On Saturday, the schedule called for a Major League Soccer matchup between the home-standing NYCFC squad — which is actually co-owned by the New York Yankees — and Sporting Kansas City. With the stadium clear of fans and presumably only a few stadium workers on hand, three players from the Kansas City team took the field to reenact one of baseball’s most famous — or infamous — scenes: the George Brett pine tar incident from July 24, 1983.
Worst Offseason Move: None. Seriously, the Pale Hose didn’t put a foot wrong this winter. Although, when we spoke a few weeks ago, Hahn getting fired up about a minor league deal for 36-year-old Brad Penny might’ve been a bit much.
I think it would have been fair to place the David Robertson deal here.
In today’s Pipeline Perspectives, Jonathan and I debate which farm system has been the most productive since the end of the 2009 season. My choice was the Nationals, who have developed three budding superstars in Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, two more All-Stars in Ian Desmond and Derek Norris, plus a bunch of complementary players and trade fodder….
Kansas City nearly rode its system to a World Series championship last year, building the second-most homegrown playoff team in 2014—behind only St. Louis. The Royals’ in-house highlights included Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi (the key pieces in the James Shields trade), Salvador Perez and Yordano Ventura.
Cincinnati has harvested a nice combination of blue-chip talent (Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier, Billy Hamilton, Devin Mesoraco) and solid contributors (most notably, Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Zack Cozart, Didi Gregorius, Yasmani Grandal and Mike Leake), though it has traded most of the latter group.
I know this play has been beaten to death, but Kurkjian does a nice job breaking the play down and getting quotes from all the players involved.
Juan Perez: “When I got to the ball, I tried to pick it up with my bare hand instead of using my glove. That was another mistake. Then I kind of kicked the ball and I thought, ‘Oh my God, he might score!’ I wasn’t sure how fast he really was, and I thought there was a chance he would score.”
Jirschele: “I know Gordo is going to get to third, and I’m thinking, ‘Holy mackerel, we might have a shot here.’”
Blanco: “But when he misplayed it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to score!’ All I could think was, ‘Oh my God, throw it back in, please!!!’”
Bochy: “When Perez had some trouble with it, and I’m thinking, ‘Just get it back in [the infield]. Just get it back in.’”
Posey: “When we kicked it around a little, I thought, ‘I had better get back behind the plate because there might be a play at the plate.’”
Crawford: “When I saw Perez not picking up the ball, that’s when I had my, ‘Oh (——) moment.’ I thought, ‘Are we really going to have a play at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series?’”
The last time Sports Illustrated anointed the Cleveland Indians as favorites to win the World Series was 1987.
With Joe Carter (who would have his own World Series moment years later) and Cory Snyder on the cover, SI declared that “Cleveland is the Best Team in the American League.”
No, this is not the script of the movie “Major League,” as the previous five seasons before 1987 Cleveland finished 5th, 7th, 6th, 7th and 6th in the American League East.
Well, 1987 was no different as the Indians pitching staff, that featured two aging future Hall of Famers, was pummeled to the tune of allowing an absurd 957 runs with a team ERA of 5.28. Cleveland finished with baseball’s worst record at 61-101, 37 games behind division winner Detroit.
The losing would continue for the next seven years, before a breakout season in 1995, when the Indians went to their first World Series since 1954. (The Indians were beaten in six games by the Atlanta Braves).
So what makes this year any different? Could MLB see another “Indian Uprising?”
Cleveland hasn’t won a World Championship since 1948 but boasts loads of talent, with leftfielder Michael Brantley, first baseman/designated hitter Brandon Moss, first baseman Carlos Santana and reigning AL Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber, who went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 269 strikeouts last season.
“All you have to do is get some smoke out there and, trust me, I’m from the country, I live in the country. You take some smoke out there and you smoke the hive, ‘cause the queen’s in there somewhere, then you get a ShopVac and you suck ‘em all in, take ‘em outside the park and let ‘em all go.”
Young, 35, and a former National League All-Star, signed an incentive-laden, one-year major-league contract with the Royals on Saturday. Young, a 10-year career starter with four clubs, will begin the season as a middle and long reliever and provide insurance for the starting rotation.
“He will make the team out of spring training,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “Right now, if things go to script, our rotation is probably cemented with the main five guys, so his role at this point would be as a middle guy, a long guy….
Young, who went 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 165 innings last season with Seattle, said there was some interest from other teams before signing for a $675,000 base salary with up to $5.325 million in bonuses.
That includes up to $1 million based on active days on the roster, up to $1.975 million based on innings pitched and up to $2.35 million based on games started in 2015.
In Milwaukee during his first two big-league seasons, Aoki spent most of his time defending batters straight up, without much shading in either direction, Kuntz explained. Aoki preferred to charge in, rather than charge back, and glued himself to the same spot before almost every pitch.
