The Royals are up 2-0 in the ALDS. Thoughts after Games 1&2, and looking toward Game 3.

The Royals are one win away from the American League Championship Series.

Just let that settle in. A week ago Friday, the Royals were spraying champagne in the visitors’ dugout at US Cellular field celebrating their first playoff berth in 29 years. It marked the end of an exhausting month duking it out with Detroit, Oakland, Seattle and Cleveland for the last remaining playoff spots. We were like Charlie Bucket entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – others may have felt entitled to their playoff spot, but we’re were kinda just happy to be there.

I alluded to this in my post following Tuesday’s Wild Card win, but I’ll say it more explicitly here: I always thought we would lose the Wild Card game. From the beginning of this season, I thought this was a playoff team, but I didn’t think we were most likely to win the Central. And everything in my experience as a Royals fan speaks to the narrative of disappointment. Losing the Wild Card matchup would have been the ultimate disappointment. I expected it.

But they won.

Then they won again on Thursday thanks to incredible outfield defense from Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain and a huge 11th-inning home run from Mike Moustakas. Then they won again on Friday thanks to Yordano Ventura completely shutting down the Los Angeles Angels’ star-studded power lineup and another huge 11th inning home run – this one from Eric Hosmer.

One week. It’s been an exhausting one, hasn’t it?

Not sure about you, but I’ve averaged around 4 hours of sleep over this past week. I was at Tuesday’s game that lasted 4 hours and 45 minutes. Didn’t get home until 1AM, and I was so jacked up there was no way I was getting to bed immediately. Thursday night’s 11-inning affair finished up at 12:13PM. Friday’s ended at 12:26PM. Even then, it’s just not possible for me to sleep well (or at all) after such dramatic ballgames.

It isn’t purely sleep deprivation though, is it? It’s been emotionally draining too. This is the first time in MLB postseason history that a team has won three consecutive extra inning games. This is the only time a team to play three straight 11+ inning games too. Only five other teams have won three total extra inning playoff games before this year: 86 Mets, 91 Twins, 96 Yankees, 03 Marlins, 04 Red Sox.

See anything in common in that list?

Oh, just that all of those teams won the World Series. So there’s that.

The Royals have an opportunity to sweep the “best team in the American League” (although that’s open for debate at this point) tonight. They are 1 win away from playing in the American League Championship Series and 5 wins away from the World Series and 9 wins away from being 2014 World Series Champions. THIS IS REAL PEOPLE. IT’S HAPPENING.

It’s been a crazy, exhausting and thrilling week, yes? I don’t know how I can survive the rest of this month. And if I don’t, it’s probably already been worth it.

Vargas & Yordano

When I heard the news that Jason Vargas would be starting Game 1, I was not thrilled. Vargas had a terrible September: a 9.00 ERA in his last 4 starts of the season. I saw his final start in person in Cleveland actually. He doesn’t throw hard, so he has to rely on his pinpoint control, and he did not have it that night. I wanted Danny Duffy instead, but the Royals know their team better than I do. Apparently.

Because Vargas was great. He gave up just two hits in 6 innings. Only problem is both of those hits were home runs – one to Chris Iannetta and one to David Freese. But overall he was extremely effective and got us to the bullpen after 6. (With a little lot of help from the defense.)

And Yordano. Oh, Yordano. The dude is just insane. I’ve never seen him nastier. He was throwing straight fire. 102 with movement just isn’t fair. Before Friday, the most 100+ MPH pitches he’d thrown in one game was 5. Friday night, he threw 12. TWELVE different pitches at or over 100 MPH. He only threw 95 pitches, so that’s 12.6% of his pitches! I tell you what, it’s nice to have a rookie like that. Get him a contract extension ASAP.

Moose & Hosmer

These two were Dayton Moore’s poster boys. The first round picks in 2007 & 2008 were supposed to come in and change the landscape of Royals baseball for years to come. Unfortunately, they’ve mostly stunk. Especially Moose.

Moustakas had a stint in Omaha this summer. The team went on a giant winning stretch while Hosmer was on the disabled list in July/August. I’ve personally lobbied for both of them to be benched at some point this season. Christian Colon has played well in his time in the majors this year, and Danny Valencia did a fine job platooning with Moose before we traded him to Toronto. Billy Butler’s resurgence while Hosmer was out sparked lots of questions whether Hos would get his position back when he returned.

But wouldn’t you know it, the first two games of the ALDS are won off of 11th inning home runs from each of them. They’re the heroes of the ALDS so far.

I’m curious how Friday’s game impacts Moose’s career in the long term. We know he can hit – he does it in Spring Training year after year. He has always put so much pressure on himself to perform that his average slips around .200-.220. But the last few weeks we have seen a different Moose in my opinion. He’s amped up to play. He’s taking the ball to the opposite field regularly to beat the shift. He even pushed a bunt single down the line on Friday. Pure gold.

I have a sense – and we’ll see how this plays out – that Moose is more relaxed than he has ever been in his career after the home run last night. I’m betting that we continue to see a productive Moose throughout the playoffs and into next season. At least, I hope.

Ned & Holland

I’ve already addressed how annoyed I get with the Royals fan base hating Ned Yost. And he’s not flawless, obviously. But I think we just enjoy hating him at this point.

No one seems to be arguing about the lineup since Omar Infante got moved down and Cain moved up. The only situation that seems to get criticized now is the use, or lack thereof, of Greg Holland in the 9th inning in the last three games.

In the Wild Card game, with the Royals losing 7-6, Yost brought in Holland in the 9th at home before the Royals tied the game up in the bottom half. Makes perfect sense because if he doesn’t use him and we don’t score then you’ve neglected your best bullpen arm in the end.

In the last two games, with the game tied, Yost has chosen to go with Jason Frasor and a Tim Collins/Frasor combo. He kept Holland for the 11th inning in both games. Typically, in a tie game on the road, you’d throw your closer in the 9th, get three outs and make sure the game goes to extras. Use your best arms and resort to the lesser arms when/if you have to. No sense in throwing the game away by putting in a lesser pitcher instead.

But here’s the rub with that logic: you’re going to have to throw your worse arm if you want to win anyway. Even if Yost decided to throw Holland in the 9th, then Moose/Hosmer hits their homer in the 11th, he would then turn to Frasor and/or Collins for the bottom of the 11th. You’d rely on the same pitchers, just at different points of the game.

So, hypothetically, if Collins had blown it in the 9th, we’d all be blasting Yost for not bringing in Holland instead. Except, if he does bring in Holland and he’s successful, you’re going to have to trust Collins later anyway. It’s a half foot one way, six inches the other.

It boils down to preference, really. Would you rather save your best guy for when you have a lead or throw him to sustain the tie? The lesser-than-Hollands are going to have to throw at some point anyway.

Personally, I’d much rather see Holland in there in a save situation in the 11th than Tim Collins or Jason Frasor, and I think you would too. Wouldn’t we rather have a shutdown guy ready to go once we took the lead? A lead is a win with Holland out there still. A lead is still somewhat in question when turning to Collins/Frasor.

Note to Yost: keep doing what you’re doing with Holland. Also, proud of you for bringing in Davis in the 7th. And if Herrera is out long term, the answer is either lefty Brandon Finnegan or righty Jason Frasor depending on the matchup.

Looking Forward: Big Game James v. CJ Wilson

I have tickets to the game tonight at Kauffman Stadium (!!!!!!), and who else would you rather have in a potential clinching game than James Shields? Let’s take a look at the career splits vs current rosters…

Shields vs LAA, career: .279/.305/.525

Wilson vs KC, career: .252/.337/.459

The Angels hit Shields very well. Howie Kendrick especially: 14-26 (.538/.556/.855). In fact, it seems like anyone on this team who has faced Shields much has had some success against him.

Albert Pujols is 3-6 vs Shields. Mike Trout is 2-6…with a 3B and a HR. That’s a .333/.333/1.167 split.

Except Josh Hamilton. He stinks versus BGJ. I would not be shocked to see Hamilton get benched today. He is hitless so far in the series, got booed loudly during Game 2 in Los Angeles, and lifetime against Shields he is 3-25 with 11 strikeouts. Collin Cowgill is 0-3 lifetime against Shields, but played 44 games out in LF this season, mostly while Hamilton was out during September. If I were Mike Scioscia, I’d bench Hamilton for Cowgill.

The biggest difference is that Shields (3.21 ERA) hardly walks anyone while Wilson (4.51) walks a lot. Except the Royals this year finished dead last in the majors in walks taken. Patience at the plate (looking at you, Salvy and Lorenzo) will reap it’s benefits against Wilson. Wilson also pitches significantly worse on the road (4-8, 5.31 ERA) than at home (9-2, 3.82 ERA). So that works in our favor as well.

Shields is obviously the better pitcher, especially with Wilson pitching on the road, but I’m more nervous than usual with Shields against the Angels.


Okay that’s enough for now. We’ll pick it back up after they sweep the best team in the American League tonight. But let’s be honest, are they still the best team?

I’m predicting a 6-3 Royals win.

Until then, I’ll be listening to Tech N9ne and J-Lo’s “Waiting for Tonight” on loop. See you at Kauffman. Let’s get weird.


The Royals are headed to the ALDS.

Tell me what the headline should be here. I have no idea how to communicate such an insane experience.

The night was an emotionally draining blur and this morning my voice sounds like Frogman from Little Rascals. It is with zero hesitation that I label last night’s 9-8 come-from-behind 12th-inning walkoff Royals Wild Card victory the greatest game I have ever attended.

People will tell you that they never had a doubt, and that they knew the whole time the Royals had it in the bag. Those individuals should not be trusted. Save for a few strong innings when then Royals held a 3-2 lead, there was absolutely every reason to doubt before and throughout last night’s wild card playoff game. I spent the entire day worrying. I’ve never been so nervous in my life. I posted to Twitter yesterday afternoon that I was more nervous about the game than I ever was proposing to my wife. I joked that I was bringing an extra pair of pants to the game too…just in case.

That was a lie, obviously. And I’d also be lying if I said I never had doubt. And if you tell me you never had doubts when we were down 7-3 in the 8th, i question your grasp of reality.

Let’s begin with the end. Oakland had just taken the lead, 8-7 in the 12th. In the bottom half with 1 out, Eric Hosmer – who went 3-4 with 2 walks – lifted a ball to deep right. Sam Fuld and Jonny Gomes both looked like they might have a play on it against the wall. Instead, they collided in midair and the ball caromed off the wall for a standup triple. Christian Colon chopped a swinging bunt single and Hosmer scored from third to tie the game at 8-8. Colon stole second, and Salvador Perez came to the plate.

Again, zero reason to be confident here. Salvy had already come up twice with runners aboard and had failed badly. He continues to chase terrible pitches low and away. Throw him a slider down and out, and he’ll swing every time. For a guy who spends every day framing the strikezone he sure doesn’t seem to have a clue where it is. In the 8th inning, with the tying run on third base, Salvy had struck out on a pitch that wasn’t anywhere close. He looked awful.

Right on cue, he swung at a pitch a foot off the plate outside, and somehow that ball found it’s way between third base and Josh Donaldson’s diving glove. Colon scored from second, and the game was over.

Here’s a look at both pitches by ESPN Stats & Info…
And with that swing the Royals won their first playoff game since winning it all in 1985.

The game took 4 hours and 45 minutes, and I’m certain I experienced every emotion possible in that span.

