Monday, April 23, 2007

Gil Meche is the new Zack Greinke

This is sounding all too familiar:
It was his [Gil Meche's] third quality start in a row, but the right-hander didn't get a win in any of the starts.

Didn't we go through the same thing with Zack Greinke? Come on, bullpen; let's not waste another quality pitcher! Granted, Buehrle was coming off the no-no, which almost always means a win (or at the worst, a no-decision) in the following start. But here is the difference between the Greinke Curse and tonight's game: with Zack, the offense could never put together enough runs behind him. Tonight, the KC offense was certainly present -- four runs is enough to win a lot of games -- and the defense made some spectacular plays, but the bullpen was kind of embarassing. Kansas City had to call on five relievers, and none fulfilled their duties anywhere close to satisfactorily.

However, even after that rant, I'm still enthusiastically counting the hours until tomorrow night's game. Brian Bannister will make his first start for KC after starting the season in Omaha. Part of me is sad that he was called up (hint: it was the completely selfish part). The guy is FUN to watch when he's pitching well. I hope to see him light up the Sox the way he did opposing batters in AAA the two times I saw him.

On a tangentially related note:
I've long had mixed feelings about Mike Sweeney. In his earlier days with the Royals, I of course loved him, as it was fashionable to do so, and because he generally delivered on the fans' hype. Then as the seasons wore on, I got tired of his habit of swinging at the first pitch. Remember some of Nuke's early pitches in Bull Durham; the ones that would go five feet above the catcher's head or that far outside of the batter's box? I've been pretty sure at times that a pitcher could throw one of those pitches at Sweeney, and he'd swing at it, provided that it was the first pitch he saw in that at-bat.

Normally if a player did this sort of thing, I'd dismiss him and add him of my list of players about whom I'm not crazy. However, Mike Sweeney is a Catholic, and a good one at that. After spending all sememster wading through research about all the steroid-pumping jerks who populate the major leagues, it's always refreshing to hear Sweeney casually mention how he's going to head home, see his family, then go to Mass to cap off a great Sunday post-game. Hearing him say things like that -- and show his faith in other ways, like writing Bible verses with every autograph -- makes me more willing to be patient with his impatience at the plate.

Furthermore, he (along with many other players, including KC's own Mark Teahen and former Royal Jeff Suppan) is involved with Champions of Faith. I'm not going to say a whole lot yet because I haven't seen the film, but it looks like a rather awesome melding of two of the most important things in my life: my faith and my Game. I'm anxiously awaiting my copy.

I'll leave you with some videos related to Champions of Faith.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I didn't jinx anything in my previous post; the Royals won 3-1 in a well-pitched game. Yay! I win a nickel!


I love it when a major league pitcher throws a no-hitter. It's the only time I'm assured that I'm not the only person who cares about something other than home runs (Pardon my being so slow to jump on that game, but I've been kind of busy this week!)

So I've survived my first homestand with the Omaha Royals. Omaha went 5-3 during their first stint at Rosenblatt this year. I'm amazed at how quickly I adapted to my job; I already feel completely at home at the Blatt and with my duties. My team's pre-game duties have been a fantastic glimpse into the ways in which we all subconsciously judge people based on their appearances. Before each game, my girls and I have to stand out by the gates and recruit fans to participate in our promotions.

We're supposed to look for certain "types" of people to fill the slots for each promotion. For the air guitar contest, we're supposed to find someone who looks like they could go crazy out there, and do something potentially inappropriate while they're at it. If I see some guy dressed in stylish clothes and lots of hair product, I immediately reject him for air guitar because he looks too self-conscious to be an entertaining contestant. But that disheveled guy in the crappy t-shirt who comes in behind the stylish guy? Perfect. The only people I don't have to stereotype are little kids. Almost all kids under about 10 years old (and most over that age) are willing to do anything for us, as long as it means they get to go out on the field and win a prize. That is why kids are great.

I spent most of the weekend in Omaha, and since I was working I didn't get to see Kansas City's games over the last few days. However, I did see a great play by Tony Pena Jr. chosen as the #1 Web Gem on Friday's Baseball Tonight, and Alex Gordon getting recognition in that segment in the same night. What a weird feeling that is; seeing national sports media say something about the Royals that isn't mocking. I think I like it.

