By Kevin Kietzman
The Royals have been consistently excellent now for a long enough period that it’s time for Kansas City to stop doubting and sweating this series with the Jays.
Kansas City is up 3-2 in the series and have two home games to close it out. I’m not sure why this has our whole city freaked out that the sky is falling in. I know we all endured decades of bad baseball, never believed this owner would field a winner and watched our beloved team become a national laughing stock. But those days are over.
The Royals are good. Really good. And even more important, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Royals team like this in my life, they have the ability to flip a switch. This bunch phoned in about six weeks of baseball until the final week. Then the Royals closed the season with 5 wins, beat the Astros and grabbed a 2-0 series lead on the favored Blue Jays. It’s easy to see this team has another gear when it needs it.
The Royals have a lineup with no hole in it, starting pitching that can be just fine for 5 innings, great defense and game awareness and a lock down bullpen. The only thing that can beat the Royals is dominant starting pitching and so far there’s only been a couple games the Royals have had to deal with that. Maybe if they play the Mets in the World Series it becomes a problem, but not to close out this Toronto series. The Blue Jays don’t win close, low scoring games. The Royals do. It’s a huge difference.
Look, I know that anything can happen. It’s why we love sports. Of course the Royals could lose this series. But take your emotion and heart out of the equation and you will see a confident, complete team playing great baseball at home with a 3-2 series lead. Don’t be worried about this right now. Save the stress for Saturday but my guess is Saturday’s stress in this city will be reserved for thinking about the Mets starting pitching.
I asked Andy Reid a pretty simple question this week. “When it’s going good, coaches love to stay in perfect routine. When it’s going bad, do you try to change things or freshen things up a little?” Andy wouldn’t bite, he rarely does. His response was about what time meetings begin and when practice starts and ends. I probably didn’t ask the question properly but that wasn’t what I was going for. I’m curious if you get on your players more, kill them with kindness or threaten jobs. Alex Smith told me there have been several “meetings” between players by themselves and with the staff but added it can only do so much. Smith says the talking part of this season is over and every player on the team knows it. It’s time to start playing better and that can only be fixed by the players. Andy did say they are looking at a lot of different things with game plans and strategy but wouldn’t elaborate.
As I watch several players shoot baskets and yuck it up in the locker room this week, I couldn’t help but think a little discipline and maybe a benching or two would be better than installing a play toy for the kids.
By Kevin Kietzman
I’m taking my mom to the Royals game tonight for her birthday and I’m sure there is nothing I could possibly give her that she would love more. Not diamonds. Not a trip to the beach. Not even a soundbar to help hear the games better from the tinny sounding little baby speakers in the HD TB I bought her a few years ago that she initially refused to accept. You see, she didn’t need HD tv to enjoy the Royals games. I’m pretty sure that’s when they were losing a lot and she still did crossword puzzles and talked on the phone during the games.
Now she’s got a laptop she uses during games to look up stats and stuff (she didn’t want that either) and only takes calls from my oldest sister and they are only allowed to talk about the game. Two years ago, my sister only knew the Royals as something mom and her brothers liked and she didn’t understand. It was only good for her because it was easy gift giving at Christmas. Now… well… now sister Connie is all in. She has a rich history of being “all in” on good looking 20-something guys. First it was Elvis (before I was born), then the Beatles (the year I was born) and most recently one of those talent show winners named Michael Grimm. Connie’s a “Grimmlin”. Oh my.
Anyway, she’s found athletes now and instead of just having one CD to listen to and going to one concert a year, she has Eric Hosmer 175 times year. It’s really crazy how she’s fallen head over heels for these guys like my mom. They see sports teams a lot differently than me and my brother but that’s another column for another day. To be inclusive, my other sister in Florida likes the Royals too, from a distance. She actually (and illegally) downloaded a bunch of photos of all the players and put them into a pattern and made them into a blanket for mom. Mom cranks the AC, gets under the blanket and watches the games with a stuffed folding pillow of Slugger I got her. You can’t make this up.
Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. Connie is all in with mom and she’s going tonight, too. Just like the World Series last year when I shot video of them celebrating a Royals score just as Omar Infante was going deep. Yes, Infante. We posted it last year and many of you loved it and noticed they both dressed exactly the same for the game. I expect no less tonight, I mean, Johnny Cueto’s starting. They are not afraid to make their own shirts or signs.