Kauffman was absolutely rocking. it felt like Arrowhead, honestly, and that’s no exaggeration. I’ve never been to a baseball game that loud. Not even close. When James Shields took the mound to start the game, the whole place was standing like a college basketball game. Someday I’ll tell my unborn kids for the 800th time how loud it was and they’ll roll their eyes and go, “yeah, yeah, we know dad.”

It was electric at the beginning and the end. But there were quite a few spots in between that were very very dismal.

The place was silent in the first after Brandon Moss hit a 2-run homer to make it 2-0 Oakland early, but sprang back to life when the Royals immediately responded with a run of their own when Billy Butler singled in Nori Aoki in the first. Then went back to bananas when my boy Lorenzo Cain doubled scoring Mike Moustakas and Hosmer singled scoring Cain.

If there was ever a point to “not have any doubts” this was it. The fans were all up in Jon Lester’s dome. The whole place was chanting, “Leeeeees-ter, Leeeeees-terrr,” and the A’s starter actually looked rattled. Going into the last night, Lester had owned the Royals over his career (1.84 ERA, 88 IP). They faced him three times between July 20 and August 12 in the midst of their crazy hot streak in July/August, and they lost all three games badly.

But the Royals finally got to him last night: 7.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R. Yet somehow he left the game in line for another win due to a suspect managerial move by Ned Yost.

With the Royals leading 3-2, Shields got into some trouble in the 6th. Fuld led off with a single and Donaldson walked. Two on, no outs. Shields had thrown 88 pitches, and has cruised through the previous 5 innings with the only blip being Moss’s HR in the first. In a regular season game, your ace pitcher would have the opportunity to work out of it himself. But in a winner-take-all game, Yost opted to pull Shields for – not Kelvin Herrera or Wade Davis, not Jason Frasor or Brandon Finnegan, not even lefty Danny Duffy – but young rookie starter Yordano Ventura.

I get the move. I do. And if it had worked, we’d all be talking about what a genius Ned was to bring in the young flamethrower. Unfortunately, Moss took a 97 mph fastball over the centerfield fence. They would add two more runs in the frame and make it 7-3, bad guys.

At which point, I gave up. The game was over and Ned Yost was going to get raked over the coals for it. Hope was nowhere to be found, and for the second time, the life had been sucked out of Kauffman Stadium. You could here every word coming from the mouth of every A’s fan. Royals fans could do nothing but watch their season slip away.

The song “Don’t Stop Believing” came on between innings, and it was almost comical how depressing things felt. The only ones singing along in my section were two over-served gentlemen down near the front, and two boys in the seats right in front of us.

Someone said something about things looking grim, to which one of the kids responded, “All we need to do is have everyone hit a home run and we’ll win.” The kid clearly didn’t know his 2014 Royals statistics, because no one hits home runs on this team, but he taught me a little about hope in the midst of despair.

It was the 8th inning when the rally began. Alcides Escobar singled and stole second. Cain singled him home. Cain stole second. Hosmer walked and the A’s pulled Lester for Luke Gregorson. Billy Butler singled and scored Cain, and moved Hosmer to third. Terrance Gore ran for Butler and stole second. A wild pitch by Gregorson advanced both runners. Hosmer’s run made it 7-6. Alex Gordon walked and stole second. Perez and Omar Infante struck out with the tying run and fastest guy in the league just 90 feet away.

The Royals had 7 steals in this game, by the way, tying a postseason record. The biggest of them all game in the 9th. Josh Willingham led off with a single and Jarrod Dyson pinch ran for him. Escobar bunted him to second. Then with Aoki batting, Dyson stole third – the biggest steal of the seven – we were 90 feet away. Aoki hit a sacrifice fly to right and Dyson scored to tie the game and send it to extra innings.

The “90 feet away” motif suddenly became a thing as the Royals put a man on third base in 4 consecutive innings – 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th – plating only Dyson.

A look at the three they didn’t score…



…none of them scored. The Royals did a masterful job doing 3/4 of the manufacturing, but couldn’t get the guy to advance the last 90 feet on three different occasions.

Meanwhile, while the offense is stranding runners at third, the bullpen was doing it’s thing. Wade Davis pitched a scoreless 8th. Greg Holland pitched a scoreless 9th. And 21-year old rookie Brandon Finnegan threw 2.1 innings striking out 3. Gosh, he looks good. Finny was playing ball at TCU in the College World Series just 4 months ago, he was the Royals top draft pick this year and has been stellar out of the bullpen since the rosters expanded in September. He ka another reason the future is bright beyond 2014 in Kansas City.

Then in the 12th, the A’s did what we couldn’t: they moved a base runner 90 more feet. The runner was Josh Reddick, who walked to lead off the inning. Jed Lowrie bunted him to second and Jason Frasor came into the game and promptly threw a wild pitch. With Reddick at third – 90 feet away – former Royal, Alberto Callaspo, singled to make it 8-7.

This was the worst of the worsts for fans at The K. Inning after inning we had runs sitting right there and couldn’t bring them across. And to see Oakland succeed on it’s first try was really frustrating and positively deflating.

But the bottom of the 12th is history. Hosmer’s big triple, Colon’s infield single and steal, and Perez’s grounder down the line, and the Royals came from behind for the third time in the same game to defeat the Athletics 9-8.

And Kauffman Stadium launched into euphoria.

I high fived so many strangers my hand started hurting. I screamed and screamed and screamed. I ripped a set of blue beads I was wearing around my neck and chucked them 100 feet in the air and I have no idea what came of them.

On a night that I fully expected to be heartbroken, I was. Three times, in fact. But the joy in the end is all that matters. It was chaos.

Bring on the Angels. I don’t care how good they are or how impressive their lineup is or how many games the won in the regular season. None of those things matter in the playoffs.

But they have Mike Trout! And Albert Pujols! And Josh Hamilton! And…shut it. None of that matters.

What does matter in the playoffs? Pitching, defense and speed. And the Royals have all of those things.

I can tell you one thing: no one wants to play the Kansas City Royals. Other teams just don’t matchup for a must-win playoff game.

We’ve completed phase two of five. Phase one was to make the playoffs. Phase two was to advance to the ALDS. Three more phases to go. 11 more wins is all it takes.

See you at The K on Sunday.


The Royals are 87-72. Get ready to embrace a brand new narrative.

I was born on March 14, 1986. That makes me 10,423 days old. The Royals won the World Series on October 27, 1985. That makes their playoff drought 10,561 days old.

As if this post, the Royals magic number is 1.

Tonight, the Royals can change the narrative and replace both numbers with a big fat zero.

I don’t even know where to begin. My entire lifetime, the narrative of the Kansas City Royals has been this:


…and I have no idea what to do or how to act when that is no longer the narrative.

Is it just me, or is it almost sad to see that record go away? I mean, not really sad, but there’s part of me deep down that will miss our streak of miserable baseball. There’s a bit of comfort in knowing exactly what the narrative of this team is. No one likes losing, but at least we know who we are.

Last weekend I was in Miami. The Chiefs were playing there Sunday afternoon, and I talked with so many people about who the Dolphins are and what they can expect from them this year.

And no one knew what to say. They have no idea who their team is.

Over the last 5 years, the Dolphins have finished 7-9, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9, and 8-8 last year. Ryan Tannehill is a snoozer QB and they have zero star players. They don’t have a narrative – sometime to point at and say that, whatever it is, is who this team is – and their fans, in turn, don’t really know what they have in front of them.

Obviously, I am beyond thrilled about ending the streak and moving into the playoffs for the first time in 28 years. I root for it year after year and it is finally here.

But if this team loses the Wild Card game and becomes mediocre in years to come, we have nothing. In my core, I am terrified of that possibility.

I think that’s why Sam Mellinger felt the need to write about how some Royals fans will be disappointed with just a Wild Card spot and not the title of AL Central Champions.

I don’t think anyone is disappointed we are only making the playoffs as a Wild Card team. I think people are just scared of A. getting bounced early and B. subsequently losing our identity as a perennial loser and replacing it with the unknown.

Another example of this feeling: what do you all see when you look back at the 2003 season, the only winning season since the 1994 players strike? Do you see success? Something to be celebrated? Because I see a flukey scar on an otherwise perfectly awful stretch of existence. I’m oddly disappointed the Royals finished with 83 wins. They could have been below .500 for 20 straight years! Instead, 2003 was the short blip in our recent history that messed up the loser narrative.

This is my point, and also my fear: that 10 years from now we will look back at the 2014 season and think of this as a flukey year with nothing to show for it but an ended streak. That, to me, is not success.

But then I remember names like Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy. I remember we have Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain on long term deals. We have Jason Vargas for 3 more years too. Brandon Finnegan looks extremely promising and Kyle Zimmer is nearly up too. I also remember that Alex Gordon doesn’t want to play anywhere else but KC in his career.

And I realize that this is not going to be one fluke year. We have a shot at being successful for many years. We have a shot at that narrative.

As I watch this team over the next three games and celebrate their first playoff appearance since 1985, I’m going to take comfort in knowing that there is a new narrative of winning beginning. And it’s a narrative that could hang around for a while. Regardless of what happens on September 30 and beyond, the Kansas City Royals are going to be contenders again. Sooner rather than later.

The narrative is going to change – probably tonight – and while I don’t know exactly what is next for the Royals beyond 2014, I can say that I have enjoyed this ride immensely and am very grateful for this franchise.

We shouldn’t be afraid of a new narrative in Kansas City. We should embrace it and enjoy every moment. This is what it’s all about, and I can’t wait to never see that stupid graph again.

Now, excuse me. I’m off to pick up some champagne.


The Royals are 82-67: That’s what speed do.



What a wild finish to an insanely frustrating game. In case you missed the action last night, the Royals got a come-from-behind walkoff win in the 9th in one of the most improbable ways imaginable.

With 1 out, Mike Moustakas doubled and Jarrod Dyson pinch ran for him. After Alcides Escobar grounded out to short without advancing the runner, up came Nori Aoki representing the winning run.

Nori had a career game. On a night where White Sox starter John Danks managed to somehow stymie the Royals hitters over 6 innings, Aoki was the only bright spot. Aoki got 2 hits off of Danks. The rest of the team had none.

Danks: 6 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 6 K, 4 BB

I don’t understand why the Royals have so much trouble with Danks. He literally would get my vote for “2014 Worst Starter in Baseball.” In past years, John Danks has never been a great pitcher, been much better than his 2014 self. He has a career 4.32 ERA, but this year it’s 5.05, and in the last 8 games it’s 7.04. I saw him pitch at Target Field back on September 3 and he was atrocious: 7 R, 11 H in 4.2 IP. He consistently misses his target. His stuff is anything but electric or nasty.

And yet he comes into Kauffman Stadium year after year and makes us look foolish.

My gut tells me we aren’t being as patient as we should be, because that’s the usual narrative – but we worked 4 walks off him tonight and seemed much more selective than recent games (with the exception of Billy Butler in the 8th). It seems like the game plan was to wait for your pitch and make it count. For most guys, that meant high fastballs, but we ended up just helping Danks out by swinging at would-be balls.

James Shields got the start for the Royals – so much has happened since then it’s hard to remember how it all began – and he gave up 3 early runs on 10 hits in 7 innings. Good enough, it turns out, but not his stellar self.

On paper, this looked like it should be a cake walk win for the Royals, but it was anything but that.

The Royals finally broke through in the 7th after Hosmer led off with a double. He scored in an Infante single to make it 3-1.

They added to it in the 8th when Aoki led off with a check swing infield chopper that was fielded and thrown wide of first base. Aoki was credited with a single and advanced to second on the error. Two batters later, Alex Gordon singled and Nori came around to score making it 3-2, bad guys.

