Tag Archives: Kansas City Royals

Too Young

Two Sunday mornings the past six months and two times the news of a shocking death of a promising, young baseball player. On September 25, 2016, young pitching phenom Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins died in a high-speed boat accident. Today, the news of Kansas City pitcher Yordana Ventura’s death in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

It’s tough when these young and talented athletes die before their time. It’s especially rough when one of the deceased in from your team. Ventura was a Kansas City Royal. He was an extremely talented young pitcher who was just beginning to mature and settle in as a top-notch major league pitcher. He will be truly missed by all of us in the Royals Nation.

These deaths always bring back a wave of my memories of the other young athletes whose early and untimely deaths still weigh heavily on me. Thurmon Munson, captain and catcher of the hated New York Yankees.  Young Oscar Taveras of the St. Louis Cardinals. Roberto Clemente who died in a plane crash delivering humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico. Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs, Pat Tillman of the Arizona Cardinals, Len Bias of Boston Celtics. The list of those we lost early is long and heartbreaking.

Every untimely athlete’s death leads me one particular death that still makes me sad today. The death of Joe Delaney on June 29, 1983. Joe Delaney was a running back who, in his first two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, looked like he was the long-awaited savior to a fan base who had waited a decade for a spark of hope. He was personable, he seemed to be a great kid and a great teammate, and he was an incredible talent at running back.

The news of his death that summer day was like a shot to the chest. I was just out of high school and I broke into tears. It was more than just hearing that one of your sports heroes had passed away, though. It was hearing your sports hero died while attempting a rescue of three boys drowning in a pond—even if he didn’t know how to swim himself.  Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star wrote a great remembrance of Joe Delaney a couple of years ago. It is worth a few minutes to read and remember.

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My condolences and prayers go out to the family of Yordana Ventura and to his Royals family.  We will remember him for his smile and his enthusiasm for the game. He will always return to our thoughts when we think about the 2015 World Series Title.

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Name On The Front

You may or may not have heard, but the Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series! They out-hustled, out-worked, out-scouted, out-played the Mets to win four games to one. I was happy. I sat in complete bliss watching the postgame celebration late Sunday night and into early Monday morning.

It was fun.

But, as my head hit the pillow a little after 1:00 AM on Monday, November 2, 2015, my thoughts shifted to the one question. That one question that always haunts a coach, “How do we get better?”

In the Kansas City Royals case, “How do they keep winning into 2016 and beyond?”

If you’re looking for a happy, blue-Kool Aid-infused blog post about how awesome everything is and how we should keep the train on the track as is, I apologize in advance. You are going to be pissed off at old Coach Hays. This is going to be a rant about how we can leverage this current success into a long-term success by focusing on the stale, overused team sports saying about playing for the “name on the front of the jersey”.

The secret to the Royals future success and with the associated continuance of your fandom needs to be grounded in this. We need to be Royals fans. Not just Gordon fans, not just Hosmer fans, not just Cain fans, and not just Perez fans. We need to cheer like crazy for the guys on the roster, the guys who go out and play the games every day. AND we need to avoid falling in love with the individual over the team.

Small market or mega-market, professional sports teams have to be smart about how, when and where they spend money. The mega-markets can afford mistakes on long-term, high dollar contracts. The small markets cannot. They have to be willing to part ways with current players and/or parlay a current start into two or three future stars.

That is what I believe Dayton Moore’s as a general manager lies. Don’t get bogged down in heavy, long-term contracts at the expense of your future. Be consistently great by being an organization consistently evolving.

  • Acquire talent.
  • Develop talent.
  • Coach up the talent.
  • Put the talent in a position to win.
  • Deal talent.
  • Repeat.

But, this is tough. It’s tough as a GM to pull the trigger. Okay, you short memory people, remember how ticked off you were last year when they let Billy Butler walk to the A’s. Remember?

