Results tagged ‘ Kansas City Royals ’

So Much Good is Going on In Major League Baseball

The big story surrounding Major League Baseball is the impending suspensions of several players regarding their involvement with Biogenesis, the infamous lab located in South Florida.   The biggest name involved, of course is Alex Rodriguez and anytime A-Rod’s name is brought up, particularly “juicy” story such as this, everything else around the game takes a back seat, even the just-concluded trading deadline.   Well, as you know, I have had it with all of the negative press about baseball lately.  So I figured now is about the time to look at all of the GOOD things that are happening ON THE FIELD, you know where the actual games are being played.  All of you need to stop listening to the drama and the angst and all that is wrong with the game and focus on some wonderful things that are taking place as the calendar shifts to August.  There are a ton of great things and frankly I could probably write about something positive about all 30 teams.   Here are some items that will make you feel good as a fan even  if it doesn’t involve your team.

Wise up, forget A-Rod and pay attention to guys like Jason  Donaldson.  Image:  sfgate.com

Wise up, forget A-Rod and pay attention to guys like Jason Donaldson. Image: sfgate.com

The Oakland A’s are proving last season was no fluke.   Oakland has the second-largest lead of any division leader as they are up 4 1/2 games over the Texas Rangers.  On the mound, Bartolo Colon will garner serious Cy Young Award consideration with a 14-3 record and a 2.50 ERA.  Grant Balfour has 28 saves and has blown only one opportunity since last August.  Third baseman Jason Donaldson is showing All Star voters the folly of their ways by leading the club in hitting at .297 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI’s.  First baseman Brandon Moss has picked up for other struggling hitters leading the A’s with 17 homers and has driven in 49 runs.  July and August is usually the time Oakland’s teams under GM Billy Beane are at their best so I see no reason why the A’s won’t repeat as American League West Champions.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will REALLY finish over .500 this season…….and make the playoffs.  The last two seasons have been unkind to the Bucs down the stretch.  It will be much different finish for Pittsburgh this season.  This week saw the Pirates face the St. Louis Cardinals in a crucial showdown to determine who enters the next month leading the National League Central.  The Pirates won the first four games, sweeping a doubleheader on Tuesday, and are now up 2 1/2 games on the Cards.  Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is one of the game’s true power hitters as his 27 dingers proves.  Center fielder Andrew McCutchen has thrust himself into the MVP race as perhaps the game’s premier up-the-middle outfielder.  The bullpen has been simply dominant and Francisco Liriano has been the free agent signing of the year with an 11-4 record  and a 2.16 ERA.   All of those losing seasons resulting in high draft picks combined with  shrewd free agent signings and trades have made the Bucs the feel-god story of the season.

The Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians are legitimate division threats.  Most people, including me, figured the American League Central would be won easily by the Detroit TigersAfter a rough month of May by both KC and the Tribe, that seemed to be the case.  However, Cleveland at 3 games out and the Royals at 7 1/2 games behind, are not going away.  Cleveland obviously stands the better chance at the moment.  When you have the ageless Jason Giambi ending a game with a home run for you,  anything is possible.  Second Baseman Jason Kipnis is having the best season no one has heard from with 15 homers, 68  RBI’s , a .295 average and 21 steals.  Justin Masterson is pitching like a true ace with 12 wins and a 3,42 ERA.   The Royals are still probably a year away but they are providing their fans with some hope that the corner has been turned.  Ervin Santana and James Shields have provided everything management was looking for when they were both acquired this past Winter.  They both have ERA’s less than 3.10 and are on track to throw close to 200 innings.  If they somehow get one more bat before August 31st, they could throw a real scare into the Tigers.

Yadier Molina is having a wonderful season.  It seems as though Yadi has been around forever, gunning out baserunner after baserunner and getting clutch hits for the Cardinals.  For a while, Molina was leading the National League in hitting; right now he is third at .330.  He has eight home runs and his 54 RBI’s is on pace to surpass last season’s career high of 76.  As usual, his work behind the plate has been stellar, working with a cast of veterans and newcomers, all of whom swear by Yadi’s game-calling abilities.  Molina just landed on the 15-day disabled list with a knee injury, a rotten time for St. Louis as they fight to keep pace with the Pirates and ahead of the  Cincinnati Reds in the standings.  Molina will be a leading MVP candidate by season’s end but the Cards woudl just settle for him to be back healthy for September.

