in average, and Salvador Perez is starting to turn around his season. Hell, Jeff Francoeur is even contributing. Maybe his faith in these players was crazy, but it seems to be working. It could be better, but so far Moore’s gambles have paid off.

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This is even more painful for me; a little bit of credit has to go out to Ned Yost. Now, you all know my dislike of Neddy. I still feel like he isn’t the guy for this job. But…so far, he has pushed a lot of the right buttons this season. He stuck with Greg Holland during a rough few outings. He also wasn’t afraid to pull him if the situation dictated it. He has juggled with the lineup a bit, but he has kept Gordon and Escobar at the top this entire time, and they are your two most consistent hitters. He has even done a good job with the bench, lately using George Kottaras in situations that help the team. You see, Kottaras is one of those guys who is really patient at the plate and doesn’t go up there hacking. The Royals lineup doesn’t have a lot of those guys, so late in a game, Kottaras is just as big a weapon as Jarrod Dyson. He has made a few guffaws(he still occasionally doesn’t know when to pull a starting pitcher, and still hasn’t realized to not put Luke Hochevar into a game when runners are on base) but for the most part he has let these guys go out there and do their thing. I still want him fired, but right now he seems to have learned how to properly manage.

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So has my prediction of 78-80 wins changed? I won’t say changed as much as I can see them being above .500 now. I am still a realist, and I know there is still a lot of baseball yet to play this season. The Royals really haven’t had to face much adversity yet, so one does wonder how they will handle it. What I will say is this is a different team. This team has confidence, and just like how you need confidence when approaching a woman, you also need confidence if you are going to be a winning baseball team. This gang of Royals have that. For right now, things are good in Kansas City. But we are all aware that the wheels could come off the bus tomorrow. Santana could come back down to earth. The offense could start struggling again. Neddy could have flashbacks to his Milwaukee days. But for now, the Royals are winning…and winning feels good. Change is definitely a good thing.         

Fake Royals Predictions 2013

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals

With the Royals just a few days away from kicking off this 2013 campaign, I thought it would be good to throw out some predictions. But I did have this. Then I went really in-depth with this here. So it appeared I needed to travel down a different road. So here are your 2013 Royals fake predictions. We did this last year (which you can check out here) and they were wildly popular. These are all jokes, so please don’t take any of this too seriously. They are just meant as amusement as we get ready to kick off the new season. So without further ado, here are your ‘Fake Royals Predictions’!

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Royals fans will flock to the K for the Billy Butler bobblehead night. Some unnamed fan will ruin it for everyone though, by claiming it should be called the ‘Country Breakfast’ bobblehead. Let it go, Scott!

Chris Getz will come close to actually hitting a ball out of the park, but alas it will be caught on the warning track. We will tell our kids about this for years to come, but they won’t believe Getzie was ever able to hit the ball that far.

esky

Alcides Escobar will continue to play excellent defense and not get the respect he truly deserves. Maybe he should hit more homers.

James Shields and Wade Davis will call their former manager Joe Maddon just to hear his voice.

Moooooooose

Mike Moustakas will receive a new nickname: Pigpen. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy to chant as ‘MOOOOOOOOSE’!

Rex Hudler, to gain more attention, will spend the year attacking other condiment bottles, like ketchup and barbecue sauce. Ryan Lefebvre will feel like he is at a Gallagher concert and start carrying around a parka, goggles and galoshes.

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Johnny Giavotella will quit baseball halfway through the season and be a star for the Keebler Elves.

Jeff Francoeur will never find his swing(is it in Albuquerque?) and will be on the bench by June. Dayton Moore will created a new title for Frenchy: Dayton’s BFF.

Myers

Wil Myers will be called up to the majors by Tampa Bay on May 1st. He will play in his first major league game that night at Kauffman Stadium, and proceed to hit his first major league home run, off the Royals Hall of Fame. Royals fans everywhere will cry.

Also, Dayton Moore will think the Royals are rightthere  right before the trade deadline, feeling they just need a backup infielder with some pop. He will make a trade with Milwaukee…and re-acquire Yuniesky Betancourt for a third time!

Luke Hochevar

Luke Hochevar will do a good job for the Royals out of the bullpen. But in June, Kansas City will need a starter to fill in, and decide Hoch has proven he can be a starter again. It will be disastrous, yet they will let him make four more starts before sending him back to the bullpen. Manager Ned Yost will say “but he almost turned the corner.”

Speaking of Yost, with the team within striking distance come September, he will go back to his old ways and over-manage while the team is making a play for the wild card. When asked why he was making the decisions that he did, he’ll say “but I thought bunting was always the answer!”

