Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Have a Blog? (A collection of random thoughts from the mind of one man… (Me))

Contrary to popular belief (or fictional creation), I did not recently lose all my fingers (and, therefore, my ability to type (I enjoy cause-and-effect relationships (I also enjoy using parentheses (is this getting confusing yet? (Sorry… this was unwarranted))))) in an unfortunate accident involving hedge clippers and a couple of hangnails. Because I still have fully functioning digits and because I enjoy entertaining myself by composing text in a manner I deem fit (self, if you're reading this, thanks for all your support), here’s yet another glimpse into the things that currently occupy my thoughts… and dreams…. OK, just my thoughts.

- When I lost power for seven hours due to the recent ice storm, I had plenty of time to stop, collaborate and to listen. Unfortunately, I also had plenty of time to get very bored. Apparently my current lifestyle is very dependent on electricity. Who knew? I took three hikes out into the icy tundra (smart move for a guy who may or may not have shown the steadiness of a three-legged giraffe on roller skates when walking on some ice last winter) just to get out of my apartment. I can’t imagine what I would have done without power for seven days… I take that back, I can imagine it, and involves building forts out of everything I could find and spending time enjoying a nice pair of slacks.

- Were there really a large number of people clamoring for another “Bring It On” sequel? I’ll admit, I saw the first in the series (mostly, nay, completely because of Kirsten Dunst), but could anyone actually create a compelling story out of a movie about cheerleading. Look for this to be a concept of a new reality show in the spring, since the TV writers’ strike is still rolling.

- I have seen the preview for the new season of Lost four times today and I have felt like a chubby kid walking into Dairy Queen each time (season premiere = orange Mr. Misty… you look forward to it and you know it will be good, but if you try to take it in to quickly, your head is going to be hurting). I’m mildly obsessed with the show; unfortunately www.webmd.com does not offer tips for a “Lost” addiction.

- I’m now regretting the admission that I actually watched “Bring It On.”

- What’s the most disturbing news emanating from the recently released “Mitchell Report”? No, it’s nothing involving Roger Clemens. It doesn’t even concern someone currently active on a Major League roster. No, the news that surely dug so deep into the souls of all baseball fans that it came out the other side involved just one name – Phil. That’s right former Kansas City Royal Phil Hiatt (along with his .216 career batting average) was implicated. The third baseman seemed promising as a rookie in 1993, and his surefire trek to superstardom led one very educated 11-year-old to the belief that he should buy his Upper Deck rookie card while on vacation in Colorado. Alas, his journey to the Hall of Fame would be derailed, mostly by corporate politics (column-speak for the aforementioned career batting average). What is the moral of this story? There isn’t one. It’s just sad that I specifically remember purchasing Phil Hiatt’s rookie card for $1.25 (yet another convincing argument for those in the “Derek Has No Life” camp… current score: …how does “cripplingly depressing” translate into a numerical value?).

- I’m currently looking into a cure for the dejection that resulted from all competition on the gridiron in 2007. Thus far, I have yet to find a cure that doesn’t involve a time machine. Where are Doc Brown and the DeLorean or Rufus and the telephone booth when you need them?

- I'm glad I met my "referencing movies from my youth that involve time travel" quota in this writing.

- If there’s a more disappointing show on TV right now than Frank TV (did I mention it’s on TV), I don’t want to know about it. The man’s standup routine is uproariously (my favorite five-syllable word that starts with the letter ‘u’ and ends in “proariously”) funny, but his act doesn’t seem to translate well to a sketch show… and the on-stage segments between sketches leave me feeling like I’m encountering a close-talker (uncomfortable and awkward).

If you've read this far, have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season. If you skipped everything else just to read this final paragraph, the aforementioned holiday wishes still apply, but I also might suggest finding a new hobby.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

(Insert Title Here)

It has been nearly a month since I have entered any text in this electronic medium designated for that very purpose. The sad thing is, I'm not exactly brimming with mind-blowing ideas for this space tonight. As a result, what follows is a completely original idea - random thoughts and observations put into readable word as I sit in front of the television (that's surely never been done before, has it?).

Telemundo - Your one-stop shop for cheesy mustaches
I'm not sure that requires any further explanation... Just a straight fact.

Pet Peeve - Text and Instant Messaging Lingo (note: Try to find some additional nuisances to Derek Larson in the following paragraph. Be sure your eye is keen... they're hidden very well)
"Where r u?"
I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that, as someone who pretends to be a writer now and then, I think the above phrases are making a mockery of are language and leading to a future where business letters are written as if they were a 15-year-old's text message about Hillary Duff (I obviously have no clue about what kids are into these days... Is Coolio still cool?). Is it so hard to to type full words? I guess those few seconds it would take to type four extra letters are probably better spent yapping on a phone in every conceivable public setting, or walking through doors and then letting them slam in the faces of those behind you.
To further blow this entire issue out of proportion, I would also like to dig deeper into the nature of "LOL." For those of you who find such a combination of letters foreign (lucky folks), it stands for Laughing Out Loud. I'm concerned with this abbreviation not just due to the laziness of shortening the phrase into a 21st Century cliche, but also due to the fact that I think it's breeding dishonesty. I have reason to believe that a great amount of people use "LOL" for situations other than when a spark of hilarity strikes them in such a fashion as to prompt a vocalization of laughter. In fact, I believe "LOL" has been used even in cases that warrant a simple polite smile.
I don't ask for much when it comes to this issue... all I request is that "LOL" be banished and people fully describe their reactions in events that would previously have drawn the "LOL" response. Suppose a friend makes a comment that isn't nearly as funny as they think and you just want to move on, but you know they're looking for a response from you. Instead of igniting the flames of dishonestly with "LOL," you simply type "smiling uneasily while trying to think of a way to change the subject." I think it makes perfect sense.

Concerning the sports world...
Football (K-State, Kansas City, fantasy, and all other forms) - Ugh... Any season in which K-State is struggling to be bowl eligible, KU is a national title contender, Kansas City can be ruled out of games in which the opponent scores in double-digits and my fantasy teams win as often as an arithmetically challenged individual in blackjack is a football season that results in borderline depression in my world.
Basketball - This has been discussed in this space before, but Michael Beasley is good... Very good... Potential No. 1 draft pick good. Current concerns about his "supporting cast" will be noted, but I think will be resolved shortly. It's only natural that the meshing of several new players and a new coach might take some time. It seems that the Wildcats have been playing to the level of their competition thus far. Granted, the true test of that will come this week in Orlando, but look for K-State to make some noise while in Mickey Mouse's neighborhood.
Baseball - The Royals have been mentioned as a player in the Torii Hunter sweepstakes. Granted, I wouldn't bet my bottom dollar (partially because I don't know exactly what that phrase is referring to) that he ends up patrolling centerfield in Kauffman Stadium, but the simple fact that they're even considered an option for a top free agent like Hunter means they're climbing out of the pit I like to call the Neifi-zone.

Final note
The world is officially going insane - http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22761386-2,00.html.
Taking away an icon's long-standing signature phrase because it bears similarities to some current American slang seems far beyond absurd. On top of that, I've never found Santa Claus to be "funny ha-ha," anyway.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Crow - It's What's For Dinner

I was recently reminded that, in this very space, I had predicted the Royals’ new manager would have ties to the Atlanta Braves organization, of which general manager Dayton Moore is a product. Naturally, I was wrong. Trey Hillman, the Royals’ new skipper, has never been a part of the tomahawk choppers, and is currently managing a team across the Pacific in Japan.

Luckily, in my years of possessing the seemingly competent mind required make predictions, I have missed the mark as often as a vertigo sufferer playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” As a result, being wrong on such predictions does little to faze me. I’m comfortable admitting my inaccuracies, or “eating crow.” Need examples? Read on…

Dajuan Wagner – Future Star
Back in 2002, with the NBA Draft quickly approaching, I had one overriding opinion. No, it didn’t concern top pick Yao Ming out-producing the immortal Shawn Bradley, and I certainly didn’t predict that former Kansas Jayhawk Drew Gooden would one day sport one of the most puzzling haircuts in the Association (I probably just failed to think that one through). No, as a 19-year-old, going on 20, Derek Larson was sold on the fact that any team that chose not to draft Memphis product Dajuan Wagner would rue the day. The kid had scored 100 points in a high school game a year earlier, had been a solid scorer in his lone season at Memphis, and I thought he seemed like another Allen Iverson… I was wrong.

Instead of becoming an All-Star, Wagner’s career was limited by health issues, never playing more than 47 games in a season or averaging over 13.4 points per game. I guess predicting superstardom is a rosier outlook than guessing a player will have ulcerative colitis, but the fact remains that I was wrong,

Dante Hall – Worst Player Ever
With the 24th pick in the fifth round of the 2000 draft, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Dante Hall out of Texas A&M. Expected to the Chiefs’ new return specialist, Hall’s first two seasons in KC saw the former Aggie doing more dancing than a leprechaun at its pot of gold (please note: all documented research indicates that magical leprechauns do not actually exist. The previous illustration was written for entertainment purposes only). Hall’s needlessly convoluted juking had me convinced he had no right even being on the field. I was convinced the Chiefs would be better off with anyone else back deep for kicks… I was wrong.

Former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil saw something in Hall, and committed to him as the Chiefs return man. End result, Hall became the most feared return man in the league over a three-season span, scoring 10 return touchdowns in that time. Hall was a big reason the Chiefs were able to win 13 games in 2003, and his departure from the Chiefs has left a void in the return game.

Kansas City Royals – Pennant Material
Following a big year in 2003, things were looking up for the Royals. They were coming off a season during which they had been in first place for a considerable amount of time and finished with a record above .500 for the first time since 1994. The off-season saw them pick up a former MVP in Juan Gonzalez and a former All-Star catcher in Benito Santiago. They had the American League Rookie of the Year in Angel Berroa, and Manager of the Year in Tony Pena. It seemed things were really going their way. I don’t recall whether I made any sort of “official” prediction for the 2004 Royals, but I know I expected them to compete for the A.L. Central title, and maybe even the A.L. pennant… (Sing along if you like)… I was wrong.

