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.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Royals "Pick" Diaz

After struggling badly this season, the Royals today sent Calvin Pickering down to AAA Omaha. Pickering was chosen over 2004 All-Star Ken Harvey as the Royals DH/1B. Pickering has shown more patience at the plate than Harvey and has great power. But so far this season, he's been completely overmatched. Pick has struck out 14 times in 27 AB's and has only 1 HR.

To replace him, the Royals promoted Matt Diaz from Omaha. Diaz is hitting .364 in Omaha with 4 HR and 16 RBI. His OBP of .426 and SLG of .709 is far better than Harvey's .393/.481.

Hopefully Diaz will be able to continue his hot hitting at the major league level providing the Royals some much needed offensive help.

Meanwhile, Harvey continues to toil in Omaha...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Giving Away Outs

In today’s game, Tony Pena again demonstrated why giving away outs isn’t always the best offensive strategy.

The Royals are playing the Twins in the Metrodome. In the top of the sixth, the Royals were trailing 8-5. On the first pitch of the inning, Royals catcher John Buck homered to make it 8-6.

The next batter, Calvin Pickering coaxed a 9 pitch walk. Emil Brown the hit his first pitch over the left field wall to tie the game at 8.

At this point, it’s pretty obvious the Royals are hitting this pitcher pretty well.

Ruben Gotay then bunts for a hit and takes second on the throwing error by the pitcher.

This is where it begins to get ugly. David DeJesus is now up with Gotay at second and nobody out. DeJesus is having a good year so far, and in his first at bat tripled. There are no outs, so it seems to make sense to let David swing away. A fly ball could move Gotay to third, or a hit could score him.

Pena elects to sacrifice. DeJesus is out at first and Gotay moves up to third. There’s now one out and Tony Graffanino is up. Again, only one out so a fly ball scores him.

This time Pena decides to try the suicide squeeze. Why? It’s 8-8. Both teams are scoring easily. It’s only the sixth inning. That one run likely isn’t the game winner. Graffanino misses the bunt and Gotay is tagged out at home.

Graffanino then grounds out to end the inning.

Why in the world would Pena turn to consecutive bunts so early in the game when two struggling hitters just hit homeruns? Let them swing the bats!

Northland Storm

While the Royals are off to an eminently stinky start, my son's 11U baseball team is getting underway as well.

After playing in 2 tournaments, the Northland Storm is off to a 2-4 record. The 4 losses have all come against older, more experienced teams (like a college team playing the Yankees). Our regular season kicks off on May 4.

Check out the web site that my wife is running for the team. Go STORM!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A New Beginning

Today, my wife and I reached an agreement to purchase a house. We are buying the home for my wife’s parents to live in.

My in-laws got married 51 years ago and have lived in the same house for every one of those 51 years. The historic Northeast area of Kansas City was once a lovely neighborhood of homes, schools and businesses. They raised six children in that small house and have hosted many a holiday get-together, many times with as many as 50 people crammed into the house. It has been a wonderful home for them.

Over the last 10 years or so, the neighborhood has gone through a transition. The older folks who raised their families there have either moved out or passed on. Those moving in are largely Mexican or Vietnamese, and a lot of the business nearby do not speak English. It's difficult for a couple who are in their 70's to feel comfortable.

Crime is also becoming a problem in the area. The main street that runs through the area has become known as a hangout for prostitutes.

Still, my in-laws have wanted to remain in their home. But over the last year, they have been burglarized 3 times. We’ve been very fortunate that the burglaries have occurred when they were not at home, but the pain and frustration has grown with each incident.

My wife and I have for a long time been wondering if there was a way to move them out of the neighborhood. They’ve owned their own small business for years and have made just enough money to get by. They have not had the luxury of being able to put money away for their retirement, yet they were able to raise their children and send them to Catholic schools and to college, if they desired. They’ve had their house paid off for 20 years and they could not possibly take on a new house payment.

In the meantime, my wife and I have lived very well. We both are lucky to have good careers that provide us with plenty of income for our family. We’ve tried to be smart about saving for our retirement and our children’s college. We’ve also spent plenty of money on ourselves.

I recently read C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity,” a book in which Lewis attempts to describe what Christianity is all about. In one chapter, Lewis describes charity. He suggested that charity does not mean just giving a few extra bucks to the less fortunate. Rather, charity should be something that forces you to suffer in some way in order to help others. For a long time, our charity hadn’t reached that level.

We finally decided it was time to devote some of our good fortune to help someone in need. We worked through our budget and determined that we could indeed buy another house to let her parents live in, but that it would be difficult to adjust our own lifestyle to accommodate it. We are determined to make that sacrifice. We set out in search of a nice ranch-style home in a good neighborhood.

We found such a house and will close on it in a few weeks. It is an exciting time as they begin sorting through 50+ years of memories to box them up and move them. Here’s hoping that new memories can be forged in a new house.

Royals Random Ramblings

A new Rob & Rany posting showed up overnight. This time R&R discuss how awful the Royals have been this season, and toss around ideas to fix it. The most glaring problem for the Royals is offense.

