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.”