Tag Archive | "Frustration"

This One’s For You: from a Royals fan

On July 25, Fox Sports Midwest will air “This One’s For You”, showcasing the Missouri National Guard’s 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion during the Cardinals – Phillies game. The American Forces Network will televise the game to U.S. troops around the world.

Before heading out on a mission U.S. Army Spc. Timothy McClellan, from Charlie Company, 1st Cavalry Division, 12th Infantry Regiment, plays a game of rock-baseball at an Army outpost in Kahn Bani Sahd, Iraq, Feb. 6, 2007.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall) (Released)

I applaud the St. Louis Cardinals and Fox Sports Midwest for saluting the troops. As a Royals fan, it’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of a team struggling to get to .500 and wondering if they’re going to trade away Ervin Santana, trade for someone or just stand pat. But when you think about our Armed Services and their sacrifices, it makes you thankful for what they do and puts baseball and life in perspective.

For instance, it’s easy to complain when you have to fight traffic to and from work, perhaps have to work late and miss your favorite TV show or the game. Well, how would you like to be half a world away from your family for a year at a time? Or have a commute where you might encounter a roadside bomb, work all hours of the day and night in dangerous conditions, and where today might be your last day? Or miss holidays with your family, the birth of your child, their first steps or their graduation? For many service members, that’s just another day at work. And more times than not, they’re glad to do it and serve their country.

The great thing about our military is that it’s an all volunteer force. I’m grateful there’s folks willing to serve and defend the freedoms we all enjoy. Like being a fan of a baseball team that hasn’t finished .500 since 2003 and write about them for I-70 Baseball.

To all who serve or have served in the Armed Forces defending our freedoms and way of life, thank you. Your sacrifice for your family, friends and country is the reason why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.

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Royals Fans Feel Duped

Kansas City Royals fans woke up to an exciting email in their inbox today, they had been given the opportunity to purchase Opening Day tickets.  Once they opened the email, frustration set in very quickly.

The subject line of the email gave fans reason to get fired up, it read “Your Royals Opening Day Ticket Opportunity”.  Many fans had signed up recently for the opportunity to purchase tickets to the Royals home opener and most jumped quickly to the assumption that their name had been drawn in that regard.

Unfortunately, the subject line did not match the body of the email.  As overjoyed fans opened the email to see what they needed to do to ensure their seat at the home opener, they found the following text:

RoyalsTicketOpp

“You are receiving an exclusive opportunity to purchase tickets to every 2013 game, excluding Opening Day, today! Buy tickets before the rush!”

That’s right, the email that stated it contained your opportunity for Opening Day tickets revealed that it, in fact, contained your opportunity to buy tickets to anything except opening day.

Fans have taken to social media with their displeasure with the club over what some are calling a “bait and switch” tactic.  Many felt slighted and wondered how the club could provide an email with such a glaring oversight.  Many seem to feel this is “par for the course” with the Royals business over the last few seasons.

There is a lot of excitement around the Royals going into 2013.  The team should take notice and make sure they are not coming across as “the same old Royals”.

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

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Is It Time To Give Up On Hochevar?

Feeling pretty good about Alex Gordon right now? Do you think he’s turned a corner on his career? Well, before you cast your all-star vote for Gordon, remember how you felt about six months ago. Or a year ago. Or two years ago. Weren’t you calling him a disappointment? A wasted draft pick? A career AAAA star?

We’re all quite excited to see him succeed, for his sake as much as ours. It hurts to watch a guy fail in spite of lofty expectations.

Well, we’ve got another such case on our hands in Luke Hochevar. And right now it hurts to watch.

After another night in which his ERA creeps closer to 9.00, are you about ready to write off the former #1 pick in the draft?

Last night was pretty much a disaster. Our “ace” was once again battered, this time in a 9-4 loss to the division leading Cleveland Indians.

