Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Royals Season Preview 11: Sports Illustrated

All told, SI hasn't had the greatest of years, having lost four senior writers along with columnists Steve Rushin and Rick Reilly, but whatever happens, they can always rest their caps on two things: the swimsuit issue, and the baseball preview issue.

A quick note about the swimsuit issue: Since 1964 (a classic cover in the magazine industry), it's generated a billion dollars of revenue, according to SI President Mark Ford. In this year's issue, there were 111 pages of ads, many of them first-runs. The issue will be seen by 67 million adults. will generate 250 pages views this year from the swimsuit gallery (I admit, I've contributed). Marissa Miller, the latest cover girl, accounted for 50 million of those views last year. These numbers are staggering. SI can write about puppet shows from March through January and they'll still make a profit as long as the swimsuit issue hits newsstands. Which leads me to wonder: why the cutbacks? Oh Time Inc., you greedy corporate hog you.

Baseball, baseball, baseball, strawberries... NO! Baseball...

This year, we can honestly say we have no bones to pick about any of SI's predictions:

New York Yankees, 94-68
Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays
Baltimore Orioles, 64-98
Detroit Tigers, 90-72
Cleveland Indians, 89-73
Chicago White Sox, 77-85
Kansas City Royals, 73-89
Minnesota Twins, 72-90
Los Angeles Angels, 87-75
Seattle Mariners
Oakland A's
Texas Rangers
New York Mets, 91-71
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals
Florida Marlins
Chicago Cubs, 91-71
Cincinnati Reds
Milwaukee Brewers
Houston Astros
St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates
Colorado Rockies, 89-73
Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants, 68-94

In the Royals scouting report, manager Trey Hillman's got the spotlight, and he's quoted saying such things as:

"I've had people approach me and say, 'You know, a .500 season would be just great.' I don't think .500 seasons typically win championships, and I want to win championships."

"To win, we have to beat the odds. There's no prognosticator out there who will pick us to win the Central or even the wild card. But every year somebody beats the prognosticators. We've got to be that team."

Wow. Yes. Championships. Okay, check. Note to self: Don't approach him and ask for a .500 season.

Billy Butler, coming off a better rookie campaign than Alex Gordon, is pictured in the preview, and SI reports glowing things about him.

The baby-faced Butler, the 14th pick of the '04 draft who turns 22 on April 18, cheerfully wields one of the most reliable bats on the team. In half a season as a rookie last year, Butler hit .292, usually as the DH in the cleanup spot. "I've yet to see him in a bad mood," says [John] Buck. "He's always smiling, always talking -- unfortunately -- and always hitting. As long as he keeps that last one going, he can be as silly, happy and talkative as he wants."

Butler's ability to use the whole field, his knack for making adjustments at the plate and his recall of how guys have pitched him before set him apart from most young hitters. "I've never had a player that young be able to do some of the things he can do," says hitting coach Mike Barnett. "He approaches an at bat like a guy who has been up here for 10 years."

We don't think we've ever seen him called "baby-faced Butler," but whatever works.

It's worth noting that he and Gordon were both counted as fantasy sleepers in the previous issue, which makes sense because 1) Sports Illustrated knows its baseball, and 2) Baseball Prospectus teamed up with SI to make those fantasy sleeper picks, and Baseball Prospectus definitely knows its baseball. So there you have it. Gordon and Butler, with Hillman captaining, leading the Royals out of the AL Central cellar and down the bright swaths of infinity into a colorful and glorious beyond.

1 comment:

  1. out of the cellar and into 4th? guaranteed the twins finish higher than the baby faced blues do.