Tag Archive | "No Doubt"

St. Louis Cardinals season could be defined by upcoming road trip

The St. Louis Cardinals have embarked on one of their longest, and undoubtedly toughest, road trips of the season to face the Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds for 11 games in 10 days that will give the team a chance to measure itself against the National League’s best and give a preview of what type of competition the team will face in the playoffs.

MolinaInge

After three games Friday through Sunday against the Braves, the Cardinals will head to Pittsburgh for five games in four games, including a doubleheader to make up for a rainout April 16, and finish with three games the following weekend in Cincinnati.

The Cardinals were 10.5 games from falling out of a playoff spot as they began the first game of the trip Friday in Atlanta because of the two possible wild-card spots Major League Baseball introduced in 2012, so this road trip won’t determine whether or not they’ll make the playoffs, but it could help show how much success the team could have once it gets there.

The Braves, Pirates and Reds had a combined 176-129 record heading into play Friday, which is by far the best combined record the Cardinals will face at any point in the 2013 season. All three are likely headed toward the playoffs. The Braves lead the NL East by eight games over the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Pirates and Reds hold both of the NL wild-card spots.

This road trip will also give the Cardinals a chance to prove they can play with the best teams in baseball. So far, St. Louis has built its best record in baseball at 62-37 on the backs of losing teams. The Cardinals are 48-21 against teams with losing records and 14-16 against winning teams.

The Cardinals have a very good team, no doubt, but aside from various injuries and a first half with a schedule full of away games, the Cardinals have not had to face much adversity in the form of good teams that were on a roll when the Cardinals played them.

The Texas Rangers swept St. Louis June 21-13 at Busch Stadium, and the Oakland A’s took two of three from the Cardinals the next weekend in Oakland. Otherwise, the Cardinals had been fortunate to play teams in the middle of their own struggles.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were near closer to the bottom of the NL West than the top when the Cardinals won two of three May 24-26 in Los Angeles, and although the San Francisco Giants had not dropped to the bottom of that division when the Cardinals played them in April and May, the Cardinals’ 4-2 record against them doesn’t look as impressive now that the Giants are 46-55 and eight games behind the now first-place Dodgers.

The Cardinals played much of the rest of their early season schedule against losing teams such as the Chicago Cubs (10 games), Milwaukee Brewers (10 games), New York Mets (seven games) and Houston Astros (four games).

The Mets have the best record of those four teams at 46-53, 11 games out of a playoff spot, and none of those teams will try to add players at the trading deadline to make a push toward the playoffs.

So for the first time this season, the Cardinals will start to get a feel for what the competition will be when they reach October.

The Cardinals won’t be in danger of missing the playoffs based on this road trip even if they lose most of these 11 games, but this 10-day stretch will likely expose whether the Cardinals really should be favorites to win the World Series or if they are a team that has simply taken advantage of poor teams’ mistakes.

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Just Hit 74

ChrisDavis

There seems to be a trend recently where ballplayers are coming out against PEDs and stating the suspected player should be stripped of an award. But coincidentally  the player who is making the claim just HAPPENS to be the one who would benefit from it the most. Matt Kemp came out and said Ryan Braun should be stripped of his MVP Award from 2011. Kemp ended up second in voting that year.

Prior to that though, Chris Davis made comments about Roger Maris being the last “clean” player to set the homerun record. It was known that Davis was on pace set the American League record for most homeruns, but according to him, he can now set the Major League record! Quoting Davis:

“I do (think so) and the reason being, he was the last guy to do it clean, There’s a lot of things that have been said about the guys who have come after him and have achieved the record, but I think as far as the fans are concerned they still view Maris as being the all-time home run record [holder] and I think you have to. There’s no doubt that Barry and Mark and any of those guys had ridiculous seasons and had some great years, but I think when you get to the root of the record, I still think it’s Roger Maris’.”

He’s doing it for the fans you see, not because he gets to conveniently be the new leader.

I am a film critic along with writing about baseball. And it occurred to me that Davis is essentially calling out Bonds, McGwire and Sosa as villains, like in a movie. They were dirty, Maris is clean. Davis is clean. They were the dirty villains and he is the clean hero.

Another thing occurred to me. In the movies, the heroes don’t make excuses. To beat the villains, they have to defeat them even if the villain has an advantage. If the villain cheats, the heroes don’t scream that’s not fair and he’s cheating. They still defeat the villain.

