Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Game 26: Kansas City @ Texas

Game Date: April 29, 2008
Royals 9, Rangers 5 / Box Score
WP: Mahay (1-0), LP: Jennings (0-5)
Royal Home Runs: Guillen (3)
Royals Record: 12-14

If you are a fan of pitcher's duels, then this wasn't a game you wanted to watch. But if you are a fan of the Royals, a win is a win. Brett Tomko was just slightly better than awful and he knows it. He gave up five earned runs on seven hits and three walks in just 3.1 innings. "It stinks,” he said after the game. "I'm just fighting it right now. My secondary pitches are garbage. I'm either throwing them straight into the ground or I'm hanging them."

Thankfully Jason Jennings was even worse and the Royals jumped on him for five runs in the first two innings. Mark Grudzielanek was right on every pitch he saw last night, going 4-for-6 with three runs scored. Jose Guillen hit a towering home run down the left field line and tied a career high with five RBI for the game. Mark Teahen swung the bat well, going 2-for-4 with 3 RBI. And finally, the Royals found a way to out slug an opponent. Let's hope we don't have to do that very often.

The bullpen did its job as always. Ron Mahay came into the game in the fourth and gave up no runs on two hits over the next 2.1 innings. Jimmy Gobble, Ramon Ramirez, and Joakim Soria closed out the game without allowing any runs. Ramirez and Soria have been especially tough this season. Ramirez dropped his ERA to 0.71 and Soria still hasn't give up a single run all year. That's incredible.

Tonight, Brian Bannister (3-2, 2.48) will go up against Kevin Millwood (1-2, 3.32). Bannister is 1-0 in his career against the Rangers with a 0.00 ERA. Millwood is 4-3 against the Royals with a 4.66 ERA.

Monday, April 28, 2008

How I Became a Royals Fan: Minda Haas

Name: Minda Haas
Location: Lincoln and Omaha, NE
Age: 19
Blog: Baseball and Other Things

Tell me a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What do you like to do for fun? What are your hobbies?

Truth be told, baseball is the answer to all of these. I am a student working toward two journalism degrees that will hopefully allow me to be a sportswriter professionally. (As much as I love blogging, it sure doesn't pay the bills!) The coolest of my three part-time jobs is the one with the Omaha Royals, where I help do all the crazy on-field promotions that make the minor league experience what it is. In my free time, I read this and other fine Royals blogs, and occasionally play video games and guitar, sing in my church's choir, and follow other sports.

How old were you when you first started following the Royals?

I was born into it. I can't ever remember a summer day without the Royals. Even if I didn't actively follow them when I was very young, I was always somewhat aware of how they were doing because we always had the games on the radio, and my parents and older brothers would discuss the team over dinner. It didn't become an all-out obsession until early high school, but I've always followed the team to some extent.

Who was your first favorite Royals' player and why?

I suppose my first favorite Royal was Mike Sweeney. Because I'm as young as I am, he was big when I was "coming of age" as a baseball fan. When I made the transition from being vaguely aware of Royals happenings to being an active fan, Sween-dog was in the "Face of the Franchise" phase of his KC career, so it was easy to latch on to him as my favorite. I'm still fond of him, by the way, and was sad that he and the team weren't able to come up with some solution where he'd still be a Royal.

Can you remember the first time you saw a game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium? Describe your experience.

The first one I specifically remember wasn't actually until mid-July of 2001. I'm certain I went to games before that, but sadly that's the earliest one where I can recall specific details. The Mariners were in town, and of course that was Ichiro's rookie year so the stadium was packed with Ichiro-crazed fans. He promptly went 0-5 on the night, and was also the cause for the ejection of a Royals pitcher, and one of the most fiery on-field manager/ump arguments I have seen to this day. Let's take a moment to think about how far our pitching staff has come since then: Kris Wilson was KC's starter that night.

What is your favorite Kauffman Stadium memory?

That has to be Opening Day 2007. It was the kind of day that makes people get that fond, faraway look in their eyes as they describe seeing the greenest grass they've ever seen, and feeling the most perfect sunshine they've ever felt, and all of that. April 2, 2007 was exactly like that for me. I went with two of my brothers and two of their friends, and the day could not have been more flawless. It was the first time I had seen Curt Schilling pitch in person, and my Royals flogged him. I had never seen Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz bat in person, and Royal pitching held them to a combined 1-for-7. Royals fans everywhere were anxious to see if Gil Meche was an ace, a waste, or somewhere in between, and he went a beautiful 7.1 innings with only one run given up. On that day, the Royals had a taste of success, and a share of first place that would disappear the next day. But that slice of non-loserdom was the most glorious day of my baseball life.

Are you old enough to remember the 1985 season? If so, where were you when Darryl Motley caught the final out of Game 7? Describe your experience.

I wasn't even a twinkle in my father's eye yet. What a shame; I would love to know what Royals victory feels like.

Are you old enough to remember seeing George Brett play? If so, what is your favorite George Brett memory?

I was a toddler when he retired. Again, a massive shame--I love George Brett.

Tell me your favorite memory from the 2003 season when the Royals spent most of the season in first place in the AL Central.

2003 was a cool year for me, because my brother and I were both at the same high school that year (he was a senior). We were on the same newspaper staff, along with a bunch of other baseball fans, so newspaper working time was often accompanied by ESPN or the Royals on the radio. All season long, that group of students--mostly senior guys, plus me as a sophomore--kept tabs on the Royals. When Pena was named Manager of the Year and Berroa the Rookie of the Year, someone (probably my brother) printed out a bunch of copies of those news stories and plastered the newspaper room with it. Sheer triumph reigned for the handful of Royals fans in my high school that day.

Who is your favorite Royals player right now? Why?

Brian Bannister, all the way. Before I ever saw him pitch as a Royal, I could tell I was going to like him, and I thought the Mets were crazy for completing that trade. When he was in Omaha, I loved watching him. Even if I didn't have time to watch the game closely (around my job), I could tell that he had command over games, but not in an overpowering way the way someone like Randy Johnson might have. Before I knew of his sabermetric prowess, I saw that mental domination he had over hitters he faced--even when he didn't win.

Then came the call up. I started seeing him in interviews, and he was actually able to string together coherent and even insightful thoughts--I think we all know how rare that is among players. The more time went on, the more it was obvious that the brain inside his head was something to be treasured and something to be picked. I followed Bannister more closely and with more detailed attention than I have ever given a single player. I squealed with delight every time a different website interviewed him this offseason, and have bookmarked and re-read a lot of those interviews whenever I want to get excited about smart pitching (can I call it Bannyball?).

Also, I want the world to know that I just made my first jersey commitment--I've never bought a Royals' player jersey, but I did this week...and it is Brian Bannister.

What are your favorite memories of Mike Sweeney?

This one runs really, really deep for me. I'm Catholic, and had been finding everything out that I could about Sweeney and how he shares his faith. I was pumped to meet him when he rehabbed in Omaha last August, both because he had been my favorite Royal growing up and because of all the "Catholic stuff." The first time I really met him was that weekend in August (described in full detail here), but I ran into him again in January at a conference for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). He remembered me, asked how I was doing, and then...he told me he was proud of me. That meant a lot to me at the time, and still does. When I'm struggling with my faith life, I look back on things like that and it helps me see what I should be doing, what would make someone as genuinely good as Mike Sweeney proud of me.

What are your thoughts about the current Royals roster?

It's a little bit Swiss cheese-esque, but we have so many reasons to be hopeful. People are actually mentioning Royals players (pitchers, even!) when talking about building good fantasy teams, and I think that's a good sign. I'd love to have a shortstop who could get on base a little bit more regularly...or if TPJ could just go to the plate pretending he had two strikes. Maybe then he'd try to just get on base rather than swinging completely unrealistically for the fences until he's in a 2-strike hole. I love the bullpen, especially now that Nomo has been DFA'd. (That sounds so heartless, I know, but he struck me as such a weak link.) Joakim Soria is a delight--I'd hate him if he was in any division rival's pen, because once he comes in, he just gives that vibe that says, "This is it; I'm here so this game is over." I love having someone that exciting, and that worthy of boasting about in our pen.

Besides Mike Sweeney, have you ever met anybody who played for the Royals at an autograph session (or somewhere else)? Describe your experience.

