Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ross Gload

It's fair to say that the season ticket holding constituents from the Burkett family have reached their boiling point on this one. Wednesday, I sat in the sun and watched a journeyman Tiger hurler not so unusually dominate our pathetic Royal lineup, tossing a perfect game through six, going on to win 7-1, thus easily sweeping our Royals, all of which I was tuned in for, 2 of which I was in attendance. The Tigers are good. But not that good. At least their pitching isn't.

Earlier in the season, I attended another game, a certain blown 9th inning lead to Minnesota, perhaps you remember it? Let's just say that I would later, in retrospect, feel bad for those that had to suffer the ride home with me. It didn't, however, go without some representation of productivity, if production is what one could call it. That evening, in a message to my fantasy baseball league and some of my more Royals interested friends, I completely broke down the SS position, with the help of the Bill James Handbook, and, at least to my own satisfaction, demonstrated that a purely defensive minded SS with little to no hitting capability was no longer a viable option in Major League Baseball. In our case, Tony Pena JR. Well, my argument was most certainly not heard by the Royals' organization, but my wishes were granted within a week, as Mike Aviles was called up from Omaha and soon inserted into the starting SS position. And now at SS, I am content. With Aviles, seriously, who isn't at the very least, content? So now I turn my attention to 1B and MR Ross Gload.

You know, for years the experts have been clamoring on about how it is absolutely essential to get certain production from certain positions, one of the bigger productivity hot spots being first base. But I always figured that if you made up for it at other less expected positions (just look at the Yankees), then you could afford some slack elsewhere. The problem is that over the years, we haven't exactly had our version of Posada at catcher, or Jeter at shortstop, or Bernie Williams in center field. So perhaps it's time to examine our first baseman a little closer. Ross Gload, this season, is hitting .259 with 1 HR and 22 RBI in 255 at bats. One home run! One? I can't even remember what sorry pitcher dealt that unforgivable pitch up! One. Alright then, I guess it's time to examine the production of the other first basemen around MLB.

Well, at first I should mention that there are a couple of players at this position that are so mind-blowingly better than Ross Gload offensively, that they aren't even worth a comparison. Like Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols. Well, but then there are Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixera as well. And also Jason Giambi, Adrian Gonzalez, Derek Lee, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. And of course, don't forget about James Loney, Carlos Delgado, or by any means, this year's MLB HR leader Ryan Howard. Damn it. I've only gotten started and already 13 teams, almost half of the 30 team league have way, way better first basemen than Ross Gload. This could get ugly.

Then there are Joey Votto and Chris Davis, who while being just recently called up this season, seem to be penciled in as their respective teams' future at their positions and are already demonstrating far superior offensive aptitude than that of Ross Gload. Make that 15 teams, half the majors.

Then there are these players:

Casey Kotchman is hitting .289 with 9 HR and 48 RBI, so he's clearly much better than Gload. Plus, Ross' thing is his defensive capabilities, but he doesn't even have the edge over Casey there, kind of like when (whatever Ivy league school that was) played Stanford in the tournament last year, they just really didn't have an edge in anything at all, on or off the court. Plus he's only 25 and still pretty new to the league so he has time to get much better. That said, Kotchman's never thrilled me, which I only bring up because he seems to be a guy that even younger players get compared to from time to time. If a guy is said to have the potential to be a Casey Kotchman type player somewhere down the line, at first I think, oh, that's all? But then after a moment of reflection, I wonder, wait a minute, we don't even know what kind of player Casey Kotchman's going to be down the line! Is that what scouting has come to? Players are now projected to be something like another player's projection?

Mike Jacobs has 20 HR's this year already, 20. Again, 20. Really, that's not as incredible as I'm making it sound here, but 20 at this point for a Royal, any Royal would be as incredible to me as if our dog learned to use the toilet. Carlos Pena has 15, which would lead our team as well, and he's missed time with injuries. Actually, that guy put up 46 last year! Now we're dreaming. Here's the thing, neither Jacobs or Pena really do much else at the plate offensively, but who cares? I always kind of cringe when someone labels John Buck as being this kind of hitter. You mean the John Buck with 6 HR's? He did hit 18 one season and will probably do it again, but he's not a power hitter; he's an average to below average hitting catcher with occasional power. But my beef's not with Buck, it's with Gload right now, and both Jacobs and Pena are far superior hitters.