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Former First Baseman/Designated Hitter George Scott passed away on July 28th at the age of 69.  Big George had some serious power in the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s, slugging a total of 271 home runs.  He played on the pennant winning Boston Red Sox in 1967 and is a member of the Sox Hall of Fame.  While with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975, Scott led the American League in home runs with 36 and RBI’s with 109. 

I always knew Scott was a big power hitter but I did not realize what a great fielder he was.  He won eight Gold Gloves at first and Nick Carfado of the Boston Globe wrote that he had never seen  a better fielding first baseman.  From what I have been reading about his life, he was a big, gentle man with a tremendous heart.  It is another sad passing of someone being taken before his time.

Rest in Peace, Boomer.

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Brian Wilson is backIt was a long, hard road for the fireballing reliever, one of the true characters of the game.  He underwent arm surgery and has not pitched in a Major League game in almost 18 months. Even though it was the Los Angeles Dodgers  who signed him, I am very glad that we will get a chance to see him pitch again.

Wilson has some tremendous seasons with the San Francisco Giants, topped off by a spectacular 2010 that saw the Giants capture their first World Series Championship in the Bay Area.  Wilson was tremendous, recording an NL-leading 48 saves and a sparkling 1,81 ERA.   For his career, Wilson owns 171 saves and a 3,21 ERA.  He will appear in a few Minor League rehab games until being called up to LA probably sometime before September 1st.

I wish nothing but the best for Brian Wilson, a good player, a great personality and a seemingly tremendous person.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

Baseball’s Most Tortured Fans

Living in New York, I have had to hear much chatter about the woeful ways of the New York Mets.  The angst felt by their fans toward their beloved team is certainly understandable.  At the risk of inflicting more wounds, I won’t go into events that have led to their frustration, particularly the ones over the past seven seasons.  However, I am a little tired of the “woe is me” attitude that seems to prevail among Met fans.  Of all the fans of Major League Baseball teams, they act as though nobody has had it as rough as them.   I must admit it is a bit humourous at times to listen to them rant but at the same time, it does get old.   So I decided to quantify which fans have been inflicted with the most misery over the course of their existence.  I kept the list to five though it could have very easily been expanded to ten.  Sorry Met fans, your team doesn’t cut it; in fact I would have a hard time picking them for my top ten.  Here they are, in no particular order the UnFab Five:

Pirates fans yearn for the days of Dave Parker.  Image:  bleacherreport.com

Pirates fans yearn for the days of Dave Parker. Image: bleacherreport.com

Chicago CubsThis franchise has been known as the Cubs since 1903 but it actually dates back to 1876 when they were known as the White Stockings.  The last time the Cubbies appeared in the World Series was 1945 and the last time they won it was 1908.  Since then, it has been nothing but losses and heartbreak for the fans of Wrigleyville and beyond.  Since that 1945 series, the Cubs have captured four division titles and one Wild Card.  They have yet to win a single playoff series.  Oh, they have been close.  They had a two games to none lead on the San Diego Padres in 1984 back when the divisional round was the best of five and the winner went to the Fall Classic.  First, it was Steve Garvey taking Lee Smith deep to win Game 4 and then with the Cubs winning 3-2 in Game 5, Leon Durham‘s error in the bottom of the seventh inning opened the door to a four run inning allowing San Diego to prevail 6-3 and go to the World Series.  Fast forward to 2003 and the team held a commanding 3 games to 1 lead over the Florida Marlins in the NLCS.  This was, of course the Steve Bartman series in which the end result was Florida coming all the way back and advancing to the Series.  Then there was 2008 when Chicago posted the best record in the National League at 97-64 only to be swept in the first round by the Los Angles Dodgers.  Throughout their history, be it decades ago or a couple of years ago, there has been an endless array of second tier finishes.  If you though the party for the Boston Red Sox was huge when they finally won it all in 2004, wait until the Cubs win the big one.  Hopefully, that will happen before the next turn of the century.