Plenty. I've been to a few of the Royals Caravan stops, and have waited outside of The K many times for autographs, but most of my meaningful contact with players has come at AAA-Omaha. (I should, however, point out that meeting Ryan Shealy in February of 2007 was one of only a tiny number of non-horrible things in my life that winter. That is the origin of my irrational fan-love for Shealy.) At work, my team sets up all our promotions-related stuff in the camera wells, which are right next to the dugouts. I always go on the Royals side of the field, so I am side-by-side with the team all the time. They love to throw random objects at us, anything from sunflower seeds to bubble gum (usually gum that has not been chewed) to softee baseballs. Angel Berroa is one of the most fun to be around; I've born the brunt of his love for practical jokes and startling people many times. It's cool to get to know a little bit about the O-Royals as people, rather than only as potential filler for the 40-man or whatever. And when I had an awkward tumble off the dugout, the first two people to come to my aid were Joey Gathright and pitcher Matt Wright. Without Wright there to remind me to breathe, I definitely would have fainted, which would have meant more time in the ER for evaluation and all that, so I think I owe him big time. The way Gathright tells the story is a little different; apparently he says that he "saved my life."

This series will run periodically here at Royal Reflections. If you'd like to be interviewed for this series, send Lee an email and he'll be in touch. Also, please note: all photos belong to the interviewees and are not to be copied and/or posted elsewhere.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Game 25: Toronto @ Kansas City

Game Date: April 27, 2008 
Blue Jays 5, Royals 2 / Box Score
WP: Litsch (3-1), LP: Meche (1-4), SV: Carlson (1)  
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 11-14

Gil Meche was better today (3 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 3 K, in 6.2 IP), but I'm still trying to figure out how a guy throws 129 pitches in 6.2 innings. He faced 29 guys, so he averaged 4.44 pitches to every hitter. Toronto hitters are showing the ability to be patient at the plate this season (they are second in the AL with 102 BB and they have struck out just 130 times, which is third best in the AL), so they had something to do with Meche's high pitch count, but whatever happened to pitching to contact?

At the plate the Royals offense was just 6-for-31 (a .193 average) with no walks and five strikeouts. If that's not the definition of anemic, then I don't know what is. Jose Guillen was 0-for-4 and he's still well below the Mendoza line with a .177 average. Tony Pena was 0-for-3 and he's hovering around .150. Billy Butler's average is dropping, he's down to .283. And look at the guys who are hitting; David DeJesus was 1-for-4 with 2 RBI and he's hitting .351 now; Alberto Callaspo, playing in place of Mark Grudzielanek who is currently ailing with a bad back, was 2-for-4 and his average is at .351; and Ross Gload was 2-for-3 in the eight hole to bring his average up to an even .300.

The Royals are off tomorrow. They'll begin a new series in Texas on Tuesday evening. Brett Tomko (1-3, 5.25) is scheduled to go up against Jason Jennings (0-4, 7.46). Tomko is 1-3 in his career against the Rangers with a 7.01 ERA. Jennings is 0-0 against the Royals with a 0.00 ERA.

Tomorrow, I'll be posting another "How I Became a Royals Fan" interview, so check back.

Game 24: Toronto @ Kansas City

Game Date: April 26, 2008
Royals 2, Blue Jays 1 / Box Score
WP: Hochevar (1-1), LP: Marcum (2-2), SV: Soria (6)  
Royal Home Runs: Guillen (2)
Royals Record: 11-13

That was the Luke Hochevar that we've all been waiting for. He got his sinker going and coaxed 11 ground balls and three strikeouts in six innings of work. Afterward he said it was the first time in the big leagues that he wasn't battling adrenalin. In fact, in a rather Gil Meche-like statement, he said this: "I like to pitch on the verge of a fight, but when I get over-zealous, I come out of my delivery and try to throw it 100 miles per hour. In all reality, I just need to keep the ball down and throw it over the plate."

One wonders if anger management won't be a requirement for Royals starters soon.

The Royals still didn't generate much offense--just five hits and three walks in fact. But an RBI single by Ross Gload in the fourth and a Jose Guillen blast to left field was all the Royals needed to win this one.

The bullpen did it's job as well. The combination of Ron Mahay, Leo Nunez, Ramon Ramirez, and Joakim Soria kept the Blue Jays off the scoreboard, giving up two hits and three walks in the process.

The Royals will go for the sweep this afternoon. Gil Meche (1-3, 8.00) will go up against Jesse Litsch (2-1, 6.16). Meche is 4-4 against the Blue Jays in his career with a 5.13 ERA. Litsch is 0-1 against the Royals with a 2.70 ERA.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Next Installment

I'm planning to post the next "How I Became a Royals Fan" interview on Monday. I have some great interviews with Royals fans lined up for you and I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I do. If you are interested in being interviewed for the series via email, send me an email and I'll be in touch.

Game 23: Toronto @ Kansas City

Game Date: April 25, 2008
Royals 8, Blue Jays 4 / Box Score
WP: Nunez (2-0), LP: Burnett (2-2)  
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 10-13

How good is Zack Greinke? I don't think anybody really knows the answer to that question, but we're near the end of April and his ERA is 1.25. He pitched seven strong innings last night, giving up just one earned run on five hits, and even then he didn't want to leave the game when Hillman decided it was time to turn to the bullpen. Greinke said that he argued a little before giving in. That's nice to hear from a guy with such a laid back attitude.

Unfortunately Leo Nunez finally got hit hard, giving up three earned runs in the top of the eighth, but the Royals stormed back in the bottom half of the inning and scored six runs. With one out in the inning and the Royals down 4-2, Jose Guillen singled. Mark Teahen walked. Billy Butler singled in Guillen. Ross Gload grounded into a fielder's choice that allowed Mark Teahen to score. Esteban German (who pinch ran for Butler) moved up to second. With the score tied 4-4, John Buck doubled in German. After Tony Pena got an intentional walk, David DeJesus singled in Gload and Buck. And finally Alberto Callaspo singled to center, scoring Pena to make in 8-4 Royals.

Greinke didn't get the win, but he kept the Royals in a position to win and that's all you can ask a starter to do.

Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless ninth and unbelievably, the guy still hasn't given up an earned run yet this season. In fact, his numbers are downright sick. He's made nine appearances, throwing nine innings, and he's given up just two hits, he hasn't walked one guy, he has 11 strikeouts, five saves, and a 0.22 WHIP.

Tonight, Luke Hochevar (0-1, 11.57) will go up against Shaun Marcum (2-1, 3.42). Hochevar has never faced the Blue Jays. Marcum is 2-0 against the Royals in his career with a 0.48 ERA.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Game 22

Game Date: April 24, 2008
Indians 2, Royals 0 / Box Score
WP: Lee (4-0), LP: Bannister (3-2),  
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 9-13

Brian Bannister was good, but Cliff Lee was better.

In Bannister's mind, everything changed for him and the Royals in the sixth inning when he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Kelly Shoppach. Bannister found the ball and threw Shoppach out and he got the next two guys as well. But in the seventh inning, David Dellucci led off with a home run, and that's all the Indians needed.

Here's what Bannister said after the game: "I'm not saying this sarcastically, but Cliff Lee is the hottest pitcher on the planet right now. He's putting up Nintendo numbers, and I was stride for stride with him, It was a fun game and they beat me because they hit me literally. My shin is killing me."

Lee went on to pitch a complete game, three-hit shutout. Jose Guillen was the only guy who saw Lee well. He was 2-for-3. David DeJesus was the only other Royal to get a hit. Lee struck out nine and didn't walk anybody.

And now the losing streak stands at seven and it feels like nothing has changed from season past. The Royals are still struggling to score runs. Their defense still isn't as good as it needs to be (partially because we have too many guys playing out of position). And two starters (Bannister and Greinke) are trying to carry the weight for the other three.

This photo of Esteban German seems to capture the way most of us are feeling right now.

The Royals begin a new series at home tonight against the Blue Jays. Zack Greinke (3-0, 1.24) will go up against A.J. Burnett (2-1, 6.85). Greinke is 1-2 against the Blue Jays in his career with a 5.03 ERA. Burnett is 2-1 against the Royals with a 3.67 ERA.

Game 21

Game Date: April 24, 2008
Indians 9, Royals 6 / Box Score
WP: Carmona (3-1), LP: Tomko (1-3), SV: Betancourt (1) 
Royal Home Runs: DeJesus (1), Olivo (3)
Royals Record: 9-12

Bad pitching + Bad defense = another loss.

Brett Tomko pitched from behind in the count in his four brief innings and the Indians pounded him for six earned runs on eleven hits and two walks. I guess I shouldn't say brief innings. He threw 108 pitches and the game moved at a snail's pace. Fausto Carmona threw 98 pitches in the first five innings.

It was that kind of game.

The Royals got their hits. In Hillman's revamped line up, Gathright was 2-for-5 at the top of the order, DeJesus was 2-for-4 with an RBI, Butler was 1-for-5 with 2 RBI, Gordon was 2-for-3 with an RBI, and Olivo was 3-for-4 with 2 RBI.

