To take the mood of camp one step further, Trey Hillman, yesterday, said he wants to focus on fundemental baseball this year, starting now in Spring Training. To every fan of the game, this translates to small ball. Every team in the Majors can hit home runs, or clear the bases off a solid triple hit to the corner in right feild, providing 3 RBI’s. It’s the teams that have a relatively high OBP, creatively move those guys around the bases, and manufacture runs, that are typically left in October.
As a baseball purist, I cannot think of anything else I would rather hear from our skipper. This simple attitude change is a much welcome manipulation of the reality that the Royals face. They are playing in, without question, the best division in baseball this year. The only logical way to approach the teams that are our divisional rivals, is to come up with a gameplan and mindset different from that of previous years (where they have found themselves fighting to stay out of the basement). Manufacturing runs, first of all, deals primarily with the team’s OBP. In order to move them around the bases they must first be on base. Simple concept, really, relying then on fundemental mechanics to bunt, and/or hit, and/or hit and run, and/or steal your player around the bases, creating scoring oppurtunities that have escaped the Royals in years past.
I will be the first to admit that it may look a little different this year on the base paths. Players are going to be moving a lot more than we are used to seeing. With that comes silly looking outs and brain-dead base running that might be seen on ESPN’s “NOT TOP 10.” But that is ok! It is going to take some time to get used to this way of playing baseball. A “hit and run” may have been signed in from the dugout, misinterupted, and one guy is swinging, and the other is NOT running. Normally, in the American League, we have the DH. That usually dictates disregarding the concepts of small ball, and rely more on the long ball. Admittedly this makes for a more exciting offensive game, with more runs scored, but it does not neccessarily make for a better baseball game. This answer would vary according to who you asked, purists or sensationalists. Thus the continuing debate over “DH or no DH.” I will leave this decision up to you. Got DH?
It looks like De La Rosa is going to get the nod to start the first Spring Training game of this 2008 Season, switching with Tomko, who will now pitch the game Thursday. The Royals skipper, Trey Hillman, said that it just worked out better this way. In my humble opinion, this just shows that De La Rosa is getting first chance at winning the 5th slot in the rotation. This also tells me that the 4th slot is Tomkos to lose. If De La Rosa pitches well in the 2 innings they have slotted for him on Wednesday, he would take giant steps toward completing the 5 man rotation behind 1. Gil Meche, 2. Zack Greinke, 3. Brian Bannister and assuming 4. Brett Tomko. This is an exciting list to see. There is a lot of quiet talent here, with at least 3 of these guys ready to make a mark in the majors.
Plenty of other pitchers are now left to compete for spot #5, in the rotation, and most likely a spot in the bullpen, middle relief, and situational set-up men. Any way you look at it, the number of spots available is much less than the number of men looking to fill them, so there will be some ball players getting cut this spring training (as happens every year). This is where we, as fans, put our faith and trust in the front office, coaching staff, and scouts to make the right decisions to make “us” more competitive this season.
Remember…this could be the year that the Royals shock the world! At this time of the season anything is possible. Anything can happen. The last few years, alone, prove that every team (provided they are not a Yankee or a Red Sock, who seem to be automatic) is just as likely to be there in late September through October as the next.
We can only trust, hope, and dream. That’s all we’ve got folks. Put on your Royals caps, shirts, warm-ups, jerseys, and the “we’re #1” finger and prepare for the 2008 season. Leave the tough decisions to the worthy professionals, and enjoy the season for what it is…the year the Royals turned it all around.
Who’s with me? “One…Two…Three…GO ROYALS!”
I know that is early in the season. Heck the season hasn’t even started yet, and everyone is talking about the “what-if’s.” There is a buzz in the air at spring training. Who will emerge as the next Rockies from last year, or the Tigers a couple years before that, or the Marlins when they won it all. Could it be the Royals year? Many scouts are talking about the pitching staff, along with the youth on this team. Here is a list of the pitchers that, according to the scouts at spring training, will most likely win 15 games +: Bannister, Greinke, and Tomko. That’s right Tomko. An off season signing that left some (including myself) scratching their heads. Not at the signing, but at the money. With a high 4 — low 5 ERA, hopefully he will pan out. The relief pitching also has the ability to have a great year. With the likes of Joakim Soria waiting to make his stamp in the majors, the bullpen may be one of the best in the American League
The youth has a big impact on the success or failure of the season. With a player like Sweeney now playing elsewhere, it will be interesting to see who will emerge from the pile, and lead this team, on and off the feild. Players like Mark Teahen, Alex Gordon, or Billy Butler could all have outstanding years, and are all candidates to be the future of this franchise. It is there for the taking, are the Royals ready to be “that team” this year?
The one question being asked by most at spring training is where Teahen will play this year. Notice that they are not asking IF he will play, instead WHERE? Mark Teahen is one of the more versatile players you are going to find in the league. Last year he was switched from third base to right field. No complaints. This year, with the addition of Jose Guillen, he is being asked to move from right field to left field (with some first base in there for good measure). No problem. He is just happy to be part of the team. Last year’s experience in right field, however, probably makes him the leading candidate for filling in for Jose Guillen, who will start the season on the bench, serving a 15 day suspension by Major League Baseball for violating the league’s substance policy.
Nonetheless, look for Teahen to make a huge difference in the Royals versatility this season, as he racks up 2 more positions that he can at least slide into if the club needs him. His ability to learn fast benefits everyone involved also. He had 17 assists last year from right field, tying a club record, last year, and that number was good enough for second overall in the American League. With Teahen’s ability to pick up on the fundamentals of each new position, it leaves time to practice the other half of baseball that matters. Hitting. He went into a slump, of sorts, last year, as he was trying too hard to be the hero and hit every ball out of the park. This reflected in his numbers dramatically. His approach this year to hitting, so far, has been to concentrate more on solid contact, and let the home runs come as a result, instead of the other way around. A little “cart before the horse” mistake that obviously is getting addressed and fixed through maturity, and gaining a veteran statis.
