Royals/Angels (Game #01) Location, Location, Location

Successful pitchers throw strikes.
That’s something the Kansas City Royals have struggled with during this long playoff drought. Ultimately, one could argue that it led to pitching coach Bob McClure’s end on manager Ned Yost’s staff.
For six innings Friday night, Bruce Chen threw enough strike to keep the Los Angeles Angels (and their new “Superman” slugger Albert Pujols) off balance, holding them scoreless.
Then came Aaron Crow, who struck out the side and things looked bright.
All of a sudden during Crow’s second inning of work, 1-0 and 2-1 counts became more commonplace. The trouble continued with Greg Holland. The Angels (who are good hitters even without Pujols) took advantage.
Boom. Five run inning.
The Royals offense, which had started and sputtered against a dominant Jered Weaver, never got a runner past second. The Angels cruised to a 5-0 Opening Day win.
For all of the (mostly deserved) praise the bullpen has received and all of the (mostly deserved) scorn the starting rotation has been given, the key is throwing strikes.
Chen won’t blow by hitters at 84 miles per hour. But he was content to let his defense do the work and located the ball pretty well.
When the pitching staff learns to locate consistently, the Royals will turn the corner.
Don’t worry, we have the offense.

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The Problem With Frenchy’s Signing

Hint: It’s not that the Kansas City Royals signed outfielder Jeff Francouer to a two-year extension.

It’s some of the media and some of the fan bloggers who pick their favorites and pick their goats early and think that being a Major League Baseball general manager is just like playing MLB ’11 on their PS3.

Has Franceour been a consistent performer? No. Can he be a consistent performer? Maybe.

The jury is still out.  No, really.

He’s only 27. Not 30. And it’s not a 5-year, $55 million contract. It’s a 2-year, $13.5 million deal.

“It won’t last,” the detractors chant, picking statistics they like and ignoring the ones the don’t.

These are the same folks who were calling for Alex Gordon’s head on opening day (How’s that working out for ‘ya?). Over and over, they banged the drum for Kila Ka’aihue (Not looking good so far).  But, they won’t remind you of that.

This is just something to think about it when the Royals “hipsters” pull their “we love all minor league prospects and hate free agent signings that we didn’t think of” shtick.

That’s What Winning Do

Thank you, Kansas City Royals.
Just when this city became engrossed in what worthless Mel Kiper thinks of the Chiefs’ draft picks, the Royals stopped a 6-game skid and swept the Minnesota Twins.
That’s what winning do. (Thank you and get well, Jarrod Dyson)
Now, sports radio hosts in KC have to go back and watch the games, trying to speak from the “insiders” point of view.
“At least for another month,” they whisper to themselves. “They’ll surely collapse by then.”

***

Could you feel that sinking feeling? I could.
When the Royals embarked on a 6-game road trip on April 22nd, hopes were high. This team could be a contender, I thought. Who knows what will happen? Will they be alive in June? July?
Then, thud.
Every little thing the Royals had been doing poorly began to show. The Rangers and the (suddenly red-hot) Indians made them pay.
But, listen. We are a better team. We have a little pop in our lineup (in the middle of the major leagues in homers; Twins are last) and are leading the American League with a .274 batting average.
We have some speed (including Jarrod Dyson until he sprained his ankle today). The Royals lead the AL with 35 stolen bases.
Yeah, I’m talking about those guys with the interlocking “KC” on the cap.
There’s been some bad too, including a 4.48 team ERA and 101 walks allowed (2nd highest total in the AL), 35 home runs allowed (worst in the AL) and 21 errors (8th worst in the AL).
We got away with some of that in this Twins series. Sean O’Sullivan walked seven in game two and we got away with it. But, we’re not going to always get away with it.
Jarrod Dyson is fast. It was amazing when he tagged up on a fly ball to shallow left field in Friday’s game — and scored.
But, he’s no superman.
While we all love hustle, smart hustle is better. Hopefully, he recovers because he’s a weapon.
The bottom line is that the good teams will make us pay.

Media Matters

So, I was trying to find some more Royals sources using RSS. I’m a geek and read everything in Google Reader. I have a Yahoo! feed of Royals stories, but it’s sparse sometimes. Bleacher Report stories are hit and miss (especially when the amateur writers show their lack of knowledge about the ballclub). Most of those folks and some bloggers don’t have the media access to actually do a lot of ‘reporting,” just usually opinions.

Going to WHB’s website didn’t yield much, a few articles, mostly stats and standings imported in from somewhere else.