The record is 73 homeruns. It was set in 2001. And there’s nothing Davis can do about that. Except he can hit 74 homeruns.

Through 102 games, he has 37 homeruns. The season is more than halfway over, and he is exactly halfway there. He is projected to fall short, so he may have to kick it up in the second half.

But it’ll be worth it, so just hit 74.

Like I said, the heroes in the movies don’t make excuses. In High Noon, Gary Cooper didn’t complain he was outnumbered, he fought valiantly and was the hero even though he was heavily outmatched. In Karate Kid, Daniel-san didn’t say he could only fight one of the members of Johnny’s gang. He fought them all. In Kill Bill, Beatrix didn’t just take on one member of the Crazy 88, she fought them all.

So just hit 74, Davis.

Because even if you overcome the Maris AL record of 61, you still won’t hit the most ever in a single season. Steroids or no steroids, the record will still be Barry Bonds with 73. And nothing you say to the press, or anything you surmise about how the fans feel, or any complaints of unfairness, even if justified, will change that. Only you can change that. You have the chance to be a hero and defeat a villain.

So just hit 74.

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Lance Lynn is good, but St. Louis Cardinals run support has made him All-Star-caliber

No big-league pitcher has won more games than St. Louis Cardinals right-handed starter Lance Lynn in the past year-and-a-half, but that doesn’t mean Lynn has been the best pitcher in that time period.

Lance Lynn

Far from it, actually.

Lynn won his 26th game since the beginning of the 2012 season with a one-run, five-hit performance through seven innings Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Busch Stadium.

Yes, Lynn gave up just one run, but the Cardinals scored four runs in the first four innings, and seven in the first six, to give Lynn a comfortable margin by the time he faced the Diamondbacks hitters for a second and third time in the 7-1 victory.

And that’s been the theme of Lynn’s career.

Lynn was an All-Star in 2012 when he started the season with 10 wins in his first 13 starts. However, the Cardinals offense provided him four runs or more in all but one of those wins. That outlier game was a 1-0 win June 13 over the Chicago White Sox in Lynn’s most impressive start of the season: 7.1 innings, three hits and 12 strikeouts.

Otherwise, Lynn got to hide behind ample run support, even as he allowed three or more runs in seven of those first 13 starts.

With that said, Lynn is a good pitcher, no doubt. He posted a 2.42 earned-run average in those first 13 starts of 2012, but it ballooned to 3.41 by the All-Star break as he tired in the summer heat. Lynn finished 18-7 for the season with a 3.78 ERA, which ranked fourth among the seven regular starting pitchers the Cardinals used throughout the season.

Lynn was nearly a 20-game winner, but he also nearly gave up an average of four runs per game. Thankfully for him, the Cardinals scored an average of 6.06 runs in his starts, the most runs support any pitcher received in 2012. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t receive any Cy Young award consideration even though only five pitchers in Major League Baseball had more wins.

But he won games nonetheless, and he has carried that formula into 2013. Through 12 starts, the Cardinals have averaged 5.89 runs per game and have scored fewer than four runs just once.

Lynn has received the fifth-most run support of any starter in baseball so far this season, and his record reflects the help his offense has provided. He is 8-1, and that loss was the only time the Cardinals scored fewer than four runs, a 2-1 loss May 7 to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Perhaps Lynn’s spot in the rotation helps. The Cardinals have primarily slotted him in the third or fourth spot, which means he usually doesn’t pitch opposite of one of the opponent’s top pitchers. Therefore, the fourth-ranked Cardinals offense can feast on lesser pitchers while Lynn cruises through quality start after quality start. He has 25 of those in his 43 career starts.

Lynn’s 2.76 ERA this season is certainly good, and he deserves to be in the discussion as one of the best pitchers so far in 2013, but 20 pitchers have a lower ERA, and all but seven of those pitchers have fewer than seven wins. Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks is the only one to have more wins (nine) and a lower ERA (2.06).

So Lynn’s stats that will likely get him selected to his second All-Star team in as many seasons are deceiving, but that doesn’t matter to the Cardinals, which are 9-3 in his starts this season.

Lynn wins, and in the end, that’s all that matters.

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Ballpark Village Announces PBR

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ST. LOUIS, MO (Thursday, February 14, 2013) – The St. Louis Cardinals, The Cordish Companies and PBR (Professional Bull Riders, Inc.) announced today that PBR St. Louis: A Cowboy Bar will open at Ballpark Village making it the eighth location across the United States.

