Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The long-awaited SI cover

“So it’s a mistake. They’ll probably sell their least amount of magazines in a long time — except when NASCAR was on the cover.”
--Zack Greinke, as quoted in KC Star

--Zack Greinke, as on Sports Illustrated cover

Joe Posnanski: more.

By the way, that story relegated a Gary Smith feature to a small cover line. That's when you know -- as a writer -- that you've arrived.

POSTSCRIPT: They finally unblocked Rany's blog in China! YouTube, on the other hand...

Monday, April 27, 2009

SI's Peter King writing about the Royals and Kansas City

Our small medium town's in MMQB! His non-football thoughts of the week:

a. I am so ticked off I missed Zack Grienke Friday night. What a great story -- he threw a three-hitter to beat Detroit (and the kid from West Orange, Rick Porcello) to go to 4-0. The story of the month in baseball, with nothing even close for second place: Grienke. In 29 innings, he's struck out 36 and given up zero earned runs.

b. And the Royals drew 36,363 to the refurbished Kauffman Stadium. Good for them.

c. Was that you, Zack, in the Classic Cup on the Plaza for breakfast Saturday morning? If so, a lot of us left you alone on purpose.

d. By the way, thanks to two Tweeters for steering me to the Classic Cup. Great pulse-of-the-Plaza breakfast spot.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fire extinguisher, NOW!

Zack Greinke:

In a game completed in two hours and six minutes in front of 36,363 fans at beautiful Kauffman Stadium.

It's during those rare instances when a pitcher's on cloud nine or wherever it is pitchers go when they realize they're absolutely, sickeningly unhittable that we pause a moment amid teeth-gnashing (over Joakim Soria, perhaps) and withdraw from our daily minutia to appreciate the finer points of life. Birds and bees -- and no, not the kind some of you want unleashed in Trey Hillman's office -- and gallivanting trolls, or something. The physics of baseball is such that these sort of performances -- lined up back to back... to back to back -- are once-in-a-blue-moon occurrences, not to missed or taken for granted, like, in music, a young diva or prodigy who can "bring tears to your eyes." So, a weekend suggestion, if we may: lean back in your favorite sofa and take a breath. Things are gonna be a-okay.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Your day's picks

Three quick reads:
  • Via Sam Mellinger: something even the most awful of Royals teams never did.
  • Royales With Cheese: Wikipedia demonstrates the extent of this fan base's anger with Trey Hillman.
  • Joe Posnanski rants -- or gets as close to ranting as you'll see from him -- on Hillman's mismanagement of the bullpen on Sunday.
Royals at Indians, 6:05 p.m. CDT. Your starting pitcher: Sidney Ponson.

And tomorrow: Brian Bannister. Yes, Brian Bannister, riding a nine-inning shutout streak. Who cares if it was against minor leaguers... he's back!

POSTSCRIPT: This is why blogs are the future: read the comments to this Ball Star blog post, particularly the thread about ERA+.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Can we ever trust him again?

At some point, Kyle Farnsworth's ERA will dip below 10.00. This I trust. The next batter he retires without allowing a run will drop his ERA from 18.90 to 17.18. One more and it's at 15.75. A couple scoreless outings after that it'll stand at 9.00. It's not impossible to imagine this scenario playing out. In fact, I'd give it eight or nine days if I were a betting man.

However, the question was, is, and will be for the foreseeable future whether we -- the fans, the manager, the man who decided to pay him upwards of $4 million this year, his teammates -- will ever trust him to do his job. Allow me to put it this way: how many scoreless innings must Farnsworth string together for our first reaction upon hearing his name to not be, "Suck on a goat's balls you gutless shiteating piss of a fraud!" or, simply, $&%#!?

This is a serious inquiry.

I ask not for myself but for an increasingly aggrieved fan base. They are angry, and they are angry. And I can only imagine no one feels the brunt of Farnsworth's failures more heavily and personally than Dayton Moore, and on this topic I can provide no words of solace. You will remember that of this offseason's acquisitions -- all those many words volleyed back and forth about Mike Jacobs (it seemed like the baseball universe was focused on that trade), all the analysis of Coco Crisp, those many jokes cracked at Horacio Ramirez and Willie Bloomquist -- the only one I did not openly defend was the Farnsworth signing, dismissing criticism against him with, "I'm willing to see how this plays out... to find the positive, hope for the best." Well, how long before we say there is no positive? Has that time already passed?