Tim+Collins+Kansas+City+Royals+v+Detroit+Tigers+5xejvREvUsnl

Tim Collins will all of a sudden have a growth spurt this season, and by the end of the year he will have grown to 6 feet tall. He will also think he is back in High School and start wearing his letter jacket everywhere.

Kelvin Herrera will throw a ball so hard this year that it will break Salvador Perez’s hand and put him out of action.

GK

Royals fans and announcers will spend most of the season trying to figure out how to pronounce the name of backup catcher George Kottaras(go ahead, I know you are trying to right now!).

Ned Yost will want Jarrod Dyson to hit the ball more on the ground and less in the air to utilize his speed. So everytime Dyson pops the ball up during the game, he’ll drop down at the plate and do pushups, ala Willie Mays Hayes. Yosty will think that is good strategy, since it worked in the movies.

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Salvador Perez will remind us more and more of Vladimir Guerrero at the plate, including covering his helmet and bat in pine tar and swinging at anything and everything. He will still hit for a good average. Jeff Francoeur will be jealous. George Brett will be proud.

Eric Hosmer will come around and start hitting like the Hos of old. That is until he goes M.I.A. for a few weeks. Eventually we will find out that a slew of women had kidnapped him and made him their love slave. Hosmer will be sad to leave them and return to the Royals.

Jeff+Francoeur+Chris+Getz+C2C1NOIkYHSm

and in Dayton Moore’s greatest move ever, he will be able to trade both Jeff Francoeur and Chris Getz in the same deal. Who would be the GM wanting to pick these two up? None other than Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers. His team will be making a playoff run and manager Kirk Gibson will tell him he needs “more GRIT”.

That is your 2013 Royals fake predictions. Enjoy the season everyone, and let’s hope there are playoff games in our near future!

 

It’s Not All About the Pitching, Dummies!

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There were a lot of things that went wrong last year for the Kansas City Royals, but if you listen to the media you would think that all this team needed was a few top notch starters and things would be good to go. There is not a sane Royals fan out there who couldn’t see that the team needed pitching. BADLY. But something else was a big concern last year, but doesn’t get the press that the pitching has. In fact, it was a concern despite it being considered one of the team’s strengths going into 2012. Just as big of a problem for the Royals last year was the team’s hitting, or at least the lack of runs being scored. Nothing has changed with the lineup going into 2013, but yet we are to believe all is fixed. Shouldn’t we be worried about this as well?

Mike Moustakas, Kevin Seitzer

Now, I take back my earlier comment. There is one change for the Royals when it comes to the offense. Kansas City’s hitting coach last year, Kevin Seitzer, was jettisoned at the end of the season and ended up being the fall guy for the club’s lofty goals not being reached. We can debate for days whether or not Seitzer deserved to be fired, but the one thing that can’t be debated is that the offense, while being quite able to get on base, was not so successful on getting them to cross home plate. The stats prove that this team, when they want, can rake. The Royals finished 2012 4th in the American League in Batting Average, and 3rd in hits. They also show that this team wasn’t the best at taking a walk last year, as they were  9th in OBP, and 8th in OPS and total bases. What about runs? Glad you asked. The Royals were 12th in both runs scored and RBI’s in the American League. WOW!! That is a rather large discrepancy between the amount of hits this ballclub had in 2012 and the actual amount of those runners that scored. So exit Seitzer, enter the two-headed dragon of Jack Maloof and Andre David. The two of them will be working with the Royals hitters this year, and are hoping to improve on these shoddy numbers. But more on them in just a bit.

hos and moose

So how do the Royals expect to see improvement on the offense when they will be sporting the same lineup as last year? The big part of the bump is expected to come from bounce back seasons from youngsters Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. It’s been written about a lot, so we don’t need to go into it much here. Both Hos and Moose had less than stellar 2012’s, and you it seems inconceivable that they would continue that downward slide again in 2013. But can we guarantee that these two will be back to normal expectations? There is a good chance of this happening, as both are perceived as natural hitters. So far, Hosmer has looked good this spring(yes, I know. It is only Spring Training. Remember he tore up the Cactus League last year as well.) , and the prevalent thought is that a lot of Moustakas’ problems last year were injury related, as he played most of the second half of the season with a knee issue. If both take a step forward this year, this could easily bump up the team’s offense and help relieve some of worrying there is about the team’s hitting.

