separation anxiety

May 29, 2009

A lot of my optimism about this season was predicated on the premise that there was little to differentiate the teams in the AL Central.  All were flawed and relatively equal, so the Royals had a puncher’s chance.  Just looking at the rosters and last year’s performance, it made sense.

That isn’t reality at this point.  Detroit is the class of the division.  I know, I know.  It’s strange to put “Detroit” and “class” in the same sentance.  But this week they demonstrated that they own the Royals, except on the days when the best player in baseball takes the mound for KC.  They can hit.  They can pitch.  They can field.  Nice combo, there.  Not that they are an elite team right now, but they have clearly separated themselves from the pack in the Central.  Things can change.  Just about every week on Petro’s show, Jayson Stark predicts that the Tigers old age will catch up with them and they’ll break down at some ponti this season.  But that’s not something we can count on.  

The challenge for the Royals with this series against the Wh*te Sox is to prove that they are part of the “middle three” of this division.  For the last few years, the Royals have been the dunce of the group.  This year, they have a chance to hang around in the middle and not get dusted by the rest of the pack.  Granted, it’s hard to do that when you drop home games to division foes, as we’ve done in 4 of our last 6 home games against AL Central opponents. 

My hope is that Banny and The Don come out nasty.  The crowds will be big this weekend, which should give the boys a pick-me-up.  If things break right (and by “right”, I mean “Meche doesn’t go out there and completely melt down on Saturday night), we could separate ourselves from the stupid Sox.  That would be huge, and would keep this homestand from ending a complete disaster.

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the panic button, revisited

May 25, 2009

Last week I mentioned how close I was to hitting the panic button on this season.  Well, Saturday night I did it.  Flipped the lid and slammed that mug as hard as I could.  The lights started blinking.  The alarm started buzzing.  People ran from the building with reckless abandon.  

24 straight scoreless innings will do that to you.

Then I wake up this morning, and what do I find?  The Detroit Tigers are in town for a three game series, and a Royals sweep could put them in a tie for first in the AL Central.  A little more digging shows favorable pitching match-ups.  

And again, I begin to dream.  

But no.  I won’t let myself do that.  I refuse.  Because if you are in a building and the fire alarm goes off, you don’t run back in once the thing stops blaring.  You wait.  You let process play out as people go check out the building to make sure all danger is truly past.  Then, once you find out the fire is out (or that there was no fire at all), you go back into the building.

So that’s what I’m going to do.  Wait this thing out.  Let that mug breathe.  Because all of the factors that led to a string of Royals losses aren’t wiped out by one win in St. Louis and sending Luke Hochevar back to Omaha.  We need a bigger sample than that.

That’s why I won’t let myself run back into the “we can contend in the AL Central” building until June 12.  By then we will have answered a lot of questions.  How do we look compared to the current division leaders?  How do we look against our arch-rivals?  How do we look on the road against a decent Toronto team?  How do we look against the team everyone wants us to be?  And finally, for the love of God, can we actually win a series against the hapless Indians?  

If most of those questions can be answered positively, things are looking good.   If we are close to Detroit and have created some space in the standings from the Twins and Wh*te Sox, then I’ll get back in the building.  I’ll start banging the drum for us to make a trade or two.  I’ll allow myself to really hope that we can be this year’s magic team.

But if those questions can’t be answered in the positive?  It’s time to start rooting for an above .500 record at the end of the year.  It’s time to start looking at which of our average players we can package to get a young shortstop who can step in in 2010 or 2011.  It’s time to be realistic and admit that the division is bound to be stronger next year than it is this year, so we have to see a lot of improvement if we’re going to contend over the next couple of years.  

Let’s see how those questions play out. 

18 days and counting.

textual genius

May 22, 2009

I got a text (three, actually) from a friend today. He’s quite intelligent and busted out this piece of textual genius:

“Our revenge will ge the laughter of our children” — That’s both the tagline on royalsreview.com and a famous quote from IRA leader Bobby Sands…I used to think it implied the Royals were plucky upstarts in the face of long odds.  After the last two bullpen performances, I think it correctly compares The Royals to domestic terrorists”

my hand in relation to the panic button

May 22, 2009

Panic Button

Last night before bed I tweeted, “I’ll sleep on it, but I’m getting ready to push the panic button on this season.”