From the toughest sport on dirt comes the fastest growing country concept in the nation, PBR.  PBR St. Louis will bring an authentic country experience to Ballpark Village. PBR has agreed that this will be their only venue within the St. Louis region.

Sean Gleason, Chief Operating Officer of the PBR, stated, “PBR wants to be in world-class districts within very special cities and there is no doubt that Ballpark Village in St. Louis fits the bill.  PBR is one of the fastest growing, most exciting and popular sports in the country, selling out arenas from Madison Square Garden to Las Vegas, as well as being nationally televised.  Our goal with the PBR club was to create a concept that captures both the electricity that is PBR as well as the warm camaraderie that exists between our patrons at our events. PBR club does both and does so in spectacular fashion. We’re excited to make this announcement as the PBR returns to St. Louis this weekend with the Built Ford Tough Series at Scottrade Center.”

“We appreciate PBR’s investment in St. Louis,” said Phyllis Young, Alderwoman, 7th Ward. “PBR St. Louis promises to be a happening place that will bring a lot of boots downtown.”

The first PBR location opened its doors in 2008 at the Power & Light District in Kansas City, MO and has since launched venues in Las Vegas, NV; Baltimore, MD; Houston, TX; Hampton, VA; Philadelphia, PA; and Louisville, KY making PBR one of the hottest and fastest growing concepts in the country. Each location of PBR features its own unique high-quality design, but with shared attractions including a large dance floor, a soft-seating lounge area, private outdoor balconies, multiple bars, and the world’s meanest mechanical bull as a show-piece element to the club. PBR St. Louis takes this design to a new level and promises to be an eclectic combination of “cowboy cool” meets “urban chic,” spanning 8,000 square feet.

Additionally, PBR has started a great live music tradition in its Hot Country Night’s concert series, with past national acts including Gretchen Wilson, Luke Bryan, The Band Perry, Justin Moore, Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean and numerous other all-star country artists. PBR St. Louis will host live performances throughout the year and is powered by a state-of-the-art sound and light system equipped for both live entertainment and dancing nightly.  PBR St. Louis will also feature an expansive beer and bourbon list as well as a southwestern inspired food menu.

“The Cordish Companies and the St. Louis Cardinals are committed to bringing best-in-class concepts to Ballpark Village and with PBR we have done just that,” said Blake Cordish, Vice President of The Cordish Companies. “We are thrilled to welcome PBR to St. Louis and we are confident that it will be an anchor attraction for years to come.”

Bill DeWitt, President of The St Louis Cardinals, stated, “PBR is a perfect addition to Ballpark Village.  We are focused on making Ballpark Village the premier entertainment destination for the region and for our fans and PBR will help us accomplish that goal.”

PBR’s announcement at Ballpark Village coincides with the return of the PBR’s elite Built Ford Tough Series to St. Louis. On Feb. 15 -17, the world’s Top 35 bull riders ride into Scottrade Center for the Cooper Tires presents  Kawasaki Invitational.  It’s the 16th time the PBR has visited St. Louis.

“St. Louis has always been a great market for the PBR,” said Gleason. “The fans are enthusiastic and the city always buzzes with excitement about the event.  We’re looking forward to our return to the Scottrade Center.”

About the Professional Bull Riders, Inc.

The PBR is the world’s premier bull riding organization. More than 100 million viewers annually watch over 400 hours of primetime PBR programming on VERSUS, NBC, CBS and networks around the world. The PBR has awarded over $100 million in prize money and 20 riders have earned over $1 million, including Justin McBride with $5.5 million – the most of any western-sports athlete in history. The PBR was nominated as 2010 Sports League of the Year at the Sports Business Journal Sports Business Awards, alongside the National Football League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.  Nearly 2 million fans attend Built Ford Tough Series and Touring Pro Division events each year. For more information on the PBR, visit www.pbr.com.

St. Louis is the seventh stop of 26 across18 states for the 2013 Built Ford Tough Series.  The season culminates at the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas, October 22-27, at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.  The series’ best bull riders will compete to claim the ultimate prize, the PBR World Champion’s title, $1 million dollar bonus, a new Ford truck from the series’ title sponsor, and the coveted PBR World Champion buckle.

