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Groundhog Day

Jul 22, 2014 -- 9:27am

I really feel like I could find an old blog of mine from July 2013 about the Kansas City Royals and change a few names and copy and paste here.  That is how it has gone over the past few years for the Royals.  They are the biggest tease in all of sports.  Once again they find themselves in a familiar situation to last season.  The trade dead line is fast approaching and they have a starting pitcher on their team who is not under contract for next season.  They now need to decide whether they should trade said starting pitcher and optimize his value or if they should believe in the team they have and their ability to make a run into the post-season.  Last season the pitcher in question was Ervin Santana and this season it is James Shields, the player who was at the heart of the Wil Myers trade.  The bigger question is how self-aware are the Royals and Dayton Moore?

The answer to that question is simple.  They aren't.  Plain and simple.  If they were then James Shields would be traded before the deadline.  I have low expectations that they will in fact trade him.  The Royals have falling into the trap of over valuing their own talent and not being able to read the tealeaves and understand that a lot of things have to go right in order for them to make the playoffs.  That mind set is clear when you read comments from manager Ned Yost where he blames the recent struggles more on the lack of "one big hit" and not on the fact that this team just isn't talented enough and isn't producing at a playoff level.  This team is more than that "one big hit" away from turning things around.  They were punked in their own ballpark by the Tigers in a four game set before the All-Star break.  They followed that act with brain dead decisions by the manager and lackluster play vs. the Redsox, which lead to one of the leaders on the club Alex Gordon calling out the effort of his teammates.  The Royals offense is still punch less and the once solid starting pitching is starting to show cracks.  The main offender of this has been James Shields who has failed to live up to the "ace" billing.  That is another reason why it is imperative for the Royals to trade James Shields.  They need to trade him before his value declines anymore.  The Royals needs to come to grips with reality and make the hard decision on many players on this team.

The Royals need to stop taking half measures and start taking full measures.  Until they start taking full measures they forever find themselves in this situation where they believe too much in the potential of their players and refuse to look at the reality sitting in front of them.  They seem to refuse to look at the offense struggles of players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and understand that this is now the norm for those players.  And the good offense numbers they put up early in careers appear to be the rarity.  I have little hope that the Royals will actually take the full measures needed to improve this team.  It is not an easy thing to do but like most things in life the right thing and the easiest are not one in the same.  They will continue to take the half measures with this team in hopes that everything magically falls into place and they find themselves in the post-season.  

I titled this blog "Groundhog Day" in reference to the great classic movie starring Bill Murray but you know what the major difference between Phil Connors and the Royals is?  It is that Phil actually learns from his experience and uses what he has learned to improve his way of life and to not make the same mistakes again.  The Royals continue to be unable to do that and that mind set is going to lead to another season of almost but not good enough for the boys in blue.

Follow me on twitter @craig_a_brenner

Royals Are White Hot and The NBA Season Comes To A Close

Jun 18, 2014 -- 10:20am

Well...who saw this coming?  Not me that is for sure.  The Royals are officially the hottest team in MLB right now and just finished destroying the Tigers and are now in first place in the A.L. Central.  I could be wrong but this is the first time the Royals have been in first place in the division this late in the season since JFK was in office.  How did the Royals become this super nova and find themselves in first place?  The bigggest reason is the offense finally started to hit.  It only took two months for the Royals batters to do anything note worthy on offense and it couldn't come at a better time. 

After being swept by the Astro at home the Royals looked to be in prime position to go on one of their classic pathetic losing streaks.  Apparently the Royals did not get the memo about that losing streak because in a shocking turn of events the Royals played pretty well and were able to keep their heads above water and continued to pitch really well until the offense finally found it's stride.  You know how you can tell things are going really well for the Royals?  Mike Moustakas is hitting homeruns.  Not only is Moose actually contributing to the offense they are clubbing the other team's starting pitchers.  Tigers' saw this first hand as the Royals worked over thier two best pitchers in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.  I don't know how long we will be able to keep calling the Royals the "First place Royals" but we need to soak it in because this hasn't happened for a long time and there is no telling when it will come again.

I am so sad the NBA season is now dead but there is a nice silver lining I can hold onto and that is the NBA Draft.  I can't begin to tell you how much I love the NBA Draft and the hype and rumors and everything that surrounds it.  It is my favorite of the major sports drafts because it is the shortest (only two rounds) and gets done in one night and it has more action than the other drafts.  The NBA Draft might as well be called Trade-apolloza because you are guranteed to see at least two trades before the night is over.

This year's draft holds a lot of interest for KU fans because there is a great chance two Jayhawks go in the first four picks of the draft.  By all account it appears that Joel Embiid will be selected with the first overall pick and Andrew Wiggins will follow shortly after him.  It is hard to put into measurable terms what having those two players drafted that high will do for Bill Self and the KU program.  The biggest knock on Bill Self in his time at KU has been his inability to have a top flight NBA player in his program.  Most of the NBA players Bill Self has turned out at KU have been nice NBA players but not difference makers by any stretch.  At this point the most productive NBA player that Self had KU has been Mario Chalmers and that is most because Chalmers has benefited from playing on a team with the greatest player in the world in LeBron James.  Next thursday will be a big day for the Kansas Program and one that will show future players what Bill Self can do for them and ho he can help them achieve their ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.