Gonzalez and Santiago combined to play 82 games for the Royals (and under-performed when they played), and Mr. Rookie of the Year put up an OPS below .700 (whether or not you know what OPS is, just understand that Berroa was bad). Pena’s antics began wearing thin, and the Royals lost a then-franchise-worst 104 games. If a marksman were as inaccurate as I was with this prediction, his friends would be spending quite a bit of cash on Kevlar.

… As for the most recent example…
Concerning the Royals’ hiring of Hillman, I like it. He may not have proven MLB managerial experience, but he spent some time in a Yankees organization that had a lot of success. In Japan, he’s taken a struggling team and helped it reach the Japan Series (for those who may be confused, that’s the Japanese equivalent of the World Series… tough concept, I know) two years in a row. From what I’ve read, he’s adept at examining a roster and managing in efforts to take advantage of its strengths – quite a novel concept, isn’t it?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thoughts in My Head

Concerning the NFL…
-Has there been a more impressive NFL team than the 2007 New England Patriots (aside from those created in the world of Nintendo, Xbox or Playstation) in recent years? The Cowboys were supposed to give them a test, but the boys from Foxboro rolled over them like a sumo wrestler falling down a hill. It’s sad that Randy Moss has to have things his way in order to actually put forth effort on the football field, but I think Tom Brady is pretty glad that Moss is a happy camper right now.
-News from Kansas City – I hear Damon Huard is going to buy Tony Gonzalez a matching bracelet to complete the BFF necklace set.
-Thanks to bye weeks and injuries, one of my fantasy football teams (yes, I’m in more than one fantasy football league… yes, I realize that takes my “Do you have a life?” score down considerably) had Michael Turner and Leon Washington starting at runningback this past weekend. Believe it or not, that team did not pull out a victory.

Concerning the title of this post...
I realize it's a lazy attempt, as it's a blantantly obvious statement... But does the fact that I'm stating something blatantly obvious really surprise you?

A quick thing I don’t understand…
-When watching a televised football game, have you ever heard something like this, “Joey Jojo Shabadoo will not play today. He’s out with a knee”? Out with a knee? I wouldn’t think that the mere possession of a body part could cause a player to miss a game. In fact, it seems to me that most athlete’s I see have not only one, but two knees. Naturally, the announcers that say statements similar to the aforementioned one are referring to knee INJURIES, but is it that hard to add the word “injury” on to the end of that sentence? It’s only one word. It’s just three little syllables. In fact, the lazier folks could even abridge the word to a two-syllable creation, “inj-REE.” It’s really just not that difficult.

Concerning the K-State basketball team’s “Madness in Manhattan”…
-Michael Beasley- What can be said about this kid? He’s a basketball player. He has talent, and he, along with anyone that sees him play, knows it. The 6-foot-9 freshman is built big enough that he could play down low, but he has the skill set that could let him dominate on the perimeter. His outside stroke is fluid and he may handle the ball as well as anyone on last season’s roster. The between-the-legs dunk, straight out of Isaiah Rider’s playbook was nice, too. Big 12, meet a major match up problem.
-Bill Walker- Any worries I may have had about Walker’s knee and subsequent weight gain diminished greatly after watching him scrimmage. Granted, the concept of defense was largely ignored (like efficiency in the KC Chiefs’ offense… Ouch, sorry. Still sore after last week’s loss), but Walker showed the type of explosiveness showcased in all those YouTube videos. It’s clear; he’s got some a-Bill-ity (two can play at your game, coiners of the term Vin-sanity (for those that have no clue what I'm referring to... i'm sure it's not the first time). One intriguing play in particular involved Walker executing a Jordan-style, one-hand ball fake from the top of the key, penetrating to the left, exploding toward the hoop, and them hammering the ball through with a force that could have been felt on the opposite end of the floor. Another came when Walker was on the finishing end of a Beasley underhand alley-oop toss… Did I mention Beasley was about at mid-court when he threw it?
-David Hoskins- K-State fans know what to expect from Hoskins: strong work ethic, ability to play larger than his size would seem to dictate, and energy. With defenses forced to focus on Beasley and Walker, Hoskins should be in line for another strong season.
-The Rest- If Blake Young can stay healthy and play with the athleticism he showed during the scrimmage for the whole season, he could be a big factor. Aside from Beasley, he drew the most crowd buzz during the pre-scrimmage “lay-up lines.” It seems clear that he’s not a point guard, but he could make an impact at the two, with Clent Stewart, Fred Brown, and Jacob Pullen handling the point. Speaking of Brown and Pullen, both looked solid, and will fit in with the overall athleticism of the team. Looking for a surprise off the pine? Darren Kent may be your guy. He looked like a new player, showing off newfound athleticism (e.g., ability to drive and dunk) to accompany his smooth shooting stroke. On the opposite end of that spectrum was Ron Anderson; against whom the rim did it’s best Dikembe Mutombo impersonation. Despite that fact, this will be the most athletic Wildcat team to ever see the Bramlage Coliseum court.
-The Atmosphere- Despite having the top recruit in the nation, the crowd was much smaller than last year. The reason for the attendance dip is pretty obvious… the fans miss Serge Afeli. As for the pyrotechnics, unless they’re accompanying the entrance of someone nicknamed “The Big Red Machine,” or a former member of Harlem Heat, they probably should be used indoors. The smell left lingering after such explosions is not a pleasant one… And, no, I certainly don’t watch professional wrestling.

Concerning baseball…
- (This space intentionally left blank at the request of one of the four people who reads these. He’s as into baseball as a certain football coach to the east is into nonfat yogurt.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thoughts on the World of Sports

I have to admit something… The title of the written selection via electronic medium is a complete fallacy. Don’t get me wrong, you will read my thoughts… but they certainly don’t cover “the world” of sports. Athletic competitions popular overseas, like cricket (which doesn’t even involve actual crickets), soccer (a.k.a. human foosball) or rugby (a.k.a. self mutilation with a ball thrown in), will not be mentioned. In all honesty, several popular issues in American sports will also be neglected (sorry WNBA… Wait, I said “popular issues,”… Sorry again). Anyway, enough of will not be written about (NASCAR, boxing, equestrian and competitive dancing), on to the thoughts.

... and the worst coach in the NFL is… Norv Turner

So, A.J. Smith, does your former coach, Marty Schottenheimer, look so rotten now? Granted, the Chargers did blow it in the playoffs last season after finishing with a 14-2 record, but through four games, the Chargers have already lost three this season. Does a rough start to the season mean they guy is a horrible coach? No… It is what I saw Sunday against the Chiefs that means the man is a horrible coach.

If you didn’t have an opportunity to see the game, the Chargers had control early, with LaDanian Tomlinson (just the best running back in the league) evading the defense as if he was Pacman and the Chiefs were some odd-looking ghosts. Tomlinson had struggled greatly in the Chargers first three games, so a person with any sort of knowledge about football might have considered continuing to feed the ball to Tomlinson in the second half, in effort to hold on to a 10-point edge.

Instead, the Chargers attempted to attack the Chiefs through the air, something quarterback Philip Rivers hasn’t had great success doing this season (believe me, I have him on two fantasy football teams). Rivers threw a pair of interceptions, and had a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Apparently Tomlinson is better carrying the ball than he is as a decoy. That sure is a crazy notion.

Concerning the Chiefs…

They have two wins in the first four games… How the heck did that happen? I’m still waiting to see Tony Gonzalez’s BFF pendant that Damon Huard surely has bought him, especially considering the prayer of a throw that TG hauled in for a touchdown yesterday. I only hope that Gonzo doesn’t get jealous of Dwayne Bowe, who is earning the title of BFF#2 for Huard. I’m not sure how he’s getting it done, but Bowe is turning into a touchdown machine and legit playmaker for Kansas City. I’m not sure what “it” is when it comes to the qualities that top-tier NFL receivers have, but, after four games in the red, it seems that Bowe is closer to having “it” than any KC receiver since Andre Rison and his Spiderman act… Now he just needs a female hip-hop artist to burn down his house (confused? See http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n8_v86/ai_15547822. I love referring to things from 13 years ago).

The Bell Era Ends

It is over.

Buddy Bell has managed his final game as a Kansas City Royal.

With his departure, and the arrival of a new manager, what can the Royals expect? Consistency in lineups? Willingness to play young players while in a rebuilding process? A refusal to let a player batting under .150 play in over one-third of the team’s games? Anything is possible…

This could be a very big off-season for the Royals. A few moves that work out half as well as the trade for Brian Bannister last off-season, then KC will be in good shape. 2008 could actually be the year the Royals approach that mid-division finish I’ve been predicting the last three years.

As for the sliver of an inkling of a rumor that Barry Bonds might be headed to KC… no. Just say no. It makes no sense to bring an over-the-hill, egocentric player into a clubhouse filled with young players. He’d be the best hitter on the team, sure. I won’t argue with that, but this won’t happen.

My predictions are normally correct as often as my attempts in a Chinese spelling bee (“Uhh… that letter that looks like a tree in a box?”), but I’ll still lay down a few for the upcoming months… David DeJesus or Joey Gathright will be traded in a deal for a starting pitcher. The Royals will deal for a young player with power to play left field. Someone with ties to the Atlanta Braves organization will be hired as manager. Finally, Jason LaRue will be back in the Royals clubhouse. He won’t be employed, mind you, but he’ll be back to keep Buddy company in whatever role he holds.

Hooked Horns

Watching K-State manhandle the Texas Longhorns was oddly reminiscent of some Wildcat teams of former years. The kick and punt returners are legitimate threats to make plays every time (Aaron Lockett and David Allen then, Deon Murphy, James Johnson and Jordy Nelson now). The defense has speed everywhere, and can pressure opponents into mistakes (see K-State defenses from 1996-2003). The offense achieves success off a basic formula (Bishop/Roberson years used the option, 2007 Wildcats build off short passes).

Am I saying the Wildcats are back to being the force that we grew accustomed to in the late 90s/early 00s ? That’s a bit presumptuous. Have I been impressed by their play and pleased by the way they have exceeded my expectations? Absolutely.
The key is going to be not suffering a drop off in performance with the Jayhawks coming to Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Random Thoughts from a Random Mind

Who exactly determines whether or not someone is awarded style points? Is there some sort of official council? And what good are these style points? Can you buy things with them?