What about 610 Sports, “The Home of the Royals?” I was disappointed to see that their Royals site labeled “Royals Insider” but also called http://leftofthefoulpole.com/ was really lacking. No audio from Saturday or Sunday’s games in Texas. The blog was empty and labeled “Robert Ford Spring Training Blog.” There were Royals articles scattered across the 610 site (which has some navigational issues), but no bundle of them for easy reading.

My last stop was Fox Sports Kansas City. They had some good timely articles and an RSS feed for them. Nicely laid and easy to navigate.

So my media rankings in covering the Royals go like this: 1) Kansas City Star 2) Fox Sports Kansas City 3) 610 Sports 4) 810 WHB 5) Bloggersphere.

Saturday In The Park: No Futures For FSKC?

Some notes for a nice April Saturday.

  • I guess the Kansas State baseball game takes precedence over airing the Futures game between the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers (cough: Royals) and the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals. But, a memo to the Fox Sports brass. Can we stop using the “FSMidwest” branding on half of the programming on the supposed “Fox Sports Kansas City?” We hate that because it really means “Fox Sports St. Louis.” We hate St. Louis. No really. Maybe, someone in your Houston master control could lift a finger to push a button to fix that.
  • As I start a media rant, what was up with the Miller Lite commercials on 610 Sports that said “Happy Holidays?” Plus, all of the dead air in between innings. Does anyone really care at KCSP?
  • Does anyone sell Alex Gordon dart boards? You could make a lot of money with that. Just sayin.’
  • I have Greinke on my fantasy baseball team. He’s on the DL, probably for the whole month of April. Did we trade at the right time?

Optimism Watch: .500 Season??

Royals fanatic and blogger Minda Haas put it best when she tweeted.

WHAT IS GOING ON HERE! #Royals

Don’t ask questions. Just enjoy it, Minda. Kansas City is 2-1 — over .500 for the first time since early 2009. After winning two straight games against the Angels in come from behind fashion, it makes me turn my head and wonder. Can we be decent? Not great. Not pennant contenders. Just decent.

All of the “experts” predicted another miserable season at the K. ” Hold on, help is coming from the minors.” We’ve heard it for years since Dayton Moore took over the general manager job in Kansas City. My wife constantly asks me “when this supposed revival is coming.” And for years, I have answered, “Soon . . . I hope.”

But, with Crow and Collins in the bullpen and a patchwork of a rotation that’s not awful but not great either, the pitching has bent but not broke in the first three games. The defense (outside of the three odd errors on Opening Day) has been pretty darn good. Add a running game and some pop from Kila, we could be .500. There, I said it. (Blame me later).

The Royals fan in me is ready for the 8-game skid to follow. You know what I’m talking about. And that’s the key. If the Royals are above .500 (or close) at the end of April, this will be a decent season.

If not . . .

Yeah, here we go again.

 

The Mess of Meche’s Retirement

The Gil Meche story tells me something about people’s thoughts on athletes and how the media covers them.
First of all, I have actually seen disdain for Gil Meche for not taking $12.4 million in continuing to play. Some are saying, “He signed a contract, he should honor it.”
Really?
They are upset with Meche because he didn’t take the $12.4 million and pitch ineffectively from the bullpen deals and possibly get hurt. He’s been hurt for the past couple years and didn’t pitch that well.
He took a hard look at the facts in December and realized the chances weren’t good. Despite his intentions, it was unlikely that he would be able to earn that $12.4 million on the mound. Not because he didn’t want to, but because his body probably would let him.
And he’s somehow selfish. No matter the fact the Royals have $12.4 million to spend on a player or two to try and bolster their lineup.
Some are afraid that pressure will be brought to bear on other players in similar situations. Some goofball even mentioned the baseball player’s association should stop him.
Seriously?
Now, he made over $40 million over the previous four years with the Royals. And contrary to some of media hecklers, he shouldn’t have to give it back. Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore took a risk. And he knew it.
One a rising star with the Mariners, the injury bug kept Meche from being the pitcher most baseball folks thought he would be.
That’s called life.
I will look back on the Gil Meche era in Kansas City and remember a risk that didn’t pan out. But, I won’t blame Meche for bowing out early.
As for the media, this story broke (LINK) on Tuesday (Jan. 18). It was unusual, sure. But, it took nearly a week for the national media to really notice. Then, it became big news because of “pack journalism,” everyone following everyone else. They treated it as if it were new. And, most of the media (including the sports folks who should know better) completely left out his injuries. They scratched their heads and pontificated.
Do some research, people.