Ned Yost elected to go with Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis for the 8th and 9th innings, respectively. They were great. I still cannot believe Yost went with Crow on Sunday. Jason Frasor would’ve been great. Brandon Finnegan would’ve been okay too. Kelvin Herrera would’ve been phenomenal. But it was Crow who gave up the grand slam and got the loss.

But last night, Yost put his best arms out there and they came through as one would expect.

I defended Yost a week ago. He did not deserve the blame for a base running blunder and poor offensive output. He is, however, directly responsible when he puts relievers in bad situations. That is a managers primary role: putting players in the best situation to succeed. He is so stuck in his Herrera in the 7th, Davis in the 8th and Greg Holland in the 9th that he refuses to stray for the betterment of the team. At least last night he showed some flexibility and put his team in a position to compete.

Which brings me back to the crazy events of the bottom of the 9th.

With two outs Nori at the plate, Dyson broke for third base. Chicago reliever Jake Petricka threw a curve in the dirt that for away from the catcher, Brandon Flowers. So Dyson just kept running and scored on the wild pitch. Just like that, tie game, 3-3.

That’s what speed do.

Then Nori doubled down the left field line and put the winning run on second with two outs. Terrance Gore – who people swear is 23 years old but looks about half that – came in to run for Nori. Up came Lorenzo Cain.

Lorenzo hit a chopper over the Petricka and it settled down right between the infielders for a hit. The speedster, Gore, races around third and scored without a throw.

And the Royals win 4-3.

Again, that’s what speed do.

After Sunday’s debacle and the first 6 innings last night against Danks, I was just about to throw in the towel. Like borderline for good. I was frustrated. The Royals had grounded into double plays in the 6th and 7th, and Butler swung at the first pitch to end the 8th, and it had all just sucked the life right out of me. It felt like we were squandering opportunities against an inferior opponent. If we can’t win a Shields/Danks matchup, what can we win?!

I even tweeted they “sometimes baseball sucks.” Although, that had more to do with the Tigers hitting back-to-back HRs to takes 8-6 lead over the Twins in Minnesota at the same moment we were grounding ourselves out of innings in KC.

But that’s the funny thing about baseball. In 140 years of playing this game, I’ve never seen a finish like that before. What a goofy way to walk off. And the moment things seem darkest, suddenly light survives and shines brightly in the end.

These are the wins the Royals desperately need at this point of the season. Every game is huge, and any close game must come out in your favor.

Last night was a microcosm of this roller coaster season, really. And it’s games like these that are going to be remembered by me and others for the rest of our lives. What a rush. What a win.

A couple random notes and I’ll be done here…

1. Jeremy Guthrie’s start will not be skipped this week which means we’ll have Guthrie-Vargas-Shields this weekend versus Detroit. Guthrie was awesome on Saturday. He’a also king of the Gatorade dump and chuck move in the walkoff celebration. (EDIT: the Tigers, however, are adjusting their rotation.) (ANOTHER EDIT: per Andy McCullough on Twitter, the Royals have responded by adjusting their lineup too, moving Guthrie back to Sunday and moving Vargas/Shields up to Friday/Saturday. Sets up Shields for the 1 game playoff/ALDS Game 1, whichever comes first.)

2. The New Lineup has actually been effective. I asked for Cain to get moved up and for Infante to move down, but I never expected anything like this. But you can’t argue with 15 runs and 20 hits over the past few games.

3. Billy Butler needs to start cherishing moments at The K because it is looking more and more like he’ll be somewhere else in 2015.

4. Jeff Montgomery has always looked like somebody to me. I finally figured out where I’ve seen him before:
5. We are holding on to the Wild Card spot just fine, but I have a feeling we’ll get another sniff of first place this weekend with Detroit coming to town.

6. Danny Duffy will be back next Tuesday vs Cleveland. Thought it was going to be tomorrow, but they’re taking no chances and throwing Liam Hendriks instead which also kinda feels like taking a chance.

7. With the minor exception of Darren Sproles’ TD run, I had zero interest in Monday Night Football compared to the Royals. It’s a delightful feeling to not care about other sports. Shockingly, the Royals have numbed my pain to the start of the Chiefs’ season.

8. Finally, since I do most of my blogging from my phone these days, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to correct the words “Eoyals” and “Riyals” and “RoyLs” this year.

What a night. Let’s do it again tomorrow. Because as fun as that was, we’ve still got some work to do.


The Royals are 80-66. Thoughts from second place.

Unfortunately, things are playing out exactly as I predicted in my worst-case scenario to make the playoffs post from last week. The Royals were 79-62, and they’ve since gone 1-4 in three games against the Tigers and two games against the Red Sox. I thought they’d take 1 of 3 in Detroit, which they did, and I was very uncomfortable entering this weekend. But I never expected them to look this bad. With the exception of James Shields’ start on Wednesday, this team seems to have lost their identity entirely.

Yesterday was tough. Not only did the Royals lose, but the Tigers and Mariners both won too which toppled us out of the AL Central lead and into a tie with Seattle for the final playoff spot. And Seattle won the season series against us, so we’d have to go there to play a one game playoff to see who got to go play Oakland in the WC matchup…assuming the A’s don’t continue their own miserable collapse.

All that to say, the Royals fell 0.5 game behind the Tigers yesterday (1 full game if we assume we’re going to lose the game we’re already losing 4-2 that we finish in Cleveland next week). We’re in second place for the first time in 31 days. It’s been a month since we were chasing the Tigers. We’ve caught them twice already – once in June and once in August – and we’re going to have to catch them a third time if we want to avoid the miserable One Game Wild Card Experience.

Lately – actually, the entire season – I’ve found myself playing the role of a stabilizer in conversations I’ve had with other Royals fans in person and on social media. This fan base is so negative, and for good reason. We are fully prepared to have our hearts broken again. I’ve found myself being the one to say things like, “It’s a long long season, and there is so much time to improve,” and, “I still believe this team can win 85-90 games again this year,” and, “It’s amazing to think that the best is yet to come.” You can say that I’ve been overly positive to this point, and that’s possible, but ultimately my goal has been to insert reality into an emotionally scarred and emotionally driven set of fans. And those are all realistic statements, I think.

But last night, for really first time this season, the reality has me very nervous.

The season isn’t long anymore. There are only 16 games left and the magic number is 17. And this team will surely win 85-90 games, but will that be good enough to beat out Oakland and Seattle? And I’m suddenly uncertain as to whether the best is not yet to come. Could it’s already be behind us?

So that’s where I’m coming from this morning. That said, here are a few quick thoughts on the 80-66 Kansas City Royals.

The next 16 games will go 1 of 2 ways.

Last night felt like one giant exhale. This team has been fighting to maintain their spot in first place and has slowly been getting tense. They don’t look comfortable. They look stiff at the plate and they’re playing uncharacteristically awful defense.

After the final pitch last night, it felt like that tenseness left them. Alex Gordon looked relaxed – albeit frustrated – in his post game interview. Yost mentioned that he may need to adjust the lineup, perhaps allowing a bit of flexibility into his managing. In my mind, this team was able to exhale in a way they haven’t been able to before. They’re not holding tightly to first place anymore. They’re in a different place – specifically, second.

In my mind, that exhaling has two possible outcomes over the next 16 games. That exhale may have meant they’ve given up. They fell out of first and they’re done. A couple days ago, Hosmer mentioned, “We can’t fold. We’ve come too far to fold.” Fans responded, “Well, that is exactly what a folder would say.” It’s possible that the movement from first to second place means they’ve admitted the gig is up and they’re going to fold.

Or, the exhale allows them to loosen up and play the game the way they’ve played it for 146 (and a half) games to this point. Have they been too fearful of staying ahead of Detroit that they’ve been a detriment to themselves? Maybe they’ll be able to make some adjustments – mental adjustments and lineup adjustments – that can propel them forward over the last 16 (or more) games.

I get the feeling that it will be the latter. The question will be whether they tighten back up again once they regain the lead and potentially make the playoffs. Don’t play like you have a lead. Play your style of baseball one game at a time. Loosen up, boys.

Yost might adjust the lineup.

I’m so tired of Lorenzo Cain batting at the bottom of the lineup. Sure, he’s my favorite player on this team. We should probably all know this by now. If not, there you have it.

But it’s just insanity. LoCain has led the team in batting average all season. He has the second highest OPS behind Alex Gordon. On the other hand, Omar Infante is dead last among the 9 daily position players in OPS. As I posted to Twitter yesterday, why would you want a guy batting .254/.290/.344 in the 2 slot while there’s a guy batting .299/.335/.410 in the 8 slot? Beyond that, Infante will get around 100 more at bats than Cain over this whole season – why wouldn’t you want the better of the two hitters (and better base stealer) to get the most ABs?

So at minimum, Lorenzo needs to move up and Infante need to move down. If it were me, I’d just swap their spots in the lineup.

The other thing that I wouldn’t mind seeing is Billy Butler back at first base for a game or two. File that under “Things I Never Thought I’d Say in My Lifetime.” Some people have blasted Hosmer’s defense lately and have begged Yost to put Billy back out there because they think he’s the better defender. That’s absurd. Billy wouldn’t have made those near-diving stops that Hosmer couldn’t quite make either.

I’d like to get Billy back out on defense because – as odd as it seems – something was unlocked in him when he started playing both sides of the ball. Billy Butler the First Baseman batted .284/.344/.468 between July 21 and August 31 while Hosmer was injured. Before he moved to 1B, he batted .269/.320/.348, and since Hosmer has returned, Billy has hit .059/.059/.118. Something happens in Billy Butler offensively when he enters the game on both sides of the ball.

So I wonder…can we either let Hosmer DH or have him come in off the bench late in the game as a pinch hitter and for defensive purposes? Even though he jacked one last night, it’s not like he’s a must-have in the lineup at this point. Especially considering how well the Royals played without him in July/August.

If I was making a lineup, this is what it would look like…

Aoki RF*
Cain CF
Gordon LF*
Butler 1B
Hosmer DH*/Willingham DH
Perez C
Moustakas 3B*
Infante 2B
Escobar SS

The * denotes a left-handed batter. It maintains the L-R-L-R lineup, and puts them in a better position overall.

The question mark here is how Josh Willingham fits into the picture. If he’s healthy, which apparently he’s not 100% right now, I’d start him in the DH spot over Hosmer and maybe flip flop a couple guys to maintain the L-R-L-R. Maybe Billy jumps back to DH occasionally, but he’s proven to be a much better hitter as a first baseman.

It’s complicated and layered and obviously dependent on pitching matchups and health, but I’d love to see this used as a base lineup.

Finnegan, Frasor and Holland.

If there’s a brightside to the game from last night, it’s that Greg Holland threw an inning and struck out the side. His velocity was down a few MPH – hovering around 93-95 rather than 95-97 – but his slider was gorgeous. I get the vibe that the training staff didn’t want him to fully uncork his fastball. At least I hope that’s what the deal was.

Regardless, it was great to see Dirty Greg in the game.

Another positive development over this not-so-great stretch of games is that two of the “other” half of the bullpen – the non-Trifecta guys – have emerged as being able to hold things down in a close game: Jason Frasor and Brandon Finnegan.

Finnegan has now pitched to 8 batters and has retired all of them. Three of them strikeouts. He made his debut against the Yankees in the Bronx and was stellar. Some of the names he has faced and retired: Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, David Ortiz, Yoenis Cespedes, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Texiera, and Martin Prado. Also John Ryan Murphy. (Who?) Finnegan can suddenly be a very valuable lefty in this bullpen.

