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October 25, 2014 at 3:02 am ET
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Perez/Royals Back In The Game…Now What?

Salvador Perez was flat-out sloppy in game 1 of the World Series. The catcher for the Kansas City Royals wasn’t framing pitches and he wasn’t blocking them either. Sloppines

Charles Sollars / Flickr

Charles Sollars / Flickr

s cost the team at least three called strikes and two bases on wild pitches. Those pitches should have been blocked, but instead allowed runners to advance, and changed the momentum of the game.

Fast forward 24 hours and then again 72 and Perez looks like a different player. Unlike game one, Perez wasn’t rushing to get the ball out of his glove and back to the pitcher. Instead he was holding the glove for the home plate ump, giving him at least a chance to call a borderline pitch a strike. And where Perez was back-handing balls from a one-knee crouch/five-hole shot waiting to happen in the first game, he was dropping to both knees in the following games, gobbling up pitches in the dirt and giving his pitchers confidence if they bounced one, it wasn’t going to end up in someone’s basket of garlic fries.

Not that he’d admit it, but it sure looks like Perez just put in a lot better effort in games 2 and 3 than he did in the first one. Maybe it’s subconscious. Maybe he has faith in Yordano Ventura and Jeremy Guthrie that he doesn’t have in James Shields. Lord knows I feel the same way. Maybe there’s a chemistry issue. Maybe Perez doesn’t like dirt on his uniform. Maybe it will actually rain in California Saturday. Who knows?

While Perez’s defense has improved, let’s not forget how important left-handed first baseman Eric Hosmer has been. His pointy-beard, alien life-form Halloween head notwithstanding, he really impressed Friday with an 11-pitch-at-bat against Giants lefty reliever Javier Lopez that ended with Hosmer raking the ball into center and a 3-0 lead in game three. It turned out to be the game-winning hit.

And Kansas City should feel pretty darn good that Mike Moustakas followed that up with an eight-pitch at-bat of his own, though it did end in an ugly swing on an off-speed pitch.

Speaking of feeling good, Royals manager Ned Yost may just figure out a way to get to game seven despite screwing up his starting rotation with his worst post-season starter -Shields- possibly starting three games out of the series. It certainly helped that Giants’ “Hall-of-Fame-bound” (how many times do I have to hear that this week?) manager Bruce Boche helped hand the Royals game two by bringing in Hunter Strickland to face Salvador Perez.

Why do I say that? It was only 3-2 Royals when Boche brought in Strickland and his 4 home runs allowed in 4 1/3 innings. Perez loves fastballs. Strickland loves fastballs. Strickland doesn’t know where they’re going. Perez doesn’t care. Result? A Perez double (5-2 Royals), an Infante home run on the same pitch he’d hammered earlier in the game for a double (7-2 Royals) and Strickland screaming at the imaginary man in his glove and then at a confused Perez who could only play charades, “Two words. Rhymes with psycho? What?”

Also helping the Royals in the their quest to go up 3-1, is Ryan Vogelsong’s 5.19 Earned Run Average in the post-season taking on Jason Vargas and his 2.38 in game four. Don’t be surprised to see Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner appear sooner than his next scheduled start.

I still don’t see Shields doing squat in game five, but I did originally pick the Royals to win in seven, but I did change course, but now the Strickland Effect has entered the picture and the Tom Watson strategy seems to be working so far, and… and… damn I don’t know who’s winning this.

You think Bud Selig might call a tie?

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June 15, 2008 at 3:41 pm ET
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Rage Against the Machines

Instant Replay cometh. And, like the Borg, resistance is futile. Those phantom homers at Yankee Stadium a few weeks back sealed the deal. Especially Delgado’s shot. That was the official Tipping Point. That game was broadcast on ESPN too, so you knew, just knew, the World Wide Leader’s entire slate of talking heads would spend the next week claiming that The Time Has Come for Instant Replay. The conclusion was forgone: Baseball needs, must have, won’t survive a second longer without a video system for reviewing bad calls.

Friday, the other shoe dropped.

