Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Santiago coming back

Benito Santiago is about a week from playing baseball again, but he said that he'll need two weeks to get game ready. Surely Pena won't put him in the line up for the final week of the season at Buck's expense? I know that the Royals are paying Santiago a couple million dollars this season and next, but John Buck is a better catcher. I'd hate to see Buck on the bench this season or next just so we can justify the mistake we made when we signed Santiago.

Runelvys Hernandez update

Good news about Runelvys Hernandez. He threw in the bullpen yesterday and said this about his session:
"I'm feeling great," Hernandez said. "Runelvys is 100 percent and I'm on my comeback for next year."
Pena said that he had good velocity. The Royals are not going to have Hernandez pitch in winter ball. They want him to work out on his own and come to camp ready. How good would a healthy Elvis look in the rotation next season?

18-14: Is it possible?

The season has come to this. The Royals need to go 18-14 to finish the season to avoid another 100-loss season—our second in the last three seasons. Anybody think it will happen?

Eight of the final ten series are against Detroit (2 series), the Devil Rays (2 series), and Indians (2 series), and the White Sox (2 series). We better win these series because we also play the evil Yankees (1 series), and the Twinkies (1 series).

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Darrell May

Darrell May has not had a good season by anybody's standard. He's 9-15 with a 6.24 ERA. With that said, I respect him for two reasons.

1. After getting hit hard last night, he said. “I feel like I know what I'm doing out there, but the results are not there. I've been horrible. No excuses.” How often do you hear players take responsibility like this for a poor season with lame excuses? Of course, one could say that if he really took responsibility, he'd give some of the money back from the contract he signed during the off-season. That's not realistic though. Players are always playing, for the good or bad, for the next contract.

2. Several times this year May has looked distraught after giving up too many hits and runs. I like that. A guy could probably go overboard with it, but I don't think he has. He cares about pitching well and he cares about winning. I know it looks more professional to not show any emotion whether a player pitches well or poorly, but I'll take a guy who shows a little fire any day. It makes me feel for him during the bad times—like May is going through right now.

The Royals continue to talk about trading him to a team for the stretch run, which implies that he has cleared waivers. I hope it doesn't happen. As poorly as he has pitched, he has ability and he has pitched some great ball games for us—including this season.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

So long Anaheim

I’m so glad that the Anaheim series is over. We lost 9-4, 7-5, and 21-6. That was incredibly painful to watch. The Angels are a hungry team with an offense that scores a ton of runs–as evidenced by the 21 runs they scored last night.

The two bright spots during the series was the emergence of Calvin Pickering and the continued hitting tear that David DeJesus is on. Everybody knows what Pickering did–blasting three HRs and driving in 11 RBIs.
David DeJesus had another four hits last night, bringing his average up to .288 and he hit his second home run of the season. He continues to play well defensively and it looks like Baird had it right concerning DeJesus being the center fielder of the future.

Tony Pena had a funny comment about the game last night–if you can get past the butt kicking that we got. “I think if we bounced the ball up there, they still would have hit it.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Sweeney heads to DL with herniated disk

For the first time this season, Mike Sweeney is headed for the DL. And he might just remain there for the rest of the season.

Sweeney told Bob Dutton of the KC Star that:
“I'm hoping to be back in a couple of weeks,” Sweeney said, “but I don't know. Having a herniated disk, it could be a lot like last year. I could miss the last five weeks.” “It's killing me. I watched the game (Monday), and it made me sick to see us struggling and not be able to do anything about it.”
This season is a wash. But aren’t you interested to see what Calvin Pickering could do over the five weeks? Matt Stairs would probably play first base most of the time and Pickering will take over Sweeney’s DH spot. When Harvey comes off the DL the line up would need to be jumbled a little, but Stairs would return to the outfield and one of the younger guys could sit.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Eight is enough

The Royals finally stopped the Rangers eight game winning streak this afternoon. Calvin Pickering bashed two home runs—one a grand slam—in his Royals debut and the Royals never looked back. They won 10-2.

The crowd begged Pickering for a curtain call and he obliged. I bet that was quite a rush for a guy who has played in Triple A all year. We'll get to see quite a bit more of him in the next couple of weeks.
Greinke pitched six shut out innings. He was behind too many guys considering he had a huge lead, but he escaped each time.

Affeldt pitched for the first time since coming off the DL yesterday and threw one scoreless inning.
The flight to Anaheim tonight should be a little more enjoyable.

Graffanino out for the season

Add Tony Graffanino to the list of guys who are now out for the remainder of the season. He is about to have surgery to repair his right rotator cuff. He has also been nursing a torn ligament in his left knee recently.
Graffanino is under contract for next season and wants to undergo the surgery now so that he’ll be able to be 100% by spring training next season.