The Royals operate a more fluid defense. Kuntz does not just ask his defenders to adjust from batter to batter. Sometimes he calls for shifts from pitch to pitch. Aoki was an “analytical” player, Kuntz said. He required an explanation for instructions. Kuntz would flash a signal and Aoki would hesitate before moving.
During games, Kuntz only had a brief window in between innings to communicate, because his presence was required to coach first base. Soon after a sign was sent to the outfield, Kuntz would often receive a visit from Aoki’s translator, Kosuke Inaji.
“Nori wants to know why we don’t play everybody straight up,” Inaji would say.
Kuntz had to remind Inaji: “At times, I don’t have time to explain it to him. He just has to get there.”...
During that first workout, when Rios asked for advice, Kuntz suggested he alter his mechanics when chasing drives over his head. Like 90 percent of players, Kuntz said, Rios executed a drop-step as his first movement, which elongated his route to the ball. Kuntz counseled him to swivel his hips instead and straigthen his line.
Two days later, as he swatted fly balls, Kuntz watched how Rios hunted for balls and noticed the difference.
“Just like that, he’s got it,” Kuntz said. “But he’s an athlete. And he’s coachable.”
Mike Jirschele has been a third-base coach going on 20 years. In that time, he has made thousands of decisions about sending guys, holding guys, and obviously not all of them turned out well.
But of all of those moments — Jirschele has decided to send guys or not as many times as most of us have decided to stop for gas or not — the Gordon play will never be one he’ll second-guess or regret.
As a way to simplify it, he asks what people would’ve thought had that been a sacrifice fly that Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford caught in shallow left field. The only way you’d even consider sending Gordon in that situation would be if Crawford was drifting backward, and even then it would be a risk.
I think about Tabler now because of an email sent by Tom Tango referencing a contradiction in my Strat-O-Matic post. On the one hand, I say I don’t like the horseshoes on Strat-O cards that reference a players ability to hit in the clutch (I have been told by several people that these were actually added to regulate a player’s RBI totals so that they somewhat mirror what happened during the season but it’s the same general thing). On the other hand, I say that I did like the fact that Statis Pro gave Matt Alexander a ridiculously awesome card in 1979 when he only had a few plate appearances. “Pick your poison,” Tom writes. “Do you want to reflect that card relative to what we observed? Or do you want to reflect the card after removing the ESTIMATED random variation?”
I told Tango that I fully embrace that I’m being inconsistent … but it’s mainly because I was 11 years old when I loved the Matt Alexander card. I think that card was ridiculous but wonderful at that point in my life.
In any case, Tango brought up Pat Tabler and I thought back to a question: How much of what Pat Tabler did those three years was luck and random variation? When I was a kid, I was pretty confident that NONE OF IT was luck. The guy was Mr. Clutch. It said so right on his card. Something came over him when the bases were loaded. True, the year the card came out he hit .200 with the bases loaded, which I recall was talked about quite a bit. It’s also true that in 1989, he went 1-for-11 with two double play grounders — and it seemed that whenever he came up with the bases loaded that year, the radio announcers talked about how he was Mr. Clutch which just accentuated the disappointment.
To hear manager Ned Yost tell it, the Royals could open the season with an eight-man bullpen, one more than the usual number of relievers. The extra pitcher would provide insurance if Hochevar needs extra time to ready himself for extended duty.
“It depends on where Hoch is at,” Yost said. “If we need to protect Hoch, then, probably. If we don’t need to protect Hoch, then probably not.”
The rewind: Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco misplayed Gordon’s base hit and the ball rolled to the wall at Kauffman Stadium, where left fielder Juan Perez complicated matters by mishandling it. Gordon kept running, not always at full go, until given the stop sign by Royals third-base coach Mike Jirschele.
What if Gordon had kept motoring and tried to score from third?
The answer remains forever unknown. But the wondering will never cease.
In that spirit, the Rockhurst University baseball team took time from its preseason preparation — the Hawks open on Feb. 24 — to become players in a re-enactment.
I’m just the messenger: Just pointing out that Lester had a 4.82 ERA in 2012 and 3.75 in 2013. Yes, big 2014, new league, no DH and more cutters instead of four-seamers and he could be even better. But you never know. He may not be as good as he was last year. And then there’s Jake Arrieta, former faded prospect turned rotation anchor. He looks like the real deal but ... again ... you never know. Hey, I’m trying. I like the Cubs! I have them ranked 13th!