The PBR is celebrating 20 years of competition in 2013.  Its Built Ford Tough Series is televised every week on CBS, CBS Sports Network and networks around the world. BFTS telecasts are produced for the PBR under a multi-year agreement with David Neal Productions, a Los Angeles-based production company led by 34-time Emmy® Award winner and Peabody Award winner David Neal, who serves as executive producer.

Tickets for the Kawasaki Invitational are available now at the Scottrade Center box office, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745 3000.

About Ballpark Village

The construction of Ballpark Village represents the next step in the Cardinals’ vision for their investment in downtown St. Louis that began with the opening of the privately financed $411 Busch Stadium in 2006.  Ballpark Village is a mixed-use retail, entertainment, office, and residential district being developed in partnership by the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cordish Companies. Spanning seven city blocks on the 10-acre site just north of Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village will be the country’s first fully integrated mixed-use development designed to deliver the excitement and energy of the game day experience to a new neighborhood outside the stadium walls.

About The Cordish Companies

The Cordish Companies (www.cordish.com), now in its fourth generation of family ownership, is an international collection of businesses including one of the leading real estate development companies, entertainment and gaming companies in the United States. The Company has diverse development expertise with divisions focused on Entertainment & Mixed-Use, Gaming & Lodging, Sports Anchored Districts, Shopping & Lifestyle Retail, Office and Residential. The Cordish Companies also owns and manages a diverse group of operating businesses, ranging from gaming, restaurants/clubs to live music promotion and film/media distribution. The Company values itself on the quality of its operations, its long-term relationships, and high level of integrity in all of its endeavors.

The Cordish Companies is the largest and most successful developer of entertainment districts and concepts in the United States. In particular, the company has unparalleled experience in creating and revitalizing high-profile destinations in urban core locations. Many of The Cordish Companies’ projects involve public/private partnerships and are of unique significance to the cities in which they are located. Prime examples are the company’s prominent role in the redevelopment of Baltimore’s world-famous Inner Harbor; Atlantic City, NJ; Hollywood, FL; Charleston, SC; Houston, TX; Louisville, KY; Tampa, FL, Kansas City, MO; and Towson, MD.

The Cordish Companies has received the highest possible national awards in its various areas of expertise. In real estate, The Cordish Companies has received an unprecedented seven Urban Land Institute Awards of Excellence.

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Stan Musial was perhaps as close to perfect as sports can get

Stan “The Man” Musial was unquestionably the greatest player to ever wear a St. Louis Cardinals uniform, but he was also one of the greatest people to wear any kind of sports uniform.

StanMusial

Musial died Saturday at age 92, and for the next several days many tributes will highlight his work on and off the field. He deserves every single one of them.

Musial was a great baseball player, no doubt, but he was also a unique person in the world of sports.

Sometimes that word is used to describe interesting personalities who do things that aren’t normal. For example, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych would talk to the baseball while pitching for the Detroit Tigers in the late 1970s.

Fidrych, and the many characters who speckle the sports landscape are unique in that sense, but Musial was unique because he was just good — at everything.

Musial had a career .331 batting average, he hit a franchise-record 475 homeruns, he was named to 24 All-Star teams, he won three Most Valuable Player awards and three world championships, and he set the National League record for hits at the time with 3,630. Remarkably, he got exactly 1,315 of those hits during home games and 1,315 on the road.

That symmetry is fitting for Musial because he never seemed to do anything wrong on or off the field.

He did, of course. He’s only human. But he was never involved in a scandal, he served his country as a member of the Navy during World War II, he was unquestionably loyal to his team and family, and he didn’t get caught in the trappings of fame that entangle so many athletes. That’s partly why he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, the highest honor for an American civilian.

It would be easy to use examples of Musial’s life as an opportunity to take shots at current athletes who have over-inflated egos and get into all sorts of trouble, but Musial’s greatness stands above celebrity athletes past and present.

Nobody has ever talked about how Musial was a tough son-of-a-gun who would run someone over regardless of circumstances, as Ty Cobb or Pete Rose might. People also don’t talk about Musial as someone who had a need to say something outrageous to the media just so his name would be in the newspaper the next day.

No one ever said those things about Musial because he simply didn’t do them, and that largely explains why Cardinals fans adored him so much. He combined greatness on the field with greatness off of it.

