Friday, December 28, 2007

Welcoming Miguel Olivo

Here's...
  • the news: The Kansas City Royals have signed catcher Miguel Olivo to a one-year contract for 2008. The Royals and Olivo each hold options for the 2009 season. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

  • the reaction (Royals Review): This is the second consecutive year that Dayton Moore has brought in an established catcher to play with John Buck. Is he trying to replace Buck? Push Buck? Or does he just like to have an expensive but steady back up to Buck? Next year Buck will be 27 and Olivo will be 29. Anyway, this is big news and Olivo will certainly make the team better.

  • the analysis (Royals Authority): Given that both are at least average, if not above average, defensive catchers, I think we might see Trey Hillman ride whomever is hot at this position. Neither is going to tear up the league for months on end, but a scenario where Buck might play virtually everyday for three weeks, followed by Olivo everyday for the next three may well be what occurs in 2008.

  • and the quote of the day from GMDM: "Miguel is a talented catcher with a power bat and a very strong throwing arm. With him and John Buck, they form one of the most powerful catching duos in baseball."
Welcome to Kansas City, Miguel.

Now, it's likely that you come with some misconceptions about our city and the state of Kansas (hey, who doesn't?), and you may be wondering, "How does one survive when landlocked?" No worries... we here at IDWT have prepared a handy primer for you -- all you need to know about this wonderful slice of Middle America.

  1. The Kansas City Royals play in Missouri. Jackson County, to be exact. It's not a bad place, though we don't recommend getting a flat tire on the side of the highway near the stadium at night, especially if you don't have a cell phone. Trust us, we speak from experience.

  2. It is inaccurate to say you're from Kansas City, Kansas, when you're not from the actual suburb called Kansas City, Kansas (KCK, in local parlance). When you're out in the world and hear someone say he or she is from "Kansas City, Kansas," it's 90 percent more likely that that person is from -- in order of likelihood -- Overland Park, Olathe, Leawood or Lenexa, all of which are suburbs of Kansas City, on the Kansas side (that's the accurate way of putting it).

  3. In Kansas, we are not all Republican assholes. Some of us are Republican and not all that bad. Some of us are Republican but just confused. And some of us -- brace yourself now -- aren't actually Republican! Hooray!

  4. People love the Plaza too much (even though Kansas City is nicknamed the "City of Fountains" because of the area), and most people couldn't tell you why they enjoy Westport (it's the only hotspot for KC nightlife), and the reason for this is because there's no downtown to speak of. Well, that's not true. Kansas City has a fine downtown area, though no one knows this because no one actually goes downtown except for the free Memorial Day concert in front of the World War I Memorial.

  5. In order now: Plaza III, Ruth's Chris, Jess and Jim's (reasonable people can differ, of course).

  6. What you've heard about everyone being nice here is true enough that you can consider it a fact. And it's also true that the girls here are very quite lovely, and I don't necessarily mean lovely in an euphemistic, "homely and pretty enough, but not all that hot" way. Some of the girls here are genuinely attractive, even indescribably good-looking, the product of a healthy diet of wheat and wholesome values. Of course, many of them are 17, so be careful.

  7. You'll be having a Boulevard Wheat.

  8. Royals fans are not fickle. They're just desperate for a winner. Actually, all of Kansas City is. The story of our area's sports teams is rife with heartbreak: Chiefs in 2003-04, 1997-08, 1996-07; Jayhawks basketball in 1996-97, et al.; Wildcats football in 1998-99. The only team that's won anything in the last 19 years here is the Wizards, and they play soccer. So anyway, Royals fans are not fickle. Kansas City was a baseball town before Lamar Hunt -- rest his soul -- brought football, and even then, for a long time, Kansas City remained a baseball town. It will be again soon enough.

  9. The Fox and Hound is a really big bar with a lot of games and lovely waitresses. This wouldn't be noteworthy if not for the fact that it's located in Overland Park, aka Suburbia, U.S.A., tucked behind a Denny's at the intersection of Metcalf and 103rd Street.

  10. If you're looking for places to take the family on the weekend, try: the Nelson-Atkins Art Gallery; your local bowling alley; Longview Lake or Shawnee Mission Park (in the summer); Shakespeare in the Park; the Kansas City Symphony; T-Bones Independent League baseball; your neighbor's backyard barbeque.

Welcome to Kansas City, Miguel. Basically, say nice things about the city, draw walks (more walks), and don't shoot any reporters with a BB gun and we'll get along just fine. Now, if you were to hit 25 home runs with a .350 OBP, we'll shower you with more praise than you can handle, Bob Dutton will, unsolicited, write a 1,200-word feature about you, and maybe you'd even get to shake the hand of Joe Posnanski, the best sports columnist in the country. We can all dream, right?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, Royals fans

...with a bonus final stanza

On the first day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
a fete with a future to see

On the second day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the third day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the fourth day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
more starting pitchers
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the fifth day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
one sterling rookie
more starting pitchers
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the sixth day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
the IRREDUCIBLE GILGAMECHE
one sterling rookie
more starting pitchers
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the seventh day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
one consummate hitter
the IRREDUCIBLE GILGAMECHE
one sterling rookie
more starting pitchers
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the eighth day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
one wondrous bullpen
one consummate hitter
the IRREDUCIBLE GILGAMECHE
one sterling rookie
more starting pitchers
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the ninth day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
four Winter Caravans
one wondrous bullpen
one consummate hitter
the IRREDUCIBLE GILGAMECHE
one sterling rookie
more starting pitchers
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the tenth day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
one 23-year-old righty
four Winter Caravans
one wondrous bullpen
one consummate hitter
the IRREDUCIBLE GILGAMECHE
one sterling rookie
more starting pitchers
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the eleventh day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
the answer to our slugging woes
one 23-year-old righty
four Winter Caravans
one wondrous bullpen
one consummate hitter
the IRREDUCIBLE GILGAMECHE
one sterling rookie
more starting pitchers
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

On the twelfth day of Christmas
our Dayton sent to me
the last piece of another wondrous bullpen
the answer to our slugging woes
one 23-year-old righty
four Winter Caravans
one wondrous bullpen
one consummate hitter
the IRREDUCIBLE GILGAMECHE
one sterling rookie
more starting pitchers
two starting pitchers
one Joey Gathright
and a fete with a future to see

And when all was completed
and bared for us to see,
a jeweled crown shimmered
and proclaimed
This is Ewing's Kauffman's team!

