Kauffman Stadium is a tough park. Sure, it has those nice fountains and that massive scoreboard, but have you ever tried to put together a winning team there? Earlier this season, then-Royals hitting coach Jack Maloof noted that since the Royals’ home stadium deflates home run rates, there was no point in trying. That is obviously the main why the Royals are tied with the AAA-and-a-half Marlins for last in baseball in home runs.
[In an unrelated event, Maloof was shortly thereafter relieved of his duties and replaced with (interim) hitting coach George Brett. Maloof and co-coach Andre David were sent back down to coach in the minors, where they can work their magic again with young Royals hitters, just like they did with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.]
The K is not just responsible for the Royals’ relative inability to hit the ball out of the park. It also is responsible for their longstanding problems drawing walks, according to General Manager Dayton Moore.
[Both of these stories were written by former Kansas City Star employee Jeffrey Flanagan, who now writes for FOX Sports Kansas City, which, and you aren’t going to believe this, broadcasts Royals games! You might remember Flanagan from this.]
You might be expecting me to make points about component park factors, what other teams do in Kauffman or in their own parks given those factors, player development, or something else. But Moore and Maloof got me thinking. What other difficulties has Kauffman imposed upon the Royals over the years? I did some research, and lo-and-behold, I found a whole different set of park factors for The K.
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The Kansas City Royals have lost seven in a row. The worst of it (so far) was a humiliating four-game sweep at the hands of the Angels, a series in which the Angels started Jason Vargas, Jerome Williams, Joe Blanton, and, perhaps worst of all, Billy Buckner. Buckner was a former Royals prospect traded away back in 2007, who, until this last game, had not pitched in the majors since 2010. He shut the Royals out for five innings and was promptly sent back down.
Enough of the misery! These are hard times in Royals-land. After years of hard times. It may take divine intervention to restore the wholeness of “Royals Nation” or whatever stupid name people want to give to collective Royals fandom. In hopes of restoration let us turn to the hymnal words of G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), the early twentieth-century English Catholic writer, whose works span philosophy, theology, history, cultural and social criticism, and, yes, poetry, on this day of Chesterton’s birth, which I totally knew about and did not need to be told by someone on Twitter. “Coincidences are life’s spiritual puns,” indeed.
John Gibbons’ return to managing the Toronto Blue Jays this past off-season was greeted with skepticism by some. After all, didn’t he sink the ship five years ago? Why, with the Blue Jays re-making their roster with a couple of huge trades, would they bring back a manager whose tenure had been, to put it kindly, a bit tumultuous? Sure, there were those who thought that Gibbons was pretty good when it came to in-game strategy (not much bunting). Still, could he really be comfortable enough to command the clubhouse?
During the broadcast of last night’s Blue Jays-White Sox game, I saw something that made it clear to me that whatever else is going on, John Gibbons is definitely comfortable.
[Thanks to mysterious Twitterer Paul S, who heeded my immediate request for a screen cap and provided the above.]
North America responded fulsomely.
Last weekend, a bunch of FanGraphs/RotoGraphs/NotGraphs writers descended on Arizona for our annual Spring Training Thing. The traditional Big Pizza Bash at Cibo happened on Saturday night, and Rob Neyer (maybe you’ve heard of him) was among the special guests. At one point during the evening, a stack of baseball cards was making the rounds. When it got to my table, the word was “Neyer brought these, he says take some.” Sweet. The cards were very new, and I had heard of many of the players. I took three, and later that night at the hotel I read the “Scouting Reports” that Bowman had on the back.
Needless to say, they were amazing. They used the right words and everything. I am not sure why anyone reads Baseball America when insight like this is on the back of cards. So I thought I should share some of the stuff I learned. I think it is an appropriate thing to do, given that Rob himself is no stranger to the “here’s what I learned from some baseball cards” technique. Not sure he has ever taken it to the level of scouting, though. Look out Hulet, Sussman, and Newman!
At first, I was just going to take three random cards. Then I noticed there were multiple players named “Austin.” That is a great contemporary baseball first name, isn’t it? It’s the “Dakota” of prospect names. So I had to take two Austins.
It is springtime, and stories abound on professional athletes who have suddenly discovered that they need to watch what they eat, work out, and whatnot. Coincidentally, this often occurs following a bad year. Not too surprisingly, guess who came to Arizona in the Best Shape Of His Life in 2013?
