It’s been a rough couple of days for ol’ skip. The Royals are 5 games over .500, but instead of being praised Ned Yost is being dissected and scrutinized. Welcome to games that matter.
And, they do matter. I’ve heard a lot the last couple of days “it’s only one game.” While true, let’s not forget the old baseball adage. Every team wins at least 60, every team loses at least 60 and it’s what you do in the other 40 that matters. Well, the last two nights were part of the other 40. 2 out of 40 is a whole lot more important than 2 out of 162.
Ned will have to adjust to how he handles games, fans and even though no one cares…us in the media. He admitted to me in Spring Training the manager has to be different this year. Moves have to be made to win…not develop. Gone should be the days of stroking the egos of a starter by making sure he doesn’t get the loss and doing the same to your closer to show you have confidence in him. Now, it’s about winning today’s game. Period.
Ned made one decision Saturday night…sending his starter out for the ninth…and the opposite on Monday. Jeremy Guthrie on Saturday had struggled to get through the 8th…even drawing a visit from Ned…but was allowed to return for the 9th to get his first career shutout. James Shields cruised through his 8th inning Monday but got pulled. One of Ned’s explanations…if he would have gone back out there for the 9th he might’ve lost. So, in both decisions it seems personal stats were in his decision as much as the team win. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Last year maybe, this year….NO!
By all accounts Ned was great with the young team in Milwaukee….right up until it was time to win or else, Then it was or else. A guest we had on from Milwaukee today told us Ned let the young guys develop and took arrows so they could grow without blame. But as they got closer to the playoffs…and the day to day wins and losses mattered…it didn’t work. Will we see a repeat of history?
While we don’t want overreactions and a mob mentality it’s good that the Royals fans are getting to enjoy the importance of every move, every inning and every game. Pennant races don’t start in September. Games don’t count more there. The fans seem to be adjusting to that…and we hope the manager does too.
I often joke about how my job focuses on sports…the recess of real life. During weeks like we’ve just experienced the role of sports…and its value…are often debated.
Sports, while taken seriously (sometimes too much so), are at their essence entertainment. Plain and simple. I’ve never much minded the flamboyance with which guys like Barry Bonds and Deion Sanders played. They are entertainers on a stage. Most of us can’t hit a ball like Barry Bonds and most of us can’t act like Meryl Streep. That’s why both are paid handsomely…to let us see and experience things we couldn’t do ourselves.
So when tragedies occur when is it right to enjoy sports again? No one gets mad if you take a break of news coverage and pop in a DVD. But, at times people will bristle at sporting events resuming too soon after “real life” events.
One of the great values of sports is the release. For two or three hours of a normal day we can forget bills and work and everyday chores and get lost in competition. Why then can’t sports be a release from the even more serious events like what happened Monday? I think they can and should.
Another thing sports does is unite us as fans. We may be of different backgrounds, religions or races but when we are rooting against the Raiders we are one. We saw a display of that at the Bruins game the other night. A crowd of people…uncertain and shaken of the events days before…came together in a show of resolve. It was a sign of solidarity and a message that fear and terror would not win the day.
Sports are the recess of life. But there is a reason for recess…even a need for it. Kids need the break at school…and sometimes we need the break in life. So if you get the chance…forget what’s going on and go play.
There have been some ugly halves, but the Jayhawks are on a roll again as the NCAA Tourney moves into its second weekend. They have now won 12 of 13 and are starting to have the look of last year’s team. You look at the matchups and wonder if teams can exploit a match up. Bill Self adjusts to that and KU rolls in the second half. You wonder if KU can get anything going offensively and Trevor Relaford drops 22. The Jayhawks have a way of getting just what they need when they need it and have a way of doing that in March.
It’s that time of year again when we all are stunned that picking between two teams we’ve never watched doesn’t work out. Hundreds…if not thousands…of people lost a whole 5 dollars after putting their hopes on a New Mexico team they’ve never seen. Most couldn’t name a player….scratch that most couldn’t name the mascot. Yet we sit in disbelief when the upset happens.
It gives those who don’t gamble a sense of why Vegas allots so much room in their billion dollar casinos for the sportsbook. Having a little action on a game…any game…even one you don’t really care about is addicting. It’s only 5 dollars for that bracket for most people, but that pain can linger like you lost your house.
After one promising outing in the pen Luke Hochevar returned to his inconsistent form by getting bombed Wednesday night. Just 2/3 of an inning and Hochevar was pounded for 5 runs on 5 hits and a walk. But hey those Angels hitters are tough….wait, what it was the Cubs? Ugh. Let’s ignore Ned Yost’s defense that the Cubs were hitting good pitches. Let’s instead realize…again…that you can’t count on Luke Hochevar...ever…in any role. And when it comes to that, he has to be let go. Forget the money, forget the risk, cut bait and don’t look back.
We’re back from our annual trip to Surprise, Arizona and Royals Spring Training and expectations are high. Of course, they are every year. I did notice a few differences this year outside of the usual blind optimism shared by fans in February.
