Tag Archive | "Talented Players"

Heroes

Hero.  That word gets thrown around a lot, especially when we look at the men who wear the uniforms of our favorite sports teams.  We want to believe that the super-talented players that grace the field of play before us are also good human beings that we can look up to, admire, and believe in.  We put our faith into them to continue to be someone that our children can desire to grow and become.

RyanBraun4

On Yahoo! today, I took a look at how Ryan Braun and Mark McGwire have both let fans down and how Cardinals’ fans can identify with Brewers’ fans on the subject.  You can read that article by clicking here.

But heroes fall.

We fail to remember that they are, in fact, human.  They make mistakes.  Some bigger than others.

As humans sometimes do, our heroes make a mistake and then attempt to cover it up.  They try to deflect the blame, sometimes bringing other people, honest people, down in the process.  They do all they can to ensure that the people that love and adore them continue to do so.  They do not want to let us down any more than we want to let down someone who loves us.  They want to stay on top and be the hero that we all so desperately need in our lives sometimes.

But heroes fall.

They fall into the pratfalls of life on this earth.  Sometimes it is due to substance abuse.  Sometimes it is greed.  Other times it is blatant dishonesty.  True, their are times that encompass all three and many more.  We watch players that have been a part of our team for many years depart for more money, claiming a level of disrespect that turns a fan’s stomach.  We watch a player adamantly deny the use of performance enhancing drugs, despite all the facts compiled against them, just to watch them be proven wrong and have to issue apologies for their actions.  We watch a young player make a poor decision and lose his life driving drunk.  Yet another player comes along and we find reason to place him on the now empty pedestal vacated by the last.

But heroes fall.

The lesson is simple, it would seem.  Allowing our children to aspire to hold the job of these men is one thing.  Allowing them to aspire to be these men is another.  We want to tell our children to look up to a person, the way they live their life, the way they handle themselves, but it opens them up to failure.  They are then forced to learn the harsh realities of life and the fact that humans make mistakes.

How they handle the mistakes, how they recover and atone for their errors, can still provide a chance to learn.  A person’s acceptance of responsibility, repentance of their wrong doings, and sincere apologies to all those that were affected by their wrong doings can go a long way in helping them restore their character.

MarkMcGwire

Far too often we have seen athletes simply turn the page without taking ownership of the situation.  Far too often they don’t want to “talk about the past” and simply want to move on.

Ryan Braun has the chance to step up right now and do just that.  For many fans in the Milwaukee area, many of which are young fans who look up to Braun, the next few weeks will speak volumes about the man.  It will give him the opportunity to salvage a small portion of his reputation.

But heroes fall.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by 
clicking here.

Posted in Cardinals, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, MLBComments (0)

The Royals and Mental Toughness

The Kansas City Royals have talent, but to they have what it takes mentally to win?

In watching the 2012 version of the Kansas City Royals, it is hard to deny that this is the most talented team they have put on the field in quite some time. This is not the same collections of “has-been’s” and “never-will-be’s” that Royals fans have become accustomed to seeing. But the fact of the matter is, the Royals are currently sitting with the second-worst record in the major leagues at 9-19. And it is hard to ignore idea that mental toughness is a big reason for the slow start.

Not just baseball, but all sports have seen supremely talented players who were not successful because they couldn’t hack it mentally. Whether that equates to a player buckling under pressure, a player’s lack of desire to properly prepare, or a combination of the two, there is no denying that the mental side of the game is absolutely critical to success. The two most recent demonstrations of a lack of mental toughness were put on display on Sunday agains the Yankees and Monday against the Red Sox by starting pitchers Luke Hochevar and Jonathan Sanchez. Both of these players have talent. And not just enough talent to be a big league player. These guys both have the talent to excel in the big leagues. They have each demonstrated that at different points in their careers.

Luke Hochevar was a #1 overall pick in 2006. In 2009 he threw an 80 pitch complete game against the Cincinnati Reds, and later in the season struck out 13 against the Texas Rangers. This is why the Royals continue to put up with his inconsistency and made him their Opening Day starter in 2011 and de facto “ace” going into 2012.

On Sunday, Hochevar made it only 2 1/3 innings into his start, giving up 7 earned runs on 7 hits. This was the 3rd time in 6 starts this season that Hochevar had put his team in a hole early in the ballgame that they had almost no chance of digging out of. His ERA for the season is now 9.00.

Jonathan Sanchez has averaged 9.3 SO per 9 innings over his 6+ year career. He also struck out 205 batters in 193 innings for the San Francisco Giants in 2010. This is why the Royals traded Melky Cabrera for him this past off-season.

In his start on Monday, Sanchez made it only 3 innings, giving up 6 earned runs on 6 hits while throwing only 35 of his 73 pitches for strikes. His ERA for the season is now 6.75.

