Sunday, June 29, 2014

A win of the walk-off variety

***Please note, I had to edit the helmet nachos section below:

The Royals had their first walk off win of the 2014 season today. It was glorious. Omar Infante drove home Alex Gordon after Gordon walked and reached third base on an error by the Angels. It was not a pretty game, but the Royals held on and gutted out only their third win in the past eleven games. Lorenzo Cain had 4 hits (including a leadoff double that was followed by 2 strikeouts and a groundout – what a waste) and 2 RBI’s. Eric Hosmer left 6 men on base because he is terrible.  They currently stand 3 games above .500 and gained a little ground on Detroit.

In honor of the Royals first walk-off win, I decided to do a little Q & A:

Q. What are the Royals estimated playoff chances right now?
A. According to my sources, the Royals chances of making the playoffs is “maybe.” Two reasons for this: 1) The Tigers are beatable, and just lost a series to the Astros. And, 2) Eric Hosmer is swinging like a blind man trying to hit the world’s smallest piƱata. The Royals need him to get out of his slump in order to catch Detroit and win the AL Central.  

Q. Did the Royals hit a home run today?
A. LOL. No.

Q. Which Royals should be traded before the July 31 trade deadline?
A. In no particular order, Mike Moustakas, Billy Butler, Nori Aoki, and either Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, or Greg Holland. Moose, Billy and Aoki are not playing well and are pretty much a waste of roster space, and considering how well Herrerra/Davis/Holland have pitched the past two seasons, trading at least one of them for a third basemen or right fielder who has a decent bat would be a smart and logical thing to do. The Royals have been blessed with great relievers but relievers are a dime a dozen and if the Royals could beef up their offense they would not need such a solid bullpen as much. Butler has a club option for next year, and would be owed like $12 million TO NOT HIT HOME RUNS, so there is almost no way the Royals will exercise the option and keep him. Might as well trade him, possibly in a package deal with one of the relievers mentioned. Some have mentioned trading James Shields but the Royals clearly are still in the race for the division title, and could use his leadership and experience later in the season if they find themselves in the thick of it come September.  

Q. Is there any pitch that Eric Hosmer won’t swing at, no matter how far from the strike zone it is???
A. LOL. No.

Q. Will the Royals ever get nacho helmets?
A. I do not know and this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. For those of you living in Kansas City, please do something about this. Petition owner David Glass. Boycott games until they are added to the concession menu. Write your local congressperson. DO NOT REST UNTIL KANSAS CITIANS CAN ENJOY HELMET NACHOS LIKE THE REST OF AMERICA.

***Astute reader and Royals fan Mitch Adams pointed out that the Royals do in fact have helmet nachos and have had them for a few years. This is fantastic news, and you may disregard my advice above and instead focus your efforts on SENDING ME SOME KANSAS CITY ROYALS HELMET NACHOS ASAP. 

Q. What is the funniest thing you have seen today?
A. This screenshot, taken by twitter user @boxcar_fritz:

Hilarious. His caption for the screenshot was “Unprofessional.” I disagree, and wish that all major corporations could be totally honest. For example, they could openly declare their fetish for Mike Trout so I do not have to write novels about it.

Q.  What do you plan to do if the Royals make the playoffs?
A. Since I was born in 1982, I have never really seen the Royals in the playoffs in my lifetime (too bad 3 year olds can’t form lasting memories). So if the Royals make the playoffs this season (or whenever they do), I think I will calmly take myself out for a nice steak dinner, down some fancy scotch, and then BRAG ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET FOR 3 MONTHS STRAIGHT. Especially to my misguided friends who like the Minnesota Twins.  

Q. And what do you plan to do if the Royals don’t make the playoffs?
A. There is nothing I can do except cry. I cannot break up with them because they are firmly bonded into my soul, a bond that is stronger than marriage.

Q.  Will Nori Aoki get hit in the nuts again this season?
A. LOL. Probably.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bristol, don’t forget about the Royals

An excerpt from my upcoming novel: “A sports love affair*”
(*Please note that names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved, but they will be revealed at the end anyway)