But more indicative of the frustration with Luke would be his outing against Cleveland on April 20, when he spun five perfect innings, only to blow a gasket in the sixth.

I missed the first five innings of Luke’s last start. (That’s right, I don’t have DVR or DirecTV. I actually have to watch sports in real time!) I walked in and turned the game on just as he recorded the last out, just as they put up on the screen a list of the four no-hitters thrown by KC pitchers.

So I missed seeing the dominance. What I was in time to see, however, was the two balks in the sixth, the back-to-back walks to lead off the seventh, and several hits in between.

It is in times like that I find myself saying the same things about Luke that I said about Gordon. “He was a wasted draft pick.” “He’s never going to get it.” “We should give up on him and try someone else a try.”

I am as sick as anyone of watching Luke underachieve. More than once I’ve been ready to throw in the towel on the guy.

But watching Gordon this year has caused me to reign in my impatience a bit.

Remember, Luke wasn’t supposed to be the ace of a World Series winner this year anyway. Don’t let the Royals’ decent start distort your expectations for this season. We weren’t planning on winning this year. Remember?

This is the year of auditions for 2012 and 2013. The guys in the rotation this year are making their case to be included in the pitching staff of the future. That staff will hopefully feature guys currently honing their craft at Omaha and Northwest Arkansas. But most of those young studs are still a year or more away.

We can assume Luke will be given every chance to outlast the Mazzaros, the Chens, the Davies and the Francises. He’s going to be around for a while.

Luke is still relatively cheap. He’s only costing the Royals $1.76 million this year (a bargain compared to Davies!). He will be eligible for arbitration in 2012, but won’t be a free agent until 2015. With both time and money on their side, the Royals should settle in for the long haul with Hochevar.

That doesn’t make it any less frustrating to watch. Seeing Luke balk away a masterful five innings, I said “It’s all in his head. He’s lost it.”

But wasn’t that basically true about Gordon? Wasn’t the pressure and repeated failure eating away at him when he was sent down last year?

One thing that happened with Gordon was that the spotlight was taken off him last year. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and baseball’s number one minor league system suddenly stole the headlines. Fans stopped caring about the current Royals team and started buying into the future.

That shift allowed Gordon to go to work with Kevin Seitzer in private, without mountains of pressure being heaped on him. The same could happen with Luke, as fans shift all their hopes onto Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy and John Lamb.

So let’s settle in for the long haul with Luke and hope he has a Gordon-like epiphany. Let’s hope, like Gordon, he works long and hard, receives good coaching and finally masters that talent he obviously possesses.

After all, anyone who can throw five perfect innings against a contending team shouldn’t just be kicked to the curb.

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The Best Fans In Baseball

Yesterday, I-70 Baseball examined the thought that Ryan Franklin was simply a victim of “bad luck”. The pitcher seems to be finding a way to deflect all the blame from the concept that maybe, just maybe, he does not have what it takes to get big league hitters out consistently any longer.

After a tough outing in game one of a double header, Ryan Franklin was asked about the reaction of the fans as they booed him coming off the field after surrendering a home run and a walk in his second inning of work. Franklin took exception to anyone who would boo a player from the home team. The quote that jumps off the page, however, was “You should go write stories about the fans booing. They’re supposed to be the best fans in baseball. Yeah right.”

Later in the evening, Franklin would release a statement explaining the best he could about his frustration that led to the comments and apologizing for saying things out of emotion.

What does that mean? Does that mean that 50,000 people poor into the park every night and refuse to say anything bad about the players that wear the colors of the home team? Does it mean that, no matter what, they will stand behind their own? No, it does not.

When the term was used for the fans in St. Louis, it was used to describe a fan base that was intelligent, understood the game, and expected the best from any player that set foot on the grass of Baseball Heaven. When an outfielder dives and makes a miraculous catch, when an infielder stabs a ball that was a sure double, when a player shows respect to the game, and when a veteran has given his blood, sweat and tears to this game, the crowd acknowledges it. The crowd cheers. When someone speaks out against the team, when someone disrespects the game, when someone under performs and refuses to acknowledge that something may be wrong, they boo. It is not because they dislike or even like the player that gets the cheers or boos, it is based on the knowledge of the game and the desire for the player to act appropriately.