Among the victims of Farnsy's collapses -- other than the Royals' win-loss record -- has been manager Trey Hillman. His reputation would be called collateral damage in another context. Royal Report Card titles a post, "Hillman's Gotta Go..", and he doesn't mean shopping. The Royal Treatment is less subtle: "FIRE TREY HILLMAN NOW!" Ah, the things people will say when still mad as spit over a blown lead. Undying Royalty is one of the few who have kept perspective. In any case, even Sam Mellinger of the KC Star seems to be baffled by Hillman's latest string of game decisions. This is not a good sign.

I tried defending Hillman after the Opening Day debacle to a friend by saying he'll learn from his mistakes and improve. I believe I used the phrase "he's still young," which prompted my friend to reply -- rightly -- that managers are not prospects. "They're either idiots or they're not," he said. "You, my friend, have an idiot for a manager." I'm not ready to go that far -- look, it's a tough job; you're dealing with 25 different personalities, 25 needs, and you're required to find some balance, conjure some nonexistent formula that'll keep everyone happy and the "chemistry" good. Put another way, you play the hand you're dealt, and it so happens that Hillman has Farnsworth (and let's throw Ron Mahay into this discussion while we're at it) in his clubhouse, a guy he sees every day. I'm not going to call for his head. But I do think it's getting damn near time for some lesson-learning.

POSTSCRIPT: Via Royals Review, an *interesting* interview with Joakim Soria. This shows, incidentally, why I was initially slightly uncomfortable when I heard his nickname was The Mexicutioner. As long as he's okay with it though...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

5-3 ain't a bad start, no it ain't

“Today was that game that (general manager) Dayton Moore had in mind when he put this team together,” [John] Buck said. “If we can get to our strength, which is the back of our pen, we’re in good shape."

[KC Star]

The early-going of 2009 sure resembles '08, with Dayton Moore's bullpen locking down games for a methodical and effective starting corps. (Here's to hoping it gets better when Luke Hochevar and Brian Bannister come back). With Meche-Greinke-Davies at the top, one has to feel good about this season.

As of yesterday:

Royals' team ERA: 2nd in AL
Strikeouts: 1st (tied)
Walks: 2nd (tied)
Earned runs: 3rd

And the money stat:

Wins: 4th (one behind the leaders)

On the subject of pitching -- specifically the bullpen -- apologies to Old Man Duggan and anyone who thinks Joakim Soria needs to be moved into the rotation, but he's the savior. Savior. God what a filthy curveball. Yes, I'm still shuddering about that 68-mph knee-buckler he threw to Jhonny Peralta on Monday on a 3-2 count. With the bases loaded. Excuse me for this: GAH-GAH-GAH-GAH-GAH.

On a still-related note, when it comes to evaluating baseball, the feeling vs. stats debate rages on, as with the question of whether to use Soria in the bullpen or rotation. On this I will only say -- as one who wouldn't mind, necessarily, seeing him get a try in the rotation -- I think anyone who takes Joe Posnanski literally and decrying him when he writes, "But it is true, as far as I know, that no statistic can measure the feeling of knowing that you have a game won in the ninth inning" (emphasis mine), needs to take a breath and ask himself why he follows sports. And I don't want anyone to accuse me of being a "traditionalist" in the Joe Morgan-type sense, but honestly, if your first reaction to words like "no statistic" and "feeling" is to denounce the writer, and if you don't think things like "confidence," which Soria inspires when he enters the game with a lead -- what Buck was getting at, what Poz was hinting at, what Royals management is counting on -- are tangible -- the difference between fairy dust and believing in fairy dust, between a sugar pill and the placebo effect -- then you've been brainwashed. You've officially crossed into that zone where baseball is no longer played by people but trading cards and dice. And, pardon me for saying so, but that's a sad state to exist in, better left for the professionals who get compensated for their enjoyment-nullifying efforts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A strange play out of Arizona...