And now that it's post-June, Adam LaRoche is too. I really hate slow starters, mostly I think because by the time those guys get it going, the Royals are all ready counting down the days to being mathematically eliminated, planning for next season and seeking to deal off some guys for prospects by the trade deadline. Where were these guys when you needed them? I'm sure it works out for teams that always make late runs, like the A's and the Yankees, but do you think Pirates fans would disagree with me much when it comes to LaRoche? Not a chance. Also not a chance that Gload will ever be capable of putting up the kind of second half numbers that LaRoche does. No contest.

Are Todd Helton and Paul Konerko washed up? Helton's hurt right now, and wasn't playing all that great before he went down. The Colorado web site's depth chart has Garrett Atkins listed at first and third as the starter right now, but which is it? Either way, when Helton gets back, he's still quite a bit better than Gload just on lineup presence alone, not to mention that he has been one of the best hitters in the league. I suspect that three years after he retires, he'll still be a better hitter than Ross Gload. And Atkins? Well, much, much better of course. Konerko is having a terrible season, but he's only 32 and he's had a season similar to this before in 2003 and he bounced back nicely then. Plus, you have to consider that he's still a lineup presence in pitcher's minds, one that Gload isn't, and for good reason, he still has 9 HR's and he's way, way off his normal offensive production. With Gload, what you see is about what you're likely to get, a lot of ground balls that might find a hole if he's lucky, unless he gets some air under it, in which case, won't be for very far. I can't believe I'm even comparing these guys; I feel like an idiot. Tell you what, Helton v Gload, Konerko v Gload: you choose. Now, Helton v Konerko, that's a lot more interesting discussion.

I don't even know who is officially Arizona's starting 1B. I thought it was Conor Jackson, but the team's website lists Chad Tracy there. Either way, Tracy has much better numbers than Gload and Jackson has far better numbers than our boy. I have no idea what direction the first place, below .500 D-backs are going with this, but I'm pretty sure that it's better than what's manning the position back here on the home front.

Lyle Overbay is essentially the league average 1B in my mind. To be league average, that means that the player, in a perfect world, should either be the 30th best starting 1B or one of the better reserve 1B in the league. He's hitting .275 with 6 HR's and 39 RBI's. That's a little better than last season and a little worse than the 2 seasons he had before that. Average. So, it stands to reason that he's about the worst starting first baseman in the league, right? Wrong, the following teams are doing much worse at the position:

The Oakland A's, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, San Fransisco Giants, Washington Nationals, and of course, the Kansas City Royals. Notice something these teams have in common? They all suck, except of course for the A's whom we all thought would suck and now that they're trading everybody away, will probably suck. Ladies and Gentleman, to win, you must have a first baseman that can hit. Now, most teams, besides these 7, all have one so you need much more than just that, but you gotta have it. And we don't. Or do we?

Ryan Shealy in AAA Omaha is hitting .296 with 15 HR's and 44 RBI. Mike Stodolka is on the same team and hitting pretty well but needs a lot more playing time. Kila Kaaihue is in AA Northwest Arkansas and is hitting, get ready for this, .305 with 25 HR's and 71 RBI! What? Oh, we have no idea what these guys' numbers will translate to MLB as being, but we're pretty sure we know what we're going to get with Gload. He's a perfectly acceptable BACKUP 1B at the major league level. It's time to give someone a chance to prove that they can be a solid starting 1B at the major league level. Just a chance, that's all I'm asking for.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


The other day, a not so old friend of mine criticized my "sportsandstuff" title of this blog when I gave her the address, sarcastically inquiring, "how did you come up with such a clever title?" Clever? Well, admittedly, not exactly. Perhaps even a bit hasty, but given that I really wanted to just move on with it instead of struggling for hours, trying to come up with "clever," I hope you can understand. Plus, as I told her at the time, I really like the word "stuff." If you think about it, it's one of few words that are all inclusive, yet not at all wordy. But now I'm all self-conscious about it and kind of wish I hadn't acted so hastily in naming this thing. Plus, she's adorable; that doesn't help. Anyway, I fear that it's too late to change now, so I'll have to move on with it and tonight I have a few subjects on my mind. So...some stuff:

-I was both right and wrong about the HR derby. You might have noticed that I accurately picked Justin Morneau to win the thing, but if you noticed that much, then you might have also noticed that the Canadian didn't exactly steal the show. Josh Hamilton and his sidekick 71 year old perfect strike thrower did. Man. I don't know where to start with that performance.