Jeff Francoeur

Another big change the Royals need this year is some improvement from Right Fielder Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur was bad in 2012. Nope, that’s not the word I am looking for. He sucked. Big time. Francoeur might very well have been the worst player in baseball last year, as he hit a paltry .235, with a .287 OBP and (you might want to sit down on this one) a WAR of -2.7! That from a guy who hit in the 5th slot for much of the season. Francoeur thinks he has figured out part of what led to his hellaciously sucky 2012, and so far this spring he has been hitting at a solid clip. Once again, it is only Spring Training. But for the Royals to be better this year, they need a better year from Frenchy. If we get the same Francoeur we got last year, that Wil Myers trade will look worse and worse by the day. Royals management has faith in ‘The Man they call Frenchy’; I wish I could say the same. Although, at this point a .250 season would be an improvement.

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So what else are the Royals counting on to be different offensively in 2012? Well, to be healthy is also on the list. Last year this team lost two regular starters for a chunk of the season, as catcher Salvador Perez didn’t even play in a game until July 2nd, while center fielder Lorenzo Cain got injured in the second series of the season against Oakland, and ended up only playing in 61 games in 2012. The Royals need both healthy if they hope this season will be better for the team offensively.

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I don’t know what the team is thinking at Second Base. Last year, it seemed to be a revolving door of Getz-Betancourt-Giavotella-Falu-Abreu, and none really staked their claim. Johnny Giavotella has to show the team that he can hit in the majors, or the job belongs to Chris Getz. Getz hit a homerun this spring(OMG!), so I don’t know if the team thinks he has some pop in his bat now or what. With Getz, I just don’t think the team can expect much from him offensively. Giavotella is a mystery, as he reached the majors due to his bat, yet has not shown that same offensive prowess in the big leagues. Hopefully the Royals can get some offense from the position this year. If not, it will make you wonder why they didn’t go out and try to get someone this past offseason.

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So the Royals are counting on a lot of things that didn’t work in 2012 to go right in 2013. But if that wasn’t enough, manager Ned Yost has stressed since Seitzer’s firing that he wants his team to swing for the fences more this year. Now, this team should probably hit more homeruns. The Royals tied for last in this category in the American League with Minnesota in 2012. If anyone has a decent memory, Minnesota plays in a rather large ballpark, even bigger than Kauffman Stadium. The Twins were also way worse than the Royals last year, so it seems a bit odd that a team who was 3rd in hits would have that low of a homerun total. So yes, there is room for improvement. But this team doesn’t strike me as one with homerun hitters. Sure, Billy Butler lead the team with 29 bombs last year, but Billy still strikes me as more of a gap hitter. Same for Alex Gordon and Hosmer. Moustakas to me seems like the only one well suited to be a power hitter. Not that the other guys won’t hit their share, they’re just hitters more suited to be guys who are good hitters rather than try to swing for the fences. This also brings up another point. Why bring in two hitting coaches who were never power hitters back in their day, (and in fact were pretty close to the same kind of hitter Kevin Seitzer was), yet ask them to have the hitters focus on the long ball? It would seem to be a bit of a conflict of interest, as Yost has even said he would rather they strike out then fly out during a plate appearance. Would any hitting coach ever stress to his players that he would rather they strike out then hit the ball? I don’t think so. This just seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Nothing says ‘Rally Killer’ like telling your players to swing for the fences in a crucial situation.

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So here we are, just three weeks away from Opening Day, and the Royals so far this spring have tore it up offensively. I can see where people will get excited, thinking this is a sign of what we’ll see once the season starts. But it is not guaranteed, and last year can attest to that. This team could be one of the best offensive clubs in baseball, but at this point I feel even more conflicted on whether we will see that team or the one we saw last year. Having better pitching will help, but it won’t mean as much if the hitters can’t score some runs. There is an old adage that says ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results’. Let’s hope it’s not ‘playing the same lineup from last year and expecting different results’.

2013 Predictions That Will Probably Be Wrong By June

openind day 13Spring Training has started and before you know the 2013 baseball season will be underway. Spring might be the best time for most teams, as everyone is filled with hope and think their team could be THE team. Yes, even some Houston Astros fans. Or not. Hope springs eternal and Spring gives team eternal hope, even when they maybe should be more realistic. With the season only six weeks away, I will go ahead and try to guess how the season will unfold. Just remember when June rolls around to not point out my bad predictions(or bad guesses, however you want to word it) and realize that very few so called “experts” can predict what will happen. That’s part of what makes baseball so great. So without further ado, here are my division predictions for 2013.