So the Chiefs spend a 5th-round draft pick on kicker Justin Medlock, and then cut him after one game? Who do they sign to replace him? Dave Rayner, who happened to lose the competition to be Green Bay’s kicker. Who did Rayner lose out to? Former Colorado Buffalo Mason Crosby, whom the Chiefs could have drafted instead of Medlock in the first place. What does this all mean? I think it’s probably just another sign of a potentially long season.

So Willie Wildcat is a New England Patriots fan? At Saturday’s game, the opening “skit” involved the premise of Willie’s summer vacation. It included green-screened pictures of the K-State mascot superimposed in places like sandy beaches, colorful mountain ranges, and even the moon (I guess I missed the “First Mascot to the Moon” headline in the newspaper). Seemingly out of place among all these actual locations was a picture of Willie in front of a black background, with just a Patriots logo on it. Apparently he is a big Randy Moss fan… That or he has yet to realize that the Pats cut former K-Stater Chris Canty years ago.

Is it sad that I was excited by a commercial for the television show “The Unit” simply because star Dennis Haysbert has gone back to his “Pedro Cerrano” look? I’ve never even watched the show, but I can only hope it involves him saying, “Hats for bats. Keep bats warm.”… Yes, I realize only two other people may have any clue what I’m referring to.

Is K-State football coach Ron Prince a WWE fan? The 2007 K-State football pregame features music that includes the theme songs of Shelton Benjamin, Scotty Too Hotty, and John Cena. I’m now hoping the ‘cats will starting taking the field to the ominous sounds of The Undertaker’s music… Wait, I mean, I’ve never watched wrestling. I wouldn’t know what any of those songs sound like.

Congratulations to Jordy Nelson for re-writing a couple K-State single-game receiving records. Not bad for a former safety who was so deep on the depth chart his red-shirt freshman year that there could have been a lifeguard on duty.

If there’s one commercial I’m ready to quit seeing, it’s the one advertising the Blue Man Group’s upcoming performance at the Expocentre. If Tobias Funke is not involved, I’m not interested.

This short (for Derek) collection of thoughts will end with the depressing NFL fact of the week. The Cleveland Browns scored 51 points on Sunday. In comparison, the Chiefs have scored 45 points… so far this season… Did I mention that includes the four preseason games they played in?

Sorry for the short entry, but I’m off to find some antidepressants.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Listing Impression

The recent announcement of Damon Huard as the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs was not a much-anticipated event in my household (is that the right term for a single guy in an apartment? Apartmenthold? Bachelor pad... hold?). In all actuality, it has brought forth a somewhat crippling depression, which may take weeks to recover from. Nevertheless, I am opposed to pessimistic tendencies, and therefore refuse to focus on negatives.

As a result, I decided to come up with a list of things that I have less confidence in than a Huard-led NFL team. With my mind in “list-mode,” and rankings becoming the rage these days (watch for Best Damn Sports Show’s Top 50 Inane Comments By Best Damn Sports Show Personalities, coming soon on Fox Sports), I went ahead and came up with some other lists, as well.

Please keep in mind that all lists were compiled by a top-notch staff (rabid muskrats wearing eye-patches) using the most sophisticated methods modern technology can offer (a pre-owned game of Connect Four). On to the lists…

Five things I have less confidence in that a Huard-led NFL team
5. Buddy Bell’s ability to make sensible managerial decisions on consecutive days.
(Ooh, cheap shot. I know Buddy’s resigning at the end of the season. Sorry, but the fact that Tony Pena Jr., was used as a pinch hitter two nights ago boggles my mind.)
4. My ability to flip through four national news channels without seeing a story on one of Oscar’s Ladies.
(If you’re confused by the Oscar’s Ladies term, please refer to previous blog entry.)
3. Jim Ross’ ability to get through an entire WWE broadcast without saying, “With God as my witness, he’s been broken in half!”
(… I mean, no, I’ve never spent any time watching pro wrestling.)
2. My ability to successfully maneuver a starship primarily used for smuggling through an asteroid field.
(A little Star Wars reference for two of the four people that read this. According to a certain gold-colored protocol druid, the actual odds of such a feat are 3,720 to 1… I’m glad I’m not a negative person.)
1.A Josh McCown-led NFL team.
(McCown is currently set to be the Oakland Raiders starting QB. See, things could be worse.)

Four least favorite Royals players of all time
4. Albie Lopez
(Plenty of things went right for KC in 2003… he wasn’t one of them. I’ve never had less confidence in a pitcher coming out of the bullpen. His 12.71 ERA may have had something to do with that.)
3. David Howard
(A reserve infield that couldn’t hit, couldn’t field, but had an uncanny knack for chewing tobacco. For some reason the Royals thought he could be their starting SS in 1996… he hit .219 for the season.)
2. Chuck Knoblauch
(The once-promising second-baseman followed up a sub par year in New York by racking up a .584 OPS (those of you unfamiliar with OPS, just beware that .584 is horrid) out of the Royals’ leadoff spot.)
1.Neifi Perez
(For Jermaine Dye? Honestly? I think that trade shortened my life…)

Three favorite moments from HBO’s Hard Knocks 2007
3. Any time Gunther Cunningham spoke.
(Sensitivity is definitely not one of his strong suits. He should probably be mic’d up for every single game…. Granted, games would then be rated M for mature, but who can argue with entertainment?)
2. Bernard Pollard’s dancing exhibition.
(I was fully expecting a member of the Chiefs roster to miss the next game due to a “getting served” injury (and if you haven’t seen that South Park episode, you have no idea what I’m referring to… I’m comfortable with that).)
1. Casey Printers’ reaction to getting cut.
(I wasn’t for Printers’ getting cut. I enjoyed watching him in the pre-season (aside from the botched snaps) and was pulling for him to make the squad. Nevertheless, his “Making chicken salad out of chickens***” reference nearly had me rolling on the floor. I just hope the Chiefs have some chicken salad ready for Sunday.)

Two things I really don’t understand right now
2. The NFL kicking off it’s Thursday night season opening game with the musical stylings of… Faith Hill? Is she attractive? Yes. Does her music echo from the ipod of the typical football fan? I’d lean toward the negative on that one. Next thing you know, the NFL will have Aerosmith, N’Sync, and Britney Spears perform at halftime of the Super Bowl… oh, wait…)
1. This – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A-05wPlQQ4
(Honestly, I really can’t put my lack of understanding into coherent sentences. I’ve tried, but it all comes out in pops and buzzes. The “K – STATE” chant could work, but that is sans the video, music, and the Tarzan jungle yell.)

One Thing I know for sure
1. Despite any attempts at creating “new traditions, the Wildcats should roll over San Jose State this Saturday. Granted, my predictions are always horribly inaccurate (like an archer with glaucoma) but that’s never stopped me before. Cats win 41-10.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stating the Obvious – Observations from a KC double-dip

I have two TVs hooked up just feet from each other in my apartment.

Such an idea may bring some sort of flashy set-up, the likes of which a professional athlete or a rapper might have, complete with a Scarface poster on the wall. I assure you, such is not the case. My secondary television (TV2, as it’s affectionately referred to in the DLBP (Derek Larson bachelor pad)) is a tiny 13-incher that may be as old as the freshmen preparing to attend K-State next week, and has a few quirks to it, as well (occasionally it doesn't turn off... big deal).

Despite it’s inadequacies, TV2 makes nights like tonight wonderful. The Kansas City Chiefs are seeing pre-season action on ESPN, while the Royals will battle the Rangers on RSTN. No channel flipping here, as I can now view both at the same time… and because I’m no slacker when it comes to pointless multi-tasking, I’m going to log the events of the evening, as well (and blatantly rip off a Bill Simmons idea in the process)… Sometimes I even amaze myself.

7:08 – Former Chief Trent Green starts out 0-2 passing, tossing one pass too short, and having the second dropped by his tight end… Missing Tony Gonzalez yet, Trent? Actually, despite his wearing of the uniform brought to fame by Ray Finkel, I hope Green plays well tonight. It’s hard to root against a guy who is probably the second-greatest QB in Chiefs history.
The third-down conversion is not successful, and the Dolphins punter gets some work… Get used to hearing that phrase this season, Miami fans.

7:11 – After looking inept on a play in which he was sacked, QB Damon Huard finds the aforementioned Gonzalez for a first-down… Huard and competitor for the starting spot
Brodie Croyle should probably both buy Gonzalez BFF pendants.

7:14 – Chiefs rookie kicker Justin Medlock misses his first field goal attempt in Arrowhead Stadium… meanwhile, Herman Edwards must be wondering if Morten Andersen has plans for the next few months.

7:17 – ESPN shows the replay of the hit Green suffered his concussion on last season. Yikes. I still think that should have a parental warning before it.

7:20 – My second-round fantasy pick in one of my three fantasy football leagues, Ronnie Brown, has picked up the last 3 first downs for Miami. Normally, this would provide me some comfort knowing he’s looking good for the upcoming season, but I just realized I am in three fantasy football leagues… I think they may have support groups for people like me.

7:29 – I realize that all may recent writings have focused on things I watch on TV… I do other things, too… I swear… I work, I socialize… I even went grocery shopping earlier tonight…

7:32 – Huard has runningback Michael Bennett open in the flat on third down, but tosses the ball over his head… meanwhile, Herman Edwards may be searching for Rich Gannon’s phone number.

7:34 – Cleo Lemon steps in at quarterback for Miami, and thoughts of a dessert made by a TV card-reading fortuneteller spring to my mind. “Call me now for this wonderful recipe.”

7:36 – I realize it’s hard to convey a Jamaican accent via a written medium.

7:37 – The Royals game has now begun, with Esteban German leading off for KC… I love you, TV2.

7:41 – Dolphins kicker Jay Feely gives the fish (I know, they’re mammals… back off) a 3-0 lead. Does this mean the Chiefs’ offense is more feeble than the Dolphins’… oh dear.

7:44 – Two TVs, two commercial breaks at the same time. Don’t TV programmers realize forcing me to think for myself is dangerous?