Well first off, props to Mr. Hamilton. Prior to this, knowing very little about the man and thus being foolishly judgemental, he was to me nothing more than that crackhead playing ball in Texas. Not that he did or ever will even know who I am, but I now feel terribly bad about myself for this. I believe very strongly in redemption stories and he very clearly is one of those. I am now and forever that he remains clean, a Josh Hamilton fan. I don't really care if he only has 95 RBI for the rest of his career (that's how many he has already this season!), the man's accomplishments far exceed what those statistics that I and all other hardcore baseball fans labor over can ever possibly illustrate.

And the old dude? He was the best part. I kept thinking, this guy could be dying out there throwing all those pitches, but there's no way that he'll even consider relinquishing this opportunity to keep throwing perfect HR balls to his old friend, Josh Hamilton on baseball's greatest stage, Yankee's stadium, at the derby the night before the all star game, in the last year of the cathedral's playing existence. And he never did. Amazing.

So I guess given the captivating nature of Monday night, I also have to admit to being wrong about the entertainment value of the event in general. Oh, not really though. It still sucks. It sucked before, it sucked again as soon as Hamilton's incredible first round display was finished, it will suck again next year, and it will suck forever after. But Kyle Burkett is a Josh Hamilton fan. Write that down.

-I don't care to hear anything else about Brett Favre.

-The all star game was also a good time, but one has to feel bad for Dan Uggla. 3 errors, 3 strikeouts, and grounding in to a key double play with the potential winning run on third, what a traumatizing performance for the poor guy! I hope that someday he can win a World Series MVP or something to get this one wiped off the back of his baseball card. He is on the right team for that, the Marlins are the only team that ever seems to be able to roll with the American League on the grandest of stages (excepting that fluky Cardinals team that was, by the way, the worst team to ever win a World's Series). I do, of course, have some theories about all this AL domination and the Florida Marlins occasional outbursts but I think I'll save that for a later date.

I was really, really, really hoping to see Soria and when we did, I wasn't disappointed. His performance was no perfect script, but it was thoroughly enjoyable all the same. It also won't be long before I dedicate an entire post to that guy. Of course his best pitch of the night came against, naturally, Uggla. Bitter-sweet.

-Did you hear that Billy Packer retired from the Tourney this week? So long, fella. Billy has been over the years, for whatever reason, a strongly disliked figure in many circles. But doesn't it seem, and perhaps I'm wrong about this, that Kansas fans seemed to hate the man more than other fans did? Ironic then, if that's the case, that the last tournament game of Billy's broadcasting career will go down in history as being Mario's Miracle. To tell you the truth, I can't remember why I ever really started disliking the guy in the first place. I'm sure it had something to do with his general smugness or his mistaking his own opinions for absolute fact, but really, I can't cite any specific instances. And maybe that coupled with his voice, to me, becoming synonymous with my favorite event, is why in the end, the guy had actually started to grow on me.

-Finally, and currently most pressing on my mind, some of us lost a great friend this week. I for one will always remember the poker night declaration, "I got the deuces!" with the biggest of smiles. Scotty P, on behalf of all of us that knew you, you were one of a kind brother, and you are already greatly missed.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Home Run Derby

It's here! Are you excited? Have you decided where you're going to watch it yet? Are you going to put on your Dan Uggla jersey, call up all your friends, by yourself a sixer of your favorite suds and sit down to some of that killer cheese dip tomorrow night at 7 central to listen to Chris Berman chatter Back, Back, Back, Back, Back for 3 hours? No, sadly, I'm probably not going to watch it either. But just in case I change my mind, or really can't find anything better to do and you find yourself somehow drawn to it as well, here's the cast for Monday night's MLB version of the slam dunk contest:

Lance Berkman
Ryan Braun
Josh Hamilton
Evan Longoria
Justin Morneau
Grady Sizemore
Dan Uggla
Chase Utley

Don't get too excited. I mean, I'm pretty sure that no more than 1 of those players has, you know, been addicted to crack, and there's a nice mix of young, like real young talent in there, but try if you can to remain calm. Instead, look over that list again. Notice something missing? Yankee's stadium...last season there...Ahhh, got it, where's A-Rod?

Well, here's a theory for you. It seems that A-Rod has recently been mistaken for Brad Pitt. For years now, we have been unnecessarily exposed to every twist, every turn of little Bradly's love life. Yes, the women he encounters are extraordinarily hot and almost every bit as recognisable in the entertainment world as he is. But here's the thing, the rub I suppose for those of you that are truly into this kind of gossip. Not all of us care. And do you know where those of us that don't care turn to when we no longer want to be smothered by this senseless crap? That's right, sports.