That’s right. Jeff Francoeur realizes that he had a really bad year in 2012, and he needs to make some changes. One might think that it is not really that exceptional for a player coming off a season during which he hit .235/.287/.378 while playing right field as if he was pulling an invisible trailer full of anvils to understand something to be amiss. But let’s face it, players are rarely as frank regarding their own performance as Francoeur is in this article, which I like to think of as Greatest BSOHL Story Ever Told.
You’ve heard the big new out of Florida, as related by Bob Nightengale via Navin Vaswani of our NotGraphs’ Investigative Reporting Investigation Team:
Predictably, given the subtle and deep knowledge of British culture that Americans have inherited from their parent country, this led to approximately eleventy billion jokes summarized in this outstanding Paint.NET masterpiece by yours truly:
Once you have regained your aesthetic bearing after confronted by this marvelous combination of the beautiful and sublime, prepare to have your mind grapes squeezed. Nightengale’s wording was too apt to be just an accident leading to a joke. It is, in fact a brilliant cultural reference that deserves further exploration.
If you thought the Yuniesky Betancourt news was huge…
While the pundits may have already handed the National League East crown to Washington or the newly double-Upton’d Atlanta club, the Philadelphia Phillies are not going to go quietly into the night. While Ruben Amaro may not have made the sort of suprise-Cliff-Lee signing splash so far this season, observers knew something was up when he first acquired Rangers Legend Michael Young to play third and Delmon Young, who was a top prospect as recently as some current college seniors were in high school. Seeing the rival club from Georgia taking advantage of brotherly love, well, that was just too much for Amaro to take. There was only one possible course of action. This leaked 2013 promo poster (exclusive to NotGraphs) tells the tale:
Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro is quite confident:
It has been almost two weeks since the big trade that sent, among others, Wil Myers to Tampa Bay for, among others. James Shields. (I apologize to those who are calling it the big Odorizzi-Leonard trade). So yeah, this is a delayed reaction. But a reaction it is, a reaction through pictures. It is, as it were, a study in contrasts between one of the “others,” Wade Davis, and myself.
Let’s begin by checking out Davis’ palpable excitement at the press conference at which he was introduced as a Royal:
It’s really too much for mere words, isn’t it? The first thing I think of is — wait a minute. The first thing I think of when I see that picture has nothing to do with Wade Davis. The first thing I think is “James Shields is just 31? Are you kidding me? Has anyone checked his birth certificate? Didn’t I give him a quarter at a subway stop in the Bronx 12 years ago?”
Once the leaders of the 2012 National League Central, the Pirates are in the midst of a second-half collapse such that they may not even finish the year at .500. What a surprise. But winning the division, according to an alleged email sent out by assistant General Manager Kyle Stark, would only have been a lesser prize. The alleged email says that “the biggest impact we can have in the second half is developing more Hells Angels.” This all came out as part of a report on the Pirates September Instructional League training which apparently included many elements from “intense Navy SEALs drills.” In part of these drills, players were supposedly required to engage in hand-to-hand combat, during which pitching prospect Jameson Taillon received a (minor) knee injury. Sounds like a bad movie I once saw…
So this is how it ends. Will McDonald (now ExRoyalsReview on Twitter), longtime mainstay of Royals Review, has decided to call it a day after eight years of blogging about the Royals. During that time, Royals Review grew from just some guy’s blog to a team site on the fledgling SB Nation network to perhaps the most popular Royals blog around.
With the management formerly of Royals Authority taking the helm, things should be in good hands. Still, it is hard for many of us to imagine following the Royals without the incentive of knowing the referents for Will’s next brilliantly-written combination of anger and comedy. How will we get through the season without more Royals Bibliomancy or Mitch Maier’s Letters Home From Baseball Camp, or expressions of irritation over Royals prospect Wil Myers spelling his first name incorrectly.
Will has been a huge inspiration. Don’t hold it against him, but, while I never “worked” at Royals Review, I probably would not be blogging today if it were not for reading Will’s stuff. Will’s posts garnered attention far beyond Royals fandom — I think the first “big break” his blog received was when Keith Law linked to it in one of his ESPN chats. I cannot summarize Will’s work, but that is the nature of all good art. So as a tribute to Will (or “Freneau,” a moniker he adopted in recent times in tribute to a poet from the era of the Revolutionary War) and as a public service, I will briefly go through just a few of McDonald’s best moments of the last few years.