I slept on it.  I’m not pushing the panic button.  But my hand is squarely on it and ready to bear down sometime over the next six days.  

After Tuesday’s game I was hopeful that the Royals had experienced a watershed moment on the season.  We all were.  But it doesn’t seem to be.  The team just wrapped up it’s third straight series against a last-place team, a stretch over which they won a grand total of three games.  Two of those they probably didn’t deserve to win, so we’re talking about one good performance over nine games.  Not good as we enter six straight against first place teams.

So it’s unlikely we are close to Detroit this time next week.  I want us to be.  I’ll be rooting for us to be.  But the Cards are hot, and both Detroit’s pitching and hitting are surging as the Royals experience breakdowns in each category.

You know, if the Royals were going to win the AL Central this year, things were going to have to fall perfectly for us.  Kinda like they did for the Rebel Alliance in Episode IV.  Go back and watch the Battle of Yavin.  The Rebels had to have the perfect strategy, and they had to execute well.  Avoiding turbo lasers.  Dodging TIE fighters.  Flying through narrow corridors without crashing into walls or eachother.  They even had to outwit Vader himself, and were only able to do so after Han Solo came in out of nowhere to save the day.

There’s still a chance things could break back our way.  I’m just saying a lot of stuff has to happen.  We need that infield glove.  We need Billy Butler to not have to make any great plays in key situations (though he has shown himself to be able to make good plays on a regular basis).  We need DeJesus to break out.  We need someone at the back of the rotation to step up.  And we need Soria to come back so that the rest of the bullpen guys can fill their appropriate slots.

Oh, and we could use the Tigers faltering down the stretch.

It could happen.  But I’m playing the probabilities and keeping my hand over the panic button for a while.

 
and part II

a fitting nickname for zack greinke

May 21, 2009

For shame, we have yet to settle on a good nickname for Zack Greinke. During the FSNKC telecast the other night they put it up for vote, but the options were atrocious. I can’t remember what they all were, but I remember they made me want to poke my eye out. Greink-i-nator. Zack Attack. Monikers that are great for your 7yr old kid, but not at all fitting a dominating force. Zack needs something intimidating. A name that can hold its weight in light of his skill level. 

May I make a suggestion?

The Don.

Ok, I admit it doesn’t rhyme. People love rhymes. I get that. And I don’t follow the popular convention of mashing a couple of words together. But this nickname isn’t about being cute. So hear me out.

If you’re not a hardcore Royals fan, you might not know that Zack’s full name isn’t Zackary (???)  Greinke. It’s Donald Zackary Greinke. Thus, the Don.

But the name goes deeper than that. It’s a shoutout to KC history. The time when gangsters and mafias ran this town. While Providence might currently be the mafia capital of the US, there was a time when a lot of bad dudes set up shop in KC.  Bad dudes who did bad things to people. Toyed with them. Messed with them. And then just cut them loose.

Look, there’s only one person right now who commands the respect of the entire city.  It certainly isn’t the Mayor. Or his wife. It’s Zack.  And cats are starting to fear the man. Alexi Ramirez still pees his pants a little bit every time he thinks about the pitch Zack let get up in near his chin. The dude is good and he know’s he’s good. He smirks every time he makes someone look foolish, and he only gets better the more the pressure builds up.

So from now on, it’s The Don.  Kiss the ring.

Go Royals

stormtrooper video of the week: dance dance revolution

May 20, 2009

This is probably the most well kown stormtrooper vid on the net. It’s a fantastic showcase of our dance skills.  Perhaps someday soon there will be a Kauffman Stadium edition.  I can cut quite the rug.

good thing i got ice cream

May 20, 2009

The first eight innings of that game last night were brutal for all Royals fans.  BRUTAL.  Finally the 9th rolled around, the lady stormtrooper looked at me and asked if I’d be willing to go get ice cream.  Heck yes, I would.

