Tag Archive | "Few Minutes"

I-70 Conversations: The Night Shift Host Nolan Woodford

KC Royals logo with blue background

Nolan Woodford, the host of ‘The Night Shift’ on 610 Sports Radio took a few minutes out of his schedule to talk with me. We discussed The Royals, focusing on the Shields/Myers trade with the benefit of some hindsight, how he would rate their season in general, and answered some mid-season award questions.

Paul: At the halfway point of the season, how would you evaluate the year? And what letter grade would you give it?

Nolan: The season hasn’t been a total disappointment so far – this is the closest the Royals have come to contending in a decade.  They’ve done some outstanding things and have loads of potential, but the results have been average at best, thus far.  They’re right on pace to go 78-84, which is where I had them at the start of the year.  But with the talent on this team and the way the starting rotation has performed, being under .500 should be considered underachieving.  So I would give them a C.  It’s going to be enough to get most everyone through the year, but it’s not a grade you’re particularly proud of.  There are certainly going to be opportunities for the grade to go up in the second semester.

Paul: Would you consider the Royals hitting .500 this year a success?

Nolan: Kind of.  I think the team has to go at least .500 for Ned Yost to keep his job.  But I think they’re clearly the second most talented team in the AL Central behind Detroit, which means they play a lot of games against teams they’re better than.  So while going .500 for the second time in the 21st century wouldn’t be a failure, they need to finish with a winning record.

Paul: In light of the Shields for Myers trade, does that make .500 not enough? Since KC only has Shields for 2 years and Myers is a potential future star, does that change the perception of what the Royals should do this year and next year?

Nolan: They need to make the playoffs either this year or next year.  And they have enough talent they can do so, especially if Eric Hosmer continues to produce like he has in the last few weeks.  But you traded away 6 or 7 years of Wil Myers for 2 years of James Shields.  Surely, the Tampa Bay Rays expect Wil Myers to guide them to the playoffs in that time.  So Shields needs to do the same in Kansas City.  You don’t trade away the Minor League Player of the Year if you’re not trying to win now.

Paul: Who would you consider to be the team’s MVP and Cy Young this year?

Nolan: I think the MVP is Salvador Perez with Alex Gordon a close second.  Perez is a year or two away from being the perennial All-Star starter / Gold Glove winner for Catchers in the American League.  The Royals went 2-7 when Perez was out after the death of his grandmother.  He just brings too much both to the line-up as well as the pitching staff.  There’s a reason he is considered the one absolutely untradeable commodity the Royals have.  Gordon is a close second because he’s also an All-Star candidate, a tremendous leader, and one of the best defensive outfielders in the game.  As far as Cy Young goes, while James Shields and Ervin Santana have pitched at an All-Star level, I’d give it to Greg Holland.  He averages nearly 2 strikeouts an inning and after a shaky first couple of weeks has established himself as one of the most dominant closers in baseball.

Paul: Who would you consider to be the AL’s MVP and Cy Young?

Nolan: Chris Davis is having a hell of a year in Baltimore, but to be the man you’ve gotta beat the man.  And Miguel Cabrera is still the man right now.  I would’ve gone Clay Buchholz for Cy Young before he went on the DL, but right now I’d probably go with Hisashi Iwakuma in Seattle.  At 13-0, Max Scherzer is in the discussion, but record doesn’t really matter anymore with the Cy Young voters.

Paul: Who would you consider to be the NL’s MVP and Cy Young this year?

Nolan: It’s not as easy a choice for MVP in the NL, but at this point in the season I’d go with Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks.  Carlos Gonzalez is having another MVP caliber season in Colorado as well.  Hands down, I’d go Clayton Kershaw for Cy Young with Matt Harvey as runner up.

Paul: What are your thoughts on Jeff Francoeur departing? Does that make the Myers trade harder to swallow?

Nolan: Nothing against Francoeur personally, but his departure was long overdue.  I think you have four very good outfielders in Gordon, Cain, Lough, and Dyson all outplaying Francoeur both offensively and defensively.  The Myers trade will only be hard to swallow if James Shields leaves without guiding the Royals to at least an AL Central Title.  Jeff Francoeur’s release only helps improve their chances of winning one.

Paul: Do you think Brett will have an impact as hitting coach and help change the hitting for The Royals?

Nolan: Since George Brett took over as Hitting Coach (with Pedro Grifol) on May 30th, the Royals have the best record in the AL Central.  Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have both shown improvements, and their success may be the biggest key to the Royals having success in the second half.  Plus, I think just having the greatest Royal of all time in the dugout can do nothing but help a young team trying to guide a once great franchise to its first postseason in a generation.

Paul: You mentioned Yost, who was on the hot seat earlier this year. Now he seems to be a little safer as manager. What are your thoughts on him as a manager and on him keeping or losing his job?