Kansas City Royals slip into their all too familiar spot

May 29, 2014 -- 10:50am

I’ve seen this movie before and I know how it ends.  The Royals are settling in to an all too familiar spot on the Kansas City sports landscape.  It really is a tradition like no other.  The Masters should go ahead and let the Royals use that slogan because it fits so perfectly.  June is right around the corner and the Royals finished a month of May that featured them playing 16 homes games and only winning five of said games.  Let that sink in for a few seconds.  They only won five home games in the entire month of May.  God bless anyone that consistently goes out to The K and puts down some of their hard earned money to watch this team because they have given you very little in return. 

The nail in the coffin is getting swept at home by the Houston Astros, who were the worst team in MLB entering the series vs. the Royals.  Not only did the Royals get swept at home they were embarrassed.  Manager Ned Yost himself said after the last loss to the Astros that he was embarrassed by his team’s play this week.  For Yost those are some strong words.  The offense is pathetic, the pitching is starting to come back to Earth and the bullpen is getting knocked around, Mike Moustakas was finally sent down to Omaha, and the team is not very likeable.  That is a bad recipe for a team that needed a lot of things to go just right to compete for a spot in the playoffs this season.  Worst part about this whole thing is there is no quick and easy fix for the Royals. 

Firing Ned Yost won’t really accomplishment much.  These problems go deeper than Yost and his line-ups and hitting coach Pedro Grifol.  Most of these problems fall on the shoulders of the players and the person who assembled this team and that is Dayton Moore.  Now, I also don’t think firing GM Dayton Moore is the solution to fix the Royals either.  That is what is tricky about the Royals right now.  No one really has any idea what the right path is to take to fix these issues.  Dayton Moore is coming up on his 8th year as GM of the Royals and none of his top tier draft picks have produced the way he and we all were believed they would.

Do you pull the plug on Moore and start over?  Does doing that mean the Glass family pulls back on the amount of money they are putting into the team?  These are all questions that no one knows the answers to or what will happen.  If I were going to bet I would say Dayton Moore makes it to year ten with the Royals.

It appears that things are going to get worse before they get better for the Royals.  They start a road trip that includes a 4 games at the Toronto Blue Jays then a two game stop in St. Louis to face the Cardinals who have made beating up on the Royals a nice past time. 

We shouldn’t be shocked by all of this because it happens every year with the Royals.  They give you just enough to be interested before they completely pull the rug out from under you.  Bless you Royals fans that will stick with this team for the rest of the summer.  My attention will be shifted to the NBA draft and getting caught up on Game Of Thrones and The Americans with a causal interest in what the Boys In Blue are doing on a nightly basis. 

The Unassuming Yet Deserving Superstar That Is Kevin Durant

May 07, 2014 -- 9:40am

Yesterday marked an occasion that we all knew was coming for a few months now.  Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Kevin Durant was named NBA MVP for the 2013-2014 season.  This occurrence did not come as a shock.  Durant had wrapped up the MVP award a few months back with his streak of 41 consecutive games scoring at least 25 points.  I believe this is not going to be the only MVP award Durant picks up in his career.  In his acceptance speech for the MVP award (watch here) he showed why he is the perfect compliment to LeBron James as the faces of the NBA. 

Calling Durant modest and humble is an understatement.  It is scary how soft spoken, respectful, and genuinely nice Kevin Durant is in his day-to-day life.  In this day and age when it comes to professional athletes we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  We are waiting for the Tiger Woods bombshell to happen and for the athlete that appears too good to be true to become the villain we root against.  That happened to LeBron James when he had “The Decision” to announce he was leaving his hometown team for greener pastures.  When LeBron was taking his talents to South Beach Kevin Durant quietly signed an extension with the Thunder to stay there for the next handful of years.  It was a very Kevin Durant thing to do.  It was subtle and done without much fanfare.  Durant is the perfect yang to the yin of LeBron James and the best part about Durant is he wants nothing more than to be known as the best player in the NBA. 

One of the many things that make Durant great is the sick competitive drive to be the best.  For Kevin Durant this past off-season was known as the “Durant Is tired Of Finishing Second” story line.  Durant is not one to be content with winning scoring titles and losing in the playoffs.  He knows he will be judge by how many titles he wins and how he does vs. LeBron James.  Many other players have wilted under the pressure of being the next great player but not Durant.  He does not shy away from these expectations but rather embraces them and understands they are justified.