Jason Frasor has established himself as a better-than-Crow option. Especially with Holland’s lingering shoulder issues, moving back Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis to the 8th and 9th innings and slotting in Frasor in the 7th feels very comfortable to me.

A few weeks ago, I was getting really nervous about the rest of the bullpen. Today, not so much. Bueno is good enough. Crow is good enough. As long as we don’t see Scott Downs, I’m feeling good about things.

Please, please, please, can we have some plate discipline?

This team’s lack of plate discipline is infuriating. I understand that we are putting the ball in play, which is better than striking out, but the Royals are dead last in the MLB in walks and it’s not even close: 335 in 5474 plate appearances. That’s 6.1%. Compare that to the Athletics’ 9.2%. It’s just maddening how this team can’t be patient at the plate.

Gordon leads the team with 58 walks, but even that is sort a skewed figure because teams are pitching around Gordon to pitch to the rest of the team. Gordon has 13 walks since August 24. Why? Because Billy Butler (or Salvy) is coming up next and he’s batting .156 over that same stretch. Why pitch to Gordon when Butler is an automatic out?

Next on the list: Nori Aoki (39) and Billy (38) which ranks them 105th and 112th in the league in walks. Then Moustakas (31). The rest of the everyday players haven’t cracked 30. Which simply isn’t acceptable.

Surprisingly, Salvador Perez is the worst of the bunch. He swings at everything. Everything. A few days ago, he saw 12 total pitches for the whole game. That in itself is startling. But he swung at 10 of them, and only 1 of them was a ball.

But it’s a team wide issue. Last night, the Royals 1 through 6 hitters saw a total of 15 pitches between the 5th and 6th innings. Allen Webster (who?), on his third trip through the lineup, only had to throw 15 pitches against Aoki, Infante, Gordon, Butler, Hosmer and Perez. They only saw 50 pitches between the 5th and 9th innings! That’s over half the game!

Somehow, there needs to be a way for them to balance their put-the-ball-in-play-and-don’t-strikeout philosophy with a be-patient-up-there-for-a-change philosophy. They’re making it too easy on opposing pitchers, especially ones like Allen Webster who we should absolutely light up. Also, considering our bullpen advantage, wouldn’t we want to get the games to the bullpen faster for both teams? No wonder Detroit’s bullpen has found success against the Royals. We haven’t had to face them as much and when we do, they don’t have to throw as many pitches to get out of the innings.

All that to say. Take some pitches. I’m looking at you, Sal.

Skipping Guthrie’s next start? Yes, please.

I was looking ahead at our remaining schedule last night after the game. We have one off day on September 18. Conveniently, the 19th would be Jeremy Guthrie’s next start following tonight. At this point, he is without a question our worst starter (assuming Duffy returns on Tuesday), so I propose that the Royals skip his next start and move right on to Vargas on the 19th instead.

The second benefit of doing this is that it would line up Vargas and Shields to throw in a tiebreaker or Wild Card matchup if necessary. If the Royals don’t skip Guthrie, then he would be lined up for Game 163 if necessary. Which is absolutely not okay. If the royals season comes down to one game, Guthrie is not who we want on the mound.


That’s all I’ve got for today. Let’s go get some runs for Guthrie tonight and turn this slump around.


Photo cred: Peter G. Aiken, USA TODAY Sports

The Royals are 79-64: Stop Blaming Ned Yost.


What’s with y’all hating on Ned Yost?

It’s as if some of us aren’t even aware there’s a 40-man roster full of options available to be the object of our blame. It’s all #Yosted, all the time.

Maybe somewhere in the Tony-Tony- Buddy-Trey era, we all grew accustomed to miserable managers in Kansas City. Maybe my Royals fandom has blinded me to reality. Or maybe I’m just a dummy when it comes to managing in baseball.

But from where I’m sitting, the Royals are in first place, and Ned Yost is doing a fine job managing this team.

The more I interact with fans in person and online – both locally and across the nation – the more I realize there are certain “fans” out there who – no matter the year, the record, or the men in the dugout – will always, always, hate the manager.

If you aren’t tracking with the type of “fan” I’m talking about, you might want to check the mirror.

Reminds me of that brilliant Michael Caine line from Dark Knight after he tells the ominous story involving Burma, a bandit and a ruby the size of a tangerine:

“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

When Jeremy Guthrie got lit up for I-forget-how-many runs in 2.2 innings on Monday, there was a segment of fans who immediately jumped on Twitter to blame Ned Yost for leaving him in too long. They ignore the errors by Hosmer and the lazy throw by Infante and the unfortunate BABIP* luck the Tigers had rolling that game and they hunt for something to blame the manager about. And I’m sorry, too long!? Since when is 8 outs too long? Besides, if Hosmer and Infante make those plays, it’s possible the Royals were out of the third with no damage. Why is it far fetched to believe that Guthrie could still work his way out of it?

* – BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) measures the percentage of in-play balls are hits vs outs. It’s partially a “how lucky did they get with their contact” metric.

No. The blame is on Guthrie and Hosmer and kind of Infante. Not Ned Yost.

Also, God forbid we give credit to the Tigers when it is due.

Then last night, when Jarrod Dyson got picked off second base for the 2nd out in the 9th, that same segment of the fanbase decided to hop right back on the #Yosted Express. Which I flat out don’t understand based on the inning I saw.*

* – I should mention that the 9th was the only inning I saw. I know nothing of the Rajai Davis HR or the J.D. Martinez HR. I don’t even know how we got the two runs we did. We had our youth ministry kickoff event yesterday so I was busy having a shaving cream fight with a bunch of teenagers. Sometimes life serving Jesus really isn’t as difficult as we make it out to be.

The score was Tigers 4, Royals 2. With no outs, Nori Aoki and Infante had nearly identical hits off Tigers closer Joe Nathan: slappers to the shortstop that they both beat out for infield singles. Infante, representing the tying run, was pulled for speedster Terrance Gore with Alex Gordon coming to the plate. A smart move from Yost.

Alex got up 2-0, then hit an ultra high foul ball a country mile barely out of play. It was the best pitch Alex saw probably. The next pitch, Nathan missed his spot – catcher was lined up low and inside, but his pitch was 18 inches to the right, accidentally painting the outside corner instead. Alex took it for a called strike. Then, since he had accidentally thrown the perfect set up pitch, he went back to what he was trying to do originally and threw a nasty breaking ball down and inside. Gordon struck out.

Which meant Salvador Perez was coming up with 1 out. Suddenly the double play is possible, but Yost still likes Salvy’s odds to hit in two runs. But Salvy – who has embarrassingly bad plate discipline these days – chased a breaking ball low and outside. Take a pitch for a change, Perez.

That’s when Yost decided it might be best to get some speed on second instead of Aoki, so he sends Dyson out there to run for him.

I love this move for three reasons:

  1. If the Royals do manage to score, it’s better to have Dyson in the outfield over Aoki for defense. Any good manager would make that switch anyway, why not benefit from Dyson’s wheels in the short term too?
  2. If Dyson and Gore can steal or start a hit-and-run, it eliminates the double play and keeps the game alive.
  3. Joe Nathan is already a complete train wreck out there mentally. Adding Dyson to the mix can only jack with his head more. A closer should never care about baserunners. His job is to mow down hitters, but Nathan was clearly wetting his pants out there worrying about Dyson. Besides, Yost is all about getting in guys’ domes.

Nathan was clearly worried about Dyson. I’m not sure he paid any attention to Salvy at all, which is an added bonus for him at the plate. If Nathan stays worried about Dyson taking third base, then Salvy can just sit back and wait on a fastball. Any breaking ball would only add to Dyson’s chances to steal. I wonder if he had thrown home if Salvy would’ve had the green light when Dyson and Gore took off. A rattled pitcher is not an effective one, and Nathan was noticeably so.

It’s a situation where the entire ballpark knows two things: he’s going, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. All it takes is the right jump and Jarrod’s speed will take him the rest of the way, no problem.

Then the unbelievable happened: Dyson bailed him out. Nathan pulled a slow inside move and Dyson bit on it, breaking for third, immediately realizing his mistake.

In baseball circles, we call that a TOOTBLAN: Thrown-Out-On-The-Bases-Like-A-Nincompoop.

In a 4-2 game with the tying run on first and winning run at the plate, Jarrod Dyson got picked off of second base, and I wish I could say he hasn’t become somewhat of a liability on the bases, but he has. He’s a weapon, for sure, and I love it when they pull the trigger on him – he just doesn’t seem to come with a safety.

You can argue that Yost shouldn’t trust Dyson with such a task based on his recent history, and in retrospect it’s really easy to make that declaration. If you want to rip a managerial decision, fine. But don’t wait until after it fails to point the finger.

How about this nugget: in the last 8 years, 46 baserunners have tried to steal on Joe Nathan, and only 2 of them were caught stealing. No pickoffs either. (Thanks, Rany.) That’s a 95.6% success rate. Suddenly it seems like a no brainer to run, and if Salvy grounds into a double play there to end the game or if Gore goes first to third on a single and can’t score, and we lose 4-3, we’ll all be throwing around the flip side of this convo wondering why Yost didn’t steal against Nathan when it’s so common!

As I tweeted the moment Dyson got picked off, no one ought to be blaming Ned Yost for that pickoff. The fault is Dyson’s alone. From my perspective, Ned played it exactly right in the 9th, and Dyson crapped the bed.

Sal struck out on another ball a foot low and outside to end the game. Just like that the threat was over.

And wouldn’t you know it, but the world is all over Ned Yost again for getting cute trying to do more than was necessary to get runs across.

To which I have to ask…have you seen the 2014 Royals?! Their offense is atrocious, yet they are one of the most efficient teams in baseball when it comes to getting baserunners across. It’s different every game – sometimes it’s a stolen base, or a hit-and-run, infield hits galore or a sacrifice – but somehow they have managed to manufacture runs when they’re needed.

The Royals are where they are right now because of moved exactly like the one last night.

The manager can only do so much. It’s up to the players to execute, and Jarrod Dyson failed to execute his role last night.

Has Ned Yost made mistakes? Absolutely. He’s fortunate to have the Triforce at his disposal because I don’t think he knows what he’s doing with anyone not named Herrera, Davis or Holland. Crow instead of Frazor. Scott Downs over anybody with at least one functional arm. There are times when he starts Raul Ibanez over Billy Butler and Josh Willlingham in the DH spot.

When he makes a legitimately bonehead move, I’m happy to pounce on him with the rest of you. I’m not above dropping a #Yosted when the situation calls for it. He makes mistakes; all managers do.

But when the Royals make the playoffs and Ned Yost wins AL Manager of the Year (which he will if they do), I don’t want to hear people saying he doesn’t deserve it. If you’re in that camp, I feel sorry for you.

Maybe a trip to the playoffs is just what we all need to remind us that it’s entirely possible for a Royals manager to be capable of leading this team to success.

And if that happens, I’m sure there will still be some ready to burn Kauffman to the ground at the next hiccup – when we lose in the ALDS/ALCS, likely – because these are “fans” who are more in love with hating the manager than in love with the Royals themselves.

Blame Ned all you want, but he deserves much better. And so do the 2014 Kansas City Royals.


Photo came from the fellas over at Kings of Kauffman. Couldn’t find the original source, but I’m betting it’s The Star.

The Royals are 79-62. So let’s talk completely in hypotheticals about the final 3 weeks of the season.


The Royals’ Magic Number is 19.