In most years for the Royals all expectations were that guys could break out and do something they’ve never done before. All upside. This year the Royals actually have some people that just need to do what they’ve already done in the big leagues. That is a huge change. Guys like james Shields and Ervin Santana, and to a lesser extent Wade Davis and Jeremy Guthrie, have proven that can compete and in a few instances dominate Big Leaguers. Before, most of the hope came from guys that have had that same success in AA or AAA. This is the biggest reason I think there should be more hope around the Royals.
Another change from years past is a perceived sense of urgency. The trades for Shields, Davis and Santata and the re-signing of Guthrie have sent a message that the time is now. The hitters see it as a challenge that the team believes they are ready, and need to, take a step forward. Royals Manager Ned Yost said as much. When I asked him if the Manager had to approach the season different after that trade he agreed. Yost said he has to look at in game moves to win games over the opportunity to let a young player learn and gain experience.
Royals General Manager Dayton Moore also had a sense of now when he sat down with Soren this week. He said he realizes the Royals window is opening and there is no guarantee that window will stay open long. You get the sense Moore knows his young talent is ready to grow, and it’s a gamble to expect that same talent will be there to replace them. They Royals are making their move now and for the next few years.
It could be an exciting time for the Royals if these moves pay off, but if they bear no fruit in the next few years it could be another “rebuilding time” for the Boys in Blue. And that’s something no Royals fans want to hear…especially in Spring when hope abounds
It was another exciting, if not great Super Bowl on Sunday. I reserve the word great for one main reason….my team wasn’t in the game. For me it’s hard to say a game or championship was great or the best if my team wasn’t involved. Some drama is lacking when you aren’t as emotionally involved so the experience isn’t as great. I know this may just be a “Doug” thing and no one else will agree but that’s me.
Football is over so it is time to turn our attention to college basketball and the start of Spring Training. KU is 19-2 but there is much wringing of hands over their loss Saturday. Even though it has happened, it is hard to go undefeated in conference season. Even those of us that think KU will win the league easily thought they would lose at least one. Few thought that would be at home though.
More concerning than the loss should be some other factors present over the last few weeks. KU at times can be offensively challenged. Ben McLemore usually ends up with good numbers, but when the team is struggles he can’t single handedly keep them afloat. With no other major scoring threats KU could fall victim in March if has an off night. Teams also seem to be figuring out a way to slow Jeff Withey’s effect on the defensive end. Yes, he still is making an impact, but teams now have film from Iowa State, West Virginia and Oklahoma State showing that he can be limited if taken away from the basket. That’s why it’s tough to win consistently over a long season…warts are exposed.
K State has put together some impressive wins and looks to be nearly as comfortable on the road as at home. Sure, some of that is schedule driven since they’ve hosted Kansas and already got conference bottom feeders TCU and West Virginia on the road. But, a nice win over Oklahoma shows they can win a close one on the roard against a quality team. Those kind of games are what’s called survive and advance in March. Their offensive struggles could also doom them in March against a hot shooting team though.
Missouri takes its Jeckle and Hyde show back on the road Thursday night. The Tigers cannot go to the tourney with any confidence, if at all, if they don’t win on the road in a fairly weak SEC. It starts inside with Alex Oriakhi. Here are his points on the road in conference play. 4, 4, 1. At home he’s scored 16, 13, 18, 18, 11. He must show up when away from Columbia or the Tigers may be missing in March.
Wow wasn’t the some excitement surrounding that Mizzou-Georgia game?!? Of course I’m speaking of the one in September not the one played on the hardwood. It was amazing to see the excitement of the first SEC football game played at Faurot Field. It was equally eye opening to see how little fanfare has been made of the Tigers first few games of SEC basketball has been.
There is no doubt football rules the roost and that was evident with the difference in the start of conference play in football and basketball. Sure, playing Alabama and Georgia in basketball isn’t as exciting as welcoming them in football. But does that speak to the fact that the excitement of changing leagues wasn’t really about the league but about the quality of teams that will come to Columbia? Especially in football? I guess we have to wait until Kentucky or Florida plays at Mizzou Arena to get that answer.
And before this turns into Mizzou and SEC bashing, lets also remember all the talk of the great additions West Virginia and TCU were going to be to the Big 12 minus 2. Now TCU is being called the worst team in the history of the Big 12 and West Virginia travel issues are already being discussed. Once the football season…in which neither was exactly great…was over a lot of the excitement of these “upgrades” to the Big 12 fizzled.
Even in the shadow of football is most places, basketball does go on though. One place where it is firmly in the spotlight and above football is, of course, Kansas. A scary moment in an otherwise bland win over Baylor was seeing Ben McLemore go down with a twisted ankle. By all accounts he is expected to be back sooner rather than later but it really doesn’t matter. Kansas needs him back a few weeks before the tourney to get his game back in shape and that’s it. The Jayhawks are still the best team in the league without McLemore.
In fact, I think they take a bigger hit if Jeff Withey goes down. Even with their size, Baylor showed once again how timid teams are when Withey is in the game. No one wants to put up a shot in the lane when the 7 footer is there leading to longer, lower percentage shots. If he were to go down, the Jayhawks would be in worse shape than losing McLemore.