Cleveland IndiansAlthough the Tribe enjoyed a great deal of success from the mid 1990’s to 2001, this is a franchise that has not won a World Series since 1948.  Some of those playoff losses a decade or so ago are the stuff of legend…..and misery.  They lost the 1997 Fall Classic in heart-breaking fashion when the Indians coughed up a 2-1 9th inning lead in Game 7 and lost in 11 innings.  In 1999, they blew a two game to nothing lead against the Red Sox in the divisional round and lost in five as Pedro Martinez came out of the bullpen in the clincher and tossed six-no hit innings.  After a string of dismal seasons, the 2007 club held a 3 games to 1 lead over Boston in the ALCS only to see the Sox make another historic comeback and evaporate Cleveland fans’ dreams once again.  Since that year, the team has not finished above .500.  Before their 1990’s surge, they were about as big a laughingstock in the game as you could find.  In 1968, the Tribe finished in third place.  They would not finish that high again in the standings until 1994.  From 1978 through 1985, Cleveland would finish no higher than sixth place in the American League East.  “Major League” came to theaters in 1989; too bad some of that magic didn’t rub off on the organization until five years later.

Pittsburgh PiratesEveryone knows the not-so magical number:  20, as in the number of consecutive losing seasons.  I also think back to the last time the Bucs won the World Series which was 1979.  Not too long after that, the team began playing some really bas baseball.  From 1981 through 1989, the Pirates finished higher than fourth only twice, lowlighted by the 1985 campaign in which the team went a horrendous 57-104.  And then it was onto those three, glorious seasons from 1990 to 1992 in which they captured three straight National League East titles.  Of course, those last two seasons ended in miserable fashion.  In 1991, the Pirates came home with a 3-2 NLCS lead over the Atlanta Braves only to score exactly zero runs over the next 18 innings as Atlanta reached the Fall Classic.  Who could ever forget the two teams’ epic encounter the following season in the NLCS?  The Bucs fought back from a 3 games to 1 deficit and took a 2-0 lead into the 9th inning of Game 7 only to watch the Braves push across three runs, the final one being Sid Bream‘s “dash” around third base to score the series-clinching run.  The following season, Barry Bonds was gone and an entire generation of Pittsburgh fans has NEVER seen their club get to the .500 mark.

Kansas City RoyalsEven now, it is almost hard for me to picture the Royals be so miserable as growing up they were one of the best franchises in Major League Baseball.  I am sure that feeling is not shared by KC fans.  Except for that tremendous run between 1975 and 1989, the last time it won 90 games, Royals fans have not been treated too kindly by their team.  The five seasons between 2002 and 2006 saw Kansas City lose over 100 games four times.  Had they not finished 83-79 in 2003, KC’s streak of consecutive losing seasons would stand at 18.   Since 1994 when MLB expanded to three divisions per league, the Royals have finished as high as second place only once, that coming in 1995.   During this stretch, they have seen homegrown stars such as Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran flourish in other locales.  They have not made the playoffs since 1985, the year of their only World Series victory and is currently the longest postseason drought in the game today.   Kansas City fans are hoping this is the year all of the building and shuffling pays off with a winning season and a playoff berth.   I will believe it when I see it.