It’s been a rough year in sports heroes. JoePaterno, who had a reputation nearly as clean as Musial, died in January 2012, but not before his reputation was destroyed when reports said he didn’t pursue allegations of sexual misconduct by his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

Cardinals fans know how it feels to have a revered sports figure’s reputation go from nearly perfect to uncaring, at best. Albert Pujols,perhaps the best Cardinals player since Musial, left the franchise last year after 11 seasons to sign a megadeal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Musial’s life stands in stark contrast to all of those other famous figures. He had the chance to leave the Cardinals after the 1946 season. At that point in his career, Musial had spent five seasons with the Cardinals and had already been named to three All-Star teams and won two MVP awards.

A Mexican professional baseball league offered him $125,000 for five years, but Musial didn’t leave to take the money. He was only making $13,500 with the Cardinals, but he stayed and played the remainder of his 22-year career in St. Louis.

The inscription on Musial’s statue outside Busch Stadium says, in the words of former commissioner Ford C. Frick, “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”

No human is actually perfect, much less baseball players, but Musial might be have been as close as anyone who ever put on a baseball uniform.

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The real life: Kansas City

Two years waiting for the All Star Game to come to Kansas City is over.  Not only is the wait over but also the game is over.  It was a great three days in Kansas City and by all accounts the city was a great host for the 83rd All Star Game.  Not only did record crowds head out to Kauffman Stadium for all of the activities but the fan base showed just how loyal that they can be to their hometown boys.  All of that being said, reality has set in and the Kansas City Royals still have just under half of their games yet to play.  It could be an interesting second half for the boys that play at the K.  An array of story-lines could occur in the next couple of months that would send the media in Kansas City stirring.

What will the Royals do in the trade market over the next few weeks is probably the biggest current question that fans and media have surrounding the organization. For the first time in a long time the Royals could be both buyers and sellers.  Selling their stock in guys like Jonathan Broxton, Jeff Franceour, and Yuniesky Betancourt.  No doubt will these three names be on the top of Dayton Moore’s list of players that other teams may need.   Broxton has shown this season that coming of of an injury he is still able to close games, even if he does give everyone watching a heart attack while doing so.   There are always a few teams looking for that closer at the deadline and with the way that the Royals bullpen is set up if Broxton is moved they have many that could step in a fill his role. Some teams have stated that they are in need of a right handed bat and the Royals have two that are expendable at this point.  Franceour, even though having what most would say is a terrible year, could still give a lineup some pop and nothing would make fans in Kansas City happier than to see room on the field made for number 1 hitting prospect Wil Myers.  Betancourt could also be a movable piece not only because over the last month he has turned in on as a run producer but also because the Royals have a plethora of serviceable second basemen that could fill right in. These guys would probably just bring prospects back but could be packaged together to get something in return that could help both this year and for the future.

The proof will be in the pudding whether the Royals truly are buyers in this years market. Tim Collins name has been thrown into the trading pool and could be a good addition to a trade that could bring more pitching to the Royals organization.  The thing that every team needs when they are buyers are numerous guys that can be plugged into a trade that could give good value to another organization.  The biggest thing that the Royals need if they are going to buy is pitching.  There are a few pitchers out there that could help this team out not only for this year but also would be able to sign here and stay on for the future.  The biggest names that the Royals could trade for would be Zach Grienke and Cole Hamels but  are they going sign here after this season woudl be the biggest question that they Royals will have to ponder when making a buyers trade.  One pitcher that would seem to fit nicely in the Royals staff and on that would have no problem signing here would be Milwaukee Brewers starter Shaun Marcum.  A local guy from Excelsior Springs that would love nothing more than to be able to come home and pitch for a team that I am sure he grew up watching.   The things that this deal and a future contract for Marcum could do for the team is show other free agents of the future that they Royals are willing to pay.  If they truly want to win they are going to have to pay at least two top starters to come to Kansas City and then fill in the other slots in the rotation with guys that they either already have or are developing.

The Royals have a lot of work to do over the next couple of weeks.  They could sell some guys to continue to build the minor league system and they could buy players with prospects that they already have in the system that could help with the big league club now and in the future.  General Manager Dayton Moore will have to prove to fans that he is able to go out and get a guy to help the team because his trade for Jonathan Sanchez last winter seems to continue to haunt fans as Melky Cabrera cam back to Kansas City and was named the All Star Game MVP.  Do the knives in the backs of Royals fans ever stop?

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Distaster strikes

I first considered turning this into an analogy about finishing my first 5K today, and how the season is just too long for panic attacks. I considered getting in line to announce how Luke Hochevar was finally figuring it out before his ankle injury forced him to leave the game. Unfortunately, I think the disaster that was Opening Day at the K deserves a little more sincerity and a little less levity.

