Tuesday, September 30, 2008

162 games is again not enough

For the second straight year, there'll be a one-game playoff, thanks to this result.

And because of it:

Kansas City Royals, 75-87
Detroit Tigers, 74-88
Detroit Tigers, $138,685,297
Kansas City Royals, $58,245,500
Detroit Tigers, $1,874,125.64
Kansas City Royals,$776,606.07
Kansas City Royals, --
Detroit Tigers, 1 GB

POSTSCRIPT: We have nothing against Detroit, per se. Get 'em next year, Tiger.

Monday, September 29, 2008

When all's said and done...

It's not enough. White Sox-Tigers, with maybe more to come.

POSTSCRIPT: What more can you say? AP:

Excluding the 1981 split season, the Mets became the first team in major league history to hold 3 1/2 -game division leads in consecutive Septembers and fail to make the postseason both times, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Please don't stop the season

Not when our team is turning in its best September since 1985, winning at home and on the road (seven straight, best since 1989), winning from ahead and behind, winning with aces (Zack Greinke) and surprises (Kyle Davies, yesterday), with rookies (Mike Aviles, another home run -- he deserves at least as many votes for Rookie of the Year as Brian Bannister got last year) and veterans (yes, Jose Guillen... and we'll throw David DeJesus into this category). What can go wrong? Not even Francisco Liriano, he of the 2.05 ERA in 10 previous starts, could stop this runaway locomotive known as the Kansas City Royals.

Of course, the season is coming to an end, a realization that gets hammered home by the simplest of phrases from the simplest of articles. Take this example, one plucked randomly out of a shifting multitude:

In the opener of this series with the Marlins (83-76), the Mets (88-72) lost 6-1 on Friday night to fall two games behind the NL East-leading Phillies and one behind Milwaukee in the wild-card race with two games left.

So understated, so gut-wrenchingly urgent. It's exactly for moments like these that grammarians champion the exclamation mark: Two games left! One behind! Lost! Fall!

Now read this from Yahoo's Jeff Passan:

One week ago, it was not good to be the Brewers. Actually, it was embarrassing, horrifying, emasculating and, in every manner imaginable, bad. They were doing it again. Last year, Milwaukee melted down like butter in a hot pan, fetid smell and all. And this season, the Brewers had blown a wild-card lead, watched their manager get fired with 13 games left and found themselves 2½ games behind New York for the final playoff spot.

Thanks to the Mets apparently rediscovering their choker within, Milwaukee now stands a pair of victories – or simply a win and a New York loss on Saturday – away from vindication. With five straight wins and co-ace Ben Sheets starting for the first time since leaving a game with elbow pain, it seems imminently possible, enough that the Mets bumped up Johan Santana to pitch on short rest and salvage their season.

Now: can you imagine if Johan Santana, whom the Mets acquired by giving away the farm (okay, a very insignificant portion), did lose today, with the Brewers winning and clinching the Wild Card berth? And what if -- follow this train of hypotheticals with me -- the Twins -- the TWINS, people! They were expected to win, what, 79? -- did make the playoffs? So the Twins, in a tougher league, playing in the postseason but not the Mets, who got the Twins' best pitcher before the season.

I know my last paragraph is dumbed down, but that's for my own sake: my mind can't take it. This may be written about for years to come.

We all remember Conan O'Brien's hilarious skit last year where Mr. Met goes home one night to find his wife cheating on him with the Philly Phanatic? (I'd link it, but the YouTube video's been taken down by NBC Universal, which hasn't put the video up on its own website, as you can see.) Well, even Joe Posnanski's jumped into the act to make fun of the Mets this year.

That picture to the right, by the way, was from a June game in which the mascot got attacked by a Brooklyn man. Ricky Vaughn 99 explains.

Poor, poor Mets.

POSTSCRIPT 1: jackisue of Flickr, whoever you are: you are correct, Jesus
does hate the Chicago White Sox.

ED'S NOTE: I'll be on the road for 36 of the next 48 hours, so I'll be missing some very important games. Times like these make me wish TiVo were portable.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Can this September get any more exciting?

From The Onion:

NEW YORK—Facing the Cubs in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the desperate Mets sprinted out to the field Tuesday, launched themselves high into the air above Shea Stadium, and combined their bodies to form a 400-foot tall fielding robot called Carlos Voltron.