Seattle MarinersThis was the hard one.  I could have gone with a handful of other teams.  If I had written on this topic at this time last year, I think I would have gone with the Montreal Expos/Washington NationalsTheir 2012 season and having stars such as Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper takes them out of consideration.  I could have chosen the Milwaukee Brewers, despite the fact they have made two playoff appearances over the past five seasons.  It was a very long wait for postseason baseball to return to Wisconsin.  Instead,  I will go with the only other team besides Expos/Nats to not appear in a World Series, the squad from the Pacific Northwest.  It’s hard to believe that a franchise that once boasted Ken Griffey, Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez could appear on this list.  No World Series trips helped (hindered?) the cause as well as futility before and after the four players starred for the club.  Seattle began play in 1977 and did not post a winning record until 1991 when it finished 83-79.  It took all the way until 1997 for the franchise to reach the 90 win mark.  After trading Griffey, the team made the ALCS in 2000.  After losing Rodriguez, the M’s won a record 116 regular season games but lost again in the ALCS.  Since then, there has been nothing going on except the magical hitting of Ichiro Suzuki and later the dazzling pitching of Felix Hernandez.  They lost 101 games in 2008 and 2010 and have finished last in the AL West seven times in the last nine seasons.  After almost a decade of misery, the skies may be getting brighter in Seattle.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Here’s Hoping the Kansas City Royals Don’t Stop With Ervin Santana

In case you missed it, the Kansas City Royals dealt a minor league player to the Los Angeles Angels for right handed pitcher Ervin Santana.  Sure, this isn’t a blockbuster deal or even a major deal by any stretch.  However, it hopefully sends a signal to the Royals players and their fans that ownership is trying to get better after what has to be considered a disappointing 2012.  I also hope that general manager Dayton Moore is right and that KC will not stop with this trade.  I would like them to acquire at least two more significant players to greatly bloster last season’s 72 win output.

Ervin Santana will look good in Royal blue in 2013. Image: http://www.bleacherreport.com

Why this interest in the Royals?  Well, I grew up loving baseball in the late 70’s and 80’s when Kansas City was considered one of the model franchises in the game.  They had big-times stars such as Frank White, Hal McRae, Willie Wilson, Dan Quisenberry and of course the incomparable, New York Yankee-killing Hall of Famer George Brett.  Between 1976 and 1985, the team won seven division championships, two American League pennants and the 1985 World Series. Unfortunately since that title, KC has registered only seven winning seasons and only one year (2003) over .500 the past 16 seasons.  With everyday players such as Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez the nucleus is there for some special things.   Now management needs to focus on the pitching staff.  I would love to see one of the franchises I grew up admiring and loathing at the same time get back to its former glory.  The Baltimore Orioles did it in 2012.  It would be nice to see the Royals enjoy similar success in 2013.

Much like they did before 2012 with Jonathan Sanchez, the Royals made a trade for a talented but up-and-down pitcher in the soon-to-be 30-year old Santana.  The career record of 96-80 is nothing to sneeze at but the 4.33 ERA is a little high.  He has won 16 or more games three times and also hurled a no-hitter on July 27th, 2011 against the Cleveland Indians.  Last year wasn’t so kind to Santana with a 9-13 record and a 5.16 ERA, nearly two runs higher than 2011.  If he could revert to his 2010 form (17-10, 3.92 ERA) it would go a long way in helping KC make a return trip to the playoffs.  In order for that to happen, the wheeling and dealing has to continue right through Spring Training.

Adam Dunn and Big Homer/Big Strikeout Guys of Years Gone By

Image: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Adam Dunn belted his 14th home run this season on Sunday, clearly demonstrating he is over his nightmare 2011 season.   He has struck out a league leading 60 times and also checks in with a batting average of .243.  For his career,  he has slugged nearly 400 home runs, whiffed almost 1,900 times and owns a career bating average of .243.  He reminds me of many of the high power-high strikeout-low batting average guys from the 1980’s.  These players never get confused with the greats of the game but for a while they were certainly feared because of the home run potential they possessed.  In fairness to Dunn, he has had a much more prolific career than most if not all of them.  For five consecutive seasons, he finished with 40 or more dingers and 100 RBI’s or more six times.  In no particular order,  here are some of my favorites from the go-go 80’s.