Also, I hope David DeJesus feels better soon!

I don't want to jinx anything here, but Jorge de la Rosa is being kind of awesome today. Just think: once Scott Elarton and Luke Hudson come back up, KC will have a pretty respectable pitching staff from top to bottom. Sure, the rotation will look a little crowded at first, but that will breed some delightful competition amongst the hopeful starters. The creation of competition seems to be working in the catcher's slot, so it could potentially work wonders for the pitching staff too!

I have big money riding on today's KC/Minnesota game (which is currently in progress. My next-door neighbor, who is a big Twins fan, bet me a nickel that the Twins would take the series. I felt comfortable betting against her, despite the fact that losing such a bet would have a drastic impact on my tight college student budget...

One last note:
I can't find a frame to fit my awesome George Brett poster! It's 19x25, which sucks because one quite common frame size is 18x24. I guess I'll just have to get a huge frame and center the poster in it? Feh.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Prayers for Va. Tech, and Royals stuffs

My apologies for the lack of posts!! It's ironic, in a way: since I got a job in the Royals' organization, it's been harder for me to follow the Royals. On Friday, I started my fabulous new job with the Omaha Royals. My duties as a member of the Powerade Power Team are basically to give away free stuff, run the between-innings promotions, and make sure fans are having a good time. I LOVE the job, but it is time-consuming, which is why I'm losing track of how KC is doing and falling hopelessly behind on homework. I'm sure that once school is over and I cut out the hour-long (each way) commute to work, I'll be able to handle things better.

In the meantime, I offer you these tidbits:

Omaha is on a 3-game win streak. Three wins is a modest number, but the team should continue to get better. Brian Bannister pitched brilliantly yesterday in a 3-1 win, which justifies my excitement over him joining the Royals organization. Also, it's much easier to keep the fans happy when the weather is nice and the team is playing well! In Friday's home opener, the weather was a tad bit chilly and the O-Royals didn't play too well. It's not a surprise, then, that a lot of people were grumpy all night (except for during the fireworks, which were awesome). Sunday, on the other hand, was perfect. The weather was sunny and warm, and the game was tight and exciting, with Omaha scraping up 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th to come out on the winning side.

Tonight's KC game was a train wreck from the get-go. Kansas City could hardly do anything right. However, Ryan Shealy snapped his 0-12 cold streak with a homer in the 7th, and Alex Gordon seems to have started making loud outs (or sometimes even getting on base) rather than striking out every at-bat. I suppose those are good things. The final score was 12-5, Detroit.

On a normal day, I'd be a lot more upset about a dismal Royals game. Unfortunately, tragedy has come upon the country and provided a harsh little slice of perspective. Sure, my team sucked it up today, but it could be so much worse. I can't imagine how it feels to be at Virginia Tech right now. How can anybody be capable of taking that many lives in one day? How will students ever feel safe in that dorm and that classroom building again?

I had a pit in my stomach all day today, because I know that this shooting happened a thousand miles from my campus, but the fact is that it could have happened anywhere. The fact is that I am a college student, living the same type of life as the 32 who were killed today. They didn't see it coming, nor should they have had to worry about that sort of senselessness.

I don't quite understand the rage over the lack of communication on campus. What were the U's officials supposed to do? Would it have done any good to bark out the news of the first round of gunfire over loudspeakers on campus? My guess is that if people had tried to flee, the gunman would have opened fire again anyway, regarless of whether he was in the building he intended to target. The whole situation is just awful, beyond my scope of comprehension. Please pray for not only the people who died today, but everyone on that campus who has to figure out how to go back to a normal life after this. Only God has the power to sort this tragic mess out.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Objects in mirror are more in need of a closer than they appear

Hmm. I can't really comment much on last night's game at Baltimore, because I only saw the 10th inning. The only thought I can glean from that inning is this: WE NEED A CLOSER!!!

