Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day live-blog

Here we go!

1st inning: Who's Alex Thornton, FSN Detroit?

Gil Meche has his stuff going. Two biting, nasty curveballs to Gary Sheffield for called strikes. A sorta tense moment when Miguel "One Error and Counting" Cabrera came up with two on, but I didn't feel very threatened, for some reason. You just knew, somehow, Meche was going to get the out.

12:28 p.m. Central: I hope it rains all day in New York.
Pithy summary: First run of season

12:31 p.m.: The Royals just had a two-minute inning. Justin Verlander might throw a perfect game if not for Cabrera's first-inning error. I don't think he'll throw a no-hitter though.

12:37 p.m.: Jacque Jones, the easiest out in this Tigers lineup, is down two strikes.

12:37 p.m.: And a strikeout, Jones chasing a bouncing fastball.

12:41 p.m.: Meche just hit 96 on the gun. That's a very good sign.

12:42 p.m.: He came back with a curve ball in the zone, but Edgar Renteria had the good sense to stay with it and take it back up the middle for an RBI-single. A flyout on the first pitch to the next batter followed, so the damage was contained.
Pithy summary: Jose Guillen will kill you at home with his bare arm

12:49 p.m.: Tony Pena Jr.'s not on pace for two triples this Opening Day, like last year. Three strikeouts, yes.

12:54 p.m.: Bottom of the 3rd, and Sheffield just led off with a check-swing strikeout. I kind of wish these announcers would resume their previous conversation about the Royals looking "much improved" on paper. They left that subject with something about one winning season since 1994...

12:56 p.m.: Cabrera will start hitting sometime this season. A torrid stretch where he bats .620 over two and a half weeks or something. And when he does, I want the Royals to be far, far away.

12:57 p.m.: A curveball at Carlos Guillen's knees was just called a ball. Meche needs that pitch from the umps.

12:58 p.m.: JOSE GUILLEN! First highlight of the season! WOW what a throw! That one's going to be on SportsCenter.

"You don't want to run on him," the announcer said. Magglio Ordonez, dead at home.
Pithy summary: Billy Butler is awesome

1:04 p.m.: Mark Grudzielanek's reaction after he got hit on his left hand by a Verlander fastball was something straight out of an action movie, where a guy gets shot in the back and goes down in a heap.

1:08 p.m.: Billy Butler, first base hit of the year.

1:09 p.m.: Apparently David DeJesus re-aggravated a twisted ankle suffered during spring training, which was why he got replaced by Joey Gathright.

1:13 p.m.: Mark Teahen grounds out to end the small rally.
Pithy summary: A nation's eyes looks upon Royals-Tigers

1:10 p.m.: Meche's fifth strikeout.

1:19 p.m.: Brandon Inge drove a ball into left-center, where Gathright cut it off to prevent a run from scoring. Still, second and third with one out...

1:20 p.m.: There are rain delays in New York, Cincinnati and Chicago, which means ESPN has no option but to show Royals-Tigers, and baseball fans everywhere get a chance to watch Meche do his thing on this deadly Tigers lineup. Last year, you'll remember, an entire nation watched as Meche beat the Curt Schilling and the Red Sox. This is good.

1:22 p.m.: Bases loaded: not as good. But double play possibility.

1:23 p.m.: A sinking, slicing drive by Placido Polanco went straight to Guillen. "The majority of outfielders in the Major Leagues, you challenge him in this situation with the game so close," said the announcer. "But Jose Guillen's reputation precedes him..."

Indeed, indeed.

1:24 p.m.: Pass him the dunce cap! Sheffield just whiffed on an off-speed pitch and looked awful doing it.

1:26 p.m.: For the second time today, Sheffield draws a walk after going down 0-2, though on a very, very questionable call. The ball was apparently a skin below his knees.

1:29 p.m.: Five Ks against this Tigers lineup isn't bad. Should've been six though. We go to the 5th...
Pithy summary: Who's looking good? Hillman's looking good

1:32 p.m.: Our first good shot of Trey Hillman, chewing gum, glaring out at the ump, who made a point to admonish him for something or other.

1:34 p.m.: Tony Pena strikes out again.

Bottom of the 5th

1:37 p.m.: Mickey, the FSN auxiliary reporter (or whatever you call him), just accused a fan of being a bandwagon fan, chuckling loudly along the way. What an ass.

1:38 p.m.: Miguel Cabrera home run, 3-0 Detroit.
Pithy summary: 394 feet

1:47 p.m.: Gordon! Alex! Absolutely crushed a Verlander fastball into the right-field seats.
Pithy summary: The end of Justin Verlander

1:58 p.m.: 3-2 Detroit. The tying run, Mark Teahen, gets on base via walk.

2:00 p.m.: Ross Gload smokes a low liner back up the middle, and Teahen, running on the pitch, gets to third base. Guess who's done? Justin Verlander's done.
Pithy summary: Tie game! Wait... Royals lead!

2:04 p.m.: Announcer: "You would like to get the strikeout here to set up a double play possibility, but unfortunately the next two batters can both run, Tony Pena and Joey Gathright."

Uh... how about hope for striking out the side?

2:05 p.m.: John Buck singles cleanly to tie the game at three. Pena will bunt here.

Bunting... hmm... this theme sounds familiar.

2:07 p.m.: Two bunt attempts, two strikes. "I wouldn't be shocked if he tries to bunt again," the announcer says. "I really wouldn't."

2:08 p.m.: Pena chops one up the middle off Jason Grilli's glove. One out, runner on first and third, new pitcher coming in. Seeing as both Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya are hurt, the Tigers' middle relief really is their exposed underbelly. Let's see what Gathright can do (I say single or double).

2:12 p.m.: Line-out to short.

2:14 p.m. Another pitcher, Aquilino Lopez. Grudzielanek up, Gordon on deck!

2:16 p.m.: RBI SINGLE! Just when the commentator said Grudzielanek was the guy he'd least like to see at the plate. Good call, man. 4-3 Royals!

2:16 p.m.: Gordon flies out to end the inning. Mahay, Yabuta, Soria. C'mon, bullpen!

2:17 p.m.: ESPN cuts to a highlight of Jim Thome hitting a home run in Cleveland, and you can hear Hawk screaming in the background, "You can put it on the boarrrrrrrd, yeeeeeessssss!"

God I love baseball.
Pithy summary: Tomko, Tomko, Tomko

2:20 p.m.: Brett Tomko? [Sigh] Okay, let's go, Royals.

2:22 p.m.: Sheffield's a tough out, no doubt. But a third walk of the day off a 3-2 count? "Kiss of death," says the commentator. Man.

2:26 p.m.: There's your kiss of death: double play. Here's Cabrera again.

2:28 p.m.: 94 mph right over the outside edge of the plate for a called strike. Tuned it up to 96 on the next pitch and Cabrera missed a 500-ft home run by inches. Be careful, Brett.

2:29 p.m.: Blew a 95 mph fastball by him. Yes!!! Take a seat, kid!

8th inning!
Pithy summary: Just one mistake

2:34 p.m.: Good thing that wasn't Curtis Granderson in center field. As is, Teahen cruises into third for a two-out triple. Nothing comes of it though. On to the 8th. Who's it going to be, Ron Mahay or Yasuhiko Yabuta? My money's on Mahay, to tell you the truth.