You see, the best fans in baseball will boo. It is their right. When you retire, when you hang ‘em up, and when you walk onto that field for the last time, those same fans will give you the ovation you deserve for your entire body of work in St. Louis and in baseball as a whole. The reaction in the middle of a ballgame is not about your career, it is about your current work.

Maybe Ryan Franklin should shag some fly balls with Rick Ankiel this afternoon and talk to him about the fanbase here. Ankiel was not always cheered and adored in St. Louis. A year later, he realizes how supportive these fans were to him and he acknowledges that. The visiting team’s center fielder showed class and received a standing ovation when he approached the plate. The home team’s relief pitcher simply states over and over that it is not his fault and he gets booed.

The fans may boo. They may cheer. They may even be indifferent. But in the end every player to wear the birds on the bat will tell you there is no place quite like St. Louis to play baseball. They may not love their players blindly, but they will reward them accordingly when the time is right.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in CardinalsComments (3)

Where Is The Fire?

Maybe I am alone on this, but one of the pieces missing in recent Kansas City Royals teams is the lack of fire. I am not talking about brawls, and throwing 98 mph fastball up and in occasionally. The fire that I think has been missing, is the fire that shows in the bottom of the 8th inning. Right after a batter fails to drive in the tying run with one out. The TV cameras tend to follow that guy in to the dugout as he strolls down the steps, grabs his cup of Gatorade from the cooler and takes his spot on the bench. He will just sit there and watch the game with no emotion at all, as if losing was accepted and expected. Does this bother anyone else? Does anyone else ever think about that?

That's passion!

What I want to see is that player that reacts immediately with frustration of not coming through for the team. He flies down the steps and slams his helmet in to the rack. He wants to win so badly and he had the chance to make it happen and did not. I am not saying he needs to throw the cooler around, or beat the sunflower seed boxes with a wild bat swing, but I look for him to be upset and show it. The baseball games in Major League Baseball are not easy to win. When you have the chance to make it happen, you need to do so. Or at least show some emotion upon failing to do so.
One promising thing about the Royals’ outlook for the next few years is that the ball clubs and players in the minor leagues have a history of winning and play the game and expect to win. Along with that is how bad it feels to lose. I will be watching very closely as these young men begin to show up in the majors and are put into situations with the game on the line. Let’s pay attention to how well they perform and perhaps notice even more, how they react when they don’t come through with that game tying hit. Even if they are not able to get that bunt down move the runners over when it is asked of them.

Zack Greinke is a great talent, a rare mix of great skill and very little emotion. At least his emotion is on the inside as we all know his insides were boiling pretty good. I am curious to see if this year of playing winning baseball allows him to find a comfort level, open up and display some outward emotion with teammates and fans. The love for Zack in Kansas City was pretty much one sided and I hope in his case he can relax and be comfortable in winning, comfortable with himself.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not expect the fire when there is no score in the 3rd inning with nobody on base. But when the game is on the line, you bet I want to see some emotion. Emotion like that has been missing at Kauffman Stadium. Of course also missing has been talent and a winning attitude. Winning is contagious, and certainly fans in Kansas City expect the players to give 100% in every opportunity. Believe me, fans will care when winning is a tradition in Kansas City again. And the fans will not have much tolerance for players that don’t have winning in there blood.

For the Royals, does attitude come before winning or does winning create the attitude? I think you believe first, and when you believe and expect to succeed, not doing so bothers you. We know as fans it has bothered us.

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25th ANNIVERSARY: Ozzie Smith’s Historic 1985 Postseason

As you know, this entire week is being dedicated to the 1985 “I-70 Series” that Cardinals and Royals fans will, for positive and negative reasons, never forget. It was a series full of headlines, and I won’t even get into the obvious one.