Tyler Lumsden, Daniel Cortes; Jorge De La Rosa, Joselo Diaz, Scott Dohmann;
Brian Bannister
; Ross Gload; Joakim Soria (thanks, Cory), Octavio Dotel, David Riske;
Kyle Davies; Jose Guillen; Yasuhiko Yabuta, Ron Mahay

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

GMDM continues run of great transactions with signing of Ron Mahay

A week and a half after denying the Braves' arbitration offer, lefty reliever Ron Mahay has signed a two-year contract with the Royals worth $8 million, according to sources. This is a great deal. Before we get to the stats, read what Rangers Fan has to say about the former Rangers reliever who went to Atlanta last July as part of the Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Mark Teixeira deal:

"Mahay was a lock-down guy. He just always seemed in control. He could come in and get one out or pitch three innings. I always really liked Mahay."

And if that's not convincing, try this:

In a combined 58 games last season with the Rangers and Braves, Mahay was 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA. Mostly a late-inning situational reliever, he had 37 walks and 55 strikeouts in 67 innings. Atlanta offered him arbitration last month.

If there's one concern about Mahay -- who was a position player early in his baseball life before converting to a pitcher -- it's that he has a tendency to get complacent after signing a big contract. "Tendency to" is a bit unfair, but it happened once. After the Rangers gave him a contract in 2005, he pitched terribly, got designated for assignment and afterwards admitted he took it easy the previous offseason. I'll take my chances though that he's learned his lesson. He's an effective and not-past-his-prime lefty (36 years old) who can replace Zack Greinke/David Riske as the primary setup man. His signing also makes Jimmy Gobble expendable, and right now the hope is Dayton Moore can leverage the young LOOGY into a mid-tier prospect, like he did when he traded Billy Buckner to the Diamondbacks for second baseman Alberto Callaspo.

INTERLUDE: We'll make this quick, because this trade happened last Friday and people have already posted about this, from Royals Authority to The Royal Tower to Royals Review to Royal Reflections (but not A Royals Fan in Atlanta... hmm): the D-backs have a logjam at the second base position, and they just sent six prospects -- including three pitchers -- to Oakland for Dan Haren, so they felt Callaspo was expendable if the appropriate young pitcher was offered. The winner in this trade? The Royals, hands down. Read the Royals Authority post on Callaspo, how he shows great plate discipline and tore up the Pacific Coast League. Also, we watched Buckner last year, and we weren't impressed. He showed little potential -- for us or Dayton -- and the fact that he was at one time the No. 2 pitching prospect in the Royals organization is more a comment on the dilapidated state of Allard Baird's farm system than anything else.

The best part about Mahay's signing was that Dayton took him away from the Giants and Yankees. Get ready for more of the same, fellas. GMDM knows what he wants and will get what he wants, and you will fall forever with not even the chance to convert.

Silva gets $11 mil/yr.; Silva > Meche?

I think not.

The man who wouldn't give our ace Gil Meche an extra year just signed Carlos Silva to a contract that pays him at the same yearly rate, $11 mil/yr. for four years. It's true that history will have the final say on the Meche signing, but consider this Silva contract further vindication for our general manager, who, if you remember -- and I think you do -- got buried in criticism last winter for the five years, $55 million he gave Meche.

Here's why the Mariners signed Silva, a middling, back-of-the-rotation starter:

Silva falls into the innings-eater category, averaging more than 190 innings during the past four seasons with the Twins. He made 33 starts in 2007 and pitched at least six innings in 24 of them, including a pair of complete games. Seattle had just six complete games as a staff last season, half of them by departed right-hander Jeff Weaver.

Innings-eater. This is what starting pitching is worth these days: if you survive your apprenticeship, make it to, say, age 28 with your tendons still intact, and you can convince GMs you're good for 180-200 innings/year, you're going to command a multi-year deal worth at least $40 million. That's crazy.

Granted, Silva has traditionally pitched well at Safeco Field in Seattle, but here's what the league hit off him in the four seasons he was in Minnesota: .310, .290, .324, .287. The league average off starting pitchers was .270, .268, .274 and .274. Here were Silva's K/9 figures: 3.37, 3.39, 3.49, 3.97. The man has very minimal stuff. At least Meche, in the words of Rangers Fan, has "untapped potential." The best Silva gives you is a workhorse who manages to keep his team in most ballgames by not hurting himself with walks (even though he's lost 29 games the last two years). Again, there's something to be said for that type -- he's more valuable than Jorge De La Rosa. But he's a No. 3 starter at best, and he's going to make $44 over the next four years.

Days like today make me glad Dayton Moore is working for the Kansas City Royals.

So, about this Mitchell Report

It was necessary from a public relations standpoint, if only to get everyone, from blowhards like Colin Cowherd to Congressmen to altar boy Bob Costas, to back away... slowly... from the subject. (I promise, this is the only time you'll see Costas's name in the same sentence as Cowherd, who's been known to say Jose Canseco deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.) Bud Selig was correct when he told the assembled media in New York City that the cost of the report -- $20 million, $40 million, whatever -- is insignificant compared to the symbolic, Pilate-like gesture of washing the "steroids era" into the past and keeping it buried there among the ranks of trivia, alongside the skeleton of Pumpsie Green. I'm sure there were plenty of folks who had waited for the Mitchell Report with bated breath, if only to allow themselves that cathartic exhale -- I can imagine Jayson Stark, bleary-eyed, rocking back and forth in the fetal position while chanting, He negotiated the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland, he negotiated the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland...

But what did the Mitchell Report really accomplish? A glance at the backpage of the NY Daily News or NY Post (which, I admit, scored with its "Ike Beats Tina to Death" headline) might make you believe baseball was festering with witches, and that it was the solemn duty of newspapermen to seek them out and burn them on the page. "I DID IT," one headline screamed, with a picture of Andy Pettitte. "ROID RAGE?" asked a caption of this picture. New York's tabloids aren't exactly held to the strictest of standards -- or standards -- but their response to this three-ring circus is a symptom of a broader neurosis: our secret obsession with iconoclasm, perhaps rooted in our Protestant past. It's not good. It doesn't do our intellect any justice, it doesn't do justice to those unfortunate enough to have known Kirk Radomski, it doesn't do justice to the institution of sport, and it certainly doesn't cast baseball in a conciliatory light. Really, it needs to stop.

On the other hand, are we actually impressed with any of the names that appeared in the report? For a while, a rumor was circulating that Albert Pujols was going to be implicated -- that, as opposed to Mike Stanton, would have been news. But did we really believe Rogers Clemens never took steroids? (Personally, I was more shocked by this.) HGH, as you know, is best known for speeding up the body's recovery time, allowing one to work out longer, harder and more frequently. Read this story about Clemens and tell me his training regimen doesn't resemble the schedule of someone getting an extra boost. Pitchers aren't supposed to work like that, and for good reason: pitching is already an absurdly abnormal art, an act that places undue strain on tendons and ligaments, which means the body needs to rest after pitching, not get thrown back into the grinder.

Also, you'll recall that in July I wrote:

[Clemens] is aware of his legend and steers its manifestation in a creepy, unnatural, Johnny Darko-type way. The media, of course, has lapped this up. They fawn over him like he's a saint, when in fact he's kind of prissy, kind of a prick and, in all likelihood, kind of a steroids user.