The Royals have built an exceptional system under Dayton Moore. It is something I never could or would have believed the Glass family would have committed the resources to a decade ago. They have great scouting on both the talent and game front. They have great assistant coaches and minor league coaches (I forego inclusion of head coach Ned Yost in this list as his greatest asset to the organization is allowing people around him to do their jobs.). They have tapped into Latin America like few other teams did to mine talent.

In short, I trust this management to compete.

Compete.

Is that all we can ask as fans?

Compete, compete, compete, and then, on occasion, tremendous things will happen as fortune smiles on your endeavors and the baseball gods sprinkle your team with greatness—like the 2015 World Championship.

Don’t be mad at either the player or the management for the Gordo’s, the Salvi’s, the Zobrists, the Hosmers and the Cuetos walking out the door. Remember, they are leaving a whole bunch of awesome memories and results in their wake.

The name on the front, people.

The “now’s” instead of the “has been’s”. The “producers” instead of the “washed-ups”.

Go, Royals!

Thank you to everyone in the organization for 2014 and 2015. It’s been an awesome ride as a fan.

Now, let’s go get 2016!

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The Work Necessary

The Kansas City Royals are 2015 American League Champions!

The Boys in Blue are in the World Series against the New York Mets!

But a weird thing happened the morning after they won the ALCS over Toronto. Instead of waking up 100% joyful and ready to roll for the Series, I woke up thinking about two plays from ALCS Game 6 and how these two plays spotlight the value of coaches doing the work necessary for their players.

  1. When Alex Rios stole second base against David Price, a left-handed pitcher who allows unbelievably few stolen bases when he is on the mound.
  2. When Lorenzo Cain scored the game-winning run from first base on Eric Hosmer’s double down the right field line.

Both plays, at face value, look totally like big plays made through the exceptional speed and athleticism of those two athletes. But if you look closer, listen to the announcer comments, and the postgame interviews of players and coaches, you begin to see a whole different story.

True, Alex Rios and Lorenzo Cain are two incredibly gifted athletes but that is not what gave them the advantage and confidence to execute those clutch plays on one of the biggest stages of their sport.

What gave both players the edge was the hard work and analysis of the coaches and advanced scouting department.

Yeah. Coaching matters, scouting matters, preparation matters. Hard work IS the magic. Although both plays look to be just a couple of plays of guys running, the amount of time and effort—film study, the scouting report from the scouts following the Blue Jays for the past few months, transfer of that information to the player—are staggering.

Case One – Rios steals second base on a jump he takes off of the first movement home by David Price. Price is difficult to steal on. He’s left handed and although he doesn’t have a great move, he has a quick slide-step delivery which makes it hard for the runner to get an aggressive lead or jump. Scouting appears to have picked up on a tendency for him to sometimes forget about the runner and not give him a “look” when he’s going to pitch the ball to his catcher. For several pitches, he peeks to Rios before delivery to home. On this particular pitch, he doesn’t peek or look to first base and goes straight home, Rios runs on Price’s first movement and is safe with a stolen base–the VERY FIRST stolen base allowed by David Price ALL YEAR. Rios did not end up scoring, but it was a blow to the confidence level of the Blue Jays and added to the pile of things they had to think about.

Scouting, picking up on tendencies, AND being able to relay those details to the player = Makes the game looks easy.

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Case Two – Royals third base coach Mike Jirshele and the scouts studied Toronto’s exceptional right fielder, Jose Bautista. They noticed he often fields a ball down the right field line and spins to throw the ball by turning his back toward the infield instead of opening up frontside where he would be able to see the infield all the time. They also noticed he almost always wheels to the blindside and throws the relay to the shortstop positioned around second base.

Coach Jirshele planned on taking advantage of this if, and when, the situation arose. Well, it arose. In fact not only were the players coached this during practices and meetings, but they were given a refresher before game six AND Coach Jirshelle revisited this with Cain and Hosmer BEFORE the inning even started since they were due to bat.

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/135309324/v525692683

Preparation works.

As a coach, when you watch hours and hours of film or live action, you begin to see patterns. When you rewind and watch a play over and over a dozen times or more, the structure patterns emerge. These patterns become tendencies when put together and analyzed.