I'll take Gilgameche as Optimus Prime any day, though.

Oh, and the Mets and Brewers, fighting for the final playoff spot and both deadlocked at 88-71, both won on walk-offs last night. BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL BASEBALL

POSTSCRIPT 1: Congratulations to the Dodgers for winning the NL West.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Rays' second champagne party... on hold. Because they couldn't beat the lowly Tigers.

POSTSCRIPT 3: How's this, you gloomy Brew Crew fans: a walk-off grand slam.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Out of the cellar... for good?

This is what I wrote exactly two weeks ago:

As I caught up with my Royals RSS tonight it sunk in like a bad case of heartburn: the Royals really are in last place. Again.

And since then, all the Royals have done is win 12 of 15 (80%!) to catch then pass Detroit's $137.3 million team (only the Yankees and Mets have higher payrolls). While true that the Tigers are even with the Royals in the loss column, Jim Leyland's club has lost six straight, and with a collection of overpaid veterans who probably can't wait to tackle that South Key bass, I'm feeling pretty good at the moment. Like morning in Beijing after a night of rain, the air feels refreshingly crisp and clean. The pollutants and small particles have been washed away, and in the Royals' case -- if we can get literal -- maybe they're out of the cellar for good. I'm talking about six, eight years good.

That's been the hope since Dayton Moore's taken over, and I see no reason why it can't be said. Here's to our road towards sunshine!

POSTSCRIPT: Mr. Dick Kaegel, you win today's Lead of the Day award:

DETROIT -- Remember back when the season dawned and the Detroit Tigers were considered shoo-ins as American League Central champions?

That euphoric feeling was jolted when the unheralded Royals opened the season at Comerica Park with a three-game sweep.

The Tigers never seemed to recover.

Oh, yes, the Royals swept the Tigers again. Nothing like bookends. POSTSCRIPT 2: The Mets have lost eight games after holding a four-run lead. Isn't that pathetic? Oh, and the Brewers have caught up, thanks to C.C. I think it'd only be fair if any entire post were devoted to the NL Wild Card race.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Down go the Yanks!

Okay, New York, time to face up to the facts: you team isn't moving away, and Derek Jeter didn't die. Baseball will still be played in your parts.

Just not this October.

Congratulations to the Red Sox, who, with their 5-4 win over soon-to-be Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and the Indians, clinched the American League Wild Card berth. Now AL fans' eyes settle on the AL Central, where the Twins are ready to welcome in the Royals for a final four-game series that'll determine whether they or the White Sox play on. The best case scenario: both the White Sox and Twins lose the rest of their games, then the White Sox lose in a one-game playoff in Minnesota. That's how little we think of the South Siders.

Picture from the outstanding Boston Globe blog Boston Dirt Dogs:

Photo by Jim Davis

Monday, September 22, 2008

A tribute to Yankee Stadium

Picture from April 7, 2007

Instead of writing a new ode to the old cathedral, I figure I'd just link to the one I wrote last spring, "The Mecca of and that is Yankee Stadium," about Section 39 -- the vaunted right-field bleachers, where the fans perform roll call and other shenanigans.

It's cheating, I know, but... ESPN The Mag's blog just linked to it*, so why can't I?

If only the Royals could have won their home closer, the last game they'll EVER play at un-renovated Kauffman Stadium.

POSTSCRIPT: Cookie for anyone who can tell me what the asterisk is for.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Final home game of 2008

Picture via Ballpark Digest

Today is the last time the Royals will EVER play in pre-renovated Kauffman Stadium, and if that isn't enough for you to get out there, allow us to suggest the team's stellar play of late. The Royals will try for their ninth win in 10 games when Brandon Duckworth takes the mound against John Danks, who's having a surprisingly good season, and the Chicago White Sox, whose colors symbolize bloodlust, savagery and perhaps cannibalism, at 1:10 local time. This is it, people -- the best time of your lives. Carpe diem, and godspeed!

Congratulations to the Rays of Tampa Bay

Here's how you can tell a sports team's nickname just doesn't work: when a slight change of word order can launch a nursery rhyme:

The Rays of Tampa Bay
Are playing on the bay.
The Rays of Tampa Bay
Play all night and day!

What was wrong, again, with Devil Rays?

