Monday, December 19, 2005

Meet the new Royals

The Royals finally made a splash this off season, announcing the signing of four players on Friday:
• Doug Mientkiewicz, a light hitting but strong defensive first baseman who will presumably play first most of the season allowing Mike Sweeney to concentrate on DH’ing so he can stay in the lineup.
• Mark Grudzielanek, a second baseman with played with the Cardinals last season. Grudz will likely keep second warm until somebody like Ruben Gotay or Andres Blanco is ready to take over full time.
• Paul Bako, a veteran catcher who’s been around. He’ll provide solid veteran backup to John Buck.
• Scott Elarton, the prototypical “innings eater.”

While none of these four is stunning, it is somewhat encouraging to see the Royals try to stabilize their club with some veterans who have major league experience including post season experience. Also, revamping the infield with Grudz and Mink on the right side should help improve the pitching as the Royals sported the worst defense in the league last season.

These moves compliment the earlier acquisistion of Mark Redman, another innings eating lefty. The Royals’ rotation will include Redman and Elarton, veterans, along with Runelvys Hernandez, Zack Greinke, and another possible lefty in JP Howell or Jeremy Affeldt. (My contention is that Affeldt should have been in the rotation this entire time – but don’t get me started on that).

GM Allard Baird didn’t mention defense when he announced these signings, but it is pretty obvious that defense was a priority this off season. They are still working on signing a corner outfielder – likely Jacque Jones.

No, the Royals won’t content for the division title this year. The offense is still anemic at best. But what these move do is take some pressure off the kids as they continue their development. They likely won’t have to suffer through another 19 game losing streak this season, and can be comfortable in their development as they play near .500 ball, without the stress and pressure of losing at a record setting pace.

I’m looking forward to March when I can get my first look at this new Royals team when we travel to Arizona for our annual Spring Training Trek.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Stuff to Read

If you enjoy articles and esseys about baseball, especially related to statistical analysis of baseball, please take a look at Hardball Times.

I've been reading their web site for some time, and they just recently released their annual book. My buddy Dan Fox contributed a couple of articles for the book, so that alone makes it worth it, in my opinion. I've always marvelled at Dan's writings. I'm they type who's always wondering about things, but he actually does the research and formulates an answer. I'm obiously much more lazy.

I'm also currently reading the book, "Mind Game," written by the guys at Baseball Prospectus. I've always enjoyed the BP guys (their annual book is a must have for my Spring Training trips), and this book takes a look at the 2004 Red Sox to analyze what Theo and the bunch did right to bring home the hardware. I'm about halfway through the book and am enjoying it very much. I recommend it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Free Agent Market

The off season is in full swing. Several clubs have made moves already.

The Mets signed Billy Wagner, the Blue Jays signed B.J. Ryan, The A’s signed Esteban Loaiza, the Cubs signed Bob Howry and Scott Eyre.

Of those players, I, like Rob & Rany, would like to have seen the Royals sign Loaiza. But instead, the Royals so far have signed Seth Etherton, and Adam Bernero. That’s not quite the splash Royals fans were expecting after hearing GM Allard Baird discuss how the Royals were ready to spend to improve the club.

Looking at the list of free agents available (see, there’s just not much out there. I’d hate to endure another 100 loss season, but I’m not sure any of these available players would make much of a difference. Perhaps Baird should save the money to sign their first draft pick next summer. After next season, perhaps the free agent market will be a little more appealing.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Will the Royals be able to fill their holes???

I was reading a Boston Globe column (“Diminishing Returns” by Brian McGrory, November 1, 2005) about the sudden departure of Theo Epstein. In the column, McCrory was discussing an email he received from Red Sox owner John Henry regarding the rebuilding of the team this off season:

''There is quite a shortage of talent available this year in the free agent market," he wrote. ''At the same time there are a lot of clubs who have significantly increased dollars to spend, some of that due to the expiration of expensive and often bad contracts and some of it due to the increased attendance in 2005. This is not a favorable combination when you are trying to fill holes.”

This doesn’t bode well for the Royals. If you hadn’t heard, Royals GM Allard Baird announced last summer that “Phase I” of the rebuilding plan had concluded, and he was moving into “Phase II.”

Phase II, he explained, involved making deals to fill holes to try to solidify a roster that the team plans to contend with in the future. The holes were identified by watching the Royals lose 106 games this year and evaluating where they needed help. (I’m curious if Baird found any areas where they didn’t need help.)

Baird’s comments lead the Royals fan to believe that the Royals will be active this off season trying to make trades and sign free agents. But the list of available free agents that might be a good fit is pretty slim this year. The Royals need starting pitching, a corner outfielder or two, a second baseman, and bench help. If the Red Sox are worried about finding talent this year, I’m sure the Royals are going to struggle mightily to bring players to Kansas City. I’m afraid it’s going to be more of the same in 2006 unless Baird can pull off some sort of miracle.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Stadium Debate

I've been trying to figure out how to express my feelings about how Kansas City has approached the idea of building a new baseball stadium downtown.

C.J. Janovy put it perfectly in his recent column in the Pitch. Read it here:

"DePodesta is an Idiot"

I was listening to the Home Plate channel on my XM MyFi radio while mowing the lawn Saturday. The host, Holden Kushner (who I believe was a Kansas City radio guy for a while), was soliciting calls regarding the rumored firing of Dodger’s GM Paul DePodesta (The rumor came true later in the weekend).

Most callers were Dodgers fans who were glad to see DePodesta go. I believe most Dodgers fans got a bad taste in their mouths when DePodesta traded fan favorite Paul LoDuca to the Marlins. From that point forward, DePodesta was probably running uphill and it would have taken a World Series title to win favor with the fans.

It’s unfortunate because DePodesta is still a very intelligent and promising baseball GM. One day he will get another chance and will probably make the Dodgers sorry for their impatience with him.

This story reminds me of when I was in Surprise, AZ for Royals Spring Training this past March. Several of us fans were waiting for Jose Lima to come over and sign autographs. Lima pitched for the Dodgers the previous year and had a great game in the playoffs pitching a complete game shutout against the Cardinals. Several of the fans waiting there were Dodgers fans who loved Lima. When Lima finally made his way over to sign autographs, one Dodgers fan was chatting with Lima about DePodesta letting Lima go. Lima’s comment was “DePodesta is an idiot.”

Lima went on to pitch terribly for the Royals in 2005 (5-16, 6.99 ERA). I guess DePodesta wasn’t such an idiot after all.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Downtown Baseball

There’s a lot of discussion in Kansas City these days about potentially building a new baseball stadium in the city’s downtown area. I for one would be excited to see a new ballpark go up, but I’m not as enthusiastic about it as some of the supporters I’ve been hearing and reading. However, I am getting irritated at the Kansas City Star which is printing overtly negative information about the proposal. Today’s column in the sports page by Jeffrey Flanagan was especially irritating to me, so I’ve rebutted his remarks below.

Here is Flanagan’s column in its entirety:

If the deep thinkers out there really believe a new baseball stadium will revive downtown and create jobs and lure Johnson Countians into the big city, more power to them. They may be right.

Just don’t even start with the argument that a downtown baseball stadium will somehow rescue the Royals and make them more competitive. It won’t.

If a downtown stadium indeed could pump $15 million or $20 million more into the Royals’ payroll, who would notice? George Steinbrenner? The rest of the big-market owners?

Be serious. They’d giggle.

If you haven’t noticed — and the guess here is that the Downtown Council members aren’t paying attention at all — the gap between the small markets and big markets in baseball is off the charts.

In 1994, the gap in payroll between the Royals and Yankees was $4 million. In 1998, the gap was $31 million. In 2002, the gap was $78 million. This season, the gap was a staggering $171 million.

See a trend, anyone?

But the Downtown Council thinks that by adding a downtown stadium by 2009 and by getting the Royals another $15 million or $20 million a year, the team can become more competitive.

Against whom? The Texas Longhorns?

By 2009, Steinbrenner and his big-market buddies will have created a gap that could exceed $300 million, luxury tax be darned.

Friends, we’re going about this all wrong. Trying to catch the Yankees’ payroll through new stadiums and suites and short-lived attendance spikes is futile. It’s like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with a bucket of sand.

To the big boys, their cable revenue trumps your stadium revenue every time.

All that these new stadiums in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee and Detroit have done is pump more wasted money into the players’ salary pool. (Believe me, the Players’ Association loves the idea of new ballparks.) Teams like the Tigers, with a new stadium, can afford to throw away money at Bobby Higginson ($8 million) and Troy Percival ($6 million). The same with the Reds and Eric Milton ($5.3 million).

But these teams aren’t any more competitive because even with shiny new ballparks, small-market teams can’t spend enough to consistently threaten the big boys.

True, any infusion of money into the payroll could help the Royals retain some present players, and there are occasional examples of low-payroll teams making noise in the playoffs.

But it’s not financially wise to invest in a monopolistic market when you’re not part of the monopoly.

Imagine if the Chiefs were in a similar plight as the Royals, and the Giants and Jets had $250 million payrolls to the Chiefs’ $100 million payroll. Wouldn’t fans in this town be screaming for the NFL to level its playing field before they spent one tax dollar on a new stadium?