2:39 p.m.: Hmm, it's Tomko still. And hmm, there goes a Carlos Guillen home run. Well.

2:43 p.m.: Strike out of Inge to end the inning. A solo home run followed by a quick 1-2-3 inning: those are the worst. Just one mistake was the difference. Just one mistake.

Luckily for the Royals, Todd Jones is set to come into the game.
Pithy summary: Opening Day is fun

2:48 p.m.: Quickly, around the Majors:
  • The final home opener in historic Yankee Stadium has been postponed due to rain.
  • Kosuke Fukudome, in front of a packed Wrigley Field crowd, hit a first-pitch double to dead center. That's the way you start a career in Chicago.
  • Chris Young of the D-backs went upper-deck on Aaron Harang.
  • Mark Buehrle is done after recording just five outs. The Indians hung seven on him in the 2nd, this after Thome gave the White Sox an early 2-0 lead. Victor Martinez goes 2-for-2 in the inning, then leaves after hurting himself on an awkward slide into second.
2:51 p.m.: Pena strikes out for the third time today after trying to call timeout twice and, for some reason, not getting it. Weird. Gathright flies out to end inning.
Pithy summary: Into extra innings

2:57 p.m.: Leo Nunez looked pretty awesome there in that strikeout.

3:00 p.m.: You know, I'm okay with Sheffield walking four times, I really am. I know he's not as dangerous as he once was, but I for one am still petrified of that bat-wag.

3:06 p.m.: Grudzielanek gets on base again, a single through the hole.

3:10 p.m.: What's Hillman going to do with Esteban German (pinch-running) on first and Gordon up with a 3-1 count?

3:10 p.m.: Nothing. 3-2 count.

3:10 p.m.: Gordon takes strike three looking, even though the pitch was outside. German successfully steals second.

3:12 p.m.: Denny Bautista just hit 99 mph on the gun throwing out of the stretch. Guillen's 0 for 5 today.

3:13 p.m.: Butler just hit an absolute rope to left field, but it hooked right into Jacque Jones's glove. Another inning, nothing doing. On we march.
Pithy summary: Soria Time

3:20 p.m.: "This Nunez has looked very good since coming into the game," the commentator says, just as Nunez blows a 96 mph fastball by Pudge Rodriguez for his third strikeout in two innings.

3:25 p.m.: Very nice sacrifice bunt by Ross Gload to advance Teahen to second. Then John Buck singled up the middle, but Teahen was gunned down at home.

Not a bad decision at all to send Teahen, but the throw by Inge was, in a word, perfect.

So it goes.

3:28 p.m.: With Buck in scoring position, Pena's fought off three nasty pitches with the count 1-2. Then, wouldn't you know... he singles. Off a nasty breaking ball.

My reaction: "Yes!" Then, realizing the odds against what just happened happening: "YES! YES!!!"

Royals up 5-4 after Pena's single.

3:31 p.m.: Pena should steal second.

While Bautista is feigning throws over to first, let me reiterate that the odds against Tony Pena, of all people, hitting an RBI single in the situation he did were astronomical. He had struck out three times this game, you know.

3:32 p.m.: Another pitch-out. Pena still not running. He will be now though.

3:33 p.m.: Pudge passed ball. Runner advances to second. Then Gathright walks, so all those pitch-outs and whatever were for naught.

3:33 p.m.: Joakim Soria is warming up. Doesn't knowing that make you warm and fuzzy?

3:34 p.m.: The announcer may be glad that Grudzielanek is out of the game, but for my money, German's a fine substitute.

3:36 p.m.: Strikeout. That's okay. SORIA TIME.
Pithy summary: This is your 2008 Royals, you good people of the world

3:40 p.m.: Earlier I wrote that Clete Thomas was in left. My bad. It was Jacque Jones (correction appended). Clete Thomas is the guy hitting a leadoff double off Soria...

3:41 p.m.: Inge sacrifice bunt.

3:43 p.m.: Strike three not called (possibly a little inside) on Edgar Renteria.

3:44 p.m.: Strike three not called again (okay, it was a little -- but just a little) off the outside corner.

3:44 p.m.: If you can't get the call, get the batter to chase. Hard slider for strike three on Renteria. 11th strikeout for Royals pitchers on the day.

3:45 p.m.: This ump is really squeezing Soria.

3:45 p.m.: Hard-hit ball to the left side, and I think, Damn, tie game. Next thing I know, Gordon's on the dirt, fully extended, and the ball's nowhere to be seen. He pops up, throws perfectly to first, and the Royals are undefeated on the year.

Great, great win. Fantastic game that had a little of everything. This is Royals baseball, and this is what it's going to be like all season. For all those disbelievers out there, I know one game probably won't send you bolting for the bandwagon, but just let me ask this: if not now, when? And no, I don't mean to quote that Coke ad. I'm just saying... if not now, when? This is it, people. Returns to glory always start somewhere, and why not here, why not now?

The Roundtable: AL Central Preview, Part 1

The Round Table format has grown quite popular of late, with the likes of Sam Mellinger (Ball Star Roundtable), Royally Speaking and even Royals on Radio Etc. getting into the bit. How could we not follow suit?

The noble knights around IDWT's roundtable are the writers of last fall's AL Central Wraps, plus one Tom A, a local celeb of sorts in Lawrence, Kansas -- you might know him from the jams he picks on KJHK, 90.7 FM, some of which aren't actually crappy.

This thing is a little unwieldy, so we're dividing it into two parts (part 2 here). Hope you enjoy.

Dramatis personae:
Twins - Mike Kinsella
White Sox - Troy Appel (Rangers Fan)
Indians - Jeff Dees
Tigers - Cranston
Royals - Tom Atchity
THE INTERROGATORIES

Why are you a Twins/White Sox/Indians/Tigers/Royals fan?

Twins: Nothin' better than a 75 and sunny day in Minneapolis, and I get to look up at a sterile white roof. And what other major league team so routinely slams into the baggy? The reason I like the Twins is because I moved to the Twin Cities and I like the Cubs. Hence I figured I might as well cheer for one of the Sox's division rivals.

White Sox: Because I hate the Cubs THAT much, their knowledge-less fans, overrated ballpark and losing history. Half-price tickets on Mondays and Tuesdays. Also, I just love the 90-minute El ride. And I love that synthesizer organ they use.

Indians: Because of Brook Jacoby, Cory Snyder, and Julio Franco… or maybe more because of Pedro Cerrano, Willie “Mays” Hayes, and Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn. What’s great about Major League is that Cleveland does NOT win the championship. They made the playoffs!! Hoorah! I only wish the movie had continued on for another twenty minutes, and we could have seen the Angels take out the Indians in a four-game sweep. Now, that would be a realistic movie about a Cleveland team. So close, but no cigar.

...I was born and raised on the west side of Cleveland. Grandma and Grandpa used to take me to day games at an old stadium that had 5,000 people there and smelled like piss. Despite the 11-1 losses and total lack of any good players, I came to love the team… yet over the last few years, I’ve totally regretted that. I mean, seriously, who willfully chooses to cheer on a franchise that has the second longest World Series drought behind the Cubs? Or, a better question: who has two thumbs and loves to cheer on losing teams in ALL professional sports? THIS GUY!