It started around 11:30 AM as I pulled into Lot F and checked my phone to see Ned Yost’s Opening Day lineup. Jarrod Dyson was leading off, Jeff Francoeur was hitting second, and Alex Gordon had been moved to the 6 hole. To say this was ominous doesn’t begin to cover most Kansas City Royals fans’ feelings about it. Dyson’s career .292 OBP and Francoeur’s .313 would be setting the table for the three best hitters on the club. In fairness to Yost, his #2 hitter just went on the DL, but still. There was plenty of argument about who should be filling in for Lorenzo Cain on a daily basis, none of those arguments made a very good case that whoever did should be leading off.

As much as the lineup disturbed me, I still felt pretty good about Friday. After all, Luke Hochevar was on the mound and you all know how I felt about him coming into 2012. The Indians came into the game with an offense that scared no one and Hoch was coming off a very solid performance. Of course, that good feeling didn’t last long as the first three hitters reached for the Indians. After two relatively quick outs, the next 5 batters slapped the ball around the park, and before I could get a beer vendor’s attention, the Royals were down 7-0. It is important to note that with a little help from Yuniesky Betancourt, the Royals probably get out of the inning allowing just one run. Or that Dyson’s speed wasn’t enough to make up for his atrocious jump, leading to triple on a deep fly that also could have ended the inning. Hochevar was bad, no doubt, but he didn’t get much help either.

Even after the worst start to a Royals game that I can recall, it was still easy for the Kool Aid Drinker to be his optimistic self when Dyson, Francoeur and Eric Hosmer started off the home half of the first with 3 singles of their own. Maybe, just maybe, Yost’s crazy lineup was the one thing that could overcome the disastrous start from Hochevar. Of course, Billy Butler returned to 2009 form with a 4-6-3 GIDP and Alex Gordon struck out in a 5 pitch at bat. Other than a 2 run blip in the bottom of the 4th (right after Hochevar left the game) Derek Lowe was on cruise control for the rest of the afternoon. There were positive signs in the box score, like Everett Teaford’s 4 shutout innings in relief, but overall it was a miserable day in Kansas City.

So, here we sit, 7 games into Our Time, and it’s tough to find much room for positive reflection. The Royals have lost their starting catcher and starting centerfielder from the lineup and replaced them with players that are worse both offensively and defensively. They lost a candidate for the rotation in Spring Training, and now Luke Hochevar’s next start is in question. Speaking of Hochevar, any illusions that he had actually “figured it out” seemed to be dashed on Friday, at least until his next dominant performance. Add to it the fact that Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Verlander are on desk for a lineup that is hitting .243 and ranks 13th in the league in runs scored? Yeah, it would be hard to blame you for panicking…assuming you forgot that you’re cheering for the youngest team in all of baseball.

This team will get better as the season goes on. Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, even Eric Hosmer…all of these guys will improve the more baseball they get under their belt. Has the injury bug bitten this team early? Absolutely. Am I disappointed in Luke Hochevar? Of course.  Has anything really happened to change my mind about “The Process” or where this team is going? Not even a little bit.

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Your 2012 AL Central Champs

Earlier this week as I was drowning in the sarcasm and negativity from my fellow Royals bloggers, I made a decision to make sure this week’s article was positive. It’s hard to imagine a Spring Training going much worse than 2012 has gone for the Kansas City Royals, so I thought I should offer up a little Kool Aid for a fan base that may be growing hesitant to partake. Of course, Dayton Moore kind of beat me to it now didn’t he?

The Alex Gordon signing makes three in just over a month for Moore and all of them have surprised me by how little they’ve cost. This means Dayton Moore is either a master negotiator or Kansas City is truly a place these guys want to be.  Either would be great news for the Royals, but I tend to believe the latter is more of a factor. Whatever the motivation, we are now assured that the core of this team will be together for the foreseeable future. We have superb defense at short and catcher, developing power at the corner infield positions, solid production from a corner outfielder and (still) the second best farm system in all of baseball according to Baseball America. The rest of the AL Central ranks 20th (Minnesota) 23rd (Detroit), 29th (Cleveland) and 30th (Chicago). The future has never looked brighter in Kansas City, and I mean never.

