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.
By Chad Rader
A month full of late nights for Kansas City, spending off the holiday gift funds for tickets and biting nails down to the nub will finally conclude tonight.
Not that anyone is complaining one bit - well, maybe some wives who have seen their husbands glued to a TV or the internet for four straight weeks. But they'll be on to another sport of some sort come January or March.
Tonight will be the culmination, and there's no better way than a winner-take-all, this is THE game to decide it all.
So far, while the MLB playoffs were dandies throughout, and the World Series has gone the distance, the World Series has been a set of blowouts, with a record five games decided by five runs or more.
For Kansas City's sake, hopefully there's a sixth in the style of Game 7 in 1985. Which, speaking of...
... am I the only one tired of hearing about 1985? I was for years, as a member of the Royals PR department, when "I remember back in 1985 ..." led off 30% of phone calles or emails, disgruntled about the Royals losing, or the parking was this or the ticket prices were that. Everything referenced 1985 as the last sunny days. But I figured that would fade once the Royals made the playoffs again.
And I get it, there's comparisons and flashbacks to 1985, since its the last time KC won it all, and in similar fashion returning home down, 3-2. And enjoying a blowout in the process of MLB-record setting proportions (both Game 7, 1985 and Game 6, 2014 rank in the top 5 blowouts in World Series history).
But I'm ready to kill the 80s music (though fun to flashback for sure, "Party Like It's 1985" and all of us discussing where we were at when George and Sabes hugged. No, it shouldn't be killed off forever. It's a great childhood memory for me too. But we just need to reset our reference points and slide it up to 2014, and create that milestone for another generation!
Either way, whatever happens tonight, we'll all be discussing this run to the final game of the MLB season. And it feels like its destined to go Kansas City's way, but we shall see.
Both starters are crapshoots. They could fire 6.0 innings of two-run ball, they could throw 2.0 innings of six-run ball. I'd obviously lean towards San Francisco's bullpen in middle relief with a possible Madison Bumgarner sighting, trotting Yusmeiro Petit back out to the hill, but perhaps starting Danny Duffy to lead off an inning or even Jason Vargas for an inning or two may be just fine.
Hopefully Kansas City doesn't have to get to that point. It either means a) the Giants are laying it on the Royals b) there's an injury c) we're in the 13th inning.
Even if SF lead 5-0 in the third, you may see Wade Davis at that point to stop the bleeding. Or perhaps if Guthrie gets in trouble in the fifth, Herrera and Davis (and perhaps Holland) all may come on for two innings each, starting in the 5th. It's Game 7, and both sides will empty all their chambers if needed.
Tonight will be fun, as there is no tomorrow and Bud Selig will end his tenure handing the trophy to one team or another. It could be a wild celebration again at Kauffman Stadium and - well, just for laughs to bury this once and for all - party like its 1985.
But where were you when Hosmer and Moose hugged? Where were you when Salvy hoisted Holland in the air? Those will be the questions we'll be asking years from now. Hopefully just not another 29 years. Though will anyone complain today, if we were to say, "I remember when we won it back in 2014..."
Let's Go Royals...
By Chad Rader
A few notes from Game 1 of the World Series, a deflating loss for Kansas City, but much more ahead in the World Series...
Key moment #1: Shields struggled with P3 in the first, as Posey laced a single, then Pablo Sandoval's RBI double put the Giants on the board out of the gates. Hunter Pence's two-run blast blew the game open before Royals fans even got their first beverage in their hands.
Key moment #2: With Kansas City appearing to have got to Madison Bumgarner in the third with second and third and no outs, Alcides Escobar repeatedly waved at pitches above his helmet for a strikeout, followed by Nori Aoki fanning on a ball in the dirt. After a walk, Eric Hosmer immediately swung at the first pitch. Frustrating.
The rest: Was just filler after those two innings
Shielding Royals fans: Shields has imploded in the playoffs with a 7.11 ERA this postseason. Unless Shields turns in a pivotal gem ahead, it'll be an easier pill for Royals fans to swallow when/if Shields jets in the offseason for a bigger contract. Now the question is, will this postseason cost Shields say $2-$3 million per year, as a team wanting an ace wants, well, big games from a Big Game pitcher?
Hope ahead: Though Giants pitchers seemingly turn into Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford and Andy Pettitte in the playoffs, these San Francisco starters are anything from that. Yes, big names with Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson ahead, but all three remaining starters held a record below .500 in 2014 (Peavy 7-13, Hudson 9-13, Vogelsong 8-13), the first time a team advanced to the World Series with three starters under .500.
Getting to the Ace: Kansas City finally got to Madison Bumgarner, snapping a 21-inning scoreless streak in the World Series and 32.2 in the postseason on the road. Barring a San Francisco sweep, KC will face Bumgarner again, so good for KC to get something on the board against the big lefty.
Who Thunk It?: Would anyone thought when Gregor Blanco was traded from Kansas City in 2011, after playing just 49 games in 2010, that he'd score two runs against KC in Game 1 of a World Series game?
Fire Extinguisher: The fear of the layoff was that Kansas City's momentum would be lost. In a bigger fear, once KC saw its winning streak snapped, would be how the Royals will react? Let's not hope its not the same as the 2007 Colorado Rockies, which won seven straight to advance to the World Series, then after its 7-0 streak was snapped, got swept, 4 games to 0 by Boston.
Deflating stat: In the last 11 years, only once (Yankees, 2009) have lost Game 1 and come back to win the World Series.
What's Ahead: Kansas City must win in Game 2. Good news, Peavy has just a 4.97 career ERA vs Kansas City.