Tigers: I like the script D on the uniforms -- that's classy shit. I also think Alan Trammell is deserving of more consideration for the Hall of Fame. Finally, Wahoo Sam Crawford is the man -- and also classy. Also, I think it's really cool that the Tigers' managers' name is Leyland and the team trains in Lakeland.

Royals: I became a Royals fan because I am from Kansas City, so it's obvious why I made the initial connection. I think if I look into it a bit deeper, I like the idea of liking a really terrible team, and following it closely until it is on top of the world.

Last Twins/White Sox/Indians/Tigers game you listened to on the radio?

Twins: Don't think I have ever listened to the Twins on the radio, though I do love Sid Hartman drooling on himself on WCCO on Sunday mornings. I really love listening to Pat Hughes and Ron Santo -- such a great combination of class and knowledge mixed with crazy and diabetes.

White Sox: Who needs radio when you have "Hawk"? I will listen now that Steve Stone has joined the team for the upcoming season. But Hawk and Darrin Jackson's blatant hatred for each other makes the broadcasts especially fun to listen to, especially the deafening periods of silence that fill every broadcast.

Indians: There is nothing finer than listening to Tom Hamilton broadcast a game on WTAM-1100. While I haven’t listened to many, seeing as I live in Chicago now, I probably went to MLB.com every day last year during the playoff run to hear Tommy Hamilton’s call of the big win the night before. Nothing can get your blood going like hearing Mr. Hamilton scream, “Hafner, 3-2 count… and the stretch… the pitch… SWING AND A DRIVE… DEEP RIGHT FIELD... A WAAAAAAY BACK… THIS ONE IS GONE!!” You will be hard pressed to find any Indians fan who would say one negative word about Mr. Hamilton.

Side note: The highlight of my broadcasting days during Northwestern came sophomore year. I was working color commentary for WNUR, and Tom Hamilton was doing play by play for ESPN+. With my palms sweaty and my pants wetty (not a result of nerves… it’s a medical condition I have), I went up to Mr. Hamilton and talked to him briefly. It was like meeting an Indians legend, just awesome.

Tigers: Jack Brickhouse has the classiest voice in baseball. There's no reason to listen to anyone else, despite all my respect to the Jim Price and Rod Allen. I actually listened to the clinching game in 2006 on the radio -- it was the last game I listened to in full on the radio.

Royals: I listened to about seven innings of the Royals game yesterday against the Brewers in Spring Training ball.

When was the last time you encountered your team get slandered by the media, and how did that make you feel?

Twins: I think it was after the Santana trade. Actually, yea, it's been coming pretty much consistently since the Santana trade. Just remember what the Twins got back for A.J. Pierzynski...

White Sox: Ever since Jay Mariotti was made to look like a fool in 2005, bashing the White Sox has been a vogue thing to do. Ozzie's tirades, Kenny Williams' mind-numbing trades, the complete and utter lack of a bullpen, the fact that Darrin Erstad was the team's leading hitter for a stretch last season. There have been ample reasons to bash the Sox and, based on their performance last season, the media is right on. [Editor's note: Uh... agree?]

Indians: Hmm… let’s think hard about this one. Last year in the playoffs, the little boys from Cleveland played against the Yankees and Red Sox. I’m sure Fox, TBS and ESPN had fair and balanced coverage on that series. Chip Caray couldn’t even pronounce half of the players on the Indians, let alone tell you how they were owning the crap out of the Yankee pitchers. According to all of the networks, who beat the Yankees in Game 2? Not Fausto Carmona’s dominant 9 innings+ of work, but those freakin' gnats. I would have assumed our collapse against the Red Sox in games 5-7 of the ALCS was part of some Fox conspiracy, but we got our asses beaten so bad that even I know that isn’t true.

The media coverage means nothing to me. All of the networks hate us because we bring down ratings. Yep, I know ESPN, America doesn’t love underdogs and teams that don’t win for 50-60 years. Instead, middle America cares infinitely more about the big Yankee drought of 7 years. I hate the media.

Tigers: All the time, I hear people talk about how the Tigers are among the best teams in the American League and how their offense may be the best in baseball. Bollocks! Why the hedging? The Tigers are THE best team in the American League. C'mon -- Dontrelle Willis? Also, the Tigers offense is destined to score at least 1,050. Getting rid of Sean Casey nearly assures it.

Royals: [No answer] [Ed.'s note: We understand your reticence. Talking yourself into a boil over this isn't good for the health.]

What do you dislike most about your team's city's municipal government?

Twins: No complaints. Only been here for eight months.
EDIT: Ok, City of Minneapolis. You've been playing indoors for 27 years, so I expect you all to forget what Minnesota weather is like for baseball. But as I wake up this morning, March 31, OPENING DAY, it's snowing eight inches. And you want an open air stadium? Enjoy the snow-outs until May! Good for me though, there's going to be about three straight weeks of home doubleheaders in August and September. Also, clean up the embankments along I-94 east of the Lowry Hill Tunnel, that just looks like crapbag.

White Sox: [No answer]

Indians: Cleveland can not be any dumber. While I love the sports teams, I hate my city. What does every major city in America that is on water do with the lovely landscape: they make shops, parks, attractions that bring tourists to their city. What does the great government of Cleveland do: build Cleveland Browns Stadium there!! Oh great, a place used 10 days a year is taking up the entire waterfront on Lake Erie. That will really bring in the tourists and money.

Oh yeah, they also banned drinking in the parking lots outside stadiums. So now, we just do it inside of games and then throw bottles at referees.

Tigers: I dislike that the government hasn't made more rules to limit the number of Arabs in the city. [Ed.'s note: I assure you, dear reader, that Mr. Cranston is making a sophisticated, apolitical, assuredly NON-RACIST joke about the dynamics of Detroit demographics. You have my word on that.]

Royals: I hate KCMO. Plainly put, what the fuck? But I do like the upgrades to the K. Holler!

If you could burglarize anyone on your team, who would it be, and why?

Twins: No one. Torii? He makes big money.

White Sox: Jose Contreras. Because I'm tired of him of him sucking and he's probably used to the Cuban government robbing him blind anyway.

Indians: I would love to rob Paul Byrd because I have this small tumor, and doctors are telling me that HGH could really help to treat it. From what I hear, Mr. Byrd may be able to help me with this situation.

Tigers: I would burglarize the Tigers so I could take Gary Sheffield's coolness. I'd give it back eventually of course.

Royals: I think Jose Guillen, mostly because he is rich, seemingly hilarious off the field, and those two things lead to hilarious possessions.

Your favorite baseball memory or memories as it pertains to a player on your team getting horrifically injured or humiliated?

Twins: Gary Matthews ran into the wall in centerfield last year and hurt himself when he hit a pole. This allowed Mauer to truck his slow catcher ass all around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

White Sox: "Favorite" is used loosely. The injury that sticks in my mind is Robin Ventura getting his cleat caught in home plate and twisting his foot 45 degrees. With that image stuck in my head, I did not sleep well that night.

Tigers: My favorite is the Tigers acting like the pitchers in Bases Loaded II (for Nintendo) and making fielding throws nowhere near the bases. If you held down one of the D-pad directions and thew, you could make almost any throw an error in Bases Loaded II. I'm sure Joel Zumaya played the game, given his noteworthy success with Guitar Hero.

