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.