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More Meaningless Baseball For KC is Good

Aug 31, 2015 -- 10:16pm

By Danny Clinkscale

 For years Kansas City Royals yearned for meaningful September baseball. We finally got that last year, right down to the last day of the season. But in year two of the Royals return to glory, the Royals  2015 excellence means that when September 1st comes tomorrow, we return to meaningless September baseball...of the most glorious kind.

     No, there won't be fingernail biting tension of a big series with the Tigers or Indians. Actually the month begins with a series with the Tigers, with the four time defending champions spiralling towards last place. So like all of the rest of the games until October 4th, the Royals will provide entertainment and evaluate their roster with the only important thing on their minds October 8th and the American League Division Series.

     With the Toronto Blue Jays rampaging along having won 24 of 29 games in the last month, we could have had some drama for best record in the American League, but the Royals refused to cool off themselves, going 19-11 to make sure that Toronto is still six games back with just 32 to go. So again rendering the remainder of the regular season a virtual dress rehearsal.

     For some it's important. Ned Yost has announced that Ben Zobrist will replace Omar Infante when Alex Gordon returns, but Infante has been given a stay of execution with Rios currently sick. Bad timing for Rios, who had finally started to hit. But the pitching side is where the real decisions are to be made. Good news has come in the form of Yordano Ventura's blistering performance the past four starts, seemingly cementing him a spot in the rotation along with Jonny Cueto and Edinson Volquez. There is a bit of mystery in the fourth spot, seemingly a coin flip currently.

     The bullpen actually provides a little controversy, something there has been precious little of in 2015, especially since the series of dustups early in the season. Greg Holland has been shaky, mediocre, and has had a cranky arm for months now, while Wade Davis has been almost numbingly brilliant. Yet currently Holland is the closer. The Royals have shown great improvement in choosing performance over loyalty in the past year. Here's hoping this works again in this case.

     So at least we are down to five weeks before the real excitement begins. For now Royals game are kind of like a hit Broadway show when they are at home, and your favorite TV show when they are on the road. You get entertained, there is no real downside, and most of the time smiles and laughs are provided in large doses. Save your fingernails, your lucky Royals bobblehead, and your alarm clock for those October nights......when the real fun begins. 


Mailbag: Groundhog Day in Big 12

Feb 04, 2015 -- 11:27am

By Danny Clinkscale

Taking a cue from Soren Petro...todays blog consists of an email sent to a KU fan complaining about our discussion about the Kansas streak of 10 (probably 11 now) straight league titles....

Here is how I responded.......


Clearly you like to cherry pick things to come up with some pathetic "we get no respect" statement.


Over and over, from guests to hosts, we have hailed the remarkable consistency of K.U. and how amazing the streak is...also pointing to the fact that even other top dog programs like Kentucky, Florida, Ohio State, UCLA, Syracuse and more actually miss the tournament, let alone win their league. And Kansas has the best NCAA streak (25) by six years.


That doesn't change the fact that no other top league has this happen. In the same span, the Big 10 has had 7 teams win or share the title, 5 different schools winning outright.....ACC 6 and 5....Previous Big East..9 and 5....SEC 4 and 4...Pac 12...5 and 5. All of those conferences have had multiple Final Four appearances in the span.....but in the run for KU, only KU has made the Final Four from the Big 12.


Kansas has proved out of conference and in the tournament that they are consistently excellent, and nobody is arguing that, but it's just factual to point out that it is virtually certain that Kansas would not have come close to 10 titles in another league. 


This discussion is never really about Kansas, it's about the others. Inevitability is wonderful for KU, but is not exciting competitively. I hope Kansas wins 20 in a row, but  it will carry more weight if the next ten come against opposition that is consistently excellent. That clearly has not been the case.​ Texas gave it a go for a few years, and maybe now Iowa State gives it a run. But for now it's Groundhog Day in the Big 12.

Special October Memories

Nov 04, 2014 -- 1:57pm

By Danny Clinkscale

For a whole lot of America, and here in Kansas City, the Royals Cinderella run to the seventh game of the World Series was the greatest story you can imagine. But unfortunately, if you look at it without Royal Blue glasses, it was clearly the October of Madison Bumgarner. As I look back on a wildly crazy month, of 14-18 hour work days (about the best work days you can imagine), I'll give you a little baseball, a little behind the scenes, and maybe something you would never imagine would be memorable.