The most obvious thing to try is to get Emil Brown out of the line up. In Spring Training Brown earned his spot, but since the regular season started he’s been awful. He’s 30 years old and shows no sign of becoming a late bloomer. Matt Diaz has been hitting well in AAA Omaha and since he’s younger than Brown, he should be called up – and soon.

Cal Pickering made the team because of the power threat he brings but if he’s not going to get consistent at bats, he’s not effective. He’s been taking time away from the team to be with his wife as she gave birth to their baby but now that’s over, so let’s see Pickles in the lineup against righties every time.

Another obvious problem is Mike Sweeney. I love Sweeney, but the guy is just trying to hard this season. He’s hacking at everything with his most violent swing. He needs to “stay within himself,” as they say in baseball. As Charlie Lau, George Brett’s hitting instructor, would always say, “try easier.”

Another problem R&R point out, that I’ve discussed in the past, is the poor defense in the Royals system. They have several players who are great hitting prospects, but all project to be DH/1B. Can you play baseball with 8 guys standing around first?

Dave Stewart said it best on Metro Sports last night, when he called the Royal’s catcher John Buck-thirty-five. Buck is hitting a miserable .135 in 37 AB’s. Backup catcher Alberto Castillo is winning the hearts of Royals fans. The Royals are 3-0 in games he’s caught, and he blasted a walk-off homerun to win the game yesterday.

The only other issue is making sure Grienke has his lucky necklace when he pitches...

Monday, April 18, 2005

Free Chuey!

One positive aspect of the Royals games over the last few years has been Chuey Gomez. While the Royals were busy losing games, fans were kept entertained as Chuey, the lemonade guy, walked the stands yelling “lemonade lemonade lemonade!” followed by a loud “woooooooooo!”

It wasn’t long before fans caught on, answering Chuey’s “lemonade” call with a “woooooo!” call of their own. He quickly became a fan favorite and I’m sure he sold a lot of lemonade.

This season, there was a dispute between Chuey and the concession company and Chuey no longer works at Kauffman Stadium.

When Chuey came to KC, he could barely speak English, and his lemonade call was further enhanced by his strong Latin accent. He worked hard and made a name for himself. He learned the language. He became aware that he was more than a typical vendor, and expected to be paid as such.

When things fell through with the Royals, Chuey was not deterred. He started his own company called Gomez Concessions, Inc with his wife. Chuey will come to any event and sell cotton candy, popcorn, and of course lemonade at your event. Golf tournaments, little league tournaments, the Kansas City T-Bones (the Independent League team in Kansas City) are all events where Chuey will perform.

Meanwhile, the Royals have decided to rip Mr. Gomez off and have begun playing Chuey’s trademark “Wooooo!” over the loudspeakers during games this season. I think this is unfortunate. If the Royals want him to “Wooooo!” for them, hire him to sell lemonade. Otherwise, do not steal his trademark and let him make it on his own.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A Promising Start

The season is only 6 games old, but I already feel better about this Royals team than I did a year ago.

Retrosheet doesn't yet have data for 2004, so I had to do a few quick manual calcuations to try and compare this year's team with last year's.

The Royals completed 2004 with a combined batting average of .259. (According to Baseball Reference)

In six games this year, all Royals batters are hitting at a combined average of .276. As you look down the box score, eight of the 13 players who have hit this season are batting over .300.

I recall glancing at the stats last season and noticing that most players were in the low .200's. Last season was just a strange, snake-bitten season for the Royals where every player slumped.

Team ERA in 2004 was 5.15. So far this season, it is 5.46. But, that includes the bloated ERAs of Jose Lima (10.80) and Jaime Cerda (13.50). Remove those two struggling pitchers, and team ERA is a much more respectable 4.124.

Looking down the stats, we can see that six of the twelve Royals pitchers have ERA's below 5.00. More importantly, the five Royals starters have an total ERA of only 3.744. And that includes Lima's 10.80! (Take out Lima, and Royals starters are giving up a scant 1.73 runs per 9 innings).

So, yes... the stats tell an encouraging story for the 2005 Royals in their opening week. Of course, anybody who deals with statistics can tell you that ERA and batting average are the least important stats and that 6 games is not a valid sample size.

But those two stats do tell us something, and the season is only 6 games old. Here's hoping this trend continues. If they win every other game all season, I'll be a happy camper!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Should Affedt Close?

Before the 2004 season, I blogged about Jeremy Affeldt. In the post, I mentioned that I thought Affeldt could be one of the best pitchers in the AL.

Something has gone awry. Affeldt had such promise coming up. He's a left handed power pitcher who throws a strong fastball and a wicked curve. At times, he's been absolutely unhittable.

Before last year, he had his troublesome fingernail surgically removed to prevent his blister problems and started the season in the rotation with promise of establishing himself. But, for some reason, Affeldt didn't try to pitch for strikeouts. Rather, he pitched to contact. He was quoted in the KC Star as saying that he was coached to pitch this way. This makes absolutely no sense. Why take a chance by letting a batter put the ball in play when you could get a strike out?

