Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Terribly sorry for my absence lately

Sigh. How has it been so long since I've posted here? If only I didn't have to be a student anymore; I'd blog all the time...or at least more of the time.

And Tuesday is homework day (yep, I have one day a week for that), so I don't have anything new at the moment. But here's what I've been up to elsewhere sine my last post here, in case you've missed it.

At Ladies... :
How NOT to win at Fantasy Baseball - I have a lot of expertise in this field; trust my advice here.

At Getting to First Base:
In the Stands vs. On the Couch
What's a Fan? - an examination of fandom vs. bandwagonism thanks to an anonymous comment at Rany's blog.
A Playoff Rundown - for anyone who doesn't follow baseball too closely but still reads my stuff for some odd reason.

And I think I promised some pictures from my Kansas City day last time, so...here.

A couple hours at Worlds of Fun is a great prelude to a Royals game!
Shealy doing his Shealy thing, and signing like a billion autographs while chatting with me and my good friend (and ORoyals coworker) Becky.
Then he took a "cheesy tourist picture" with us. That's Becky in the pink hat. These are all her pictures.

I went pretty nuts when this happened. That game had a lot of crazy, unfettered-joy type of moments: the DeJesus inside-the-park home run, the Ka'aihu homer, and...

One last Mexicution for the year. Can't wait for more next season!

I have tons of end-of-the-season thoughts coming up soon, including something I saw in Cosmo that I'd like to try: answering pressing questions in 20 words or fewer.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thoughts from the 8-20 Royals win, because I was there.

What a fun win for the Royals last night! It would have been sweeter if the Twins had also pulled out a win to help stomp on the Stupid PoopySox™’s playoff hopes, but I really can’t complain about a game that included a first ML home run, an inside-the-parker, Kyle Davies in Cy Young form (or, at least, pretty darn good), and a Mexicution.
First off, congratulations to Kila Ka’aihue for his first Major League home run. In an earlier at-bat, he had sent an absolute bomb to right field, but it was just foul. So when he hit one later that stayed fair – and MAN, there was no question that it was long gone – it was quite a thrill. He got one heck of an ovation from the 23k at The K, and was mobbed in the dugout by his teammates. It was a thrill for sure, but I still feel like he’s not quite ready for the Majors. He still looks good, but like he could benefit from a little more time at Omaha next April. Still no doubt that he belongs on the 40-man before the Rule V deadline.
And how about that David DeJesus inside-the-park homer? That was the first one I’ve ever seen in person, and in fact I’ve only seen them “live” on TV two times. What happened to Jermaine Dye out there? I couldn't quite see the whole right-field corner when people were standing up, so I saw Dye rush into the corner, then I saw the ball bounce out back into the field (while Griffey didn't move an inch), then I saw Dye kind of stagger back out of the corner. Meanwhile, I was ready to be thrilled if DeJesus had come away with a triple, so my elation when he slid into home was beyond words. I was also severely dehydrated and overtired at the time (long day at Worlds of Fun), so I’m amazed I didn’t black out and tumble into the row in front of me. But if I have to expire at a ballgame, it may as well happen after something like that. Note to self: Drink more water next time. ANYWAY, it was awesome. Times a billion.
Kyle Davies continued to show more velocity, and that curveball that seemed to come out of nowhere last week is back at well. He has abandoned the concept of “nibbling” and embraced manly, straightforward pitching. So far, so good. Can he keep this up into next season? Have these last two starts been a fluke, or has this flash of awesomeness been some kind of indication that the still-young Davies has figured himself out?

Side note: The worst part of my game experience was waiting in line for TWO INNINGS for some nachos. If I hadn't been in dire medical need of food, I would have given up. It's not that the line was long at all; it just Did. Not. Move. I didn't miss a whole lot on the field, but I did miss the condiment race. (Go Mustard!)