Royals: Even though he wasn't on the Royals at the time, I always enjoy seeing Damon run headfirst into his teammate. Everyone cringes, yet I laugh crazily. Should have had a better arm, Johnny!

Who would make a better manager for your team?

Twins: Gardy does a great job. Maybe Joe Girardi, but I don't think many people get much better out of as little talent as Gardenhire.

White Sox: Anyone but Terry Bevington.

Indians: There is no one better than Eric Wedge. Who else can manage an AL Central champion by merely chewing on seeds and having the occasional facial twitch? It’s incredible! His calm demeanor really does fit the team well, but if I’m looking for someone better, I’d probably go with a Joe Torre.

Tigers: I would. I could do what Leyland does without smoking so as to set a better examples for the young players.

Royals: Jesus. I really enjoy Trey Hillman. Because of his history, I always picture him speaking like a bad guy in Rumble in the Bronx. You know, completely dubbed by another guy.

If you were a hot dog, what would you rather be smothered in from head to toe: ketchup, mustard, relish or saliva? Please explain your answer.

Twins: Mustard, because Ketchup is illegal in Chicago.

White Sox: [No answer]

Indians: I know how I’m NOT going to be made: Chicago-style. The next time someone in Chicago gives me a look when I put ketchup on my dog, I’m going to kill. A solid ketchup-brown stadium mustard combo (with a few grilled onions) on the dog makes for the best ballpark food. All of that Chicago crap like relish, peppers, and pickle have no place on my buns. (Mind out of the gutter…) [Ed.'s note: Despite the length of this response, it does not actually answer the question, which asks one to imagine he literally takes on the form of a hot dog.]

Tigers: Relish -- just because of the puns it would elicit.

Royals: I really like mustard, and whenever the hot dogs run at the K, I cheer like my life depends on it for Mustard. Pretty boring.

Most hated AL Central sports columnist, and why?

Twins: Mariotti -- all he does is rip on everyone.

White Sox: Rick Morrissey. I can't recall in five-plus years one provocative or remotely interesting opinion. At least the Sun-Times guys have opinions and have a pulse.

Indians: Jay Marriotti. Asshole. Next question.

Tigers: Mitch Albom. Presumably he's one of the five people I'd meet in hell.

Royals: Jay Mariotti. I don't like any journalist who doesn't report from games. Way to mail it in Jay. Also, I hate Around the Horn.

Most hated blog?


Twins: IDWT, easily.

White Sox: [No answer] [Ed.'s note: Presumably because White Sox fans don't read.]

Indians:
Deadspin, not for the posts but for the comments. Hey, we get it, you’d like to bang Erin Andrews. Why don’t you post “Erin Andrews loves Rock Chalk Jay Cock” another 20 times? Hilarious! And then people get mad when Bob Costas and others say that blogging brings down the intelligence of sports conversation.

Tigers: If You Like It It Must Be Terrible. Only because it's trying to be ironic but instead does the exact same thing as any other blog. What a bunch of losers!

Royals: I read Dan Shanoff every day, but he really makes me mad. I don't understand the point of mindless, self-righteous writing every day. But, I also really enjoy his blog, and I really don't hate it at all.

Most annoying ESPN personality?

Twins: You're with me, leather.

White Sox: Stephen A. Smith. Just read every other sports fan's opinion -- I agree with them all.

Indians: As a Catholic school teacher, I’m tempted to say Dana “F*** Jesus” Jacobsen; but if I had been forced to sit through a Mike & Mike roast, I probably would have questioned if there is a God.

Mike Patrick is TERRIBLE!! If I have to hear how AMAZING or INCREDIBLE another two-yard run is, I’m going to go crazy. I’m not even bringing up the Britney Spears nonsense in the middle of an incredible overtime football game because if I have to relive that experience, I’ll punch a hole right through this computer.

Tigers: Dave O'Brien -- he thinks research is something only Ph.D. students do.

Royals: Jay Marriotti again. Talentless hack.

To be continued... for now, enjoy Opening Day. We'll be back after Gil Meche shuts down those Tigers and beats Justin Verlander.

UPDATE: Proceed to part 2.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

KU and KC: Winners

"I'm a diehard KU fan. If the Gaels of St. Mary's can't win, I'm going with KU."
--Mark Teahen, as quoted in the KC Star

We like to keep our sports separate here at IDWT -- this is a baseball blog, after all -- but with the Jayhawks winning today and the KC Star integrating the Royals with the Final Four (link above), we just can't help it...

Rock Chalk, baby!

This leads us to a question (you can consider it our calm before the baseball storm): what network will be the first to post a Roy Williams/Kansas story? Will it be ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, CBS, NBC or Fox?

Get your answers in soon though, cause this will be settled soon.

Former Royal Odalis Perez: Opening Day starter

Poor, poor Nationals. You open a stadium as beautiful as this...



...with a pitcher who, well... Odalis Perez needs no introduction in this part of the world.

Poor, poor Nationals.

(The good news is, baseball's back. Nationals-Braves, 8 p.m. Eastern/7 Central.)

POSTSCRIPT: The latest on Jose Guillen is that he'll play on Opening Day, as he's been given a 10-day stay on his suspension. More to come later.

Royals Season Preview 14: Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune

Once upon a time, the Twins were the class of the AL Central, a small-market success whose model for winning would be extolled from the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball to teams across the country, and Joe Morgan. Now, with the Tigers' return to power and the Indians stacked with young talent and even the White Sox, a recent World Series winner, pushing for another division title, the people in Minnesota are feeling a little threatened. This was a division they carried all those years, winning widespread praise when the convenient line from national pundits would have been, "The Central sucks." Now, it's as if the Twins are an afterthought, picked by the two leading national sports magazines to finish last, behind even the -- gasp! -- Royals.

Their response:

Tom Richmond, special to the Star-Tribune

Can you spot the Royal in the picture? (HT to Kinsella.)

Of course, the Twins have ample reason to fear the powder blue. The fans -- and the hometown paper* -- may not have come around to the reality yet, but the players have:

“Kansas City’s going to surprise some people,” Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said. “They were starting to play well in the second half last year. They have some good players over there, and they keep adding a veteran here, a veteran there to help those guys.”

A brave new world is upon us, indeed.

*Check out this chart:


Det Cle Min Chi KC
Starting lineups 5 3 2 4 1
Middle of the order 5 2 3 4 1
Starting rotation 4 5 2 3 1
Bullpen 3 5 4 2 1
Managers 5 3 4 2 1
GMs 4 5 2 3 1
Team owners 5 4 2 3 1
The “expert” 4 5 3 2 1
Farm system 2 4 5 1 3
Baseball town 5 3 2 1 4
Stadiums (in 2010) 3 2 4 1 5
The totals 45 41 33 26 20





Yes, the Royals, as rated by the Star-Tribune, have the worst starting lineup, middle of the order, starting rotation, bullpen, managers, GMs, team owners and "the 'expert,'" whatever the hell that means. (It means some beat writer's opinion, which is laughable.)

A guy who goes by jsherwin1 tried defending the Royals, only to get shouted down by opatz012, who wrote, "I can't even imagine the Royals having a decent baseball team. They're like the Detroit Lions of baseball. So get over your jealousy of the twins because they actually have a shot of being over .500 this year. While the Royals will spend another season cleaning the grime off the floor in the cellar."

You won't have to "imagine" the Royals being decent much longer, opatzy-boy.