Funny, isn’t it? For almost 150 years, baseball has flourished without replay. Now, suddenly, the game must change with the times. Please. If you love baseball, and, more importantly, if you have ever seen a “Terminator” movie, rage against instant replay. Fight it. Replay is the devil; Satan incarnate. Though the cause may already be lost, battle against this cold intrusion; this technological abomination in our beloved game. The future, if there is one, will judge you well.

First, obviously, instant replay will slow the game down. Way, way down. Because if there’s one thing Major League Baseball needs, it’s more long breaks in the action, more time for old, fat guys to stand around and talk. The Game Without a Clock may finally get one to ensure that umpires “only” take two minutes to reach a decision on a disputed play. This, not coincidentally, will be just enough time to squeeze in another commercial break. Then again, since umpires never bother enforcing the 12-second between pitches rule (don’t get me started), it seems unlikely that the ump’s union would ever allow a limit on how long deliberating a call could take. Anyone for games that last six hours?

But the larger point, besides the whole “machines enslaving humanity” thing, is that instant replay will create more problems than it solves. Replay will absolutely not end bad calls in baseball. Ever, ever, ever. It certainly hasn’t ended bad calls in the NFL, with their wildly undignified, painfully slow, bean-bag toss game. Ask any D-back burned on a bad interference call.

MLB will tell claim that they will only use instant replay on fair/foul calls. They are lying. Did everyone see Ryan Howard thrown out at home plate a few nights after Delgado’s disputed home run? At full-speed, it was a bang-bang play. But the replay clearly showed that Howard beat the tag. How is that play any less worthy of a review than a ball off the foul pole? It isn’t. Really, to make replay work, they have to make every play, at every base, reviewable at all times.

Did I say six-hour games? Make that nine hours.

Using a replay system will not only bring games to a crawl, it will suck much of the fun from whatever action remains. Imagine a runner being thrown out at the dish to win a game for the home team. Now imagine that play goes under review so the crowd has to wait in their seats, sitting on their hands, not knowing how to react until an official tells them. Fans will no longer be cheering plays, but calls, and one more small measure of joy will be sucked from out lives, like marrow from our bones.

It won’t end. Next they will get rid of umpires completely and use some kind of computerized tracking system to call balls and strikes. At the moment, of course, umpires give the best pitchers and hitters the benefit of the doubt on close calls. That will change with computers. A Mantle and Mendoza will always get the same strike zone. Is that really the baseball we want? Besides, and this is a pretty serious thing, without umpires who would fans boo?

The darkest evil, though, is how instant replay will change the way we think about the game. As machines take over, machine-like thinking will imperceptibly, but surely change the way we think about baseball itself. With humans making judgments, there are bad mistakes, big and small. So? Mistakes by authority figures, on the field and off, are part of life. Learning how to handle a bad break with equanimity is one of the great lessons sports can teach. By taking people out the equation, by pursuing an illusion of fairness through machines, we will rob the game of something what makes it vital, unpredictable and raw; the humanity. With instant replay, there would never have been a Jeffrey Maier. The Royals would never have won a World Series. Imagine Billy Martin or Earl Weaver trying to argue a call, kicking dirt at a computer, and you start to see what baseball will sacrifice on the alter of progress.

In an ever-more technological world, it’s a tragic thought. Baseball should be a sanctuary from the mechanized life. We love the game precisely because it feels timeless, untouched by the modern world. To surrender that is folly. Sure, without a instant replay system, Delgado lost a home run. If we let machines tell us how to run this game, we all lose much, much more.

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May 6, 2008 at 9:31 pm ET
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Inanimate Object 1, John Bale 0

For those of you who do not follow the various contenders for the #5 spot in the Royals rotation (ok, all of you):

Hotel Door 1-0 with a TKOJohn Bale hit a hotel door with his pitching door. The pitching door won, putting him out of action indefinitely.

Four things.  First, that arm is apparently not as dead as initially reported. 

Second, Bale has allowed 25 hits in 15 1/3 innings in 2008 so it is somewhat shocking that the hand didn’t travel much further after contacting the door.

Third, this is another in a long list of strange injuries in baseball history, which Mellinger recounts here.

To focus just on two injuries causing Royals players to miss time in the last decade (I wanted to focus on George Brett another time):

Mark Quinn:

Official DL injury:  Cracked Rib.