He denies it, of course, even though it took him four days to issue a public statement. But would he testify under oath? Would he face a federal agent and risk a Bonds-like perjury conviction? Would he... you know these answers already. "I plan to publicly answer all of those questions at the appropriate time in the appropriate way," he said (in the statement). "I only ask that in the meantime, people not rush to judgment." You hear that, Waco kids? NO JUDGING!

You can't really blame Clemens for dodging the fastball, though. What would anyone in his situation have done? This brings me to another of the unintended consequences of this report: professional athletes have engaged in a game of oneupmanship to see who issues the best public statements. PR professionals around the country are having a field day. In just the past week, we've been treated to denials (Brendan Donnelly, David Justice), admittances (Pettitte), half-admittances (Brian Roberts) and what's an admittance? (Paul Lo Duca, Eric Gagne, Miguel Tejada.) Somehow, Jay Gibbons -- Jay freakin' Gibbons! -- has become the beacon of moral rectitude.

And now we're actually giving 15 minutes of airtime to people like Fernando Vina to hear him tell us he used HGH to recover from injuries, that he was injured and had to recover from injuries, that he never wanted to hit home runs but only had to recover from injuries, that he wanted to play longer but had injuries, that he's sorry he did it but he was an everyday player who was in 140-some games the year before and just needed to overcome injuries, that he never wanted to get big and hit home runs, just the injuries. I realize Vina is a Baseball Tonight analyst ("analyst"), but when it's not baseball season and I'm not drunk-ass bored on a Tuesday night, I really would rather not be subjected to Fernando Vina.

And all for what? I was on one of Southwest Airline's Boeing 737's this evening when I came upon this ad in Spirit Magazine: "Choose Life: Grow Young with HGH." The ad says, "This program will make a radical difference in your health, appearance and outlook. In fact we are so confident of the difference GHR can make in your life we offer a 100% refund on unopened containers." We've been obsessing over... an advertorial drug. A Band-aid in pill form. A protein shake with a kick. That's all this amounts to. HGH is a hormone that helps people recover, and here we are, watching some fairly intelligent people slobbering over themselves trying to explain why Mitchell Report Day was akin to the Second Great Rectification.

I'm not saying we should legalize all steroids and HGH, especially not in baseball (though Tom Farrey has a damn good case for legalizing HGH in the NFL, and I'm 100% in favor). But too we need to stop implying, by way of granting it undue attention, that HGH is a miracle drug that will instantly make you harder, better, faster, stronger (apologies to Daft Punk). To that end, athletes: please stop pointing to the fact that you didn't get harder, better, faster, stronger as evidence of your not taking the substance. Don't insult us. Maybe, working together (you hear that, Bud and the MLBPA?), we can all get through this and refocus on the game.

POSTSCRIPT: Tomorrow we'll look at this trade. In the meantime, Lee Warren and Craig Brown have the comprehensive list of Royals in the Mitchell Report (Warrnen; Brown), so do drop by there if you want to read more on this subject.

Also on IDWT: Roger Clemens on 60 Minutes and other problems with this steroids charade

Friday, December 7, 2007

Spiffy


Chris Vleisides/Kansas City Royals

John Buck, Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon: meet Jose Guillen and your new powder blue uniforms -- which look really good, actually. Opponents will cower.

The new Royal also speaks:

"I'm excited to be here, excited to be a Royal. I can't wait to get to Spring Training and meet all my teammates. Let's go, Royals," he said. "Let's win a championship here. This is a new start."

He comes to Kansas City against the goading of his mother, who wanted him close to her in New York.

"There were six or seven teams interested but she kept pushing me to come there," he said.

Sorry, Mom, these Royals also seem like a team with a good future and good young players. He got sold on that in his give-and-take with Moore.

"He said we're going to make this team a winner. I remember he told me we need some energy on this team and we need some leaders," Guillen said. "We just had a great conversation and everything fell into place. I just chose to come here."

The story ends on this quote (what else?): "We're not that far away," he said with a big smile, "from a championship."

And for the record, Guillen is appealing that suspension, so that story isn't over after all.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Guillen handed 15-day suspension

MLB press release:

Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced today that Jay Gibbons of the Baltimore Orioles and Jose Guillen of the Kansas City Royals each have received 15-day suspensions for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Both suspensions will be effective at the start of the 2008 regular season.


Well, that's that. According to the Royals' tentative 2008 schedule, that makes Guillen eligible to play April 14, at Seattle (hmmm). His home debut will come the following week, April 22, vs. Cleveland.

This can't be bad, right?

Getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated. I've heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that been dust for over fifty years. That was me. I'd wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet... The thrill of the grass.

It used to be that you couldn't sneak a mention of Ray Liotta past a baseball fan without hearing, "Oh, I loved Field of Dreams." Well, maybe now that he's in our organization, we'll begin hearing, "Oh, Ray Liotta, that amazing pickup by the Royals in the the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft."

From Megan Stock:

Liotta, 24, split his 2007 season with Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. He posted a combined record of 4-14 with a 5.89 ERA in 28 games (27 starts). The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder from Metairie, La., was a second-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2004. He made an immediate splash, leading the Pioneer League with a 2.54 ERA in 2004 at Great Falls. The following season, he led the South Atlantic League with a 2.26 ERA at Kannapolis. Following the 2005 season, he was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher as well as a Topps Class A All-Star.

A complete list of draftees can be found here, and if you have no idea what any of this means, Rob Neyer has a primer for you on how the draft works.

In other news, Jose Guillen's contract has been finalized. Here's what his former manager in Seattle, Jim McLaren, had to say about him:

"Passion... great arm... clutch hitter -- I love Jose. He's one of the favorite guys I've been around the whole time. I thought he did a great job for us. I'm going to miss him. He will speak his mind and I've never had a problem with that. I think he's going to be good, not only as a player, but good for the young players out there. He does want to win and he's got a passion."


Catchword bingo, anyone? But that McLaren was willing to send Guillen out with praise is at least better than the alternative, such as pointing out that he may be suspended 10-15 games for purchasing HGH. Andruw Jones, meanwhile, has officially signed with the Dodgers at $36 mil/2 yrs. We have reason to believe the Royals pushed that price up a bit, even though our GM says he never said he was interested. Hmm, posturing... I love it. Jones, 30, is coming off a career-worst year, but reports say he was nagged by a wrist injury, and there's no denying that he's still capable of putting up big numbers. It would've been nice if the Royals got Jones, but the centerfielder had made it known that he preferred to stay in the National League, and let's face it, with Scott Boras as his agent, he wasn't going to come to Kansas City at a reasonable price. $18 million per year is a lot of money. Oh well. More work for Dayton and Co. ahead.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Kansas Citians rally behind Jose Guillen

The Kansas City Star's comment section usually attracts some of the most impulsive, irrational, pinheaded posters I've ever seen -- more so than the ESPN "conversationalists," but slightly less so than the YouTube people -- but the responses to Joe Posnanski's latest column have been calm, measured and even infused with a strange little thing called hope.