7:45 – I wonder how many grapes I can fit in my mouth at once…

7:46 – Whew, the glory of televised competition has returned to both screens… Take it easy, brain.

7:48 – Damon Huard just threw a pass after crossing the line of scrimmage by a good three yards. Maybe Brodie Croyle should come down with a “stomach virus” so he can win the QB job by default.

7:51 – Mark Grudzielanek makes an eye-catching diving stop to retire a Ranger batter. He’s definitely the best second-baseman with 12-letters in his last name that the Royals have ever had.

7:57 – So far tonight, the Royals have outscored the Chiefs 1-0… If the Royals are still ahead at the end of the night, I may be worried.

7:58 – Lemon takes the lead in the “worst pass of the night” category, missing his intended target by a good 10 yards. With Croyle’s whirling-dervish interception from last week replaying in my head, I certainly won’t go as far as to say that he has the award locked up.

8:05 – Croyle starts his effort with three consecutive completions. Meanwhile, Herman Edwards may be praying that the young Alabaman doesn’t thrown an interception, so that he can name Croyle as the starter and handcuff a clipboard to Huard’s wrist.

8:08 – Chiefs receiver Chris Hannon jukes his way into the endzone, giving the Chiefs a significant edge over the Royals… Thank you.

8:11 – Former Riley County Falcon and K-State Wildcat Jon McGraw comes up with a special teams tackle and does not showboat, showing the superior character that often results from learning at both aforementioned academic institutions… I am certainly not above shameless plugs for my alma maters.

8:14 – After the Chiefs recover a Miami fumble and earn the opportunity to take a bigger lead, Croyle tosses and interception as the result of a horrible read in zone coverage…. Meanwhile, Steve DeBerg may be pondering whether his Tecmo Super Bowl-famed self has what it takes to make a comeback to the league.

8:24 – The Chiefs head to halftime ahead 7-3 before Stu Scott updates us on the latest in the Michael Vick saga… Did you know he was allegedly involved in some sort of dog-fighting ring? Apparently people are really upset about it, too. Yet another under-the-radar story, just like anything involving Paris Hilton, Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan (I think I have less respect for myself for the mere mention of their names. Because of the acting prowess they show in the world of film, they’re now referred to as “Oscar’s Ladies”).

8:31 – I worry about the difficulty of conveying sarcasm via written medium before remembering that the posterior portion of the parenthetical statement from the previous timeframe is simply too ludicrous to be taken seriously.

8:32 – Baby-faced pitcher Leo Nunez gets Sammy “remember when you liked me in 1998” Sosa to fly out with two runners on to end the third inning. Nunez looks young enough to be pitching in the Little League World Series.

8:37 – I realize it’s pretty ridiculous for one to be talking about how young someone looks when the speaker has personally had his ID checked when purchasing an R-rated movie in the past calendar year… Did I mention I’m nearly 25?

8:40 – It looks like my evening may have just gotten a little longer, as the clouds in the Arlington area have decided burst forth with more moisture than the collective sweat glands at an overweight-and-hairy-nervous-guy convention in an Arizona facility lacking air conditioning. Needless to say, the game has been delayed.

8:41 – I realize that the aforementioned, hypothetical convention is one of the oddest situations I’ve ever typed out.

8:55 – I search for an adequate TV2 fill-in for the delayed-Royals game. The rerun of ‘Royals Insider’ that I’ve already seen just isn’t cutting it…. I swear, I do things other than watch TV… I read. Honestly, I do.

9:00 – Interviewed on the sidelines, Gonzalez says the Chiefs’ coaches will pick the QB that is “consistent and doesn’t turn the ball over.”… I check www.kcchiefs.com to see if the Chiefs have signed John Stockton or Jason Kidd to take snaps.

9:04 – Casey Printers is now at QB for KC, and the announcers speak of his main problem… fumbling snaps from the center. In the meantime, Printers looks sharp making athletic plays, and leading the offense to a potential field goal… I ponder how complicated it would be for a runningback to take snaps and then pitch the ball to Printers each down.

9:08 – Medlock misses his second field goal of the evening, a 38-yarder. As a result, I begin pondering whether Kathy Ireland really learned how to kick field goals for her “Necessary Roughness” role.

9:13 – The rain has subsided and the Royals are back on the field. On cue, a 6-4-3 double play ends the inning… I wonder if Grudzielanek could throw a football like that?

9:19 – Medlock lines up for a 34-yarder… IT’S GOOD!!! With that, the equipment manager on the sidelines sets his “ACME Jersey Name Unstitching Kit” back down.

9:26 – A Dolphin receiver makes an impressive one-handed catch, but the announcers are to wrapped up in a Vick conversation to acknowledge it… sigh… Meanwhile, on TV2, Ranger batter Frank Catalanotto strikes out and slams his bat against the ground… this is replayed three times.

9:30 – A Sportscenter commercial asks if the Vick case is overshadowing the NFL… As a former member of the media, I am aware that the media controls what you see/hear, and what stories become big (see Oscar’s Ladies). Honestly, it’s not a difficult concept. In reality, the commercial should say, “Is the Vick case overshadowing the NFL? Yes, because we’re shoving it down your gullets! Take that, suckers!”

9:37 – I know he’s competing against a bunch of guys that may not have jobs in a couple weeks (e.g., Miami’s 4th-string defense), but Printers looks sharp at QB… and he’s successfully received every snap. This kid may be going places.

9:39 – In a random crowd shot, an RSTN camera focuses on three cute college-age ladies in the Arlington crowd. If I had an award for cameraman of the night, the guy who shot that would get it.

9:40 – I try to figure out where in this world I would ever attain a Cameraman of the Night award to pass along at my own whim.

9:45 – Miami leads KC 11-10 with 16 seconds left, and Miami punting. As the Dolphins punt, Ron Jaworski says playing Huard at QB gives the Chiefs the best opportunity to win right now… The BEST chance to win? I contemplate whether I’d be able to survive a 0-16 season.

9:50 – Printers’ final Hail Mary heave falls incomplete, but he finishes the night 8-10 passing… A wave of depression falls over me, as I realize I currently enjoy watching the Chiefs’ third-string, no-chance-of-starting, quarterback more than the collective Bramon Cruard.

10:02 – Alex Gordon clears the right-field wall to tie the game at 2. With all the negativity that Chiefs’ game brought out, I realize I should probably end this thing on a high note, and the former-Husker probably just provided the perfect opportunity (I also realized I’m getting old, and I want to wind down the evening without a laptop resting on my thigh).

In closing, the Chiefs obviously have work to do, but I really don’t think they’ll go 0-16. The QB situation isn’t ideal in my world, but I also don’t earn millions of dollars for my decisions concerning the gridiron.

… Oh yeah, and I do other things…. Honestly!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stating the Obvious – Observations while watching RSTN

An examination of this collection of writings shows that it has been much too long since the Kansas City Royals have been a topic of discussion. Such omission is simply inexcusable, as I’ve yet to comment on the sweet swing of Billy Butler, or the bullpen that has turned into a team strength. Tonight, we fix that. Thanks to the wonder of television, we’ll hit the high points as the game goes along.

Royals vs. Yankees, July 25, 2007

Pregame – Big news regarding now ex-Royal Scott Elarton (… wait, it felt really good saying that. Let me try again – EX-Royal Scott Elarton… very nice) as he was released earlier today, after getting hit harder last night than most of Mike Tyson’s early opponents. In examining the move, manager Buddy Bell says that it’s hard to let someone go with high character like Elarton. I know a lot of people with high character… they haven’t been signed to big-league contracts.
Tonight, Gil Meche takes the mound for KC - a team needing a good showing on the mound, after Elarton’s hitting tee impersonation on Tuesday.

Top of the 1st – A pair of runners on base for Alex Rodriguez… not exactly an ideal first-inning situation. Rodriguez hears a chorus of boos on his way to the plate… I guess there must be several Yankee fans in attendance. Rodriguez has 34 home runs. The Royals’ team record for homers in a season is 36… Did I mention it’s July? Fortunately, the best shortstop-playing-third-base in the majors doesn’t get his fly ball out of the infield – two down. A fly-out by Hideki Matsui (a.k.a., Godzilla) ends the threat.

Mid-1st, VH1 – What’cha gonna do when Hulk Hogan heats up leftovers, brotha? Now he’s attempting poetry… After watching Idiocracy earlier this evening, I’m glad the Hulkster could fill my culture quotient.

Bottom of the 1st – Former-Royal Johnny Damon stands in left field for the Yankees. Damon is widely known for having one of the worst outfield arms in the league. In simple terms, the Royals should put up a big traffic light that turns green any time a ball is hit Damon’s direction. In other news, the Royals go down 1-2-3.

Top 2nd – A clip prior to the first batter of the inning advertises the Royals’ new all-you-can-eat seats, showing a man wearing a Calvin Pickering jersey heading toward the concession. Pickering was an overweight first-baseman who could never make it for the Royals… Is there irony in this advertisement?
A social outing last night resulted in the observation of a guy in his 20s wearing a J.J. Stokes jersey… in public. For those unaware, Stokes was a wide receiver out of UCLA that was hyped to be a future star and the new John Taylor to play opposite Jerry Rice in San Francisco. This was in 1995, and the hype lasted a few seasons, when people realized that being tall doesn’t mean you will be a good NFL receiver. Stokes last played for the 49ers in 2002… so this guy must be hoping for a big-time comeback from the former Bruin… keep waiting.
D’oh… a Melky “don’t call me Milky, I wasn’t in Me, Myself and Irene” Cabrera homer puts the Yanks up 2-0.

Bottom 2nd – A phone call discussing some of the Little Apple’s finest eating establishments of all time (yo queiro Amigos) distracts the author from his writing for a bit, but such subject cannot be tabled once brought up. A pair of Royal runners is stranded when John Buck flies out to deep left field… Stupid lack of wind.

Top 3rd – Either Meche has turned into a street corner human-statue act, or RSTN is experiencing technical difficulties. We’re back to seeing actual live movement (always a good thing in a broadcast sporting event) just in time to see a smooth double-play by Esteban German and Tony Pena, Jr. German may get knocked for his defense at 2B, but his backhand flip there was highlight-worthy. He certainly doesn’t make me long for the Jed Hansen days.