Nolan: I think there’s probably a better manager out there for the job than Ned Yost.  Some of his managerial decisions are downright baffling – such as his insistence on batting a player with a .279 OBP in the 2-hole because he “thinks it’s a good fit”.  I remember – when the writing was on the wall for Trey Hillman – voicing my hope that the Royals could bring in Clint Hurdle, a former Royal who was serving as the Rangers’ Hitting Coach.  Now he’s managing the team that has the best record in the National League despite having Vin Mazzaro on its roster.  But no matter what, Ned’s going to be here until his contract is up at the end of the season.  I believe bringing in George Brett was done to help add a needed new voice without firing the manager and in turn putting Dayton Moore on the hot seat.  If the team finishes below .500, I think Ned gets let go regardless of who ends up on the hot seat next.  If they do better, then anything’s possible.

Thanks again to Nolan for doing the interview with me. And those in the Kansas City market, look out for his show ‘The Night Shift’, where you can hear more of his thoughts on The Royals, baseball and sports in general.

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Cardinals Spring Training Pics From InsideSTL

Our friends over at InsideSTL spent last week hanging out at a picnic table, and eventually under a tent, in Jupiter, Florida and talking with any Cardinal players that came by and were willing to sit down for a few minutes.

What resulted were some great candid shots of the guys as well as a very candid interview with Adam Wainwright about his contract situation.

The images below were posted to their website and are being shared here with their permission.

Carlos Beltran

Picture 1 of 62

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Cardinals Farmhand Aims To Help Troops

Vance Albitz is a minor league infielder in the Cardinals organization who makes his offseason home in Torrance, California.  There is a good chance this is one of the first few times you have heard his name.  Thanks to the team, the upcoming Winter Warm Up, and his own challenge to help out the troops of our country, you will probably hear much more about him in the coming months.

Gloves4Troops

This is not to say that Albitz will not be on the Cardinals’ radar in the near future.  The young man has performed well at various levels in the organization.  He is not a flashy player and when asked about the part of his game that is his strength he replies with a one word answer: “defense”.

Albitz took a few minutes of his offseason to answer a few questions for us here at i70.  He took time to talk about himself, his career, and his desire to provide something to troops of the United States Armed Forces that are stationed abroad.

I asked Albitz about his expectations for the season ahead and got a very professional sounding “I have no idea what is in store for the 2013 season for me.  I am looking to help the organization any way I can, any place they need me.”

I got a glimpse of the young man’s personality when he opened up about his favorite player growing up.  Albitz replied, “David Eckstein.  He once told me, “You have to prove yourself every single day.”  He practiced what he preached and I respect him for that.”

Ask him about his best friend in baseball and you’ll find a man that loves the game, and his teammates, to the fullest extent. “My best friends in my life have come from baseball.  I still keep in touch with my best friends from baseball in college.  The Cardinals have a number of guys in the organization that I enjoy being around.  There are literally too many to choose just one.”

Most impressively, and the reason you will hear more about him in the next few weeks, Albitz undertook a very special project this offseason.  While reading an article, Albitz discovered a conversation with a solider:

“What would you like people back home to send you?”

“Baseball gloves and a baseball,” he said.  “So much of our tasks are hurry up and go, followed by waiting.”

That inspired Albitz to go to work.  He set a goal for himself to reach out to as many people as he could.  His goal?  To send 1,000 baseball gloves to troops stationed overseas before the first day of Spring Training.

“My grandparents served and I have a number of friends serving right now.  My objective in starting this was to send the game of baseball to our soldiers who are doing so much for our country”, Albitz told me.  He has currently collected 250 gloves and expects the next month to pick up steam, thanks in part to the Cardinals asking fans to help contribute at this year’s Winter Warm Up.

The team will have donation bins setup this weekend at various locations around the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch during their annual Winter Warm Up celebration.  Fans are urged to donate new or gently used gloves by dropping them off at these bins.  Thanks to the club and Rawlings, Albitz hopes to greatly increase the number of gloves he has already collected.

The best way for people to help is to send me a used baseball glove, new baseball, or cash donation.  All the information on the website,www.gloves4troops.com.  What I would appreciate just as much if somebody doesn’t have those items is a thank you letter to a soldier (I can put these in the gloves).  The information can be found on the website.

I took a moment to ask Ablitz to share with our fans his favorite baseball movie (For Love Of The Game) and to also share with our fans if he was a collector of baseball cards growing up.

My brother and I collected baseball cards like crazy when we were younger.  I always remember the time my brother tricked me into trading him my Mike Piazza Bowman Rookie Card for Joel Skinner.  I still haven’t gotten over that.