The Royals went into New York this weekend and made it very clear who the better team is without the offense doing anything to help out. The pitching was lights out – as usual* – it was the defense that was the difference in both wins. Yankees made 4 errors over the weekend and all three Royals runs in their two wins were unearned.

Over three games NY outscored them 6-5, yet KC won the series.

* – Side note: I’m becoming aware of the fact that I’m taking the Royals defense and pitching for granted. Whenever I watch another team play, it’s startling and embarrassing to watch at times. Most Royals fans haven’t experienced that feeling…ever.

On Friday, Big Game James Shields was absolutely dominant going 8.1 innings of shut out ball, with only 3 hits against him. He struck out 6. Michael Pineda was impressive himself even without any pine tar on his neck.

The only run in the game came in the 3rd when Alcides Escobar took second base on a Chase Headley fielding error. Nori Aoki singled him in on the next at bat. Wade Davis got his first career save with an ailing Greg Holland. Royals win 1-0.

As I said in my last Royals-related post, I think Danny Duffy is the ace of the future for this team (okay, along with Yordano Ventura), so it hurts to see him go down with shoulder soreness. He threw one pitch and that was it. He never looked comfortable warming up – he kept shaking out his arm after every toss – and Salvador Perez knew immediately that he wasn’t good to go.

Let’s hope Duffman only misses 1 start. I don’t want to see Guthrie pitching in the playoffs. Shields, Vargas, Duffy and Yordano is the rotation we want.

Liam Hendriks came in and pitched…just not well enough. He went 4 innings and gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits. Casey Coleman gave up two more runs. The Yankees won 6-2 on what turned into a throw away game after Duffy left.

The bright side from Saturday: rookie Brandon Finnegan looked terrific in his MLB debut. Six batters up, six batters down. We haven’t seen the end of him.

Then Sunday, Yordano Ventura looked as good as ever: 6 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits. He continues to have short lapses of focus and will occasionally walk some guys. It’s strange – he’ll look totally dominant, and then throw 4 straight balls that aren’t even close. Probably just a product of being young.

The Royals’ offense continued to do next to nothing, 2 runs on 7 hits, but with this pitching staff/bullpen it was all they needed. Crow and Herrera both threw scoreless innings and Davis got his second career save.

They also spoiled Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium, which no one really feels bad about, right?

Which makes the Royals 79-62. The Tigers won Sunday night, so the lead in the AL Central is 2 games. Royals are a .5 game behind Oakland for the top Wild Card spot, and 1.5 games up on the Mariners in the second WC spot.

ESPN has the Royals playoff odds at 83.4%. Fangraphs has them at 76.1%.

So let’s quickly project out the final 3 weeks of the season – 6 series – and see what we need to do. I’m going to lean heavily on the “but what if we stink” side of the convo. Our remaining schedule…

Sept 8-10: @DET
Sept 11-14: BOS
Sept 15-17: CWS
Sept 19-21: DET
Sept 22-24: @CLE
Sept 25-28: @CWS

The two series against the Tigers are the most important. In my mind, if we take 4 of those 6 games, the rest of them hardly matter. That would put us 3.5 games up. But for the sake of this, let’s say we go 2-4 in those games.

Sept 8-10: @DET (1-2)
Sept 11-14: BOS
Sept 15-17: CWS
Sept 19-21: DET (1-2)
Sept 22-24: @CLE
Sept 25-28: @CWS

Now let’s look at the two CWS series. Assuming we hit Chris Sale in both series (9/15 and 9/26 by my count), the only other pitcher our guys could struggle with is Jose Quintana, who we’ll face twice too. Let’s say we lose both Sale games, one against Quintana, and one randomly against Danks/Carroll/Noesi.

Sept 8-10: @DET (1-2)
Sept 11-14: BOS
Sept 15-17: CWS (1-2)
Sept 19-21: DET (1-2)
Sept 22-24: @CLE
Sept 25-28: @CWS (2-2)

The Red Sox series actually worries me. I don’t want any reminders of that Fenway series after the All-Star Break. In that series, we faced Buchholz, De La Rosa and Lester; thankfully, Lester plays for the Athletics now so that offsets the fact that we had to face him twice with Oakland at least somewhat. By my count, we’ll face the other two next weekend in KC. Plus we apparently stink at home in sold out games, which those will be. Let’s say we lose both of those and win one of the other two against “TBA”…

Sept 8-10: @DET (1-2)
Sept 11-14: BOS (1-3)
Sept 15-17: CWS (1-2)
Sept 19-21: DET (1-2)
Sept 22-24: @CLE
Sept 25-28: @CWS (2-2)

At this point, I’ve been super negative on our odds, so let’s say we win 2 of the 3 actual games against the Indians. The fourth game is the make-up from the other day. We are already down and will likely lose that one.

Sept 8-10: @DET (1-2)
Sept 11-14: BOS (1-3)
Sept 15-17: CWS (1-2)
Sept 19-21: DET (1-2)
Sept 22-24: @CLE (2-2)
Sept 25-28: @CWS (2-2)

So, worst case scenario (realistically) puts us at 8-13 the rest of the way, which means we end the season 87-75.

As of this post, Fangraphs lists the following projected wins for the A’s, Tigers and Mariners…

Oakland: 91.7
Detroit: 88.7
Seattle: 88.5

…so in a realistic worst case scenario, we would miss the playoffs by 1.5 games, and the division by 1.6. Highlights the importance of these games against Detroit. Going 3-3 the rest of the way puts us in a great position, but 4-2 against the Tigers all but seals up the division. We’ll look at that in a minute.

All that to say, 10 more wins should do it. That would put us at 89-73 and above the projected finish of both SEA and DET. With the caveat that at least 3 of those wins probably need to be against the Tigers.

Of course, that’s not what I think will happen. I see this being a 91-win team at the end of it. The weekend home series are the scariest based on our recent history in such games. I actually think we will win 2 of 3 in Detroit this week and 3 of 4 in Chicago to end the season. Going .500 over the rest of them would mean 12-9, or a 91-71 season.

The question, for me, is when will we clench?

Our magic number is currently 19, so any combination of Royals wins and Tigers losses that add up to 19 clenches it for us. If we take 2 of 3 this week, that makes the number 15.

If both teams go .500 between meetings (DET 3-3, KC 4-3) that would put our number at 8. If we win 1 of 3 at home against Detroit: 6. If we win 2 of 3: our magic number would be 4.

Which means the clencher will likely happen sometime +/- a day or two around September 26 in Chicago. Coming down to the wire. The season ends on the 28th, so we don’t have much wiggle room.

I’m going to be in Cleveland on the last game if that series on September 24. Watching the Royals win the division in person would be a dream come true, but I think I’ll miss it by a couple days.

But if we win the two series against Detroit, there’s a borderline decent chance I’ll get to see the Royals clench in Cleveland. If the split, it’ll be that weekend in Chicago.

And if we lose the next two series to Detroit………actually, I don’t want to talk about that right now.


Photo: John Sleezer, KC Star. Original.

The Royals are 74-59: The Walkoff that Wasn’t (The Bruce Chen Disaster)

I’d already seen this game once before.

Exactly five years ago, on August 28, 2009, my dad and I were at Busch Stadium in St. Louis watching the Cardinals play the Washington Nationals.

We were sitting out by the left field foul pole – my least favorite spot to sit in any ballpark – but on this night, I wouldn’t’ve wanted to be sitting anywhere else. In the bottom of the 8th, Khalil Greene had hit a solo homer that bounced off the top of the wall right in front of us to tie the ballgame, 2-2.

The Cardinals shortstop, Brendan Ryan, grounded out to short to end the inning, and Jason Motte – then an unproven catcher-turned-relief pitcher – came in to pitch the top half of the 9th. He stranded a 1 out double, and got out of the inning with no harm done.

I glanced up at the scoreboard to see who was leading off for the Cardinals in the final frame. I read the name, and turned to my dad. “Ballgame.”

“What?” He asked, “It’s still tied. Cards need to score here.”

I nodded, “Yep. And look who’s leading off.”

He checked the scoreboard. Up next: Albert Pujols.

Sure enough, three pitches later, we watched the ball jump off Albert’s bat, sail over our heads past Big Mac Land and into the concourse. Walkoff. Cardinals won, 3-2.

That is how last night should have ended at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals were going for the sweep against Minnesota. They’d managed to steal both of the previous games: Gordon’s walkoff had taken game one on Tueaday, and a six-run 8th inning had fueled them on Wednesday.

The Twins kept scoring runs, but the Royals managed to keep pace. 2-0 Twins. Then 2-2. 4-2 Twins, then 4-4. 5-4 Twins, then 5-5 on Alex Gordon’s 119th career HR – passing Wade Boggs for the most HRs all time by a Nebraska native.

Early on, it felt like Minnesota would eventually manage to keep KC from matching their offense. But as the game went on, things slowly started to feel destined to go the Royals way. Maybe we were just used to dramatic wins at that point.

I was reminded of that night at Busch five years ago the moment Alcides Escobar grounded out to short to end the 8th. He stepped on the bag and I thought, “Wait. I’ve seen this before.” Deja vu, I guess. A flashback or something. Remembering the scenario, I looked down at my lineup and noticed who was due up in the bottom of the 9th…

Alex Gordon.

It was exactly how the 8th had ended in STL. I knew exactly how this would shake down because I’d seen it before. First, Greg Holland would come in and mow ’em down. Then #GordoBomb and we all #GordoHome.

In came Greg Holland. He worked around a 1 out walk to Brian Dozier – Salvador Perez threw out Dozier trying to steal second with ease from his knees for the second out – and as Kurt Suzuki grounded out to end the inning, I even said it aloud: “Ballgame.”

Up came Alex – just two nights removed from his two-run walkoff homer on Tuesday night. Everyone was standing, cheering, hoping. The Twins had brought in Brian Duensing – sounds like a typical, run of the mill, loser. A home run machine, no doubt.

But Alex got under it a bit and flew out to center field.

No matter. Billy Butler will jack one next. The Twins changed pitchers – this time Anthony Swarzak – another loser, guaranteed.

Billy got a good swing on it, but couldn’t get his arms extended and flew out to right field.

No matter. Salvy will jack one instead. But he ripped a single up the middle instead. Which brought up Josh Willingham, who grounded to short to end the inning.

It felt wrong. Like somehow the Twins had managed to sever time and create an alternative universe where the course of events aren’t what then should be. Like LOST, season six. The Royals were supposed to walkoff. Something went awry.

It was like when Marty McFly* and his siblings start disappearing from the Polaroid because George and Lorraine don’t go to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance together. “They’re supposed to go to this. This is where they kiss for the first time.” Sorry, Marty. Not in this new universe.

* – Two consecutive Royals posts with BTTF references. Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

Because in this Universe, Bruce Chen is coming in to pitch the 10th, and Bruce Chen is going to face 10 batters in the inning, and Bruce Chen is going to let six of them score.

The Royals went quietly in the bottom half, and the Twins won 11-5. Weird.

Fans immediately went to Twitter to rip Ned Yost for putting Chen in the game at all, but it’s not Ned’s fault, and it’s not Chen’s fault either. Well, it is Chen’s since he was terrible and gave up all of the runs. But there’s a reason he’s only pitched 3 other times in the past month…he just isn’t very good.

Now I love Bruce, we all do. The fans love him. The players love him. He’s hilarious. He’s always the go-to comedic relief for in between inning gimmicks. There was also that one time a few years back when Will Ferrell was mic’d up in the dugout seats at The K and kept screaming, “C’MON CHEN,” over and over, and that only adds to his loveably goofy persona.