     Clearly Mad Bum is probably about as popular as Mad Cow here in Kansas City, but  he was perhaps the most dominating figure I have ever watched in person in my entire  lengthy career. In October he was clearly Ruthian, Jordanesque, Orr-like, in his transedence  of a team sport where this is not supposed to happen. While Royals fans were not paying much attention, and really, they didn't need to, Bumgarner was throwing a shutout in the Wild Card game, actually lost a game to Washington while pitching well, and then pitched brilliantly in two Giants wins over the Cardinals.
     So we kind of should have been ready, but really could you be ready for 21 innings, 9 hits, 1 measly run, 1 walk and 17 strikeouts???????? And the last five of those innings on two 'days rest. At one point in the final game, a shot of the dugout showed Bumgarner in the dugout yawning.....seemingly like the best kid at the playground about 5 o'clock saying "Y'all really wanna keep on tryin' to hit me, or you want to go home and grab some dinner, cuz I'll stay and get you out, but......really, now". The final game was awe inspiring, although for us it was spelled "awww".
     Besides that otherworldly performance, and the joy that the Royals team gave the great fans of Kansas City who deserved it so much, I have an unusual memory from this whole month that will for sure stay with me.....Phyllis. That's all I know her as, an elderly, white haired woman
from New York. She was the lady that you heard running all of the American League press conferences, running them with a firm, perhaps stern, but always professional demeanor. I don't know this, but I imagine she has been doing this for 30 years or more. She had no concept
whatsoever of the technology we were using, or at least trying to, and was really a person from a different time, but I actually grew to like her.
     Which was strange, since we couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. At the first press day I covered in Baltimore, the media session was to be on the suite level at Camden Yards, It was a huge level with about five restaurant areas. But Phyllis wouldn't let us up there. I just wanted
to work a bit and have my lunch in a room far away, but she actually hunted me down and kicked me out of there. Of course I didn't know she was PHYLLIS, American League press honcho, I thought she was just some old lady running the suites with a silly iron fist. I was pissed and she knew it.
     Then the first actual press conference came, and there was Phyllis, running the show in her strong New York accent. I went up and told her afterwards that I didn't want to get off to a bad start. She acted as if nothing had happened, and said "No bad start....and you asked a very professional question...professionally". Quite a few of the media folks weren't real fond of Phyllis, but I guess I got her more than others. She soldiered through some sickness in San Francisco, and I was genuinely happy that on the return to Kansas City she looked healthy and vibrant.
     Her National League cohort joined us for the World Series. I think her name was Kaye. She was even more unique, although we never struck up a relationahip. Also an older lady, she wore a different hat every day, and her demeanor was kind of like what you might imagine the Diane Keaton characters in Woody Allen movies would be like thirty years later. When recognizing you for a question, you had no idea what
was going on. She shook her head in a combination of ways that said "Yes, you are next....no you are not... or....no chance in hell".
     You do remember different things than just ballgames and score and stats when you do this. But you also never forget what a ride like the Royals took us on could do for a city. I truly was uplifted for the long-suffering Royals rooters, who not only got wins, they got epic stories day after day after day. And so did I, and as you can tell, they weren't all on the field.
     You treasure these things. I don't know if the Royals will have this happen again, I don't know if I'll see anything like Mad Bum again, I don't know if I'll ever see Phyllis again. But I did in a very special October 2014.

Amid Pro Mania, Area College Trio Tees Up

Sep 24, 2014 -- 1:41pm

By Danny Clinkscale

  We are about to enter one of the business and most exciting fortnights in Kansas City sports ever. That of course is barring a Royals collapse. So with The Chase for the Sprint Cut at Kansas Speedway, Monday Night Football, and post season baseball for the first time in a generation, it would be easy to forget about college football. So it's a good time to assess where our area  programs are at, heading into the conference season for MU and KU, and for K-State, one more non-con against UTEP this Saturday, and then off they go in the Big 12 the rest of the way.