There are other examples. Earlier in the season, over about a week period, Alex Gordon seemed to be coming up to bat on a nightly basis in key late-game situations. Each time he came up short-handed. While Gordon has begun to catch fire at the plate after an extremely slow start, his lack of success in these pressure situations is telling. This could be explained away by saying that since Gordon got off to such a slow start, he was lacking confidence in these situations which led to his inability to produce. Let’s hope this is true and now that he has snapped out of his funk that this pattern comes to a halt.

Last October, St. Louis Cardinals fans watched one of the most magnificent displays of the other side of this. On the largest stage in the sport, David Freese, Lance Berkman, and other Cardinals players showed the world the importance of mental toughness. Until the Royals have a team full of players who are not afraid to prepare for the big situations, and not afraid of the spotlight, they will be nothing more than a talented team that won’t win anything.

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (0)

Naturals Announce Preliminary 2012 Roster

Naturals Announce Preliminary 2012 Roster
14 players return from last year’s playoff team

SURPRISE, AZ – As the Northwest Arkansas Naturals prepare to break camp in Arizona in the coming days, the Naturals announce a preliminary roster as spring training draws to a close.

The roster includes 14 players who contributed to the Naturals’ playoff run in 2011. Joining those Double-A veterans are a group of talented players who finished 2011 with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Royals’ affiliate in the Advanced-A Carolina League, a catcher who spent last season with Class-A Kane County in the Midwest League, and two players who were in the San Francisco Giants organization this past season.

The roster will include six of the Royals’ top 20 prospects as ranked by Baseball America.  This includes top outfield prospect Wil Myers, who is ranked as the third best prospect in the Royals system and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who is ranked fourth overall in the Royals system.

The other prospects ranking in the top 20 that are headed to Northwest Arkansas include starting pitchers Chris Dwyer (9th), Noel Arguelles (17th), Tim Melville (19th)and infielder Christian Colon (11th)

Dwyer and Odorizzi are the only two starters with experience at the Double-A level last season with the Naturals.  Odorizzi was a key starter for the Naturals in their late season playoff run, going 5-3 with a 4.72 ERA in 12 starts last season.  The rest of the rotation will likely feature southpaw Justin Marksalong with Melville, and Arguelles.  Marks ranked second in the Royals organization in strikeouts last season with 140, while in Class-A Advanced Wilmington.  Both Arguelles and Mellville were in last year’s Blue Rocks’ rotation as well.

The bullpen will feature a lot of players with experience in Northwest Arkansas, and three newcomers.  The newcomers include Bryan Paukovits, Elisaul Pimenteland Michael Mariot all of whom pitched for the Wilmington Blue Rocks last season.  Patrick Keating, the Naturals’ franchise leader in saves highlights a group of returners that includes Buddy Baumann, Andrew Dobies, Blaine Hardy, Brendan Laffertyand Kendal Volz.

A large portion of the Naturals’ catching duties will be split between Julio Rodriguez and Ben Theriot.  Rodriguez comes as a highly touted defensive catcher, who the Royals acquired from the Tigers last season in the Wilson Betemit trade with the Tigers. Theriot hit .303 for the Naturals last season and will provide some left-handed power when in the lineup.  The Naturals third catcher will be Ryan Jenkins.  Jenkins was selected by the Royals in the 17th round of the 2010 draft out of Auburn and split last season between Rookie Level Surprise and Idaho Falls, before finishing the season with Class-A Kane County. 

Colon will begin his second full season as the Naturals shortstop, although he did see some time at second base as well during the Arizona Fall League.  Colon hit .299 in the Arizona Fall League following the regular season, and remains the top-rated infield prospect in the Royals organization.

Joining Colon in the infield is a group of veterans that includes a newcomer to the Texas League. Sharlon Schoop comes to the Texas League after being signed as a minor league free agent this past off season.  Schoop played five different positions last season while with Double-A Richmond.  Mario Lisson, Kurt Mertins, Rey Navarroand John Whittleman will round out the infield for the Naturals.  Whittleman is the only one of the group not to appear for the Naturals last season, but has spent time in the Texas League with Frisco from 2008-10.

Myers is going to be returning to the Naturals after putting up huge numbers in the Arizona Fall League following last season.  He hit .360 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 23 games.  Myers hit .254 while with the Naturals, while dealing with a knee injury.

Myers will be joined in the outfield by Yem Prades, Carlo Testaand Terry Evans.  Prades finished his first full season in the minor leagues last year while with Class-A Wilmington where he hit .289.  Testa was also in Wilmington last season put up similar numbers, hitting .290 in 100 games and cranking five of his seven homers in the month of August.  Evans was signed by the Royals on March 6th to add depth to the outfield.  He split last season between Double-A Reading (Philadelphia Phillies) and Triple-A Fresno (San Francisco Giants).  He also appeared in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Angels in 2007, 2009-10, and was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.  Like Whittleman, he has Texas League experience with both the Springfield Cardinals and the Arkansas Travelers, both during the 2006 season.