The rarely encountered "fourth-out rule" was applied in the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game on Sunday. Video here.

POSTSCRIPT: Joe Posnanski contends Joakim Soria's value as a closer:

...The Royals scored three runs more than they scored the first two games of the Yankees series and took a 6-4 lead.

And Soria trotted in from the bullpen in the ninth. “Welcome to the Jungle” blared over the enhanced Royals sound system. Images of fire flared up on video screens all over the stadium.

And here’s the argument: The game was over.

Blogger beware

It was Rany who wrote on the final day of March, "A warning to anyone out there considering starting their own blog: this is a 365-day-a-year habit. You may not be able to write every day, but the need, the compulsion, to stay on top of things is not something that you can turn off just because you happen to take a vacation."

And now it is I who echo this advice to dear Joe of the newly begun New Blue Tradition. Not knowing anything else about you -- your hobbies, your ambitions, your food of choice or style of dress -- I advise you quit now, while you're ahead. You pick up some momentum and something will grab hold of you, something sinister from "out there" in a land marked by Google signposts. You might escape from its clutches someday in a few months or years, when all the endorphins have drained away, but there will come a random day in January or February when a gal you've never met will decide, out of the midnight abyss that is our subconscious, to start a blog called "New Blue Tradition," and on an overcast day when nothing at all could go right you'll check your stat meter and find -- holy Soria! -- your blog's geting hits again, from random Google searches, and you'll scratch your head and wonder and, against all your better inclination, begin publishing again.

They reclaim, in the end, your soul.

We'd like to welcome back Royal Blues (not Minda's new Royal Blues, part of MVN, which has added two new Royals blogs to its network, The Throne Room and The Scorecard). We last heard from him on March 3, 2007, writing about a fantasy baseball draft.

Now... did anyone notice how good Tony Pena Jr. looked while scoring the tying run in the bottom of the 8th yesterday? Got his uniform dirty, then sprinted across the plate standing up. The small crowd was boisterous. Thank goodness for Phil Coke (and Joe Girardi).

I would also like to state for the record -- for the thousandth time -- that Joakim Soria is awesome. Elite. Crème de la crème. His line from yesterday:

I'm not a big fan of the word "agape," but that's the state his final curveball left me.

Gil Meche is pretty epic as well.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Joakim Soria made it interesting in the 9th, but ultimately this is what matters:

I mean, it is what ultimately matters. I suppose it'd be more prudent to take my meaning as "Royals won," but you probably already knew that anyway.

Kyle Davies for Cy Young.

Game story from the excellent Bob Dutton, already in midseason form. As he notes:

The Royals closed out this first series with their three starters — Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and Davies — permitting just one run and 13 hits in 20 innings. The three also combined for 21 strikeouts and five walks.

And now the ball goes to Sidney Ponson as the Royals return to a renovated Kauffman Stadium for their home opener.

I typed that with a straight face.

POSTSCRIPT: On the Coco Crisp home run call, imagine Hawk's voice dropping a sad octave when he says "gone" and you'll understand why I found this so very amusing: "That ball is gone."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Royals-White Sox rubber game live blog

1:14 p.m. CT: Hawk Harrelson just said "two hole" four times within 45 seconds. It really did sound as dirty as you think.

He also said he really likes talk radio, and -- we're less than 10 minutes in, folks -- apparently Paul Konerko is one HELL of a defensive first baseman.

Where has this been all my life?

1:19 p.m.: One more commentator note: how weird is it that Steve Stone is calling this game? He sounds like he prepared for the day -- as he prepares for every telecast with the Hawk, I can only imagine -- by shooting straight dope.

1:20 p.m. And the Royals are out of the inning because Jim Thome isn't batting against Kyle Farnsworth.

Too overused?

Don't say I said this, but Kyle Davies looks sharp. It's gonna be a good year.

1:24 p.m.: Have we figured out why Alex Gordon isn't batting between the two righties, Jose Guillen and Billy Butler? Wasn't Gordon in the five-hole his rookie year? Are we still trying to increase his confidence?

1:24 p.m.: Billy Butler beats one down the line! (Just kidding -- E-5.)