Fix baseball’s economics, and then we can toss some money away at downtown baseball.

Now I will attempt to address his points:

“If a downtown stadium indeed could pump $15 million or $20 million more into the Royals’ payroll, who would notice? George Steinbrenner? The rest of the big-market owners?

Be serious. They’d giggle.

If you haven’t noticed — and the guess here is that the Downtown Council members aren’t paying attention at all — the gap between the small markets and big markets in baseball is off the charts.”

First, let me say that I agree that baseball’s economics needs fixing. But guess what, Jeffrey? They’re already being fixed. If you haven’t noticed – and the guess here is that you aren’t paying attention at all – your own baseball owner is leading the charge for leveling the baseball playing field. It’s a slow process that started with the last Collective Bargaining Agreement. In addition, the smaller market teams are becoming better at fielding more competitive teams even with their financial disadvantage. Have you noticed who three of the last four World Series Champions have been? You guessed it – supposed “small market” teams (Arizona Diamondbacks, Anaheim Angels, Florida Marlins). Your prototypical big-market team, the Yankees, hasn’t been to the World Series since 2001.

But the Downtown Council thinks that by adding a downtown stadium by 2009 and by getting the Royals another $15 million or $20 million a year, the team can become more competitive.

You don’t think and additional $15 or $20 million for payroll won’t make a difference? You ask if George Steinbrenner would even notice. Who cares if he notices? Add $20 million to the Royals’ 2005 payroll and you’re getting close to doubling it. Add $20 million to next year’s payroll and $50 million becomes $70 million. You don’t think that additional money would help bring ball players to Kansas City? I would bet that there is more than one veteran ball player who would love to be part of the resurgence of a team in a brand new facility.

Friends, we’re going about this all wrong. Trying to catch the Yankees’ payroll through new stadiums and suites and short-lived attendance spikes is futile. It’s like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with a bucket of sand.

Nobody’s trying to catch the Yankees’ payroll. Baseball is not a competition to see who can spend the most. Who cares how much the Yankees’ payroll is? All fans care about is the quality of the play on the field. The Twins, Angels, Indians, Marlins, A’s have all proven that it’s possible to field exciting, competitive teams regardless of the payroll.

All that these new stadiums in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee and Detroit have done is pump more wasted money into the players’ salary pool. (Believe me, the Players’ Association loves the idea of new ballparks.) Teams like the Tigers, with a new stadium, can afford to throw away money at Bobby Higginson ($8 million) and Troy Percival ($6 million). The same with the Reds and Eric Milton ($5.3 million).

But these teams aren’t any more competitive because even with shiny new ballparks, small-market teams can’t spend enough to consistently threaten the big boys.

Again, it’s not about who can spend the most. More important is how intelligently the money can be spent. Are you suggesting we should decide the fate or our community based on the fact that the Tigers and Reds made stupid decisions about signing players? Give me a break!

Imagine if the Chiefs were in a similar plight as the Royals, and the Giants and Jets had $250 million payrolls to the Chiefs’ $100 million payroll. Wouldn’t fans in this town be screaming for the NFL to level its playing field before they spent one tax dollar on a new stadium?

Fix baseball’s economics, and then we can toss some money away at downtown baseball.

The opponents always point at the NFL. Are you suggesting that the NFL has a level playing field? Then why is that three of the last four Super Bowls have been won by the same team? I think there’s potentially an argument that there is more parity in baseball than the NFL.

And why should a city wait around for baseball to determine what’s best for the city as a whole? Maybe we should figure out how to eliminate the lower class before we build any new schools.

The downtown stadium is not about baseball. It’s about the resurgence of downtown Kansas City. If you haven’t noticed, Mr. Flanagan, there is a lot of momentum building in revitalizing downtown. This resurgence is being fueled by visionary folks who didn’t wait around for somebody else to fix something. H&R Block had vision enough to invest in downtown. I didn’t hear anybody complaining that they didn’t renovate their existing headquarters. The voters of Kansas City had vision enough to say yes to a brand new arena downtown. Those two projects helped spur the development of the entertainment district. All of those developers and residents didn’t wait to invest in downtown living. All of those projects will bring many new businesses and much excitement to the area. Adding downtown baseball can only help build the resurgence. Those 40,000 people going downtown 81 times a year will want to eat, drink and shop.

I agree that renovating Kauffman will create a wonderful place for the Royals to play. Kauffman is a beautiful stadium and bringing it up to date is fine. But that does nothing for city as a whole. Why not at least explore the idea of redirecting that money in a way that does more than fix a stadium. It helps build the city as a whole.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Finally, it’s over…

The Royals finally concluded their worst ever season Sunday with a 7-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

After the game, they fired pitching coach Guy Hansen and bench coach Bob Schaefer, both moves that I agree with.

The pitching has been awful this year under Hansen. When he arrived, he tried to change the delivery of almost every pitcher on the staff. Brian Anderson ended up hurt and missed half the season. Scott Sullivan never pitched this year. He tried to change Zack Greinke’s delivery and Greinke had a terrible season. I remember early in the season when former Royals pitcher Mike Boddicker was doing the Royals pre game show on the radio. Boddicker was not shy about expressing his feelings about Hansen. He made it clear that he felt Hansen was not the right guy for this staff. He said that Hansen always feels like he has to change things, even if things are going alright. I was also annoyed by Hansen’s frequent trips to the mound.

Schaefer, to me, represented the Royals of the past five years: a bumbling, losing team that batted out of order and made a mockery of Major League Baseball. Maybe it’s unfair to characterize Schaefer that way, but… Well, we certainly do wish the best for Schaefer and Hansen.

The Royals also announced their intentions to release Terrence Long. Where’s the Lima announcement???

The Kansas City Star featured an article over the weekend that discussed Buddy Bell’s plan for starting over in 2006. Believe me, players, management and fans alike are all hoping for a fresh start this season. Only 126 days until pitchers and catchers report.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Positive News, for a change...

Just a quick note. The Royals finally reached terms with their draft pick, Alex Gordon. Gordon is a complete player who played third base for Nebraska and has an impact bat. He will head to the Arizona Fall League and hopefully will be in Omaha next season and in Kansas City in 2007.

The Royals also secured the first pick in next year’s draft with their awful season this year. Next year’s draft looks to be heavy on pitching, so hopefully the Royals will be able to strengthen their pitching staff. GM Allard Baird said today that ownership is committed to drafting the best player available, regardless of “signability.”

All in all, a good day for the Royals.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

2006 Royals

I was looking through the Royals 2006 tentative schedule and I noticed couple of peculiar things.

First of all, the Royals will play in several 2 game series next year. They open at home with a 2 game series against Detroit. They start May with a 2 game series at Detroit, and then another 2 game series at Minnesota.

In September, they will play another 2 game series at Cleveland, and later that month, host the Angels for 2 games.

I also noticed that the Royals will be going to Yankee Stadium twice next year early in the season and the Yankees will come to KC for a three game series in September.

So, as is the tradition when football schedules are released, I’ve gone through the schedule and predicted either a win or loss for each game. With that, I’m predicting that the Royals’ record in 2006 will be 128 – 34. Go Royals!

I Hate To Do This!!!

Classic Mustang Convertible For Sale

I don’t want to do it, but I’ve decided to put my 1966 Ford Mustang Convertible up for sale. This is a beautiful, classic car!

I bought the car about 7 or 8 years ago. The previous owner had put a rebuilt 302 V8 in it and that engine is still running great. The car was equipped with a 289 V8 out of the factory.

When I bought it, the car had a pretty well worn black interior. I checked the codes and found that out of the factory it had an aqua interior. I completely restored the interior about 4 years ago, returning it to its original aqua. I had a radio patch professionally installed and I installed an original AM radio. The interior was also professionally painted using a beautiful aqua clearcoat. It looks fabulous! All seats were stripped down to the frames and the new foam and upholstery installed. It has a new dash pad, new carpet, new guage cluster, new rear view mirror, new sun visors, new hardware. It's gorgeous!

The car runs and drives great. It always gets compliments! There are some rust spots just forming on the rear quarters and the paint is in good condition. There are a few scratches, but it cleans up nice and shines like new.

Underneath is RUST FREE and very solid.

It is a mechanically sound car that has never failed Missouri’s safety inspection. I’ve always had it licensed and ready to drive.

The top is fairly new and is in great condition. The power top works great.

It’s equipped with power steering and power brakes and an automatic transmission.

I’ve kept it garaged and only drive it on nice, sunny days. It always starts right up and runs great.

You can see more information at I documented the interior restoration at that web page, and you can see the transformation from the worn out black interior to the beautiful, aqua interior.

I will be taking new pictures of the car and posting them here soon.

Asking $22,000.

Email me at with questions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Akers Redux

Okay, so the Eagles got win Sunday against the Raiders. But the price for that win? It now looks like their kicker, David Akers, will be out for this week's game against the Chiefs and may miss up to six weeks.

Again, I ask... Why didn't they sign a kicker last week? And why did they continue to send him out there to make kicks further injuring his hamstring?