Kevin Durant is one of those once in a generation athletes.  He transcends stereotypes and has shown that in a league that is known more for flash and big markets that you can reaches those same heights in a small Midwest market.  The Thunder is the closest thing Kansas City is ever going to get to an NBA franchise.  Many people in this city have adopted them as their team and I implore anyone who hasn’t done so to do the same.  Kansas City sports fans are not used to having nice things.  The Royals have sucked for most my life and the Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since the mid 90s.  Kevin Durant is a nice thing that KC fans can grab onto and make their own.

Follow me on twitter @craig_a_brenner or email me at craigbrenner@810whb.com 

Weekend Rewind

May 05, 2014 -- 9:22am

Man…what a weekend.  So much stuff happened this past weekend that I felt like we need to devote a little more time to all of the amazing things.  Lets start first with my favorite sports…NBA.

This weekend featured five game seven matches up, putting a nice bow on what was an amazing first round.  Saturday featured three of those game sevens in which all the home teams proved victorious.  The top seeded Pacers were able to hold off a pesky Hawks team, Kevin Durant and the Thunder got their swagger back and handled a short handed Grizzlies team, and the final game on the Saturday slate feature the Clippers dispatching of their new found rival Warriors.  In case you missed it these two teams really don’t like each other.  And Steph Curry really doesn’t like the ball boys in L.A.

Sunday only featured two games sevens with one of those games being exciting and the other being very boring.  Why were there only two games that day you ask?  Because Damian Lillard did this late Friday night.

The second round gets kicked off tonight with the Pacers hosting the Wizards at 6pm cst and the Thunder hosting the Clippers at 8:30pm.  Both games are on TNT if you are into that kind of thing.

I am sure there were some crazy awesome things that happened in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the weekend but to be honest I have been knee deep in NBA stuff and haven’t checked in on anything concerning the NHL.  I do know they are into their second round and from what I can tell by reading the Bottom Line on ESPN is that a lot of the games are going to OT.  Never change NHL…

Now onto the depressing story from the weekend…The Royals did some very old school Royals stuff this weekend vs. the Tigers.  Tiger hitters rocked the Royals good pitching and the Royals offense continued to struggle and was shut down by Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly.  What Justin Verlander did to the Royals yesterday is understandable but for the Royals to do absolutely nothing vs. two of the weaker pitchers is a very troubling sign.  A lot of emphasis was placed on this series by the Royals and rightfully so.  That makes the outcome even more troubling for our local nine.  Yes, it is still early and we are not even a week into May but the Royals margin for error is razor thin.  Getting swept in early May does not make or break a season but this is a potentially troubling sign for a month that the Royals have struggled in during past seasons.

Hope you enjoyed a look back at a few of the highlights from this past weekend.

Follow me on twitter @craig_a_Brenner or email me at craigbrenner@810whb.com

NBA's Second Season Has Arrived

Apr 17, 2014 -- 8:56am

Oh...yes....it is finally here.  The NBA playoffs are set and the games tip off this Saturday and I am pretty excited to dive right into these games.  Well...I should say excluding the Eastern Conference match ups.  For those who are not the biggest NBA fans like myself let me point you to the playoffs series that you should make a point to check out over the next few weeks.  Here are the four playoffs series that I am most looking forward to in the post-season in reverse order.

4 - Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)

This is the only Eastern Conference series that will make this list.  The Eastern Conference playoffs should come with a disclaimer *Only hardcore fan need apply* because for real....it is a pile of crap out there in the East.  That being said I am really looking forward to watching the Raptors play in this post-season.  They has two really good players in the back court in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen who are going to cause fits for the AARP back court the Nets are rolling out there.  The Kings of the North are a team that the causal NBA fan has never seen play.  The man thing you need to know about them is they can D it up with the best of them.  I know a first time playoff teams like the Raptors usually flame out quickly in the playoffs but I love the match up for the Nets and think they get it done in six vs. the Nets.

3 - Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

A rematch of the 2013 second round match up although this one has a little different twist than last year.  That little twist is Mr. Russell Westbrook.  Last season he misseed the entire playoffs series and the Grizz used that to their advantage and dominated the Thunder.  That was last year and this season the Thunder have a healthy Westbrook and Kevin Durant who went full video game mode with cheat codes this season.  Thunder are the best team in the NBA in my humble opinion.  Grizz will pose some issues for them but nothing too serious.  Thunder in six.

2 - Houston Rockets (4) vs. Porltand Trailblazers (5)

Two teams that both like to push the tempo and shoot lots of threes.  This is going to be a very entertaining series feturing some of the better guards in the NBA in Damien Lillard and James Harden and two of the better big men in LaMarcus Aldridge and Dwight Howard.  Make sure to stay up for the late night west coast games in Portland.  They have a great home court and an electric atmoshpere and it will be nuts for the playoff games.

1 - Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6) 

These teams don't like each other at all an they aren't shy about letting everyone know that.  All their games have results in many hard fouls and a few ejections and the playoff games should follow suit.  Plus some of the upper elite talent in the NBA are featured in this series with Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and, Andre Igoudala.  This is a must see series and make sure to make an extra pot of coffee for the late night games and I promise you it will be worth it.

Follow me on twitter @craig_a_brenner

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