But if you can't pitch or catch, scoring six runs is usually not going to be enough.

There were a couple of nice things to point out in this one though:

The Royals were down 7-1 in the third and it looked like they were in for another drubbing, but they forced Carmona to bring his sinker up a little and when he did, they started hitting him and clawing their way back into the game. In the seventh inning, Olivo hit a two-run home run to bring the Royals to within three runs, which is at least a puncher's chance.

As bad as Yasuhiko Yabuta has been (he gave up two more runs last night), Ramon Ramirez has been stunningly good. He pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless ball last night, lowering his ERA to 0.87.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Royals Still Have Limited TV Schedule in Omaha

I'm still getting email from Royals fans who are upset, like I am, that Cox Communications has chosen not to carry all 140 games on FSN Kansas City in the Omaha market, even though the games are available to them. I never did get a straight answer from Cox about why, but by now you know that Cox made a financial decision.

Here's a link to an article in the Omaha World Herald from a couple of weeks ago that confirms that it was indeed a financial decision. Here's basically what it boils down to: "The costs incurred by Cox to broadcast the additional 40 games, however, would have been passed on to all customers, Peck said [she's a VP with Cox], and were not in the best interest of Cox's entire subscriber base."

Of course, that doesn't really explain the fact that Time Warner customers in Lincoln, Nebraska are able to see all 140 games without a rate increase. But at least it sounds like Cox has finally quit placing the blame on MLB for blacking out the games.

According to the article though, "Peck said Cox had not received many complaints over its scheduling decision." I don't know how she would define "many" but I've called several times, and if everybody who has emailed me telling me that they've called has actually followed through, then I highly doubt what Peck said.

I wish I had better news for you, but I don't. The answer is DirecTV.

Contest is Over

Just to update you on the MLB 08 The Show PS3 giveaway, five winners have been notified via email. As long as I hear back from all five this week, then the contest is over. I'll post the first names of the five winners when everything is wrapped up. If I don't hear from one or more of the winners, I'll re-open the contest for the remaining game(s).

And just because the contest is over doesn't mean you can't take advantage of the subscription box in the upper right hand corner of the page. By subscribing, you'll receive one email each night containing all of the posts for that day. If you don't use an aggregator of some sort, this is a great way to stay current with the blog.

Game 20

Game Date: April 22, 2008
Indians 15, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Sabathia (1-3), LP: Meche (1-3)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 9-11

This one had a Tony Pena/Buddy Bell-era type of feel, didn't it? All of us desperately want to believe that sometimes you get blown out--even when your ace is on the mound--and that it's just one game. I'm right there with you. But how can we not be thinking about Aprils past when the Royals are usually buried so deep in the AL Central standings that it zaps the energy from the team and the fan base for the rest of the season?

Trey Hillman is quoted as saying this in the Star after the game: "You can’t have a knee-jerk reaction. The preparation is good. The work ethic is good. Sometimes there is too much want. But they want to perform for the right reason."

It all sounds too familiar.

It's hard to point to any one thing right now as the problem, but if you had to, pitching would probably be it. Last night, Gil Meche was hoping to turn his season around by winning his second straight game. He's been struggling to put guys away when he's ahead in the count, but he found a way to win his last time out in spite of that. But that certainly wasn't the case last night. The Indians hit fastballs and curve balls when they were down in the count, which surely has Meche scratching his head this morning.

Here's what he said after the game: "I wish I could pinpoint one thing that I'm doing. The body feels good. The arm feels fine. I'm just not making pitches when I have to. I'm not getting ground balls when I have to get a double play."

The pitching problems don't just lie with Meche though. Yasuhiko Yabuta gave up two more earned runs in an inning and his ERA is now 9.82. And the underused Jimmy Gobble finally saw some action in a mop up role and he gave up three earned runs in 0.2 innings.

But when you are last in the major leagues in runs scored, you have more problems than just the pitching staff. The Royals managed just six hits last night and just four off of C.C. Sabathia who looked a lot like the old Sabathia.

The nice thing about baseball though is, you always have tomorrow. And tomorrow is today. Brett Tomko (1-2, 3.60) will go up against Fausto Carmona (2-1, 1.96). Tomko is 1-1 in his career against the Indians with a 4.81 ERA. Carmona is 3-0 against the Royals with a 2.95 ERA.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How I Became a Royals Fan: Rick McGinniss

Name: Rick McGinniss
Location: Kansas City

Tell me a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What do you like to do for fun? What are your hobbies?

I've been married to Jetta for 29 years and we have three grown daughters, two who live in MO and one who lives in DC. I've lived in Kansas City since 1987 when we moved out here so I could attend Midwestern Seminary. In 1994 we planted North Heartland Community Church in the KC Northland and I'm still the pastor there. I like to golf, work in the yard, build computers, and, of course, watch the Royals.

How old were you when you first started following the Royals?

I was 30 when we moved to Kansas City.

How did you initially become interested in the Royals?

The first time I remember actually seeing the Royals and paying attention was in the World Series when they beat St. Louis in 1985. I was still living in NJ, so I wasn't really a fan, but I watched the series.

Who was your first favorite Royals’ player and why?

George Brett.

Can you remember the first time you saw a game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium? Describe your experience.

The first time would have been Opening Day in 1988. I was working at a church as a youth pastor and our senior pastor, who was also a big Royals fan and a member of the Rotary Club, invited me to sell papers on the streets to raise money for their camps. That got me a free ticket and a free lunch at the stadium. It was awesome. I couldn't believe how beautiful the ballpark was. Twenty years later, I'm still amazed by it.

What is your favorite Kauffman Stadium memory?

I have two very distinct K-memories.

My wife and I were there the Opening Day when Slugger was "born." It was bitter cold--maybe 30-35 degrees, but sunny. They brought out this big wooden box on the back of a truck. The truck circled the stadium, then stopped in front of the Royals dugout. The box started shaking and out popped Slugger.

I was also there the night Mike Sweeney charged the mound and pounded Jeff Weaver. My youngest daughter and I were seated about 10 rows behind the Royals dugout. I remember telling her "that guy must've said something really bad for Mike Sweeney to do that."

Tell me your favorite memory from the 2003 season when the Royals spent most of the season in first place in the AL Central.

I don't remember anything in particular, just the feeling of wonder and amazement during the 16-3 start. Well, that and "Nostros Creemos" (we believe).

Who is your favorite Royals player right now? Why?

Grud--he's an old guy but he can still play with the best of them. Kinda reminds me of me. :)

What are your favorite memories of Mike Sweeney?

The guy could flat out hit. His batting song for many years was "Jesus Freak" by D.C. Talk.

What are your thoughts about the current Royals roster?

I'm very excited about the core of younger players and also the guys in the pipeline, especially at AA. I'm very interested to see how Rowdy Hardy does this year. He seems to have a Bannister-like approach. I'm not sure that TPJ will make it unless he hits better. I would like to see them swap Teahen and Gload on the field. Mark doesn't look near as comfortable in left as he did in right last year, even at the beginning of the year and Gload has played left. I love our pitching and I'm glad that the Nomo experiment is over. I hope they stick with Hochevar and move Bale to the bullpen. Other than that, we just need to be patient. This will be a very good team in the second half of the season.

Do you have any other memories about the Royals that you’d like to share?

I've went to observe Spring Training in Surprise for a few days in 2004 and again in late February of this year. It's a blast because you get to be right on top of the field in practices and in games. I was very interested to go this year because of the advent of Hillman and I have to say I was impressed. I saw an intrasquad game where he and a few of the other coaches actually got in the field and he literally coached the players after plays, asking them what they were thinking, explaining how he wanted it done. It was amazing. What was more amazing though, was how he stopped to talk with fans behind the dugout before the Cactus League games. I think Moore got the right guy for this group of players and for our future.

Here are a few of the pictures that Rick took during Spring Training this year:

Trey Hillman at work:

Zack and Billy play Texas hold 'em (sorta):

Billy Butler: the second coming of Sweeney?

This series will run periodically here at Royal Reflections. If you'd like to be interviewed for this series, send Lee an email and he'll be in touch. Also, please note: all photos belong to the interviewees and are not to be copied and/or posted elsewhere.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Disappointing Series

Beyond the fact that the Royals were swept on Oakland this past weekend, the series was disappointing on so many other levels.

The Royals are under .500 for the first time this season. And I hate to ask the question, but I'll do it anyway...will the Royals see the .500 mark again this season? I hope so, but you have to wonder.

