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Excitement Around Ventura in '14

Mar 18, 2014 -- 1:43pm

By Kevin Kietzman

In a city caught up in hoops hysteria, something really important took place with the Royals way earlier than anyone expected.
 
The Royals are notorious for dragging out a lot of their big decisions until very late in spring training and leaving options on the table.  Sometimes they wait because that's what they always do but a lot of years it's because they're throwing darts trying to guess what is the best thing to do.  Maybe those days are over.
 
Yordano Ventura has been named to the starting rotation and will actually occupy the third spot.  Boom.  We have a winner and more importantly, we have a sign that greatness is near.  Ventura has now done what Danny Duffy couldn't do.  Or Luke Hochevar or Aaron Crow or a host of other big name Royals prospects that have never lead up to their hype.  And Ventura has done it with ease.  He destroyed the A's last week and wiped up the Rangers last night in Surprise, AZ.  It's high scoring, hitter friendly Cactus League baseball, except when Yordy is on the bump.  He's so far ahead of Zach Greinke at this point in his career that all I can think of right now is a comparison to Bret Saberhagen.  Saberhagen was a World Series MVP at age 21 so that's not going to happen for Ventura but this guy is a freak and he's the "ace in waiting" the Royals have been looking for to replace James Shields next year.  This is no dart throw.  Not in 2014.
 
Yordano Ventura can become the talk of baseball this year.  Hey, it happens somewhere every year, why not here?  They have to remind him not to throw 100 miles an hour on every pitch to conserve energy.  Not to hit his spots better, to conserve energy.  This kid has it all and 95 miles an hour is normally just fine.  I'm thrilled this is finally happening.  It seems like it has been a long time since anyone young in a Royals uniform has actually won a battle convincingly and was not given a shot based on draft position.  This could get good.
 
The downside to the Cactus League so far?  Well, there really isn't one.  The Royals, as a team, are leading the league in hitting and Mike Moustakas is around .450 and driving in runs all over the place.  I'm not nearly as giddy about the offensive numbers as I am about Ventura because we've seen the Royals hit in Arizona before.  Including Moose.  So I'll believe the bats when I see them in Detroit against Verlander.
 
But for now, the Royals have taken a huge step toward excellence in pitching this year.  They will count on young Yordana Ventura to pitch 200 innings of low ERA baseball this year and be what Ervin Santana was in 2013.  Play ball!

Open Letter About KU, Show

Mar 12, 2014 -- 10:10am

By Kevin Kietzman

It's been a bad couple weeks for KU basketball and my inbox and Twitter are stuffed with more than I can handle.  So here's an open letter to all those I can't respond to and any fans of any other teams in the past or future that will be upset with our work on Between the Lines:
 
First let me say that I greatly appreciate anyone that listens to the show, it's been an honor to do this going on 17 years.  Over the years, we have angered the Chiefs, Royals, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri fans equally.  We were the first to report the drug dealing scandal in the locker room at Arrowhead.  I was the guy that confronted Gunther Cunningham about his two point conversion chart, proving it was wrong and it was changed.  I challenged Scott Pioli about his position on quarterbacks and created quite a stir.  He was fired months later.
 
We've beaten a drum constantly about David Glass never moving to Kansas City as he promised and putting his son, clearly in over his head, in charge of the Royals.  Kansas has had a volatile football coach banned from his own son's high school football games and an FBI ticket scandal that''s landed employees in prison.  We got clobbered by fans for reporting these things and providing edgy commentary.  I was the guy that made fun of Kansas State President Jon Wefald when he made some comments about the University of Texas and tried to take them back saying he didn't know the internet would reach all the way to Texas.  Bill Snyder famously called our studio control room years ago when I was reporting a story that he had not given his Big 12 Title rings to his players months after they won, because he wasn't happy with the way they were performing.  I first reported the rift between Frank Martin and AD John Currie's compliance staff and weeks later he left KSU for South Carolina.
 