Drudge Bump

I’m at work listening to my Delphi MyFi. The great thing about this XM Satellite Radio receiver is that it can record content and listen to it later. I can’t get a satellite signal here at work, but I am listening to the Matt Drudge Show which I recorded Sunday night on XM 166 America Right.

I enjoy Drudge. He’s not really a very good radio personality, but he’s kinda fun to listen to. But he has the WORST bumper music ever in the history of radio.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

"704 and I Don't Care"

My friend Dan has written an excellent column about Barry Bonds and his pathetic rhetoric. I agree with Dan. I am sickened by Barry and the thought of his breaking the records of the great Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron. I appreciate greatness as much as anybody, but Bonds is simply a great ass.

Eagles win, screw their kicker

I watched today’s Eagles/Raiders game. As a Chiefs fan, I was rooting for an Eagles win, but things didn’t look good to start the game. Eagles kicker David Akers kicked off, and limped off the field with a bum hamstring. Unfortunately, the Eagles were off sides, so they had to rekick. Akers limped back on the field and tried to kick off again, and after kicking he fell to the ground in obviously a great deal of pain. But, the Eagles were off sides again! Off sides on a kickoff is the dumbest penalty in football, and the Eagles did it two times in a row, further injuring their kicker.

Akers couldn’t kick it a third time, so tight end Mike Bartrum had to kick off. Once the Eagles scored a touch down, linebacker Mark Simoneau tried the point after but kicked it off one of his lineman’s head.

So the Eagles knew they were playing without a kicker for the day. What I don’t understand is why, after their second touchdown, they didn’t go for two to try to make up the lost point from the earlier touchdown. Plus, Akers came back in to kick the extra point for that second touchdown. The guy could hardly walk, and they were making him kick these extra points, when they could get two points without risking further injury to their kicker.

Predictably, the game came was tied with time running out and the Eagles had the ball. Normally, you would play for a field goal to win, but the Eagles really needed to get in the end zone, knowing their kicker was hurt. The Eagles drove down to the six yard line with 9 seconds remaining. If I remember correctly, it was either second or third down. I believe there was enough time to take one shot at the end zone to end the game without using their kicker. Instead, Akers came onto the field to attempt a 23 yard field goal to win it. Give him credit: he sucked it up and made the kick and the Eagles sent the Raiders to an 0-3 start.

There’s one other thing that confuses me about the Eagles. Akers injured his hamstring last week, and Simoneau had to kick an extra point in last week’s game. That means that the Eagles knew their kicker was injured, and yet they didn’t attempt to sign another kicker for this week? I know there are plenty of kickers who are sitting out there and would be happy to play in the NFL for a week or two. The Chiefs have used temporary kickers several times over the last few years in situations just like this one. I admire Akers for playing through the pain, but at the same time he should be upset that his team did nothing to help his hamstring heal. I hope he hasn’t injured it for good, putting him out for several weeks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Great Baseball

My son Joey is playing on an all star team of sorts this fall. My friend, Bill put together a 12U team to let the kids get some playing time at different positions as a practice season. The team is made up of 2 or 3 kids from several different teams including a few from Joey’s regular team, the Northland Storm.

This team, the Hawks, is playing in a fall league and they had a double header last night. In the second inning of the first game with one runner on, Joey stepped up to the plate. The team they were facing is a younger team who is playing this fall to get some experience playing in their new age level. The pitcher was throwing fairly slow compared to the pitching that our boys are used to seeing. He threw a good pitch right over the plate, and Joey knocked it over the left field fence for a 2-run home run.

It was his first “out of the park” home run. He was grinning from ear to ear, of course. One of the coaches retrieved the ball, and it will soon grace our mantle. The Hawks went on to win the first game 15-0.

In the second game, they faced a team that Joey’s other team, the Storm, had lost to in a tournament a few weeks ago. It was a good game, and the Hawks were able to pull out a 16-6 victory.

All in all, a great night of baseball.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A Tragedy in the FoxPro World

I only spent a short time working at Visionpace and I never met Visionpace consultant Drew Speedie in person. But I quickly became aware of his talent as a FoxPro developer, author and speaker.

I just learned that Drew and his son Brent tragically died last Friday while on vacation at Yellowstone Park.

This is very sad news and I offer my sincerest condolences to Drew’s family and the entire Visionpace team.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My Mid-Life Crisis

I fulfilled my mid life crisis today. I took delivery of a 2003 BMW 325i.

I had never driven a BMW before, and had only been in one once in my life.

My wife and I have been considering getting new vehicles, and I decided that I wanted some kind of small, sporty sedan. My only requirement was that it had a stick shift, was fun to drive, and would lower our existing monthly payments. My wife’s requirement is an SUV-type of vehicle, or a van that drives like a car. We have a Mercury Moutaineer which is very nice, but she feels like she’s driving a big truck in it.

So I was browsing the used car inventories of various dealerships around town when I happened upon this BMW 325i at the Volvo dealer. I stopped by and took it for a test drive, and I was hooked. The BMW is the most amazing car to drive. The acceleration is unbelievable, the cornering is incredible. It’s just a blast.

So, I bought it.

It’s totally impractical. Rear wheel drive with summer tires? Yeah, I’ll regret that come January (though I did work out a deal for new all-seasons with the dealership). A much smaller car than what we had before? But… fun as hell!

UPDATE: Just added pictures of the car here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Happy Heckler

In July 2003, my wife and I visited some friends in Tampa, Florida. I try to hit the ballpark whenever I visit a new city, so we hopped in the car one evening and drove to St. Petersburg to see the Tampa Bay Devil Rays take on the Texas Rangers.

It was interesting from a Royals fan’s perspective because the Royals were actually in the race at the time and were considering a trade for Juan Gonzalez. Gonzalez was having a decent season for Texas in 2003 (24 HR’s, .294 in 327 AB’s).

Since the Devil Rays don’t necessarily fill the house, we were able to walk up a half hour before game time and buy tickets right behind home plate, about 3 rows up. The first thing I noticed when the game started was the heckler. He sat near the third base dugout and constantly heckled the Rangers. And in Tropicana Field with only a few folks inside, everybody could hear him clearly. When Gonzalez was up to bat, he heckled him about his rumored trade to the Royals. I thought it was pretty funny.

Of course, it was during that game that Gonzalez came up lame while running the bases, and he didn’t play anymore in 2003. The Royals finally did sign him in the off season and in 2004, he played in 33 games for the Royals before injuries ended his season. I should also point out that Cleveland signed Gonzalez in 2005 and he had all of one at bat before his hamstring ended his season.

When I watch on TV or listen on the radio to Royals games when they are at the Trop, I can always hear the heckler in the background.

Now, the heckler, (his real name is Robert Szasz) has written a book. “The Happy Heckler” is now out in paper back. I’m not sure if the book will be any good, but I’m sure I’ll pick up a copy. Just for the “heck” of it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Who's Responsible for this Mess?

Another dismal Royals season is grinding toward its end. Just like many years past, I’m finding it more and more difficult to care about the Royals. They currently stand at 44-93, 42.5 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central. With 25 games remaining, it’s a near certainty that the Royals will eclipse their worst ever record of 104 losses.

The Royals are finishing out the season as if it were an extended tryout. Several minor leaguers have been called up and manager Buddy Bell has mentioned several times that he would like to figure out which players have the “stuff” to eventually win.

Several moves will be made over the next few weeks and months in hopes of improving the club in 2006. However, some of those moves are questionable. The Royals have officially given up on Calvin Pickering, releasing him earlier this week. They also continue to insist that John Buck is the catcher of the future, even if he is the third worst offensive player in all of baseball. (It’s well documented that I’m no Paul Phillips fan, but in his limited playing time, he has shown much more promise than Buck).

On the positive side, I am encouraged by Buddy Bell. Unlike the previous manager, Bell is not afraid to speak his mind. I try to tune into the Royals broadcasts after each game to hear Bell’s comments. They are always straightforward and sometimes very entertaining. Here are some quotes I recall:

“It’s hard to watch”
“We need to find out who has the courage to play this game”
“Major league players should know those things, but we don’t”
“If this isn’t rock bottom, I hate to think what is”

Over the last few weeks, Bell has made it clear that he’s looking at not only playing ability but attitude and is ready to cut out those who he thinks are not ready to win.

After the last three “Camp Snoopy” training camps under Tony Pena, it will be interesting to see how Buddy Bell conducts spring training next February. Hopefully it will be more than a working vacation for these guys and they will have to work hard to prove they deserve to play Major League Baseball.

All of this brings me to my conclusion about the Royals organization. Sure they’ve been plagued by the lack of ownership, poor drafts, poor trades and bad luck. But the underlying issue here is the attitude of the club. For too long, the Royals have spouted the “small market” mantra. They’ve leaned on that crutch over the years as an excuse for their poor play. The players in turn have begun to take for granted their status as big leaguers. There has never been any real accountability for on-the-field success. No matter how poorly the team has played, no heads have ever rolled. Tony Muser was quite obviously a terrible manager, and yet GM Allard Baird retained him year after year, and finally fired him in May of 2002 when it was obvious to all that he should have been let go after the 2001 season to allow the new manager to start fresh.