That being said the Kool Aid Drinker, like many of you I assume, is tired of waiting. I’ve had illusions of grandeur with no payoff for far too long and I’m ready for some results. When I say “results” I mean playoffs; when I say “ready” I mean expect. And I mean now. How?

The Superstar- This offense will score a ton of runs in 2012, of that I have no doubt. Even with Chris Getz or Yuniesky Betancourt sieving at bats… even with Humberto Quintero or Brayan Pena clogging the bottom of the order. They will score runs because for the first time in a decade they have a legitimate top and middle of the order. More to the point, they will score runs because of Eric Hosmer. Before I started at I70 Baseball, I had my own little blog and I wrote this about Hosmer. The kid is destined to be a star and there is no reason to think a regression is coming in year two. With Billy Butler (whom I expect to have a career year in 2012) behind him teams will no choice but to pitch to him, which will result in Hosmer breaking Steve Balboni’s embarrassment of a home run record. I said it on Twitter, and I’ll say it now officially. Hosmer is going .335-37-132 and winning the MVP. Think that is ridiculous? No player has ever had a rookie season like Hosmer’s and not won an MVP eventually.

Country Breakfast- There are countless articles on the web telling you how Billy Butler is in the best shape of his life and it’s about damn time. Butler is the quintessential “see ball, hit ball” hitter and I guess because of that he always thought his pudgy frame served him just fine. I was always concerned that the current wave of Royals prospects would see Butler’s approach and adopt it, turning us into a cheaper and less talented version of the Boston Red Sox. Thankfully, it seems that Hosmer and company have reversed my expectations and motivated Butler to hit the weights. It is not possible to state the importance of Billy Butler producing behind Hosmer’s big bat, and no one should know that better than Butler himself. He knows what it’s like to be a star up-and-coming hitter with no protection. Of course, Butler still isn’t exactly a grizzled veteran himself, he turns 26 in a little over 2 weeks. In other words, he’s entering his prime. Billy Butler will have a career year in 2012, putting up .351-26-115 and winning his first batting title. I admit I may be a bit off on this one. I see Butler as a right handed hitting Carl Yastrzemski, and Butler could very well mimic Yaz’s 1967 season in which he went .326-44-121. For those of you rolling your eyes, Yaz had never hit more than 20 home runs coming into that year.

Luke Hochevar- I said it before and I’ll say it again, Cool hand Luke is going to break out in a big way in 2012. I really think he’s the kind of guy that may not do well playing out the string on another 90 loss season but may thrive when things are really going well. He has what should be an excellent defense behind him, and he’ll get to face terrible lineups in Chicago and Minnesota along the way. I’m not predicting anything silly like a Cy Young, but I think 15 wins and a sub 4 ERA is well within his reach.

The Competition- The White Sox and Twins are flat out terrible; the Royals should win 25-28 of those 36 games. The Indians, in my opinion, are overrated and will struggle to win 72 games. That leaves us with the Tigers, who I think are this year’s candidate to be the most disappointing team in Major League Baseball. There is absolutely no way that Justin Verlander duplicates what he did in 2011, none. I think he’s due to regress in a major way, if not fall to injury. He’s thrown nearly 900 innings the past 4 seasons combined, and not less than 200 in the last five. I think that streak gets broken in 2012. Of course, the Tigers pitching isn’t what scares people, right? It’s that lineup. Well, I ain’t scared. It didn’t take long at all for Miguel Cabrera to take a ground ball off the face, who knows what injury is next. Even if he doesn’t, we’ve already talked about the massive letdown Prince Fielder is about to experience. After those two, what’s left? Austin Jackson? He’s got over 350 strikeouts in 2 seasons. Brennan Boesch? Your Kila Ka’aihue impersonation isn’t fooling anyone. Delmon Young? Please. This lineup just isn’t that scary, and there defense will be atrocious. This is not a 100 win team, and it may struggle to be a 90 win team.

At this point you’re either extremely excited, or wondering what I’m smoking…or both. Regardless, jump on the Kool Aid Drinker bandwagon now! 93 wins and an AL Central title from now, it may be too full.

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The Process player profile: Mike Montgomery

8 Days: Until the Cactus League Opener

41 Days: Until Opening Night

When I came up with the concept of doing profiles of players in Dayton Moore’s process it occurred to me that “The Process” needed it’s own logo. I discussed the concept with James Tyree and he came up with this logo for what many Kansas City Royals’ fans have endearingly refer to as “The Process”

 

From this day forward any time “The Process’ is mentioned in one of my posts. Said post will proudly display this logo.