In brief, Poz wrote that he didn't understand the Jose Guillen signing: too old, too mediocre, too volatile. The People disagreed:

From Tug:
IF, and only IF, the Royals pull off some amazing move and land a guy like Andruw Jones I think that seals the fate of Brown and either DeJesus or Gathright. Maybe DeJesus is the odd man out since he draws the most interest from other clubs. So, with that assumption in mind, here's what the Royals lineup would look like in my opinion:
1.) Joey Gathright LF
2.) Mark Teahen 1B
3.) Jose Guillen RF
4.) Andruw Jones CF
5.) Alex Gordon 3B
6.) Billy Butler DH
7.) John Buck c
8.) Mark Grudzielanek 2B
9.) Tony Pena Jr. ss
We would strike out a lot, but that still looks like a pretty salty lineup to me. I wouldn't be surprised to see Gordon and Butler each smack 20-25 dingers apiece this year.
Throw in another solid starting pitcher and I would say we're a shoo-in for a .500 squad. Would sure be nice for a change.
Here's hoping!!!!!

Quik draw McFitz:
Concerning this move, Mr Posnanski you need to step away as I did & pretend youre not a Royals fan for a good hour. Then think hard about this move. Is it fair for a major league franchise to just stand pat with another year of a trio of starting outfielders who wont hit any homers once again. Then comparing Kevin McReynolds to Jose Guillen is a real reach based merely on a biological aging timeline? Give me a break youre really really reaching there. I have MPD concerning Guillen as I've been so many personalities for & against & leaning on both sides of the fence but I'm at the moment happy he's here lol.

Greg:
A big difference between Guillen and some of the other free agents the Royals signed, they were declining before they came to KC. Knoblauch was already a shell of his former self, as was Juan Gone, Reggie Sanders, etc. Guillen is at least coming in with good numbers. Plus he hits better than Brown and compares in speed and is probably an upgrade in defense. It's not a solution but it's a part we need, and if we get Jones (which after seeing what Detroit did we probably need to look at that) and can swing a deal with the Japanese starting pitcher...then we'll be in pretty good shape in a tough division.

It wasn't universally positive, of course, but it's hard not to be heartened by this response. With the Chiefs utterly unwatchable (thanks, Herm, Mike, Carl, Brodie -- who's destined to become the least accurate QB in Chiefs history... but hey, he has a strong arm, with which to arm-wrestle Vikings and Visigoths and bring pride to our village...), we need at least one of our major professional teams to give us something to look forward to.

I'm going to resist typing out a bunch of names of players who could be good next year and for years to come. Just understand that I could, and that it would make me happy.

So begins the AL Central arms race

The Detroit Tigers just acquired innings-eater Dontrelle Willis and the second best right-handed hitter in the National League, Miguel Cabrera, giving them this awe-inspiring lineup for 2008:

Curtis Granderson, .302/.361/.552 (2007)
Placido Polanco, .341/.388/.458
Magglio Ordonez, .363/.434/.595
Miguel Cabrera, .320/.401/.565
Gary Sheffield, .265/.378/.462
Carlos Guillen, .296/.357/.502
Edgar Renteria, .332/.390/.470
Ivan Rodriguez, .281/.294/.420
Jacque Jones, .285/.335/.400

Basically, they dropped their three worst sluggers from last year's starting lineup -- Sean Casey (.393), Brandon Inge (.376) and Craig Monroe (.373) (Pudge was the next lowest, at .420) -- and replaced them with guys who slugged .565, .470 (in the seven hole) and .400 (batting ninth). Is this sort of upgrade allowed? More relevantly, how will the Indians respond? How will the Twins respond? How will the Royals respond?

The forecast from Royals Review is exceedingly dour and could go unsaid, though that doesn't diminish its truth: the AL Central is going to make it hard on the Royals for many years to come.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Once again, the Royals are players at the Winter Meetings

We're only in Day 2 of baseball's Winter Meetings, but the Royals have already announced their presence -- without needing the trumpet-playing parrot for that extra flourish, either. ESPN is reporting that the Royals are finalizing a deal with Jose Guillen worth $36 million over three years, which would make him the second Seattle free agent to come over in the last two years. Guillen's signing, I'm sure, will be met with less aspersion than that other one, even though Guillen comes with a bit of baggage himself: inconsistency on the field and, more damningly, possible off-field trouble involving steroids. Although he denies having taken any illegal substances, he's on George Mitchell's watch list, and that's most definitely a bad sign.

We can discuss this another time though. The Royals still have work to do at these meetings. Following up on last year's success -- Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Joakim Soria, anyone? -- won't be easy, but at least the rest of baseball know the Royals are players here, not spectators or scavengers content with the crumbs of the potentates. It's true, Dayton and the Moores are still very much the arrivistes in Nashville* -- literally so, having received blessings from the money-man to pursue more pricey free agents -- but they've made it clear they're no fools. The Steinbrenners and Epsteins of the world can engage in their Page 1 talks for Johan Santana all they want (giving up Phil Hughes will hurt the Yankees sooner than they think), but at the end of the day, each team will be measured by how much they've improved, and the Royals, if they can nab Andruw Jones or Hiroki Kuroda at market price, are poised to leave Nashville knowing they improved significantly.

The guys at MLB Trade Rumors are working at full tilt, and they've documented the Royals' pursuit of Guillen. Will he definitely work out and be a 30-HR guy next season? We can't be sure of that. But here's what we do know: Dayton Moore knows what he's doing, and that's all you can really ask for.

UPDATE: Not sure who Enrique Rojas is, but he's reporting that the Royals have interest in Sammy Sosa. Would Dayton really put Sosa and Guillen -- two guys of questionable character -- on the same team? If it happens, you can bet that means Dayton has a LOT of trust in Trey Hillman. A baseball editor said to me today that the worst case scenario for the Royals regarding Guillen is he could poison the clubhouse. I suppose that's a pretty bad-case scenario, but you have to have a little more faith in people than that, right? I mean, he's not a walking Bubonic plague. "We'll see," I said.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Could the Royals get Johan Santana?

Why take Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera (who would play the outfield in New York???) when you can have $346 in urine-stained ones and fives? [FanHouse/The Dugout]

But seriously, here's to hoping baseball's best pitcher leaves the AL Central for good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Imports

Apologies for neglecting this blog recently. We'll have to scale this down into a weekly thing, as the baseball offseason is my chance to work on my other obligations, namely to my rent collector.