And as much as I love the guy, it pains me to say that he shouldn’t be on this team.

Come to think of it, why is he on this team?

Well, he began the season as a starter. Yost gave him a slot in the rotation over Danny Duffy, who – as I wrote on Wednesday morning – is our best pitcher and ace of the future. When Yordano Ventura missed a couple starts with some elbow soreness, Duffy moved into the rotation and nearly threw a no hitter. So when Ventura came back, they sent Chen to the ‘pen instead of Duffman.

That’s when Chen morphed into the in-case-of-injury spot starter/innings-eater-upper-in-a-blowout guy. But the Royals starters have been strangely healthy all season (Kudos to their training staff) so that part of Chen’s roll is gone. Then as the Triforce emerged – that is, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland – they looked to Aaron Crow and Francisley Bueno to cover the blowouts.

Wade Davis had thrown 24 pitches the two nights before, so he wasn’t available to pitch. Bueno had already pitched earlier in the game, as had Jason Frasor, and Aaron Crow had just been optioned to NW Arkansas for the weekend until rosters expand next week to make space for the Royals newest acquisition, Jayson Nix.

Bruce Chen was the only option Ned Yost had.

Okay, they had Scott Downs too, who just came off the DL, but in a knotted game with no bullpen left, you gotta go with the guy who can eat up more innings.

You can say Ned used his bullpen wrong to that point. But if they’d walked off like they were supposed to, then we wouldn’t have a problem, would we? Hindsight.

So they had no choice but to send out a guy who has zero roll on this team to keep us in a tie ballgame in extra innings. It was what it was, and it wasn’t great.

I’m absolutely not suggesting that GMDM hasn’t put together a solid bullpen. On the contrary, he has proven that it’s his area of expertise. He simply botched the last 24 hours of roster moves in favor of Chen.

And that just can’t happen. Because it’s Bruce Chen.

The question is not, why did Ned send in Chen?” The real question is, “how does a 25-man roster get to the point that the manager has nothing else to do but to feed good ole Bruce to the wolves?” In all honesty, I think all of us – GM Dayton Moore included – just love him too much to actually think of giving him the axe.

Aaron Crow got shipped to NW Arkansas for a week because they favored Bruce Chen? No way. They kept Chen because he was co-hosting the Royals Social event with Joel Goldberg! They’d been talking it up for days – can’t send the guy down the day he’s supposed to do that!

Even after his miserable showing, I still struggle with the thought of DFAing Bruce Chen. Just let him hang around and be apart of the 40-man September roster, right? He’s been here for long enough that he deserves to celebrate a postseason berth with the rest of us.

That’s what I want them to do, but it’s not what they need to do. They need to cut Chen and be done with him. He has no roll on this team anymore.

It’s unfortunate that Bruce had to bear that awful outing. He never should’ve been out there because Moore should have been more thoughtful with the roster situation over between now and expansion next week. This loss is on him for letting Bruce hang around when he needs to be cut.

So on a night that felt destined for a walkoff, this morning you could glance at the box scores and not even realize the game was ever even close. Everything seemed to align perfectly for another unbelievable moment. But the moment came and went giving way to the reality that Bruce Chen might be done with the Royals soon.

Poor Bruce. He was just the victim of reality not going the way it was supposed to go. And now, like Marty McFly in the Polaroid, he’s about to be erased from existence on this team.


UPDATE: As of about 30 minutes ago Bruce Chen had been DFA’d. So, I feel like a terrible person, but it’s the right move for a division contending and championship chasing team. All the best to you, Chen.

The Royals are 73-58. Some thoughts on last night’s unbelievable game.

Unbelievable game last night. Just unbelievable.

For 8 innings, the Royals could do absolutely nothing agains Ricky Nolasco and the Twins. Three singles through eight innings. The pitiful, underachieving offense seemed back.

Danny Duffy had left the game angrily after 6.2 innings of 4 hit, 1 run baseball, and could be seen shouting into his jersey in the dugout. Another gem spun by Duffman only to get zero run support. Again.

And then, just like that, the game was completely different.

Alcides Escobar, number-two-hitter-extraordinaire, led off with a weak pop fly that fell in for a single. Then Alex Gordon – an actual MVP candidate these days – took a 0-1 slider over the right field fence.

Royals walkoff, 2-1. They remain 1.5 games up on Detroit in the AL Central. Their magic number is 31.

Lots of takeaways from the game last night. Here are a few…

Alex Gordon is an absolute star.

We have a legitimate MVP candidate in left field. Mike Trout is his only competition – and he’ll probably win it still – but it needs to be stated that Kansas City has one of the best in the league playing in front of them day after day.

And I don’t think we even realize it. We are so used to snoozefest warm bodies filling in the lineup I think we miss the reality in front of our eyes. We are so used to seeing Ken Harvey and Neifi Perez and Dee Brown out there that it’s almost hard to notice that there’s a star out in LF.

Number 4 will join 5, 10 and 20 above the Royals Hall of Fame soon enough, and I think last night just woke up this fan base to the reality that Alex Gordon is a star.

Danny Duffy is the Royals ace of the future.

At the beginning of the season, we were all obsessed with Yordano “Ace” Ventura. And I still kinda am. He’s the sexy pick for the future Royals ace.

Last night’s game showed me that while Yordano Days are going to be just as exciting in the future, the true #1 on this team is eventually going to be Danny Duffy.

Duffy’s year has reminded me a lot of Zack Greinke’s 2009 Cy Young campaign. Gem after gem after gem, and absolutely no run support from the offense. They’re similar guys too. Emotional guys. Both stepped away from the game for a time. They even kinda look alike.

On August 24 of Greinke’s 2009 campaign, he had a 2.44 ERA with a record of just 11-14.

On August 27 of Danny’s 2014 season, he has a 2.47 ERA, yet is just 8-11.

We’ve spent a lot of this season worrying about how we’ll ever manage to survive after James Shields is gone this winter. With Duffy, we’ll be just fine.

The Royals defense remains insane.

Escobar might have made the new best play of the season. Ball in the hole. He picked it to his right, leapt in the air and threw hard across his body to first.

And Billy “suddenly playing both sides of baseball well” Butler made the pick look easy at first. Billy also had a great grab on a pop up in foul territory up against the stands. He made the catch, and then tripped and rolled over a sliding Christian Colon. Great play, albeit kinda awkward still.

Growing up, I was always a defense-first player. I was a pitcher and a shortstop and had zero power. I’ve never hit a homerun in my life, but I’ve thrown a lot of strikeouts and fielded a lot of grounders and turned a bunch of double plays. Those are what get me excited because I know what it feels like.

So to see this team field the best defense in the AL for the second consecutive year is a dream. I love it, and it remained insanely awesome last night.

Denny Matthews is Marty McFly.

How did he do that?! If you haven’t heard his call after Gordon’s walkoff jack, here’s the link:

“If this is your year – and a lot of signs for the Royals point in that direction – then these are the games that you win.”

Sure enough, right on queue, Gordon does his thing and makes Denny look like Nostradamus.


It’s like he has Marty McFly’s Sports Almanac from Back to the Future II. It’s sometimes like he knows what’s going to happen. If Denny picks the Cubs to win the a World Series next year, then something is up.

I truly love listening to Denny Matthews talk about baseball. He’s a genius. Few people know more about the game than Denny does. He has brilliant insights, and I’m amazed by his intelligence.

Denny Matthews is also George McFly.

This is maybe a stretch trying to make the BTTF connection, but as brilliant as Denny Matthews is, his calls are exceptionally boring.

Denny’s call on Gordon’s homerun was as bland as they come.

I mean, c’mon, Denny. One of the most exciting moments in the last 28 years of Royals history. Arguably the biggest moment since 1985. Yet somehow he acts like it was the most pedestrian event ever. Zero emotion. No passion. Completely straight faced and flat.

This has always bugged me about Denny. He doesn’t get me to feel anything at all. Toss in some drama, please! I get that he’s a no-flares announcer, but I want to be able connect with his call as a fan – not a know-it-all emotionless robot.

Again, I love listening to Denny talk baseball. Brilliant. I’m just asking for a little energy. Any energy, actually.

Finally, some thoughts about Ned Yost’s post game comments about the fans.

Woke up this morning excited to read the local headlines and national articles on the Royals’ night, but was so disappointed when I saw Ned’s postgame comments about the fans.

The media has painted Yost as “ripping” and “dumping on” the fans. He wished there were more people there to celebrate with the team. He talked about how he thought there would be more people. It was packed Monday against the Yankees, and he remembers how it was in Atlanta in 1991 when they were in a pennant race. He thought it would be bigger.

I have no issue with his plea to the fans to get out to The K. He just wants to share in the fun.

But you can’t compare our fans to other franchises’. It’s not fair and we take it personally.

The Royals have done the fans no favors over the past 28 years. We are a wounded group, and we have every right to take it personally when you talk even remotely bad about us.

I don’t think it was Ned’s intention, but when he says he “remembers how it was in Atlanta,” Royals fans hear, “Braves fans are better than us.” And yes, it was packed out there on Monday, sure, but there were arguably more Yankees fans than Royals fans. So we also hear that “Yankees fans are better fans than us too.”

Yet this is the same team that had “Let’s go, Royals!” chants going in Colorado and Texas last week! It hurts to hear that we aren’t the best fans.

But at the end of it, we are simply a fan base that doesn’t know what to do with first place baseball in August. We have plans on weeknights. We have lives. We have normally moved on to the Chiefs and the new school year by now. We don’t naturally program Royals Baseball into our lives at this point of the year.

So I guess my two thoughts about Ned’s comments are…First, we take it personally when we’re compared to other fans. Second, it’s because we’ve spent the last 28 years living in a miserable narrative.

All that to say, these are exciting times. If we maintain first place, the attendance will slowly creep up. This Labor Day weekend will be huge. Games against Detroit will sell out. And the closer we get to the postseason, the more people will show up. But a Tuesday night against the Twins isn’t going to change how we’ve grown to experience this team.

Last night was incredible. And it’s only late August. Things are only going to get more exciting. It’s amazing to think that the best is yet to come. For the first time in my life, Royals Baseball is back in KC, and I’m still learning how to orient myself to this new lifestyle.

Go Royals.


The Royals are 14-16


It’s May 5, and the Royals just wrapped up their first home series against the probably-going-to-win-the-division Detroit Tigers. The Royals got swept, and I found myself completely silent on social media because I didn’t have anything nice to say in just 140 characters.

When the game of baseball gets you down, it takes a lot more words than a simple tweet to keep you from spiraling into a deep depression. Comments like, “it’s a long season,” or, “we’ll turn it around,” or, “it’s a matter of time before Hosmer hits a home run,” just don’t feel appropriate when your team just got swept by the team they’re likely going to be chasing now for the rest of the season.

This weekend’s series was awful, sure, and I feel we wasted a major opportunity to make a statement early in the season, but I believe more strongly in the importance of taking a step back and evaluating the entire season on a broader scale. We get so caught up in the minutiae of baseball – lack of power, 0-5 against the Tigers, Moose batting .151, etc. – and forget that baseball is a marathon and anything can happen over the next 5 months.

You can call me overly optimistic if you want. That’s fine. But I continue to think this Royals team can win a lot of games and make the playoffs.

I want to look at each part of our team at this point of the season, give it a grade, and then make a final point about this team and be done with this post.