Bottom 3rd – Former third-baseman-now-rightfielder-but-occasional-first-baseman-or-centerfielder Mark Teahen is at the plate, with two out and German on first. He flies out to Abreu in rightfield, obviously just trying to remind himself of where he needs to go play when the Royals are back on defense.

Top 4th – Oh boy, it’s time for the Aflac duck to ask a question, which Paul Splittorff and Bob Davis promptly try to spoil by tossing out all their guesses for the solution. Would Alex Trebek ever toss out possible answers-in-the-form-of-questions on Jeopardy? Give the viewers a chance to think, fellas. Thankfully, they don’t have much time to discuss, as Meche disposes of three Yankee batters in eight pitches.

Bottom 4th – Billy Butler leads off the inning, batting in the cleanup spot. The 21-year-old is well on his way to cementing himself as the best hitter on the roster. Naturally, Butler strikes out this at-bat, because my predictions always backfire. As a result, I decline to comment on the following batter Ross Gload. The result? A double to right-center. Is my rooting the source of all that has plagued the Royals in recent years? I’d consider such an idea more seriously if the image of a lineup with Neifi Perez and Chuck Knoblauch was not imbedded in my mind. Another pair of runners is stranded with Buck at the plate… the Buck stopped there (sorry, I had to meet my bad pun quota).

Top 5th – Paul and Bob were going on and on in pregame about Royals fans being too hard on Elarton, yet they just mentioned that Damon had been to the plate four times by this point in the game last night… Isn’t the mere reference to stats from last night’s contest “being too hard” on Elarton? Meanwhile, Meche tosses another perfect inning.

Mid-5th FOX– Wayne Brady is now hosting “Don’t Forget the Lyrics.” Couldn’t he have just made a series out of his skit on Chappelle’s Show? Or what about the improv with Ryan Stiles? Has that well run dry? Instead he cracks poor jokes while people who shouldn’t make singing a common practice croon Barry Manilow lyrics.

Bottom 5th – A runner on first quickly turns into an inning-ending double play… All while I try to get Mr. Manilow’s lyrics out of my head.

Top 6th – For all the hubbub made of Meche’s contract in the off-season, he’s been a much better value thus far than San Francisco’s $126 million-dollar man, Barry Zito. Naturally, no one could talk of THAT absurd signing in the off-season, because if you mentioned the Giants, you were required to mention any and every word that came out of Barry Bonds’ mouth… Me? Bitter? No…
Ho-hum… Meche feeds on the Yankee batters like a chubby kid eating Oreo pudding at Bonanza.

Bottom 6th – Unfortunately, the KC batters are taking the same route the aforementioned western-themed buffet took in Manhattan. Dropping much too quickly. Gload picks up a two-out double, and outfielder Reggie Sanders follows. Sanders, the subject of multiple trade rumors and veteran currently on his eighth major league squad, singles to score Gload. Somewhere general manager Dayton Moore smiles as the 39-year-old’s trade value increases. A pitching change and an out follow, but the lead has been sliced in half, 2-1.

Between innings – Continued attempts to “Simpsonize” myself are thwarted as the web site is too busy. I just want to get one-step closer to having a Spiderpig… Is that too much to ask?

Top 7th – The natural order of things I root for reminds me that I’ve gotten too cocky regarding Meche’s pitching tonight, as he gives up two hits to start the inning. A sacrifice bunt sees Buck throw out the batter from the seat of his pants… the Buck sits there (I’ll stop, I really will). Melky picks up another RBI before Meche ends the inning. Yanks up, 3-1.

Mid-7th Comedy Central – The South Park episode where the kids get addicted to World of Warcraft is airing. As someone who had heard plenty of the MMORPG (don’t ask) talk while browsing in video game stores, I must laugh at the accuracy of such depictions.

Bottom 7th – Scott Proctor has taken the mound for NY. If he really wants to catch on in the majors, he should start calling himself Lieutenant, and demand that G.W. Harris (a.k.a. Captain Harris) be hired as his pitching coach. After all, we all know that six Police Academy movies were not enough. (NOTE – apparently folks in Hollywood actually believed that, as there was a 7th movie released… thank you for your infinite move wisdom, www.imdb.com).
KC getting runners on first and second leads to Mike Myers (not the Canadian comedian, not the mass murderer, the submarine pitcher) getting the call to the hill. A Teahen fly-out means the Royals have stranded more people than JetBlue tonight (Stating the Obvious – your one-stop shop for timely jokes).

Between innings – Apparently someone named Lindsey Lohan recently got her second DUI… Yeah, I’ve never heard of her either. Thankfully the media never blows things out of proportion.

Top 8th – For the 37th time we’re reminded that Rodriguez and Meche were teammates in Seattle. Meanwhile, I wonder if former Mariner/Royal Mac Suzuki sheds a tear not hearing his name mentioned with his former ‘mates. My pondering notion ends harshly, as Rodriguez wins the battle of the former teammates, pulverizing a baseball beyond the right-centerfield wall. Keep an eye on this Rodriguez kid… I think he may end up making something of himself in this league.
Meche’s night ends, having surrendered five runs, which means his success in the middle innings will be lost in the shuffle. Nevertheless, his outing would look much better if had some semblance of run-support.
Jimmy Gobble faces Mothra’s archenemy, and suffers the same fate as so many extras in the film – a severe crushing. Where in the world is Rodan when you need him?
Looks like Gobble is not the answer tonight, as the Yanks exit the inning with a 7-1 advantage.

Bottom 8th – A number of depressing thoughts drift through my head as I watch Butler and Gload go down to start the inning. The most prominent thought concerns the “kiss of death” I have given Butler by picking him up on both my fantasy baseball teams. I may as well sneak into his locker and replace all his bats with hula-hoops.

Top 9th – The RSTN camera pans to show all the scouts watching KC’s potentially trade-able players… Let’s just say there’s a reason these folks are scouts and not holding roles that are physically demanding. Reliever Octavio Dotel escapes trouble after allowing the first two batters to reach base. The scouts exit upon the end of his appearance. You mean they didn’t come to see reserve shortstop Jason Smith?

Bottom 9th – Mariano Rivera comes on to attempt to close out the 7-1 lead. Luckily, Rivera has never been much in tight situations like this (wow, you can actually FEEL the sarcasm in that sentence). With two outs, Jason Smith makes his name known, dropping a single into left and then swiping second (unopposed). That will show those scouts. The final is 7-1, as David DeJesus ends the game with a roller to first.

My return to Royals writing didn’t turn out to be as rosy as hoped, but I still must stress that the team is headed in the right direction. If the KC offense would end its vow to never give Meche run-support, this game could be completely different. Look for the bats to get going with Kei Igawa and his 6.67 ERA on the mound on Thursday night. And if they don’t? Well, it’s probably my fault.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Things I Don’t Understand – The National sports media

Imagine this scenario: You’re a fan of a small market baseball team that has seen its struggles in recent years, but is now climbing from the depths of obscurity and playing decent baseball. The team in question wins a game that brings them close to escaping the cellar, but said game was not televised. As a fan in this era, where information is at your very fingertips, you might assume you’d be able to see some highlights of the victory by turning into a network that advertises itself as the “Worldwide leader in sports.”

Now, imagine your disappointment when it’s finally time for the recap of the aforementioned game, yet the only “highlights” are three misplayed balls in the outfield by a guy who was playing third base last season.

As is common with most of the “hypothetical” situations used in my prose, such an event happened just weeks ago. Granted, the Royals are not world-beaters, and I don’t expect them to be the lead on Sportscenter, but any team should receive credit when they win.

Currently, I’m watching the Royals play the Red Sox in a scoreless game through two innings. With a win, the Royals would take this series from the American League East leaders. Before picking up my laptop to compose this rant, I was calmly sitting on my couch, thinking how I’d like to see the highlights tonight if the Royals could take their bats to a 212-year old Julian Tavarez. Then I realized, because they’re playing the media-darling Red Sox, even if Odalis Perez fought all laws of pitching aptitude and common sense and tossed a no-hitter, the “highlights” would still probably focus on “Manny (Ramirez) being Manny” as he trotted in the outfield.

As a result, an abundance of issues are swarming in my head, like sportswriters to the guy they know will say something controversial.

The most pressing issue concerns coverage on a national level in general. If you frequent sports programming, odds are you have heard the phrase, “The best player no one has heard of.” The moniker is often given to a good player on a “small market” team. Now, as the NATIONAL media, or the WORLDWIDE leader, shouldn’t it be the job of the folks on these programs to make sure we have heard of these players? Aren’t they failing if a fan has to look at a scorecard to figure out who someone on an All Star team is?

Case in point, first baseman Dmitri Young currently leads the National League in batting average. How did I come upon such a seemingly common piece of knowledge? It wasn’t from any national sports coverage. After all, Young plays for the last-place Washington Nationals, which means his team will probably only see screen time if it involves someone falling down (such coverage may as well be accompanied by Benny Hill music and laugh tracks). No, my knowledge of Young’s 2007 hitting prowess derives from the fact that I tend to trend towards nerdy when it comes to baseball, and www.baseballreference.com is one of my most commonly visited websites. Anyway, instead of being known as a guy fighting for a batting title, most general sports fans who recognize Young’s name probably know him as “the guy who pinch-hit in the All Star game instead of Albert Pujols.” (Because we all know that deserved the abundance of media coverage it received.)

These days, instead of receiving the comprehensive coverage one might expect from a national outlet, it seems that the majority of airtime goes to: 1) the “large market” teams that are forced down our throats (the Yankees are struggling… let’s devote 15 minutes to discussing why); 2) stories blown completely out of proportion (Alex Rodriguez distracted someone trying to catch a pop fly? Sweet mercy, call the cops!); or, 3) contrived ideas that must seem good at some point, but no one cares about in the end (Who is “now”? Well… I am NOW changing the channel, so is it me?)