Several former Naturals are also remaining in Arizona to rehab from injuries.  The list includes Edgar Garcia, Edgar Osuna, Paulo Orlando, Nick Van Strattenand John Lamb.  These players could potentially see action with the Naturals in 2012.

This preliminary roster is subject to change, possibly more than once, before the Naturals’ season opening game in Corpus Christi on Thursday April 5th.  The Naturals home opener is Thursday April 12th at Arvest Ballpark against the San Antonio Missions.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state of the art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. You can purchase season tickets and group outings with the Naturals by calling (479) 927-4900.

Posted in Minors, RoyalsComments (0)

Leading The Young Royals Into Battle

Spring Training is underway and the Kansas City Royals begin their 2012 campaign. This year, fans are excited about the Royals young, talented players and their boundless potential to be part of a winning team.

But the players can’t do it alone. The Royals coaching staff has to provide guidance on and off the field to make the Royals a winner. Here’s the men who will lead the Royals into the 2012 Major League campaign.

Manager Ned Yost: This will be the second full season Yost manages the Royals, after replacing Trey Hillman during the 2010 season. Yost managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003-2008, leading the Brewers an 83-79 record in 2007, their first winning season since 1992. The following year, the Brewers were 83-67 with 12 games left and on their way to an N.L. Wild Card before a 3-11 September slump and a four game sweep by the Philadelphia Phillies cost Yost his job.

Before managing the Brewers, Yost spent 12 years with the Atlanta Braves Major League staff as a bullpen and third base coach. He also spent parts of six seasons as a catcher for the Brewers, Texas Rangers and Montreal Expos from 1980-1985.

With Yost’s experience managing small-market Milwaukee and his 12 years with the Braves, the Royals believe he is the one who can make the Royals a contender. Whether Yost can led the Royals to the promised land is uncertain, but he will be given every opportunity to succeed since the Royals recently picked up his 2013 option year.

Batting Coach Kevin Seitzer: A Royals player from 1986-1991, Seitzer enters his fourth season as the Royals hitting coach. In 2011, the Royals had a team .275 BA (4th in the A.L.), .329 OBP (5th in the A.L.) and .415 SLG (5th in the A.L.). The team lead the A.L. with 41 triples, second in the A.L. with 325 doubles and third in the A.L. with 1,560 hits. However, the Royals finished 11th in the A.L. with only 129 home runs and 442 walks and 12th in the A.L. with 1,006 strikeouts.

Seitzer’s job this year is to get the lineup to cut down its strikeouts, take more walks, get more men on base and hit for more power, especially home runs. So far the team is buying into Seitzer’s coaching, with Alex Gordon being one of the players he helped make into a better hitter.

Pitching Coach Dave Eiland: With a Major League record of 12-27 and 5.74 ERA over 92 games, Eiland’s career wasn’t stellar. But his five years as a pitching coach in the New York Yankees Minor League system and three years as the Yankees pitching coach from 2008-2010 landed Eiland a job as the pitching coach for 2012, replacing long time pitching coach Bob McClure.

Eiland helped the Yankees win a World Series in 2009, so he knows how to win. However, Eiland has a tough task ahead of him with a suspect starting rotation, but a solid bullpen. In 2011, the Royals finished 12th in the A.L. with a 4.44 ERA, while giving up 557 walks, the most in the A.L. Eiland wants the starting pitchers to pitch into the late innings, using the bullpen to hold leads or give the offense a chance to rally in the late innings if they’re behind. Time will tell if Eiland is up to the challenge.

First Base Coach Doug Sisson: With a long baseball coaching career in college and several levels in the Minor Leagues, Sisson enters his second year as the Royals first base coach. From 2008-2010, Sisson served as the Royals minor league field coordinator, overseeing the Royals minor league system.

In addition to first base, Sisson is also the baserunning and outfield coach. The Royals had a good outfield last year with a career year by Alex Gordon and solid seasons from Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. Last year, Royals ranked 2nd in the A.L. with 153 stolen bases and caught stealing only 58 times. Sission’s familiarity with the players who came up through the Minors should be an asset to the team.

Third Base Coach Eddie Rodriguez: A baseball lifer, Rodriguez spent six seasons as a Minor League player before having a long and varied career as a Minor League manager and coach. Rodriguez was a coach for several Major League clubs, joining the Royals as the third base coach in 2010.

Rodriguez is also the infield coach and with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas solidly at the corners, Rodriguez will focus his attention on a middle infield in flux, with projected starters Alcides Escobar at shortstop and Johnny Giavotella at second base. If Rodriguez can help improve the middle infield, the Royals will be a better team this season.