Starting Pitching

The starting pitching has been borderline phenomenal to this point of the season. Each of our pitchers has gotten shelled at one point – maybe save for Yordano Ventura who has just had one average outing – and that’s going to happen at some point during the season. But even with Bruce Chen’s 5 run inning last week, James Shields’s 12 hit/7 ER performance on Friday, Jeremy Guthrie’s abundance of HRs (7), and Vargas’s adventure on the mound yesterday, we have a team ERA of 3.42 – third best in the AL behind Detroit and Oakland. Our starters also have the second lowest BB/9 in the AL – 2.51, second only to the Yankees.

So the pitching is there. Ventura has been as advertised. Vargas has benefitted greatly from the large confines of Kauffman Stadium and has been arguably worth the contract we are paying him. Guthrie has done fine, save for a few mistakes that ended up in the outfield seats. Bruce Chen has even been alright so far – much better than your normal #5 starter, and Danny Duffy filled in nicely on Saturday throwing 4 scoreless innings.

The pitching is there, and will continue to be there. In fact, we haven’t even seen the best stuff from Shields yet. Last week they would’ve gotten a solid A. This weekend has dropped them a bit in my mind. Grade: B+

Relief Pitching

The Royals had the best bullpen in the American League last year. We all know this. And we also all knew they couldn’t reproduce their insane 2013 campaign.

The first two weeks were rocky, but the past three weeks have looked much better. Wade Davis has looked great in his role. Aaron Crow has been alright – he’s been Ned Yost’s jam guy to this point and has inherited a lot of base runners. Coleman coming back from the DL will help. And Greg Holland is still one of the best in the majors at his job.

The bullpen has given up the least amount of HRs/9 in the majors (0.34) and is second only to the Yankees in K/9 thanks to Davis and Greg Holland.

Early April was rough. The past few weeks have been okay.

I believe in this unit. But they’ve been shaky early, and I can’t give them a grade on 2013 or expectations. Grade: B-


This has been embarrassing to watch at times.

Mike Moustakas opens the season with an embarrassing hitless streak. Billy Butler is in an unprecedented slump. Hosmer hasn’t hit a home run yet. In fact, the entire Royals team has been in a power slump and have only hit 12 homers as a team. Dead last in the MLB. Jose Abreu of the White Sox has hit 11 by himself. The league average is 27 HRs. Colorado has hit 43. In fact, 5 different Colorado players have hit more HRs than the Royals leader, Moustakas, who has 4: Tulowitski (7), Morneau (6), Gonzalez (6), Blackmon (6), Arenado (5).

Sure, it’s the thin air up there in Denver, but the Giants, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Nationals, Brewers, Marlins, Yankees, Mariners, Cubs and Astros all have at least 4 players with 4+ HRs. That’s 11 different teams – two of them the worst in baseball. Embarrassing.

And what makes it more embarrassing: that’s all Moose has done this season. Four lousy homers. He’s still batting .151. He only has 14 total hits in 93 at bats. Dyson had 13 in less than half the ABs.

Speaking of Dyson, his .289 AVG has been a bright spot lately. I think it was Rusty Kuntz who said Dyson could bunt every time up and bat .300. He’s been bunting a lot. Clearly not quite enough. Kidding.

Infante and Escobar have carried way too much of this offense through April. We need to get Perez, Butler and Moose going. And we have to find some power because this is getting sad. Grade: D


In my mind, the Royals have without question the best defense in the American League.

They handed out 2013 Gold Gloves this weekend. Gordon, Escobar and Hosmer all winning, and Lorenzo Cain and Salvy could have won GGs of their own. Escobar has already been brilliant on about a dozen occasions this year.

I wish Aoki had a slightly better arm in RF, but that’s nitpicking.

The only real complaint here: pitcher fielding. Oh my, Danny Duffy. The errors from Duffy the other night were embarrassing – 3 in one inning, single-handedly giving the game away – and brought the Royals pitchers’ error total to 9 this year, by far the most in the majors (Dodgers are second with 6, Padres 5, and no one else has more than 4 E’s). Gotta get some PFP in immediately. Maybe that’s why Shields/Vargas had such poor outings this weekend; they were preoccupied with their fielding practice. Nah.

Best defense in the league has somehow underperformed a bit over the past month thanks to some pitchers botching easy plays. Grade: B+


I don’t gripe about Ned Yost as much as most of the KC fan base does. It’s hard for me to blame the manager for poor decisions when it’s the players who aren’t executing. It’s not his fault Moose is batting .151. It’s not his fault Duffy can’t throw to first base. It’s not his fault the Royals can’t hit the ball father than 320′. One of the hats every manager wears is Team Scapegoat. My guy tells me he’s not as responsible for the underperformance as the fans say he is.

Jonah Keri had a great article on Grantland about Ned Yost’s decision making – specifically with the bullpen – and if it’s cost the Royals so far. I recommend giving it a read.

I believe the difference between a good and bad manager is about 4 wins per season. There have been a few moments where I have questioned his decisions so far, and most of them have been bullpen usage questions that Keri’s article smoothed over a bit for me. I don’t believe Yost had been a good manager over his career, and it’s really easy to point the finger and blame the man in charge, but I don’t think Ned is as much of a buffoon as my peers do.

My biggest frustration with the managing of this team comes in the player decisions Dayton Moore made at the end of free agency. Specifically one decision.

When Omar Infante got hit in the face with a fastball and missed a couple games, the Royals had no immediate backup available and had to roll with Danny Valencia at 2B until they could bring up Johnny Giavotella to save the depth chart.

Escobar got cleated and tweaked his ankle last week on a play at second, and for a moment it looked like he would have to leave the game. He toughed it out though, and it’s a good thing because the Royals do not have a backup SS on their roster.

Nevermind the fact that Emilio Bonefacio is hitting like .850 for the Cubs right now, that’s not the point. The point is that we desperately need infield depth, and we needed it to begin the season. Why we felt the need to give the last roster spot to another bullpen arm is beyond me. We don’t need Francisly Bueno in our pen. We need a utility player on the bench, and an insurance policy in case either Infante or Esky go down.

I get why we signed Danny Valencia – he hits leftys well and Moose is looking more and more like a bust every day – but there is plenty of room on this team for Bonefacio.

And what on earth will we do in an interleague series?! We don’t have enough bats to survive an early exit from a starter.

And I don’t even want to talk about what George Kottaras did yesterday. Cutting him was baffling to me.

Dayton Moore has done a good job turning this team around, but it took a long time for him to do it. He has convinced the ownership to pump money into scouting and build a terrific farm system. I think he has done it the right way. Honestly, I do. I’ve trusted The Process, and our organization is in a much better place because of it.

But we still aren’t winning the way our fan base wants, and it’s player decisions like this which can shift a really good thing in the wrong direction very quickly.

But Aoki was a great pickup this offseason, and Vargas is turning into a good choice too, albeit an expensive one. If Ventura, Duffy and eventually Kyle Zimmer can even remotely live up to expectation, then I’ll be speaking much more glowingly of the management by the end of the year. Grade: C

So where does that leave us? What does my Royals grade card look like on May 5?

Starting Pitching: B+
Relief Pitching: B-
Batting: D
Fielding: B+
Management: C

Which means overall, the Royals have underperformed substantially. And yet, they survived April and are hovering around .500.

It’s a long long season, and there is so much time to improve. I’m comfortable with where the Royals are right now. I don’t think they’ll win the Central, because Detroit is absolutely stacked, but I think they’re in a fine position to make the playoffs still.

And in the playoffs, starting pitching and solid defense rules all, and that is the a Royals best game.

We need to improve, yes. But as bad as our offense has been and as awful as the bullpen was early, and as rocky as the last week has been for our starters, I think we are in a good position.

Let’s take it one series at a time. San Diego next. We can’t allow this weekend’s performance to roll over into a crummy month of May.

The losing steak ends at 4 tonight in SD. Ventura and Guthrie are going against two pitchers with an ERA over 5, and Shields matches up against Andrew Cashner. We can win this series and move on to Seattle.

And I’ll be in Seattle on Friday.

Don’t lose heart, Royals fans. It’s May 5, they’ve had a pretty rough start, and yet they’re only 14-16. I still have hope in this team.


Top 10 Royals That Got Away

If you’re a Royals fan reading this post, it shouldn’t require much explanation.

Over the years, the Royals have managed to let dozens of guys get away from their organization. Sometimes these players were granted free agency because the small-market Royals simply couldn’t afford them anymore. Other times, the Royals pulled the trigger on miserable trades. Other times, they simply missed on a superstar in their own backyard.

This is purely my opinion, and there are definitely others to add to this list (and some I may have spaced out on), but here are the Top 10 Royals That Got Away:

10. Jose Bautista

Yep. The bomber for the Toronto Blue Jays spent part of the 2004 season with the Royals as a rookie while also spending some time with Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh that year. He played in 13 games and went 5-25 with 12 K’s in his short stretch with KC. Not shocking we ditched him, I guess. Now he plays in Toronto and has averaged 30+ home runs over the past 4 seasons.

9. David Cone

This one hurts because we actually let him get away twice. Cone was drafted in 1981 and debuted with the Royals in 1986. He pitched in 11 games and had a 5.56 ERA that season. Just before the start of the 1987 season, the Royals traded him to the Mets.

Then as a free agent in 1992, Cone came back to Kansas City from 1993-1995. Then we brilliantly shipped him away to Toronto for three players, only one of whom would actually play for the Royals, and that was Chris Stynes who only appeared in 58 pitiful games over two years. Cone would end up as a Yankee after his half-season with the Blue Jays.

Interestingly, Cone’s two best seasons were his two years in a Royals uniform. He won the Cy Young in 1994 and posted a career best 7.2 WAR in 1993. But man it would’ve been nice to have him longer. He left just as the Royals decline began.

8. John Buck

Okay, so this is strictly a homer pick. I’ve been the co-president of the John Buck Fan Club since around 2004 (when the Royals acquired him in a trade for another player on this list). I was heartbroken when they let him walk and he signed with Toronto. What made it worse was that the Roylas decided to go with an 83 year old, washed up mountain troll, Jason Kendall, instead. Kendall started at catcher for one year: 2010. Let’s compare JK and JB’s splits that year…

  • Kendall (KC): .256/.318/.297, 0 HR, 37 RBI
  • Buck (TOR): .281/.341/.489, 20 HR, 66 RBI

Buck also went to the All Star Game in 2010. Although, by some miracle, Kendall somehow managed to steal 12 bases that year. But he also got caught 7 times. The more I look at it, the more he might actually deserve to be on this list for more reasons than just my crush on him.

7. Zack Greinke

Zack always belonged in the National League anyway – he hit .328 for the Dodgers last season – and unlike others on this list, we never would have been able to pay him anywhere near what he deserved. We were fortunate enough to have him as long as he did. He won the Cy Young award in 2009 after dealing with emotional anxiety the years before. Sure, Zack got away, but it was probably the right move for the organization. Still hurts.

6. Raul Ibanez

Ibanez only spent 3 years in KC from 2001-03, and in that time he batted .291/.347/.492. Prior to KC he spent 5 years in Seattle only playing semi-regularly in 1999 (82 games) and 2000 (92 games). He was instrumental in the Royals 2003 out of nowhere winning season under manager Tony Pena. When his contract expired after 2003, we let him sign back with the Mariners.

Ignoring the past few years of decline, Ibanez was incredibly consistent for the 7 years (5 with SEA, 2 with PHI) after leaving KC posting a nearly identical line: .286/.352/.482. Until last year, the Royals haven’t had a winning season since he left.