This isn't over.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Royals Season Preview 13: ESPN The Magazine

Everyone in the sports world knows you don't anger ESPN. Just don't do it. I've heard stories... horrible, terrifying stories of treachery, espionage and murder. Shadowy operatives tiptoeing around your every secret. Assassins hanging on your every step. Henchmen breathing down your neck and leaving threatening messages on your phone. And don't you know about the apparatchiks, whose sole purpose is to spread the gospel of sports? They'll kill you. Will Leitch? He's been dead for months, but the tentacles of the ESPN Empire are spread such that they've placed a ghost writer in his stead, writing under his byline. It could be a monkey for all we know! The horror!

Oh God, I've said too much...



The Mag's projected standings:

AL EAST: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles
AL CENTRAL: Indians, Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Twins
AL WEST: Mariners, Angels, Athletics, Rangers

NL EAST: Mets, Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Marlins
NL CENTRAL: Cubs, Brewers, Reds, Astros, Cardinals, Pirates
NL WEST: Diamondbacks, Rockies, Dodgers, Padres, Giants

And the blurb on the Royals:

JUST THE FACTS:

  • The bats are heating up. The Royals ranked 27th in runs scored last year, but Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are ready to roll. Free agent signee José Guillén (23 HRs in '07) will help too.
  • They have a numbers guy. But he's not in the front office. Before each start, Brian Bannister studies stats to look for hitters' tendencies, such as their aggressiveness on the first pitch.
  • Call it a comeback. Social anxiety cost Zack Greinke most of '06. He reentered the rotation in '07 and had a 2.42 ERA in the second half, with a fastball that reached the high 90s.
  • Trey Hillman is a breath of fresh air. The former Nippon Ham Fighters manager, who took that club to two straight Japan Series, is infusing a team-first attitude in the Royals.

HEARSAY:
"Every report on the Royals I get from my scouts this spring is filled with lines about how Billy Butler is turning into a beast," says an AL GM. "He's hitting everything."

HOUSE CALL:
"The powder blue uniforms are back, and people are excited. Plus, we've got a new manager. Anything can happen—at least when it's spring."
-Sam Graves (R-Mo.)


Oh great ESPN The Magazine, you are wise beyond your 10 years.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ramirez, De La Rosa, Huber and, finally, a blog named for Billy Butler

With the roster shaping up and the rotation set (Meche, Bannister, Greinke, Bale, Tomko), it's time to pay our hellos and goodbyes.

Hello, Ramon Ramirez. We welcome you with open arms, partly because you have a 1.42 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings this spring...

EDITOR'S NOTE: I had all this research planned, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Cube pulled up on my browser, and just as I was getting started... my wireless connection failed. When it came back, NYRoyal of Royals Review had circled the wagons with this post.

Our work is done, we'll move on.

Goodbye, Jorge De La Rosa. You came as a soft-tossing lefty at a time when any pitching prospect would have made us happy, and now you leave because we have one pitcher too many (and you're out of options).

What to say of your time with us? No one was impressed with your stuff, ever, but in the early-going we couldn't argue with the results. In your first start you gave up a measly run on four hits in a 3-1 win over Detroit to even the team's record. Two weeks later you threw eight innings of shutout ball, then began the month of May with three quality starts in four tries. Of course, things fall apart, as that book says, and they did. Gradually. A five-run outing here, a seven-run implosion there. Eventually, the five-innings-of-shutout-ball outing was no longer the expectation but the exception. What really can one say about that?

And goodbye, Justin Huber. You were a highly regarded prospect once, and perhaps still am, but we never could find a place for you, and now, perhaps, we're repaying the Padres for letting us have Joakim Soria. Good luck hitting in San Diego. Just remember, get it in the gaps, and you'll run forever.
***
As first reported by Megan Stock last May (and quoted on this site), Billy Butler's clubhouse nickname is Big Donkey. The newest Royals site, in a nod to Butler and breasts donkeys everywhere, is called Big Donkeys. Best of luck, guys.

POSTSCRIPT: The return of Breaking 100.

Royals Season Preview 12: The Recliner GM

Pace on this season preview series must accelerate if we're to get through all the good ones by Opening Day. Where's a Large Hadron Collider when you need one? So while Jorge De La Rosa's caught in limbo on the waiver wire, Justin Huber's packing for San Diego and a hard-throwing minor-league strikeout machine from Colorado prepares to meet his new teammates, we forge ahead with these previews.

Tonight's comes from Pete, a Notre Dame grad with some legit sports bona fides. Unfortunately, that will not save him from our wrath.



The first problem -- and this is a big problem -- is the preview ranks the Royals' lineup dead last in terms of, I'm guessing, quality (and not, say, reputation). Here it is:

Ranks

Overall – 64 points (28th MLB, 12th AL)
Starting Rotation – 26 points (24th MLB, 11th AL)
Line-Up – 25 points (30th MLB, 14th AL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 13 points (T-23rd MLB, T-13th AL)

We could ignore everything else and write 400 words on the preposterousness of this alone. Have you seen the Giants' lineup? Here it is, with each player's 2007 OPS in parentheses (that's OPS, not slugging or age):
Dave Roberts, LF (.695)
Omar Vizquel, SS (.621)
Randy Winn, RF (.798)
Aaron Rowand, CF (.889)
Bengie Molina, C (.731)
Ray Durham, 2B (.638)
Rich Aurilia, 1B (.672)
Kevin Frandsen, 3B (.710)
The team lost 91 games last year, and that's with Barry Bonds (170 OPS+, 6.2 WARP) and a staff ace who could throw at least 85 mph (the joke, of course, is that that same ace, Barry Zito, hasn't hit 85 on the gun all spring. The real joke is that this isn't a joke). If that team avoids losing 100, they can consider 2008 a season well played.

Apparently, the Giants' lineup is better than the Royals', and the Giants, according to Pete, are the 20th best team in baseball. How the undisputed worst team on paper could be considered better than 10 other teams is beyond us.

Pete's Royals preview does little from there to address or justify the team's 28th-place ranking. We do want to make two responses though to two points raised in the concluding paragraph.

First:

The Royals are a prime example of the argument that teams like the Red Sox and Yankees are bad for baseball. They have no way of keeping up with the payrolls that those other teams can muster and unless they draft perfectly, it is nearly impossible to keep pace.

We see where you're going with this. Boohoo for Royals fans, right? What have they got to live for? [Insert Midwesterners joke.] I root for the ___, whose management sucks and talent evaluators suck and we've gotten a bit unlucky but it's all the Yankees'/Red Sox' fault, blah blah blah... this is where you're going with this, isn't it?

Do us a favor and keep the Royals out of it. We don't need you making excuses for us.

Second:

With the Royals, this is a fan base that hasn’t had reason to hope for many years now, and its a downward spiral when the revenue stops coming in from ticket sales.

Those kind of sentences anger us, probably to an unreasonable degree. No reason to hope? What about all those stories about Alex Gordon being the next George Brett? That doesn't mean anything to us? Or Billy Butler and how he's been mashing the ball all spring, per his career? Or Gil Meche and Jose Guillen, free agents we had to beat other teams to sign? Or Greinke, Bannister, Soria... this is just Rany's list (highly recommended post there) we're going through, but what about that, eh, mate?