Image: bleacherreport.com

Gorman Thomas: “Stormin Gorman” led the American League in home runs twice with 45 in 1979 and 39 in 1982,  the year of Milwaukee’s only World Series appearance.  Two is also the number of times he led the AL in strikeouts with 175 in 1979 and 170 in 1980.  While most people think of these types of players as lumbering First Basemen or Designated Hitters, Thomas was actually a pretty good Outfielder.  He ranked in the top three in putouts by a Center Fielder four times and ranked fifth in assists in 1982 with nine.  He finished his 13 year career with 268 home runs, 1,339 strikeouts and a .225 batting average.

image: chinmusik.net

Dave Kingman:  Kong thrived for seven different teams over the course of his 16 year stay in the Bigs.  He paced the National League in homers twice with 48 in 1979 and 37 in 1982.  While his overall batting average was a paltry .236, he did hit .288 in 1979 while also leading the league in Slugging and OPS that season.  1979 would not have been complete unless he also led in K’s which he obliged, fanning 131 times.  He also led the league in strikeouts two other times, 105 in strike-shortend 1981 and 155 in 1982.  My favorite Kingman stat has nothing to do with hitting.  In 1977, he became the only man to play for a team (Mets, Padres, Angels and Yankees) in all four divisions in a single season.   The final numbers are an impressive 442 homers  and a gigantic 1,816  strikeouts.

Image: bleacherreport.com

 

Steve BalboniThe Yankees sent “Bye Bye” to the Royals before the 1984 season for reliever Mike ArmstrongThis was a classic George Steinbrenner bone-headed decision, one of many, trading young, promising talent for a middle-of-the-road player who does nothing in New York.   Balboni immediately paid dividends for KC by launching 26 homers to go along with a healthy 139 whiffs.  Although the career numbers are not as gaudy as Thomas and Kingman, he does own something the other two do not:  a World Series ring.  In 1985 he led the club in round-trippers with 36 and the rest of the American League in strikeouts with 166 as the Royals took home their only World Championship.    Balboni eventually did play for the Yanks at least on a part-time basis in 1989 and 1990.  The 1990 campaign was his last as a semi-regular player and in typical Bye Bye fashion he deposited 17 balls into the seats in only 301 plate appearances.  Of course he also struck out 91 times and batted a robust .192.

I could spend all day reviewing the careers of these guys and men like Rob Deer, Pete Incaviglia and Tony Armas. If any of you can think of other players both past and present, I would love to hear about them.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Nelson Cruz and Others Who Fired Lasers This Week

According to a famous commercial twenty years ago, chicks dig the long ball.  Too bad they focused only the offensive side of baseball.  The guys who make the spectacular plays in the field are the studs.  Over the past week we have been treated to a fair number of outfield throws that would make those chicks appreciate the defensive part of the game.

 

Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers is known more for his towering home runs.  Just check out his performance in the 2011 AL championship Series against the Tigers.   However, this past Sunday night against Tampa, he showed off his cannon in Right Field and threw out Ben Zobrist by about 10 feet.  Here is the play a national audience was treated to in the 5th inning.

 

Kansas City’s Jeff Francouer has always been known as a superior player in the field.  Even during the lowest of his slumps, Frenchy never let it affect his work with the glove.   On Tuesday evening, Jhonny Peralta found out the hard way that Francouer’s arm is not be messed withHave as much fun viewing this for the first time as it was for me seeing it a second time. 

Rick Ankiel’s  career as a pitcher did not go exactly as planned.  Bouts of wildness ended his mound career prematurely.  So, Ankiel converted himself to an Outfielder.  He has had mixed success with the Nationals but one thing that has defined him is his superb play in the field.  Arizona’s Justin Upton tried stretching a single Tuesday night into a double.  As you can see, he should have stayed at first base.

What list of great throws would be complete without Ichiro?  Our first highlight of the Seattle standout was his throw in 2001 to nail Terrence Long at 3rd Base.  He continues to gun down baserunners at age 38.  On April 27th, JP Arencibia of the Blue Jays tried scoring on this hit but the catcher was no match for the dart that Ichiro fired from Right Field.

You can be sure there will be countless other outstanding throws from the outfield this season. And you can bet I will do my best to share a few of them with you.

 

Follow me on Twitter @litj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

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