This week I’m going to focus on a player who I believe must blossom into All-Star caliber pitcher if “The Process” is going to get the Royals into the playoffs. I don’t mean a capable middle of the rotation innings eater. I’m talking about a Zack Greinke type, takes the ball every fifth day and you know the Royals have a better than even chance to win, ace pitcher. I am talking about Mike Montgomery.

The Royals drafted Mike Montgomery out of Hart High School in Newhall, CA with the 36th Pick in 2008 Amateur Draft. If you’ll recall that was the same draft Eric Hosmer was taken with the 3rd overall pick. A year ago I was really excited that the Royals had Montgomery in the farm system. Baseball America listed Montgomery as the #19 prospect on their Top 100 Prospects list. To add some shine to the varnish, Montgomery throws left handed. I was delighted to see Montgomery destroy the Cactus League last year. In April I attended the Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. When I saw Montgomery pitch that day there was no doubt we would see him a Royals uniform by the All-Star Break.

However, the season started and the reports out Omaha become troubling, and that major league debut for Montgomery never came. Instead it was Danny Duffy who was called up when Bruce Chen went down with an injury. I’m not up to speed on how to bring a pitcher through a minor league system. Maybe the Royals organization had Montgomery “working on something” last season. I’ve heard that reason given for a spring training with terrible statistics, and I believe that would be the case. There’s plenty of pitchers who had terrible statistics in spring training that went on to have excellent seasons. I have yet to hear about someone “working on something” for an entire season. Of course, established major leaguers have bad seasons so it’s reasonable to assume that prospects can have them too. They have less of a track record in which to base their success.

Last season does not mean Montgomery is a lost cause, far from it. This spring Baseball America has Montgomery listed as #23 in their Top 100 Prospects List. That’s still good company. Montgomery is expected to compete with several other young arms for the two remaining slots in the Royals rotation. Based who has options, and who doesn’t, I don’t expect Montgomery to break camp with the Royals. I hope he pitches well enough this spring to force the Royals hand and put him in the rotation coming out of camp. If that does not happen I’m sure Montgomery will be up at some point this season. At least I hope so. The Royals need their number one prospect to be dominant. If the Royals are going to win the division, they need their number one prospect to turn into an ace. Not just an ace of a team, but an ace on a playoff team.

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The Jack Of Any Trade

With a young bullpen, having proven itself in 2011 season, the Kansas City Royals can and should look at moving their all-star closer Joakim Soria this offseason. Although being a good closer in the past, the Royals have set themselves up with numerous options for filling the closer role. Also Soria, with another trade asset, could bring a good return in the slim market of starting pitching.

First off replacing Soria in the closer spot could be an easy transition for two in house options that the Royals have. Greg Holland proved last year that hitters just could not hit his stuff. Not even after seeing his arsenal numerous times. His fastball sets up his great off-speed pitches and he strikes people out. As the duel set-up man along side Aaron Crow last season Greg holland paved the way for whomever was taking the hill in the next frame. Also, Jonathan Broxton, whom the Royals signed to a one year deal this winter could be an option since he has already had that role with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Putting one of these two in the closers role will also free up a spot for potential prospect Mike Montgomery to join the young bullpen if he does not make the pitching rotation in Spring Training. Although if Montgomery is to make the starting rotation then the Royals can fill the bullpen with whomever he boots out.

That is not the problem that the Royals face with the closer. It is the fact that will teams be willing to give up what the Royals are asking for. No doubt the Royals are not willing to part ways with their mexican closer cheaply. A frontline starter must be given in return for Jack, Soria’s clubhouse nickname. The Cubs look to be an option with Matt Garza reportedly being on the trade block and that is exactly what the Royals need. A pitcher who has had success with a small market team, Tampa Bay, and a pitcher that throws right handed. This would be the kind of player that would attract the Royals to trading Soria. The Royals are have more lefty prospects than they know what to do with. Who knew that having lefty prospects would be a problem for any organization.

The problem with holding onto Soria is the fact that if he starts the 2012 season with the cold weather blues of the past then his trade stock will surely go down and the Royals will not have a chance to trade him then.

The questions stand. Are the Royals willing to part ways with Joakim Soria and will teams fulfill the high price that the Royals are asking? Will Soria be the Jack of any trade?

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