I will also miss tonight's KC game, because tonight is the Omaha Royals' first home game, and so it is my first night of work for them. I'm psyched! Too bad it will be cold out, but I hope it at least stays dry so we can have our fireworks.

Go Royals!

Monday, April 09, 2007

One week down, a million to go

Happy 1-week anniversary to the 2007 MLB season! (Well, except for the Cards and Mets, to whom I say, "Sorry I forgot your anniversary. Better luck next year.")

My thoughts:
This string of relative successes for Royals starting it all too good to be true? Royals starters have thrown four quality starts so far, and have lasted more than 6 innings 5 times already. These kinds of numbers are, of course, odd for a KC staff. Tonight will be Odalis Perez's chance to show his stuff, as he did struggle a little bit in his start last Wednesday. Maybe it was just the cold weather that bothered him, so he can feel free to dominate in the climate-controlled Rogers Centre.

I'm kind of sad that Roy Halladay won't be pitching for the Jays in this series. Thinking about him pitching against KC at Toronto brings back fond memories of a game last year where Hallady and Runelvys Hernandez both went the distance, and the Royals ended up winning 2-0. Sadly, that game wasn't televised, but listening to it was one of my fondest baseball memories of last season. Thinking about that game got me thinking about how many long outings we could get from this year's staff. Could any of them go the distance the way Hernandez did in that game? My answer: a definite YES. Gil Meche and Zack Greinke will both have complete game wins before the All-Star break. I think that Perez could do it too, but it will take him a little longer.

As for the KC bullpen, they've really been impressive so far (knock on wood). The only slipups that come to my mind are the Boston game from last Thursday, and yesterday's 9th-inning loss to the Tigers. Give the team a few weeks -- and a healthy Octavio Dotel -- and both of those games would be wins.

Another thing I pondered this afternoon prior to sitting down to write (hey, I had a lot of time to think, as I have a boring 2-hour lecture on Monday afternoons) was how much the first week of the season affects fans' perceptions of particular players. Yankees fans' growing disdain for A-Rod has been well-documented over the last several months, but can his walk-off grand slam on Saturday and his first-pitch homer on Sunday spark some lovin' from NY fans? Does a walk-off grand slam in the first week create more excitement over a player than the same hit by the same player later in the regular season? Conversely, does a slow start by an otherwise good hitter (a la Ryan Shealy or Alex Gordon, who I'll get to in more detail in a moment) make fans think they are inferior hitters? Slumps suck for the players and their fans no matter when the hits dry up, but is an April slump more damaging to a fan's outlook on a player than a midseason dry spell? Are KC fans less excited about Gordon because he has only one hit and eight strikeouts?

Now, the Alex Gordon ponderings. So he's gotten off to kind of a slow start (detailed above). This has the Royals Nation wondering when he's going to pick up and start to live up to his tremendous hype. Oddly enough, I think the team's 9-game road trip, which starts tonight in Toronto, will be very good for him offensively. When he digs in for an at-bat in Kansas City, every fan knows exactly who he is and who he is supposed to be, and they expect the world from him at every AB. Gordo knows full well that George Brett -- to whom Alex has been compared by every sportswriter and his cat -- is probably in attendance, watching him carefully from upstairs. But on the road, he won't have all that personal pressure bearing down on him, and he might have enough breathing room to show his stuff. Your average Toronto fan will probably not know as much about Gordon as all good KC fans do, and might not have the expectations of him that a Royals home crowd does. (And that was NOT a knock on Toronto fans. It is absurd to expect everyone in the world to know all about our uprising phenom, no matter how big a deal he is to us.) When the fans in attendance aren't expecting a George Brett-esque performance every time Gordo steps up to the plate, he might be able to relax; to simply see the ball, and hit the ball.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pop quiz

Quick, answer this question!
What happens when a last-minute addition to the starting rotation pitches an absolute gem against a frightening Detroit lineup and shuts them out for 6.2 innings?


Oh. My. BOOOO! We need a closer, and we need him NOW!

Don't get me wrong. I like Riske. He's a good guy, and can provide some stable innings of relief. But that's just it -- relief, not closing. He's not meant for the 9th inning, not with a game like this on the line.