The Royals were outscored 26-8 by the A's. The Royals hit just .164 as a team. They drew nine walks but struck out 25 times. The Royals didn't steal any bases during the series. And unlike the first week of the season, the big hits with two-outs don't seem to be coming quite as often. The Royals are currently 28th in runs scored with just 63 in 19 games (a 3.31 RPG average).

Bannister was hit hard for the first time. That won't be the norm this season, but unfortunately it happened during a difficult stretch for the Royals who finished the road trip with a 2-5 record.

Luke Hochevar made his debut (this year) and gave up six earned runs in 4.2 IP. He pitched well for the first three innings, but in the fourth he seemed to be afraid to throw his fastball. He threw curves and change ups--especially when he was ahead in the count--and the A's were all over his breaking pitches. This should be an easily correctable problem though. 

The bullpen didn't perform well. They gave up 12 ER in just 9.1 IP (good for a 11.57 ERA). Thankfully Hideo Nomo, who gave up five earned runs in one of the games in just a third of an inning (and saw his ERA go to 18.69), has since been designated for assignment. Yasuhiko Yabuta was clobbered in one of the games (5 ER in 0.2 IP) and wiggled off the hook in another. He's been so wild (7 BB in 6.1 IP) that he hasn't given himself a chance to get hitters out. 

Emil Brown went nuts at the plate against the Royals. He was 6-for-15 with 4 RBI, 4 R, and a stolen base. He also missed the cut off man on one particular play in the first game of the series, so at least some things haven't changed.

And it was depressing to see Mike Sweeney wearing Oakland colors.

It's time to put all of that behind us as Cleveland and Toronto head in for six games. Tomorrow night, Gil Meche (1-2, 6.08) will go up against C.C. Sabathia (0-3, 13.50). Meche is 2-6 in his career against the Indians with a 5.32 ERA. Sabathia is 13-8 against the Royals with a 3.38 ERA.

How I Became a Royals Fan Series

I haven't gone anywhere. I've just been working on lining up interviews for the "How I Became a Royals Fan" series that I plan to begin posting here soon. I can't wait for you read them. I think you are really going to enjoy them. And if you'd like to be interviewed for the series, send me an email ( and I'll send you the questions via email I'd like you to answer.

And I'm interested in your take on this...down the road, I might also do this series in podcast format. I'd still make the transcript available here on the blog for those who would rather read the interviews, but it might be fun to listen to the give and take in your iPod as well.

Finally, I still have three MLB 08 The Show video games available for PS3. All you have to do to be eligible to win is to subscribe to this blog (in the top right hand corner), then confirm your subscription. I'm not going to tell which magical number confirmed subscriber you need to be in order to win, but you might as well give it a shot now. Even if you don't win a free copy of the game, you'll begin receiving Royal Reflections posts in your email box once a day, so you won't have to remember to check the blog regularly. And of course, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Game 17

Game Date: April 18, 2008
A's 13, Royals 2 / Box Score
WP: Gaudin (1-1), LP: Bannister (3-1)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 9-8

We all knew it would happen eventually. Brian Bannister wasn't sharp and he paid the price. It didn't help that the Royals played a horrendous game defensively, although officially, they didn't commit an error. There's not much to analyze with this one though.

Emil Brown drew first blood with an RBI single in the first. He ended up 3-for-5 with 3 RBI. He also had a throw from left field in which he missed every cutoff man imaginable, but that's Emil Brown. You've gotta take the bad with the good.

Mike Sweeney didn't play in this one, but I was sure hoping he would. As In Dayton We Trust has already pointed out, Sweeney was interviewed by Ryan Levebvre and said some of the most graceful things you'll ever want to hear about the Royals, but that doesn't surprise me. Sweeney has always been a class act.

Yasuhiko Yabuta and Hideo Nomo were both hit extremely hard again. Yabuta gave up five earned runs in just 0.2 IP (his four BB didn't help) and Nomo gave up three earned runs in just 0.1 IP. Again, the Nomo experiment must be getting close to an end. And hopefully Yabuta will turn things around.

The Royals will look to even the series this evening. Zack Greinke (3-0, 0.75) will go against Greg Smith (1-0, 2.08). Greinke is 1-0 in his career against the A's with a 2.66 ERA in 23.2 IP. Smith has never faced the Royals.

Friday, April 18, 2008

MLB 08 The Show

A few weeks ago, I received a complimentary review copy of the PS2 video game, MLB 08 The Show. Below you'll find my honest review of the game. I am not getting paid for the review (other than agreeing to review the game here in exchange for a review copy of the game), and with a few exceptions--which I'll get to in a minute-- all thoughts are my own.

Here are the talking points of the game (which are not mine):

  • MLB 08 The Show is the long running officially licensed baseball title available exclusively on all PlayStation platforms: PLAYSTATION 3, PlayStation 2 and the portable PSP.
  • MLB 08 The Show is available exclusively for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable consoles.
  • MLB 08 The Show is the best-selling and most realistic baseball simulation available.
  • MLB 08 The Show for PlayStation delivers the closest experience possible next to actually playing in the Majors.
  • MLB 08 The Show is available right now wherever video games are available.

From here on out, you'll hear only my opinion.

I set up a franchise, staking my claim to the Royals of course, and I've played 15 games. I'm 11-4 at this point, which is slightly better than the real Royals are doing, but that's because I put the game on an easy level so I could get used to it. I've since changed the game play sliders and find that I'm often in a dogfight--which makes for a fun experience.

Early in the season, while I was playing in Minnesota, Joakim Soria hung a breaking pitch that Justin Morneau obliterated for a home run in the bottom of the ninth for a walk off win for the Twins. The Twins' dugout emptied and they met Morneau at home plate, bouncing up and down, just like you see in real life.

Last night, Ross Gload came up late in the game with the Royals trailing 5-3 in Los Angeles and he ripped a two-run double down the line to tie the score. Gload pumped his fist at second base while the crowd booed. The Royals went on to win in the tenth inning.

Now that I've adjusted the game play sliders, most of the averages and ERAs are looking more realistic than when I first started. I love the fact that players can get tired and not perform as well, and they can get injured and have to miss time. I love being able to run the entire franchise, from setting prices to maintaining the budget if I so choose (which I don't). Players can argue and be ejected. Hitters can charge the mound if they are hit. The 08 version also allows for "forced" trades, which is necessary if you want to try to keep the rosters realistic (since my game counsel doesn't have online capabilities--if yours does, then I believe you can download the latest rosters).

The game definitely has some problems though. Sometimes, on infield pop ups, the catcher will be the only fielder who makes an attempt at the ball (in auto-fielding mode), even if the pop up is out near second base. That doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's irritating. Ground balls that are hit down either line are ruled doubles if they hit the foul pole. That's not good. The commentary from the booth is pretty much the same as the 07 version. And sometimes the game is a little too much station-to-station base running. I think it has more to do with the trajectory of the ball off the bat than anything. You don't see a lot of flares dropping in.

Is it the best baseball video game I've ever played? It might be. I've tried many over the years and usually come away disappointed. That's not the case with this game, in spite of its flaws. And it might just be the most realistic baseball game I've ever played. If "feels" like a baseball game, if you know what I mean.

As part of my willingness to review the game, I also received five free copies of the PS3 version to give away to Royal Reflections' readers. If you would like to be eligible to receive a free PS3 version of the game, go to the top right hand corner of the page and subscribe to this blog. By doing so, you'll begin receiving Royal Reflections posts in your email inbox once a day and you'll never have to remember to come back to the blog.

I'll give away free copies of the game to the 1st, the 5th, the 10th, the 15th, and the 20th new confirmed subscriber. (It's a double opt-in process, so by "confirmed subscriber" I mean, you've not only put your email address in the subscription box, but you've also clicked on the link in the confirmation email you will receive.) To be eligible to win, you must be willing to provide me with a mailing address that I can send the game to. I will not ask for your mailing address unless you win a free copy of the game. And rest assured, I will not sell your email or mailing address.

Update @ 10:50 PM: Still have several games available. Subscribe now and you might be a winner.

Game 16

Game Date: April 17, 2008
Angels 5, Royals 3 / Box Score
WP: Garland (2-2), LP: Tomko (1-2), SV: Rodriguez (6)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 9-7

I'm at a bit of a disadvantage since Cox Communications continues to blackout selected Royals games in the Omaha area. Nothing new to report there, by the way. It's a money issue and Cox isn't budging. And I'm still considering DirecTV.

If you look at the line on this one, the pitching appears to tell the story. Brett Tomko gave up five earned runs in seven innings and Jon Garland continued to dominate the Royals, much like he has throughout his career. This was his 17th career win against the guys in blue.