Trey Hillman, it seems, has leveraged his experience in Japan (he was as a god there, after all) into free agents for the Royals, namely relievers Yasuhiko Yabuta and Hiroki Kuroda.

The Yabuta deal is done. The 34-year-old reliever underwent a resurgence of sorts four years ago when he entered the bullpen full-time, as he's posted a 2.80 ERA in 222 appearances since then for Chiba Lotte. As Dick Kaegel reports in the above link, "Yabuta made a splash in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, won by Japan, when he struck out Alex Rodriguez, Derrek Lee and Johnny Damon in a 1 1/3-inning outing against Team USA." Now he's poised to fill Zack Greinke's role as the primary setup man, possibly for Joakim Soria (though I'd like to see Soria in the rotation).

Kuroda is being pursued. Hillman and Dayton Moore are competing with the Diamondbacks and Mariners, who play in a Japanese-friendly market, but there's reason to believe the Royals have a legitimate shot at this guy, who posted a league-best 1.85 ERA in 2005. And that reason, of course, is Hillman.

Hillman remembered that after Kuroda beat his Fighters a couple of years ago, he asked the Carp for permission to talk to the pitcher the next day.

"That's the only time in my five years here that I asked to meet with an opposing Japanese pitcher," Hillman said. "But I told him what a great competitor he was. He just dominated us. I told him how impressed I was with him."

Familiarity breeds friendship, I'd think. If the Royals can get Yabuta, you can consider the Japan-to-Kansas City pipeline officially open.

To commemorate the Yabuta signing -- and in expectation of more like it in the future -- I give you this, my top three Japanese YouTube videos (counting down):







Any culture so willing to denigrate itself for the sake of entertainment is fine by me.

(But as a friend of mine has been fond of saying, "What was in those bombs???")

POSTSCRIPT: From another part of the baseball world, our brethen-in-suffering, the Pirates, have hired a good one to fill the GM role. Check out this quote:
"We are going to utilize several objective measures of player performance to evaluate and develop players. We'll rely on the more traditional objective evaluations: OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage), WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched), Runs Created, ERC (Component ERA), GB/FB (groundball to flyball ratio), K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings), K/BB (strikeouts to walks ratio), walk percentage, etc., but we'll also look to rely on some of the more recent variations: VORP (value over replacement player), Relative Performance, EqA (equivalent average), EqOBP (equivalent on-base percentage), EqSLG (equivalent slugging percentage), BIP% (balls put into play percentage), wOBA (weighted on base average), Range Factor, PMR (probabilistic model of range) and Zone Rating."
-- Neal Huntington
Of course, knowing the difference between VORP and WARP doesn't guarantee success, but it's good to know the Pirates put some brains in their front office.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving from IDWT

No baseball, no football... no basketball, either. Today's going to be about cooking, a little reading in the down time, drinking and eating. Lots and lots of eating. And not of spaghetti.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And on this side of the rainbow...

Mike Sweeney recently won the Hutch Award, but no one seems to have noticed. It's as if...



Oh, right. (Thanks to the New York Post for the reminder.)

Let the lampooning commence. Meanwhile, I'm going to go read a book.

I'm high up on the line, you can get behind me,
But my head's so big you can't sit behind me.
Life of a Don, lights keep glowin',
Comin' in the club wit that fresh shit on, with something crazy on my arm.
Ha ha ha hum. Here's another hit, Barry Bonds.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Victory!

Those guys at the Gil Meche Experience (that artwork is from them) can eat their hearts out, because the Royals announced today that Meche has been selected as the 2007 Royals Pitcher of the Year.

Via Megan Stock of Around the Horn:

Meche, 29, was an American League All-Star in his first season with the Royals. He posted a 9-13 record, but set career highs in starts (34), innings pitched (216), ERA (3.67) and quality starts (23) while equaling his career high with 156 strikeouts. Meche tied for the A.L. lead in starts and finished eighth in innings pitched. His 3.67 ERA was the best by a Royals starting pitcher since Kevin Appier posted a 3.40 ERA in 1997 while his 23 quality starts were the most by a Kansas City hurler since 1993.

The man was brought in to head the rotation, and he did just that. Sure, you can bring up all over again that $11 is too much to pay for a pitcher whose contributions mainly entail ensuring you lost merely 93 games instead of 98, but I'll counter that the passing of days happens one at a time, and that the big picture can't be seen until the details have been filled in. You can't paint with a wide brush in baseball and hope all of a sudden things come together for one magical season. It happens, sure, but you can't count on it. If you do, you get a season like 2003, and then what?

In any case, two other players were honored: Mark Grudzielanek as the Royals Player of the Year and Brian Bannister with the Joe Burke Special Achievement award. You can read all about it in the above link.

POSTSCRIPT: Dayton Moore is interviewed extensively in this article about the Royals' offseason plans. "So I would see us trying to improve our team through free agency, which is a dangerous way to do it, because you end up overpaying," Moore said. "Always have, always will in free agency." Eek. Time to have faith again, people. Another Meche-like free agent coming to KC?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The fan chat we've all been waiting for

Welcome to Dullsville, Mr. Hillman. May we introduce you to our question-asking fans? (Uniform colors? "Extra butterflies"?)

There was at least one interesting bit from yesterday's chat session, though:

GordonBOPS: Welcome to KC! What is your philosophy on balancing playing time for veterans vs. getting young players an opportunity to play?

Hillman (the first part is him talking off-screen, unaware that the Royals intern is typing all this as he's saying it): Hey, we put that one guy out to stud, didn't we? The... the fat one. Yeah, Perez. Can you check on that for me? Oh. He's shooting blanks, eh. Heh. Okay. Well then. So, what was the question? Young players vs. veterans, let's see... We are looking at preparing for a 181-game season and obviously I have to monitor bodies over the course of a long season, but my plan is to put the best capable pieces together every day to beat the opposition. I think a lot of clubs prepare for 162 games, but I don't want to prepare for that. I want to prepare for the maximum amount of games that can be played to raise the expectations. If we don't prepare for that, I believe we enter the season limiting our possibilities.


POSTSCRIPT: Welcome to the blog roll, Minda. "I want to put all my trust in Dayton Moore," she wrote in February. Please do.

Monday, November 5, 2007

You say goodbye, we say hello

The players who filed for free agency last week (some may be re-signed; Odalis Perez, not so likely):

Reggie Sanders
Highlight: Going 3-for-4 in Baltimore to raise his batting average to .500 on April 13.

Jason LaRue
Highlight: Hitting a home run last Mother's Day with a pink bat.
Ed's note: He accumulated 169 total at-bats last season. Take a gander at what his batting average was. Go ahead, it'll be fun.

Andres Blanco
Highlight: I'm not embarrassed to admit I have absolutely no idea what Blanco contributed to the Kansas City Royals organization, nor am I motivated enough to put his name in Google.