Bristol was in awe. Her dream man had just performed a feat so massive, so majestic, that everyone who witnessed it just had to be impressed. Who wouldn’t want a man that could display enormous power and manliness, yet do it so effortlessly and with a smile on his face?
Bass was nonchalant. It was part of the job. Hit the ball hard or go home, his dad always said. Words that he took to his heart, along with “If ya ain’t first, you’re last” from his favorite movie Talladega Nights. It was like a mantra for him. “Ain’t first, you’re last, ain’t first, you’re last, ain’t first, you’re last,” he would mutter in his mind in the batting circle, as he waited for his turn to show the world that Mark Bass was worth every penny of the $144 million contract extension he just signed in March.
Bristol was so excited every time Bass went to the plate. “He’s going to smack a long one – just like I like it,” she always said, giggling like an idiot valley girl. The kind of girl that you could easily pick up at a bar by wearing one of those stupid shirts that read “Chicks dig the long ball,” especially if your muscles were large and prominently filled out said shirt. A bimbo, if you will.
Bass stepped up to the plate in the first inning. He was facing Jason Vargas, a lefty who looked like he probably snorted a lot of cocaine, but in reality was a super nice guy who just looks like a cocaine addict. None of that mattered to Bass. He just wanted to pound a ball over the fence right now. He had been receiving an excessive number of texts from some dumb blonde he know, Bristol, who was always begging for him to “smack a long ball and then grab her hair.” Disturbing, but hey, this was America. Even so, it made him hungry to punish pitches in the strike zone. He brushed those disturbing thoughts out of his mind, squared up, and belted a massive home run over the fence at Kauffman Stadium. “That felt good,” was his first thought, quickly followed by “Oh sh*t, now Bristol is gonna blow up my phone.”

“Oh my gawd oh my gawd oh my gawd!!!!” shouted Bristol in such rapid succession that it came out sounding like “Omgawomgawomgaw!” which made no sense and quite frankly, everyone around her was used to, being the bimbo she was. I mean, she was wearing high heels to a baseball game for crissakes. “That must have been 900 feet!” she shouted, totally oblivious to normal human limits. She immediately took to twitter to profess her profound love for bass, including massive exaggeration of how far the home run actually flew…   

As you can probably guess, my novel is about ESPN’s love for Mike Trout (Bristol of course referring to the city of ESPN’s headquarters), especially exhibited by the excessive tweets they sent regarding his home run last night, and the ridiculous estimates of how far it went. THE ANGELS LOST YOU IDIOTS. The love for Trout (who is an excellent player by the way - that was his 18th home run this season), is painfully obvious and distracted from an otherwise decent game by the Royals. Despite Jason Vargas imploding and allowing 6 runs, the Royals looked sharp. Omar Infante belted a Grand Slam (the first of his career). Everyone on the team (except for Mike Moustakas of course) had a run or RBI. Alcides Escobar got hit by a pitch and then promptly stole second base (maybe that’s how they do it where he is from in Venezuela?). And perhaps more importantly, after Jason Vargas exited the game, Michael Mariot, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland DID NOT ALLOW A SINGLE HIT TO MIKE TROUT OR ANY OTHER ANGELS PLAYERS FOR 5 INNINGS. Where are the ESPN highlights of Trout being baffled by the Royals’ shut-down relievers? Who cares how far Trout’s home run travelled since he could not will his team to victory over the “hapless” Royals?

I want so bad for the Royals to sweep those buttheads back to LA and gain some ground on the AL wild card race (the Royals are 1.5 games back right now). In addition, Detroit lost to the Astros after a walk-off home run in Houston, providing further evidence that Justin Verlander is no longer the dominating pitcher he once was. In my opinion, this probably has something to do with him dating Kate Upton. Please continue dating her. She could easily fill the role of Bristol above when my novel is made into a movie.

I am excited to watch Ace Ventura this afternoon. I doubt Mark Bass can smack a home run off him.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

An essay on torment


And there it is, the frustration of being a Kansas City Royals fan. This Royals-coaster season has been quite a ride so far. The thrill of a 10-game winning streak was awesome; but the constant regression back to mediocrity and a .500 record leaves a bad taste. Why must we be tormented so?  

Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated: When a man is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something. What, pray tell, can a Royals fan learn from the torment that inevitably comes with following this team? I decided to dig deep into my soul and see if I have learned anything in a lifetime of following the Royals:

First, I learned that Royals fans persevere. This should be pretty obvious. For a team that has not seen the postseason in basically 3 decades, any remaining fans have the Perseverance of the Saints.  Will they see the postseason this year? Currently, after losing 2 of 3 from the Dodgers, they stand 1.5 games back in the Wild Card race, and 4 games behind Detroit. WE NEED ANOTHER 10 GAME WINNING STREAK PLEASE.

Second, I learned that the Shuttlecok Curse is real. Don’t believe so? Read this article. If you still don’t believe so, then consider that if the Shuttlecok Curse isn’t real then the Royals are the worst franchise in the history of pro sports. DO YOU WANT TO LIVE WITH THAT KIND OF REPUTATION? I don’t. The curse is real. 