(As an aside, I love Ryan Lefebvre. Today the Detroit pitcher - I think it was Bobby Seay - would NOT stop throwing over to check David DeJesus at first. It was boring. On about the 498574th throw, Lefebvre says, "And a throw over to first, and David DeJesus is TERRIFIED." Love it!)

Kansas City's starters have actually been pretty solid. It's a bit confusing to us as fans. What does it mean when the starter goes more than 3 or 4 innings? Does it means that Dayton Moore is the best thing to happen to KC in at least 20 years? I think so.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Opening Day thoughts and pics

Opening Day has finally come and gone, and I should have written this post yesterday. I went to Kansas City with two of my brothers and two of my friends, and it was the Best Day Ever. Here was the view from our seats:
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And how can I mention the Royals without mentioning Alex the Great? I really did feel bad for Gordon; his first big league at-bat had to be the scariest situation he's ever been in. (Seriously, I think I'd rather face an armed Randy Johnson in a dark alley than step up for this at-bat.) The bases were loaded, 42,000 were on their feet expecting a blast to the lawn of the FCA building across the interstate, and he's digging in against a future Hall of Famer in Curt Schilling. I would have struck out too. Actually, I would have peed my pants and run back into the dugout in tears. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was concerned that Gordon, even with all his amazing talent, might be in over his head with only a season at AA Wichita under his belt as a professional player. He looks completely fine defensively, but has yet to get a hit (through 6 innings on Wednesday). I will give him time, because I do love him dearly, but I will wait a while to decide if I think he belongs in The Show just yet.

I would have been okay with it if Schilling had thrown a good game; I can understand the impact he's had on the game and can appreciate the fact that he'll be in Cooperstown before I have my degrees. However, it filled me with glee to see the Royals -- MY Royals -- knock him around a bit. What was more giggle-inducing for me was seeing Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz go a combined 1-7 against Royals pitching.

Speaking of, how about that Gil Meche? We spent a bit of time in the parking lot before the game speculating on how he'd throw; whether his performance would justify the $55 million the club sunk into him in the offseason. What a risk that deal was -- he's never been an ace, and we were sinking a significant portion of our modest (but growing) payroll into him and expect him to fill that new role. I was a little nervous as he took the mound in the first, and for the first few batters he did look a little shaky. Then he settled in, and by his departure in the 8th I was convinced he was worth the risk. Tonight before the game, he said he had chills as he walked off the field and was greeted by the most sincere standing O I've seen at the K in quite a while. I had chills too, and I wasn't even the guy getting the ovation!

I had to take a picture of the scoreboard after the game to convince myself that the game had actually happened. Sure enough, the camera doesn't lie:
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Here's our whole group up in my cousin's booth (by the way, I'm super proud of what my cousin Chris does, and I brag him up frequently). Aren't we handsome?
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Boston has a decent-sized lead so far tonight (end of the 7th, it's 6-1 Boston). DeJesus and Gordon are still hitless; that's so hard to watch. On the positive side, Ross Gload continues to contribute a LOT of bat to the lineup. He has 2 hits already tonight.

Now, about tomorrow. I may skip class for this one, as it's easily tomorrow's biggest MLB pitching matchup. One word (well, a word, a hyphen, and a letter): Dice-K. The Royals are sending Zack Greinke to the mound, which is probably the best pitcher KC could throw in such a game (besides ace Meche). Greinke was pretty awesome in Spring Training; he showed all of the awesome command and focus we loved about him, and none of the scary personal unsteadiness that worried us last season. Dice-K has whipped the international media into an absolute frenzy; Japanese journalists have spent all week in Kansas City in large numbers. They're crammed into every corner of the upstairs region of the stadium, and Dice-K hasn't even thrown a pitch yet. I can't imagine how crazy it will be down there tomorrow; I only wish I could be there, but skipping classes once this week to go to a game ought to be enough.

I actually think Greinke has the ability to outpitch Dice-K. To be honest, when he brings his A-game, he can outpitch anybody. The dude's got good stuff, and I think we'll see the best he has to offer tomorrow. Tune in at 1:00 on the Royals Sports Television Network; this is going to be EPIC.