And Mizzou, well, they haven't been real happy with my stance on the SEC and they hate it when I say they don't play Kansas anymore because they chose to leave.  We played the Ricky Clemons tapes on the air.  And we reported, way back in 1999 that Norm Stewart was out at Mizzou and fans and other media outlets were saying our report was just an April Fool's joke.
 
This is why I cannot, and will not, take any e-mail or Tweet seriously that accuses me or our show of bias.  We have years of proof on our side.  Currently, Kansas fans are mad at us because Bill Self put his foot in his mouth.  I didn't do it for him and he's normally great in the media and great at handling this stuff.  But the Joel Embiid injury situation has been an uncharacteristic fiasco.  The contradictions in all of this continue today as Self, just hours after saying he wouldn't have any further comment, talked to KU.sports.com's Tom Keegan about the timeline of all that went down with Embiid.  As much as I love Tom Keegan, and Bill Self for that matter, I was left asking even more questions.  "Why" is always the best question and it's even more unclear today.  Why, if the diagnosis didn't change Monday, did Embiid's playing status change?
 
Bill Self told ESPN mid morning Monday that he was "100 percent" certain Embiid would play in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tourney or next week in the first round of the NCAA's.  The second opinion was a "precaution" and there won't be any change.  Ten hours later, KU basketball announces Embiid is out for Kansas City AND the first round of the NCAA's?  Set aside for a moment that this is KU and think of it as Mizzou.  Or KSU or OSU or anyone else.  Wouldn't you think that something actually changed by visiting the second doctor?  I sure think that and most people do.
 
But the lifeline of college basketball is recruiting and the last thing Kansas wants, whether as fact or the mere appearance of such, is for potential recruits and families to think KU botched something with a stress fracture in the back of the number one pick in the draft.  I'd be in damage control mode, too.
 
And finally, no matter who your team is or what the issue is, know this.  If you reach out to me in any way accusing me of an agenda or bias, I will laugh inside and you will have just complimented me on doing my job extremely well.  It's worked for nearly 17 years so pack your lunch.  I've got at least 17 more left if I choose.

Weber Answered All Questions Now

Feb 11, 2014 -- 11:30am

By Kevin Kietzman

Bruce Weber has now answered every question at K-State.
 
Two years ago when athletic director John Currie announced Weber as the new coach at Kansas State, it was greeted with collective yawn by all things purple.  Boring hire, recycled coach that couldn't win at Illinois, can't recruit and too nice of a guy to win in today's college basketball is what the critics shouted.  I was yawning, too.
 
A little over a season and half into a tenure Weber says he hopes is his final destination and this coach has done everything they said he couldn't do. 
 
"I don't have to hear whether you're gonna beat (KU) any more, we beat them," Weber told ESPN after K-State's 85-82 overtime win over Kansas Monday night. 
 
There may be a day when beating Kansas at home in the regular season is not the highlight of the year at K-State, but for now, this one single win puts Weber in a whole new position as the coach in Manhattan.
 
Now that Weber has a win over KU and a remarkable 14-1 home record in Big 12 play, Weber is doing things no K-State coach has done since the days K-State ran side-by-side with their in-state rival.  Reagan was President if you can remember that far back.  This coach now has a conference co-championship under his belt and is headed to a second straight NCAA tournament thanks to big home wins over Texas and Kansas in the last three days.  And this year, nobody is saying Weber is doing it with former coach Frank Martin's players.
 
That brings us to recruiting.  Weber is truly the guy that tries to outwork everyone else in recruiting and he's found a sweet spot in Manhattan.  Yes, Manhattan.  I don't know when the stereotype will die that you can't recruit players to Manhattan, Bill Snyder doesn't seem to have a huge problem, and look at the advantages Weber has recruiting players to K-State.
 
Tuesday morning, Holly Rowe of ESPN tweeted that she sees Weber at the Manhattan Airport at 5:00am after he slept for an hour or two.  The players are off the day after the game and Weber has an advantage most coaches do not.  He's five minutes from the airport and three or four hours from any recruit in America.  No driving, no staying in hotel if he doesn't want.  If he chooses to watch a game on the visit, he catches the first flight back in the morning and is back in his office by noon and getting ready for practice.  Bruce Weber has the opportunity to visit more recruits, more often and in less time than pretty much anyone else in the Big 12.
 