     Let's check the pulse, and, hey, for the time being KU has one. While a relatively close win over Central Michigan is hardly anything to hold a parade over, but let's put this in context. Kansas was a 3.5 point favorite over a team that had just been beaten at home 40-3. These are desperate times, and with Charlie Weis' seat hot enough that some thought he might be fired last Saturday if they fell. The game was tied entering the fourth, but KU got it done.
     Saturday will give us an indication if Kansas is gaining traction, or is just a team  that can squeak one out agains a MAC team. Texas comes to Lawrence, and the Longhorns have their issues. But let's also remember that in their last game they went to the wire with a top ten team in UCLA. So if Kansas actually did manage to knock off the Longhorns as a two touchdown underdog, it would be a real sign of progress.
     I'm dubious. Kansas popped a couple of big plays but still had a pallid 360 yards of offense and 24 points. Their defense looked good last week, but horrible in their only real test at Duke, which they failed miserably. They are fighting some injuries, and I'm still not a Montell Cozart believer. But belief could grow exponentially Saturday.
     Kansas State doesn't play on five different Saturdays this fall, and last Saturday was one of those. It came two nights after a missed opportunity for the Cats. They slowed Auburn to just 20 points, but five red zone trips added up to only 14 of their own, leaving Bill Snyder stewing in the post game press conference. It's the kind of game that he doesn't take on too often, and it was clear to me that he really felt that he had come up with the plan to subdue the Tigers, but his players execution failed him.
     As usual if you just want to use imperical information, it's kind of hard to judge the 'Cats. They had to roar from behind to squeak past Iowa State after their walkover again SEMO, and then let the Auburn game slip tghrough their fingers. They appear to have mediocrity at running back (QB Jake Waters is the leading rusher), and at wide reciever besides Tyler Lockett. Waters, however, DOES have Lockett and Waters appears dialed in.
     The defense was basically awesone against Auburn, after they were pushed around in the first half against the Cyclones. But they pitched a shutout in the second half against ISU, so it's six quarters of pretty salty work on that side of the ball. But, hey, that's just the facts at hand so far thos season. What we know is that virtually every Bill Snyder team gets better. They probably will. It's tough to see them winning the conference when they play at BOTH Oklahoma and Baylor. But I won't ever write them off.
     Everything was rosy in Tiger land until Saturday evening, when Indiana concluded their upset of Missouri. The Tigers schedule had ramped up perfectly, they had looked strong in each game, but then an Indian team that had just lost to Bowling Green took down MU. But everything would return to rosy, just four days from now, if Missouri gets the job done down at South Carolina. It would hand the Gamecocks their second league loss, and set up a big one at home against Georgia.
     The Tigers have looked somewhat vulnerable on defense, have had a little more trouble running the ball than anticipated, but Maty Mauk, despite the odd goofball decision, was rolling out touchdown passes by the bushel. They have room for growth on both sides of the ball.
     Saturday will tell us a lot in Lawrence and Columbia....South Carolina, while the only news we'll get in Manhattan will come if the Cats somehow
stub their toe against UTEP. Uhhhh, no.

Royals Clubhouse A Key Ahead

Jul 09, 2014 -- 1:04pm

By Danny Clinkscale

  The intricate dynamics of a major league baseball clubhouse are on display right now with the Kansas City Royals, and how some of the moves that have caused changes, and perhaps some angst among the ranks pan out, could be a key to this important season.