So I jumped in the speeder, turned on the satellite radio and listened to Denny call the rest of the game.  And it was amazing.  

Sometimes when you are in a slump you just gotta change things up.  I sat in the speeder outside the ice cream joint and listened to an epic baseball moment.  When I got out to go in and get treats, everything was different.  I wasn’t trying to bury my sadness in sweet creamy goodness.  I was going in to get a delicious victory cigar.

But let me tell you, when I made it back to the house, I fired up the Tivo.  You had better believe I watched the bottom of the 9th, knowing full well everything that was going to happen.  And it was just as good the second time around.  Especially good for the lady stormtrooper, who had gone out of the room to change the baby stormtrooper’s diaper after the first out.

Now we’ll see where a great win like that takes us.  A year ago, Jon Lester was no-hitting the Royals.  This year they were coming back to crush the psyche of anyone and everyone associated with the Cleveland Indians.  Back on Monday, I was calling for the Royals to end the Indian’s season right here and now.  Even I didn’t think they could do it like this.  Nothing is more dibilitating than feeling like you’ve won a game, only to have it ripped from you.

Don’t belive me?  Check out this running thread for Cleveland fans from the game last night. At the top of the page (when the Indians were seeming to walk away with the game) the fans weren’t even talking baseball.  They were talking about whether skunks or ferrets make better pets.  Seriously.  But then the wheels fall off, the F-Bombs start flying and…well…yeah.  They feel all of the things that Royals fans have felt over the past few years.  On the one hand, it’s a funny read because we’re on the winning end.  But it also brings up a lot of painful, painful memories.

What a different experience from Sunday afternoon.  We won that game, but I felt dirty afterward.  Not that we necessarily deserved to win either game, but Sunday was particularly filthy.  Last night was different.  Olivo punking a young buck at the plate, getting him out and dealing some chin music in the process.  DeJesus getting a huge hit even though he’s been slumping.  All the players jumping around at the end of the game, giving the feeling that this could (please, please, please) be a milestone moment in this season.

I don’t know about you, but on days like this I love to read everything I can about the previous nights game.  So soak it all in, because it was good.

Go Blue

dissenting opinions: royals vs. indians previews

May 19, 2009

Not too much chatter around the internet about this series from the Cleveland side.  I think they’re pretty depressed about the way things are going.  Hopefully the Royals don’t give them any reasons to hope over the next three days.  But I did find:

  • An afternoon Indians linkdump for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer
  • A series preview for the Plain-Dealer.  Interesting that the picture they feature is of Grienke, even though he doesn’t pitch until Thursday.  Can’t blame them.  Dude is a stud.  
  • Must be strong contingent of Indians fans in Fort Wayne, IN.  Their paper has a preview.
  • The Indians have had quite the Revolving Door of players recently, which isn’t helping the psyche of the fans.
  • Buster Oleney gives the Royals a shoutout today, noting: The Royals are searching for more consistency on offense, writes Sam Mellinger, and some sources say if Kansas City starts looking for help, the Royals’ preference would be to add a shortstop (unless Mike Aviles starts to hit). What is not clear right now is how much financial flexibility the Royals will have, and whether they’ll be able to take on some salary. Here’s one indication that they might have a chance to add some salary: Attendance has increased by 16 percent at Kauffman Stadium.

There you go.  Head out to the park tonight.  Get your George Brett shirt.  Watch good baseball on a nice night.  Perfect.

Go Royals.

talkin’ that classy trash

May 19, 2009

Today we welcome the Cleveland Indians to town.  For the next three days, they are Public Enemy #1.  While we will be polite if we see members of the team grabbing dinner on the Plaza, it is our job to make sure they are duly destracted during the actual game.  It helps our team out, and creates that imposing home field advantage.

But there is a fine line to talking trash.  You don’t talk about the women in player’s lives, be it their mothers, girlfriends or otherwise.  You don’t bring up race, either explicitly or implicitly.  No homophobic remarks.  And try to keep the language PG, because it is a family atmosphere, afterall.