While John Bale was pitching in the 8th, I did see that Joakim Soria was warming up. I knew he was there; I knew he’d be come in for the 9th, and yet…when the opening strains of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ blasted through The K, and Jack’s face flashed up 100 feet tall on Crown Vision...I lost it, like I do every time. It’s fun to have a player about whom to get THAT excited. I really wanted to trash-talk my friend Ben, a White Sox fan who came along for the game. I wanted to tell him that the game was over before Soria threw a pitch. Given the walk and hit he gave up, I’m glad I didn’t trash talk.

Then when Dye hit that deeeeeeeeeeep fly ball that could have tied the game, I was on the verge of breaking down into sobs, while Ben was ready to go crazy with joy a few seats away. If someone had taken a series of photos from the moment the ball hit the bat until it finally dropped into Teahen’s glove at the fence, they would have seen the most heart-pounding shift in emotions as I went from crestfallen to elated and Ben went from suddenly hopeful to heartbroken. And when Soria got Thome to strike out, oh man! I had been so afraid Thome would do what Dye almost did, so when he got Mexicutioned, it only heightened my elation.
Then I noticed how sad Ben was. I’ve gone to games and watched my Royals lose, so I know how it feels to go all those miles for naught. But he looked genuinely heartbroken, and that is the difference between a “lowly” team like KC and one that’s trying to cling to a division lead in late September. Someday, I will know what it’s like to be totally crushed by a September loss rather than feel like it’s more of the same.

Pics to come later (hopefully), but for now I shall return to my quest for re-hydration. One quick, unrelated note: the ORoyals' Ty Cobb Night will be featured in ESPN the Magazine.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Letting myself feel good

A couple of thoughts from the last few days...
1) Ahhh, it feels good to win. We have spent SO much time this season feeling let down and in despair. Neither game on Saturday was a squeaker, and Sunday was a blowout, and I had sort of forgotten how those games feel. Like...the Royals can play but I can still be in a good mood? Sweet! Sure, we may have been eliminated, but we won't lose 100 games this year. With a dozen games left, we need four more wins in order to improve over last year's final record. Would I like more of an improvement? Oh yes. But after the way parts of this season have gone, I'm glad to even have a shot at any improvement.

2) Hiram Kyle Davies was just spectacular tonight. I know it was "just the Mariners," but he showed a lot of stuff tonight, like a sweet curve that was snapping around everywhere but on the M's bats. I hate to admit it, but my reaction when I saw Joakim Soria coming out of the bullpen was "Nooooo!" I really wanted Davies to get a shot at a complete game, especially given the 3-run cushion, the Mariners' mostly minor-league lineup, and Davies' 9-pitch 8th inning. He only used 98 pitches to get through his 8 innings, struck out 8, and didn't walk anyone. I hate to complain when Trey finally puts Soria in a game, but this was NOT the situation in which I would call for a Mexicution.

3) Good thing Davies was in career form, because the Royals looked awful on the bases again. First there was that snafu with Shealy maybe-not touching 3rd in the 1st inning. The replay made it looked like his foot caught the inside edge of the base, closest to the home plate- and mound-facing edges of the bag. It's easy to see why 3rd base umpire Brian Knight would make the call he did, and to say that Shealy should have done better. There was Jose Guillen getting thrown out at 3rd in the 6th when Shealy reached base on an error. I don't think Guillen has the speed - nor was the KC lead "safe" enough - to gamble like that. Then there was Alex Gordon getting cut down at the plate. Again, even I wouldn't gamble there - not on Gordon's fresh-off-the-DL legs.

4) If you missed this...Dick Kaegel addressed the issues of "chemistry" and "Jose Guillen as a clubhouse cancer" in the most recent Royals Mailbag. I'm glad someone has finally presented a grown-up response to a question that is usually handled with such glossy, fake PR language on the Royals site and elsewhere. Among other things, Kaegel writes:

I'll go along with owner David Glass who, when asked about Guillen's demeanor, said he's never heard of a good team "where everybody loved everybody and nothing bad ever happened." Winning chemistry can involve some explosions from time to time.

