Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Quiet Winter

The Hot Stove has been cool so far this offseason. The Royals have made a couple of insignificant signings, but that's been about it.

So, to bide my time, I'm watching baseball movies. Last night, I watched that classic baseball flick starring none other than Kevin Costner.

No, not "Bull Durham." Not even "Field of Dreams."

I watched "For Love of the Game."

In this movie, Costner plays Billy Chapel, an aging pitcher who pitched his entire Hall of Fame career with the Tigers. He's pitching his last game of the season in Yankee Stadium, and faces a miriad of issues in his personal life as he pitches. His long-time on and off girlfriend Jane (Kelly Preston) is leaving for London, and the team has been sold to new owners who want to trade him.

As he pitches, we flash back to his relationship with Jane - how it started, how they grew closer, then fell apart, then back together. These thoughts and memories are presented as things that Billy is thinking of between innings. So, in the top of the innings, we get flashbacks and in the bottom of the innings we see Billy pitching, and pitching well.

Eventually, we reach the ninth. Billy suddenly decides his fate (spoiler: he decides to retire), and determines that he wants to reconcile with Jane. Then, (another spoiler) he completes a perfect game.

Here's my review in a word - bluh. The movie was awful. It dragged on and on (nearly 2 and half hours long). The flashing back and forth never let me really become connected to the characters. The baseball sequences were well done and looked authentic, but it was obvious Costner wasn't a real pitcher (couldn't they afford a pitching coach to help him at least look like he was really pitching?). Vin Sculley and Steve Lyons were the TV commentators, and their performance felt real. However, this by far, is Costner's worst ever baseball movie. Stay away from this one...

Friday, November 19, 2004

You're Missin' a Great Game

I just finished reading Whitey Herzog's "You're Missin' a Great Game." A good book full of anecdotes and rants. Whitey describes some of his most memorable moments as a player, manager and GM and puts those experiences in the context of how to make baseball better.

Whitey lost a couple of heartbreaking World Series as manager of the Cardinals, and his bitterness from those losses still resonates in his writing.

After seeing the Royals come back to win the '85 Series after umpire Don Denkinger's bad call, Whitey now advocates limited instant replay in baseball.

But the White Rat's most off-the-wall idea is the product of his loss to the Minnesota Twins in the '87 World Series. Whitey believes that making teams go into ballparks like the Metrodome and Fenway is unfair. He doesn't think something as important as the World Series should be affected by varying ballparks. He felt it was extremely unfair to have to go play at the Metrodome in '87, and is bitter that his team lost every game in that ballpark. So his solution? Build a nuetral site park in Nashville. This ballpark will be used for the World Series. All seven games will be played there. Since there would be no travel days, teams would be forced to use their entire pitching staff, as opposed to using their top 2 or 3 pitchers over and over.

It's an interesting idea, but it will never fly. Besides, would Whitey have hatched this idea if he had been the manager of the Twins in '87?

Overall, a quick ready and a fun book. Whitey does have some good ideas for baseball (the nuetral site World Series isn't one of them). He advocates fixing the DH rule. Either have it or don't - don't have different rules for the two leagues. The book is a little dated, as some of his suggestions have already been implemented (like banishing NL and AL umpires and having them work both leagues). But I found the easy going, conversational tone of the book very enjoyable.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Hot Stove Heating Up

Today, the Tigers signed Troy Percival to a 2 year contract. This, after the Tigers had already picked up the option on Ugueth Urbina. So the Tigers now have two closers.

I'd love to see the Royals go after Urbina. I felt they should have tried to sign him last year. The Royals seem determined to make Affeldt the closer, but I still think he could be an effective starter, or even set up man. (Just let him strike batters out!).

In my dream world, Mike MacDougal returns to his early 2003 form where he made hitters like Bonds, Pujols, and Frank Thomas look silly. MacDougal is the prototypical closer in my mind. He's lanky and goofy, he throws upwards of 100 MPH, and his hat falls off when he pitches. A perfect character for the closing job.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Winning Percentage

The Royals had their worst season ever in 2004. They finished the season 58-104, a .358 winning percentage. Everybody agrees it was a truly awful season.