Either way, this "coaching" seemed to ruin Affeldt. The Royals moved him to the closer role after it was obvious Mike MacDougal would be out with injuries and ineffectiveness. He recorded 13 saves, but I never felt he was in control. He'd get a save, but only after allowing a runner or two.

Today, in the Royals' first win of 2005, Affledt pitched the ninth and gave up 1 hit, 1 run, and 1 walk. He recorded 1 strikeout. I'll have to look, but has there ever been a successful left-handed closer?

I have always felt that Affeldt should be a starter (a fifth starter) just long enough to show promise and then be traded. Let MacDougal earn the closer's job again. He is more of a prototypical closer with is nasty slider following a fastball that touches 100. His violent windup that at times whips his cap off his head is intimidating to batters.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Hope Springs Eternal

They say hope springs eternal. That is certainly true for me. Each spring, I fly out to Surprise, Arizona to watch my Kansas City Royals prepare for the upcoming baseball season.

Each year I watch pitchers mow down batters and batters crush balls to the grass berm.

And each year, it seems, the regular season arrives and reality strikes. The Royals just are not a very good team.

This season, my head was filled with optimistic thoughts about the 2005 Royals. Sure, the roster would be made up of more kids than ever, but hey who knows, maybe they’ll all have break-out years.

Mike Sweeney looks to be healthy for the first time in 3 years. He says his off season workouts included his back for the first time ever. He says he’s feels better than he ever has.

Matt Stairs returned to provide a veteran presence. He’ll get fewer at bats this season, so perhaps he won’t be quite as exposed.

Brian Anderson has revamped his delivery and pitched well in Spring Training.

Zack Grienke is indeed a pitching prodigy, and he already has some major league experience under his belt. As he matures, he should gain some velocity to go along with is pin-point control.

And Jose Lima is back. In 2003, he captured the affection of Kansas City when the Royals resurrected his career

And the kids... Yes they are kids, but they hold some promise. Denny Bautista is supposed to be quite the fire-ball pitcher. Ruben Gotay hit like crazy in Spring Training, as did Emil Brown.

Mark Teahen is being rushed to the majors because of injuries, but maybe George Brett’s tutelage will really rub off on him.

But then, reality:

Ruben Gotay: 0-4
Mark Teahen: 0-4, 1 error
Mike Sweeney: 0-4
Jose Lima: 3 Innings, 6 Hits, 5 Runs, 3 Home Runs

Yes, it’s going to be a long summer. But building a team from scratch, with a bunch of kids who have some promise, is never easy. It’s been done. The Twins did it, and almost were contracted in the process. But they were successful, winning the division the last 3 years in a row.

These Royals won’t be bolting through free agency. They are here for a good 5 or 6 years. They will grow up together, and we will watch. They won’t win much this year, but they will fight and scratch. And if all goes well, we’ll see a team in 2006 or 2007 that is ready to win the division.

Hope springs eternal.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Slow Start

The Royals got of to a difficult start today, losing to the Tigers 11-2.

Jose Lima started for the Royals, and he bogged down after pitching an efficient first inning. He gave up 2 home runs and lasted only 3 innings.

Looking at the game positively, the young players now have that first game behind them. Pickering got his first homerun, and Teahen now has his MLB debut under his belt.

Another positive is that rookie pitcher Andy Sisco plunked Dmitri Young. Young already had hit 2 HR's. It's the first time in years that Royals pitchers had tried to intimidate a batter by pitching inside. Of course, it didn't do much good as Young hit yet another HR later in the game.

The bottom line is that the Royals pitchers struggled today, while Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman pitched well.

The Royals will enjoy an off day tomorrow and Runelvys Hernandez will take on the Tigers Wednesday. Here's hoping for a better outing for the R's.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Who is Paul Phillips?

Part of the fun of going to Arizona for Spring Training is to acquire as many player autographs as possible. Spring Training is a rather relaxed time where players are more willing to mingle with the fans and sign autographs. When I was in Surprise two years ago, I grabbed a foul ball hit by Aaron Guiel. After the game, he and Ken Harvey both signed it for me (and now they are both in the minors... hmmm...)

I took that same ball back to Arizona last month to see if I could add some signatures to it. I did pretty well. Some of the good names on my ball are Frank White, Kyle Snyder, Mike MacDougal, Denny Hocking and Byron Embry. None of those are particularly big names, (except of course Mr. White). I was especially pleased when Jose Lima agreed to sign my ball. Lima has a big, swooping signature that includes his number (#33). Later that day, minor league catcher Paul Phillips was signing some autographs, so in the spirit of getting as many as I could, I handed my ball over to him. He proceeded to sign his name... OVER JOSE LIMA!!!

Okay, let's review. Lima is a former Cy Young award winner. He won an important playoff game just last fall, pitching a shutout against the heavy-hitting St. Louis cardinals. He will be the opening day starter for the Kansas City Royals.

Phillips is a career minor league catcher. He has a whopping 5 major league at bats on his resume. His arm has been so badly injured, he's only played a few games over the last 3 years.

It's not just me. He also signed over the top of Byron Embry on my son's ball. I hope he breaks a leg.