The team stood by Tony Pena even when it became apparent that he had no business being a big league manager, and Allard Baird himself has never feared for his job in spite of his “Roscoe Crosby” drafts and “Neifi Perez” trades. The entire organization has become too comfortable with poor performances.

I’m hopeful that Buddy Bell will start to change that attitude next spring. I can only hope that his words ring true and players who are not willing to work hard to become winners will be let go or will be forced to squander in the minors until they are ready.

We can only hope…

Friday, August 26, 2005

Good Luck Update

The Royals are now 4-1 since I started wearing my KC Royals rubber wrist band.

Dream Job

My friend Dan has a dream job. Two years ago, he landed a job as a Stringer for He gets paid to watch baseball games and enter game information into a computer system for's GameDay system. He scored around 30 games at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City during the 2004 season.

Last winter, Dan and his family moved to Colorado where he was lucky enough to become a Stringer for the Rockies. His departure left a vacancy in Kansas City, and I promptly applied for the job.

It should be noted that when Dan got the job, it was not a well publicized position. He saw the opening posted on the SABR list server. After the 2004 season, publicized their openings in a joint campaign with I'm sure the number of candidates increased dramatically for the 2005 season.

I sent my application in via Monster, and in late February, I received an email asking me to fill out and return a baseball quiz. I was so excited about even being considered that I completed the quiz and returned it quickly.

After several weeks, I still had not heard back from them. I took a closer look at the quiz and realized that I may have rushed through it too quickly and I may have answered a few questions incorrectly. I was very disappointed to have not gotten the job.

This winter, I'm sure will again post their openings, and I again will apply for the position. Hopefully, I will again be asked to complete a quiz, but this time I will carefully and deliberately complete the quiz and hope for the best.

Dan recently posted an excellent article describing a day in the life of a Stringer. Check it out.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My good luck charm...

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Kansas City Royals. When I last blogged the Royals, they had just blown the 11th game in their 19 game losing streak. I was at that game, and it really made me depressed to see them self destruct.

They were finally able to win the last two games of their long road trip in Oakland and came home to face the world champion Boston Red Sox. I’ve been to both of the first two games of the Red Sox series.

The Royals were able to squeeze out an extra innings victory last night, but the key in both games was the squandered opportunities. In the first game of the series, the Royals had a runner at third in each of the first three innings and were never able to score. They eventually lost 5-2.

In last night’s extra innings game, they again had several opportunities but just couldn’t come through. John Buck, in particular, seems to be the goat in these situations. With the game tied 3-3 and the bases loaded and one out in the 6th inning last night, Buck grounded into an inning ending double play. Then, with the bases loaded in the 8th and two outs, Buck looked at a pitch that was right down the middle for strike three, again killing the threat.

Buck again struck out looking in the 10th, but mercifully there was nobody on base this time. I’d like to see Buck go down to the minors for a while to get himself straightened out. The Royals got Buck in the Beltran trade expecting a strong hitting catcher with some power. So far, Buck has been a disappointment.

It was interesting that in last night’s game the exact situation came up twice. With the game tied 3-3 in the ninth, Denny Hocking led off and flied out to center field on the first pitch. David DeJesus then walked, and Terrence Long singled. Mike Sweeney then walked loading the bases with one out. Chip Ambres struck out and Emil Brown popped out ending the inning.

In the 11th, the same thing happened again. Hocking flied out, DeJesus walked, Long singled and Sweeney walked. This time, however, Chip Ambres was able to get his bat on the ball and lifted a short fly ball to left field. DeJesus tagged up at third and scored when the throw was just up the line.

Just a side note: since I started wearing my KC Royals rubber wrist band, the Royals are 3-1.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Explain this

Dan's recent post reminded me of a Royals story. While driving home after the Royals' debacle last week, I was listening to the post game show expecting to hear many callers complaining about the team.

A caller piqued my interest when he called in and described his trip to the ballpark. He brought his friend from Norway to the game, and enjoyed the game while trying to explain what was happening to his friend. Even though it was by far the worst display of MLB baseball I've ever seen, I'm sure it was fun for his friend.

I've always wondered what it would be like to try to explain the game to someone who had never seen it. I'm sure it's much more difficult that you would think.

Things are Tough All Over

I vaguely remember a Cheech & Chong movie from years ago. I believe it was called “Things are Tough All Over.”

I remember a friend I had in high school who would always say “Tough to be a man, baby.”

It is tough to be a man these days. Or a woman. This morning, I put $30 worth of gasoline in my car, and it barely moved the needle. My office is exactly 32 miles from my house, so the rising gas prices are hurting me more and more each day. And I don’t drive for a living. Imagine the effect of these gas prices on the trucking industry and how that will affect prices of everyday items that you and I buy. Groceries, clothing, everything is tied to the price of gas. Not to mention the travel industry where rising oil prices will surely be reflected in air fares very soon.

So, while I was pondering the effect of the price of oil, I found myself stuck in traffic. I live in a city that is divided by a river. I live north of that river and I work south of the river. With the river, there are a limited number of routes to get from my house to my office, and the geniuses who run such things have decided to close two of those routes for construction. So everyday I have to fight much more traffic than I normally would. I guess I understand it. I mean, why would we want to only close one bridge at a time when we could close two. I’m sure they’re working on plans to shut another down before this is all over. My wife has it even worse. She works down town. They have a bunch of streets closed down there for construction and to make way for all the vast new development that is going on. New buildings, new apartments, new arena. That’s all great, but it sure is a pain for now.

While I was sitting in the traffic jam, I was listening to my favorite talk show host. He was discussing the “housing bubble.” Apparently, when I refinanced my house and took some extra money out to finish my basement, I was making a mistake. The equity that I thought I had was just an illusion and very soon I will owe much more on my house than it is worth.

Of course, this is why we in America love our sports teams. No matter how bad things get, we can always pull for our favorite baseball, football, basketball or hockey team. Through the Depression, world wars, hostage crises, and terrorist attacks, Americas could always turn their attention to sports for an escape. Speaking of which, my baseball team lost their 17th straight game last night and are on their way to cementing their place in history as the worst professional baseball team ever. I’m very proud. My football team played a preseason game last week, and their “revamped” defense looked as anemic as last year’s league worst defense.

Now, please don’t be too worried about me. I’m not considering jumping off a shut down bridge or anything. I have plenty to be thankful for. For example, my kids started their school year yesterday. Both got off to a great start with great teachers in great schools. My son’s baseball team won their first ever tournament last weekend. My lovely wife is the cornerstone of my being and is a wonderful mother to our kids. We live in a great (over-valued) house and we really do have a great life. All four of my kids’ grandparents are still around and actively involved in their lives. We don’t want for anything.

No matter how difficult, tough, or depressing things seem to get, I can always look at my family and be very proud and thankful. Yes, it can be “tough to be a man, baby,” but only if you fail to appreciate the good things in your life.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Am I finished as a Royals fan?

This is the saddest day of my life as a baseball fan.

I’ve lived my entire life in Kansas City, and I have been fortunate enough to live in a city with a major league baseball team. I grew up a Royals fan. I remember when it was a given that our team would be in the playoffs every year. I remember when we didn’t really care about the regular season – we were just waiting for the playoffs to start.

The joy of a World Series championship is now a distant memory as the team celebrates the 20 year anniversary of that wonderful fall. But it seems since game seven of that series, this team has been snake-bitten.

Tragedy struck. Manager Dick Howser was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Owner Ewing Kauffman’s health declined. The Royals went ownerless for several years as a committee ran the team until a buyer could be secured under the terms that Kauffman defined before his death. With no real owner and no real direction, the Royals floundered.

David Glass finally bought the team and fans were encouraged that finally something good could happen. It hasn’t.

Questionable trades, signings, hirings and firings have peppered this team. This season, manager Tony Pena quit. They hired Buddy Bell. They’ve tried veterans. They’ve tried rookies. They’ve changed medical staff. They’ve moved the fences in, then out. Nothing matters. The one constant has been the losing. (the only bright spot was 2003 when they played above their Pythagorean record and was in contention in late August).

I went to Tuesday night’s Royals game. The Royals had a 7-2 lead going into the ninth inning. They gave up 11 runs and lost 13-7. It was demoralizing. It was sickening. It was rotten. It extended their losing streak to 11 games, and last night they made it 12, tying the team’s longest losing streak in their history. They’ll attempt to break that record tonight. (see Dan's blog for a play-by-play of that ugly ninth inning.)

I’ve always been an optimistic fan. I’ve always defended the Royals and bought into their “plan.” But now I can only shake my head. What does this team need? New owner? New general manager? New manager? New players? New stadium? New city? All of the above? I don’t know, but I don’t think I can afford to invest any more of my time following this team with no reward in sight. Not even a little reward – how about playing .500 ball? Ten years is enough wasted time.