And for the sake of all things Royal blue, please be creative.  I hate it when I’m at the game and some idiot starts screaming, “You Suck!!!!!!!!!!” as loud as he can.  It makes me want to turn around and yell back.  “No, sir.  You are the one who is sucking!!!!  Your taunts are unimaginative, and make us Kansas Citians look ignorant!!!”

So let’s lay out some tips for talkin’ that classy trash:

  • Do your homework.  Back in the early 90’s, Michigan’s Fab Five mastered this.  They would memorize the opposing team’s stats, and recite them back when players were shooting free throws.  We’re lucky in that we have a big ol’ high def cheat sheet out in center field to help us out.  Find the players who are struggling and remind them they are struggling.
  • Go after the city itself.  Wear down the opposition by making them feel like the city on the front of their jersey is something to be ashamed of.
  • Be funny.  You don’t want a player going all Vernon Maxwell on you because you lathered them up to a point of extreme rage.  But if you can make them laugh, you know you got in their head while not getting your own head pounded in.

 

With all that being said, the main player to go after is Grady Sizemore with his .220 BA.  Not only can you remind him of that, but you can also remind him that it’s 36 points lower than last year.  And yet, he still has the most AB’s of any playe ron the team.  Lucky.

In the event that a portly player comes into the game, I’d suggest loudly asking when the Indians signed Drew Carey.

“How does it feel to know that Cleveland loves LeBron James more than your whole entire team?”

When a Cleveland player makes a poor play, start chanting “Cleveland Rocks!!! Cleveland Rocks!!!!”

When a Cleveland player makes a poor play on Wed, console him with the friendly reminder that nobody saw  the mistake since everyone in Cleveland is watching the Cavs game.

Feel free to add your own suggestions.  Sometimes it’s easier to brainstorm when you have a little something to get things rolling.

 

Go Blue

operation: obliteration

May 18, 2009

There is a lot at stake for the Royals this week.  Realistically, you’d hope they can win two out of three against the Cleveland Indians.  Bannister v. Lee is a tough matchup, but winnable if Bannister’s body is right.  Meche v. Carmona is a disappointingly even match from our vantage point until Meche gets things figured out again.  But Greinke v. Reyes?  Shoot.  That’s easier than shooting wamp rats in Beggars’ Canyon back home.  

So 2 wins is the goal.  But let’s dream for a minute, because the Royals have a chance to do something against Cleveland that they haven’t had a chance to do to an AL Central opponent in a long time.  If the Royals can manage a sweep of Cleveland, it will effectively end the season for the Indians.  They would be buried 9.5 games back of KC in the standings, and stuck 14 games under .500.  Their fans would be calling into the postgame radio show Thursday evening brainstorming how they could offload their big-league talent for prospects.  It would be great.

But that takes a certain killer instinct that the Royals haven’t demonstrated over the past 10 days.  When they went to last-place Oakland, the should have smelled blood.  Same thing when last-place Baltimore showed up.  Instead, they got KO’d in the bay and had to get pretty dang lucky to win yesterday afternoon.   It highlights why the Tigers are the favorite to win the AL Central right now.  They went into Oakland wielding their spanking stick and came out with three huge victories.  14-1, 9-1, 11-7.  That’s against a team that outscored the royals 19-5.  Not so bueno.

So we’ll see.  It’s nice to be in a position to deliver a knockout blow to a division rival in mid-May.  But we’ll need to seriously tighten the defense up this week, because yesterday was brutal.  It kinda felt like Callaspo was botching plays on purpose so that he can still rake but get the All-Star break off.  When Billy Butler puts in the strongest defensive performance for your team, things aren’t going well.  I understand he’s improved, but still.  

Oh, and even though the Royals don’t play today, we still have some work to do as fans.  We can root against the Wh*te Sox as they have an afternoon game against Toronto at 12:07pm.  And we can hope for a Swine Flu outbreak in the locker rooms at Yankee Stadium tonight so that both the Yanks and the Twins have to forfeit.  Otherwise, we’ll settle for rooting against the Twins (6:05pm, ESPN).

Go Blue