That brings us to freshmen Marcus Foster, Wesley Iwundu, Nigel Johnson and Jevon Thomas.  Foster is the best player on the team and popped for 20 in his first home game against the Jayhawks.  He scored 34 over Texas on Saturday. It's pretty inconceivable that this is Foster's best week ever at K-State, something tells me he's got a lot more big wins and big moments in his time at KSU.  Iwundu is relied on to be a defensive stopper. Johnson was asked to handle the ball in the biggest game of his 18-year-old life and Thomas has been out the past two games after showing some really flashes as a speedy point guard.  These are Weber's guys.  All of them.  And they just beat KU's freshmen.  Apparantly recruiting is not going to be an issue and Weber has a pair of big men lined up for next year.
 
Weber has a shiny new practice facility at K-State that football money paid for and they proudly display a conference title banner in the place.  He's also got the rowdiest student section in the Big 12 at his home games and maybe, just maybe, growing alumni support.
 
The pieces are in place for a nice run at K-State and Bruce Weber has now answered every possible question from media or his fans about what he can or cannot do at Kansas State.  If he's shown enough love, K-State may be able to keep this coach for a long time even if other schools come calling.  Weber wants to do things his way and that makes him a perfect fit for K-State.  It's time for K-State fans to embrace it.  What more could they possibly hope for?

Have Seen Enough Of Smith

Jan 10, 2014 -- 9:21am

By Kevin Kietzman

I've seen enough of Alex Smith and I mean that to be the biggest compliment possible.
 
When the Chiefs traded a pair of second round picks to San Francisco last year before the draft, I wasn't sure it was the right move.  I wasn't sure it was the right move because I assumed it was the only move the Chiefs would make at quarterback and then they would sit with a pat hand and do nothing else.  I was wrong.  I still want the Chiefs to keep working toward the next starting quarterback and if this year's draft is as quarterback loaded as everyone says, maybe somebody good will be available in some round.  But it's not the glaring need it was a year ago and that's because Alex Smith came to Kansas City and made this his team.
 
Smith is a quiet but confident and strong leader that earned his teammates respect while racking up wins and pretty impressive stats for a guy the head coach didn't really let throw much until the second half of the year.
 
We all heard the term "game manager" way too many times this year to describe a quarterback that just tossed for 378 yards in a playoff game while racking up 44 points without his best weapon, Jamaal Charles.  Alex Smith changes what we believe is possible in Kansas City the next five years and now it's time for the Chiefs to pony up and sign him to a new contract.  Smith tossed 27 touchdowns with only 7 interceptions this year and his 89.1 quarterback rating was right about 10th in the league among quarterbacks that played all season.  His rating is better than Tom Brady's for crying out loud.  And he did it without a great wide receiver.  Sure, Charles was instant offense on some screen passes and wheel routes but don't knock the quarterback, those throws can be just as challenging.  Just look at a guy like Jay Cutler and the trouble he's always in.  And boy, oh boy, is Cutler a problem for the Chiefs.
 
You see, Cutler isn't as good as Alex Smith but just got a fat new seven-year contract at $17 million a year.  So the Chiefs are about to find out having a quarterback is expensive business.  Smith made $7.5 million and roughly a million in bonuses this year and he's slated to make $7.5 million next year.  Then he'd be gone unless the Chiefs do a new deal.  Which they will.  And now is the time.
 
If it's at all possible, I'd like to see the Chiefs and Smith agree on something that brings his cap number down next year and stretches out over time.  Even if it's past the time Alex Smith is the Chiefs quarterback. 
 