Monday, August 08, 2005


I was driving home from a weekend at the lake yesterday when I heard Paul Phillips' name on the Royals radio broadcast. My skin crawled. I could not believe the Royals called up Phillips, who is number one on my public enemy list. (see my post)

Look, I know Lima's been terrible for the Royals this season, but that doesn't make Phillips' autograph crime right. And now Phillips is enjoying big league life. No justice, no peace.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Going Digital

For my birthday yesterday, my wife surprised me with a new Canon Digital Rebel XT camera. Last winter, I took a community education class on photography. At the time, I bought a fairly inexpensive film camera (Minolta Maxxum 50). It's a nice camera for the beginner or novice as it has good automatic features, plus the ability to adjust most settings manually.

But as I've been slowing getting more into photography, it's been frustrating for me to have to keep track of my shutter and aperture settings for each shot I took, and then remember to match up those settings when I finally got the photos back from the processor. It's difficult to learn about the effect of various settings when you can't see the results immediately.

So, I've been casually looking at digital cameras for a while. A good friend of mine had a Canon at one of my son's baseball tournaments, and he praised the camera. I was impressed with the quality of the shots he's taken.

I wasn't ready to spend the money on one just yet, but my wife made a visit to our local photography shop (Photographx Unlimited) and brought home the Canon.

I haven't had a chance to take many shots with it yet, but I am impressed with its capabilities. Plus, I love that data about each shot is captured with the shot. I never again will have to write down my shutter speed or aperture settings as that data is captured with the shot. The quality of the shots is unbelievable - better than any digital photos I've ever seen.

I'm really excited about getting to know this camera and capturing some great shots with it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

That's Ironic!

Today on the highway, the far right lane was closed. When I reached the spot of closure, I saw that two men were shoveling a bunch of debris back into a trailer behind a truck marked "Dependable Hauling."


Randa heads west

I just heard that former Royal and fan favorite Joe Randa was traded to the San Diego Padres. It's good to see that he'll finally play for a contender, though the contending may be short lived as illustrated recently by Dan.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Dumb pup

Okay, I know this has nothing to do with anything significant, but it is pretty dang funny.

After living in our house for 7 months, our bichon puppy just noticed his reflection in the stereo cabinet doors. He just sits there barking at himself. We've tried to show him that there's no dog behind the glass, but he still barks and barks and barks.

What a great watch dog we have...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Baby Royals

Last night’s Royals game gave us a potentially positive glimpse at the future. The Royals beat the Indians 4-0, and did so with good performances from their young players who are now developing on the big league level.

Zack Greinke finally seems to be breaking out of his funk. He pitched 7 strong shut out innings and was followed by Ambiorix Burgos and Mike MacDougal.

On the offensive side, Mark Teahen and David DeJesus both had a good game. DeJesus was 2-5 with a double and an RBI, and Teahen was 2-4 with a triple and an RBI. The other two runs game on Emil Brown’s homerun. While Brown isn’t necessarily a young kid, he is fairly new to the majors and is emerging as a solid offensive “veteran.”

It was nice to see the Royals win, but even as they lose, we fans should keep an eye to the future as these younger players continue to develop. Hopefully by 2007 we will have a solid, contending team to root for.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Checking out the 810 Zone

The other night, my wife and I made the trek out to Leawood, KS to check out the new 810 Zone restaurant. The 810 Zone is a new sports-themed restaurant and bar co-owned by KC Hopps, a local restaurateur, and Sports Radio 810 WHB, the local sports talk radio station.

The 810 Zone borrows many ideas from the more famous ESPN Zone restaurants. Beside the name, the 810 Zone also features televisions galore throughout the restaurant, including one for each booth.

When we arrived, it didn’t look too crowded, but we were informed that the wait for a non-smoking table was about 50 minutes. We accepted our buzzer and entered the bar for a few drinks while we waited.

The bar is a large horseshoe shaped bar with a large project TV above it. Behind the bar is a radio booth where WHB can do live shows from the restaurant. Around the bar are many televisions, all tuned to various sporting events. I ordered a beer and an apple martini and was shocked that the total for those two drinks was over $10. The martini tasted fine and the beer was cold.

Our buzzer went off about 45 minutes later and we were escorted to a table in the middle of the dining room. When we asked if we could have a booth, we were told that booths had their own waiting list and that it would be an additional 10 minutes. It would have been nice to know this when we first arrived.

After another minute or so, a booth opened up and we were finally seated. Each booth features a different theme. We were seated a the Tom Watson booth, which featured a few autographed magazine covers as well as an autographed golf club hanging on the wall.

We ordered an appetizer of spinach dip (The Lin Elliot Spin and Choke Dip), and my wife ordered a tenderloin steak and I ordered the Cajun pasta.

While we waited for our food, we started playing around with the TV monitor mounted in the booth. The monitors allow guests to watch television, access the internet, or play games. We tried it all. We played a game of Bejeweled, watched a little MTV as well as the Royals game, and we access the Kansas City Star online.

The appetizer arrived and we were both unimpressed. The dip tasted okay, but the chips seemed stale. There was not enough dip to keep up with the amount of chips they provided.

When the dinner arrived, my wife’s steak was cooked to order and looked delicious. She started eating it and commented that she wished she knew how much it was going to cost. I remembered seeing that the steaks on the menu were prices “Market Price.” That’s the first time I’ve seen that for beef. I didn’t realize the beef market was that volatile.

I tried the steak and agreed with her that it just didn’t have much flavor. It was tender and had good steak flavor, but it didn’t seem to have any seasoning.

My Cajun pasta seemed very salty and not very spicy. It had 3 shrimps on. I couldn’t eat all of it because of the strong salty flavor.

When the check arrived, we found out that her steak was about $22.00. The total bill was over $50 for the two of us.

Overall, I’d say the 810 Zone is a great place to go after work for some beers and to watch a game in the bar, but find someplace else when it gets to dinner time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Royals All Stars

It’s tough being a Royals fan. It has been for years. The team’s struggles are well documented, of course.

But the agony of being a fan becomes apparent every year around this time. I’m sure Rockies fans, Devil Rays fans, and Diamondback fans know this feeling as well. You know the feeling. You’re watching the All Star game, hoping to see your one player on the screen at some time.

Every time there’s a shot of the dugout, you’re looking past all the Yankees and Red Sox jerseys trying to find your guy. I got really excited last night when I saw a blue helmet with the “KC” logo on a shelf behind AL manager Terry Francona.

But then I blinked. I had to step away for a bit, and when I returned to watching the game, I had already missed Sweeney’s one at bat. I checked the box score and saw that he struck out. Figures.

2003 was one of the best All Star games for Royals fans. They Royals actually had two – that’s right, two! – players in the All Star game. My memory was fuzzy, but after checking the box score, I see that Sweeney never got an at bat and Mike MacDougal never pitched. Like I said, it’s tough to be a fan of the Royals.

I’m trying to determine why fans in Kansas City or Tampa might watch the All Star game. The obvious reason to watch is to see your players, of course, but that doesn’t really work when your team gets only one player in and he’s a late inning substitution. Maybe it’s to see the National League players go against the American League players. No, Bud Selig took away the allure of that when he forced interleague play down our throats. Or, maybe we watch to see the stars of all the other teams play. But then, we only need to watch Sportscenter or Baseball Tonight for that.

So, I guess we Royals fans watch on the edge of our seats to see if the Yankees (or Red Sox) will have home field advantage in the World Series. “I live for this.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Royals Tales

I recently started reading Denny Matthews's "Tales from the Royals Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Stories Ever Told."

This is certainly not a literary cornerstone. The book is merely a collection of short stories and commentaries on the Royals by their long time radio announcer Denny Matthews. Denny has been a radio announcer for the Royals since their inception in 1969 and just last year was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame. The book is somewhat poorly organized as it starts with the very early days of the Royals, then jumps right to the World Series year of 1985. The last 2/3 of the book is just a laundry list of various Royals players and associates with Denny's thoughts on each person.

There is no dirt in the book, and it seems as though Denny really likes just about every person he's ever met. If you are a big Royals fan and are interested in hearing some tales about players of the past (like Marty Pattin's duck voice or Tony Muser's hidden sense of humor), this is a nice read. Those humorous stories are scattered around the book, but mostly it seems to be simply Denny's observations about various people he's met through the years.

Overall, a fun book for true Royals fans, but try not to spend to much money on it... :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Over the last several years, the Royals have gone through boatloads of players, finished with one winning season, had several losing season, fired a manager, had a manager quit and saw the rise and fall of Ken Harvey.

But, one constant through all of this is injuries. The Royals still continue to struggle with injuries Today they have 10 players on the DL and seven of those are pitchers.

Where is the strength and conditioning team for the Royals? Groin pulls, back strains, and oblique injuries are common, but aren't these injuries avoidable? Before 2003, I had never heard of an oblique strain when Carlos Beltran missed the first two weeks of the season with one. Since then, it seems every player has missed games because of oblique problems.

As the injuries pile up, the Royals continue to call up players to the majors who are way too young and inexperienced. I'm all for developing youth, but just calling up a guy because he had one good week at AA doesn't seem like the smartest strategy.

After the disastrous 2004 season, Royals GM Allard Baird made some changes to the strength and conditioning team. They haven't seemed to help. If they want to be successful with these young players, I think they should invest in a better team of trainers and doctors. I'd hate to see Zack Greinke miss 2006 after Tommy John surgery.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Get Fit!