  • Tendencies allow a coach to focus preparation.
  • Tendencies allow a coach to focus teaching.
  • Tendencies allow a coach to give his players an edge.

The word “Coach” must be used as a verb, rather than just as a noun. 

As a coach, do the work necessary to put your team in a position to succeed.

Hard work is the magic.

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Royal Concerns

The 2014 Kansas City Royals season. I still smile when I think about the final one-third of the season. I probably always will.The first playoff appearance in 29 years, followed by a playoff roll which led to a tight  game seven loss at the hands of the greatest World Series pitching performance in MLB history by Madison Bumgarner.

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But, we are now in 2015. The MLB teams have all reported to their respective spring training sites and we are now within spitting distance of Opening Day. An exciting time, to say the least. I should be basking in the World Series afterglow and chugging glass after optimistic glass of the blue Kool-Aid.

I am not. I am not overly optimistic.

Sure, I can see the potential. The potential which drove a focused and performing group of ball players to finally live up to expectations. I can see the potential, but I am also a coach.  I can plainly see they caught lightning in a bottle for a few weeks. And in case you haven’t heard, lightning is pretty damn hard to catch, let alone catch it in a bottle. I’ve spent the last few months following news and analyzing and planning and studying this team. The final verdict is in…

I have Royal concerns.

First, as an unnamed Royals front office person said during the winter meetings that they were fully aware that for most of the 2014 season, the Royals were mediocre at best, and fairly awful at times, so they felt they needed to upgrade the roster. I don’t know if they did enough upgrades in the roster. Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios will have to immediately step in and live up to expectation to stabilize the roster. The returning players will have to follow Alex Gordon’s example and learn to be a professional from day one of camp until the final out of the year.

The second concern is both a good and bad thing. I think all but Hosmer’s contract settlement were only for one year and they’ve jumped the 100 million in payroll for next season. I like this because it shows they have a desire to be good, but it also makes this a do or die year. They make a run in 2015 and then they’ll blow this whole thing up.

My biggest concern, though, is health. Alex Gordon is coming off wrist surgery. Hopefully, it all holds up. They need him. He and Salvador Perez are the heart and soul of this organization. The bus only heads in the right direction when Alex and Salvie are driver and navigator.

Speaking of Perez, he is the one I am most worried about. Catching is a grind. It wears down the body like few other positions in baseball do. He started 143 games in 2014. Ned ran his top draft horse into the ground. It will have a long-term effect on his performance and his career. It is like the NFL running back who gets too many carries in a season and is never the same physically again, like Larry Johnson did with the Chiefs in 2006.  If Salvadore Perez breaks down in 2015, the Royals are in serious trouble.

I also have concerns about the health of the lights-out bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland. They didn’t get much rest in the last 2/3 of the season. They logged a lot of innings and a lot of day after day appearances. Again, any breakdown with either of these three would hurt the Royals chances in 2015

Despite these Royal Concerns, I am excited about the 2015 season. Who am I kidding? I am excited about any baseball season. I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. Either way, I will listen and watch with the usual enthusiasm while making snarky comments on the Royals and Ned Yost’s managing on social media.

Play Ball!

 

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Morning Royals Conversation

The Kansas City Royals did it again last night. They opened the American League Division Series at Anaheim against the Angels with a dramatic extra-inning win. Mike Moustakas, barely able to hit his weight all season long, hit a home run in the top of the 11th for the go-ahead run and newly-minted father, closer Greg Holland, slammed the door with another impressive save. Good defense, led by Nori Aoki’s “chasing butterflies” style of outfield defense in right field, timely hits, and strong pitching won out.

The game started late and ended late, the second stroke of midnight win in three days. Not surprisingly, the Mrs. Hays did not make the stunning conclusion of either game this week. According to her, though, she did put her two cents in toward the postseason victories this week. Here is the first morning conversation of the day:

Me: “The Royals WON again. Moose hit a homer in the 11th!”

Wife: “That’s nice. It’s only because I went to sleep.”