Nonetheless, hearty congratulations are in order for a team that's never made the playoffs and were, at one point, in danger of being contracted. This goes out to the organization and the fans, which sustain organizations -- even if, much like Kansas football last year, "a tradition since September," Tropicana Field sell-outs were few and far between before this summer. With their 7-2 win tonight, the Rays have secured a spot in the 2008 postseason.

This isn't completely unrelated to the Royals. Even if the Rays had lost to Minnesota, they would've gotten in anyway, since the Royals took care of business against the White Sox. These video highlights from MLB.com tell the story: a home run for Alex Gordon, an inside-the-park home run for David DeJesus and -- you know this already -- the first career home run for Kila Ka'aihue, who got a curtain call. And all this on Fan Appreciation Night.

Well done all the way around.

POSTSCRIPT: Clark Fosler of MVN asks, "To trade or not trade Zack Greinke?"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A historic four-game sweep

Historic in that it hasn't been done since September 2005, and not against the Mariners since August 1989. That's going back a ways. And the Royals didn't just win: they huck, bid, pillage and burned... and ate the babies. Zack Greinke went seven innings allowing just two hits and a walk, striking out seven. Mike Aviles continued his incredible season with a three-run homer. Mark Teahen picked up three hits. Kila Ka'aihue indeed had an at-bat, taking a base on balls and later scoring. Even Mitch Maier raked out a couple singles. It was only unfortunate that Ryan Shealy's 1-for-3 night resulted in his batting average dipping to .357 Final score: 12-0. All in all, a wonderful afternoon at the K.

If the Royals had been playing like this in August, we'd all be rubbing our hands in delight and hailing Dayton Moore as the conquering hero he is. Instead, we'll have to settle for warm smiles in the comfort of soft chairs in front of the fireplace, anticipating the crackling fire that we will soon start, the first snowfall, our warmth under layers of down and our favorite scarf, the end-of-year holiday season full of lights, champagne and tall tales.

But the Royals aren't ready to take that break yet. Seven in a row, and it doesn't have to end.

POSTSCRIPT: To Brewers fans: go occupy yourself with something positive and try not to think about how your team blew a four-run lead in the 9th and then lost in the 12th to the Cubs in Wrigley while both the Phillies and Mets won. When I'm down I go to Postsecret, myself.

Keep the good times rolling

In just a few short hours the Royals, winners of six straight, will take the field against the worst team in baseball -- statistically, physically and probably spiritually speaking -- the Seattle Mariners, losers of their last seven. At the moment of the first pitch, during those two- (or three-, depending on the number of fingers the catcher -- probably John Buck -- sets down) tenths of a second between the release of the ball and whatever happens next, an ancient clash just a few nanoseconds younger than the universe itself will have been renewed: the repulsion of opposites. Opposing forces heading in different directions, like the explosive elements which ignited the primordial stew that gave rise to life, will draw strength from the other's leaving and strive for the lengthening of absence between them. As such, the worst team in baseball will get worse, headed towards its first 100-loss season since 1983, while our hometown team, in front of a home crowd, will continue on its divine, cosmic path towards a record that surpasses last season's (two more wins will do it) while finding a new plateau unseen in five years: not last place in the division (three and a half behind Detroit).

What can we expect to see? More heroics from Jose Guillen. Maybe another home run for Ryan Shealy, who has six in 10 games while batting .500. And, for the heck of it, an at-bat for Kila Ka'aihue. It can go assumed and unsaid a win for Zack Greinke and, by extension, a win for all the angelic beings twittering like swiftlets in their silky nests next to a thing called Heart and a thing called Soul, delighted that Good has won back three inches in its eternal trench war with those sinister forces trying to pervert the universe's homely darkness.

The Heart and Soul Nebulae, from this incredible website.

And with that by way of introduction, may I strongly recommend you go over to Sam Mellinger's Ball Star blog to read his post "Why We Still Care." We'd give you an excerpt, but that would be unjust for the parts unexcerpted.

POSTSCRIPT 1: One person wrote about the Rockies among the reasons. And that was enough for me to dig up what I wrote about the Rockies last season, after one of the greatest baseball game I'd ever seen.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Congratulations to the Royals' Burlington Bees, your Class A Midwest League champions.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A note for the New York Mets

"I'll tell ya, if they don't rally, this is a moment when you sit in front of your locker and the whole season passes in front of you, and it's almost -- I don't want to equate it to death -- but it just goes by so quickly and you remember all those little moments, things that might have been."
--SNY announcer, Sept. 30, 2007

You're no longer in first place in the NL East.