Last week, I started a 5K training program. I found this 6 week program at I've started similar programs in the past (including this one), but have yet to make it to the end of the program.

For a while now, I've been feeling sluggish and out of shape. I find myself breathing heavily after going up the stairs. So, I've started this running program again, and hopefully this time I will make it to the end. I'm just starting week 2 of the program.

To help manage the intervals (the programs include alternating run/walk times), I went to Target to look at some watches. I was looking at the Timex Ironman watches when I saw the Timex Heart Rate Monitor watch. It was on sale for only $42.00, so I bought it.

The included fitness guide describes the Heart Zones training system. Using the watch, you can monitor your heart rate and train at different zones. Each zone represents a progressive level of exercise, from "Healthy Heart" up through "Red Line." Each individual's zone levels are based on his/her maximum heart rate which must be calculated before starting the training program. Depending on your goals, you can train for different times in the various zones. Do so allows you to calculate training points. For example, of you train for 20 minutes in Zone 3, you've earned 60 points. You can then shoot for a number of points per week depending on your goals. Maintaining current weight should be around 700-1000 points per week, for example.

It will be interested to see how my heart zones are affected as I work through my 5K program. It's also kinda fun to wear the monitor and see what my heart rate is as I go through my day (apparently, blogging about running causes my heart to beat around 73 times per minute).

I'll keep you posted...

Friday, June 17, 2005


One of my favorite Royals players, Brian Anderson, has started a blog. Okay, so Brain's no Roger Clemens, but I love his attitude and he seems like a real stand up guy. He had an awful year last year, but wasn't afraid to answer questions and admit he sucked. He's been on the DL most of the season this year, but has started throwing again and hopefully will be available soon.

Brian was mic'd for the television broadcast last night, and it was interesting to hear him chat. It looks like his blog will contain some interesting stuff about baseball as well as a glimpse into the life of a ballplayer.

A Royal Record

The Royals continue to play great baseball under new manager Buddy Bell. Last night, they completed a sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Think about that. The Royals hadn't swept a series since 2003, and within a month they swept the Yankees and the Dodgers.

In doing so, they became the first team to ever sweep the Dodgers and the Yankees in a month. That's an impressive record, until you think about. The Dodgers and Yankees are in different leagues, so the only way to sweep them both in one season is during inter-league play, which only goes back about 10 years.

Still, the Royals are finding ways to win, and are playing much better than they did under Pena. They've won 11 of 15 under Bell and most of those with out their best hitter, Mike Sweeney.

Tonight, rookie JP Howell takes on Roger Clemens. Should be a good one.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Does the manager make a difference???

Kevin Keitzman had a good point today:

Buddy Bell's record with the Royals is now 8-4. When Tony Pena resigned, the Royals were 8-25.

So, if the Royals lose their next 20 games in a row, they will still have a better record than what Pena had. That's quite a statement. Bell's only managed 12 games, but in those 12 games, the team has accomplished things that hadn't been done since 2003: Sweep a series and win back to back series on the road.

And Bell's done it without Sweeney who's been out a week with a sore oblique and with Greinke struggling. One could surmise that Pena had a better team since Greinke looked unhittable and Sweeney was killing the ball.

Was Bell the right choice? Who knows. All I know is that the Royals are playing much better ball, and the wins are following.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

New Friends at Tech-Ed

I spent the past Week in Orlando attending Microsoft's Tech-Ed 2005 Conference. While at the attendee party at Universal Studios, I met a couple of folks who work at MOBIFORM Software Ltd in Vancouver. Mobiform is working on a product called Aurora that helps create XAML documents for Microsoft Avalon. The tool will eventually be a plug-in for Visual Studio.

I had a great time hanging out with my new friends. We took in a few of the attractions at Universal (including the awesome Revenge of the Mummy), and after the park closed we enjoyed some of the night life in downtown Orlando. We had a blast enjoying the evening and good conversation. I look forward to keeping in touch with Glenn and Alexandra.


Sad to see the body of David Koch was found on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver. I first heard about Koch last week when I was reading some blogs. Of course, Koch's disappearance was never mentioned on any news cast that I had seen. I wonder why? The disappearance of a young blonde girl has dominated the news for the last week and yet we hear nothing about Koch. I suppose the fact that she's a beautiful girl and that foul play seems to be involved makes Natalee Holloway's story more interesting for the media. But it's seems disappointing to me that the news I hear seems to be based more on ratings than on newsworthiness.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Are those capri pants you're wearing?

I'm seeing a disturbing trend here at Microsoft's Tech-Ed event in Orlando... Men in capri pants. That's right. Men.

I'm not sure how this trend got started, but from what I can tell, it seems most popular with men who are here from Europe. Let's just hope it doesn't catch on in the states.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

How's It Going?

Jason Whitlock hates it.

Joe Posnanski hates it.

Dan Fox is questioning it.

My friends and co-workers have been asking me what I think of it.

What is it? The hiring this week of Buddy Bell as the new Royals manager.

Before this week, I had never heard of Buddy Bell. I’m too young to remember him as a player, (18 years in the majors as a third baseman) and I’ve never followed the two teams he’s managed (Colorado and Detroit).

So, I don’t know what to think of him. Royals GM Allard Baird seems to like him. In the various interviews I’ve heard, Baird had referred to Bell’s selection as an All-Star at the age of 21. Baird believes this makes him qualified to help the young players on this team grow and develop, since he himself has experienced success at the major league level at a fairly young age.

Bell so far is 2-0 in his tenure in Kansas City. Both games were extremely well played, close games against the struggling Yankees. Who knows what effect Bell has had on the team in his short time here, but the team is playing much more fundamentally sound baseball than in earlier games this season.

Bell has also stuck with Mike MacDougal as his closer. I have always maintained that Mac the Ninth should be the closer and Affeldt should either start or be traded. Until Mac proves he’s not capable of closing (without fighting injury), leave him in that role.

Tonight, the Royals will go for a sweep of the Yankees. They haven’t swept a series since 2003 and a sweep against the Bronx Bombers in Bell’s first series will surely ease the minds of the local newspaper columnists.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bell Takes Over

After a miserable road trip (0-6 including a game where they couldn't hold a 5 run lead in the ninth and a 14-1 drumming), somebody actually agreed to manage the Royals. Today the Royals announced their hiring of Buddy Bell who was serving as the bench coach for the Cleveland Indians.

Bell has previous managerial experience, one of Royals GM Allard Baird's requirements. He managed in Colorado and Detriot and has a career managerial record of 345-462.

While Bell won't make any splash, he may be the type of manager that this team needs. A lot of fans are disappointed with this hire, but I'm not about to judge until I see how he does. Remember, the requirements were a strong tactician (handling pitchers, etc), as well as the ability to teach young players. Perhaps these are Bell's strongest traits. The new era begins tonight against the Yankees.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Royals Rants

A couple of things....

First, how awful is Bob Davis? My apologies to KU fans (Davis also serves as the radio voice of Jayhawk basketball), but Davis is the worst baseball announcer. Ever. I've never understood why Davis is considered such a sports legend in this town. He's awful.

And I love Paul Splittorf. He was one of my favorites back when he pitched with the Royals. But he's not much better as an announcer. It makes the Royals television broadcasts impossible to listen to. I ALWAYS turn down the volume and listen to Denny Matthews and Ryan Lefevre on the radio. I was relieved to read that somebody else feels the same way.

Secondly, why are the Royals in such a rush to hire a new manager? Do they really think that hiring a Jerry Manuel or Buddy Bell will turn this season around? Let's be honest, this season is a lost one. Let Schaef finish out the season, then try to grab a real manager after the season. It seems to me that you could talk to Lou Pinella or Bobby Valentine or somebody after the season. They need to make a hire that's going to spark some interest in the team. We all know this is a short-term hire. Make it somebody who will get Kansas City talking about the Royals. Sweet Lou, Bobby V, or even Larry Bowa. I just don't think Art Howe is going to create a push in ticket sales...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Offensive explosion

One of the more frustrating aspects of the Royals' season this year was the lack of offense under Tony Pena. Too many times it seemed Pena was playing for one run, and many times that's exactly what they scored.

In Pena's 33 games this season, the Royals averaged 3.545 runs per game. In interim manager Bob Schaefer's 11 games (small sample, I know) they have averaged 6.09 runs per game. Pena's deficiencies are clear when comparing his managing style to Schaefer's. On the day he took over, Schaefer declared that his team would play more aggresively, and it has paid off.

This style goes against most "Moneyball" principals, where plate discipline is stressed. The Royals have been swinging away, not waiting for a walk but putting the ball in play. Whether this is how they should play in the long term is debateable, but when you are desperate for wins and the offense has been as bad as it was under Pena, it makes sense to be more aggressive to get things jump started.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Lawn Tractor Madness!

Update on the John Deere 111 tractor:

Last night, I was able to remove the engine and found the leaky seal. It's a round piece that goes around the cam shaft as it exits the engine and attaches to the drive belt. This little round guy has rubber to help hold the oil inside the engine. Seals, even on cars, tend to lose their oil holding abilities over the years and this one was no different. I pried the old seal out, and am ready to install a new one.