It won't be easy and it won't be cheap.  The Chiefs will, in all likelihood, lose some other good players to the cap along the way.  But quarterback is everything in football and the Chiefs found a good one this year.  He's not a top 5 quarterback - but he's the best KC could do a year ago and he's the best they can do at least the next three years.  So do the deal and let's start finding a way to put a defense on the field that can protect a 28-point lead.
 
(Alex Smith will be the in studio guest Friday afternoon at 3:00 on Between the Lines)

Former Chiefs File Suit Against Team

Dec 03, 2013 -- 12:35pm

By Kevin Kietzman

Five former Kansas City Chiefs players have filed a concussion lawsuit against the team in the state of Missouri, claiming the team was negligent and fraudulent from 1987-1993 when there was no collective bargaining agreement in place with the NFL Players Association.
 
Louis Cooper, Leonard Griffon, Chris Martin, Joe Phillips and Kevin Porter claim the Kansas City Chiefs failed to maintain a "reasonably safe" work environment and team officials told the players concussions were not serious injuries.  In the lawsuit filed by Independence, MO attorney Kenneth McClain, the players claim the team treated head trauma to players with negligence and often referred to such injuries as "getting your bell rung" or a "ding."
 
In August, the NFL settled a $765 million lawsuit with around 18,000 former players.  This Missouri lawsuit claims to fall under an entirely different jurisdiction than the federal suit as these plaintiffs argue there was no collective bargaining agreement at the time of the allegations.
 
In all, the suit cites the Kansas City Chiefs on four counts including Negligence, Negligent Misrepresentation, Fraudulent Concealment and Loss of Consortium.
 
McClain is a noted attorney that has won tens of millions of dollars worth of settlements, many on behalf of workers  at popcorn plants and consumers of microwave popcorn that were found to have "popcorn lung" disease.
 
Kansas City Chiefs officials had no comment at the time the lawsuit was filed.

Royals Plan Little Changes for 2014

Oct 01, 2013 -- 1:06pm

By Kevin Kietzman

The Royals season ending news conference just landed with a thud and it has little to do with manager Ned Yost getting a new two-year contract.
 
Sure, I would have preferred General Manager Dayton Moore wait a few days just to see if somebody great becomes available but that isn't likely to happen.  Yost is clearly the best Royals manager in 20 years and now puts an 86-76 season on his resume, the club's best mark in 24 years.  Yost makes some odd moves in games from time to time and he can be too loyal to his favorite players, but you can't really fire a guy that's winning unless somebody much, much better is available.
 
No, what bothered me was the whole tone that this club has now arrived and can't wait for next year to start.  This is almost always fool's gold in sports and the Royals, if they really believe this, are setting themselves up for failure in 2014.
 
"I feel like we've won the World Series," Moore said in reference to a local fan base that's fired up about this team and ready for more.
 
"They're (our hitters) all going to have better years next year," Yost said talking about his team.  "We're going to be a better offensive team next year."
 
"It's probably going to be about the same," Moore said about the team's payroll next year.
 
See what I mean?  This team got hot in the second half and won 42 games after the All-Star break, tops in the American League, but 86-76 is still the final mark and that's not good enough.  The Royals had the seventh best record in the American League, that's a million miles from winning a World Series.  And while I'm all about being excited about a good season, dramatic improvement and renewed enthusiasm, falling into a trap that you have arrived is a dangerous thing.
 
The Royals need a real right fielder, a new second baseman and they should have huge concerns about shortstop and third base.  If they don't have those concerns and don't start making moves this winter to get better, other teams will get better and pass the Royals.  You can't bank on the White Sox and Twins to stay awful and it's pretty clear the Tigers and Indians are already better than the Royals.  Standing pat is a horrible idea.
 
In his defense, Moore repeatedly stated the organization is committed to getting better every day.  But when you're saying you feel like you've won the World Series and you're convinced every one of your players will be improved next year, you're asking for disappointment.  2014 is also the last year of Moore's contract, at least for now, creating a bit of an odd situation.  I have to believe he gets an extension from ownership sometime soon.  If he doesn't, does that mean owner David Glass disagrees with all the optimism that was flowing at Kauffman Stadium today?
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