Cause:  Sustained after kung-fu fighting with his brother.  Which came as a surprise to this Royals fan, who thought the Eastern martial arts required discipline and stressed defense.  Quinn became famous as a Royal for two other reasons: 

1)  Quinn went 199 consecutive plate appearances without a walk.  When he did draw a walk (presumably by accident or inattention), they set off fireworks at the K.  Really, they did.  

2)  He reportedly dated former Playboy playmate Teri Harrison, who gave up even the pretense of “a serious acting career” in 2005 by acting in a movie called “Snuff-Movie“ (a movie admirable for its straight-forward title). 

Runelvys Hernandez:

Camera operators adjusted, eventually learned to pan outOfficial DL injury:  Placed on DL on 3/27/06 due to “lack of stamina.”

Cause:  Morbidly obese, even for a pitcher.  Ballooned to 6-2, “in the 280 range” during 2006 spring training.  This caused Buddy Bell to exile a pitcher who won the Royals’ 2003 opener after Tony Pena, Sr conducted a coinflip to determine that year’s opening day starter.  Later fought in the clubhouse with catcher John Buck, becoming the first Royal to commit battery against his batterymate.  Currently pitching with his third organization since being released, now pitching for the Round Rock Express. 

Currently listed as 6-1, 200lbs in the Round Rock media guide, which either is a result of a terrific diet or “lying.”

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April 21, 2008 at 9:23 pm ET
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Other Potential Free Agents

In recent days, Kansas City fans have looked elsewhere to salvage the season.  Like some Devil Rays fans (all three of them), our local media believes the Royals might be a destination for Barry Bonds.  Some speculate that the Royals might offer Frank Thomas a full time place in the lineup.

But we might not obtain either.  Unlike Florida, we cannot offer them a beautiful locale near a home.  We cannot offer a pennant race.  Unlike New York or Los Angeles, we cannot offer millions of dollars for a one-year pursuit of immortality.

We have to, in the words of a marketing executive about to be fired for the overuse of cliches, look outside the box.  Here are some other possibilities, still available on the free agent market:

1)  Roger Clemens:

Assets:  Feared right-hander who would add experience to a young rotation.  In shape.  Familiar with AL batters.

Liabilities:  As we have learned from Andy Pettite, may lead impressionable young pitching staff to life of crime.  Might be forced to pitch with ankle bracelet in the future, limiting his mobility.

2)  David Wells

Assets:  Wily left-hander.  Veteran presence.

Liabilities:  Kansas City a dangerous place for Wells to pitch, due to easy availability of buffet-style restaurants.  Prone to gout.

3)  Preston Wilson

Assets:  When healthy and younger, 30-30 player.

Liabilities:  Despite not being active for the 2008 season, has somehow struck out 30 times in April.

4)  Randy Johnson

Assets:  Dominant left-hander when healthy.

Liabilities:  Wait.  He’s not a free agent and on an active roster?  Are you sure?

5)  Juan Gonzalez:

Assets:  In his prime, a RBI machine.  Available for cheap.  Familiar with Royals organization.

Liabilities:  Last fully operational during the Clinton Administration.  May flee for parts unknown at any time. 

6)  Jose Canseco:

Assets:  Desperate for attention, any attention.  Wants to guarantee induction to Hall of Fame by hitting more home runs.

Liabilities:  May accuse multiple teammates of wrongdoing, including Mark Teahen’s involvement in the disappearance of Natalie Holloway.

7)  Albert Belle:

Assets:  Rested.  Only 41, which is like 34 in Julio Franco years.   At his peak, a game-changing hitter.  Inevitable explosive confrontation with KC Star columnist Jason Whitlock, which might cause amusement.

Liabilities:  Potential lawsuit resulting from death of KC Star columnist Jason Whitlock.  Treatment for anger management issues may render him unable to hit anything with a bat.

8)  John Rocker:

Assets:  He’s left handed, which means he can pitch until he’s 60 on a major league roster (see:  Orosco, Jesse).  No subways in KC area or, for that matter, a functioning mass transit system of any kind.

Liabilities:  Has already alienated his potential teammates and fanbase.  Might use offensive Japanese imitation when greeting fellow Royal Yashuiko Yabuta.