David Riske
Highlight: Aug. 24, after Zack Greinke started the game and pitched three scoreless innings, Riske was the last of three Royals relievers to record a hold before Joakim Soria closed down a 2-1 home win vs. Cleveland. Of this group of free agents, Riske might be the only one who gets a raise in the open market, as he posted a 2.45 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 27 walks.

Mike Sweeney
Highlight: Bear-wrestling sickness and infirmity into submission.

Odalis Perez
Highlight: Didn't gruesomely kill or maim anyone, as far as we know. Well, not literally, anyway.

John Thomson
Highlight: We have not forgotten! (The first sentence of this MLB.com story reads, "Just in case you've forgotten, pitcher John Thomson was on the Royals' roster when the season ended.") Doubtful we'll see this savvy vet pitch in Royals blue ever again. And that's kind of sad. (No, not really.)

But hello to you, Mr. Colby Lewis. He joins the Royals by way of the Fremont Athletics of Oakland, where Billy Beane put him on waivers.

And, potentially, hello to you, too... any names on that list stir your blood?

ANSWER: Via Dick Kaegel: "He went just 25-for-169 and his .148 average was the sixth lowest among players with at least 150 at-bats since 1920."

POSTSCRIPT: Two really interesting reads: 1) Why baseball's revenue sharing system can be improved, via Josh Alper at the FanHouse, and 2) Do baseball managers matter? A question posed by RoyalsNation of Royals Review.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fire Dayton Moore (dot-blogspot-dot-com)

The essentials: Dayton is making crucial personel [sic] decisions that have more to do with religion and faith than baseball. 'Character' and 'leadership qualities' are code-words for commitment to born-again christianity.

What the hell?

Don't "flame" the blog. Just help me make sense of it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The excellent Joe Posnanski writes from Japan

If you haven't been following Joe Posnanski's series of articles about the Japan Series -- and why not is the question -- here's how you can catch up:

1. Baseball in Japan is similar to U.S. game, only with dancing girls

Also, they have a halftime in the middle of the fifth inning, featuring dancing girls. Once, early in his time in Japan (this is his fifth season), Hillman was at a managers’ meeting, and a heated discussion began about how to speed up games. Hillman listened to the various ideas and then finally said: “You know, if we really want to shorten games, how about we get rid of halftime?”

The looks on the faces of the other managers told him immediately that he was tromping on sacred ground.

“We’ve been doing halftime here for a very long time,” he was told coldly.

“And that,” Hillman says now, “was the last time I spoke at a managers’ meeting.”


2. Japan Series: 'You have to see it to believe it'

“If the players do not try so hard as to vomit blood in practice, then they cannot hope to win games,” wrote Tobita.

3. They love Hillman in Japan

Tatsuro Hirooka was even more adamant about it. He was a baseball tyrant — sort of like Bear Bryant in his younger days — and according to the excellent “You Gotta Have Wa,” he once ran a 59-day training camp and demanded that every single day his batters take 600 swings and his pitcher throw 430 pitches.

When his team, Seibu, won the Japan Series, he said: “This year was a battle between me and the players. And I won.”


4. U.S. power hitters make it big in Japan

5. Nippon Ham Fighters drop second game (and other notes kind of thrown together)

One more excerpt:

Sunday night in Hillman’s Hangout, a whole group of Japanese people ate Texas food and watched the game on television. Waitresses wearing T-shirts with Hillman’s face on them scurried about. There wasn’t much for a Fighters fan to cheer, but when Hillman appeared on television, there was a smattering of applause. A woman at the next table asked me where I was from.

“Kansas City,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “I am Kansas City Royals fan.”

“Really?” I asked. “Since when?” She smiled and pointed at a photograph of Hillman and said, “Since him.”


So the Japanese people's American baseball allegiance is split between the Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners and Royals. Split evenly, as far as I can tell.

Trey Hillman, you're a good one. Just 108 days (give or take) till pitchers and catchers report.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Your 2007 World Series champion

Congratulations, Boston Red Sox. In the wake of your recent championship run -- the second in four years, if you've lost count -- you leave so many in a blaze of sadness that we're reminded (inadvertently) of California wildfires. We can't imagine how hard the Indians and Angels and Yankees and maybe four other American League teams are kicking themselves right now, thinking, That could have been us mauling those minor leaguers.

Red Sox Nation, we hope you can sleep at night knowing your team has left entire fan bases feeling wretched and deprived. Just look at Eric Wedge and Todd Helton. I mean, seriously...



Barry Chin/Boston Globe; Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Of course, you don't care, what between your beer goggles and Mass Street riots. But that's okay. Get drunk, New England. You won't have another chance to celebrate like this until February, when that other team of yours finishes disposing of chumps like the "Pittsburgh Steelers," "Indianapolis Colts" and "Dallas Cowboys."



Onward, Nation! More exclamation marks! Procreate and be merry!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A poor, rainy night

The lead from Denver Post's gamer:

Even before Jeff Francis threw his first pitch Wednesday night, the Rockies weren't having a good day. Todd Helton required four takes to read the lineup for the Fox telecast. An annoying rain arrived soon after the national anthem. Troy Tulowitzki's name was misspelled on his new bats, with an s instead of z.

Four takes? Geez.

13-1 Red Sox.

POSTSCRIPT: Feel I like gotta share this, from Dan Lamothe of Red Sox Monster.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hillman's introductory press conference met with international approbation


What I can tell you is that I trust Dayton Moore.
--Tom Fornelli,
FanHouse

After the progress Dayton Moore created this year, I'll trust him.

--Corban, Corby and the Royals

Of all the words that have been written and said, only these from The Man himself -- the namesake of this blog -- really matter:

Dayton Moore: This is a fun day, this is exciting for us.... We had a very thorough evaluation. We knew the type of individuals that we needed to speak with to lead our baseball team. And when I met with Trey, I knew right away that this guy was special. He has a passion to lead, he is a great person, somebody who gets it, respects the game in all the right ways and somebody who is regarded as one of the finest baseball men in the game today, and I can't tell you how proud I am to be associated with him and his trust in the Kansas City Royals. So without any further ado, I want to introduce our next manager, Mr. Trey Hillman.

And like so, to thunderous applause, the shrieks of women, full-throated serenades and a rainshower of bouquets, the new era began.

A few sound bites from Mr. Hillman, who spoke at length without the aid of a teleprompter or notes:

I hope you hear it in my voice, I hope you see it in my face through the jetlag, guys: my excitement and my passion for being named the Royals' new manager. I really couldn't be any happier today.

The Royals have graciously invited me into the fold for leadership on the field. And for someone I've never met before, until a week ago when we hit the interview process and Dayton Moore and Renee Francisco made the effort to come all the way to Japan and find if we had a relationship match, I've just been walking on cloud nine ever since. It's been wonderful. We do match up, I know that in my heart and my head, and this is something that I want from the standpoint of a brotherhood relationship with my general manager. I believe that's something that has to happen to build and maintain the integrity of championship-caliber baseball at the Major League level.