If you are going to Winter Warm Up, grab that old glove out of the closet and drop it in a bin for a soldier.  If you are not, head over to the website and learn how you can help.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Prepare Yourselves Cardinal Fans

Albert Pujols should have a monster 2012 season for the Anaheim Angels. Is it a guarantee? No. Is it very likely? Yes. Overall, I have been very impressed with Cardinal Nation’s response to Pujols heading out west. On one end of the spectrum are the fans who say they are taking the logical approach and applaud Cardinal management for not offering a huge 10-year contract. On the other end, are the fans who burned his jersey and anxiously await their opportunity to find his statue unguarded. Both the “we don’t need him” and “I hate him” attitudes are different expression of the same feeling of rejection. But you’ve already read that article. Oblige me a few minutes to prepare you as to what you should see from Pujols in 2012, and what that means to the Cardinals and their fans.

First, a general observation…those who have followed Pujols over the last 11 seasons know that he always plays better when he feels he has something to prove. At 32,  he is at the tail-end of the prime of his career, but…he is still in his prime. Remember the 2008 season, when Pujols was the last standing member of the MV3 playing for St. Louis and the second best hitter in the lineup was Ryan Ludwick?

2008 Season

AB         R            H           2B       HR        RBI         BB        SO     SB       AVG         OBP       SLG         OPS

524       100      187       44       37          116        104     54      7         .357         .462      .653       1.114

Not shabby.

Remember Game 3 of the 2011 World Series? Pujols heard all the critics who said he had never done much of anything in his three World Series appearances. He proceeded to unleash 3 HRs, 5 hits, 4 Runs, and 6 RBIs.

You may be thinking, all that is well and good, but what about his three-year decline from 2009-2011? Yes, Pujols did experience a noticeable drop in HR, RBIs, walks, BA, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage over that three-year period. Even with the decline, he remained an elite hitter. And do not forget about the great second half numbers he posted last year.

After coming back from wrist surgery, Pujols posted the following stat line.

AB         R            H           2B       HR        RBI         BB        SO        SB       AVG         OBP       SLG         OPS

299       53         95          18       20          54            27       33       4         .318          .378     .579         .957

Again, the point of this article is not to prove to you that Pujols is a good hitter. The purpose is to prepare you for a huge year from Pujols in 2012. Here is the biggest reason why…each ball Pujols puts in play has a 5% better chance of being a hit at Angels Stadium than at Busch Stadium, and each fly ball has a 27% better chance of being a homerun. (I used the 2009-2011 ballpark tendencies chart from baseballhq.com for these numbers). Said another way, Angels Stadium produces the league-average number of hits and home runs for right-handed batters. Busch Stadium decreases right-handed batting average 5% and right-handed home runs 27% more than the average MLB park. Busch Stadium is a much more pitcher-friendly park than most people realize. Pujols hit 10 fly balls last season that were outs in Busch Stadium, that would have been home runs in LA.

Quick side note: Ballpark factor makes the offensive numbers the Cardinals put up in 2011 that much more impressive.

I hope I have proven my point that Pujols is on track for a big 2012 season. What does this mean to Cardinals fans?

First, on an emotional level, being able to come to terms with this fact. I am not one that wishes bad performance on Pujols because he left the team I cheer for.

Second, even as you watch Pujols put up big numbers, realize the Cardinals made a smart baseball decision for the long-term, and made smart decisions with the money freed up for 2012. Long-term it is easy to see how the Cardinals would have been severely handcuffed paying Pujols 22-25 million during his age 38-41 seasons, when production will most certainly substantially decline. But I want to focus on the 2012 season and why Cardinals fans should not be worried.

Pujols had a 5.1 WAR (wins above replacement) in 2011. When he signed elsewhere, the Cards re-signed Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran. Beltran certainly would not have happened with Pujols still on the team, and Furcal is unlikely. While Furcal only a 0.5 WAR during an injury-shortened 2011, he posted 4.2 and 3.5 the two seasons prior. Here are the WAR numbers for Theriot, Schumaker, and Descalso over the last two seasons (the three guys who would most likely have seen most of the playing time at SS).

Schumaker   0.6, -0.2    Theriot  .07, -0.1  Descalso  0.5, 0.4.

Tyler Greene has a lot of potential upside but has yet to produce at the major-league level.

If Furcal returns to career-average production, the Cardinals gain 3 to 4 WAR at shortstop by not re-signing Pujols.

Beltran posted a 4.7 WAR last season, just 0.4 below Pujols. Adam Wainwright put up 5.7 WAR in 2009 and 6.1 in 2010. I think you are starting to see my point. On paper, the Cardinals not matching the Angels offer to Pujols along with the return of Adam Wainwright, puts a better team on the field for 2012 than 2011. Throw in the fact that the team plays 92 of their 162 games against the bottom two divisions in baseball (AL and NL Central), and there is a lot to be optimistic about heading into spring training.

Cardinal fan, please remember these things when you watch Albert do what only he can do in another uniform for the first time.

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