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April 20, 2008 at 8:59 pm ET
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Well. That Sucked.

Three games against Oakland, three losses.  Three starts by our two best starters and our best pitching prospect:  three non-quality starts.   Three games against the A’s — very little offense, mediocre (at best) defense.

On the bright side, we released Hideo Nomo, ending the ill-advised experiment to an end.  The entourage of Japanese reporters following him around now are checking for hotel vacancies throughout the Greater Omaha Metropolitan Area.  Nomo-Mania Moves To Unsuspecting Omaha Area

Mellinger provides a terrific summary of Nomo’s career which is a must-read (spoiler:  he’s not going back to Japan).  What’s strange is that in retrospect no one appreciates his significance in baseball history:  the first Japanese player to truly excel in the States, opening the door for Dice-K, Matsui, etc… 

The big news is that Luke Hochevar replaced him.

Hochevar is the first major decision in Deyton Moore’s reign, as it appears as if five days before his hiring he “directed” the Royals to select Hochevar (over Miller, Lincecnum, Longoria and Kerkshaw).  He is the first clear sign that the Royals were going to spend money on the amateur draft, irrespective of signability issues and the spectre of Scott Red shirt not worn during starts.Boras.

Thus far, he’s been a disappointment.  He dominated the Midwest League in 06′, then underwhelmed in 07, particularly compared to those selected in the same draft.

And, frankly, he got completely hammered today in the fourth inning, giving up six hits (including five in a row), a walk and five runs in the inning.  All told:  4 2/3ip, 9h, 6er, 2bb, 5ks.

Some thoughts:

*  Hochevar is not Lincenum.  Frankly, few are.  For the rest of his career, he will be compared to the players picked behind him and not But let’s say he turns into a solid #3-4 starter this year or next.   We needsomeone like that.  He’s better than the alternatives:  Bale, Tomko, DeLaRosa, Lumsden, etc…  If he becomes a solid #3-4 this year or next and include him with Meche, Bannister, Greinke… well, you start to have the first above-average Royals rotation in…. this millennium?

*  I think this is a pitcher who would particularly benefit from working with Bob McClure.  Working with a pitching coach who stresses “pitching to contact” would help Hochevar, who had a tendency to nibble today.  Also, a post at Royals Review brings up another thing:  Hochevar didn’t pitch effectively inside today.  That will change with McClure, who stresses it a great deal (particularly when discussing Meche).

*  I truly don’t understand how a pitcher whose best pitch is a sinking fastball is so prone to home runs.

*  The one terrific thing about Dayton taking over that no one talks about:  no more blockbuster trades with the A’s.  Under the Baird era: 

Mark Ellis and Johnny Damon to Oakland, receiving AJ Hinch, Angel Berroa and Roberto Hernandez in return.

Jermaine Dye to Oakland in three-way deal netting us Neifi Perez from Colorado.

Three-way trade w/Oakland, netting us John Buck, Mark Teahen and Mike Wood for Carlos Beltran.

There’s still a strange connection with Oakland, but mostly that is free-agent related (German, Sweeney, Emil Brown, etc…) rather than us directly dealing with someone much smarter than us.  Thank God.

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April 19, 2008 at 10:59 pm ET
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If we’re going to take ourselves seriously….

… it is past time to address our biggest weakness both this year and in our team’s history.

This is a historic weakness for KC.  Here is a list of former Royal shortstops since 1985:  Angel Salazar, Kurt Stillwell, David Howard (protected over Jeff Conine in the expansion draft), Greg Gagne (who was actually the best of the bunch), Jay Bell (after he was “good”), Mendy Lopez, Rey Sanchez, Neifi Perez (when he decided to play), Angel Berroa and now…

Tony Pena, Jr.Not nearly as cute after 50abs.

At first, most Royals fans were so relieved that the name corresponding with “6” on the scorecard did not include the names “Angel Berroa” or “Neifi Perez” that Pena received praise for doing the “little things.”  Those “little things”, as we have discovered, do not include hitting for average or power.

Here is how much of a black hole Tony Pena is at the plate. 

Pena in 08:  .120 batting average, .135 OBP, .150 SLG.