Ruben Gotay will be the starter at second base for the rest of the season. It’ll be fun to watch him.
Let’s hope that Graffanino is able to make a full recovery and come back strong for the 2005 season.

Pickering gets his shot

After smashing 35 home runs in Omaha this season, Calvin Pickering gets his shot today at the big time. With Ken Harvey going on the DL, Pickering will get at least two weeks worth of regular at bats against major league pitching. Surely, he’ll just stay in KC after Harvey comes back since it’ll be September call up time by then.

Some fans have wondered why Pickering hasn’t been called up until now. We just didn’t have a roster spot for him. Sweeney hasn’t been on the DL this year, but with back troubles, he is our primary DH and there’s no way we are taking him out of the lineup when he is healthy enough to swing a bat. Harvey is having a good year at the plate and is an average or slightly below average fielder. Stairs can play first and has become our emergency first baseman, much like Raul Ibanez was in recent seasons. So, it was difficult to justify a roster spot for another first baseman, no matter how well he was hitting in AAA.

Then Stairs went down. Now Harvey. And Mike Sweeney is still nursing a sore back. Stairs is coming back today, but with Harvey down, Stairs will be back in the outfield with Pickering getting the nod in the field at first most nights. I’m anxious to see how Pickering does.

Just say no to the brooms

Hopefully the Rangers don’t pull off something today that they have never been able to accomplish. A sweep of the Royals in Kansas City.

The Royals have lost the first two games of the Rangers series. But the Rangers aren’t just beating up on the Royals. They’ve won eight games in a row. They are ½ game out of first in the West behind Oakland and they are tied with Boston for the lead in the wild card race. And boy can they hit.

We were in both games, but came up short in both of them. I’m glad we weren’t blown out, but losing is losing. And it is getting old. The Royals are now 43-77–the worse record in the history of our franchise after 120 games.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

19,653 more reasons to hustle

For the first time in several weeks, I’m enjoying watching the Royals play. When we were getting shelled on Tuesday night against Oakland, we still had guys hustling. The young guys. The hungry guys.

I lost track of the score late in the game, we were down by over ten runs though, and one of many of Seattle’s shots to the gap was ran down by DeJesus before it got to the wall. That was impressive.

And how about our new first baseman Joe Randa? He made a play in the hole on Tuesday night that I don’t think Sweeney or Harvey would have made.

Then last night, in a line up full of rookies, Andres Blanco made two great turns on double plays, sacrificing his body in the process. And he made a great catch with his back to home plate on a Bret Boone pop up in short left field.

And who would have expected Gotay’s snag and subsequent flip to Blanco on a ground ball up the middle to get Randy Winn out?

19,653 fans came out to the ball park last night to see a team that was 33 games under .500. They could have been doing a lot of other things with their time. Especially since so many Royals’ players have shown by their lack of hustle in recent weeks that they would rather be elsewhere. But the fans chose to be there and gave Gotay and Blanco several standing ovations.

I don’t understand why a person who is talented enough to play professional baseball for a living would need any external incentives to hustle, but they had 19,653 of them last night. I hope Pena isn’t quick to re-insert all the veterans when they are healthy. I’m having too much fun watching guys who care.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Field gone for the season

We’ve lost another guy for the season. This time it is Nate Field. He tore his left oblique muscle recently. The same muscle that Jeremy Affeldt tore seven weeks ago.

With all the injuries, trades and outright releases of our relief guys, Field has been one of the mainstays in our bullpen. He pitched in 43 games and has a 2-3 record with a 4.26 ERA.

A nice change of pace

How good did it feel to take two out of three in Oakland over the weekend? Especially the Friday night game against Mark Mulder when he gave up seven earned runs in seven innings.

Watching Randa get around on him like he did on the shot he hit out of the park reminded me how much we will miss him if we don't pick up his option. He's only got four HRs this year, but his defense has been top notch in recent weeks and he appears to have his old swing back. On Sunday, he gave the Royals the lead with a bases loaded double--a game that the Royals went on to win.

Then, to see Buck hit the grand slam was a lot of fun. He's still under the Mendoza line, but he's looking more confident at the plate and his defense has been superb. Benito Santiago is due back in a week or so. I hope he takes over the back up role.

This series won't save the season, but it eases the pain a little.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

May on a roll

Darryl May has obviously turned things around this season. He was outstanding tonight against the White Sox, giving up two runs on four hits in eight innings, lowering his ERA to 4.91. He had great control and he even struck out six batters.