Those of you reading this who are unfamiliar with sports (sorry, is it rude of me to assume someone is reading this?), may not be clear on the terms “small market” and “large market” referenced earlier. Unfortunately, neither deals with a shady place in an overseas nation where one might purchase a magical monkey paw. In the sports world, “large market” refers to the teams in major cities with large fan bases and so much exposure in the media that the Amish could probably recite their starting lineups. Meanwhile, “small market” teams are the ones that receive media attention 1) if they’re in a championship game; or 2) if their stadiums spontaneously combust (note: as of 8 p.m., 7/18/07, such an even has never been recorded).

If one were to ask in important person in a national media organization why the large market teams receive so much more coverage, the answer would undoubtedly be because they have more fans. But, what if these teams have more fans, only because they receive more coverage (sorry to go all “chicken or the egg” on you here, but hear me out).

People are going to follow a team they can easily keep tabs on. If you live in Oklahoma (I apologize and hope it’s not in Ardmore… but I digress…) standard geographical pride would seem to point to picking a squad from Texas, Missouri or Colorado as your favorite baseball team. Yet, in a survey conducted by Sports Illustrated upon its 50th anniversary (yes, I do have the time to look these type of things up at this point of my life… I also have the Royals going on one TV, and the World Series of Pop Culture on the other, what of it?), 11-percent of the respondents from the Sooner state said the Yankees were their favorite baseball team – the second highest total in the state, ahead of all Texas teams, the Royals and the Rockies.

Granted, the Yankees were winning championships long before the Royals were considered a small-market squad, but I’m guess the abundance of teenagers you see wearing Yankees ball-caps were not around for Mickey Mantle’s glory days. Now if the Houston Astros saw as much TV time as the Yankees, don’t you suppose a few more Oklahomans might lean their direction?

Now my idea is not revolutionary, and I’m not suggesting a last-place club should be the top story on a sports recap show. It merely seems that more time should be devoted to the reason all the players in a particular sport have jobs… the games. If I have to choose between watching highlights of a Rangers-Mariners game and getting an analysis of Alex Rodriguez’s wife’s wardrobe decision, I’m going to choose the highlights. A small-market game should never take a back seat to a large-market “story.” That is, after all, the reason people are fans in the first place – the games.

***Ending note – Royals win, 6-5.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

An evening with Ms. Sony

Watch out world, it’s Saturday night! Some folks may be heading off to the movies. Others might have a dinner date. Others may have a far more crazy night ahead. Me? I just finished “You, Me and Dupree,” (not as funny as I’d hoped) grilled up a burger and a hot dog (thank you, George Foreman), and am now preparing for the wondrous TV lineup that Saturday evenings are known to provide… OK, actually it’s all the crap they throw on, since they figure most people have lives and won’t be watching TV on a Saturday night… Boy, I sure showed them. What follows are the highlights of a night of channel flipping and junk sifting, stationed from the home office – my couch.

7:08 p.m., Spike TV- “When Animals Attack 3” is showing the recreation of an alligator attack on a seven-year-old boy… Nothing about this scenario should be humorous, but the creators of such a masterpiece of television production have decided to cast a 30-year-old man to play the youngster in some of the scenes. I’m not quite sure if it was the size or the 5 o’clock shadow that gave the actor's age away. They may as well have cast a box turtle to play the gator. Instead, the fake alligator they're using is somewhat reminiscent of the inflatable alligator pool rafts. Apparently the creators of the show obviously didn’t realize that, if they used real animals in the reenactments, they could potentially make even more money… Who wouldn’t watch an episode of “When Animals Attack While Filming Episodes of When Animals Attack”?

7:20 p.m., Local Access Channel – Some grade school kids are putting on a program where they sing western-themed songs while wearing cowboy hats and bandannas. Several of them have the glazed look on their faces that you might see in a hostage video, and they’re singing with the enthusiasm of an odontophobic person waiting to get a root canal.

7:36 p.m., ESPN2 – Maria Sharapova is competing against a woman from Japan named Ai Sugiyama. Sharapova just scored an ace with a 111 mph serve. As a result, the eternal question, “Is it possible to be attracted to and afraid of a person simultaneously?” has now been answered.

7:45 p.m., The Disney Channel – Your one-stop shop for horrible acting… Wait, I mean, no, I’d never stop on the Disney Channel!

7:48 p.m., CNBC – Uh oh, the banker just called on “Deal or No Deal.” Howie says the offer will be more than a quarter of a million dollars, before cutting to commercial. My guess is that the banker doesn’t actually exist. When the phone rings, it’s simply people calling up and requesting that Mr. Mandel get Bobby’s World back on the air… Now that was quality television.

7:50 p.m. – Scantily clad women dancing seductively to catchy music right before a children’s toy is advertised? That can only mean one thing - we’re on Univision! I took two years of Spanish in high school, and I’ve recognized exactly one sentence I’ve heard. How’s that for comprehension?

7:54 p.m., BET – Oh boy, it’s the constant hilarity of the Wayans Brothers… This brings only one thought to mind, from the mind of Dave Chappelle. “The Wayans brothers… There’s more?”

8:00 p.m. – Back to Univision for some “Sabado Gigante,” and right in time for some sort of game show segment. It involves numbers… Quatro means four.

8:05 p.m., Animal Planet – A man best described as… well, a fool is walking in a swampy area, feeling for anacondas with his toes. Now he’s just gone in to tackle one, after describing the snake as feeling like an elephant's trunk. Excuse me for a moment as I run to the zoo to feel an elephant’s trunk with my bare foot, thus establishing a point of reference. Shows like this make me glad that my hobbies involve writing and watching TV, as opposed to hunting snakes and planning my own funeral.

8:25 p.m., FX – “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” Take that, kid from the Mac commercials! I’ve seen it so many times, yet it never gets old.

8:30 p.m., ESPN – A quote from Baseball Tonight, “Grady Sizemore, what doesn’t he do?” … Well, hopefully he doesn’t punch war veterans or kick puppies. I know it would be weird to bring that up on the air, but you asked the question.

8:35 p.m., MTV – A kid is singing a horrible song to a crowd at a baseball game, as the crowd members sit uncomfortably… I guess he wants to be “made” into someone who ends up getting booed at Wrigley Field while singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” They really must be running out of ideas. As a result, I am “made” into a person that continues to grow disgusted with MTV and must change the channel.

8:47 p.m., ABC Family – Holy smokes, it’s Ziggy from “What About Bob?” post-puberty. I always wondered what happened to that kid. Apparently he got to be in a movie with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Seth Green and the Rusty Griswold kid from “Vegas Vacation.”

After further examination (and serious thought wondering what in the world my life has become), I’ve discovered that I’ve actually heard of this movie before; it’s “Can’t Hardly Wait.” After the mandatory awkward pause, I realize I can’t hardly wait to change the channel and the subject.

8:55 p.m., CBS – It’s Tom Selleck, but he’s not playing Thomas Magnum…. Boooooooooo! I think some actors should never be able to play new roles after achieving success with a particular one. And has any role been more successful than Thomas Magnum? Channeling my inner Ricky Bobby, I believe “Magnum P.I.” won the award for greatest TV show ever made.

9:01 p.m., TNT – Tom Hanks speaks to his volleyball, Wilson, on “Castaway.” Meanwhile, a baseball with George Brett’s face on it sits on top of my entertainment center. Time to change the channel before I start asking it about the ’85 World Series.

9:05 p.m., ESPN – A commercial with former World Series MVP, and former Royal, Jermaine Dye wearing his White Sox uniform… Urge to punch wall… rising.

9:07 p.m., VH1 – Whoa, whoa, whoa…. Paris Hilton was in jail??? Have you heard about this??? Boy, that story really slipped under the radar. I guess we can all be thankful that the stations dedicated to covering news in our country devote time to stories that really matter, and not the imprisonment of someone who is only known because she was born into money.

(We must pause for a moment while my computer attempts to process the last paragraph. I may have overloaded its sarcasm accepting circuits.)

9:20 p.m., Spike TV – More animal attack action, now featuring actual footage. This time we’re treated to a kangaroo in an Australian backyard, and then a possibly diseased lab monkey that got loose in a suburban neighborhood. Thank goodness the people involved had the foresight to film these situations, as opposed to, you know, HELPING CATCH THE DANGEROUS ANIMALS!

9:34 p.m., MTV2 – An utterly disturbing video by Queens of the Stone Age may have just taken a few years off my life. I guess it’s all part of MTV’s continuing “let’s try to get Derek to skip our channels” campaign.

9:55 p.m., FX – Another great quote from Dodgeball, in FCC-edited fashion, “Freakin’ Chuck Norris.”

10:02 p.m., Food – Iron Chef Cora gets the call on “Iron Chef.” Since this show is almost treated like a sport, should we, as viewers be treated to statistics? I’m curious how many cuts of pork Cora can slice per minute. Seems like this would really open things up for the commentators, as well. The commentary could be upgraded from “pointless drivel” to “pointless, stat-driven drivel.”

Three hours of my life later, what do I have to show for my Saturday evening? A written-account of three wasted hours, and some progress at breaking in my couch. Now I’m off to find a recap of the Royals game (John Buck wasn’t in the lineup and the offense struggled? But Buddy Bell’s boy Jason Larue was in… Urge to punch wall… rising).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Argument Solver

Life is filled with a number of great debates. Pepsi or Coke? Paper or plastic? Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Such questions can be so mind-boggling that they keep people up at night, wracking their minds for a solution.

My friends, you can all rest easy, for I have found the answer to it all – Google. For those that are unaware (folks raised by lemurs, and such), Google is a “search engine” on the “Internet” that allows users to type in keywords and find results from around this “World Wide Web (if you are unfamiliar with this Internet, I pity you… but I’m also going to steer clear of you, because you apparently have some sort of amazing mind powers, being able to read this sans a browser).

Anyway, let’s start with a simple argument – Should Buddy Bell have a job managing in Major League Baseball? With baseball, as with most athletic competitions, success is measured by wins and losses. Therefore, to test my argument solver, we first enter “’Buddy Bell’ winner” into the search engine. Such an entry nets 33,900 results. Not a bad pull for Mr. I-Like-To-Bat-A-Sub-.200-Hitting-Shane-Costa-Cleanup. Unfortunately for Buddy, the argument comes down to the results for “’Buddy Bell’ losing,”… a whopping 41,500. By a 7,600-result margin, it seems the skipper is more associated with losing, and therefore should not be managing at the big league level.