Please, crying us a river is one thing, but insisting that we cry a river... well, the phrase "recliner blogging" coins itself there, doesn't it?

POSTSCRIPT: It's occurred to me that we've probably gone a bit hard on Pete. He makes some valid points about Bannister in the comments section, and we'll give him credit where it's due: Dayton Moore is listed as the team's biggest strength. Now that would've been a fine starting point for the preview. Instead, there was a fall from grace, and we're more disappointed souls because of it.

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. SI.com 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:

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Opening Dawn thoughts

Just two of them:
  1. Mike Sweeney should be in the starting lineup. He looks good at the plate, comfortable and confident, and judging by the way he was conducting himself in the dugout, he hasn't lost any of his leadership qualities. He came in as a pinch hitter in the 9th and promptly drew a walk from crowd darling Hideki Okajima. He was quickly replaced by a pinch runner, which was the right move but robbed us of seeing more of Sweeney. It's only been a couple months and we already miss the guy.

  2. Anyone see Emil Brown's awful baserunning gaffe? One could basically say it cost Oakland the game, or at least the chance to keep playing.

    In the 10th, with one out and trailing by two, Brown smoked a nice RBI-double to the right-center wall. Thinking the ball would get thrown home, he got greedy and darted for third, but the Red Sox, playing like the defending champs, would have none of it. Kevin Youkilis cut off the relay throw, and Brown was caught in a pickle.

    The next batter, with the A's down one and two out, singled.

    The batter after that singled as well.

    Jonathan Papelbon then retired Kurt Suzuki on a grounder to end the game.

    Poor Emil. We don't miss him as much.

Box score.

POSTSCRIPT: This is what everyone in Royals Land is going gaga over:



And we really don't need to remind anyone, but...

Are you ready for some baseball, even though it's 5 a.m. CST?

Get excited, baseball fans! (Even though it's 1:58 a.m. here on the East Coast.) Baseball is T minus four hours away, and how! (It's too late... I don't know what that means.) Opening Day is upon us! (Well, not exactly. It's not Opening Day, capital O and capital D -- MLB's not advertising it as such, preferring instead the phrases "Opening Dawn" and "Opening Series" so it can save "Opening Day" for what has become a sports holiday in America: the return of baseball. That will have to wait for March 31.)

This bears repeating: baseball is here! (Yes. My late-night schizoid voice agrees.)

It took months of negotiations and an 11th hour clearing up of confusion, but the first games of the Major League Baseball regular season are going to happen shortly from the Land of the Rising Sun. This will actually be the third time the Tokyo Dome has hosted regular-season baseball games -- the Mets and Cubs opened their seasons in 2000, and the Yankees and Devil Rays visited in 2004.

As this is happening in Japan, it's inevitable that someone -- probably us -- will make mention of Godzilla. Which makes me wonder: is that sorta kinda politically incorrect? Racially insensitive, perhaps? The concept of Godzilla is a byproduct of the nuclear age, with the monster as a stand-in for a nation's fears of nuclear holocaust -- which, unlike Western fears of the same thing around that time (capital N, capital H, as the science fiction writers and pamphleteers would have it), wasn't at all fanciful or abstruse, as the witnesses will tell you. I shouldn't even need to mention that the original Godzilla is a literal reincarnation of the atomic bomb, having been born out of American nuclear tests.

Of course, Godzilla has transformed over the years, losing its symbol of "death, destroyer of worlds" (Bhagavad Gita's words, as quoted by Robert Oppenheimer and mentioned in this excellent article from The Revealer), turning first into a generic monster that fights an oversized gorilla and then protector of mankind, prompting someone to muse, "Godzilla is inside each of us" (there's some really profound meaning in that, I'm sure, but it's 3:05 a.m. now and this discussion will have to be postponed for another time; real quick, though: I think that the character -- who is Japanese, of course -- is saying that the people of her generation are all descendants of the nuclear age, and those implications include death and destruction, sure, but also a second story of recovery and redemption). Ultimately, if you ignore these deeper meanings -- God forbid an American director ever gets his hands on yet another reincarnation of the lizard -- what you are left with is pure kitsch, like Miss Atomic Bomb herself.

Anyway: more Garamon, less Godzilla. Unless Garamon's supposed to represent the H-bomb, in which case, we'll just stick with making fun of King Kong.

The Great One brings great karma

Like most red-blooded Americans, we at IDWT don't follow hockey. It's a little sad, we know. The sport requires such a tremendous combination of athleticism, technical skill and freakish hand-eye coordination -- we know this from playing broomball, quite a painful experience -- that we find it easy to appreciate. But to love... well, that's not the same. It's not in our blood.

Still, when The Great One visits your favorite baseball team, and says, "I grew up wishing I could be a baseball player," that grabs your attention.

From Dick Kaegel of MLB.com:

"So she was out there battling today. She had more fun than anybody," Gretzky said. "I was just sort of out there. I felt like a manager just walking around yelling. You know, I haven't picked up a ball in 15 years. The last time I went out and actually went out and threw and hit, I was with Kirk McCaskill of the Angels back in '93. I'm 47 now, so I was just kind of out there."

Apparently he was invited by George Brett and senior director of team travel Jeff Davenport. Hey, if we can get some of the mojo in the following video going for the Royals, Mr. Gretzky can swing by anytime he wants.



POSTSCRIPT: We're all following the exploits of Joey Gathright this spring, right? How's this for a day: 3-for-4, two runs, two RBIs, stolen base. This month: .354, 10 stolen bases.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Royals Season Preview 10: Yard Work

Today's preview comes from Yard Work, a humor and satire site that's trying to write previews for all 30 MLB teams. The ideas on a lot of them are solid -- Jim Ross for the Tampa Bay Rays... nice -- but the execution leaves much to be desired. Take the Royals' preview...


Welcome to the latest installment of Yard Work’s 2008 Season Preview. Today’s preview comes from a currently defunct weblog [concerts.1111111kcrtickets.com/blog] whose content we assume is free for us to cut and paste into our own online publication that we do not consider a “blog” in the slightest. We’re using an incongruous pic of good old Max Headroom to accompany this post because we here at YWHQ are all children of the 80s, and we love to show pic-linking Flickr-ignorant bloggers and message boarders that we have more to offer their shiftless asses than second-hand candids of Larry Bowa and Anna Benson. Also, The Lawnmower Man was garbage. Enjoy!

First, Max Headroom... damn. We have nothing to say about that. Actually, we have one thing to say. Watch this video, and tell us that 1) Max Headroom isn't coked up, and 2) this, along with everything else, doesn't prove the '80s is a permanent, stinky, crusty stain on our American fabric.

Second... The Lawnmower Man? It can't be a coincidence that fellow Royals blogger RTC Talk calls Zack Greinke Lawnmower Man, and this site happens to be dissing The Lawnmower Man, right?

Third, they rickrolled Joe Posnanski's site into the supposedly defunct blog's URL.

I mean...

What?

Yup, it's that kind of review. It's surreal. It's dually unfunny and entertaining. It's ragingly sarcastic yet unironic (example: "Is this going to be the year of the Kansas City Royals baseball team to win another glorious championship? Some think so!"). It's horribly edited, yet somehow that fits. It's at times completely nonsensical, but... maybe that was the point? They drop names like the Jonas Brothers and Steely Dan, along with Riverdance, and... what? What???