Even Odalis Perez owns you. We are not fans of Odalis Perez.

Now Fernando Tatis is out for the season. Panic! Fire! Season! Going! Up! In! Choke!


(This post was conceived for no particular reason, certainly not with my Mets-fans friends in mind, Rob.)

POSTSCRIPT: With their win tonight in front of a sold-out home crowd, the Rays became the sixth team in MLB history to win 90 games after 10 consecutive losing seasons. And they're two games up on the Red Sox.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A terrible, terrible day for Brewers fans

How's this for a day: you lose the third and fourth games of a series -- this after losing the first and second games -- against the formerly second-place team in the Wild Card race. That team is now tied with you in the standings. Then you watch on TV as your archrival's pitcher tosses a no-hitter in your home ballpark, which just happens to be packed with people wearing your archrival's colors, cheering.

I'm usually one for schadenfreude -- I practically threw a party when Tom Brady's knee collectively sent America for the Kleenex box -- but not in this case. The Brewers and their fans, who have patiently waited 26 years for another postseason berth, don't deserve this.

When I think about the Brewers, I call to mind the quote in Field of Dreams about how -- I paraphrase here -- when Milwaukee found out it was getting an expansion team to replace the long-gone Braves, folks went to County Stadium and planted themselves in the empty bleachers, smiling into the evening. I think about the beautiful ballpark now there, how I watched a game with a group of friends from just behind the first-base line. I think about brats and beer, and when I ponder some more, a sense of kinship emerges, one small-market fan to another, heartlander to heartlander (and sorry, Chicago, you can claim the title "Midwest" all you want, but you're no heartland).

Now, after starting this month with a 5.5-game lead in the Wild Card race, the Brewers are on the verge of losing their grip and falling off the edge completely. They're 3-11 in September and show no signs of regaining their footing. Their fan base's nerves are fried, and while it wouldn't be completely accurate to say they're in open revolt, they've said their share of curses recently. Adam Charles of Bugs and Cranks, for instance, gives some PR advice to Corey Hart, who sort of ran his mouth against his hometown fans when he shouldn't have.

The players aren't faring much better. Take Ryan Braun, as quoted by a great baseball beat writer, Tom Haudricourt, on the Cubs: "They're probably drinking champagne and having in a beer shower right now in our locker room while we sulk about what happened here. It's ironic, where we're at as a team and how we feel at the end of this series and see them celebrating a no-hitter on our field. The way things are going, it doesn't surprise me. It's almost fitting." That sort of fatalistic thinking isn't what anyone wants to hear.

But look, Milwaukee: it's not over. The season's not. You have C.C. Sabathia going for you on Tuesday -- you know, the guy who's 9-0 since joining your team -- and of all opponents, you're up against the Cubs, which offers the perfect opportunity to stick it to all those smug, overweening, North Face-wearing Northsiders. Here's the chance to start anew: it's a sprint now, 100 meters for you and the Phillies, and it's gonna be run purely on adrenaline, non-stop, each pitch of every game from here till the end. You're not gonna lack for a thing to do from now until October, not one evening spent wondering, What's on TV? Who, as a baseball fan, wouldn't want that?

In our little corner of the baseball universe, this Royals fan looks on with envy.

POSTSCRIPT: Okay, Milwaukee fans, now look away:

Comment on the blog Fire Ned Yost, from stumby:
If there was as good a reason as any to let Mike Rivera play, Ned has it. Dude is hitting at a .320 clip, and hasn't sniffed an AB in what seems like months. The club is hitting for shit and the pitching is at the least, suspect. (and when I say suspect, I mean shit as well.) So, Kendall catches 8 innings already today only to watch the bullpen blow it more than Jenna in a double feature.

Ned's infinite wisdom reverts to the Billy Martin pull my lineup from a hat school, and we manage 3 runs all as a result of the long ball. I hope he isn't banking on Ray Durham to hit a four bagger every game from the 3 hole, but he probably is.

I cannot believe how fucking amateur this is becoming. I am seriously waiting for candid camera or punk'd or whatever to jump out. Is it April 1st. Tell me this is a joke. Fuck it, I'm going to the ballpark to root for the Cubs.