Mark Teahen understands what is ahead of him, and understands the importance of finding those answers. With the level of versatility that he brings to the ball club, and his incredible work ethic, he is going to be an asset to this franchise for years to come. Hopefully this is the year that he breaks out of his shell behind the plate, and settles into a position that suits his style of defensive play, and a place where he can make a large impact on this club.
It was great to hear Jose Guillen strolled into camp with nothing but smiles on his face. I would be smiling too if I got to start another major league baseball season after being given $500,000 by my formal club…for nothing. Where I come from that is called “winning the lottery.” If your beef with baseball stems from salary, well, here you go. More fuel for your fire. Seattle decided not to take any risks, and activated the buyout, even though Guillen made it very clear that he would not exercise the option to remain a Mariner, and enter free agency.
Well, what do “normal” people do when they win the lottery? Buy things. Expensive things. Homes, cars, and awesome toys. Guillen is no different. After a public “thank you” to the Mariner’s General Manager, Bill Bavasi, expressing his content for being given $500,000 for nothing, he expressed his interest in nice cars. When recently asked about his money spending decisions, Guillen said that it is going to be held a secret for a couple more weeks, until it is delivered. He also added that it was going to impress. So we will have to wait and see if it lives up to its hype. I must admit, I don’t have people handing me large sums of money for nothing. You must really be “somebody” (a high roller, if you will) when someone will give you $500,000 just in case you want to talk with them, even though you have made it crystal clear that you don’t.
“Mr. Guillen, sir, here is $500,000 to NOT talk to us. Thank You, Mr. Guillen…Sir….(long awkward pause)… ..anything else then Mr. Guillen, Sir?” Wow.
Ahhh…the big leagues. Nothing else like it on Planet Earth. Nothing.
Oh boy! That stain is not coming out. And on my new pair of writing pants.
As I was enjoying my annual Ball Park Frank hot dog and ice cold Budweiser at home to celebrate the beginning of another spring training and baseball season, reading up on this mornings arrivals to camp, and the smell in the air (www.kansascity.com/sports/royals), I was shocked to see that Gil Meche, our 55 million dollar ace pitcher, starting his second season under his new contract of 5 years, gets it! It took me by surprise that a leading story for the beginning of spring training, is that Gil Meche understands that by making more money the expectations layed on him are different and higher then before he signed the blockbuster deal. People expect more from him then before. Surely more than a 9-13 record from last year. Granted his catagorical numbers were very good, and many of them were career highs, but that does not put a “W” in the column to fans (who, by the way, work hard to take their families to the ballpark and see a Royals victory).
It correctly puts the entire Kansas City Royals organization on the map, and into perspective. Instead of frontpage breaking news stories covering the sports section dealing with huge signings, contract negotiations, front office politics, and of course late breaking coverage from Washington D.C., we are discussing the increased expectations of one of our finest, after throwing a ton of money his way.
By no means am I trying to be negative here, and to prove this I am going to point out a couple of positives that come from these current developments. First, even being note worthy proves that this organization is out of the national spotlight, and for right now, no news is good news. Second, it also lets us know, at least for the last few years, that there is not much to talk about(other than how to get a mustard stain off of a good pair of writing pants). However, here comes the positives, this also tells us that there is nowhere to go but up. Now that is exciting. Better is always better, never worse. Unless you are a nice pair of writing pants, with a huge “stylish” mustard stain on the leg, being worn by a color blind, style emergency candidate. Not cool, dude, not cool.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, will be the first full day of workouts for the entire team (all 63 players showing up for spring training). However, according to the Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton, seven players have already signed their fate for the 2008 Season, with the Kansas City Royals:
Catcher Matt Tupman, first baseman/outfielder Justin Huber, third baseman Mario Lisson, outfielder Mitch Maier, and pitchers Tyler Lumsden, Neal Musser and Julio Pimentel, all have signed a one year deal with the club for most likely around the major league minimum (which went up starting this year to $390,000). All of these players have less then 3 years major league experience, and seems to be fitting the mold that the Royals like toward their future.
This spring training marks the start of another year, where any team can be “the team” of 2008. A team that comes out of nowhere and shocks the league, or the perennial champs that do what everyone thought they would, and run away with it early. The excitement is hardly containable as tomorrow marks the first day that the entire team is scheduled to be together.
Showing early confident decisions from the management and staff is a positive sign for the direction this team wants to take for the 2008 season.
As the 2008 MLB Season officially starts tomorrow, with pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, the air will be different. Someone other than Mike Sweeney will be the first through the doors to spring training. Signing a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics, Mike Sweeney is now part of another team since he entered the league, and earned the role of “C”aptain, 13 years ago. He leaves the Kansas City Royals with 197 home runs, 837 RBI’s, just shy of 1400 Hits in 1282 Games.
Sounds pretty impressive until you hear about Mike Sweeney off the field. He and his wife, Shara, started the Mike and Shara Sweeney Family Foundation, concentrating on God’s love and reflecting that in their hearts, marriage, family and care for others. He has changed the lives of many with his overwhelming generosity, and support. Kansas City is a better place for having had Mike Sweeney as a member of the Royals, and the Royals are a better organization for having him as their teammate, and “C”aptain.
Thank you very much Mike for everything you did during your tenure in Kansas City, and being the captain for the Royals. I guarantee that you will be sorely missed, and never forgotten. On behalf of every fan of the Royals, we wish you the best in everything you do. Thank You.
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