David DeJesus went down with a toe injury on his left foot. He ran into a wall before the game started. I'm still trying to figure that one out. John Bale, who said he had a dead arm after his last start, was placed on the 15-day DL. Joel Peralta finally got the call to rejoin the Royals, but we don't know yet who is going to take Bale's spot in the rotation. You have to think that Moore will need to make another move to bring up a starter from Omaha. I'm hoping it'll be Luke Hochevar and according to Bob Dutton, he's the likely choice, which could spell the end for Hideo Nomo.

And now the Royals begin a new two-game series in Oakland. How odd is it going to be to see Mike Sweeney wearing any color other than blue? Zack Greinke said it'll be different to see Sweeney and Emil Brown on the other side and he went on to say that Brown was
probably his best friend when he was with the Royals. I doubt if anybody saw that coming.

Brian Bannister (3-0, 0.86) will go up against Chad Gaudin (0-1, 7.20). Bannister is 1-0 in his career against the A's with a 2.40 ERA in 15.0 IP. Gaudin is 2-2 against the Royals with a 3.26 ERA in 30.1 IP.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Game 15

Game Date: April 16, 2008
Royals 3, Angels 2 / Box Score
WP: Meche (1-2), LP: Weaver (1-3), SV: Soria (5)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 9-6

Gil Meche still doesn't look like the Gil Meche of last season, but he was good enough to leave the game after six innings with a 3-2 lead and the bullpen took it from there.

Meche's biggest problem this year has been his inability to make a quality pitch when he's ahead in the count or has two strikes on a guy. I don't know if he's losing concentration after getting ahead or if he's just trying too hard to avoid throwing too many pitches and therefore he's catching too much of the plate, but whatever the reason, he says that he's pitching angry right now. Here's the full quote from the Royals website:

"The good thing is I got this win," Meche said. "I've been pitching with a lot of anger on the mound, which is totally not me. It's not my approach and I've just been getting really upset at little mistakes I've been making. Not making the put-away pitches when I need to and not getting out of that jam didn't help either."

I really doubt that he's feeling pressure to perform up at the same level as Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke because even Bannister and Greinke can't possibly stay on the pace they are on. Meche just needs to settle in, make the quality pitches he's capable of when he's ahead in the count, and trust his defense and bullpen. I suspect he'll do just that.

The Royals got off to a great start against Jered Weaver. Joey Gathright bunted for a single (but then got picked off). Mark Grudzielanek singled. Mark Teahen singled. Billy Butler singled to drive in the first run of the game. After Jose Guillen flew out, Alex Gordon singled in Teahen and the Royals had a 2-0 lead. In the second inning, the Royals manufactured a run with two outs when Gathright singled and then stole second. Grudzielanek hit a ball in the hole between first and second base that Casey Kotchman, the first baseman, was able to field, but Weaver was late on his break to cover first. Grud busted it down the line and slid in head first. Weaver, in a panic to beat Grud to the bag, dropped the toss from the first baseman and Grud was safe, allowing Gathright to score what turned out to be the winning run.

The Royals won this game for several reasons, not the least of which was a great performance by their bullpen, but Grud's hustle was a huge factor as well--something Billy Butler could learn a little about. In the fifth inning with out out and Grud on first (notching a pattern here?) Billy Butler popped up to the first baseman and he stood and watched it. Kotchman glanced at Butler, noticed that he wasn't running, and allowed the ball to drop in fair territory. He fielded it, stepped on first, and then threw the ball to second base where Grud was eventually tagged out. If you are wondering why the infield fly rule didn't come into play, it's because it only applies when there is a force at third.

Not hustling is never defendable and it's something that I just cannot stand to see take place on a baseball diamond. Trey Hillman mentioned it in his comments after the game yesterday and I'm sure he'll have something to say to Butler about it, but a major league manager shouldn't have to say anything to get a guy to hustle.

Enough about that.

How about the bullpen? The combined efforts of Ramon Ramirez, Jimmy Gobble, Leo Nunez, and Joakim Soria shut down the Angles over the final three innings, giving up just two hits. My only complaint about the bullpen so far is that Jimmy Gobble is being used as a situational lefty. He's been lights out in that role (do you realize he hasn't even given up a hit this season?), but he has good enough stuff to eat more innings. Maybe he'll get a chance as the season goes on. It's hard to argue with how Hillman is using the pen right now given their success.

The Royals look to sweep the Angels tonight. Brett Tomko (1-1, 2.08) will go up against Jon Garland (1-2, 5.50). Tomko is 0-0 in his career against the Angels with a 4.67 ERA in 17.1 IP. Garland is 16-6 against the Royals with a 3.54 ERA in 201.0 IP.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Game 14

Game Date: April 15, 2008
Mariners 11, Royals 6 / Box Score
WP: Batista (1-2), LP: Bale (0-3)  
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 8-6

Let's hope the Royals forgot this one as soon as they headed for Los Angeles after the game.

John Bale complained about a dead arm after the game and I don't think anybody would argue. He left way too many pitches up in the zone and he didn't have anything on them. The Mariners tagged him for five earned runs on seven hits and a walk in just three innings. Even then, the Royals clawed their way back in the fourth inning, scoring three runs, but Hideo Nomo came in for Bale to start the fourth and he picked up where Bale left off, giving up four earned runs in an inning of work. The Royals scored two more in the sixth, but by then the game was out of hand.

You have to believe that Bale is on a short leash at this point and with his talk of having a dead arm, perhaps it's time to start looking at alternatives. Luke Hochevar is 1-1 with a 2.60 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in three starts in Omaha. Jorge De La Rosa is 1-0 in two starts in Omaha with a 1.86 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. And Kyle Davies is 1-0 in Omaha with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. I wouldn't mind seeing Hochevar get a shot. I guess Davies would be okay, but I'm not convinced that De La Rosa is a major league quality pitcher at this point in his career. I'd like to see him stay in Omaha most of the season.

And what about Nomo? He's only had two appearances from the bullpen, but neither has been good. How long will the Royals give him to adjust to life as a reliever? We'll see.

It's nice to see David DeJesus getting on track after missing so much time. He was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a BB. Mark Grudzielanek is on a tear. He was 3-for-5. Tony Pena had a rather bizarre at bat in the fourth inning with the Royals down 4-3. They had runners at the corners and one out. Pena failed to get a bunt down (again) on the first pitch he saw. On the third pitch, he swung and missed on a hit and run, leaving John Buck hanging out to dry at second. Finally, Pena reached on an infield single to the left side, which drove in Ross Gload to tie the game 4-4.

The Royals begin a new series tomorrow night in Los Angeles. Gil Meche (0-2, 7.13) will go up against Jered Weaver (1-2, 3.79). Meche is 7-2 in his career against the Angels with a 5.13 ERA in 100.0 IP. Weaver is 2-2 in his career against the Royals with a 1.69 ERA in 26.2 IP.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Game 13

Game Date: April 14, 2008
Royals 5, Mariners 1 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (3-0), LP: Washburn (1-2) 
Royal Home Runs: Butler (1), Olivo (1)
Royals Record: 8-5

I don't think anybody expected Zack Greinke to start the season this well, but at the same time, Royals' fans have known that Greinke has the ability to dominate teams for some time, and at some point, we all expected him to do just that. Three starts into the season, he's 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA. He tossed a complete game last night, giving up just five hits, and he hardly looked like he was trying, and that's meant to be a compliment.

It seems that he's finally been convinced that his stuff is good enough to get hitters out. He has faith in his defense and seems perfectly content to pitch to contact. But with his stuff, even pitching to contact is on his terms. I was especially impressed with his curve ball last night. I don't know how many times he threw it to start an at bat, but he did so several times and he had guys bailing out even though it was over the plate.

The scary part for the opposition? Greinke is still learning. Listen to what he said after the game: "One thing I noticed when Bannister was pitching, is he kept the ball down really well. When he misses over the plate, he doesn’t miss thigh-thigh. He misses at the knees or shins. That's what I focused on this time."

Of course, even though the Royals have the best ERA (2.46) in the major leagues right now, ESPN had to take a shot at the rotation, stating that after Bannister and Greinke, "Kansas City is in trouble." As if Gil Meche is going to end the season with an ERA over 7.00; as if John Bale and Brett Tomko are going to remain in the rotation if they don't perform better; and as if the Royals don't have other options.


Billy Butler continued his hitting streak in a nice fashion, clobbering his first home run of the season in the second inning. Later in the inning, Miguel Olivo smashed a two-run home run over the left center field wall and the Royals were up 3-0. Greinke took a 5-1 lead into the eighth when Yuniesky Betancourt hit a blast to left field. Mark Teahen made a great read on the ball and went up over the wall and took a two-run home run away from Betancourt. The Mariners didn't threaten after that.