1:18 p.m.: Eh, I've decided I'm okay with Gordon at No. 6. Mike Aviles fly-out, inning over.

That's a can o' corn for Carlos.

1:32 p.m.: The first highlight of the game courtesy of David DeJesus in left field, a diving catch to rob Jermaine Dye of the game's first hit. I had no idea he caught it until I heard the disappointment oozing out of Hawk's mouth. He was bleeding disappointment. Anyway, consider this my oblique reference to the crappiness of's streaming. If I set the video quality any higher -- it's currently at the lowest setting -- I wouldn't get to watch.

1:35 p.m.: Yikes. Davies hung another one -- pulled foul. The next pitch got a lot of plate but Alexi Ramirez hit it off the end of the bat to center.

"That's a can o' corn," Hawk said before immediately falling silent, perhaps realizing he'd just used the exact same expression.

1:37 p.m.: If it sounds like I'm being overly critical, please don't misunderstand: I admire Hawk for being passionate -- like you and me, really -- and for disguising nothing. He and Stone were talking about the White Sox minor leaguers earlier as if they were their children (I don't mean Hawk-Stoney love child, though that's a pretty good image). He calls the players by their first names. If you ever missed a game and needed someone to fill you in, would you not want Hawk to be the guy doing it?

1:42 p.m. CT: Okay, one more inning and then I'm out. I say Willie Bloomquist homers.

(Actually, that is patently absurd.)

2:44 a.m. Beijing: And has stopped streaming the Royals game. Awesome.

And, wouldn't you know, Willie Bloomquist... struck out.

A good night and a good day to everyone.

Nick Adenhart

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was among three people killed in a crash in Fullerton, California, early Thursday, according to the team and a hospital spokesman.

Adenhart, 22, from Silver Spring, Maryland, died at UC Irvine Medical Center, according to spokesman John Murray.

Read more.

It's just that I just watched him pitch on, and knowing nothing else about him -- not the area he grew up in, whether he was an only child as the article implied, whether he had aspirations beyond baseball, whether he ever dreamed he would, through tossing a baseball, worm his way into the living rooms of people the world over -- I just have to say: this bit of news, at 1:33 a.m. where I am right now, seems horribly tragic.

UPDATE, 4/10: SI: Joe Posnanski and Lee Jenkins.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Joe Posnanski on the marriage between Kansas City and Royals baseball

Your read of the day:

The Royals represented so much of what Kansas City wanted to believe about itself. They were a family. They were creative. They were tough. And they were part of the community … you could go out to the Plaza after a game, and there would be star third baseman George Brett or big first baseman John Mayberry or pitcher Dennis Leonard. You could buy a player a drink, and he would probably walk over and talk about the game. Frank White, who grew up in Kansas City and worked on the construction crew that built the new Royals Stadium (now the even newer Kauffman Stadium), played second base like no one had ever played it before.

Willie Wilson, perhaps the fastest man to ever play major league baseball, would hit balls that skidded off the artificial turf, and he would be a wonder to watch run around the bases. Hal McRae, who believed that you played baseball to win, would slide hard to break up double plays. Relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry would throw strike after strike after strike, counting on his brilliant defense to make the great plays behind him. And more often than not, it did.

Kansas City could not get enough of that team. From 1976 to 1993, the Royals, playing in perhaps the smallest market in baseball, averaged more than 2 million fans per season.

Jim Thome, Royal killer

After the hours of calisthenics and breathing exercises and incense and green tea, I've decided I'm not ready for the baseball season after all.

Especially post-game quotes like this:

“I got behind him 2-0,” [Kyle] Farnsworth said, “and I tried to come back on him with fastballs. That one was up a little bit. That’s why you try to get ahead of him. You fall behind good hitters like that, they’ll make you pay.”

Excuse us while we scream a string of curses.


This will go on for a while, so go ahead and continue what you were doing...


Tuesday, April 7, 2009 FAIL

This is titled, "MLB.TV, season off to flying starts." Excerpts:

We can all agree that this was worth the wait, as always, and what is making it even more fun this time is being able to watch it live in crystal-clear, staggeringly spectacular HD on your computer via MLB.TV Premium.