No longer. The tabloids have now officially infected our sanctuary. A-Rod is getting a divorce, and Madonna this, and Lenny that, and yeah, yeah, yeah, WE DON'T CARE!!! And now we have nowhere to turn to. And A-Rod, being the sports guy that he is, definitely doesn't know how to assess all the attention. And so he steps out of the spotlight. Are you really surprised? Well I'm not. Oh, he'll claim that the derby sets his swing back weeks and this and that, but really, don't you think he just wants to take a step back for a minute? Frankly, I don't blame him. Divorce, by most accounts, is already unpleasant enough without having to answer to the entire baseball watching world about it. Please just stop. Enough. Let us have our game back.

So, baseball has the home run derby, and basketball the slam dunk contest, but what's football's equivalent? Wouldn't it be cool if there was an NFL sack derby? You following me? We could get the best linebackers and pass rushing linemen in the game and grade them by how well they light up some dude. Even better if "some dude" happened to be the game's worse off the field offenders like Pacman or Mike Vick. Or even if it were on a volunteer basis, I guarantee there would be some takers. Sign up here to get your clock cleaned by Ray Lewis at the NFL sack derby on ESPN! There are a lot of idiots in this country that would do just about anything for a little TV time. Worse case scenario, you know that the Jackass guys would be all over it.

Anyway, not that I'll be watching, but tomorrow night, my pick to win: Morneau. What's that? Oh fine, you're right, I'll probably be watching.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


So the other day, some friends and I were talking about this little sport:

Now, I like fishing. Bass fishing. Deep sea fishing. Fly fishing. It's one of my favorite outdoor activities. And I even enjoy from time to time, catching a catfish. Oh, it's not my favorite, getting the hook out can be a nuisance and as an entree the flavor is, well, let's just say that I usually catch and release anyway but with this particular fresh water dump-truck, I really like the catch and release policy. They do put up a good fight though, and on a day where you're pulling nothing but bluegill out of their natural habitat, hooking one of these beasts can be a rather exciting change of pace. Hooking one. With bait on a hook, attached by way of fishing line to a rod and a reel. You can even use a bobber to indicate bait/hook activity.

Perhaps I'm a sissy though. I think the fellas in the video might think so. Yes, I'm pretty sure of that actually; they seemed pretty free about dropping the sissy bomb and I think I would have that one coming. It just seems, I don't know, unpleasant. And given the rod/reel/line/hook/bait technology, a little unnecessary. Yet, there is one undeniable truth about myself or my friends (to my knowledge or memory of our conversations on the subject), none of us have actually tried noodling, never even seen it done before.

Now let's be clear about something, the don't knock it until you've tried it thing is a bogus line. Some things need to be left alone, never tried by anyone. I don't want to go into too much detail on this subject, but let me give you an example: heroin. OK? Can we agree? Don't try everything? That said, I'm not sure noodling qualifies for this category. Granted, I've always been much more inclined to participate in random outdoor sports than I am drug-experimentation, but I don't think it would be too hard to justify my preferences. So, let's say for the sake of argument that, I and perhaps some of my more adventurous friends, decided to give this noodling thing a try. I'd like some questions answered first.

Where would we go? Mississippi? Oklahoma? We'd need a guide, someone that knows what they're doing. I mean, we're not exactly going to just tromp on into a random river or farm pond and just start feeling around for catfish holes. Would I Google "noodling tours" or "grabbing guides?"

Next, can we try using alternative methods first? Maybe the fish would like to eat something besides my hand. I guess the point of noodling very well might be just to be noodling, but to me it seems more like a tactic to be used after all others have been exhausted. It could go something like this, "Well, I guess the fishing pole thing isn't working today. We're going to have to noodle it." OK then, catfish master, then I guess that's what we're going to have to do. Just don't call me a sissy.

And who pioneered this concept? Is there a Naismith, a Doubleday of noodling? And how did they come up with it and why? I'd bet it was to impress girls. Did that work back then? Does it work now? I'm definitely in if it does.

And most importantly, why is it illegal in so many states? Is it dangerous? Do people really actually lose fingers sometimes? Or more often drown, I guess. But that's nonsense if this is the case. Rock climbing is dangerous. Racing cars is dangerous. Why would we single out the noodlers? More than likely I think it probably has more to do with the fish themselves. But catfish aren't exactly endangered are they? Is the tactic considered unfair? Couldn't be anymore unfair than say, I don't know, firing a shotgun at something! Is this a PETA thing?