al east

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

1.Tampa Bay

2.Toronto

3. New York

4. Baltimore

5. Boston

This might be the hardest division to handicap. I literally could rotate most of these teams in any slot and wouldn’t really argue too much with the results. Tampa almost seems like the safe bet, since Joe Maddon and company always find a way to win and probably have the best rotation in the American League. I like what Toronto has done this offseason, especially with how their rotation will shape up. Dickey, Morrow, Buerhle, Johnson and Romero? If everyone stays healthy, that could be a lethal round of arms. The Blue Jays could also turn out like the Marlins did last year, so they might be interesting to follow. I hate putting the Yankees in third place, especially since they did nothing major this offseason and in fact lost talent, but they still have some good arms, and they are the Yankees. Unfortunately. Baltimore will slip, as no team can keep up the amount of luck this team had last year(especially in extra innings), but they still won’t be a bad team. Buck Showalter is too good of a manager for that. Boston is at the bottom of my list, but I do think they will be better than they were last year. Farrell will do fine in his first year in Beantown, but this team still doesn’t have the firepower they have had in the past. All in all, this division will be a fun one to watch, and might have the most depth of the bunch.

Royals-Walk-Off-Celebration-436x350AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

1. Detroit

2. Cleveland

3. Chicago

4. Kansas City

5. Minnesota

This pains me more than you will ever know. Let’s start at the top, with the Tigers. Detroit won the Central late last year, after Chicago held the top start for a good chunk of 2012. Not only did the Tigers get to the World Series, they have IMPROVED since last year. Detroit now gets Anibal Sanchez for a full season, Victor Martinez returns from injury and they added Torii Hunter to the team, which will help them offensively, defensively and in the clubhouse. No reason to think the Motor City will be giving up the reigns on the division anytime soon. I’m going ahead and taking Cleveland second, although you should be able to flip flop them and Chicago in all honesty. I really like the moves that the Indians have made this offseason and the biggest acquisition has to be manager Terry Francona. Francona alone makes that team better in 2013 and when you add in Swisher, Bourn, Stubbs, and Bauer, and the offense looks tons better than they did last year. The real question with Cleveland will be their pitching and whether or not they can get Ubaldo Jimenez back to being the guy who made NL batters look dumb. Chicago ran out of gas late last year, but they have a lot of quality young arms and somehow GM Kenny Williams always makes it work. It’s easy to say they will fall a bit this year, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they don’t. I’ve got Kansas City sitting in fourth place and I will go into more detail obviously when the season gets closer. To shorten up my thoughts, the Royals have a lot of ‘ifs’ going into this year and they are counting on a lot of things that didn’t work in 2012 to work in 2013. That is really expecting some major changes, when not as much has changed with this team as they have people thinking. Just saying, you might want to hold off on purchasing those playoff tickets, my Royal Blue brethren. Minnesota takes up the bottom of the league, but I have to believe they will be better than they were last year. If the Twins play this year like they did last year, I think Ron Gardenhire might blow a gasket and up and quit before the season is over. A part of me is leery to count out the Twinkies. They are THAT team, the one who never truly goes away. Just ask the Royals about that. I know everyone thinks the Central is the worse division in baseball, and they might be right. But it is already way better than it was this time last year.

2013 al westAMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

1. Los Angeles

2. Texas

3. Oakland

4. Seattle

5. Houston

Another good division, with a number of teams that could contend for a playoff spot. It is also a division with one extra team this year, as the Astros move over to the American League and join the West. Granted, they were kind of held at gunpoint to move and really didn’t want to, but they are there now and a number of NL Central teams are a lot sadder because of it. Let’s start at the top with the Angels. I’ve got them in first, and will freely admit that it is partially because they are my second favorite team. Year two of the Pujols Project should help the team way more than last year, and they’ve even added that Hamilton guy to take some of the load off of Albert’s back. Oh yeah, and there is that Trout guy as well. I’ve heard he’s pretty good. Texas is slotted in second, but they just as easily could get first. One wonders if their early exit out of the playoffs will motivate them or let it linger as the season begins. Even though the Rangers have lost some key players(Hamilton, Young, etc.) I love the young talent that is shooting up the pipeline for the Rangers and think they will be just as lethal as they were before. Oakland is in third, but it is hard to bet against Bob Melvin and company. This team has no stars, and yet had over 90 wins last year. They still have the good pitching that guided them to the playoffs last year and an offense that buys into what Melvin and Billy Beane are selling. If the team makes a push at the traded deadline they could once again win the West in 2013. The Mariners are booked for fourth place and I want to like this team more. I think they have a some really good young talent, but I totally don’t know what they are thinking with the offseason acquisitions. I mean, does the team really need 253 outfielders/first basemen/designated hitters? They do realize that those three areas only cover 5 spots in the order, right? It just doesn’t make much sense. Lastly, the Astros will take up the cellar of the West. This team is completely rebuilding, and as much as they should be credited for it, it will make for a very, very long season in Houston. Good luck, Astros fans. You are going to need it.

