By Chad Rader
The Madness is here, but with Kentucky such an overwhelming favorite, how mad will it be?
Vegas odds are even for Kentucky to win the NCAA Tournament, -130 for the rest of the field.
So when the next week, when everyone you know stops and asks your Final Four, save everyone the breath of saying you're picking Kentucky to win it - unless you're not!
A few tips while picking your bracket:
- Don't get swept in the "upset" thing, and pick off a No. 1 seed before the Elite Eight. Just isn't worth the risk vs reward.
- If your scoring system does reward upsets, say points for the seed winning, pick all No. 12's to beat No. 5's. Odds of a No. 5 making the Final Four - and you picking that one - are slim. Even slimmer a No. 5 wins it because it's never happened.
All but three years since 1985 has a No. 12 not beat a No. 5. So if you get 12 points for a first-round win, why not pick all four? If one is likely going to win, there's only 15 points for the No. 5's winning vs No. 12 if you only hit 1 of 4. If hit 2+ win, you're way ahead. And oh yeah - three No. 12's won in last year's tourney!
- On same token, seems like a No. 2 loses in the Round of 32 every year. Obviously Kansas did last year, and sure seems like a good candidate to this year. And get the upset points!
- Yes, the Big 12 is No. 1 in the RPI - for the second straight year. But last Big 12 team to go to the Final Four besides Kansas? 2003 with Texas. Ouch.
- Since then, Oklahoma has only escaped the second round once. And has lost in the first round both of the last two years.
- In Scott Drew's three NCAA appearances this decade, Baylor has two Elite Eights and one Sweet 16.
- 8 vs 9: Flip a coin. Ditto on 7 vs 10.
- Roy Williams has never lost an opening game.
- Rick Pitino is 11-1 in Sweet 16 games.
- Regardless of seed, Tom Izzo has made the Sweet 16 or beyond 7 of the last 8 year.
- Gonzaga hasn't reached an Elite Eight since 1999.
- Pick gut instinct and use your first entry. Sit around, research teams, matchups, yada yada and fails every time. Click or write in, boom, leave it. That'll be your best!
- And for fun, the last Final Four that didn’t include at least one team with an animal mascot was In 1987, the Final Four was UNLV (Runnin’ Rebels), Indiana (Hoosiers), Syracuse (Orangemen) and Providence (Friars).
By Chad Rader
When I flipped the calendar this weekend to March, a refreshing air swept as the page turned.
March brings a wave of eagerness and excitement to Kansas City. And definitely one wave that hasn't been felt in a while.
First, the obvious. March brings the Big 12 Tournament to Kansas City, and it should be wide open for 5-6 teams to win, especially with the recent injury (Perry Ellis) and NCAA (Cliff Alexander) situations for Kansas. Heck, for KU, it may be best to win the opening round, then fall in the semis and rest up.
But regardless, the tourney should be wide open. Not that its a good thing for the P&L and KC when KU or K-State isn't in the final - gets to be pretty dead on the Saturday when one of the two isn't in the final. Yet the Thursday and Friday sessions still should bring a fun weekend for many in March.
Then of course, the NCAA Tournament. For the locals, two may be sitting home in Mizzou and K-State. But KU and Wichita State should firmly be in the tourney and with full squads, have a solid chance to play into the second weekend. Then, who knows?
One part of March which Kansas City couldn't fully enjoy was spring training - until 2015. Now everyone has a skip to their step in talking about Spring Training. We actually listen to Ned Yost and don't perceive him as a grump. Royals fans know their starting lineup, rotation and bullpen - like real playoff teams do entering the season - and can focus on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th spots. And get excited for April!
And of course, one more month we can speculate on the Chiefs draft pick. Will it be a wide receiver in the first round? Best talent available? What offseason moves should the Chiefs continue to make? The NFL season certainly has its down months that are still very high in content.
Beyond that, there's chances to hit the golf course. The wrapping up of high school basketball state tournaments. A chance to step out occasionally and play in the yard with the kids or enjoy the weather.
Ahhh, March is here. It's time to get ready!
By Chad Rader
Royals fans and pundits befuddle me. Kansas City comes within 1-2 runs of winning the World Series, and people grumble about the offseason moves by Dayton Moore.
So Kansas City didn’t cripple themselves by signing Jon Lester or trading for Matt Kemp, who make more than the GNP of many countries. Sure, they didn’t come away with their top choices, but they still have plugged in two solid players into what will be a solid lineup from top to bottom.