David DeJesus made his return to the lineup for the first time since opening day. He was 1-for-4 with an RBI and looked to be running just fine. I liked what Hillman did with the lineup last night when he put Olivo in as the DH. Olivo hits lefties well and he proved that again last night, going 3-for-4 with 2 RBI and 2 R. And how about Tony Pena? I was on his case yesterday for having an average lower than the cost of a postage stamp, and he ended up with two hits, but did you see how he got the second one? He failed to get a sacrifice bunt down twice before ht hit a little flare to right field with two strikes. I'm guessing he'll be having a little talk with Hillman about that AB.

The Royals play the final game of the series in Seattle this evening. John Bale (0-2, 5.84) goes up against former Royal Miguel Batista (0-2, 6.00). Bale is 0-0 in his career against the Mariners with a 4.50 ERA in 4.0 IP. Batista is 1-0 in his career against the Royals with a 0.00 ERA in 3.1 IP.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Game 12

Game Date: April 13, 2008
Royals 5, Twins 1  / Box Score
WP: Bannister (3-0), LP: Liriano (0-1) 
Royal Home Runs: Gordon (3)
Royals Record: 7-5

The Royals finally found a way to score a few runs, and Brian Bannister took it from there, throwing a 3-hitter on 111 pitches. It should have been a shutout, but Jose Guillen dropped a ball in the first inning allowing Brendan Harris to reach first base and Harris came around to score later in the inning.

Brain Bannister's star continues to rise, and with good reason. For the fans who are immersed in stats, Bannister can talk their game. For those who love to see a starting pitcher who economizes his pitches and can tell you why he threw every pitch, Bannister is their guy. And for those who simply love to see a pitcher keep the other team off-balance while giving the Royals a chance to win, Bannister gives them something to cheer about.

Trey Hillman put Joey Gathright back at the top of the batting order and he came through, going 2-for-4 with a run scored. Esteban German got the nod at second base and went 1-for-3 with an RBI. And Billy Butler expanded his hitting streak to 12 games (he has at least one hit in every game this season) by going 1-for-1 with 3 BB. Alex Gordon hit his third home run of the season. And Miguel Olivo got in on the action, going 1-for-3 with an RBI.

Have you noticed Tony Pena's batting average? After his 0-for-3 yesterday, he's hitting .033--less than the price of a postage stamp. If this were the old days, somebody might actually start calling him "Postage Stamp Pena" and he'd never get rid of the nickname.

How about the debut of the powder blues? They look a little odd to me because of the white pants. Why not go all out and go powder blue from head to toe?

The Royals flew to Seattle after the game last night to begin a six game swing through Seattle, Los Angeles, and Oakland. Tonight, Zack Greinke (2-0, 0.60) will go up against Jarrod Washburn (1-1, 3.00). Greinke is 0-0 in his career against the Mariners with a 4.22 ERA in 21.1 IP. Washburn is 8-4 against the Royals with a 3.36 ERA in 88.1 IP.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Game 11

Game Date: April 12, 2008
Twins 2, Royals 0 / Box Score
WP: Bonser (1-2), LP: Tomko (1-1), SV: Nathan (4) 
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 6-5

The Royals have scored one run (total) in the last three games. How could they do anything but lose all three of those games? I have a feeling that our lack of ability to score runs is going to be a concern all season long.

Trey Hillman changed the lineup for this one, but it didn't do any good. Alberto Callaspo got the nod at shortstop again, and he hit leadoff, going 1-for-4. Billy Butler and Jose Guillen were flipped in the order but they were 1-for-8 between then. Miguel Olivo hit in front of Ross Gload and was 0-for-4. And Joey Gathright hit ninth and went 1-for-2.

Brett Tomko was good. Not Boof Bonser-good. But good enough to keep the Royals in the game. He gave up just two earned runs on six hits and a walk in 6.0 innings. And the bullpen did its job. The combination of Ramon Ramirez, Ron Mahay, and Leo Nunez held the Twins scoreless over the final three innings. But it didn't matter. And the 36,000+ who packed the K last night for the free Billy Butler jersey went away disappointed. Well, maybe they didn't. They got a free jersey out of the deal.

This afternoon Brian Bannister (2-0, 1.50) will try to salvage the final game of the series before the Royals head to Seattle. Bannister will face Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00). Bannister is 2-0 in his career against the Twins with a 2.05 ERA. Liriano is 1-0 against the Royals with a 0.00 ERA.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Guillen's Suspension Commuted

MLB has commuted Jose Guillen's 15-day suspension, which probably isn't the best message to be sending to children, but it is what it is. I still don't really understand how the combination of Bud Selig, the strikes, the steroids, the owners, and the Player's Union haven't killed this game in the eyes of the fans. The only answer that makes sense is--the game is bigger than all of that.

Game 10

Game Date: April 11, 2008
Twins 5, Royals 0 / Box Score
WP: Hernandez (3-0), LP: Meche (0-2)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 6-4

So the question today will probably be, what's wrong with Gil Meche? He's off to a rocky start and the critics are sure to come calling--even if they had to wait a year. Meche has just one quality start in his first three outings this year. He's falling behind too many guys. He's walking too many guys. He's throwing too many pitches. And he's giving up too many runs. Just check out his 7.13 ERA. But in my opinion, he deserves the benefit of the doubt after last season. Let's see what happens as the weather warms up.

Last night, Livan Hernandez stymied the Royals for the second time this season. He's done that to a lot of teams over the years. But the Royals had their chances. In the fifth inning, with the Twins ahead 5-0, the Royals had the bases loaded with one out. Hernandez threw a slow curve that brought back memories of Zack Greinke's first season or two and struck out Jose Guillen--who still hasn't hit a home run yet. Billy Butler had a chance to pick Guillen up, but he grounded out to shortstop and the threat was over. The Royals weren't a factor after that.

On defense, Mark Teahen made yet another bad read on a ball in the second inning on a line drive hit his way off the bat of Carlos Gomez. Teahen took a step in and then realized it was going to be over his head. Gomez ended up with a two-run double. Teahen will probably eventually get a better feel for left field, but I'm still a little irritated that he's out there to begin with. It's clearly not his best position and arguably it's not even his second best position, given the way he played in right field last year. But these are the cards he's been dealt, so let's hope he figures out left field soon.

It looks like the swap that Trey Hillman made in the batting order between Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon is paying off. I couldn't figure out why he had Gordon penciled in the three hole to begin with, but now that he's hitting behind Butler, he looks relaxed and he has average up to .317. He had two more hits last night. And Teahen had a hit and a walk. He's hitting .343. Now if Guillen would start hitting, we might start scoring a few more runs.

Yasuhiko Yabuta threw more pitches (38) than I'd like to see in two innings, but he didn't give up any runs, keeping his scoreless streak alive. Ramon Ramirez threw a scoreless inning as well, and like Yabuta, he has yet to give up an earned run this season.

Tonight, Brett Tomko (1-0, 1.29) goes up against Boof Bonser (0-2, 4.15). Tomko is 4-0 in his career against the Twins with a 4.41 ERA. Bonser is 2-5 against the Royals with a 4.61 ERA.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Game 9

Game Date: April 10, 2008
Yankees 6, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Pettitte (1-1), LP: Bale (0-2)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 6-3

Watching Andy Pettitte struggle with his control early in the game, I thought that it was probably just a matter of time before the Royals jumped on him, but Pettitte righted the ship and was able to keep the Royals off the scoreboard after limiting them to just one run in the first inning.

John Bale wasn't horrible, although I'm not sure that I'm convinced he is deserving of the optimism that Trey Hillman has been showing him. One of the four earned runs he gave up last night was the result of Esteban German not being able to turn a double play. He fumbled the ball and couldn't get it out of his glove. But, as the old saying goes, you can't assume a double-play.

Joey Gathright continues to struggle at the plate, going 0-for-4 and dropping his average to .194. It's nice that he can steal a lot of bases, but when your lead off guy has an OBP of .231, well, it speaks for itself. Jose Guillen has been a disappointment so far in this young season. The stage was set for a dramatic comeback for the Royals when Guillen came up against Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning with two outs and two guys on base. Rather than hitting the long ball to tie the game though, he struck out instead. At least Mark Teahen looked good at the plate. He got three hits and seemed to be right on the ball, even though he was facing a lefty.

In the field, the Royals looked sloppy. Joey Gathright over-ran a line drive hit in his direction in the fourth and had the ball deflect off the heel of his glove, or maybe even his wrist. That's a play that he has to make. Esteban German, who got the start at second base, failed to turn the aforementioned double play.