5 & 4. Jermaine Dye & Johnny Damon

In 2000, Damon and Dye led the Royals in WAR with 6.1 and 4.6, respectively. Then before the 2001 season, the Royals decided to trade Damon to the Athletics for a SS prospect named Angel Berroa. Later that year, the Royals would ship Dye to Oakland through Colorado for another SS named Neifi Perez. Perez would play through the 2002 season posting a -2.2 WAR in his time as a Royal. He left in 2003 to make way for Berroa, who would miraculously beat out Hideki Matsui for AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2003 and would be instrumental to the Royals weirdo 2003 campaign. He posted a 2.5 WAR that year, and then backed it up with a -1.1 WAR over the next three seasons.

Dye/Damon would both go on to the postseason with the A’s in 2001, and would both win a World Series in consecutive seasons with the Red Sox in 2004 (Damon) and the White Sox in 2005 (Dye). The Royals would finish with the worst record in the majors those years, losing 104 & 106 games. Embarrassing, but somehow it gets worse.

3. Albert Pujols

Wait, what? Pujols never played for the Royals. He was a Cardinal and now he’s an Angel. How did he “get away”?!

Pujols is from Independence, Missouri, and he grew up playing baseball at 3&2 Baseball in Jackson County, right under the nose of the Royals. Yet on the day of the 1999 MLB draft, he wasn’t drafted until the THIRTEENTH ROUND, and it wasn’t by the hometown team. It was by their cross-state rivals instead. The Royals had 12 rounds worth of opportunities to pick up the local talent, and they let him get away.

2. Carlos Beltran

Sigh. Beltran was a 2nd round pick in the 1995 draft, debuted in 1998, and won AL ROY in 1999. Unlike Angel Berroa, he would only get better over time. Carlos was the perfect 5-tool player: hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, arm and defense. He posted double digit assists in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 – and the only reason he didn’t in 2000 was because he only played in 98 games. He hit .287 with the Royals, and stole 164 bases and blasted 123 home runs.

Beltran was – and still is – the man but in a move that was now too familiar to Royals fans, he was traded to Houston for John Buck, cash, and a pillow to cry into at night.

And then, to make matters worse, Beltran decided to tease us during the offseason. He was a free agent with the Cardinals, and we brought him into KC and wooed him with a “Welcome Back Carlos!” Jumbotron message at The K. Beltran fever took over Royals fandom for a week or so. We were prepared to give him a longer deal to make him happy. We were prepared to jettison Billy Butler to make space for his bat as a DH.

And then Carlos signed with the Yankees.

The Yankees.

Why’d it have to be the Yankees? It hurts so so badly. We miss you Carlos. We thought you loved us as much as we loved you. That’s right. Loved. Past tense. You burned that bridge the moment you put on pinstripes.

1. Jon Schuerholz

The #1 Royal that got away isn’t even a player. It’s a General Manager. Schuerholz came to the Royals in 1981, and led the team to the playoffs 3 times in his first 5 years, culminating in their only World Series Championship in 1985.

The Royals continued to be competitive under his watch, but he left for Atlanta in 1990 and led the Braves to 14 NL pennants over 15 years, only missing on the shortened 1994 strike season. While the Braves were experiencing success after success – 14 division titles, 3 World Series appearances and 1 championship in 1995 – the Royals spiraled slowly into obscurity.

One wonders what life might have been like as a Royals fan if Schuerholz hadn’t left for ATL. Would the Braves success been ours instead? Would we have claimed our second World Series championship in the mid-90s instead?


The Royals are 0-1

The Royals are 0-1.

I still believe this team can win 85-90 games again this year, and they still have 85-90 to go.

But I keep hearing from other people about how the Royals have no chance against Max Scherzer tonight and are already turning quickly away from hope and positioning themselves strongly toward despair.

Which is frustrating, because this team is the same team as it was before Opening Day. They only lost 1 game. It isn’t the end of the world. And if you thought this team was a potential playoff team this off season, then one Opening Day loss shouldn’t change that.

This Tigers rotation is tough, but if we believe that we’re good enough to make the playoffs, tonight’s game is exactly the type of game we ought to expect the Royals to be competitive in all season long. We nearly beat Verlander on Monday. Why is that the end of the world?

It was just 1 game, against a tough opponent, and we can’t lose hope already.


As Royals fans, we’ve seen this before, and we’ve had our hearts broken before, and we know how this story plays out. We know that 1 loss can turn into 2, can turn into 4 can turn into 6. The Royals cannot let that happen. There are a few things that need to happen over the next week in order to set this season in the right direction and reestablish this fan base as a hopeful one.

1. Moustakas must get a hit today.

We heard all Spring Training how he has finally turned it around. He’s a new player this time, and unlike last year, this Spring Training is going to carry over into the regular season. He’s finally arrived.

But then he went 0-4 on Monday.

Moose absolutely must get a hit today. He cannot start the season 0-8. He just can’t. Moose can’t allow doubt and uncertainty to creep into his head, and an 0-8 start starts him down that path. He needs to get comfortable at the plate early this season, so we don’t spend the whole year grumbling about his lack of production again. For his own sake and for ours, please, Moose, get at least 1 hit today.

2. Vargas must go 6+ innings and give up 2 or less runs.

Can he replace the production that Ervin Santana brought last year? That’s what we all want to know about this Jason Vargas guy that the Royals so eagerly paid $7M this year. He needs to establish himself early in the season as a legit #2 on this pitching staff. He doesn’t even have to win the game. But he must eat up innings and keep Detroit somewhat at bay.

3. The Royals must win their home Opening Series vs. the White Sox.

No matter what happens in Detroit, whether it ends 2-1, 1-2 or 0-3, we absolutely must take the Opening Series against the freaking White Sox. The Royals went 10-9 against Chicago last year while the Indians went 17-2. No wonder they got the Wild Card spot and we didn’t. The Royals should be the White Sox every single time they face them.

The Royals need to learn to take care of business. Losing to Detroit isn’t the end of the world, but if we can’t consistently take series against teams we should beat, then we have no business acting like we’re a playoff contender. If we win the White Sox series, the worst we can be is 2-4. Baseball is about winning series, and we have to do that against patsies like the Sox.

4. Ned Yost needs to continue to trust his bullpen.

The Royals bullpen is great. And while it’s easy to bash on Yost for taking Shields out with runners on 1st and 3rd late in the game, our bullpen has a track record of getting the job done in those situations and I applaud Ned for trusting them in that situation. I don’t agree with the decision – with Shields on the mound, I’d rather see him work out of it than take the ball out of his hand – but I at least understand the decision.

Ned cannot allow Monday’s blown game change how he wants to use his bullpen. Give the ball back to Crow, Davis and Holland. They’re the guys who got us to 86 wins last year, and they need to be the guys to do it again in 2014. Keep giving them the ball. Especially when it’s not a Shields start.

Don’t lose heart Royals fans. It’s a long season, and I was disappointed after the loss on Monday afternoon too. I was sitting at Great American Ballpark watching the score change torturously from 3-1 to 3-3 to 4-3 over the course of an hour. It was the worst and I had to catch myself from spiraling into despair myself.

But we aren’t anywhere close to despair yet. We’re 0-1, and we could even steal this Tigers series and come home 2-1. It’s possible! Don’t lose heart Royals fans. Baseball is a long long season. I still believe this team can win 85-90 games and make the playoffs.

Let’s revisit this next week. Because we’ll know a lot more about this team’s outlook by then.


Luke Hochevar is out for 2014, and I’m…Disappointed?

We learned this morning that Luke Hochevar, former #1 overall pick and the guy who was supposed to serve as the set up man for Greg Holland this season, will undergo Tommy John surgery to have his elbow repaired and will be out the entire 2014 season. 

Of all the players Royals fans have criticized and grumbled about in recent years, Hochevar is likely at the top of the list. He was supposed to be the piece our entire pitching staff was constructed around when we drafted him in 2006. And at first, things seemed peachy.

Hochevar made his MLB debut in September of 2007 appearing in 4 games. The first three were relief appearances, and he was awesome: 9.2 total innings, 8 hits, and only 1 run allowed over those three games.

Then his first start came on Mike Sweeney’s last day as a Royal on the final game of the season against the Indians. Hochevar was looking good into the 3rd, but then he made his first mistake of his career: Travis Hafner knocked him for a 2 run double.

Which, unfortunately, is how Hochevar starts go.

He has always had flashes of brilliance where we remember why he may have been worthy of the top draft pick. But overall, he’s always disappointed us. There are moments, but when you zoom out and look at the career, it looks the same way that first start did: 2 runs, 3 innings…6.00 ERA.

Which is a microcosm of Hochevar’s career over the next five years. Between 2008-2012: 38-58, 5.45 ERA. Woof.

And then, to make matters worse, we make the mistake of glancing at the other names out of that same draft class…

3. Evan Longoria
7. Clayton Kershaw
10. Tim Lincecum
11. Max Scherzer

…and it just gets depressing.

In 2011, the Royals decided to just trust that Hochevar was going to live up to his potential as long as he was given the opportunity. So they gave him the nod to be their Opening Day starter. And yet again, he started out great. He’d surrendered only 1 hit through 3 innings.

But in the 4th with no outs…HR, 2B, 2B.
Then in the 6th, after getting two quick outs…HR, E1, 1B.

More of the same.

Then 2012 came and his polarized performances became even more dramatic. First, he got beat out for the Opening Day job by Bruce Chen, which his hilarious in itself, but then Hochevar had shutouts in 4 different games in 2012.

5/12 @ CWW: 7 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs
6/19 @ HOU: 7.2 innings, 5 hits, 0 runs
6/ 25 vs TB: 9 innings, 7 hits, 0 runs*
8/21 @ TB: 8 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs*

* – Interesting side note: the Rays bat just .196 against Hochevar throughout his career. By comparison, the Tigers hit .346 off him and the AL Central is a combined .277. Isn’t it funny how a guy is just comfortable against certain teams?

But his overall ERA in 2012: 5.73.

Get this: in 2012, Luke Hochevar gave up more earned runs than any other pitcher in baseball. 118 runs. Miserable.

If this guy wasn’t a #1 pick, he would’ve been ditched long long ago. Which is why, after the 2012 season, as Hochevar’s contract was expiring and we’d had enough of his lackluster performances, we were all thrilled when the Royals finally got him out of their hair.

Oh wait. Nevermind.

They decided to resign him for $4.5M for 2013 instead.


Why in the world would the Royals ever pay a guy with a lifetime ERA over FIVE that much money?! It was infuriating. Just let it go, Royals. He’s a bust. We need to move on and get over it already.

But here’s something interesting: Today, as we learned the seriousness of Luke Hochevar’s injury, and when we learned that he would need Tommy John surgery*, and that he’d be out for the whole season…we’re disappointed. Sad. Concerned even.

It’s amazing how much difference a year makes, isn’t it?

* – By the way, I’m pretty sure Hochevar will be the first MLB player to be given Tommy John surgery after the death of its inventor, Frank Jobe, who passed away yesterday at 88 years old. Somebody somewhere will turn that into a trivia question.

In 2013, coming out of the bullpen for the entire season, Hochevar posted a 1.92 ERA, .825 WHIP, 4.82 K/BB ratio, and a grizzly beard that makes us completely forget his old disappointing self.

For the first time since…well, maybe since his debut back in 2007, I actually believed that Luke Hochevar was going to be great. By the end of last season, I wanted him in the game. There was no groaning or rolling the eyes. There was suddenly a trust in his ability. He had proven himself as a stud reliever, and it really is a bummer that he won’t be around in 2014.

The Royals bullpen were the best in the AL last year, and it’s going to be really tough to match that mark again. This injury to Hochevar just made it even more difficult.