NL Pitchers in 08′:  .112 batting average, .146 OBP, .143 SLG.

AL managers have caught on:  the Angels intentionally walked Gload twice to face Pena and both times it worked.  And it is even worse than that.  Pena is, in addition to being a poor hitter, a horrific bunter. 

He is, in short, so bad that there is absolutely no way his defensive abilities outweigh his offense. 

The alternatives?

1)  Most likely is Callaspo.  Callaspo isn’t horrific at short, he has a terrific arm and decent range.  He has proven he can hit in the minors (a .400 on base percentage for the last two years in AAA).

2)  Angel Berroa.  Please, stop laughing.  He is currently hitting .373/.385/.608 in 51 at Forgive me for thinking the unthinkablebats in Omaha.  He had a solid 2007 in Omaha.  Baseball Prospectus projects him at .250/300/360, which isn’t great but better than the (optimistic) Pena projection.  He now can fill in at second. 

This could be a fun team.  But batting with an eight-man lineup could ruin this season.

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April 16, 2008 at 7:49 am ET
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Minor League Team Welcomes Michael Vick To Prison

The independent minor league Kansas City T-Bones have an interesting promotion on May 28.  They will welcome Michael Vick to nearby Leavenworth Penitentiary on that night with a fun little promotion, according to Flanagan’s column this morning.More attractive than the Padres uniforms in the 1970s

Included in the promotion:

*The T-Bones will be wearing prison uniforms.  The T-Bones’ opponents, the Gary Railcats, will wear orange jumpsuit tops. 

* Some players may enter the game in shackles.  No word on whether a armored bullpen car will drive a relief pitcher wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask to the mound with an armed guard.

*  The game will include spotlights and escapee sirens.  Which sounds more pleasing to the ear than the obvious musical choice to serenade Vick:  “Who Let The Dogs Out.”

Not included in the promotion due to safety concerns:

*  The players entering the field in a paddy wagon.  Or leaving the field through a sewer.

*  Lining the inside of the stadium with barbed wire.

* Selling shanks at the concession stands.More intimidating than Habrosky, Gossage or Sutter.

*  Allowing players to exchange cigarettes for favorable calls from the umpires.

*  Relievers entering the game to the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”

*  Any player or manager ejected spends the rest of the game in solitary confinement.

The night benefits local animal shelters.

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April 14, 2008 at 11:58 pm ET
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Is Gil Meche a #3 Starter on the Royals?

I know, its April, blah blah blah blah blah.

But:

Brian Bannister is not just good this year, he’s been remarkable.   He’s been discounted by the sabermetricians for his low strikeout rate.  He understands that concern, quoted in an interview using a phrase rarely uttered in a baseball interview:  “I realize very well that I could regress to the mean.”  The radar gun indicates that he’s not going to make it and even the statistical experts who serve as counterweight to the traditional scouting metrics think he’s likely to disappoint.

So far he hasn’t.  Posnaski has “The Bannylog” from his latest start, a complete game victory to put him 3-0 on the season.  His worst start thus far (a win against the Yankees) in the home opener came in a game where the home plate umpire seemed reluctant to

And then there’s Greinke:

We’ve been waiting for this.  He’s just a gifted pitcher (tonight, he hit 95 on the gun on pitch #101… to say nothing of his command of his off-speed pitches) and is considered the best Royal pitcher to come up through the Royals system since Kevin Appier. 

It isn’t just that he’s 3-0 in his first three starts – it is that he’s just cruised through all three games without really being threatened.  There was only one half inning in three starts when he was struggling (and Ivan Rodriguez bailed him out by popping up a 3-1 pitch).

Yes, its April.  But two weeks in, the Royals appear to have a vastly improved rotation and a better than expected bullpen.  Butler can just flat-out hit, while Gordon appears to be the player who can eventually break the Royals’ (absurdly low) single-season home run mark of 36. 

They’ll struggle on offense, but not nearly as much as the last two years when Emil Brown was considered our power threat.  The bench has Callaspo (good at what he is), German (ditto), Gathright (a good 4th of/pinch runner, if not the Next Willie Wilson envisioned during the first week), Olivo (capable backup catcher and a vast improvement over Jason Larue), Gload (good lefty bat).