     Fans, and perhaps people like me in the media who follow the team closely, should feel pretty good about the fact that many times things that are being cried out for, are eventually embraced by the front office and the manager. The most recent example would seem to be the fact that many observers, including this one, feel that things have been too cozy in the clubhouse. The first late-to-the-party move that was a bit 
of a shakeup was the long demanded demotion of Mike Moustakas. It was long demanded, albeit short-lived, and frankly seems to have worked a bit.
     This past week, the Royals decided to sign Raul Ibanez, and brought up Christian Colon. The Colon move has little ripple effect, but bringing in Ibanez, and handing him significant playing time, certainly does. First, it immediately torpedoed the increased recent playing time of Jarrod Dyson, who had thrived since getting more regular dutydue to the injury to Nori Aoki. Dyson is very good buddies with Eric Hosmer, who is also a player in this recent clubhouse soap opera.
     While Dyson is likely grumbling, Hosmer has zero reason for complaint. He has spent all but four at bats this season hitting first or second despite his season which has resulted in the second worst OPS among regular first basemen in the American League. Five A.L first basemen have an OPS over .841, Hosmer is at .661. A few games ago, Billy Butler was sent packing to sixth in the order, and then seventh. That's Billy Butler, with a better track record by a mile, and even in this by far his worst season, with an OPS better than Hosmer's, and coming off a June in which he hit .313.
     Billy is clearly cheesed. He tried to sort of take the high road by saying that Ned picked him out because "I can handle it". In my mind, a clear shot at the kid gloves treatment of Hosmer. If you actually don't watch the games you might fire back that Hosmer is proving a point with an eight game hitting streak, but if you have watched you wouldn't want to embrace the bloopers and bleeders that have made it up. The 6'4" 220 pounder first basemen hasn't hit a homer since Father's Day,and recently completed a 74 at bat stretch without an extra base hit. Of course his four homers are twice as many as Butler, whose own homerless streak is actually two days longer than Hosmer's.
     Of course this really isn't about revisiting the offensive challenges of the Royals....it's about whether the response to it will  ause some issue within the squad. It seems clear to me that not only was the deperation for offense to the extreme of hiring on a 42-year-old .154 hitter at play, but that management thought that the clubhouse could use a touch of class that Inbanez brings. Well, until he might get sent packing after the All-Star break when Aoki comes back if he doesn't pick it up from the 3-for-22 he has produced so far.
     Last year the Royals never were really in the race. This season they clearly are, and how they handle all these things may give us an indication of whether the franchise can be a regular contender. So far, the signs aren't great, but hardly fatal. There does seem to be overt sensitivity, a dollop of panic, and a concern for character. How this plays out will be a very interesting sidebar to what goes on between the lines.

For Cub And Country This Sunday

Jun 20, 2014 -- 7:45pm

     “For Cub and Country” is what the scarves and the signs say around town when the United States plays in the World Cup, an indication of enthusiasm for the club that people support here, obviously Sporting KC, and for the U.S. national team.


     That slogan will be on prominent display again Sunday at the Power and Light district and elsewhere as they United States takes on Portugal in their second match of the Cup. Enthusiasm should be even on a higher pitch than it was on Monday, when in reasonably miraculous fashion, the U.S. beat Ghana 2-1. Basically from the time that Clint Dempsey scored in the first minute until John Brooks scored the winner from Graham Zusi in the 86th minute, Ghana completely had the run of play. No problem, just a reason for greater celebration when the U.S. got the winner.


     Even though Portugal got trashed by Germany, the U.S. will have to play much better against Ronaldo and his mates Sunday, and they will probably have to take a different tack as well with Josey Altidore out with a bad hamstring.


     Many of you are at this point not reading this, or starting to say why do I care. You are a dwindling number. Here in Kansas City on Monday, the red hot Royals were starting a series for first place with the Tigers, and more people watched the soccer match than the baseball game. Of course, this isn’t just about a soccer match, it certainly is in part because it is the U.S. I’m sure there are more than a few folks who watched who never watch any other soccer. But that number no doubt is shrinking as well.


     Having a vantage point from the stage and watching the party at the P and L was fabulous fun, and I wouldn’t miss it Sunday for the world. As you gathered from my last blog, my enthusiasm for the beautiful game has increased about ten fold in the last four years, and watching the great quality of play in this World Cup is only accelerating it.


     I am familiar with many of the players now from all countries from watching the top leagues around the world, and the national pride and enthusiasm is infectious. Just like in the Olympics, there are many things off the field of competition that can be criticized very rightly. But I really get the luxury of just watching the games.


     One of the very best things about the Cup is that none of the games overlap. They are all stand alone. It creates a special feeling for each one.


     I was very much looking forward to the World Cup going in, and it is far exceeding even my own high expectations. I’m can’t  say how glad I am that it lasts so long.

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