We have no idea.

Maybe it all boils down to this one actualization, that moment when everything we've read comes to a hilt and all that we know, all our knowledge and all the world's, gets shot through our heads into some ethereal realm of understanding:

The thing was written in the voice of a salesman -- but not Max Headroom, unfortunately, that would have been cool.

Those are our words. See what Yard Work's making us write? We have no fucking clue.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cacti, and other dangers of the desert

They say plants don't feel, but that's not entirely true. They do not bleed or express pain with yelps of surprise and wonder, and they love without keening for love, but their system of growth and preservation, of leaning ever so towards desire and away from aversion, is as sophisticated as any in the natural world.

Vascular plants rely on a pair of transport tissues -- the xylem and phloem -- to carry the essentials of life through their anatomy. While these tissues don't exactly function like axons and dendrites in mammalian bipeds -- which relay messages of hurt, throb and burn -- they evoke our nervous system. Axons carry messages from one dendrite to another until they get to the brain, completing the conversion of sensation to perception. Xylem pulls water from the root up to the leaves, where the conversion of raw resources -- water, carbon dioxide, light energy -- into glucose yields particles of oxygen. It also might be worth noting that the most well recognized xylem tissue is wood (the rings that expand outwards are xylem growth charts), while the etymology of "dendrite" is from the Greek dendron, meaning "tree." The interconnectedness of things speaks to us all.

But also, the extent to which plants hurt -- the equivalent of an axon lighting up after an epidermic cell has been singed out of existence by the hot stove -- is the extent to which they go without water. As no species -- not even plants -- can exist in pain, those that live in arid environments -- succulents, they're called -- must adapt... and if anything, plants are adaptable (take grass, for instance, which is "the heart of all things," according to Planet Earth, having spread to a quarter of the planet's land). The cactus is the ultimate example of an organism that survives despite the odds. Existing in an environment that sees as little as three inches of rain a year, it hordes what water it gets, with fewer stomata -- openings in the leaf that let water escape -- and a canopy of spines, which provides shade and protects it against thirsty animals.

And injures baseball players.

From the Kansas City Star, in a story that could only be written about baseball:

Jimmy Cactoe is, of course, the nickname pinned on Royals pitcher Jimmy Gobble by manager Trey Hillman after Gobble walked into a cactus shrub while playing golf following an early February workout.

A big needle jammed its way through the shoe and under the nail of Gobble’s big right toe. Want to talk pain? Jam something under one of your nails.

“It hurt like the dickens,” he recalled, “and we couldn’t even tell if there was something still in there or not.”


Cactus injury in baseball -- anyone heard of such a thing?

The question not asked, of course, not found in any news story nor hinted at in any blog, is the one we'll pose here: How must the cactus have felt, brave sentinel alone watching the coming of light, that source of life, losing a spine to the foot of Jimmy Cactoe? Think about that next time you're laughing over this with buddies.

POSTSCRIPT: Other dangers of the desert:
Snakes
Cougars
Precipitous temperature changes
UFOs (apocryphal)
Chigurh

The least funny jokes ever?

And we're not bitter just because they took a shot at the Royals:

A new study has found that HGH may worsen athletic performance. In fairness to the drug, the study focused mostly upon the Kansas City Royals.

By "they" I mean six bylined writers. Six. In other words, six interns.

Other knockouts:

Sacramento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof will give away a suitcase full of their own cash on an upcoming episode of Oprah's Big Give. It's the brother's biggest act of charity since signing Vitaly Potapenko.

After getting their first victory of this month, Miami Heat coach Pat Riley said that Jason Williams and Chris Quinn could match up to Hall of Famers Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. In fairness, West and Goodrich are in their 60s.

And German billiards champion Axel Buescher has been suspended for one year after testing positive for a banned substance. Wow. That's as likely as any of you knowing who Axel Buescher is. Turns out, Buescher was caught with an 8-ball.

We'd give you more, but... that's it. There're only four jokes. We hope we haven't infringed on any copyright laws by reproducing all of them. Here's the link.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mellinger's Roundtablers

Sam Mellinger over at Ball Star's been posting a roundtable series with four Royals bloggers, and it's been a compelling read... we think. We've been a bit too embarrassed to check it out, as we're sort of respresented. As in: I'm one of the roundtablers.

Anyway... thought I'd link to it.

Our day's work is done. Let's go, Mount Saint Mary's.

POSTSCRIPT: Royals' spring training record: 11-10, 7th place.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Royals acquire Brad Salmon for player to be named later

In case you're not watching the NCAA Tournament, the Royals acquired RHP Brad Salmon from the Reds yesterday...

Oh, who am I kidding, you're watching the NCAA Tournament.

Jayhawks took care of business from Omaha, now we'll see about K-State. Represent, boys.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's up with Alberto Callaspo?

Yesterday the man went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, raising his spring average to .356 (.408 on-base percentage, .556 slugging). "Torrid" would be a fine description of the spring he's having. True to his reputation as an exceptional contact hitter -- Baseball Prospectus wrote of him in 2006,

The hardest major league player to strike out in 2006 was Juan Pierre, who had .051 strikeouts per plate appearance. In the Pacific Coast League, Callaspo was even tougher, with just .049 strikeouts per PA at Tucson.

-- Callaspo has struck out just once in 45 at-bats, walking four times with a home run and six doubles. When he joined the Royals last December from Arizona in the Billy Bucker trade, Craig Brown of Royals Authority wrote,

What we have here is a hitter who has outstanding knowledge of the strike zone. In other words, because he’s going to stay within the zone and not chase bad pitches, he’s going to make a pitcher work for the out. And by putting the ball in play, the defense is going to have to work for the out as well.

and so far that's what he's shown. Of course, it's early -- yes, we're still only in spring training -- but the Royals may well have found their future starting second baseman.

It'd be quite the steal. Last year, Callaspo looked like he was ready to become a mainstay in Arizona when he broke camp on the Diamondbacks' 25-man roster, but an arrest for domestic abuse in May -- the charges were later dropped -- and a prolonged hitting slump set him back. He was optioned to Triple-A Tucson in mid-June, but the change in scenery didn't dismay him, as far as we can tell. His line in the Pacific Coast League:
226 AB, .341/.406/.491, 28/17 BB/SO, 5 HR, 15 2B

When rosters expanded in September, the D-backs made the easy decision to recall him. But in the offseason, assessing their options with Orlando Hudson, Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds and Chad Tracy, the D-backs decided Callaspo was the odd man out (he's had a bit of bad luck with organizational depth charts, as he played alongside the likes of Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar in Anaheim). Young GM Josh Byrnes pulled the trigger on the Buckner deal -- he was looking to replenish his pool of young arms, having recently depleted it to acquire Dan Haren from Oakland -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

Callaspo will get more opportunities in Kansas City to prove his worth. We appreciate Grudzielanek's contributions to the team as much as the next guy, but Callaspo needs to start, and soon. After a few early setbacks, Callaspo's career may be back on track, and at just 24 years of age, we can only hope it's beginning its upswing.

The Royal Waterfall (newly added to IDWT's blogroll) has more to say.

POSTSCRIPT: The return of Royales with Cheese!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Royals Season Preview 9: Deadspin

Ah, we've been waiting for this one.


Written by Will McDonald of Royals Review:

Are you ready for a universe in which the Royals are good?