5) Lastly, Ball Star readers have let Sam know why they still care about the Royals. This excerpt from the winning submission, though written by someone significantly older than I and about a Royals team from 4 decades ago, sums it up exactly. This is some good stuff (emphasis mine):
We didn't care that they weren't exactly the Big Red Machine - they were our guys, and I just knew they were going to rip off a huge winning streak any day now, and take the pennant by storm. And if not this season, there was absolutely no doubt it would happen next year.

That's exactly it. I mentioned in item #1 that I really expected more of an improvement from this year's Royals team, and I will do a post when the season is over that shows how those expectations were and were not fulfilled. This team has crushed me in the last 6 months, but I still tune in excitedly every night, even if it means missing my beloved Monday Night Football. I'm as insistent about watching every game in September as I was in April. There was hope then, and there isn't now, but I'm still here.

I'm still here because sometimes my irrational favorite will have three straight multi-hit games, or a AAA-quality starter will shine for 8 glorious innings. I'm still here, still rooting, still blogging because "next year" is all I have, and it's all I've ever had, but whenever "next year" gets here it will be the best time of my entire life.

That's why I still care. And I will always still care.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dear Trey Hillman: the Shealy edition

I wrote this a few days ago, when a lineup published prior to a game didn't include Shealy. That reported lineup turned out to be wrong - Shealy was in that game - so I figured I didn't need to use this. Lo and behold, I was wrong. I'm starting to think Trey Hillman is just a really terrible manager. Anywho, on with it:

Dear Trey Hillman,
I know you've got a big job - it can't be easy running a team full of egos, babies, underperformers, and glorified AAA players. You're expected to do a lot with a very small amount of talent.I understand you're not in an enviable position, and no matter what you do, some people are going to be upset. That's what happens when you take the helm of a team like this.

HOWEVER, one basic thing that Royals fans should never have to endure from their manager again is the abuse of September callups. We had plenty of that with Buddy Bell, and many of us are in utter, horrified disbelief that you're doing the same thing.

Ross Gload is not an everyday first baseman; let's just get that out of the way right now. That should make it SO much easier to juggle your crowd of bodies at that position. I'll even take it a few steps further for you: Billy Butler isn't exactly a natural at that position either, but he can hit, and Jose Guillen has spent all but 6 weeks of the season hitting like Tony Pena Jr., so he shouldn't be your first choice at DH.

Do you see what I've done for you? You now have just two men for the 1B job. One of them might not fare as well against lefties as the other, so there's another big clue as to how your lineup card should be filled out each night.

Trey, please. You're not stupid (I think), so why are you not seeing how desperately we need to see both Ryan Shealy and Kila Ka'aihue get swings against ML pitchers? Shealy's not exactly young, and he's been "fighting for his life" (his words, not mine) in Omaha for way too long. I could argue that he should have been called up in July, but that's in the past so I'll let it go. But it's September now, and plate appearances are few.

Someone a little closer to the situation has said that you're losing it, Trey. People aren't giving you respect in the clubhouse, a dire managerial situation. Is assembling a lineup which contains neither Shealy nor Ka'aihue the way to get anyone to respect you as a manager? You're keeping Guillen in the lineup at a position for which he's not fit because he'd tear you a new one if you ever dared to bench him. That's no way to pick your DH; it's cowardly. Man up, Trey, and do what's good for your team.

Shealy's not going to be a godlike force with MVP numbers - even I know that. But he's out of time; he has this month to show where he belongs, whether that is in the majors or minors; with the Royals or with a team who won't screw him over and play Ross Gload over him all year.

And if you're not going to give Shealy the PAs he desperately needs to prove himself for next year's roster, why not give Ka'aihue a look? You don't need to platoon the two in a traditional sense; Ka'aihue's evaluation doesn't need to be as urgent. But to leave them both him and Shealy out so you can play Gload at first again? What a waste.

At this point, you're lucky we still care at all. Don't push your luck.
Still a fan (despite your best efforts),

[Ed. note: PS, I'm not dead. But the Royals suck, and I'm in school again, so...homework and crap. Boo!]

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ka'aihue up, apparently


So much for all my speculating and caution earlier today. First base is gonna be crowded.