We can all agree that this was worth the wait, as always, and what is making it even more fun this time is being able to watch it live in crystal-clear, staggeringly spectacular HD on your computer via MLB.TV Premium.


Beau Frusetta is a Red Sox fan in Phoenix and he also uses it to follow his team in a way no other broadcast capability can match. It is anywhere-baseball, loaded with interactive functionalities that are beyond your average TV set's capabilities. They just don't make those with Fantasy trackers built in or constant delivery of highlights.

"Having an HD stream available from MLB.TV this year is amazing -- some other professional sports leagues should take note," he said. "I think what most people don't realize is that you can hook your computers up to those lovely 40-inch-plus LCD HD TVs that everyone has these days and stream HD content from the internet in full screen to their TVs. For $20 a month, that's a smoking deal to be able to see all the Red Sox games that I miss during the year being in the Phoenix market. It's also a much better deal than you'd get on some other services like satellite/cable, and you can take it with you if you have a laptop -- not much better than that!"

Staggeringly spectacular!

And these are -- not kidding -- the top three user comments as of 9:02 a.m. ET:

commenter wrote:
2009 MLB.TV opening day...This is the classic result of marketing people and senior management making lofty promises about product development, and then trying to adhere to an unrealistic deadline and/or budget. Instead of building the system properly, things get done half-a**ed. And I paid $80 for this.
4/7/2009 8:52:49 AM

hannah_kali wrote:
Wow, that article was a piece of garbage. The service provided so far this season has been TERRIBLE!!! Don't subscribe. What a waste of money. We've been waiting 8 hours for archive footage that was promised in 45 minutes. No response from MLBtv support staff. They have a long way to go to make it up to current customers. Unbelieveable that they'd publish an article like this...
4/7/2009 8:39:27 AM

commenter wrote:
I'm sorry to say this, but the 2009 season got off to a tremendous failure for MLB.TV. In its current state, MLB.TV is almost completely unviewable when using the NextDef plug in, which is the prerequiste for using the premium services. I can understand a few wrinkles early in the season, but not a complete collapse of the servers, leading to out of sync audio, stuttering and/or frozen pictures, even at the lowest quality levels. If this turns out to be a browser or operating system problem, then the technical staff and the programmers will really have egg on thier faces. I say this as a programmer for a major European production house, which streams European football in high quality, besides doing the television production.
4/7/2009 8:31:49 AM

I took a screen grab because I wonder, after the execs at find out, how long they'll keep the comments section open.

POSTSCRIPT: Fail blog -- it's been pretty incredible this past week.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The cruelest letters

An all-around sports guy and friend of mine recently said the cruelest series of letters on Opening Day is PPD, and I couldn't agree more. Witness:

Some rainy-day reading, then:

  • Sports Illustrated's preview: Tom Verducci:

    The Reds and Rangers have been down too long in the democracy of the modern game. They are among only seven franchises that have not reached the postseason this decade. Toronto, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Baltimore and Washington/Montreal have somehow also missed the crowded party. The Yankees are guaranteed to have the most wins of the decade (they have a 37-win lead over Boston), but the Red Sox have the most world championships (two, with seven other franchises tied with one). Keep in mind, too, that in this decade alone teams have busted championship droughts of 10, 24, 28, 41, 86 and 88 years -- awakenings that must warm the hearts of Indians fans on the chilly shores of Lake Erie.

  • Joe Posnanski writing in the Kansas City Star:

    Well, this year — for the first time in a dozen years or so — I have not written the “Royals will win” column. Many people have written in and wondered about that. Have I finally lost hope? Have I allowed the naysayers to break me? Have I given up on this silly gimmick?

    No. It’s something else this year.

    I think the Royals really and truly might win the American League Central this year.

  • Joe Posnanski writing in SI.

  • The KC Star Royals preview section.

  • Royals Review: optimism and anxiety (seems like the perfect words)

  • Continuing with the optimism angle... Royals Authority

  • Even Rany... (seriously)

  • New Royals blog: Royal Report Card (I'm sure there are others I'm missing...)

  • Nods to Sully Baseball, aka Paul Sullivan of HBO Sports, who compiled this about the Royals (if you're into reminiscing), and George Blowfish.