Comment on Ken Rosenthal's column on how the Brewers will probably fire Ned Yost if the team doesn't make the playoffs, from Badgers-rock: Yost is a smug, arrogant pinheaded prickface!!!!!
I hate the C-ocksucker!!!!
Get rid of him now Melvin.
This guy belongs in a clown suit passing cigarettes
through quarters...f'n ####.

And the Cubs fans come crashing in! Commenter MDBNIU on the Brewers blog Brew Crew Ball:

Don't worry
We’ll leave Miller Park in nice shape so you can have nice funeral procession when you get back in town !!!!! You just got YOSTED !!!!!!

And my favorite Cubs blogger, Wrigleyville23, on Chuckie Hacks:

buck up. it's still tied and the brewers will finish with three against the cubs, who most likely will not pitch dempster, harden, z and maybe even lilly in that final series.

p.s. thanks for the hospitality at miller park tonight.

The only icing this cake needs is an "objective" article written under the imprimatur of an officially sanctioned media organization that really twists the knife with some colorful descriptions, a triumphant tone...

Oh, I think we got something... yes, thank you, MLB.com:

PHILADELPHIA -- White towels violently waved in anything but surrender, instead serving as a rallying cool breeze on an 85-degree September evening.

In time, the raucous hollering at Citizens Bank Park that punctuated the early innings of Philadelphia's 6-1 nightcap win over Milwaukee transitioned gradually to a persistent buzz, if for no reason than the realization that nothing had yet been won.

It just seemed that way in the afterglow of a four-game sweep Sunday night that thrust the Phillies into a tie with the Brewers atop the National League Wild Card standings and one game behind the Mets in the NL East race. The day-night doubleheader sweep served as the exclamation point.

POSTSCRIPT 2: I thought the best part about Zambrano's no-hitter was when he struck out in the bottom of the 7th and made like he was going to snap his bat over his knee, causing the crowd to screech in unison, "Noooooooo!"

UPDATE, a few hours later: Yost fired.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Let's play two, times six

Six doubleheaders today and 20 games total makes for one heck of a day for baseball. Surely people will pause to watch that "The" school from Ohio take on USC and maybe flip to NBC for the ongoing train wreck that is Notre Dame football, but it has to be a comfort to know that baseball, sweet baseball, is circumambient in the American sports landscape once again.

The doubleheaders (all times Central):

Blue Jays-Red Sox, 11:35 a.m., 6:05 p.m.
Royals-Indians, 12:05 p.m., 6:05 p.m.
Rays-Yankees, 12:05 p.m., 6:05 p.m.
Braves-Mets, 2:55 p.m., TBD
Tigers-White Sox, 2:55 p.m., TBD
Twins-Orioles, 4:05 p.m., TBD

Now, as much as I enjoy baseball, if these 20 games were played in succession, it may grate on my patience, taking about as long as a cricket match -- which, not coincidentally, is Reason No. 1 why baseball is superior to cricket. If you can hear me across the way, Nige, I'm talking to you. He writes, genially, that:

In America [baseball] was pumped full of testosterone and self-importance and became the modern baseball game - basically rounders, but with the ball thrown so violently as to be all but unhittable, and with lots of burly men dashing around showing off. I can't help but feel that we Brits got the better of the deal. Baseball, when all's said and done, is not cricket.

It doesn't matter to me that the earliest mention of baseball may have come from England -- long have I and others stopped caring that Abner Doubleday wasn't the sport's inventor, and that it didn't happen in Cooperstown -- but I will have to respectfully disagree that cricket (or rounders, for that matter) is somehow better than America's pastoral sport. I'll spare you my list of ethnocentric reasons and instead point you to this Yahoo! message thread titled, "Who thinks here that cricket sucks!![exclamation marks elided]?" Oh, America: you embarrass me sometimes.

As far as England's (okay, the world's) national sport -- which descended from China's ancient game of cuju (recognized by FIFA), which you can see played in John Woo's recently released epic Red Cliffs and in this WSJ video -- I'll have to agree with the anonymous commenter from Nige's blog: too much flopping. It's sickly, man: grown adults pretending to cry because someone nudged them. And it wouldn't be so bad if the flops weren't so potentially consequential: the spirit of entire nations rides on soccer results, and when matches are decided by an act of ungentlemanly deceit, it debauches the entire sport and makes its participants into pampered, slick, epicene schoolboys who need a good kick in the arse. In short, it's enough to make you seethe with riotous anger.