Hat tip to Royals Retro: Devon Lowery up. Not a huge surprise, and he definitely deserves it.

Roster expansion musings

It is now September, the time of year when the Royals call up players from the Minors and then have them sit on the bench for a month! (OK, hopefully that practice is no longer in place, and was just a Buddy Bell thing. As much as I love to see guys rot in the dugout instead of being evaluated meaningfully at the ML level, I hope Hillman has a different plan for his callups this month.) As far as I know, the only roster moves the Royals have made so far are to activate Jimmy Gobble and John Bale from their rehab assignments with Omaha. According to the KC Star, those two and Ron Mahay could be ready to go in time for tomorrow's game against Oakland.

The only other move that seems certain is that Ryan Shealy will be called up, and it's likely that Neal Musser will get his obligatory turn, since he's already on the 40-man; ditto for Josh Newman and Matt Tupman.

Then what?

A lot of people desperately want to give Kila Ka'aihue a roster spot for the month, but it's uncertain whether the club will do that. I don't think they can, not at all. Shealy is out of options; they need to see if he can (still*) hit Major League pitching.

*there's certainly some debate as to whether he could really hit in the Majors in the first place. His 2006 second-half was very nice, but not astounding. A line of .280/.338/.451 in his 51 games with KC was good for an OPS+ of 102. So what has been described as a "great" 2nd half with the team was really just "a little bit above ML average." Then again, the Royals are historically bad at finding 1st basemen who can hit, so maybe those numbers appear greater compared to the team's historical hitting disappointments at that position.

Yes, we'll eventually need to know the same thing about Ka'aihue: is he for real? Can he hit big league pitching? We do need to figure that out at some point, but not right now; September doesn't have enough ABs to solve both Shealy and Ka'aihue. Shealy will need as many chances as possible for the club to decide if his "nightmare" 2007 was actually a product of all the injuries*, or if his bat just can't catch up with big league pitches. In the 2.5 seasons since he became a Royal, Shealy has improved as a hitter in some ways. In 2006, he only walked 13 times in 172 AB. In 396 AB this season, he was walked 55 times, which is 25 more than his 2006 numbers would suggest. Would that apparent improvement in plate discipline translate from Omaha to KC? I guess we'll find out.

*I've long thought that Shealy is a heck of a role model for kids because of how hard he works and how friendly he is to fans and teammates. Talking to him about last season only serves to confirm that theory; I'll dig up the exact quotes at some point, but basically he talked about how he can't become bitter about the things that happen to him, and he just has to keep working his hardest no matter what things - good or bad - happen to him. Hearing that made me feel better about steering a lot of young Omaha fans toward choosing Shealy as their favorite ORoyal.

If Shealy does well this month, that solves a lot for next season. Maybe he could start the year as the everyday 1B while Kila proves he is pretty much the man in AAA. If Kila keeps hitting for power while sustaining his fabulous BB:K ratio, then he gets the job at midseason and Shealy gets traded or something. That's a long time from now, and a lot will happen between now and then. But even if I wouldn't call up Ka'aihue right now, if someone let me be GM for a day I absolutely would add him to my 40-man by November 20 so he's protected from the Rule 5 Draft.

As for other moves...who knows? I'd love to see Omaha Pitcher of the Year Devon Lowery get a shot. If Jose Capellan and Carlos Rosa were not hurt, I'd want to call them up too, but they're both on the DL. I know Tupman is already on the 40-man, but in a lot of ways I'd much rather see the surprisingly-versatile Brayan Pena. While his teammates have been dropping like flies, Pena has played all over the field, including both corners of the outfield and of the infield.

One last move I want to see more than anything: Josh Labandeira. Yeah, I think he should be moved to a different roster...a Little League one.

One last note: I know that Mike Aviles' X-rays were negative yesterday, but I can't get too excited yet, not until I see him actually back out on the field. Recall that Mike Stodolka also didn't have any fractures in his hand, but he also hasn't played since August 5 and has since been placed on the DL.

The ORoyals start their final game in 20 minutes, and I still have not eaten lunch. I should probably get on that.