The final word: If I had more guts I’d predict them to win the division, but they have two strong clubs ahead of them and even the Brewers or Reds are capable of 90 wins. The Cubs are still sorting a few things out and waiting for some of the young guys to mature. Sometimes, teams do break through right away; if Bryant and Jorge Soler are 3-4 win players as rookies and Lester and Arrieta throw 400-plus innings of great baseball, the Cubs could be the big surprise of 2015.
On your phone or tablet, you will be given the option of playing any of the nine defensive positions on a baseball field.
The game then fires off different scenarios, and you’re supposed to touch the base where you’d throw the ball.
“You’ve got 30 seconds to answer as many as you can,” Yost said.
There are different levels and things get progressively more difficult. Is the infield in or back? Is the ball hit to your left or right? Is the runner fast, medium or slow? Is it a scenario in the first six innings or the last three?
“With nine positions, we have over 110,000 different scenarios, Yost said. “It just teaches kids to think, teaches them to think quick and where to properly throw the ball. Even college coaches said, ‘I would make my kids do that.’”
During the 2014 AL Wild Card Game against the Oakland A’s, the Royals were up 3-2 going into the sixth inning. Starting pitcher James Shields gave up a lead-off single to Sam Fuld and then walked Josh Donaldson. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Ventura was brought in to face Brandon Moss….
Ventura had faced three batters, given up two hits, allowed two earned runs and finished his one-third of an inning with a postseason ERA of 54.00. According to Star columnist Vahe Gregorian’s recent profile, Yordano cried after that outing and was so despondent that he texted Rene Francisco, the Royals’ vice president for international operations, “Please tell them not to lose confidence in me.”
So what’s all that have to do with being the opening day starter?
At the beginning of the season, No. 1 starters face No. 1 starters. Each team throws their best guy out there on opening day and for a while — until days off or rainouts throw matchups out of sync — an opening day starter can assume he’ll face the best pitcher the opposition has to offer.
And that means you can pitch great and still lose.
If a pitcher is mentally strong that might not matter; he knows what he can control and how well the other guy pitches isn’t on the list. But if a guy isn’t confident it can get in his head; he feels like he’s pitched very well and is still losing.
If only we had an idea how Yordano might respond under big game pressure.
The longest-tenured manager in Kansas City Royals history wound through the terrain of Georgia on Tuesday afternoon, headed for a familiar destination. Earlier in the day, the Royals solidified his standing in the organization in the form of a contract extension through 2016. Now he was bound for his friend Jeff Foxworthy’s property to indulge in the final days of deer-hunting season.
You have to love the brass on Boras. How much more money is he willing to cost Stephen Drew, though?
A few teams involved with Drew say his asking price of $9 million-$10 million for 2015 is not in their price range. Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, has emphasized the career .764 OPS the lefty swinger took into last season as representative of his client and not the .536 he posted in a disjointed 2014 campaign.
But executives from a few of the interested clubs have expressed concern that 2014 was so bad there has to be worry, with Drew turning 32 in March, that he has entered a steep decline phase. As one said: “Fine, you want to say June and July [last year] were spring training for him, well, how about August or September? There was never a time in which he looked like a major league hitter. The ball didn’t come off his bat well, there was zero consistency. Nothing.”
Among all the moments on this list, none has a higher WPA than Davis’ June 30 grand slam against Oakland. The Tigers had a win expectancy of 20 percent entering the at-bat. (And that presumes each moment occurs in a vacuum. It didn’t take into account that the light-hitting Davis has never hit more than eight home runs in a season and that Davis had never hit a walk-off shot.)
With one smooth swing, Davis crushed a hanging curveball over the left-field wall, one of the most dramatic moments of the ‘14 season. The swing had its aftereffects, too. The A’s, up 5 ½ games in the AL West at the time, lost three straight, and shortly thereafter would lose the division lead with a mediocre month of July and a flat-out dreadful August. The Tigers, meanwhile, established themselves as the team to catch in the AL Central.
Here are three Wil Myers stories that might be of interest:
1.) During one spring training, there was a video made that featured Wil Myers and George Brett. The Royals Hall of Famer was going to show the Royals prospect how to put pine tar on a bat, but the Royals prospect started arguing … with George Brett … about pine tar. A small thing, but it might have indicated an attitude problem.
2.) While Myers was in the Rays minor-league system, he said he didn’t need a two-strike approach — he was a run a producer. Even though his team was asking him to adjust his swing once he had two strikes, Myers didn’t think it was necessary — and that definitely indicates an attitude problem.
3.) Nevertheless, Myers made it to the big leagues, and one day he was playing right field against the Royals. During that game, I saw Rays centerfielder David DeJesus moving Myers into the right position. I don’t know if that was a regular occurrence, but if it was, that means that Myers hadn’t studied the spray charts and wasn’t paying attention to his outfield coach.
I bet Wil Myers never even answered George’s question about if he ever pooped his pants.