The beauty of the “Google Solution” is that it works with any argument. Is Brodie Croyle a talented young quarterback, or an injury waiting to happen in the Arrowhead backfield. Net results… “’Brodie Croyle’ talented” garners 29,900, while “Brodie Croyle’ injured” nets 44,400… Looks like Damon Huard better start warming up and hope that opponents don’t catch on to the limited playbook he worked with last season.

With the answers to all life’s questions at my fingertips, I obviously couldn’t just sit back watch television… I needed more (with the TV on in the background, naturally). Being the considerate person that I am, here are the answers to more of society’s great debates:

The ceiling… worthless or wonderful?
“ceiling worthless” – 586,000
“ceiling wonderful” – 1,330,000
This just serves as a kind reminder that we should all appreciate everything ceilings have to offer.

KU… underrated or overrated?
“KU underrated” – 44,600
“KU overrated” – 61,900
If first-round exits and tournament disappointments weren’t enough to convince you, Google can show you the way. The high expectations for the Jayhawks are as fictional as the bird they portray.

Dwight Schrute… genius or freak?
“’Dwight Schrute’ genius” – 17,900
“’Dwight Schrute’ freak” – 15,700
With that, we now all know that, despite his eccentricities, Dunder Mifflin’s Assistant to the Regional Manager in Scranton, Penn., is a genius… that knows several facts about bears… and has a purple belt.

Derek Larson… great or mediocre?
“’Derek Larson’ great” – 1,050
“’Derek Larson’ mediocre” - 8
Perhaps the convincing argument of all for the “Google Solution”… The search doesn’t lie.

This column… a useful tool or a waste of time?
“’this column’ ‘useful tool’” – 57,800
“’this column’ ‘waste of time’” – 78,800
This shows… well…
… D’oh.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stating the Obvious - Observations while preparing to move

For an individual that despises the entire process of moving from one “home” to another, I sure seem to be doing it a lot. I’m currently in the midst of my third move in the last year-and-a-half, and I’m becoming fed of with the process of boxing up all my stuff, and then cleaning the area where the aforementioned stuff once resided.

What makes this move even more of a pain that most is the fact that I can’t even move directly into my new pad (apparently moving also makes me try to bring 60s terminology back into the mainstream). Thus, I’m packing things up and moving them to a storage unit, only to have the wonderful opportunity to move them again in a week when my new lease starts… I must be the luckiest guy in the world.

The one saving grace of this move is the fact that, once phase two is complete, I’ll actually live in a place that I’m not ashamed to have people visit. Don’t get me wrong, my current apartment has a certain charm (occasionally leaky ceiling, bugs roaming like it’s the rainforest, and about as much room as the Castle Grayskull I had as a kid… is charm the right word?), but the new apartment will actually have the initial appearance of being clean and decent. I’ll also have about a 42-second walk to work everyday, which is nice since gas prices have reached the point that they could put C. Montgomery Burns in the poorhouse.

In the meantime, while trying to avoid the inevitable cleaning that lies ahead (stupid oven… stupid shower), the Royals are occupying my time, with a re-examining of the “Lost” season finale during commercial breaks. Both are currently leaving my mind in a severe state of boggled-ness. Is Jack’s flash-forward the inevitable future, or just a possibility? How can the Royals be one of the hottest team’s in baseball over the last 10 games, but be behind to Cleveland 10-1 in the 7th inning (… actually, the answer to that question is probably the fact that Jorge de la Rosa remembered that he is, in fact, Jorge de la Rosa).
In other news, the Chiefs made an interesting move letting Trent Green basically hold a team-approved press conference, even though Green is currently as happy with the Kansas City front office as PETA is with Michael Vick and Clinton Portis. Think whatever you like about who is right and who is wrong in the whole Green-Carl Peterson feud, but putting Green in front of so many media members while peeved about his situation really seems to have done nothing but make the Chiefs appear to be poorly run and dishonest. No matter who you think should be under center for Kansas City, this situation is being operated about as smoothly as my teenage attempts at talking to girls I didn’t know… No, that is not a good thing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Stating the Obvious - Observations From the Air

A recent trip to Virginia provided me with plenty of time to kill while sitting a Northwest Airlines (NWA for short... which can be deceiving) plane. I composed some random thoughts to entertain myself, because it was either that or crafting paper hats out of the pages of the Skymall catalog.

1st flight

On television and in film, prison guards are often portrayed as characters who are as tough as week old meatloaf and inebriated with their own sense of power. What happens if a prisoner even glances at a guard in a slightly distasteful manner? He's nailed with a club and tossed in the hole.
What does any of this have to do with travel? Airline security folks are the closest thing I've experienced to Hollywood's portrayal of prison guards. At least, that's how the experience was at the airport this morning.
As is the manner in these days of heightened security, I took my shoes off at the correct time and placed them in a tub to send them through the machine. I had on clean socks, so everything was dandy. I also took off my watch, and emptied my pockets of my keys, change and cellphone. I began to approach the metal detecting doorway thingy (though, with a bit of caution, because who knows if it could be some portal into another dimension), but then a security woman gruffly asked me if I had everything out of my pockets. I pulled out a pack of gum and was immediately told it had to go through the machine. Such an issue with my ear-popping deterrent seemed a bit outrageous (although tests may very well be underway on potential dangers of flavor crystals).
Nonetheless, I paused for a split-second to find one of the plastic bowls to toss my pack of crystal mint Orbit gum into, and I immediately heard, "ON YOUR RIGHT, ON TOP OF THE MACHINE," in a tone that could have made a drill sergeant quiver. Had I taken any longer to get the gum through the machine, I think the woman was going to reach for a rubber hose to crack me with.
Thankfully, my gum and I both made the flight, and, in retrospect, I guess the concern about the gum may make a little sense... it's all Tom Cruise's fault. If he had not used explosive chewing gum in Mission Impossible, the verbal abuse I suffered probably would not have happened. I hope scientologists aren't out to get me.

2nd Flight

At this point in my life, I've seen a number of films and television shows that deal with airplanes on some level. ABC's Lost stands out most specifically in my mind at this point, which means I do one thing immediately once I take my seat on a plane... I scope out my fellow flyers to try to identify which passenger could best fit each role if we were to crash on to a mysterious island (yes, I know that the flight from Detroit to Norfolk does not trek over any oceans or seas. Thanks, geography master). Unfortunately today, as far as I can tell, neither flight has produced any African druglords-turn-priests, any paralyzed folks who were pushed out of a window by their fathers who had previously stolen a kidney, nor any cute fugitives who have been on the run. I haven't even seen a large guy who says "dude" a lot and who won the lottery using numbers he heard from a resident of a mental hospital... This is unbelievable.
On a separate note, this current flight features a male flight attendant. Naturally, this brings to mind the episode of "The Simpsons" in which Marge's fear of flying results from having discovered her father was a flight attendant. I only hope this flight attendant does not have a daughter who will someday be hopelessly scarred emotional as the result of his career pouring half-cups of Pepsi aboard an airplane.
To further complicate things, this particular flight attendant looks like he could be a cousin of Billy Dee Williams. Perhaps he enjoys flying because it reminds him of Cloud City...
Flying in a plane also brings to mind that classic comedy that we all know and love: "Blazing Saddles,"... no, wait... that's not it.... "Airplane." Once again, letting film shape my expectations has wrought disappointment. There has been no in-flight meal featuring poisoned fish, I have not seen a single nun with a guitar, and I'm pretty sure our co-pilot is not Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I know Hollywood exaggerates from time to time, but they've missed on my current flying experience by at least 30,000 feet. I hope I don't suffer similar disappointments if I'm ever bitten by a strange spider at a science lab or if I'm ever exposed to nuclear radiation.

3rd Flight

Over a week since the last writing, I'm on a flight from Norfolk to Detroit. I had planned to either sleep or write on this flight, though both options are proving difficult. My seat is 24D, although it may as well be called, "the middle of the freaking engine." That, or maybe the D in 24D stands for what I'll be when the flight is over - deaf.
As a result of this noise level, which would have made Beethoven wince, I've been forced to increase the volume of the Jackson 5 currently playing on my iPod. Thus, it's difficult to concentrate on writing anything other than "ABC, it's easy as 1, 2, 3," over and over (and I really don't want to be sued by Tito Jackson).
Nonetheless, I'm please to be heading home, where things are normal. Most notably, time and television schedules that correspond with said time. Put simply, the eastern time zone is just a horrible TV watching environment. The fact that so many folks can live in a zone where prime time extends until 11 o'clock and Conan O'Brien's red pompadour does not see the light of television screens until after midnight is beyond me.
Perhaps this time issue would not be such a big deal if I had not been operating on the same schedule as residents of Del Boca Vista Phase 3 this past week. Rising and attempting to shine at 4:30 a.m. does not exactly fill my days with hope and optimism. As a result, I've been drifting to sleep early, as if I was watching tennis on TV.
It never fails that turbulence hits right as someone is walking to the restroom, and a flight attendant is pouring a drink... poor folks. On this flight, I'm lucky enough to have another male flight attendant (apparently they're the new rage). Unfortunately, this one has no similarities to Lando Calrissian. This fellow is older, and has the look and demeanor of a pilot that has been demoted. Is such an action possible in the world of airlines? If so, is there someplace in the newspaper where I can read the latest transactions by each airline? I want to know if Northwest trades an established pilot with a high salary and character issues to Delta for a couple of bag-checking prospects in attempt to stay under the salary cap. Is that too much to ask?
Random Analogy....
The overhead luggage compartment is to humans as a transparent window is to birds. You're headed toward your intended destination (for humans, a plane seat; for birds, indoors), no worries... then BOOM (please excuse the channeling my inner John Madden there), you're in pain and you feel like an idiot. I have steered clear of such happenings thus far on this trip, but I've seen three people hit their heads on this flight alone. The reaction is always the same... act like nothing happened, sit down as quickly as possible, and then glance around to see if anyone noticed. Naturally, putting any padding on these compartments to protect people in the case of such accidents makes entirely too much sense.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Stating the Obvious - Recent Observations From the World of Sports

If, by chance, you read my previous post regarding the Kansas City Royals, you probably now are doubting my intelligence and/or my sanity. Naturally, I decided to tout their "strongest" points and predict relative success for the boys in blue. As if on cue, the Royals have opened the season with the worst record in the American League, and have had a better start to the season than just the Washington "lock for the first pick in the 2008 Amateur Draft" Nationals. Despite my eternal optimism, such bad fortune has not been surprising to many people.