Me: “Well then, can you go to sleep a little earlier for tonight’s game? I’m tired.”

Wife: “You’re dumb.”

(Note: This last statement is absolutely true. I am dumb, but I’m ROYALS DUMB!!!!)

Good luck tonight, Royals. Take the first two games out west and come home to wrap up the series. I’ll do my part, perhaps a large, starch-laden pre-game meal, and make sure Mrs. Hays makes the trip to La La Land a wee bit earlier tonight so your plane can leave at a decent hour.

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The Return of the Magic Number

In my pre-teen and teen years, the Kansas City Royals went from being a cute, little expansion team into one of the most feared, most respected, and most successful organizations in Major League Baseball. It was around 1976, at the age of 12, where I became familiar with a new term associated with my beloved Royals. The Magic Number.

What is a Magic Number, you may ask? Well the masterminds of the world wide web define the term better than I could ever attempt:

(from Wikepedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_number_(sports))

In certain sports, a magic number is a number used to indicate how close a front-running team is to clinching a division title and/or a playoff spot. It represents the total of additional wins by the front-running team or additional losses (or any combination thereof) by the rival team after which it is mathematically impossible for the rival team to capture the title in the remaining games. This assumes that each game results in a win or a loss, but not a tie

The magic number is calculated as G + 1 − WA − LB, where

  • G is the total number of games in the season
  • WA is the number of wins that Team A has in the season
  • LB is the number of losses that Team B has in the season

See, easy peasy. Mathematics and sports.

The Magic Number played big in my life in the late 70’s and early 80’s. These were pre-24-hour news cycle days. There was no streaming games scores, no checking scores on the smartphone. The only phone was wired to the wall and provided little or no help to the sports enthusiast.  So every morning, I would bounce out of bed, get my bowl of Raisin Bran, open the Kansas City Times (the old morning version of the Kansas City Star) and check the Royals Magic Number Box for the latest update on the race for the playoffs. My day would often revolve around whether positive or negative information was gleaned from that particular sports news graphic.

It is with great joy that, as a newly-minted, 50-year old, I again enjoy the Royals Magic Number during this summer/fall of 2014.

Thank you, Kansas City Royals.

Keep counting down that Magic Number.

PLAYOFFS, BABY!!!!

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Royals, Flush by Joe Posnanski

Rest Day Read (Sr-79)

Royals, Flush by Joe Posnanski

“You have to go back, in fact, to 2011. The Royals were dismal that year. They were also dismal the year before that and the year before that and the year before that and … well, you get the idea. Kansas City lost 100 games four times in the 2000s. And, oh, the stories from that time! The Royals once had a runner simply fall off first base, like a statue tipping over, and get picked off. They once had a player lose a fly ball in the sun because his prescription sunglasses had not yet arrived. They once had an outfielder who climbed the wall to catch a fly ball only to see it land on the warning track and bounce over his head. They once had their first batter of the game bat out of order.

The biggest problem then, strange as it may seem now (we are talking about the three-time-champion Royals), was that Kansas City had trouble finding, developing and affording good players. How did it turn around? How did the Royals reach the playoffs in 2013, win the World Series in ’15 and then dominate the latter part of the decade? Well, it was that minor league system … that amazing Kansas City Royals minor league system.

Believe it or not, back in those days when human beings played Jeopardy! and people thought LeBron James was going to win championships and Tiger Woods was going to break Jack Nicklaus’s career majors record, people also thought Dayton Moore was a complete failure. Moore will tell you this was mostly his fault. He made mistakes, and he did not explain himself well enough.”

I love the Royals. OK Mrs. Hays, I know I shouldn’t say “love”, especially about my hometown team, the Royals and the Chiefs, but…

Hope spring eternal.  Thanks, Joe P. for this article and providing hope.  This is going to be a rough year to be a Royals fan, but we are what we are.

If you, dear reader, are also a Royals fan, leave a comment with your favorite Royal memory.  Good luck in 2011 to the Boys in Blue!

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