REHABBING HIS HAMSTRING IN OMAHA, Ryan Shealy has hit five homers in 61 at-bats and has a .311 average. He's 11-for-25 in his last six games, with four home runs. The cause of the recent power surge?
O-Royals manager Mike Jirschele told Shealy to start swinging the bat more often -- and even swing at some pitches out of the strike zone.
"The key for him right now is just staying aggressive at the plate and not taking too many pitches," Jirschele said. "Sometimes, hitters go up there and they start taking too many pitches. It has started happening to him here, where he takes two strikes and has one pitch to swing at."
The best hitters in baseball, almost without fail, have one thing in common: they swing at strikes and take balls. It's such a simple concept that most players who are unable or unwilling to do this become infuriating to watch. If Shealy's having success swinging at pitches outside the zone in the minors, good for him, but when he gets his call-up -- and this could come either later this week or not till September, but it will come -- he needs to readjust to Major League pitching, which means letting the balls off the corner go by. Patience is rewarded more often at this level.
MIKE SWEENEY WANTS TO STAY IN KC, so he says, and there's no reason to doubt him. Lots of fans have soured on Nice Guy Mike since he signed a five-year, $55-million deal four years ago, but he's still, for the moment, the name most synonymous with the Kansas City Royals, with by far more plate appearances in a Royals uniform since 1995 than any other player.
And then there's this:
Someone like Johnny Damon says that, you roll your eyes. Mike Sweeney -- captain of the Royals -- says it, and you listen. And ponder.
"I've never played the game for money. I just want to play the game of baseball. If I have to come back to the Royals for minimum salary next year, I'd do it," he said.
Sweeney can become a free agent at the end of the season, so he could sign with any team.
"But wherever I am in 2008, whether it's DH, or first base, or backing up in Kansas City, or playing for another ball team, my heart will always remain in Kansas City," Sweeney said.
"If I play five more years and people ask me, 'Mike, you were a big league ballplayer? Who did you play with?' The first thing that will come out of my mouth is the Kansas City Royals."
You ask, of course, where he would play, how he would help youngsters like Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, and you question if he can still produce at the plate. But maybe bringing him back -- not at the Major League minimum, I doubt, but a significant discount -- for purely sentimental reasons will be good for the franchise. First, it sends the right message: this organization is classy enough to honor one of the classiest ballplayers in the game. It sets a good precedent. Second, if money isn't an issue, it doesn't make sense to not bring him back. Sweeney's realistic about his role for the immediate future, so if he accepts being a backup at 1b and DH -- perhaps catching, too -- then this should be a no-brainer: let the captain captain. Who's it going to hurt? And lastly, it's just the right thing to do. When he was one of the best sluggers in the game, he gave the Royals a hometown discount, probably against his better judgment, and endured all but one losing season with this, his only team. And now that the Royals are finally taking positive longterm steps, people are ready to cut him off? I know businesses have to be ruthless to an extent, but this just isn't right.
And of course, there's this: Sweeney, just 34 next year, can still hit. As a part-time DH, well rested and playing without much pressure, you wouldn't bet he can get on base four times out of 11 and knock a few out of the park? Cause I would, and I'd bank on it.
FINALLY, excerpts from a few interesting baseball-related articles:
-- "In the first few years of doping, you'd see some wild variations in statistics, and some awful tragedies. A few players might die of heart attacks, suffer career-ending injuries, or otherwise flush away their talent with the wrong doses of the wrong drugs." (Imagining if steroids were not banned. --Slate.com)
-- "This surreal life, a chase to a celebrated record accompanied by asterisks, blindfolds and an intermittently appearing commissioner, took on a truly bizarre dimension Thursday. Seven hours before Barry Bonds trotted to left field at Dodger Stadium, about 100 kids trotted to center field to hear why they should just say no to steroids." (Just a coincidence? --LA Times)
-- "Most of us fully understand by now that ESPN has become a 'Proceed At Your Own Risk' deal. But still, assigning Joe Morgan to be America's lead baseball analyst . . . what did we do to deserve this?" (What will it take to get Joe Morgan fired? --NY Post)
-- "Did anyone catch the Padres TV broadcaster Matt Vasgersian' s on air battering of the Cardinals and their fans? It was live on San Diego Cox Channel 4 tonight in the top of the 9th. He told the Cardinal Fans to get in their El Camino's and go back to the ozarks and then he pressed his cough button and told his partner Tony Gwynn he's tired of coming to this hole and getting their ass kicked and he's not coming back next year, it was barely audible but it could be heard." (--Awful Announcing. Though considering what some people have said on-air, Vasgersian really wasn't that bad.)