So what’s the big deal about tonight? Well, mom can’t drive at night anymore and Connie doesn’t like to. Connie and her husband live on a farm nearly an hour from mom’s house so their plan was to watch the afternoon game tomorrow at mom’s house as they ditched the idea of going to the game because it could have been a little too hot and a little too sunny for mom. NOW IT”S A SLEEPOVER! I’m taking them tonight with no sun, no heat and no driving for them and then it’s a slumber party. They’ll probably go to Johnny’s bbq for lunch tomorrow, check out one of a dozen new things being built in Mission and then watch the game together. You see the Royals aren’t just winning games, they are changing the way we live. How we feel. Who we are.
It’s only entertainment and I’ve never been one to look up to athletes or celebrities. I had a dad and have a mom that have showed me the way every moment of my life, so it’s not about worship. It’s about togetherness. A bond. Common ground the way only sports can bring us all together. And that’s why I have been blessed and have loved every minute of 31 years of covering this team. Even through the losing, I remembered the times going to games with dad. And now I even fondly remember watching the Red Sox beat the Royals 11-3 only to hear mom say they’d win tomorrow. “And mark my words, “ she would say. “We’re going to be great next year, just you wait.” Now we’re all living in mom’s “next year” and life is good.
By Kevin Kietzman
I don’t know exactly how “not for profit” organizations work but it’s time for Kathy Nelson to get a big, fat raise.
Nelson had gigantic shoes to fill when she replaced Kevin Gray as President and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation and she officially shed the tag of successor this week. Kansas City is host to the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship for four more years, a clean sweep over several other cities.
To put this accomplishment in perspective consider the hand Nelson was dealt. Sure, she will tell you there are dozens of other people that were instrumental in putting this bid together, but it doesn’t tell the full story of what she has done. First, the Big 12 gets in a huge fight and Missouri bolts for the SEC. Missouri. You know, where Sprint Center was built.
Then the Big 12 reforms at 10 schools and starts to question everything it has always done. Men’s tournament in KC? Ok, well, maybe that’s not the best place. The conference announces it wants to open the tourney up for competitive bids from places like Dallas, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Des Moines and Tulsa. Those cities get excited and work hard and put together bids and on a rainy day in late May, they dial into a conference call and get the news.
The Big 12 is staying in Kansas City!
The conference office is headquartered in Dallas and the city, along with a company co-owned by Mark Cuban submits a bid. Sorry, Mark, this tank isn’t big enough for any tiny Sharks like you. You’ve been rejected. Amazing work by everyone in Kansas City.
Now, we can’t ignore the impact of AEG the owner and operator of Sprint Center. Without an NBA or NHL team, Sprint Center probably needs this event more than anyone and their leverage and impact in arena entertainment is far reaching. They’re big time players. But Kathy Nelson literally skipped lunch on Thursday, afraid she would have an upset stomach all afternoon waiting for the announcement. In hindsight, she should have had a giant KC strip steak and taken the afternoon off for a job well done.
By Kevin Kietzman
When the NFL found 11 of the 12 New England Patriots game balls underinflated at half time of Sunday’s AFC Championship game, they were reinflated and then confidentially tested again immediately after the game, a source familiar with the investigation told WHB.
Each of the 12 Patriots balls conformed to standards approximately 5 minutes before kickoff but 11 were found to be about two pounds per square inch low at halftime.
The underinflated balls were reinflated to conform to league standards and put back in play for the second half. Each ball was re-tested immediately after the game by a representative from the league office who reported the results to executives at the NFL. All 12 footballs used by the Indianapolis Colts conformed to standards when tested.
The source told WHB it is highly improbable that so many of the Patriots footballs could lose so much air because of weather or playing conditions and the Colts balls did not. But the source stopped short of saying they believed the Patriots doctored the balls.
By league rules, the footballs stay in the hands of the officials until about 5-7 minutes before kickoff when they are handed off to a ball person with each team. Only then could the Patriots begin a process to deflate the footballs. During the game, Indianapolis’ Mike Adams intercepted a pass from Tom Brady and turned the ball over to his team’s equipment manager, claiming the ball needed to be checked for deflation.
The league is scheduled to release the findings of the investigation in the next two days.
In a 2011 radio interview with WEEI in Boston, Tom Brady admitted that he likes to throw footballs that are underinflated.
Mrs. Kietzman enjoyed a thrill-of-a-lifetime at Game 2 of the World Series, including watching Omar Infane's two-run homer in the pivotal sixth inning.
By Kevin Kietzman
There are no games scheduled for today.