All apologies for the cheesy rhetorical question opening aside - I'm sure someone learned like Bob Costas would have started with a quotation from Thucydides or an anecdote shared by Paul McCartney on Later - its better that you prepare yourself emotionally for a more or less OK Royals team now, than suffer the cognitive dissonance later.

Its/it's confusion aside, that's a pretty good way to start. Of course, this being Deadspin, where the reactions to the story are usually more amusing than the story itself, McDonald's basically a cat's paw here for Will Leitch and the Gawker network's prolongation of The Big Joke, which is not one joke, of course, but a constant, unrelenting series of small jokes strung together to help office workers like myself pass the day. McDonald may as well have taken the voice of a dog speaking in onomatopoeias, cause the response would have more or less been the same (jokes about the Royals, "the American League Pirates," etc.). McDonald probably didn't help himself by using a number of dependent clauses incommensurate with the normal tone of the site. To wit:

Fitting hand in glove with all of Moore's lovable old-schoolness is Trey Hillman's fondness for small ball, which is how he made his name in Japan, the land of the first inning bunt, an achievement rather on the order of gaining renown in West Virginia for one's methamphetamine making skills.

And if you write this -- "If we consider the dictum that the horizons of our realities are defined by the limits of our dreams, then it's telling to note that this is a fanbase that's been dreaming about middling Mark Teahen's breakout for years now" -- what can you expect but this reaction?

  • Image of Hit Bull Win Steak by Hit Bull Win Steak at 01:54 PM

    "If we consider the dictum that the horizons of our realities are defined by the limits of our dreams..."

    /brain shits pants


Well... I suppose it was a losing proposition from the start. Our fearless blogger takes the national stage, and after the smattering of polite applause upon his exit, no one can quite figure whether the random, harsh-sounding spates of laughter are directed at him or the neighboring drunk, no doubt telling jokes about Eliot Spitzer or those whose misfortunes cast them in the harsh, unkind light of smart-aleck, soulless observers with nary a care but sustaining their warm buzz with another derisive laugh.

Royals in fantasy baseball

I nabbed four Royals in my AL-only draft tonight, short of my goal of six but still not bad.

(Ten-team league, 7x7 (standard stats plus walks, OPS, holds and K/9), head-to-head format)
Rd. 1, 8th pick: B.J. Upton, 2B/OF
Rd. 6, 53rd pick: Alex Gordon, 1B/3B
Rd. 8, 73rd pick: Billy Butler, 1B/OF
Rd. 13, 128th pick: Jose Guillen, OF
Rd. 21, 208th pick: Alberto Callaspo, 2B/3B/SS/OF

I think Guillen in the 13th round is a legitimate value pick, and I'm very happy about getting both Gordon and Butler.

Yasuhiko Yabuta and Ron Mahay, both of whom I considered, went undrafted. I would've taken either one of them, except I have a reliever too many. As it stands, Brandon Morrow would be the first guy dropped for either Yabuta or Mahay.

Other Royals, and where they were went:

Rd. 7, 61st pick: Joakim Soria, RP
Rd. 10, 98th pick: Zack Greinke, SP
Rd. 11, 104th pick: Mark Teahen, OF
Rd. 11, 105th pick: David DeJesus, OF
Rd. 15, 146th pick: Gil Meche, SP
Rd. 16, 156th pick: Brian Bannister, SP
Rd. 19, 185th pick: John Buck, C
Rd. 20, 198th pick: Joey Gathright, OF
Rd. 21, 205th pick: Mark Grudzielanek, 2B
Rd. 22, 214th pick: Ross Gload, 1B

I'm a little surprised Bannister went so high, considering this is a K/9 league, but don't let anyone tell you the guy isn't popular, especially among the statistically-inclined crowd. I badly wanted to own Meche, except a friend of mine IMmed the guy picking two slots ahead of me and slipped him some insider info. My reaction of "noooooooooooooo," pounded out in the chat box, was repeated three times and with more O's, more profanity. That's 160 strikeouts in the 15th round of a deep league ("deep" is an understatement... Joey Gathright and Ross Gload are both owned, for crying out loud).

One more note: as I was actually trying to draft Royals players, I was pretty surprised to find that I don't actually own the most Royals. Someone else also has four (DeJesus, Bannister, Buck and Grudzielanek).

I'm not certain I can make this argument yet -- I'd need to break it down more -- but I think it's a decent sign that all told, there were 14 Royals taken in a 214-pick draft. If you're wondering, that's slightly below average (an even distribution would have 15.3 players from each AL team), but you have to take into account that teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers are overly represented (to give you an idea: Edwar Ramirez is owned, as is Fernando Rodney, who's on the DL, and Joel Zumaya, who's also on the DL). I know for a fact that 14 Twins didn't get drafted.

The first round broke down this way, in case you were wondering (and if you want to make fun of my Upton pick): Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, Curtis Granderson, Grady Sizemore, Ichiro Suzuki, Upton, Magglio Ordonez, Victor Martinez.

POSTSCRIPT: Few links to pass along: first this, a Billy Butler feature -- the Legend of Billy (the Kid), indeed (HT to The Dugout).

And... if you haven't been reading Rany on the Royals, why not? This post explains the current economics of baseball in a way you won't find many other places, and this tells you what we've always known: that the K is a darn fine place to watch baseball. Everything else on that site is worth checking out as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Rick Morrissey is a non-biodegradable natural disaster

If I had more free time, I'd collect all the trash Morrissey has contributed to our collective consciousness, stuff it into black trash bags with red drawstrings or laundry hampers or milk crates or anything I could find, take it all and drop it in the middle of a parking lot and invite the world to join me around this unholy heap as I spray the kerosene and light the match that immolates all of this, every last word, punctuation, dot of drool that somehow made it past the Tribune's copy editors, and thereby at last returning Morrissey's ideas, however half-formed and dysmorphic, to whatever diabolical god gave them to us in the first place.

Alas, I only have two minutes, so this will have to do:
HIS ARTICLES

The worst leads, worst ideas, worst cliches, sometimes worst negligence, just about worst everything you could ever want to print out and use as toilet paper, gathered right there in one location and just one mouse click away.

Fire Joe Morgan weighs in (the bold is Morrissey):

I have the Sox winning 85 games and giving Cleveland a run for its money for second place in the division. I know, I know: The Indians are loaded with talent, and if it weren't for Detroit spending gobs of money, they'd be the favorites in the AL Central.

But, again, what about heart?

What about "heart?" What about Miguel fucking Cabrera? What about Grady Sizemore and C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander and Fausto Carmona and Magglio Ordoñez? Heart? How about starting pitching? How about the fact that Jose Contreras is 62 years old?

My three stages of emotion as I read through FJM's breakdown of this article:

1. Amusement
2. Disbelief
3. Anger
4. Really, really bad anger, mixed with disbelief
5. Resignation

It was like reading Jay Mariotti, or that website he inspired. This leads me to a question for the fine, hard-working people of Chicago: What did you get in return for allowing Mariotti and Morrissey work in your city? The Buckingham Fountain? Navy Pier? A clean river? An appearance by Conan O'Brien? And if no deal was made, couldn't you pass an ordinance or something?

Anyway... glad to be a Kansas Citian.

And the White Sox are not going to win 85 games. Sorry, K, I know that's hard for you to hear...