Oh, and how about that performance by Hideo Nomo? Wow. It's amazing that he only gave up two runs in the three innings he pitched. He was way up in the zone and looked very much like a 39 year-old pitcher who doesn't have anything left. He gave up back to back jacks in the ninth. I know it was against the Yankees and all, but you have to wonder if that was just a preview.

All in all, this was just one of those games. The Royals still won the series and open a new series at home tonight against the Twins. Gil Meche (0-1, 6.94) goes up against Livan Hernandez (2-0, 3.86). Meche is 6-4 in his career against the Twins with a 4.44 ERA. Hernandez is 1-0 against the Royals with a 5.14 ERA.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Game 8

Game Date: April 9, 2008
Royals 4, Yankees 0 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (2-0), LP: Farnsworth (0-1), SV: Gobble (1)
Royal Home Runs: Buck (1)
Royals Record: 6-2

Neither rain, nor surprise starter, nor $195 million payroll could stop Zack Greinke and the Royals tonight. With the rain pouring down, Greinke mowed down the evil Yankees for eight innings without giving up a run, lowering his ERA to 0.60.

Oddly, Joe Girardi scratched scheduled starter Ian Kennedy shortly before game time "because of anticipated rain." After the rain let up, he put Kennedy into the game and he gave up two earned runs in three innings. I don't know what his reasoning was, but you have to love the way it worked out.

The Royals got on the board for the first time in the fifth inning when John Buck hit a solo home run to center. Jose Guillen singled in a run during that same inning. Ross Gload doubled in a run in the sixth. And Tony Pena's fielder's choice in the sixth led to another run.

The Royals drew six walks. Mark Teahen drew three of them himself. And Joey Gathright stole his sixth base of the season (he was also caught stealing once). He's on an incredible run right now, especially considering how poor he was at stealing bases last year (he stole 9 bases in 17 attempts).

Tomorrow night, the Royals go for the sweep. John Bale (0-1, 5.68) goes up against Andy Pettitte (0-1, 5.40). Bale is 0-1 in his career against the evil Yankees with a 4.66 ERA. Pettitte is 11-3 against the Royals with a 3.15 ERA.

Game 7

Game Date: April 8, 2008
Royals 5, Yankees 2 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (2-0), LP: Hughes (0-1), SV: Soria (4)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 5-2

Nothing beats a victory over the evil Yankees on the home opener. Well, that's not true, but it's right up there near the top.

We got to see Bobby Abreu lollygagging after a single that Mark Teahen turned into a double, and Johnny Damon making a throw to home plate that would have embarrassed a five-year old girl, and Jason Giambi trotting down the first base line so slow that Johnny Damon could have thrown him out from left field, and A-Rod striking out four times. What more could a Royals fan want?

The funny thing about the Royals fast start is, they aren't scoring many runs. They are tied for last in the American League with three home runs. Their slugging percentage (.363) is slightly higher than an 0-7 Detroit team (.358). Their on-base percentage isn't even good (.309--good for 11th in the AL). And for all the talk about Trey Hillman wanting the Royals to draw more walks, they have just eight, which is by far the worst in the AL.

So, what are the Royals doing well? They are stealing bases. They are currently tied for third in the AL with nine. They are moving runners. They are getting key two-out hits to keep innings alive, and then key two-out hits to drive in runs. They are pitching extremely well. Their 2.57 team ERA currently leads the AL. To this point, teams are hitting just .232 against them. And the good news is, Gil Meche isn't pitching all that well right now. Imagine if he was.

Speaking of struggling, Brian Bannister really struggled this afternoon. He gave up two earned runs on five hits and four walks and it could have been much worse. He threw 97 pitches in just five innings, but to be fair, the strike zone was about as big as a quarter--just look at the number of pitches that Hughes threw (87 in just three innings). But Bannister found a way to get through it and when he left the game, the Royals were already up 5-2. The combination of Ron Mahay, Ramon Ramirez, and Leo Nunez shut down the evil Yankees from there.

At the plate, Joey Gathright was 2-for-4 with 3 SB. Mark Grudzielanek was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Mark Teahen was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Billy Butler was 2-for-4. So was Alex Gordon. And Ross Gload was 2-for-3 with 2 RBI and a walk (and multiple nice plays at first base).

Tomorrow night, Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.29) will go up against Ian Kennedy (0-1, 23.14). Greinke is 1-2 in his career against the evil Yankees with an 8.22 ERA. Kennedy is 0-0 against the Royals with a 3.60 ERA.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Home Opener Photos

If you are going to the game this afternoon and you are bringing your camera along, I'd appreciate it if you'd email your best photos to me. I'm interested in photos of the changes at the stadium, photos of the players, and of the crowd, and of you and your group of friends.

I'd love to post a number of them here tomorrow. My email address is on the right hand side of the page in the bio section. Please identify yourself so I can give you credit for the photos.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Game 6

Game Date: April 6, 2008
Royals 3, Twins 1 / Box Score
WP: Tomko (1-0), LP: Bonser (0-2), SV: Soria (3)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 4-2

Brett Tomko was better today than any Royals fan could have imagined, the bullpen was spectacular again, and Alex Gordon's two-run single in the second inning was all the run support the pitching staff would need to help the Royals go 4-2 on their first road trip of the year. And now they head home to face the evil Yankees for the home opener at the re-vamped K on Tuesday afternoon.

Tomko threw 92 pitches in just five innings worth of work, but he kept the Twins from scoring, and ultimately that's what counts. He gave up six hits and issued one walk while striking out three. Ron Mahay gave up a run in two innings of work and the combination of Leo Nunez, Jimmy Gobble, and Joakim Soria closed the door on the Twins over the final two innings. So far, the Royals bullpen has allowed just two runs in 17 innings (a 1.05 ERA).

Joey Gathright played in place of David DeJesus again and he went 0-for-4 at the top of the lineup to drop his average to .167. Alberto Callaspo played second and was 2-for-4 in the number two hole. Mark Teahen hit third again and was 0-for-4. Billy Butler was 3-for-4 and is now hitting .400. And Alex Gordon, hitting sixth, was 2-for-4 with 2 RBI.

The Royals will be off tomorrow, but they better get a lot of rest, because they will play 13 games over the next 13 days that includes a swing out to the West Coast for games against Seattle, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

On Tuesday, Brian Bannister (1-0, 0.00) will go up against Phil Hughes (0-0, 3.00). Bannister is 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA in his career against the evil Yankees. Hughes is 0-0 with a 11.57 ERA against the Royals.

Game 5

Game Date: April 5, 2008
Twins 6, Royals 4 / Box Score
WP: Hernandez (2-0), LP: Meche (0-1), SV: Nathan (3)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 3-2

Gil Meche piled up the pitches (87 in 5.2 IP), falling behind too many hitters, and eventually it caught up with him when Justin Morneau blasted a three-run home run in the fourth inning. Meche's control got worse as the game went along and he gave up three more runs in the sixth.

The Royals scored their runs off the bat of some rather unlikely candidates. Joey Gathright had an RBI. So did Alberto Callaspo, who played shortstop. And Miguel Olivo saw his first action of the season after coming back from his four game suspension--he drove in two runs.

Trey Hillman is beginning to tinker with the batting order. Alex Gordon was dropped to the sixth position. Mark Teahen was raised to the three hole. And Ross Gload was dropped to number eight, behind the catcher.

We finally got to see Ron Mahay and Yasuhiko Yabuta in this one and both pitched well. Combined they gave up just one hit and no walks in 2.1 innings of work.

This afternoon, the Royals will attempt to salvage the final game of the series and try to make this a winning road trip. Brett Tomko (0-0, 4.50) will go up against Boof Bonser (0-1, 4.50).

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Nomo Added to the Roster

Hideo Nomo was added to the major league roster after the Royals sent back up catcher Matt Tupman to Omaha. The move was possible because Miguel Olivo has completed his four-game suspension and is now eligible to play.

Nomo's career numbers over 11 seasons with six big league teams are good: 123-109 with a 4.21 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. But he hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2005 (with Tampa Bay) and that season was a complete disaster. He was 5-8 in 19 starts with a 7.24 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP. The season before that in Los Angeles was even worse. You have to go back to 2003 to find a season in which he posted good numbers.

He's been a starter his entire career, but he won't be for the Royals. He'll be pitching out of the pen. So, does he have anything left? We're about to find out.

Hochevar Tagged with Loss in Omaha

Luke Hochevar got his first start for the Omaha Royals last night as the Royals played host to Albuquerque. Hochevar gave up three earned runs on five hits and two walks in 5.2 innings. His nemesis was the long ball. He gave up two home runs, which led to all three earned runs he gave up. Here's a link to a story in the Omaha World Herald about the game.