I've always thought flopping in soccer should be a retrospectively punishable act, but in some parts of the world -- South America comes to mind -- a good flopper actually gets praised for his showmanship. You get baseball players on the soccer pitch and a flop will be met with a kick to the sternum. God do I hope so.

I'm growing dangerously close to a rant about how Cristiano Ronaldo is the man I would most want to kill in a bar fight, so I'll wrap it up. Just one question for our friends across the Atlantic, however: why is it that teams in European English are modified with the plural form of the verb "be," as in, "England are ranked just above Antarctica at the moment but are expected to improve." Shouldn't "England" refer to the team, singular, of England, as opposed to the collection of individuals comprising the team? Didn't you guys invent this language deal?

POSTSCRIPT: 22-2. Count us among those who never thought Cliff Lee and Cy Young could be uttered nonironically in the same breath.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Sam Mellinger gives a reasonable account for why Kila Ka'aihue isn't playing more.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back (sort of) for the September run

I can't believe baseball season is less than three weeks from its conclusion and the Tampa Bay Rays are still in first place.

Wait a minute... actually, considering they've had a decade of top draft picks to hit upon the likes B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria and power arms in Scott Kazmir and James Shields and a veteran bullpen led by Troy Percival and Dan Wheeler and factoring in the laws of probability with a dash of Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus's prediction, well... I can believe it just fine.

What I really can't believe is the Royals are in last place. And I'm serious.

As I caught up with my Royals RSS tonight it sunk in like a bad case of heartburn: the Royals really are in last place. Again. The situation's so hopeless that Yahoo has already gone ahead and published its Kansas City 2008 Review ("and look ahead") column.

For a distant follower like me (and in case you haven't checked this blog in a couple months -- I wouldn't blame you -- I'm distant because I'm in China), last place shouldn't be that big a surprise. After all, the Royals have finished last in the division each of the past four years, this while three of the other four teams have won the division at least once in that span, with that fourth team winning the pennant as a Wild Card. But... I can't believe it. This season began with such high expectations -- unreasonable, one could say in retrospect -- that this last-place finish just doesn't seem to fit in with the others. This was supposed to be the year the Royals -- our Royals, for crying out loud, the team we so vehemently defended -- made a push for .500, continuing their improvements under Dayton Moore's leadership. Instead, they merely flirted with .500 for a couple months, deploying a few winning streaks to give us a flash of hope before snuffing it like a vice to a candle's flame, leaving only the baffled, fading, sad whisper of smoke.

I'm not sure I have much more to say than that. I'll leave it to my fellow Royals followers for more.

(Consider this an overdue edition of Around the Horn, collected from the past week and a half.)

  • Still our hero, GMDM speaks: Bob Dutton, KC Star.

    "This thing has been broken for a long time. Let's remember that, OK? But one thing I know, as sure as I’m sitting here, is we're going to get this thing right. I'm very committed to doing that. Whatever we've got to do to get this right, we're going to get this right."

  • It's not too late (Friday midnight deadline!) to send Sam Mellinger of Ball Star Blog your thoughts on why the Royals still matter in your heart of hearts. I know my reasons, but I'll save it for another time.

  • Minda, sweet Nebraska Minda of Baseball and Other Things, let's the Royals have it.

  • Royal Reflections on Mike Sweeney getting cut from the A's (Lee links to a nice Sweeney tribute he wrote).

  • Kila Now. [Royals Authority]

  • Royals Review contributer devil_fingers comes up with a Joe Posnanski drinking game.

  • And speaking of Posnanksi: click anywhere on his blog and you're bound to hit something good, even if the new layout is far inferior to the old (just my two cents). Here's my example (and all so salient because I sort of covered the Olympics as well, if by covered one refers to attending lots of events and blogging about it):
    Is covering the Olympics fun? Well, sure. Covering the Olympics is what I have wanted to do all my sportswriting life. And there are fun parts. Walking on the Great Wall. Playing table tennis in a Chinese ping-pong park. Seeing the optical illusion that is Michael Phelps. Dropping jaw while watching Usain Bolt. Being there to watch the U.S. men’s basketball team redeem itself. And, in the end, I’m sure, that’s what people want to hear, I suspect nobody really wants to hear about the drudgery that makes up mot of the job, the middle seat on the plane, the four nightly hours of fitful sleep, the 10-minute fast-food meals between busses, the writing at 4 a.m. China time when you are literally falling asleep at the keyboard and waking up only to correct the 28 mistakes you just typed in (and hoping that someone else will catch the 32 you missed), the need to sum up the wonder of Phelps in nine minutes. I know I wouldn’t want to hear about that stuff.