But what if we compare that to the Chiefs, who were chosen by many to be a Super Bowl team this season. After their loss to the Saints yesterday, the Chiefs stand at 3-6, a .333 winning percentage.

After suffering through the Royals' season, nobody would have ever guessed they would have a higher winning percentage than the Chiefs. There must be something bad in the water here in KC.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Royals Moves

The Royals began their off-season moves today. They traded the human batting tee, Darrell May and Ryan Bukvich to acquire Terrence Long and Dennis Tankersly.

This is one of those situations where Royals fans would say "They traded May? Great! Who'd they get?" May pitched well enough to earn Royals Pitcher of the Year honors last season, but along with the rest of the team, struggled in 2004.

May didn't endear himself to the fans when he pointed fingers to his teammates when asked about his struggles. May finished the season 9-19 with a 5.61 ERA. The 38 HR's he gave up were a team record. May's struggles and perceived bad attitude left him the primary scapegoat in this season's disaster.

In return, the Royals picked up Terrence Long, a one-time promising outfielder, and Dennis Tankersly, a right handed pitcher who will probably work long relief, but could compete for a starting job.

Long was once a highly regarded player when he was with the A's. His complaints about A's manager Ken Macha led to his trade to San Diego. For the Padres in 2004, he hit .295 with 3 homeruns and 28 RBI's. He's not a patient hitter, striking out 51 times while walking only 19.

Long will probably compete with Abraham Nunez for the right fielder's position, and the Royals will continue to look for a left fielder with power.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Pitcher and Player of the Year

The Royals today announced the winners of the Les Milgram (Player of the Year) award and the Bruce Rice (Pitcher of the Year) award. The awards are voted on by the Kansas City chapter of the Baseball Writers of America.

For the first time ever, both awards were given to rookies. Not surprisingly, the Pitcher of the Year went to Zack Greinke. Grienke was called up in May to help the Royals' decimated staff. He went on to impress all with his control and uncanny ability to change speeds. He threw everything from a 92 MPH fast ball to a 50 MPH eephus pitch. He also annoyed a few batters by quick pitching them.

Greinke ended the season 8-11 with a 3.97 ERA, the best among the starters. He was hurt early with a lack of run support, but finished the season 6-3 in his last 12 starts.

In a surprise vote (for me at least), the Player of the Year award went to David DeJesus. DeJesus was called up early in the season when Aaron Guiel was suffering from vision problems. Playing alongside Carlos Beltran in left field, DeJesus had a terrible stint in KC, going 1-23 (.043).

He returned to Omaha to get back on track, and returned to KC for good on June 24, after the Royals dealt Beltran to the Astros. Since returning, DeJesus batted .303 and ended the season with a 15 game hitting streak. Following Beltran in center isn’t easy, but DeJesus held his own defensively.

It is telling that neither winner was on the roster on Opening Day. If you had to guess who the Player of the Year would be when the season started, I’m sure Juan Gonzalez or Mike Sweeney or even Carlos Beltran would have come to mind. As for pitchers, I think everybody was expecting big things from Jeremy Affeldt or Brian Anderson.

The good news is that both Greinke and DeJesus will be back in 2005 and neither will be a far-too-expensive free agent for several years. We fans in KC will get to enjoy them for a while at least.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

"Oh George, not the livestock"

I happened to catch one of my favorite movies on TBS the other night. O Brother, Where Art Thou?, released in 2000, was written and directed by the Coen brothers (Ethan and Joel).

O Brother is loosely based on Homer's Odyssey. The movie takes place in depression era Mississippi and recounts the travels of three escapted convicts and they seek treasure.

Extremely well written, the movie is a treasure-trove of memorable quotes. Another treat is the bluegrass music contained in the soundtrack, which won 5 Grammy's.

I'll watch the DVD tonight as a nice diversion from the election news.