Omaha went on to lose 7-6. They certainly didn't have any problems getting hits or scoring runs though. Mitch Maier was 3-for-5 with an RBI at the top of the lineup. Shane Costa hit third and was 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a walk. Ryan Shealy was 2-for-4 with 2 RBI, a walk, and a home run. Damon Hollins was 1-for-4 with 2 RBI. And Chris Lubanski was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Here's a link to the box score.

Joe Nelson, who is now in the Marlins organization, came back to haunt the O. Royals. He pitched the final 1.2 innings to pick up his first save of the season.

Game 4

Game Date: April 4, 2008
Twins 4, Royals 3 / Box Score
WP: Baker (1-0), LP: Bale (0-1), SV: Nathan (2)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 3-1

Well, the first loss came much later than nearly everybody on the planet thought it would.

John Bale was far from impressive in his first start, but he probably wasn't as bad as his line looks. He gave up 10 hits, a walk, and four earned runs in 6.1 innings. Throw in some infield hits and a couple of bunts and you have one team out small-balling another team.

Scott Baker wasn't exactly stellar, but once he got the lead in the fourth inning, he settled in and at one point retired eleven Royals in a row. And when Gardenhire did go to the bullpen, they didn't look anything like the Tiger bullpen. The combination of Pat Neshek, and that funky delivery of his, and Joe Nathan shut the Royals down over the final 2.1 innings, allowing just one hit.

The Royals jumped out to an early 3-1 lead after two innings, but Bale couldn't hold it. The Royals ended up with eight hits in the game. Mark Grudzielanek was 2-for-4 and kept his average at .500 after four games. The guy is playing like he's 27 instead of 37. Billy Butler continues to hit, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, and the RBI came on a long at bat in the first inning when he fouled off five straight pitches with a 1-2 count before driving the ball back up the middle for a single.

Jimmy Gobble struck out all three batters he faced in an inning of work. And Ramon Ramirez finished out the eighth by getting the final two outs without give up any runs.

This afternoon in Minnesota, Gil Meche (0-0, 4.50) will go up against Livan Hernandez (1-0, 2.57).

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Game 3

Game Date: April 3, 2008
Royals 4, Tigers 1 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (1-0), LP: Bonderman (0-1), SV: Soria (2)
Royal Home Runs: Gordon (2), Teahen (1)
Royals Record: 3-0

Down goes Frazier.

In rather stunning fashion, the Royals have swept the Tigers in Detroit to start the season, and I still can't believe it. The last time the Royals opened the season with a sweep on the road was 1977, in Detroit.

If you line up some studs at the top of your pitching rotation, you can win baseball games, even if you have an offense that nobody fears. Zack Greinke threw 99 pitches this afternoon and gave up just one earned run on six hits and two walks in seven innings. He wasn't as good as Brian Bannister was yesterday, but he didn't need to be.

Meanwhile, Mark Grudzielanek continued to set the pace for the offense, going 2-for-5, including a single to lead off the fourth inning, followed by a towering two-run home run to left center by Alex Gordon. The Tigers have been pitching Gordon away all series, something that Gordon surely knew, and when Bonderman hung an 83 mph change up on the outside portion of the plate, Gordon didn't miss it. He hit is so far that it cleared the Tigers' bullpen.

With the Royals up 2-0 going into the sixth inning, Mark Teahen got a 1-1 fastball on the inside portion of the plate and he came as close as possible to knocking the cover off the ball--sending it way over the right field wall to give the Royals a 3-0 lead.

The Royals fourth run came in the seventh inning. Joey Gathright stole second base with two outs and Jose Guillen drove him in with a single on the next pitch.

Ramon Ramirez came in for the eighth inning. Gary Sheffield hit a sky high pop fly to left field that dropped in front of Teahen. Teahen, for the second time in the game, started back on a ball before realizing it was way in front of him, but he threw Sheffield out at second base from his knees. That turned out to be a big play because later in the inning Carlos Guillen doubled.

During the broadcast, Ryan Levebvre was talking about a pitch that Ramirez throws that the Royals are calling a "power change up." Talk about a mind-melt. It's a cross between a change up and splitter and he was throwing it in the 88-89 mph range, which makes little sense to me, given that it isn't much slower than his fastball, but it does have movement, so maybe it works more like a cutter works for guys who also throw four-seam fastballs. I don't know. I'll have to see the pitch more times to form an opinion about it. At any rate, Ramirez got out of the eighth unscathed after giving up two hits.

Joakim Soria sat the Tigers down in order in the ninth and the sweep was complete.

One interesting thing about this series is, it gave us an indication about how Hillman might choose to play his starters. The word is often. John Buck caught all three games even though the Royals faced two righties and and a lefty. Ross Gload played all three games at first base. Mark Grudzielanek played all three games at second base. And right now, only 11 Royals have official at bats, and one of them, Joey Gathright, might only have them because of an injury. Esteban German has just one AB. Alberto Callaspo has none. And I already mentioned that Olivo hasn't seen any action yet. That's old school managing right there. And it comes with the expectation that the reserves keep themselves sharp.

The Royals begin a new series in Minnesota tomorrow night. John Bale will go up against Scott Baker. And somewhere, ghosts of Royals past are shouting, "Believe!"

UPDATE @ 5:00 PM: Paul pointed out that Olivo is suspened, which is why he hasn't seen action yet, and of course he's right. Matt Tupman is currently the back up for Buck, and he has yet to see any action. Thanks Paul!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Game 2

Game Date: April 2, 2008
Royals 4, Tigers 0 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (1-0), LP: Rogers (0-1)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 2-0

I just went and checked the Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball website to see how many people picked up Brian Bannister after his performance today. The magic number is 8,741...strike that...9,282 (the number grew that quickly since I started writing this post). What caused all the bandwagon jumping?

Bannister shutout the Tigers this afternoon in Detroit for seven innings, giving up just two hits and no walks. Obviously, he didn't overpower anybody, but he doesn't need to. Here's what Detroit manager Jim Leyland said after the game about Bannister:

"If we got shut out by someone who was hanging breaking balls and leaving pitches in the middle of the plate, I'd be concerned. But when a guy locates like he did today, that's the way it goes. You aren't going to wear out good pitching that locates. You've got to take advantage of mistakes, and we didn't do that."

The Royals didn't get on the scoreboard until the sixth inning when Mark Grudzielanek doubled with one out, followed by a Jose Guillen double with two outs for the first run of the game, and a Billy Butler double for the second run. Billy Butler had an RBI later in the game and Mark Teahen drove in the other run.

Joey Gathright started in place of David DeJesus in right field and he made the most of it, going 2-for-4 at the top of the lineup.

Leo Nunez and Joakim Soria shut down the Tigers over the final two innings and the Royals are 2-0 for only the second time in the last 28 years--as the AP was quick to point out.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Royals play the final game of the three game series before moving on to Minnesota. Zack Greinke will go up against Jeremy Bonderman.

Royals Not on FSN in Omaha

I got a rude awakening when I went to turn on the game today. It wasn't on television even though it was supposed to be. So, I called Cox Communications and they said that MLB blacked out the game and they were negotiating with them regarding future broadcasts.

So, I called MLB and after being transferred twice, got a voice mailbox, on which I left a message asking why the game that was being played in Detroit was blacked out in Omaha (which is 733 miles away). Nobody returned my call. And if you want to hear an even bigger frustration--the radio station in Omaha that carries the Royals doesn't do so when the Royals play afternoon day games.


Then I found this story in the Topeka Capital-Journal saying that in some markets Cox Communications has chosen not to carry 40 of the 140 games that FSN is planning to show. Why?

"It's not part of our contract with Fox Sports," said Sarah Kauffman, a spokesman for Cox Kansas. "When a programmer wants a lot more money for something, ultimately the consumer ends up absorbing those added costs. We weren't willing to ask our customers to pay for that increase."

How about asking the customers first?

And let me get this straight...the television guide on Cox says that the the Royals were supposed to be televised this afternoon; one of their customer representatives blamed the problem on MLB; and now a spokesman for Cox is saying that its a financial issue. So which is it? Apparently, Cox doesn't have a clue.

As a side note, here's something else that doesn't make sense. Fans are willing to pay to watch their favorite teams, but MLB blacks out games within several hundred miles of the stadium. What is the point of a blackout? I live 200 miles from Kauffman Stadium. The idea that I'm going to jump in my car to catch a game during the week is slim to none. But I'm willing to pay to watch it on television. Why in the world would you tell a fan that you don't want his or her money?

I have a hard time understanding how MLB even survives sometimes.

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