Just a year ago, Alex Rios hit 18 HRs, 81 RBI while stealing 42 SBs. In 2012-13, he averaged 21 homers, 86 RBI, 34.5 SBs while hitting .291. So let’s see – more power than Nori Aoki AND more speed.
Funny – those stats are BETTER than Melky Cabrera, who many clamored for. Yeah, that’s smart. Sign a PED player to a three-year deal for $14 million per.
I’d rather take a chance that Rios rebounds for a year than obligated to three for Melky.
As for Billy Butler, I keep reading they didn’t read the market right with his $12.5 million option. No, they did. They saved $4.5 million with a switch-hitter and more power in Kendrys Morales, and afforded another typical 20/20 bat in Rios. They did just fine, and aren’t committed to three years of possible .285, 14 HRs, 74 RBI for $30 million.
Morales and Rios both had injury-riddled campaigns in 2014, while Butler also stunk. So let’s look if they rebound and all three match their 2013 numbers.
Morales: 23 HRs, 80 RBI, .277 average
Rios: 18 HRs, 81 RBI, 42 SBs, .278
Butler: 15 HRs, 82 RBI, .289
Each has more power than Butler. Both hit over .275. Good enough. And Kansas City saved money on Morales vs Butler, filled an outfield slot over light-hitting Aoki and…
Yes, the $11 million is about $6 million overboard. I'm not pleased with that. Perhaps the Royals panicked or that's what the market required for a bat. But at the end of the day, they have a solid bat and glove in right.
Let’s put it this way: For three years, $28 million (Rios, Morales) or three years, $30 million (Butler), which has the greater odds of rebounding – two players with more power and/or speed who can play in the field, or one power-lacking DH?
Overall, this is exactly what a small-market team should do. Have its core of players, sign a couple to long-term deals, trade the others about a year before their big free agency year. But for the 4-5 year window, then plug in the gaps with a bargain buy. If Morales or Rios rebounds to their previous status, the Royals still win this deal. If they both rebound – cha-ching.
Plus the Royals have options. They aren’t committed to three years each of Butler and Aoki. What if one or both of them tanked?
Kansas City basically just double-downed on letting Billy Butler go.
And as many have stated, this is about the Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain core taking the next step up, while having veteran players come in annually.
Good job Dayton. Now, time to find a starting pitcher and let’s get ready for another fun year ahead.
By Chad Rader
Thank you, Oakland.
Billy Beane and the A's offered such a no-brainer deal to Billy Butler that the former Royals designated hitter would be crazy to not accept it.
And kept the crazy factor from Kansas City being desperate or still loyal having him return.
Sure, we all liked Billy. But I feared the love affair with fans - and front office - that incurs after a playoff run. Fortunately, the process took a few weeks and allowed some space after the World Series. Otherwise, fans were clamoring that there weren't options and we need to sign Billy back.
Thankfully, that honeymoon is over. And shows that Dayton Moore is in a full all-business GM mode. Five years ago, the Royals would've made a mistake and "locked up" Butler for 3-4 years. Which, would've been a replay of Mike Sweeney's big contract that instead "locked down" KC financially when it could've had Carlos Beltran instead.
Anyway, what not signing Butler does is:
- allows Kansas City to pursue a cheaper option at DH
- pursue a DH / player with ability to play in the field
- use the extra funds towards a pitcher or RF
What the Royals need from their signing of this DH/player
- a player who can play some outfield and rotate an Alex Gordon or Lorenzo Cain or Eric Hosmer or Salvador Perez to DH
- a bat who can blast 25-30 homers and give Kansas City a true power threat in the lineup
- a contract in the $6-$8 million range, and not long-term, say two years
What Billy Butler has become:
- a middle-of-the-order bat with no power. Nine homers last year, 24 combined the past two years
- only one season with over 95 RBI
- a logjam on the bases
- decline in production
I don't know what Kansas City will do with the DH spot. Get by with Josh Willingham or a real cheap option and ramp up for an elite starter, that's fine. If the Royals go with a Michael Morse or Adam LaRoche or whomever, its way more power in one season than Butler offered in two. If KC nabs Torii Hunter with him being a DH and fourth outfielder, wonderful. All benefit the team in ways that Butler couldn't, salarywise, position wise and ability wise.
Yes, there are good memories for Butler. Just weeks after Butler was viewed as an idle bat in the lineup, he woke up and enjoyed a nice playoff run too. Scoring from first on a double. Revving it up after a stolen base. Fun times, and its better to go out on a high note and be remembered in that manner, than being a slow lug with limited power and a big contract that ate at the Royals.