I'm a hungry guy. I do not like to lose. I like to start from the ground up and build, and build in such a way where it's going to be maintained for many years to come. I'm a long-haul guy too. I'm a loyal guy. I'm bleeding Royal blue already. And I'm thrilled. Thrilled to be here.

Question, "What did you know about the Royals a week ago, and what do you know more about them now?" I knew this one was going to come up. All I can do is be honest with you. I gotta tell ya, when I was playing college baseball in Arlington, Texas, for the University of Texas-Arlington, I took a job in the visiting team's clubhouse -- for no money -- picking up sweaty jocks and towels and hanging clothes up and unpacking bags and watching BP on the field and sneaking into the dugout at the end of the tunnel during the ballgame to be around big league players and to get as much atmosphere as I could at the Major League level. And it was wonderful being on the visiting side because I got to see the differences coming in and out of the old Arlington stadium. I grew up there because my father worked out there in the summers -- he was a coach and a junior high principal. I'd grown up at that ballpark. Now as a college player, when the Kansas City Royals came in town, I was down in a three-point stance. I couldn't wait. I'm unpacking Willie Wilson, U.L. Washington, George Brett's bag. I was more excited about unpacking the bags of the Kansas City Royals when they came into Arlington Stadium than any other opposing team in 1983 and 1984 when I worked down there.... And that's the simple truth, because of the interest in Kansas City Royal baseball. The success level, their attitude when they walked through the door -- they knew they were going to win. That was something that you sensed. I understand the master plan now and why I got excited about that when I did. It took a while to come full circle, but here we are. So this is, more so than I could ever express, a tremendous honor to be associated with this organization.

I've said this before and I'll say it again, the Royals have a legitimately good chance to duplicate the success of the 2007 Rockies in two years, and if you're not on board now, you may, like all these Rockies fans, get shut out in the cold when glory returns in the form winning baseball in Kansas City.

I'm all for this hire, especially if, as it seems, Trey and Dayton are spiritual kin. Joe, how do you feel?

Why do they love Hillman? Easy. They love his baseball intelligence; it’s apparent any time he talks about the game. They love his dedication to baseball. They love the way he relates to people of different backgrounds and brings players together.

Perhaps more than anything, they love his ability to adjust to any situation. Five years ago, he went to Japan, to a second-division organization — the Nippon Ham Fighters. Hillman did not know the language. He did not understand the culture. He was a certain kind of manager then; a big-inning, get-on-base, Moneyball kind of manager (the king of Moneyball himself, Billy Beane, has gushed over Hillman). Only that style didn’t work for him there. Japanese baseball is different. The team mostly lost for three seasons.

So what did Hillman do? He changed. He asked his players for input (they asked him to please make practices longer and harder; yeah, it’s different over there). He helped make the Fighters into an aggressive, attacking, bunting, scrapping team. And last year, the Fighters won the Japan Series. No team in the world, perhaps, played better fundamental baseball than Hillman’s Fighters. This year, the Fighters are in the Japan Series again, even though they are by most statistical accounts the country’s worst offensive team.

POSTSCRIPT: At any time this season -- especially since, oh, June 19 -- did you catch yourself wondering, "Hey, whatever happened to that KC Star-endorsed Royals blogger? You know, the one who lives in Atlanta?"? Or, "Why hasn't this KC Star-endorsed blogger written anything in four months?"?

Well, turns out he's just been really busy. Like, really, really busy -- "regular hate mail, work(my real job) work(my secondary job(freelance writer) or procrastination" -- you know, stuff none of us ever have to deal with whenever we feel like kicking back and enjoying our "two games a week."

Anyway, he's back. Just thought you should know.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Rockies are still figuring this World Series thing out



The hottest ticket in town is not the Broncos, who are middling at 3-3 and completely uninteresting, but the baseball team, which has hoisted the city on its shoulders and taken it on a near-month-long ride that's completely unprecedented in the 100-plus-year history of the sport. No wonder Rangers Fan insists the Rockies are "the greatest story in baseball history."

How hot are those tickets pictured above? Well, those who logged onto the team's website today found out. After enduring hours of failed attempts, ticket buyers were met with this message:

This morning the Rockies' ticketing provider Paciolan experienced a system wide outage that is impacting all of their North American customers. They are working hard to resume service as soon as possible and apologize to their customers and all fans for this impact.

Why? Because apparently the website got 8.5 million hits within the first 90 minutes of the tickets going on sale. 8.5 million!

Then there's this (from the above link):

About 20 people lined up in near-freezing temperatures outside the Denver Public Library before it opened in hopes of using public-access computers to score tickets.

“If you can’t get tickets here, you’re going to have to pay $200, $300 above face value,” said Clayton McLeod, a 26-year-old heavy-machine operator who took the day off to try to get seats.

McLeod said he has Internet access from his apartment building but thought the library’s computers might be faster. His mother, father, uncle and girlfriend were trying to buy tickets from other computers, he said.

His boss, also a Rockies fan, agreed to give him the day off and asked McLeod to get tickets for him, too.


This bears repeating: these people lined up in near-freezing weather in front of the Denver Public Library. Ha ha!

Need more proof the Rockies are hotter than the Broncos right now?

Going head-to-head against a Steelers-Broncos game at Investco Field -- that was close throughout, mind you -- a baseball game on the opposite coast captured a 14.3 rating last night in Denver (compared to 18.3 for the football game). In a football town, this is rather incredible.

But it all ultimately goes back to the tickets... 8.5 million hits is an enormous number. For some perspective: this blog, since March, has gotten about 0.2 percent of what the Rockies' site got in an hour and a half.

The good news is, virtually all the tickets for Games 3-5 are still available. I imagine the above error message was received with more joy than any error message possibly should be.

UPDATE: Some pictures for you, from the Denver Post. Only because a couple of these could be screenshots from some future Geico commercial.


Cleveland postmortem


Steve Silva/Boston.com

In tones that can only be described as "exasperated," Dante asked, "Am I in the twilight zone?" With the Red Sox up 5-2 in the 8th, manager Terry Francona decided to leave Hideki Okajima in to start his third inning of work. Hmm... 5-2, 8th inning, pitcher being left in for too long in Game 7 of an ALCS... where have we seen this before?

Not this time, though. These Red Sox, unlike past kin, are unburdened by the pressure that comes from not winning a World Series in entire generations of fans' lifetimes. The score may not be indicative of how close the game was (did I not say the Red Sox would tack on a few runs late? Granted, I didn't expect so many...), but make no mistake, the Sox won definitively, and amid the dust clouds they kicked up a heartbroken city is left wondering, "Are we cursed?"