    I bring this up because I can tell you, this has not been a fun year at all for Brian Bannister.

Let's go, Royals! It's not too late!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How easily could this lampooning been done on the Royals?

The Pirates are in the national sports media again, and this time, unlike last, it's not pretty. DJ Gallo, founder of SportsPickle.com, writes a 1,992-step plan on ESPN's Page 2 detailing how your franchise can, like the Pirates, string together 16 consecutive losing seasons. Read steps 1 and 2 and then decide whether you can take it anymore:

Step 1. Get the ball rolling by making one of the worst talent evaluation decisions of all time.
For example, decide Andy Van Slyke is your future, not Barry Bonds. Andy Van Slyke, nice guy. Barry Bonds, not so nice. But after the 1992 season, Van Slyke only hit 14 more home runs for the Pirates than Bonds did.

Step 2. Trade your only homegrown power prospect in two decades for a strikeout machine (in the bad way) a minor leaguer and a player to be named, who turns out to be this guy.
It's July 2003. And, hey, you're not so awful! You are less than 10 games behind the division leader. Kenny Lofton is jump-starting your offense at the top of the order, and the future of the franchise, Aramis Ramirez, is continuing to develop. Only one problem: You are so broke you might not be able to come up with enough cash to pay your players. Goodbye Lofton and Ramirez … hello Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill and some guy named Matt Bruback!

It gets worse. Way, way worse, and that's not funny: it's sad. Not just sad: it makes one oblivious with sadness. It's devastating. As a baseball fan, I can only sit open-mouthed and shake my head while pondering our insignificance in the monstrous immensity of the universe.

A Royals mention:

After 16 years of trading veterans for prospects, one would think the Pirates farm system would be loaded. But no! Check out the "stars" from 10 years of Altoona baseball. If you would like to have more than three of these players on your team, you are a Royals fan.

You want to hear something really scary? If not for that Tony Pena-led season in 2003 -- which we all now know was the aberration of aberrations, like the King or God of aberrations -- 2008 would mark the Royals' 15th consecutive losing season. And that's nothing to laugh about.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Welcome to the Royals beat, Thor Nystrom

Something tells us you're going to love it.

In honor of your first Royals story for MLB.com, here are... excerpts from your first Royals story!

LEAD: MINNEAPOLIS -- Royals third baseman Alex Gordon will likely return for this weekend's series against the Indians in Cleveland.

QUOTE: "It might even be the first day in Cleveland. That way we can get him back on natural surface and let him really get after it that first day and see how he feels," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "If he feels OK [in Minneapolis] and feels OK that first day in Cleveland, we'll see where we're at and maybe reactivate him for that doubleheader [on Saturday], get him back involved in one of those two games."

KICKER: "Yeah, I'll put [Gordon] back at third," Hillman said. "We'll mix and match Teahen. As soon as Alex comes back, I certainly don't plan on throwing him back playing every day after that injury. We'll kind of see how that goes, see how his body reacts. We'll mix Mark back in in the outfield and try to keep his at-bats going, as well."

The best part about covering the Royals, as everyone will tell you, is living in Kansas City and enjoying all the little gems our oft-overlooked and understated city has to offer -- gold in sand, as Russian novelists call them -- from Andre's prix fixe lunch menu to a beautiful Central Resource Library near the heart of Overland Park to the best suburban-chain-restaurant plaza-extravaganza (Outback Steakhouse! Dave and Buster's!) you'll find anywhere within 500 miles, located in Jackson County.

We have everything for your needs:
  • Have kids? Let us introduce you to the Blue Valley school district.

  • Want to raise a football recruit? Rockhurst.

  • Commuter? Three interstates (three! unless it's four...) cut through State Line.

  • And don't even get us started on the bevy of parks big and small, from Swope to Pinehurst.

  • Not to mention four of the best disc golf courses in the Midwest (okay, at least three are really good).
Who knew Kansas City was all about such down-to-earth opulence, right?

This is all, you know, for if the Royals aren't entertaining enough. And we know that's a big if.