NL-East-Batting-Practice-featuredNATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

1. Washington

2. Atlanta

3. New York

4. Philadelphia

5. Miami

The top of this division will probably have a couple of the best teams in the league. They also might have a couple of the worst. Washington looks to once again see October baseball this year, as they have both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper for a full season. This is just a really, really good team with lots of great talent and depth. Yes, depth will win you games, especially come postseason. Atlanta looks at a possible second place finish, although anyone who thinks they win the division might not be too far off. Great pitching, great offense, great defense and this team will probably be a wild card team when it is all said and done. The Upton boys will get a full season playing together and even with the loss of Chipper Jones might not slow down Atlanta as much as originally thought. I’ve got the Mets in third place, as this team seems on the verge of some really good seasons. It is a young bunch, but one with some great up and comers. I think they will be way better than anyone gives them credit for. Philadelphia takes up fourth place, and I am aware the team still has Halladay and Lee. But they also have a group of aging veterans(Utley, Rollins, Howard) and players who are bloated and overpaid(Delmon Young, Yuniesky Betancourt). Phillies fans, a lull is in your future. Embrace it. As much doom and gloom as the Phillies seem to be, the Marlins are in worse shape. Another rebuilding year. A rookie manager. A bunch of new, young faces. Don’t embrace this, Marlins fans. You deserve better.

pittsbNATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1. Cincinnati

2. St. Louis

3. Pittsburgh

4. Milwaukee

5. Chicago

The National League Central hosts one less team this year. Unfortunately for the other five teams, they won’t have the Astros to feast on anymore. Let’s start with the Reds, who sit atop the perch of this division. Dusty Baker’s team was right on the verge of getting to the NLCS this past fall, but those pesky Giants took that dream away from them. It was kind of San Francisco’s thing this past year. Back to the Reds. They are basically bringing back the same team, and with it probably the NL Central title. If I had to find something that worried me, it would be the switch of Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. I don’t get it, but we’ll see how it goes. The Cardinals will make it interesting for Cincy, but the loss of Chris Carpenter for the year could cause the Cards to go out and pick up another starter, although using someone like Shelby Miller might do just as good a job. I totally think this is the year Pittsburgh FINALLY gets a winning season, even if it is just a few games over .500. The baseball Gods have to be looking out for those faithful fans that have stuck by that team for so long. With Andrew McCutchen leading the charge, I see good things in the Pirates future. Milwaukee takes up fourth, as it seems the team just doesn’t have the pitching to keep it in the hunt. Rounding out the division is the Cubs. Now, I completely think Chicago will be better this year, especially with the great offseason they had acquiring pitching. But the team is still fairly young and will go through some growing pains. Stay strong, Cubs fans. Your time is coming soon.

San Francisco Giants v Colorado RockiesNATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

1. San Francisco

2. Los Angeles

3. Arizona

4. San Diego

5. Colorado

What a hot mess this division could turn out to be? Almost any of the last four teams could collapse and make for a rough season for their ballclubs. Or they could go on a hot streak and give San Francisco a run for their money. The Giants are not only the defending World Champions, but with their team basically kept in tact, could be a favorite for another world title. Their pitching alone should have the other teams in their league worried. The Dodgers have the chance of giving their rivals a run for their money, but it could go the other way. A lot of money spent does not guarantee one a playoff spot. Ask the Red Sox about that. There is a part of me that can’t wait until Zack Greinke implodes in LA, but how soon that happens is anyone’s guess. There is a good chance it won’t be this year. The Dodgers could be interesting to follow, just to see how the team chemistry is in that clubhouse. Also in the conversation is Arizona, but they also had a major upheaval. The team got rid of their best player, and got rid of any players who don’t live by manager Kirk Gibson’s hard nosed style. This will either be a team who is fun to watch, or one that has to scrap to score runs. San Diego will get a reprieve again from last place, mainly because Bud Black is really good at his managing job. I hope the Padres are paying attention, since that guy deserves a more competitive team. Last once again looks like it will be Colorado. Some changes have been made, and one is curious to see how first year manager Walt Weiss does. I have to believe that if Troy Tulowitzki is healthy, this could be a much better team. But like all things in this game, that is a big if.

So there you go, my predictions for 2013. I’m sure I will be forced to eat my words within a few months and you’ll want to point out where I was wrong. You’re right; I should have just gone with a Cubs/Red Sox World Series! I’m sure Major League baseball and the Fox Network would just love that. Now….LET’S PLAY BALL!

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