I also turned the tractor over and power washed the bottom. I know, I know... some folks say "Never wash your tractor," but this one is around 25 years old. The bottom was just caked with a greasy, grassy muck. The only way to get it off was to blast it. It now looks good as new, or at least clean.

I visited the local John Deere dealer at lunch and purchased a new seal, so I'm now ready to start reassembly.

I just hope I remember where all the pieces go and I that I don't have a bunch of important looking parts left over when I've got it all back together.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Fun with machines...

I've been immersed in machines recently. First, my wife surprised me by purchasing this Honda Trail 70 motorcycle. This little minibike has become quite a collector's item. The Trail 70 was made in the early 70's. It's a small motorcycle intended for riding trails and fields (not like a dirt bike). My family had one when my brother and I were growing up, and we both have fond memories of riding around the campgrounds on our weekend camping trips. (My brother probably has fonder memories, since I only remember forgetting how to slow down and running it into a tree. But that's beside the point). At one point, our parents asked us if we should keep it, and we both said "no." It was sold.

Since reaching adulthood and realizing how stupid that was, we've been searching for one. They've been coveted little bikes, so the prices have gone sky high. My wife found one on the "For Sale" bulletin board at her office and showed me the pictures. I said "We gotta buy it!" A week or two later, I had forgotten about it, but she secretly negotiated the sale and it is now ours. Hopefully, we'll be picking it up this week sometime.

I've also been playing with a little lawn tractor like this one:

This is an old John Deere 111 Lawn Tractor that my dad bought for me a few years ago. I wasn't using it so my father in law took it for a while, and now I've got it back. The thing leaks oil like you wouldn't believe, won't hold air in the tires, and the blades are so dull they wouldn't cut a piece of cheese. I've begun tearing it down in my garage and hope to have a decent little mower by the time I'm done. I believe I've located the leak (a gasket on the engine block), and the blades can be easily sharpened or replaced. Add some new tires and the thing will be a nice lawn tractor. I'm not sure if I'll keep it or sell it, but I look forward to getting it back to respectability.

Also, check out my brother-in-law's tractor:

He let me drive it around the lawn over the weekend. Fun! It really, really turns on a dime!

Analyzing Baseball Managers

Check out Bradford Doolittle's efforts in trying to statistically measure the performance of a baseball manager. Good stuff.


I like Joe McEwing.

The Royals picked up the third baseman from the Mets late in spring training after both Chris Truby and Chris Clapinski suffered injuries. The Royals were forced to promote prospect Mark Teahen to the big league club because of those injuries. The original plan was to let Teahen mature in AAA for a potential promotion mid-season.

McEwing was assigned to AAA Omaha when the season started, but was promoted to the Royals on April 13 when Teahen went on the DL for a strained back. McEwing filled in at third and has stuck with the Royals even after Teahen's return.

I wasn't really familiar with McEwing before he came to the Royals. But on one sunny afternoon, my buddy Kris and I watched McEwing at third as the Royals took on the Mariners and McEwing made his first start at third. I enjoyed watching him. He's fun to watch as he moves around the base at third. He's a small guy who is agile and quick. His uniform was about 3 sizes too big, making him look like he was playing in pajamas. He went 2-4 that day.

In reading this article on the Met's web site, it's obvious that McEwing is a well liked teammate.

I'd like to see the Royals keep McEwing (if they need a spot, Graffanino is expendable) as the utility infielder behind Sweeney (1B), Gotay (2B), Berroa (SS), and Teahen (3B). Let Gotay, Berroa and Teahen play everyday and platoon with Sweeney/Stairs/Harvey at 1B.

Maybe I should apply for that manager's job...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Sad Departure

In the aftermath of Tony Pena's resignation, I can't help but feel sorry for the man.

The front page of today's Kansas City Star had a picture of Pena outside of the airport waiting for a ride. The caption said that Pena wants to get back to the Dominican Republic "right away."

We're now learning that Pena did not address his team. He simply walked up to Allard Baird and said he was quitting, and left. It is now being reported that Pena is inlvolved in a divorce case involving his neighbors in Kansas City. Suddenly, things seem to be crashing in around him.

Pena worked his butt off to become an All Star catcher. After his playing career, he managed in the minors, worked his way up to bench coach for the Houston Astros, and answered the call when the Royals needed a new manager after firing Tony Muser. His first full season was a successful one, and Pena won the American League Manager of the Year award.

But something went wrong. The Royals surrounded Pena with a group of veterans to supplement the promising young players and the Royals were expected to win the AL Central in 2004. But the players never seemed interested in playing hard and winning. Those Royals stumbled to their worst season in the Royals history, losing 104 games.

The Royals started over in 2005, dispatching the veterans and going with youth. They stressed the fundamentals in spring training and promised a hard working young team. But when the season started, they played terrible baseball and have gotten off to one of the worst starts in all of baseball history.

Apparently, Pena could no longer stand up to the pressure. Late in the night, he left the team to head home. What once seemed such a promising career is now left in shambles. A sad departure indeed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


With last night's surprising announcement, I'll get the rumors rolling.

First a word about Pena. No doubt he was the right man for the job coming off of Tony Muser's reign. His enthusiasm did wonders for a young team in 2003, leading the Royals to their only winning season since 1994. However, as Joe Posnanski wrote in this morning's Kansas City Star, his message began to wear thin. Posnanski wrote about Pena's antics including jumping in the shower in full uniform and guaranteeing a division championship in 2004: "[I]t all was pretty embarrassing stuff. And the team kept losing."

So, who to replace Pena? I don't know, but I will say that last week Larry Bowa was missing in action for his morning radio show on XM Home Plate. His co-hosts didn't know exactly where Bowa was, and I thought at the time that he must be in Kansas City interviewing. A week later, Pena resigns (was he forced out?).

I'm not sure Bowa's the best choice, but it would be nice to see more of a hard-ass manager here to whip guys like Angel Berroa into shape. (In last night's game, Berroa was doubled off on a fly ball. Just the latest of many boneheaded moved by Berroa). At the very least, I hope the Royals go with a manager with experience, and hopefully with post-season experience. I think most Royals fans are tired of first time managers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Beat Goes On...

I feel sorry for Bob Dutton. Every single day, he has to write a story about how the Royals lost another game to be included in the Kansas City Star. How many different ways can you come up with to say - no offense, another loss?

Today was a good pitching match up: Grienke vs. Halladay. Halladay took only an hour and 44 minutes to brush the Royals aside, 3-1. Grienke pitched well, but once again gave up too many runs (3!). Both pitchers pitched complete games. The Royals' lone run came in the first when Sweeney homered.

Admit it: Sweeney's an awesome hitter. He's one of the best in the American League. I feel bad that he is stuck on such a God-awful team. I heard a stat earlier today - Sweeney had driven in 26% of all Royals' runs this year. Add in his runs score, and I'm sure he's responsible for about a third of the team's total offense. But he can't do it all, and all the hitters around him are just terrible. This is the worst offense I've ever seen - even with Sweeney.

It's depressing. Something's got to change or the city will ask them to be contracted.

BTW - check out the new Rob & Rany.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Still Outside Looking In

Still Outside Looking In: "
Independent stock analysts hoped to cash in on the Spitzer pact. Instead, many of them were disappointed. What went wrong?

Harry Hostetter's Blog

Harry Hostetter's Blog

Check out my brother's new blog. He's joined the growing army of Pena haters...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Is XM Satellite Radio Bad for Local Radio?

Today on 810 WHB, afternoon host Kevin Kietzman is complaining about XM Radio's deal with Major League Baseball. WHB is the flagship station of the Kansas City Royals. They won the contract after the Royals' great 2003 season, and were hoping that the improved Royals would be a big boost for their ratings.

Instead, the Royals tanked in 2004 and 2005. They've mentioned that even bad baseball is good for ratings, but I'm sure the Royals aren't performing like they had hoped when they signed the contract.

Now, the folks have WHB have learned that XM radio is offering access to their programming without blackout protection. The problem, according to WHB, is that since XM is installed in new cars and free subscriptions are included when purchasing a new car, more and more people are listening to Royals broadcasts without listening to WHB. This means that the advertisers are not reaching the audience they thought they would. In television, this is corrected by blackout rules. Even with the MLB Extra Innings package, I cannot watch a Royals game if it is available on a local station. This protects the advertisers who purchased ad time on that local station.

With satellite radio, there is really no way to implement blackouts. Which means I could listen to the Royals either on WHB or on XM. Or, if the Royals game is a blowout, I can choose any other game to listen to. WHB would like to have been the only baseball available.

So, is this bad for local radio? Maybe. Kevin Kietzman on WHB says the XM deal “stinks.” Of course it does, since he is a co-owner of the station. But if he were a regular baseball fan like me, I think his opinion would be quite different. I love it! I'm still a Royals fan, so I'll listen to WHB to get my Royals coverage; even the game broadcasts since I'm not always in an area where I can recieve the XM signal. But as a fan, I love being able to choose any game I like when the Royals have an off day.