Bench Coach Chino Cadahia: A long career as a coach and manager in the Rangers and Braves Minor League systems, 2012 will be Cadahia’s first season as the Royals bench coach.

Cadahia is also the catching coach and will be responsible for catchers Salvador Perez, Brayan Pena and Manny Pina, depending who makes the Opening Day roster.

In Atlanta, Cadahia spent 2007-2010 as bench coach for manager Bobby Cox. Working with one of the best managers in Major League history and his relationship with Yost in Atlanta should be an asset to Yost and the Royals.

Bullpen Coach Steve Foster: This is Foster’s third season as the Royals bullpen coach, after spending 2007-2009 as the bullpen coach of the Florida (now Miami) Marlins. Foster spent time as a pitching coach in the Marlins Minor League system, a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays and a college head coach and pitching coach. Foster also co-authored the book Lessons From Little League and Life with his father Steve Foster Sr.

Besides answering the bullpen phone properly and making sure the relief pitchers are warmed up and ready to enter the game, Foster will assist pitching coach Dave Eiland and preside over a Royals bullpen which was one of the highlights of the 2011 season.

It’s up to the players to win the games, but it’s up to the coaching staff to make sure the team is in a position to win. If the Royals play well, the coaching staff gets some of the credit. If the Royals stumble, the coaching staff gets a lot of the blame.

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (0)

The Royals Need A Rival

Just over 30 years ago the Kansas City Royals were embroiled in one of the best rivalries in baseball with the hated Yankees. It had everything a great rivalry needs; success on both sides, regular and postseason match ups, incredible stories, fights, and most importantly a general disdain for the other team. The Yankees got the better of the Royals during the rivalry, but you could never say the Royals did not put up a fight. Whether it was George Brett jumping up to punch Craig Nettles at third base, the 1980 ALCS when the Royals finally prevailed, or the Pine Tar Game, the Royals did their part to keep the rivalry interesting and relevant.

I bring this up because unlike that moment in time, today the Royals seem to be without a rival altogether. The Yankees have long since moved on, winning championship upon championship as the Royals dreamt of mediocrity. The division has not been much help, either, as it is harder to have a rival (at least one that takes you seriously) when you have been as bad as the Royals have been. Over the past 20 years the team has been competitive with no one and has really not given any team a chance to genuinely dislike them while every team in the AL Central has taken their turn at being good, and appeared in a World Series. With the infusion of young talent the team has seen over the past 18 months, we are expecting that part of the equation to change.

The other major impediment to forming a rivalry for the Royals has been the lack of consistency in their roster. Just three regulars from the Royals 2007 team figure to be on the Royals 2012 roster. That 2007 team featured only 1 significant part from the 2002 team 5 years before. It is hard to develop, and especially maintain, a rivalry when you are turning over 90-95% of your roster every 5 years. With a team full of talented players that the Royals mostly have several years of control over, that part of the equation should change, too.

So, with the Royals seemingly ripe for improvement, while at the same time developing some long term consistency in their lineup, it seems they are more than ready to develop a rivalry. Who should that rival be? Well, you would think anyone in the division would be a candidate, but it is hard to consider the Twins. For one, the Royals seem to be aspiring to be just like the Twins and seem more complimentary than anything. For two, with the health of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau figuring to be in question for the many years they have left on their contracts, it is hard to see them as a contender.

The only team you could even consider outside the division as a rival would be the cross-state St. Louis Cardinals. Ask Royals fans and they will probably tell you that the Cardinals are their biggest rival, but Cards fans are pretty clear that the Cubs, or even Brewers, are much more of concern for them. As much as KC may dislike the Cardinals and their fans, it is hard to have a rivalry with a team from another league that does not consider you a rival.

That basically leaves us with the Tigers, Indians and White Sox. The Sox are just beginning their rebuilding project, and just lost their most controversial part, Manager Ozzie Guillen. The chances of them being at the top of the division race, or even in the middle, seem pretty small right now. The Indians are right where the Royals are, if not a little ahead. That being said, there is just something about the Tigers that makes them the favorite to me.

The Royals and Tigers have quite a history of brawls, including the beating that Mike Sweeney laid on Jeff Weaver. Maybe that is shaping my opinion, but what had more to do with it is the Tigers position. They are much older than the Royals or the Tribe and they are the established favorite in the division right now. For either young upstart to take over the division, they will have to go through the Tigers and that could spark a rivalry more than any fight from a decade ago.

Honestly, I do not really care who it is, I would just like for the Royals to be relevant enough for someone to consider them a rival. Maybe if they start winning enough those Cardinals fans will change their mind. Maybe if I find a way to mention Don Denkinger every week that will help?

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (0)


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