The series is one that most Cardinal fans would like to forget, but nobody aside from Don Denkinger (oops – I said it) had a worse seven games than Ozzie Smith.

Fortunately, I was not around to experience the frustration of that unforgettable series for the Cardinals. I was born in 1992, and actually was in attendance for Ozzie Smith’s final MLB game in 1996. I was three years old and did not know the significance of that game until later on in my life.

Since I was not around to watch the majority of his career, most of my memories of “The Wizard” come in the form of his emotional Hall of Fame speech in 2002. Of course I know him as the remarkable shortstop he was, but I was not lucky enough to get the privilege of watching him play baseball in the prime of his career. His 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, 15 All-Star selections, 2460 hits, and 580 stolen bases clearly speak volumes, but I have a feeling that Smith’s play was far more than that. I cannot say for certain, but I bet if you ask anybody alive in Ozzie’s playing days, they’ll tell you that his performance on the field was more than numbers can indicate.

The Wizard was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 and immediately made an impact. He made his second All-Star appearance in that first season with the Cards, but I doubt many fans knew what they were going to get out of Smith in the next 15 years. While his first three seasons in St. Louis were impressive, especially in the field, it was in the 1985 season when Ozzie became an offensive threat as well.

In Smith’s first seven seasons leading up to the memorable ’85 campaign, he hit an awful .238 in over 1,000 Major League games. Then, all of a sudden, Smith decided to make his presence felt at the dish as well. In 1985, he went .276 with a .355 OBP, six home runs (career high), 54 RBI, and 31 stolen bases in 158 games.

Although it was not publicly known until after the season, Smith did all of that even after sustaining an impingement in his right shoulder during July of ’85. As the season progressed, it developed into a torn rotator cuff, which typically requires surgery and extensive rehab. Instead, The Wizard let it heal “naturally” and he continued to play. Not only did he play, he played 158 games, plus a historic postseason.

The play most often thought of when Ozzie Smith comes to mind is the game-winning “Go crazy, folks!” home run in Game 5 of the NLCS. Smith batted left-handed against Tom Niedenfuer with one out. He had never hit a home run in his previous 3,000+ left-handed MLB at-bats, but The Wizard pulled a fastball down the right-field line for a walk-off home run.

His defense was, as always, rock-solid in that series against the Dodgers, but it was his offense that surprised most. In 27 plate appearances, Smith had a slash line of .435/.500/.696 with four runs, one double, one triple, one home run, three RBIs and 16 total bases. He was automatic. Smith was named the Series MVP, but it all quickly changed.

Even though his offensive game was probably the best it has ever been in that ’85 NLCS, Smith suffered a drastic drought in the World Series against the team on the other end of Interstate 70. While he seemed to hit anything that came his way in the Championship Series, Ozzie went 2-for-22 in the World Series with only two total bases, compared to 16 in the NLCS.

As Ozzie Smith fell apart and seemed to disappear (at the dish at least) in the World Series, so did the Cardinals. Maybe there’s something more to this than meets the eye. Ozzie Smith was the life force of the entire club, and what happens when that is taken away?

Despite his usual defense play, Smith had a disastrous seven games at the plate, and so did the Cardinals. You can blame Denkinger all you want, but he cannot be held accountable for the entire series. The Cards didn’t show up when it mattered most. I am by no means saying the series was lost because of Smith. It definitely was not. I just find it interesting how, as Smith fell, the team fell. Ozzie Smith was the St. Louis Cardinals, and he wasn’t his normal self in that series. Neither were the Cardinals.

Coincidence?

Justin Hulsey covers the Cardinals for i70baseball and his blog, Rising Redbirds, that is also dedicated to Cardinals baseball and their minor league system. You may follow him on Twitter @JayHulsey by clicking here.

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