Third, I learned that it is not absence that makes the heart grow fonder, it is torment. How else do you explain that Joe Posnanski is still a Royals fan, even though he is from Cleveland and now writes for NBC Sports (as someone from Cleveland, he has suffered enough)? How do you explain that after moving from Kansas City to Iowa and then Texas, I refuse to make the switch and adopt a new team? It seems that the more the Royals flirt with decency then crash and burn with another 5 game losing streak, the more I desire to watch them, discuss them on Twitter, write about them on this blog. In fact, I didn’t start this blog until after the Royals started the season terribly and I JUST HAD TO VENT ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET. The best description of the Royals is a terrible ex that you keep coming back to. QUIT PLAYING GAMES WITH MY HEART YOU ROYAL FOOLS, I HAVE BEEN TORMENTED ENOUGH. And next time you win 10 games in a row, don’t follow that with losing 6 of your next 7 games. That is just embarrassing. 

Finally, I learned that with torment comes the most elated feeling in the world, and one that Kansas City Royals fans have not felt since 1985: that feeling is called being a WORLD CHAMPION. You can agitate me, frustrate me, defeat me, crush me, give me losing streak upon losing streak, refuse to develop good hitters that hit monstrous home runs in front of my eyes, and make questionable managerial decisions on a nightly basis that cause my blood to boil, but you can bet that the second the Royals WIN THE WORLD SERIES AGAIN I WILL BE THE HAPPIEST PERSON IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. I will be a WORLD CHAMPION and I will brag about it for the rest of my days and no amount of torment will ever be enough to overcome the feeling of being THE BEST. And right now, I am not even asking for a World Championship. I am simply asking for a berth in the postseason to erase the Shuttlecock Curse and bring some respectability to Kansas City.

I have been too busy to write much about the Royals lately, but I wanted to go over some recent stats for the team. First, the Royals have 45 home runs, which is only 1 less than the Cardinals, but is 10 less than the next lowest, which is the Texas Rangers. Still last in baseball, but PROGRESS! The league averages 39 at bats per home run; the Royals average 59. That is pretty bad and is explained by the fact that they have a very high groundball to flyball ratio. They just do not hit anything in the air. It looks like Mike Moustakas (8), Alex Gordon (9) and Sal Perez (9) will reach double-digit home runs soon, but I would be surprised if Billy Butler (2) and Eric Hosmer (4) reach at least 10 for the season. They are just not hitting well. In fact, Omar Infante has more RBI’s than Butler. I am hoping the Royals trade him before the deadline on July 31. 

The Royals are pitching better than the rest of the division, and hopefully they keep that up. In the AL Central, they have the best ERA, most saves, most quality starts, and second fewest bases on balls. Despite the fact that they do not have any Cy Young winners on their rosters. Suck it Detroit. 

The Royals have the fewest strike outs (again, suck it Detroit) and third most stolen bases in the MLB, which is encouraging until you see that they are dead last in bases on balls. Their 40 wins are tied for seventh in the American league and tied for 12th overall in the MLB. Slightly above average, but this season everyone is playing about average, so it might be enough to get the Royals into the playoffs if they maintain this pace and go on a hot streak in August and September.  

I am hoping that the positive trends continue and the losing streaks stop appearing so often, which would result in less torment for us Royals fans.  They play the Angels next, who are currently leading the Wild Card standings. This would be a good chance to make some ground.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Going streaking!

The Royals have won six games in a row. No one in Kansas City has said that in a long time. Feels good doesn’t it? THE ROYALS HAVE WON SIX GAMES IN A ROW! And, they are in second place, and could catch the Douche-troit Tigers soon if they remain hot. It is a glorious time for Kansas Citians. For those of you with Boulevardia hangovers, THE ROYALS HAVE WON 6 STRAIGHT GAMES!!! We're going streaking! That should help your headache.

In addition to their timely winning streak, the Royals have some other newsworthy streaks. First, Alcides “Cramp Won’t Stop Me” Escobar has a 12-game hitting streak. He leads the Royals with a .290 batting average, which is insane to think about since he was statistically the worst hitter of all everyday major leaguers last season. COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love watching him play. He makes unbelievable plays every single game. VOTE HIM TO THE ALL-STAR GAME because he deserves it. By the way, he left the game on Friday night with a leg cramp, and those were the only 2 innings he has not played for the Royals this season. Iron Man and Iron Glove and Iron Bat. This guy can do it all.