I can see WHB's beef, but I can't agree that it “stinks.”

Friday, April 29, 2005

Too many blogs?

Can one man have too many blogs?

I've started another blog site here. I'll use it to post technology related items, while the focus here will be on personal stuff including the pathetic Royals.

Oh, and don't forget my MSN Space. Sheesh!

Balance of bats and arms

Before yesterday's game (another one run loss, of course), the Royals promoted Ken Harvey and sent Shawn Camp to Omaha. While I'm certainly not a Harvey fan, I'm willing to try anything to get this pitiful offense jump started. The good news here is that the Royals finally got the balance right, going from 12 pitchers to 11. They realized (and if they'd only read my blog, they would have known this already) that having 12 pitchers is too many. Ahh well, live and learn...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


I recently downloaded and installed SQL Reporting Services SP2. This is a much anticipated release because it fills some holes in the original release.

One of the most glaring weaknesses of SQL Reporting Services involves printing. I can navigate to a Report Server, select a report and display it. But if I want to print it, I have to export it to another format, open it in that format’s tool, then print. There is no “Print” button on the screen when viewing the report.

I’m glad to report that there is now a little picture of a printer on the screen when viewing a report, and the print functionality worked great in my tests.

The other new feature that I’ve tested is the SRS web parts. These web parts can be dropped into a SharePoint Site allowing you to view reports from a SharePoint web part page. I tried them out, and they work great. There are two web parts: Report Explorer and Report Viewer. The explorer can be pointed to a Report Server and it will display all folders and reports available on that server. Select a report, and the report will be shown in the Report View part. This is accomplished by setting the connections between the two web parts. It’s very easy to set up, and the results are very slick.

Which is it?

The “youth movement” was in full force last night at Kauffman Stadium as the Royals kicked off a series again Johan Santana and the Twins.

I won’t rehash the whole story about how the veterans on 2004’s Royals team went down in flames, so the team decided to rebuild using their young talent.

So, the stated goal for 2005 was to grow these young players into a contender down the road. Knowing this, we can expect some losses (and we haven’t been disappointed).

Knowing all this, could somebody please explain this lineup?

J. McEwing, 3B
T. Graffaninio, 2B
M. Sweeney, DH
E. Merrero, 1B
A. Berroa, SS
E. Brown, RF
T. Long, CF
A. Castillo, C
M. Diaz, LF
J. Lima, P

Hmmm… by my count, only three of these players are under 30 and two of those (Terrance Long and Angel Berroa) would not be considered “youth,” since they both have been in the league at least two years.

So, since the lineup wasn’t a “young” lineup, Pena must have been playing for the win instead. But, what confuses me is why would he put a .122 batter in the cleanup spot?

Either win or grow youth, but this team seems to be stuck somewhere in between.

JoPo on the Royals

Great column by Joe Posnanski in today's KC Star. He's right, it's depressing.

Monday, April 25, 2005

More on the Royals

Kevin Keitzman’s monologue today included some interesting points.

First, regarding the Royals, it’s become obvious that Tony Pena is not the man to manage this team. What they need is a field general in every sense of the word. Keitzman’s suggestion? Larry Bowa. Why not? There’s nothing left to watch this season. Why not bring in a fiery manager to whip these players into shape. Certainly this is not a long term solution, but to slap some fundamentals into this team, it may be just the right move.

Keitzman discussed the article that Dan had just blogged about. While the points about steroids are interesting, what intrigued me more was Lewis’ description of Mark Teahen’s promotion to the big league club:

Last June, when Kansas City traded for him, Teahen became, tacitly, a future big leaguer, but it still wasn't clear when the future would happen. This past January he was invited, for the first time, to big-league training camp, where there was just one other third baseman, a 31-year-old journeyman named Chris Truby. In mid-March, Truby broke his wrist. Rumors began to fly that Teahen, who had just turned 23, would open the season in the big leagues. (''I've done more interviews in the last two days than I've done the rest of my life,'' he said after Truby got hurt, faintly perplexed by the radical change in his circumstances.) But no one in management said anything directly to him; everyone just pretended that nothing important had happened. Then one day in the dugout, the Royals manager, Tony Pena, turned to him and asked. ''Do you think you're ready for the big leagues?''

It was the first time Pena had tried to converse with Mark Teahen. ''Yes,'' Teahen said, without even pretending to think it over.

An awkward pause followed. Teahen asked: ''Do you think I'm ready for the big leagues?''

''No,'' Pena said, and went back to watching the game.

A long minute later he turned back to Teahen and asked, ''Really, do you think you are ready for the big leagues?''

Two days later, Pena was quoted in the Kansas City press responding to a question about the new third baseman. ''This kid, everybody knows what we have in him,'' said Pena, making two points at once. ''This kid can play.''

Yet another glimpse into the managerial abilities of Tony Pena.

It's Time...

I'm a huge Royals fan. I've endured year after year of losing teams, but have always held an optimistic attitude toward the boys in blue. Going into this season, I knew they’d lose games. But I was anxious to see the young talent and was hopeful that the new spring training techniques would actually yield a fundamentally solid team.

But this is freakin’ ridiculous. The Royals are now 5-14, a pathetic .263 winning percentage.

Here are some things to ponder:
• The Royals have lost 11 of their last 13 games
• We’re still in April and the Royals have already been swept 3 times
• A Royals starter has not earned a victory in 13 games
• We’re still in April and the Royals are already on their third closer
• We’re still in April and the Royals are already 10 games out of first place

In 2002, the Royals got off to an 8-15 (.348) start and manager Tony Muser was fired. At the time, Buck Showalter was a commentator on ESPN, and had openly lobbied for the job. Showalter wanted to come to Kansas City to manage. Instead, the Royals chose Tony Pena, citing his ability to get his players to over-achieve and to lead young players.

Pena finished out the 2002 season 49-77, and Royals completed their first ever 100-loss season. Things looked good in 2003 when the Royals jumped out to an incredible 16-3 start. However, as is noted here, the team was actually playing way over their heads. An incredible amount of luck launched that start, and they eventually fell back to earth and were just 67-76 after those 19 games.

In 2004, the wheels really came off as the Royals completed their worst ever season losing 104 games.

In Pena’s defense, he’s not been given much to work with. After their worst ever season in 2004, the Royals actually cut payroll, choosing to “start over” with fresh young talent. Their hope was to get a core group of young guys playing well together that would develop into a contending team in a year or two.

To help this plan along, the Royals stressed the basics in spring training this year. They were the first team in baseball to use “eye in the sky” video cameras to tape practices and review film. They stressed fundamentals and the basics of the game, knowing that they would have very little margin for error if they hoped to win games this season.

What is the result of all this? One of the worst fundamental teams I’ve ever seen. 2004 was a ridiculous display of baseball fundamentals (including infielders being hit in the back by cutoff throws – twice! – and the first baseman and pitcher colliding while fielding a bunt), but 2005 isn’t any better. Missed bunts, missed cutoff throws, errors, walks, they are all piling up quickly.

Add to the poor play a slew of questionable strategy moves, and it becomes obvious that this manager is in over his head.

Here are some examples:
• In two straight starts, Pena allows Runelvys Hernandez to throw over 100 pitches, even though he is just returning from Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, he removes Zach Grienke (who has never had an injury) after only 84 pitches in a close game where Greinke is pitching very well. In the former case, Hernandez tires and nobody is warming up. In the latter case, the bullpen implodes.
• In the 6th inning of an 8-8 game where Royals batters are hitting the ball hard, Pena elects to deploy the suicide squeeze with a runner at third and one out. The bunt is muffed and the runner is tagged out. The batter then grounds out ending the threat and the Royals later lose in extra innings.
• In the top of the ninth inning with two outs, Angel Berroa tries to steal third and is thrown out. When asked why Berroa tried to steal, Pena replied, “I don’t know.”

I can understand employing a manager who maybe isn’t the best strategically, if it’s obvious that he can groom young players and make them play hard and play solid fundamental baseball. But this manager isn’t able to do anything well. His young players are playing with reckless abandon with no sense of direction. His strategic moves make no sense, and his players are not held accountable (Apparently, Berroa was not reprimanded for his blunder).

In Texas, Showalter has managed to improve the Rangers year after year, even while enduring shrinking payrolls. His Rangers finished 2004 89-73 (.549) and are 10-10 so far in 2005.

It is time. This is a small market team (and by the way, we Royals fans are getting very tired of hearing that excuse. Look at two of the last three World Series winners – “small market” teams). This team cannot afford to buy talent (although, just using their luxury tax money, they could nearly double their payroll), so they need a manager who can teach the players to play hard, flawless baseball and who can make the correct, subtle strategic moves that turn one-run losses into one-run victories.

Tony Pena is clearly not that manager.

This Royals apologist is tired of apologizing. I have my 15 games season ticket package, but it is becoming very difficult to be a fan. I’ve always been a die-hard, hard-core Royals fans regardless of wins and losses. But after 20 years of losing with no end in site and nothing but worse finishes in site, I’m ready to give up. If this is their idea of fielding a Major League team, then maybe they should be contracted.