What has been unexpected to nearly anyone who has even heard of the Royals is the way Kansas City has been dropping games. The starting pitching, which appeared to be a possible weak link at Kauffman Stadium, has been a relative strength. The $55 million-dollar man Gil Meche has shown "ace of a staff" stuff thus far, allowing just 12 earned runs in seven starts. Meanwhile, Jorge de la Rosa is tied with Meche for the team lead in victories, and is making the Royals' trade of Buddy Bell's old favorite, Tony Graffinino, appear to be a move of pure genius.

Despite some stellar performances from the starters, the Royals have been dropping games, thanks largely to bullpen collapse that rival history's greatest avalanches and an offense that has struggled to get as many hits as Menudo. Rookie Alex Gordon, the phenom talented enough to even receive comparisons to the best player to ever wear a KC cap, George Brett, has struggled from the start. Just 29 games into his young career, Gordon's batting average of .175, makes former Royal (and key component in one of the worst KC trades ever) Neifi Perez look like Tony Gwynn. First-baseman Ryan Shealy has opened the year hitting at a .113 clip, meaning he could double his batting average and still be considered disappointing so far. Even Emil Brown, who apparently has become his own personal PR rep, is batting below .200.

So once again, the time may seem right for me to hang up my Royals cap and start thinking about football season (... Bramon Cruard at QB for the Chiefs? D'oh...), but once again, I'm simply not ready to take that step. Chalk it up once again to delusion, stupidity, or blatant homerism, but there's plenty of time KC to get things going in the right direction. It seems the offense has no option other than improving. Alex Gordon will prove he belongs at the major league level. Recent call-up Billy Butler, who has raked like Groundskeeper Willie at every level of baseball, will be a threat in the big leagues (on offense, anyway). With the return of injured pitchers Luke Hudson and Octavio Dotel, the bullpen will improve, giving KC decent options beyond Joakim Soria and Jimmy Gobble (whose faces do not appear in the dictionary next to reliable).

The Royals are a young crew, with plenty of room for improvement. Despite what some may think, they will do so.


I've never the Chiefs' draft strategies, but I think they may regret not drafting Louisville runningback Michael Bush in the third round (not to mention ignoring cornerback and quarterback completely).

If anyone in televised sports history has gotten more screen time while he's just standing waiting to compete than Tiger Woods, I would be very surprised.

One round into the NBA playoffs (yes, the NBA still exists), both the teams that competed in the 2006 Finals have been eliminated... so who is going to take the top prize? The Spurs. Tim Duncan is the best player left in the playoffs, Tony Parker is quicker than a chubby man at a buffet, and they have one of the best clutch players in NBA history, Robert Horry. Who will they beat? They could top anyone in the East, but for the sake of argument, I'll say Vince Carter leads the Nets to the Finals, since he's in for a big payday as a free agent this off-season, if (when?)he opts out of his contract.

Oh, and apparently Floyd Mayweather beat Oscar De La Hoya in a boxing match. Odds are one or more of the 3,281 title belts floating around out there were up for grabs. Is it possible for boxing to become relevant again?

Lastly, a horse won the Kentucky Derby. It will now receive talk that it could win the vaunted Triple Crown, and will become the most beloved horse since last year's Derby winner. The horse will remain popular only if it wins the Triple Crown or injures itself going for it (at which point it will earn Mr. Ed popularity). Why is it that horses are the only animals that can compete in a popular sporting event? Can't we see a grizzly-bear eating competition or orangutans playing rugby?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Feeling Blue... Royal Blue

Every February something unnatural happens to me. It doesn’t involve deformities, chemical imbalances, or an onset of gigantism… it’s simply an adjustment in my state of mind. The thermometer may still be showing freezing temperatures in the Heartland, but in the middle of the month Major League Baseball teams open spring training. With the first utterance of the phrase “pitchers and catchers report,” my optimism for the upcoming season of Kansas City Royals baseball shoots upward like a Willie Mays Hayes pop fly.

Need an example? In 2006, I picked the Royals to compete for third place in the American League Central (which proved to be the toughest division in baseball). Despite my eternal hope, including attempts to create a club for those who see Angel Berroa’s mouth as half-full of tobacco (the Royals Optimist Alliance… plenty of memberships still available), KC lost 100 games and finished as the second-worst team in the Majors (thank you for your futility, Tampa Bay Devil Rays).

Such a bogus inaccuracy in judgment should teach a lesson, right? No one in their right mind would continue predicting success for a squad whose pitching staff has taken more hits than Evander Holyfield’s sparring partner, would they? Hence the unnatural occurrence I referenced earlier.

Honestly, I think the Royals can be competitive in 2007. Granted, I’m not going to pencil them in for a playoff spot, but I think they can finish much closer to that third-place finish I had them chasing last year. The AL Central is as strong as a ‘roided up outfielder, but I think general manager Dayton Moore has made a variety of moves that have the Royals on the right track.

Last year at this time, the names Ryan Shealy, Gil Meche and Octavio Dotel were nonexistent in Royal verbiage. This year, Shealy means a slugger at first base, Meche is a legitimate starting pitcher, and Dotel means a proven arm out of the bullpen.

Along the same lines, 12 months ago, Mark Teahen had not proven he could hit at a big-league level, and uber-talented prospect Alex Gordon, despite his skills, had about the same chance of making the opening-day roster as a 53-year-old George Brett. In 2007, Teahen enters the season as the team’s No. 3-hole hitter coming off a breakout campaign, and Gordon has shown enough talent to usurp Teahen’s job at third base, moving the incumbent to right field.

The following items (bulleted and bolded for your reading ease) also have me (perhaps irrationally) geared up about the ’07 Royals.

- Outfield depth

Royals’ fans will remember a lowlight form last season when centerfielder Kerry Robinson exhibited the depth perception of a blind shrew, scaling the outfield wall in attempt to make a play on a ball that wound up landing on the warning track. Barring an onset of the plague, Robinson won’t be scaling walls anywhere near Kansas City this season. Shane Costa, Joe Gathright, Reggie Sanders and Ross Gload can all be serviceable outfielders in the majors, and none are expected to start for KC.

David DeJesus, Emil Brown and Mark Teahen should provide the Royals with their most offensively talented outfield since Jermaine Dye and Carlos Beltran were in town. Questions may surround the unit’s defensive capabilities, with Teahen adjusting after his move from the hot corner, and Emil Brown (despite his own comparisons to Carl Crawford, among others) roaming the outfield with the grace of a fawn on a frozen pond.

- Revamped Rotation

Unless you spent the offseason in a cave on the moon with your head underneath a rock while wearing a blindfold and listening to Eddie Murphy’s “Party All The Time” on an iPod with the volume cranked to the max, you probably heard about the Royals signing pitcher Gil Meche. More Specifically, you probably heard reasons why the signing of the former Seattle starting pitcher for $55 million over five years was: a) the worst move of the offseason; b) the most ludicrous signing in baseball history; c) the cause of U.S. foreign policy difficulties; d) the downfall of human civilization; and d) a true sign of the apocalypse.

I may be stepping out on a ledge here, but I think most, if not all (I won’t claim to be a foreign policy expert) of those claims are false. There was no doubt that the Royals had to improve in the starting pitching department. Of the Kansas City pitchers who started at least 10 games in 2006, none had an ERA of lower than 5.12. Meche’s 2006 ERA was 4.48. Granted, $11 millon per year is enough to buy quite a few packs of Big League Chew, but an examination of the free agent market for starting pitchers shows that the
Royals were to pay a high price if they wanted to land a legitimate starter. After all, Ted Lilly, a pitcher two years Meche’s senior, with similar numbers, landed with the Chicago Cubs for a cool $40 million over four years.

The Royals open the 2007 with a completely new starting rotation, when compared to the start of last season. Gone are Scott Elarton (injured), Jeremy Affeldt (traded to Rockies), Denny Bautista (traded to Rockies), Mark Redman (not re-signed), and Joe Mays (released). Replacing them will be Meche, Odalis Perez, Jorge de la Rosa, and Brandon Duckworth, along with a returning Zack Greinke. Returning to the rotation after leaving the team in spring training last season, Greinke has received treatment for depression and will look to return to the form that saw him earn fourth-place in Rookie of the Year voting in 2004. The exciting thing for Royals’ fans – he’s still just 23.

- Dayton Moore

Why be excited about someone who doesn’t even wear a Kansas City uniform? Because the Royals’ GM is doing his best to proved that the Royals actually have a direction for the first time since the 1994 strike. Instead of making moves that seem to be mostly fueled by dollars and cents, Moore is addressing areas that he sees as needing improvement. The Royals had no speed… enter Joey Gathright. The Royals, a team obviously rebuilding, were starting a 32-year-old Doug Mientkiewicz at first base… enter Ryan Shealy. Kansas City’s pitching corps in the minor leagues had less depth than a kiddie pool… enter Luke Hochevar, Tyler Lumsden and Daniel Cortes. Finally, the Royals had Angel “I have the plate discipline of a grizzly bear at a steakhouse” Berroa at shortstop… enter Tony Pena, Jr.

Now Pena Jr. may have less-than-stellar minor league stats, and he may be the son of former manager Tony Pena, but if Moore (who was a strong candidate to replace Theo Epstein as the GM for the Boston Red Sox) thinks the junior Pena is ready to break out, I’m not going to argue with him.

My figurative opening pitch has been tossed. All that’s left is for the season to begin, and for me to be proven a pathetic, over-optimistic homer; or an enlightened, accurate-thinking homer. Either way, I’m dusting off my Royals Optimist Alliance guest book.