Less glamorously, but more popular, Salvador Perez has his own 8-game hitting streak going. He has had an up and down season at the plate, but his defense is at about the same level as last year.

In other stats, Alex Gordon is ranked #7 in the MLB with 3.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which basically means that he contributes enough to the team to provide 3.4 wins on his own. Or in other words, if he got hurt, an average player that replaces him would cost the Royals about 3 wins. And he is having sort of a down year statistically, so if he starts hitting better that number will rise.  

Team-wise, the Royals are fifth best in the MLB with 132 doubles, and fourth best with 52 steals. They rank in the top half of the league defensively, so fundamentally, they are playing smart and solid baseball. Now that their offense is scoring a bit more, you can see how complete they are. They are averaging about 5 runs per game since they moved Dale Sveum to hitting coach (they were averaging slightly under 4 runs per game before), and if they keep that pace, the playoffs will no longer be an unrealistic fantasy for Kansas Citians. They are still in last place with only 33 home runs (5 behind the Cardinals), but if they can continue playing the way they have lately, I could care less if they don’t hit another home run. Home runs are exciting but I would rather see a win. And perhaps more importantly, I want to see the stupid Tigers out of first place. And just in case you forgot (or did not know), in 2003 the stupid Tigers set the record FOR MOST LOSSES BY AN AMERICAN LEAGUE TEAM WITH 119. Not even the (previously) hapless Royals have stooped that low! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA you suck Detroit.    

Oh, and currently, the Royals are tied for the last wildcard spot. They would get a play-in game for the playoffs if the season ended today! Happy Father’s Day to all dads, especially my late, but fashionably dressed father:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An Ode to Esco-baller

I have previously written about the Royals tendency to hit worthless fly balls. Well yesterday afternoon, the Royals hit four flyouts that were not worthless. In fact, those flyouts scored 4 runs. I was in shock. THE ROYALS ACTUALLY HIT 4 SACRIFICE FLY BALLS. (by the way, it turns out that is the first time in MLB history a team won scoring at least 4 runs by sacrifice fly)

I know that I sound very sarcastic about that but anyone watching the Royals all season long will have noticed by now that any time they get a runner on second or third base with 1 or no outs, they rarely score. They are abysmal at hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP). They have left an average of 3.55 runners in scoring position on base per game, which ranks #15 in the MLB, exactly average (The Mets are last with 3.98 stranded RISP per game). But accounting for the lack of hitting and mediocre batting average, that number should be higher for Kansas City. That basically means that the Royals are leaving 3.5 runs on the bases each game, and we all know how much they struggle to score anyway. As you can see, that is why I so shocked to see them sacrificing runners home yesterday. Anytime you get a runner on third base with less than 2 outs, that run should score, but since Billy Butler has turned into a groundout machine, the Royals have seemingly lost the ability to hit sacrifice flys. So, kudos for playing normal baseball! Although, in their defense, they actually rank #3 in baseball with 0.38 sac flys per game. None of those sacrifices seem to score a runner though…

Yordano Ventura pitched a great game yesterday. At one point, he had thrown something like 56 strikes and only 21 balls. That is a Justin Verlander-like stat. Even better than that, he was mixing his pitches like crazy. There were at-bats where he threw several curveballs and changeups, then would throw a 96 MPH fastball past the Indians’ bats. Even if they knew it was coming, they were pretty much powerless to hit it. It won’t be long before he is our staff ace. In fact, if the Royals cannot make a serious run to get to the playoffs, they should trade James Shields for a slugger and go into next season with Ventura as the #1 pitcher.

Interestingly, the only Royals player who did not get a hit yesterday was Alex Gordon, who is their best hitter right now. Other various notes include:

The Royals still have the fewest strike outs per game, averaging only 5.65. That is pretty good for having Mike Moustakas in the lineup.

Alcides “Esco-baller” Escobar has a 10-game hitting streak. HE ALSO SCORED ON A POPOUT TO SHORTSTOP. Yes, you read that correct. A POPOUT TO SHORTSTOP. He is my choice for Royals Player of the Year, as well as the MLB Comeback Player of the Year. He is one of the best base runners in the MLB, and its about damn time he earned a Gold Glove. I freakin love watching him play.
Wade Davis unnecessarily loaded the bases in the eighth inning before striking out two and getting a ground out to end the inning. In the last 19 innings, he has allowed 0 runs and has 30 strikeouts. That is insane pitching. The Royals record when they have a lead in the seventh inning is like 24-1. All they have to do is get Davis and Holland the ball and you can chalk up a Win. It is like a joke when Davis loads the bases, as if he is toying with other teams, daring them to try and score, even giving them a few baserunners and some empty hope before HE STRIKES THEM OUT AND DROPS THEIR HEAD IN SHAME.