And how about David DeJesus picking up another hit tonight to extend his hitting streak to a dozen games? He looks comfortable at the plate and has his average up to .259–an amazing feat considering his first stint in KC this season only generated one hit.

Here comes Guiel

RSTN reported before the game tonight that Aaron Guiel has been called up from Omaha. He was already in uniform before the game. The Royals placed Dee Brown on the DL to make room for Guiel. Let’s hope this move will bring a little stability to the outfield.

Don't let the stories die

Over the weekend, two friends and I went through the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum. We spent about two hours inside and it wasn’t long enough. It is a fabulous memorial to the Negro Leagues.

Quotes from players line the walls. Old ball gloves rest in replica lockers. Signed baseballs adorn display cases. Old letters hang on the walls. Many jerseys hang in lockers and on the walls. James Earl Jones narrates a fifteen minute video salute to the Negro Leagues in a small theater. Many small video displays are arranged throughout the museum. The museum also has a small sleeping room set up to replicate what one looked like for Negro Leagues players. And of course, they have a great gift shop full of jerseys, baseball caps, baseball cards and various other mementos. I picked up two books while I was there.

Kansas City should be proud to host such a place. We should never let these stories die. This period of time was not one of our nation’s finest periods, but the players of that era deserve to be remembered. They played the game they loved and they put up with more than human beings should ever have to endure–from not being able to find restaurants that would serve them, to not being able to find hotels that would allow them to stay.

Before the Kansas City Royals and before the Kansas City A’s, Kansas City had the Monarchs. A player named Jackie Robinson played for them until the Brooklyn Dodgers took a chance and signed him to play in the Major Leagues. The rest is history.
If you get a minute today, visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum website and then visit the Negro League Baseball Players Association website. If you have an afternoon, visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on 18th & Vine. You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Let the changes begin

RSTN reported before tonight’s game against the White Sox that Angel Berroa has been sent down to Wichita and Andres Blanco has been called up to take his place. Perhaps this was a result of the team meeting last night. I hope it was. It’ll send a message to guys that they don’t automatically have a spot on this team.

I still can’t help but wonder why Mike Sweeney had to be the one to blow up about a team that isn’t hitting, pitching, playing defense–and can I add hustling, while at the same time saying that Pena or Baird are not to blame. How can they not be? If our manager and GM are not responsible for making changes in personnel when they see guys not hitting, pitching, playing defense, and hustling, then who is?

I understand why Sweeney did what he did and said what he did. If our manager and GM were doing their job, he wouldn’t have needed to do or say anything.

Fred White and the Royals Hall of Fame

Speaking about Fred White--in Jeffrey Flanagan’s column today in the KC Star, Flanagan asked White if he ever thought about being inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame. He said that he knew that Royals management has never thought about him in those terms and he’s okay with that.

Then, listen to what he said:
“Don't get me wrong: If the Royals ever decided to put me in the Hall, I wouldn't turn it down. But to be honest, I think I'd have trouble knowing that some uniform guys like Mark Gubicza and John Wathan aren't in the Hall, and here I am, calling the games in an air-conditioned booth, got in.”
Fred White is another classy guy (like Denny Matthews) that we should be proud to call our own.

Rock bottom?

After blowing yet another game last night, Mike Sweeney made some comments that surprised me. This is taken from an article running in the KC Star this morning:
“We've definitely hit rock bottom,” Sweeney said. “This is a joke. It's Aug. 9, and we've got 39 wins. It's terrible. We're playing horrible baseball.
“We're not pitching, hitting or playing defense. Nothing. We're not running the bases right. We're playing brutal baseball in all aspects of the game.”
Then he went a step further:
“It has nothing to do with the manager or the coaches. It has everything to do with us. We're not getting the job done; get us out of here.”
While I would disagree with Sweeney about the coaching (Pena continues to make horrible decisions), I would definitely agree that several players need to get the boot. I’m not talking about the players who make physical mistakes. We need to get rid of the guys who refuse to give 100%. And we need to get rid of the guys who just do not seem to understand the fundamentals, like covering first base, hitting cut off men, etc.

I don’t know if this is rock bottom or not. The Expos sweeping us in a double-header and that stretch a few weeks ago when we were shut out three times in a row have to be closer to the bottom–but regardless of where the bottom is, it is time to make any changes necessary for this not to continue.

Did they get it?

As I watched Denny Matthews being inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame on Saturday night, I wondered what went through the minds of all the players who stood behind him. They watched the video board and saw the glory years. They saw Brett take Goose into the upper deck. They saw Sabes dominating the Cards in the 85 World Series. They saw Motley squeeze the final out of that same series which brought a World Championship home to Kansas City.