Anyway, before participation, I'd like some of this cleared up. Even then I'm hesitant, but then I wouldn't want to be called a sissy, so you know if the opportunity arises, what the hell? If it does though, I'm not going alone on this one. Noodling anyone? Sissy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Greek Tragedy

I very much liked Vin Scully's comparison of Baseball to Greek tragedy. At first, I enjoyed it as the kind of nostalgic glee that only a true baseball fan can experience. But after further consideration, it occurs to me how much the comparison hits a Royals fan.

Did you ever notice that every Greek tragedy seems to be a lesson of sorts of what not to do? Oedipus: don't kill pops and shack up with mom. Medea: don't kill the kids now. And from another perspective, don't bring home some strange chick from a foreign land, marry her, and then promptly leave her for a wife that best fits your family's desires based on social prominence that she (the first wife) has no awareness of or affiliation with; she'll kill the kids dude.

It seems that the last 20+ years of Royals baseball have been a constant lesson of what not to do, doesn't it? I mean, fill in your example of choice here _______ (just please spare me the words: BELTRAN or DAMON, unless you're talking about value in return). We're one constant predicament after another, and every turn demonstrates a tragedy to learn from, so many that we're left a little confused of exactly what we're learning at all: wait...offer money to...the nice guy...Mike Sweeney or... the disruptive Jose Guillen? I can't remember...nobody likes...either one...and neither player seems to work out in any one's least not that guy's...but then he didn't like either player...and wait, does that player hurt the team when he's playing hurt...or by saying hurtful things about them...or is it worse to always be hurt...what should I do...what should I think? On that one, at least for now, I'll stick with Guillen.

And our most recent example of lessons taught by our Greek tragedies at the K: don't bunt with Billy Butler. Actually, don't draft Billy Butler altogether. It's almost like Billy Butler is that wife we brought in from some foreign baseball universe, where slow doesn't matter, defense matters even less, and hitting is at a premium, but certainly not hitting for power. Nobody saw that pick coming because nobody would know what to do with a player like that. And if we sought to trade him today, I doubt we'd get much value for him because I doubt anyone would know what to do with him now. He's clearly got some upside just like that exotic woman from another world, but at what expense? He's killing the kids dude.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Introduction or lack there of

This is my first blog. Anybody that reads this likely needs no introduction because you are among an initial short few whom I opted to alert to it's very existence. I guess it's possible that even I could grow a readership that expands beyond my immediate circle of friends, but that kind of development is unexpected and would likely take the amount of time and posts that would render this first entry obsolete, so why worry about a full-fledged documentation of my life, likes, dislikes, health report, etc.?

What you can expect are a lot of thoughts on sports, mostly local (but certainly not exclusively), and regrettably for you the reader, my thoughts on just about anything else that somehow has the unique qualities enough to generate the often misguided assessment of yours truly. I like the idea of blog, have for some time now. The bottom line is that sometimes the worst part of maintaining relations with others is having to actually listen to everything they have to say. Some people have the unique ability to almost always be interesting, or funny, but not everyone and not anyone from the perspective of everyone. Through this venue, paying attention is optional. A choice is made. I like that.

Anyway, not much to say for my first post, just wanted to get it started. I did watch a perfect game through 7 tonight, which was fun while it lasted. Hiroki Kuroda was on the mound for the Dodgers and managed to turn away 21 batters before Mark Teixiera broke him up in the 8th. But more important to me wasn't who was pitching or who got the first hit, but rather, that Vin Scully was calling the game. Now, I'm well aware that the baseball package on cable is not exactly a majority purchase. That said, it's unfortunate that not everyone can enjoy his broadcasts because the man makes my favorite game even better and that's hard to do (Of course I feel the same about Matthews and Lefebvre). Anyway, tonight Kuroda fell just short of perfect, but Vin Scully sure didn't. It was fun to watch. Scully has a number of quotes that you can look up if you're interested, but for now I'll leave you with one that I found:

"Football is to baseball as blackjack is to bridge. One is the quick jolt. The other the deliberate, slow-paced game of skill, but never was a sport more ideally suited to television than baseball. It's all there in front of you. It's theatre, really. The star is the spotlight on the mound, the supporting cast fanned out around him, the mathematical precision of the game moving with the kind of inevitability of Greek tragedy. With the Greek chorus in the bleachers!" Source: Los Angeles Times (June 20, 1976)