Greg Holland notched his AL-best 19th save, out of 20 chances. The Royals have been blessed with great closers the past several years (Holland, Jonathon Broxton, and Joakim Soria). With Davis and Holland, they have an interesting trade chip. I say, unload Holland for a solid bat with power, and another strong starting pitcher.

The Royals are now in second place and have won 4 straight. Kansas City has not been more than 2 games above .500 all season, so I do not expect their winning streak to continue, but if it does, that would be fantastic. They might be able to catch the Tigers! The AL Central right now is the tightest division in the MLB, with the last place Twins only 3.5 games behind division-leading Detroit. Although meaningless now, the Royals are only 1 game out of the wild card standings. A huge run now could help them put some distance between them and the other contenders (LA Angels, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, NY Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians). As you can see, there are a ton of teams that will be competing for the 2 wild card spots, unless some teams start distancing themselves.

With the World Cup starting today, it might be hard to keep an eye on the Royals, but I will do my best, especially if they keep winning!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Helmet Nachos

I haven’t had a chance to post about the Royals lately, but after their dominance good showing against the Cardinals this week, they deserve some love.

After sputtering through another lifeless May, the Royals are 3-2 in June. Anytime you take 3 games from the Cardinals, including sweeping them in St. Louis, that is something to be happy about. And I am not talking about bragging rights in the Show Me State, but rather the fact that St. Louis always has a solid team, and Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha are very good pitchers with sub 3.00 ERA’s this season.

Even better than taking 3 games from the Cardinals is the fact that the Royals actually showed the ability to come back and win games. We all know how weak the Royals’ offense is, and when they are down by a few runs, it feels like they will automatically lose. They actually scored 13 runs after the sixth inning in their 4 games against the Cardinals. Very nice!

The Royals won last night after sneaking in some offense in the sixth inning. It was only 3 runs, but it was all they needed to win. I had to follow the game on twitter, while also following the baseball draft, all while at the Houston Astros game against the Angels. Quite a fun baseball night. Here are some thoughts:

First, the Royals had 4 draft picks in the first 3 rounds. They selected 3 pitchers and a catcher. I understand that good starting pitching is one of the hottest commodities in all of professional sports, but THE ROYALS NEED HITTING. I am so sick of seeing Billy Butler ground out and Mike Moustakas strike out and no one is hitting home runs and blah blah blah. There has been a rumor that the Seattle Mariners are interested in trading for Billy Butler and his $8 million contract. DO IT! Trade that slow SOB right now. Or just dump him near another city with a baseball team. Or not. Because all he does is hit, but he's not even doing that right now. 

Second, Twitter was blowing up about the Royals and Cardinals this past week. It is nice to (sort of) have a meaningful rivalry again, although neither the Royals nor Cardinals are relevant this year. The Cardinals have been found to be the most loyal fans in baseball, but AFTER 3 DECADES OF FUTILITY, any remaining Royals fans like you and me deserve the title as Most Loyal (and Longest Suffering) Fans. So suck it St. Louie. In all honesty, I do enjoy the Cardinals and Busch Stadium is probably my second favorite baseball stadium besides Kaufmann Stadium in KC, but I digress.

Third, Minute Maid Park in Houston was a fun experience. The Astros won 8-5 after some late-inning drama. With the tying run at the plate, Albert Pujols flied out to end the game. It was $1 hot dog night and the Astros reported that 18,000+ hot dogs were sold during the game. Disgusting. I had 3. No Shame. Hey, they were A DOLLAR, so get off my back. Also, my ticket was only $6, which is cheaper than the Royals and its not like the Royals are that much better than the Astros.

I did notice that the Astros offer Helmet Nachos. If you do not know what Helmet Nachos are, your life is meaningless. I haven’t been to a Royals game this year (yet), but I do not believe the Royals offer Helmet Nachos. I have had Helmet Nachos (I love saying Helmet Nachos) at a White Sox game, Minnesota Twins game, and a Dallas Stars game, and I will be damned if I don’t have Helmet Nachos in Houston. Below is a pic I found on the internet of Cincinnati Reds Helmet Nachos. A full-size, 80's style batting helmet full of tortilla chips, chili, cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, deliciousness and heart disease. America is amazing.

I wanted to provide an in-depth look at the Royals new draft picks here but I will leave that for another day. Next up for the Royals is 6 home games against the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. They need to use those games to get out of last place in the AL Central and get back in the playoff hunt.