Its early, but I honestly think this team might get to .500.

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April 12, 2008 at 9:26 pm ET
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A Search For A Rival

Some housekeeping:  In Dayton We Trust posts the single worst picture of owner David Glass in existence (I’ve seen more attractive pictures of Batman villains), while AJ posts a persuasive case on why Johnny Damon is truly reprehensible and deserves booing.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about my inability to truly “hate” the Yankees, our one-time bitter rival.  Here’s the thing — the Royals don’t have a rival.  The A’s were once our hated rival, but residual ill will toward Charley Finley was last prevalent when KCI was considered a state-of-the-art airport (where you can park close to the gate, but you have to drive an hour to get there).  The Yankees once were a fun rival to hate, but they’ve moved on while we’ve moved down.

I want a rival for the Royals.  We’re missing that.  The Chiefs have the Broncos, where I literally get pissed off when fans in Denver cheer their team (can’t they see I’m hurting?) and feel a terrific sense of schadenfreude when the Denver crowd is silent after a tough defeat.  Note:  theoretically, the Chiefs also have a rivalry with the Raiders, but our feelings toward the Raiders combine pity with bemusement.  We don’t take them seriously or fear them.  No one does.

The Royals’ hated rival?  I got nothing.

Here are my nominees:  ISO Fellow Mascot To Bodyslam Before Game

The St. Louis Cardinals:

The advantages are proximity and history.  They are the other team in Missouri.  We’re three and a half hours away and many Cardinal fans live here and are, on occasion, insufferable.   The greatest moment in Royal history came against the Cardinals, when we took the 1985 World Series.  This is an event that Cardinal fans still whine about (guess what:  Clark catches the popup or St. Louis, I dunno, decides to show up for Game Seven and you may win the series.  Also, we outplayed you.  And Buddy Biancalana outplayed Ozzie Smith.  So there.).

The disadvantages:  They are in the other league, which kind of cuts down on the amount of potentially significant games.  More importantly, Cardinal fans don’t care about the Royals.  Really.  We’re just another interleague series to them, while in KC we hype the series as The Most Important Series Of The Year.  Which, sadly, is true — its the only time we’re guaranteed of selling out three games in a row.

The Casinos:

A very difficult rival for the Royals for the KC entertainment dollar.  Most night, attendees at the casinos have a better chance of winning than the Royals.   The drinks are cheaper and the waitresses wear revealing clothes.  Also, the “gaming industry” (lobbying euphemism for “taxation of poor and middle class citizens with a dream”) seemingly have a majority of the Missouri Legislature under retainer. 

Disadvantage:  If given a choice between the casinos and the Royals, I’m not sure whether we can carry any of the counties in the KC Metropolitan Area.

The Chicago White Sox:

In the same division.  Also, I have a decades-long dislike for announcer Hawk Harrelson.  I’m not the only one.

Indifference and Apathy:

Twenty years builds up a lot of this.  This is really our biggest rival. 

Disadvantage:   In the past, Royals often play with apathetic indifference.  See:  Brown, Emil and Perez, Neifi.  Also difficult to beat indifference with Tony Pena, Jr., who inspires indifference. 

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April 10, 2008 at 10:20 pm ET
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I Envy Others Who Still Can Hate

I just had an epiphany.  I don’t hate like I used to.

Let me explain:

The Yankees are in town. 

I used to hate the Yankees when I was first followed the sport.  One of my more vivid childhood baseball memories is riding in the backseat of my parents’ car, tearing up a Reggie Jackson baseball card after he delivered a clutch hit against the Royals.  My parents chided me, stating that one day that card might be worth money (it wasn’t a rookie card and no baseball card I ever owned remained in mint condition, so the chances of that were nil… I think my parents thought my baseball card collection might allow them to retire early at that time). 

I remember being upset when Sparky Lyle shut us down in the 77′ ALCS and elated when Brett finally destroyed the Yankees in the 80′ ALCS.  And don’t get me started about Chambliss.  Throughout my childhood, my team’s season was usually defined by their games against the Yankees.