Kansas City and Billy should be thankful for those moments, and more even thankful towards Oakland.
By Chad Rader
The shine will wear off on Kansas' win over Iowa State this weekend, as TCU will take care of the Jayhawks with ease. Sure, there will be a fall off after the Horned Frogs' win over K-State, and being fat and happy in the playoff system's top quartet. But TCU will surely emerge a winner.
That shouldn't deter Kansas from heavily clicking Hire on Clint Bowen as its head football coach for the next five years. Sure, KU hired Chuck Neinas - who helped pull the Big 12 from Armageddon Day during the conference realignment fiasco - as the lead for a search, but what is he going to find? The names are still tired names, assistants from this great Orange Bowl
fluke year a decade ago. Or another coordinator.
How is that an upgrade from Bowen? Unless KU lands Jim Harbaugh or an impact head coach who will instantly turn the ship around in more ways than just X's and O's, don't mess around and hire Bowen.
Yes, like any job search, act the part. Interview candidates. Say you've turned over every rock.
But in the end, KU needs:
- young guy with energy to rebuild the program. Rebuilds take 24/7, 365 plus some. And a young coach also connects with the Twitter age generation
- understands the situation. Gill was way over his head, Weis vastly underestimated the situation. Kansas is a very troubled state, but Bowen understands the realistic timeline to recruit players and the process to meet expectations - which aren't incredibly high at this point
- someone who can connect with alum and administration, understands the landscape of the Big 12 and recruiting grounds
- a coach who bleeds Crimson and Blue, and will stay for 10 years. One fear would be a hire who does get Kansas to 6-7 wins, then skates for a higher-level job
- a friendly base salary (with incentives included) that helps KU get through paying off 2-3 former coaches
Kansas should go through the process, find a few names and perhaps a no-brainer somehow emerges at season's end. Otherwise, the no-brainer is right on the sideline this weekend, win or lose.
By Chad Rader
The 2014 season was one for the memory books for Kansas City, even if the fireworks didn't fire on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
What more could you ask for? Just the second World Series since 2002 to have gone the distance to Game 7. There should be no pointing fingers at Ned Yost, no second-guessing or calling out one play that killed Kansas City. No need for fans to break down what was wrong with Kansas City - though many fans already started the gripe session in all the above categories immediately after the game.
No, its about what KC did right, and they were almost more right, so to say, than all 29 other teams.
Yes, it pretty much all came to who had the durable and unstoppable ace in Madison Bumgarner. As noted in a prior blog (below), it was the equivalent of the theory that the team with the best player on the court is favored to win a basketball game. The usage of Bumgarner was outstanding. And that's not as outstanding as his 0.26 career ERA in the World Series. Think about that - that's one run allowed for every four complete games.
The 2014 World Series got everyone talking about the Royals in the Kansas City metro area, and throughout the Midwest. Kansas City turned into Smurf village for nearly a month. All the talk on sports radio was Royals, Royals, Royals and in the brief moments it wasn't, callers were irate it wasn't about Royals, Royals, Royals. And many now will figure out this weekend that the Chiefs are midway through their season.
Every station broadcast Royals coverage, crews camped at Kaffman Stadium for weeks. And once and for all, Kansas City shook the playoff drought - and in Royal style! Kansas City sports fans felt like the center of the national sports world, the nation was reminded that Kauffman Stadium is indeed a spectacular venue and many area businesses enjoye an economic windfall.
But unfortunately, second is still second. No one talks about the Tampa Ray Rays finishing second in 2008, the Cleveland Indians losing in Game 7 in 1997 or the even the 1980 Kansas City Royals losing to the Phillies. Champions are whom is revered for years. And that's why we'll still be playing 80s music the next time Kansas City makes a playoff run.
What stinks is so many things went right for KC with the Wild-Card comeback, the timely homers and great catches and maturing of KC's young stars and a dynamic bullpen and ...
But go ask Pirates fans, or Twins and Oakland fans for the past 20 years, and they've yearned for a World Series appearance. Or just recall two weeks ago yourself, and you won't complain about this outcome.
Win, lose or draw, Kansas City fans should've known entering Game 7 that it was an enjoyable, memorable season - or playoff run. It always hurts when you're oh-so-close, but for once in a long, long time, 2014 made us remember how much we liked baseball in Kansas City.