No, cursed isn't quite the right word, but the situation is unfortunate, certainly. (Imagine being Kenny Lofton, championship-less, having seen his team lose series 3-2, 4-3, 4-3 and 4-3 after being ahead 2-0 (with the Indians), 3-1 (Cubs), 3-0 (Yankees) and 3-1 (Indians again).) If it's any consolation -- and it isn't, I know -- a very deserving team won in one of the better Championship Series in recent memory.

Not much more to say at the moment, so I'll just leave off with this comment from "Yagur," which appears in the above link:

I'm also a Red Sox fan, and registered for this site just to say this to y'all:

Your city fielded a great team this year, and you supported them with heart and soul. Boston fans were taken aback by the spirit and noise and clamor we saw at the Jake, and wondered -- well, I wondered -- not only if we wouldn't be able to beat this team, but whether or not we deserved to. The 2007 Indians were the kind of team I love to root for -- young, over-performing, inventive, a team that found a dozen ways to beat you other than the dozen than you expected. Plus: Trot Nixon! For a while there, in comparison, our guys looked like a bunch of overpaid mercenaries who were getting distracted thinking about spending the winter in their mansions, and our fans seemed puzzled and dispirited by how your guys were just outclassing us between the lines...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Live blog: Game 7

Kevin Millar threw out the first pitch in Fenway, then read the Red Sox' starting lineup.

That's Kevin Millar, contract employee of the Baltimore Orioles.

8:37 p.m.: Youkilis grounder through the hole between short and third. The BABIP is alive and well, and will kill Jake Westbrook.

A friend just pointed out that the Red Sox win probability is now 70 percent.

8:47 p.m.: J.D. Drew just grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. Sox Nation screams, WHAT A BUM! WHAT HAS HE EVER DONE WITH THE BASES LOADED?

65%, down from 71% before the double play.

8:54 p.m.: Dice-K is well on his towards a complete game shutout. On pace for it, you might say.

Westbrook, on the other hand, is on pace to give up nine earned runs in nine innings.

See, we can do sabermetrics too...

WP: Red Sox, 69%; Indians, 31%

Too bad they can't calculate the win probability for when Josh Beckett makes his way from the dugout into the bullpen. I think the Indians are so freaked out that their WP just dipped to 19%.

9:05: Here're 14 letters to describe that Jacoby Ellsbury hit:

Murderous BABIP.

2-0 Boston.

9:22: The folk hero that is Youkilis just doubled, hitting a ball just past the outstretched glove of Casey Blake. All the Red Sox hits have been through the left side, so maybe the Indians should consider the reverse-Ortiz shift?

BAP... ah, screw it. If I don't stop now I'm going to be saying it all night, and I wouldn't want to upset Joe Morgan any more than I have.

9:27: Youkilis just scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Mike Lowell. Red Sox' magic number for clinching game down to 15 (WP=85%).

9:29: Drew hits it 303 feet, essentially flying out to "deep" left to end the inning. Did we mention Westbrook is on pace to give up nine runs in nine innings? Because he is.

9:42: Ryan Garko just had the at-bat of the night. No description here will do it justice, but let's just say he doubled off the center field wall -- a little more to the right and it would've been a two-run homer -- after fouling off some absolutely nasty stuff, and laying off a 1-2 fastball that was about an inch and a half off the outside corner.

3-1 Red Sox. WP down to 81%.

And a Fox graphic tells us the Indians have come back three times from four runs down. The great thing about Game 7s in baseball -- and you can't say this about any other sport -- is that as the contest progresses, one can feel, as sharply as a migraine, the vise of pressure tightening ever so gradually. It's not just one game that hangs in the balance... it's the weight of an entire season, 170+ games and those two months in spring training and, in the case of the Indians, the decades of failure (they have the longest World Series drought in the American League). It's like a countdown towards some doomsday...

9:50: Varitek hits a ball that rolls between short and third. Westbrook wears a look that says, "[expletive] you, baseball gods."

9:55: This is getting silly. Jacoby Ellsbury took off on a pitch, drawing Asdrubal Cabrera to cover the bag, and wouldn't you know it, Julio Lugo singled through the spot vacated by the second baseman. About as predictable an outcome as the law of averages could have drawn up.

Westbrook fell off the mound with slumped shoulders, looking crestfallen.

9:59: This, too, is BABIP at work: Lugo took off on a pitch, again drawing Cabrera, but this time, the batter hit it directly at the second baseman, who tagged out Lugo and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play.

Had the run scored, the Indians' WP would have been down to 13%. As is, 17%.

10:11: It should be 3-3.

Grady Sizemore's sac fly made it 3-2, but it should be tied, since the second-base ump erroneously called Kenny Lofton out earlier in the inning. What was a leadoff double turned into an out (his left hand made it into the base before Pedroia's (Lugo's?) glove came around to swipe him in the chest). Two base hits followed.

10:15: Randy Marsh's tiny strike zone has given Cabrera second life. "Double off the wall," my friend just said.

10:16: Strikeout. Nasty pitch.

Okajima time when the 6th rolls around?

I'm going to watch the rest of this game with some diehard, hardcore Red Sox fans at a bar. This should be a pleasant, wholly enriching experience for me, possibly life-changing. Will correspond tomorrow.

Game prediction: Red Sox romp

Having been on the record as saying I was rooting for a Rockies-Indians World Series, this is tough for me to write, but here's what I think will happen:

The game will go scoreless for a few frames before the Sox break it open with four runs, knocking out Jake "BABIP Help Him" Westbrook. Dice-K Matsuzaka will pitch into the 7th, where he'll give up two cheap singles and a walk and get replaced by Mike Timlin. Timlin will allow two inherited runners to score but get out of the inning with no further damage.

The Red Sox will tack on another two or three runs in the late innings, and Okajima and the dancing wonder Papelbon will wrap it up to send Boston to the World Series. Final score, 7-2, give or take a couple.

POSTSCRIPT: The Rockies are in Time Magazine again, like they were in 1993. That's a long time between Time appearances.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's official: Trey Hillman will be the Royals' next manager



That was the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters clinching the Japan Series in 2006 over the Chunichi Dragons. I can imagine a similar scene playing out in Kauffman Stadium in two years, with David DeJesus or Joey Gathright playing the role of Shinjo (are they weepers?) and Billy Butler as Morimoto.

At the 2:40 mark, you'll see a handsome man who slightly resembles Dennis Quaid appear on screen. That's Trey Hillman, the winning manager.

And now he's our manager.

Speculation has turned to fact, it seems. Predictably, this has gotten the Royals' slice of the blogosphere chirping, from The Royal Tower to Royals Review, Lee Warren to Bradford Doolittle. Royals Authority also has a lot of words and links on Hillman, and leave it to FanHouse to give us the lighter side of the news. Way to circle the wagon, everyone.