In theory, I should still dislike them.  After all, I should dislike a team that at times seems more a conglomeration of brand names (Matsui from Japan!  A-Rod!)  that field lineup positions than an actual team.  And certainly, envy can engender a resentment and the Yankees certainly have the success a Royals fan craves. 

But nothing.

The Yanks even have a former Royal star, a Former Face Of The Franchise, on the roster.  As Mellinger points out, Johnny Damon gets booed at the K on occasion, but more as a formality than with anything resembling passion. 

And, really, what are we booing?  A free labor market?  Someone’s ability to make more money and win championships elsewhere?  Sorry, I don’t boo anyone else who leaves an employer for a better job offer.  Are we booing the impotence of the mid to late 90s Royals?  Do we boo everyone that has left?  Beltran?  Dye?  Paul Byrd?  Neifi Perez?   (Well, now you’re talking, but booing a journeyman banjo hitter seems a waste of time, really.)

Ultimately, Damon is just another athlete who wants to be paid market value.  Except he swings with one hand and throws like a girl (actually, I’m pretty sure Andrea has a better arm).

Why don’t I hate the Yankees anymore?  I’ve been thinking about it and here’s why I don’t hate them like I used to:

1)  The Royals are a speck to the Yankees.

C’mon.  Deep down I know Yankee fans don’t care about us.  I can try to pretend that beating the Yankees matters, but more often than not Yankee fans treat a loss to us as an opportunity lost (“We keep losing to bottom feeders!”), not an actual defeat.

2)  I got to know Yankee fans.  They seem shockingly normal.

Of the six hard-core baseball fan friends I have, two are Yankee fans.  At first, I reacted with some surprise:  “you seem so normal.  You don’t gloat incessantly.  And you speak terrific English.” 

Many of them are just good baseball fans.  They don’t respond to a defeat by choosing a different team.  They don’t buy a new hat when their team fails.  The ones I know grew up with the early 1970s Yankees (who just sucked) and suffered through the underachievement of the 1980s Yankees.   

In short, they’re like me, but they happened to get luckier in choosing their lifelong affection.   Unlike newly minted Red Sox (or Cub) fans, who choose a team based upon trendiness — or, may God pity their souls, a Jimmy Fallon movie — Yankee fans know their team is despised.  They know they face disdain when following their team and do so anyway.

3)  The Yankees have mellowed.

I remember when I thought the Yankees were trash-talking, arrogant rivals.  Reggie Jackson telling everyone how great he was, Steinbrenner firing Dick Howser because he dared to have a runner tossed out in the 80′ ALCS, Billy Martin ready to fight anyone, etc…

Now?  When I think of Steinbrenner, he’s more of a comedic foil on Seinfeld than an actual threat to the sport.  Joe Torre was no Billy Martin.  Far from it.  The players on the Jeter/Rivera/Posada/Pettite/Williams era Yankees were a throwback to the 1950s — they just acted like professionals and performed in the clutch.   (OK, Roger Clemens excepted.)   The team as a whole wasn’t a trashy soap opera, they were just a collection of good players who won with efficiency.

Occasional disdain?  Sure.  But ultimately I’m just envious.

4)   I rarely listen to the Yankee radio broadcasts and rarely think of Rudy Guiliani.

Enough said.  Seriously, have you heard John Sterling or Suzy Waldman?  I can avoid them.  If I couldn’t, everything I write here would not be applicable.

5)  In reality, I came to the realization that, while I don’t root for them, the Yankees are good for baseball.

I need constants when I follow sports.  Every year, the Yankees are in the playoffs and they and their players bring with them a long history I’m familiar with.   To me, there’s something oddly generic about, say, watching Colorado and Arizona play for a World Series bid.  Sure, they were two good teams — but its hard to all of a sudden have to follow storylines that were just created in the last two weeks.  

6)  Have I mentioned that we’ve sucked?

Yep.  I’m beaten.   I can’t hate a team if there isn’t a conceivable chance we would ever play them in a meaningful game.  I mean, I can pretend that a mid-June game has meaning, but c’mon.  When you go 74-88 year after year, it matters less and less who the 74 or 88 came against.

So I guess what I’m really saying is… Go Royals!  Teach me to hate again.

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