That was nineteen years ago. Many of the current batch of Royals were toddlers or just a little older. They know our history. They’ve surely seen the video footage of the glory years. But I wonder if they’ve ever put it all together in their minds. Denny Matthews called ever game during the glory years. Nineteen years wasn’t all that long ago.

So, what am I saying? That players should attend such a ceremony and automatically become World Champions. No, I’m not saying that. I’m just wondering out loud, as I was in Kauffman Stadium the other night, about whether or not our current group of players understand and appreciate what made this team great.

Winning World Championships takes talent. No doubt about it. But how much more talent did the 2003 Florida Marlins have than we do? Or how about teams like the Minnesota Twins? They continue to lose players, but then continue to win. Beyond talent, our team is missing something that former Royals’ teams contained. Fire.

Fire shouldn’t be only generated when a team is winning–like in our case last season. It should always be there in a player. If it were, the concept of chemistry that baseball announcers talk so much about might be a little easier to come by because teams would be united behind a common goal. To play their best and hardest at all times. Can we be honest and say that we don’t have a team that does that right now?

I reminded a friend recently about a game in the mid-90's in Kauffman Stadium. The Royals were playing the Mariners. We were way out of contention at that point of the season. But the game was on the line. Mike Schooler came in to shut the door on the Royals in the ninth inning. We were down by a run, with two outs. We had runners at the corners and Wally Joyner was at bat. He ripped a frozen rope down the right field line that cleared the bases for the victory. If I remember correctly, Keith Miller scored the winning run from first. When he popped up from his slide, he was mobbed (this was before it became a ritual like it is today) by Royals.

I am not trying to over-romanticize a period in Royals history. I’m sure we had guys who didn’t always give 100%. But I can’t remember one instance. Unlike this season. We have guys on our team who seem to be bothered by the fact that they have to run 90 feet to first base on pop ups or ground balls. We have guys who do not go after balls hard in the outfield. We have catchers who seem inconvenienced by having to block balls in the dirt, so they take a backhanded stab at the ball.

As I stood and cheered for Denny Matthews and for former Royals on the video screen, I hoped a few of the players got the connection. We want to cheer for them the same way. But we aren’t going to give them any more effort than they are willing to give us.

Thank you Denny Matthews

I felt honored to be in Kauffman Stadium on Saturday night as Denny Matthews was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame. I was glad to see that 27,000 other people felt the same way. I wish we would have sold the place out to show him how much we appreciate the time and effort he has put into Royals broadcasts since their inception.

During the ceremony, Herk Robinson said that his daughter was back in town after moving from the Kansas City area ten years ago. When she flipped on the radio upon returning to Kansas City and heard Denny Matthews calling a Royals game, she said she felt like she was home.

I know what she means. I’ve lived in Omaha, Nebraska my entire life. But as a young boy, I caught Royal fever and started listening to Denny Matthews and Fred White. As I grew into a man, I always felt a sense of nostalgia when I heard them. Like Herk’s daughter, I felt like I was home. I still do.

That might seem a little odd to people who don’t follow baseball, but when you spend several hours ever day listening to a person speak about a common interest, how could a fan not feel this way? And for me, it goes even deeper than that. Denny Matthews is not a guy who is just punching the clock. We share a common bond. For better or worse, we love the game of baseball and we love the Kansas City Royals.

As I mentioned in an early post, I had the pleasure of meeting Denny in April of this year when I was covering a story about a couple of Royals players for a magazine and a newspaper. I probably broke some media protocol by introducing myself to him and telling him how much I appreciated his work over the years. But I didn’t care. He didn’t seem to either. He was gracious and took the time to speak to me a couple of times later that day.

Let’s never take this guy for granted. He’s a one of a kind and well deserving of always being remembered in the Royals Hall of Fame and hopefully Cooperstown.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Playing the numbers

Several Royals switched uniform numbers during the off day on Monday. Here's a quick run down:

Gotay is now #30
Santiago is now #33
Relaford is now #11
Stairs is now #12

More bad news

Mike Sweeney left the game last night against the White Sox with back spasms. This will be his third go around with back problems this season. He hasn't been put on the DL yet this season. Let's hope he doesn't need to go there now.

What a horrible month

The Royals were 7-20 in the month of July. They have never had fewer wins in the month of July. Beyond many other problems, the team batting average for the month of July was .239.

Wow, were we bad or what? This season feels like the mid-1990's, doesn't it? I'm going to the ball park anyway. I haven't been there in seven or eight weeks, so I'm looking forward to the weekend series against the Angels.
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