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I guess at some point we all knew this would happen. It was inevitable that the rocky relationship between Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia and former Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto would end up in a standoff. Almost from day one, Scioscia and Dipoto were at odds. The war was won by Scioscia, but there were some casualties and more than anything it doesn’t bode well for the Angels organization as a whole.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia and team general manager Jerry Dipoto stand with Mike Trout as he recieves the 2012 Rookie of the Year honor at Angel Stadium Saturday night. Trout was the second Angel to get the honor since Tim Salmon in 1993. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: hsmaya.0413 - 4/13/13 - ROD VEAL, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - The Angels take on the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium Saturday night.

ROD VEAL, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Now, this latest scuffle between the manager and the general manager wasn’t their first. Go back to 2013 and you see the initial rift between these two, which was smoothed over by Angels owner Arte Moreno. In fact most of the issues these two had started when Dipoto fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, a longtime friend and former teammate of Scioscia’s. Hatcher’s firing did not go over well with Scioscia, despite the positive words Dipoto used to discuss Hatcher:

“Mickey is a terrific guy, well-liked, very energetic and hard-working. This is about providing a different voice for our offensive players,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “It’s a results-oriented business we’re in and we need to find a way to string together something better than what we are right now. It’s a decision to find a different voice.”

It should be no surprise that this “first shot” would be just the beginning of a power struggle that has split this organization. Things looked good throughout most of 2014, as the Angels would roll to the best record in baseball before being swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. So far in 2015 the Angels have been hovering a bit above .500 while looking up to the Houston Astros while Albert Pujols has looked like the Albert of old, the one the Angels thought they were getting when they signed him. But considering they had the best record in the American League last year, there is a feeling this squad should be doing better than they are. That thinking is what started this whole mess.

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This most recent spat began a few weeks ago. The full story is up here but I will pass along the bullet points. A few weeks ago, Dipoto met with Scioscia and his coaching staff about relaying scouting information to the players. Dipoto has been trying to push for the coaches to use more advanced metrics when game planning and Scioscia and his staff are more old school, preferring to plan the way they always have. Apparently after this most recent meeting, one of the coaches responded angrily and Pujols even offered a “pointed rebuttal”. Dipoto would then go to owner Arte Moreno and things did not go Dipoto’s way. From the LA Times:

“Instead of Moreno realizing the tenuousness of the situation and mediating a truce, the owner simply backed Scioscia as he’s always done in making him arguably the most powerful single uniformed figure in all of baseball.”  

It’s easy to see why Dipoto left. It’s easy to see the power that Mike Scioscia holds.

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I am going to go on record here; I am and have been for a long time a big Scioscia fan. I have always supported his managerial skills(except for some of the bunting) and really feel he is National League guy managing in the American League. He has also long been a players manager, a guy who most of the players enjoy and feel he has their back. But there has been a feeling the last few years that Scioscia has been less player-friendly and the age gap seems to be widening by the day. Jeff Passan of Yahoo.com took a look at that this past week and how Mike has gone from a guy heralded in the clubhouse to one who rules with an iron fist. It’s been very well known for years that Scioscia has more control than any GM that is hired by the Angels and that has caused a number of problems over the years. Just look at Dipoto’s interim replacement: Bill Stoneman, a man who was in the Angels GM seat during their glory years in the early 2000’s. Stoneman is a man who worked with Scioscia for years, so to say he will probably let Mike do whatever he wants is probably a fairly true statement. The problem is that Stoneman has been out of the loop for a very long time and in a lot ways the game has drastically changed during his time away. The Angels will have a hard time finding a young executive to slide into the GM slot as long as Scioscia is around, and since his contract is a big part of the issue(he has 3 years and $18 million left on the initial 10 year deal) it’s hard to see things changing anytime soon. As much as Scioscia is a big part of the problem(and I fully acknowledge he is, as much as it pains me), the bigger issue in Anaheim is owner Arte Moreno.

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Moreno is the one who has given Scioscia this power. He is an owner in the same vein of a Peter Angelos or George Steinbrenner; an owner who pokes his wants ahead of the direction the GM feels the team should go. Moreno is the one who pushed for the Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings .From the New York Post:

“In addition, Moreno is seen as the driving force — without his GM’s blessing — in signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract and Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal. The Hamilton decision, in particular, blew up on the Angels. Hamilton had a substance abuse relapse, and Moreno essentially ran Hamilton out of town by eating most of his contract to trade him within the division to Texas.”   

There are a number of faults in doing this. For one, he has superseded his GM, which has been the big part of this power struggle. It also puts Scioscia in a bad situation. Scioscia is a guy who likes to use speed on his team, like stealing bases and utilizing the hit and run. The last few years the team has added lumbering sluggers like Pujols and Hamilton, which make it a lot harder to use that speed. In some ways, the Angels have gone from an exciting offensive team to one that only moves station to station. To me, the Angels play in a big ballpark and need to use that to their advantage. Instead, with Moreno’s need for power(and obviously chicks aren’t the only one’s who dig the long ball), it has taken two of the main weapons out of the Angels arsenal–speed and Scioscia’s National League brand of baseball. At the end of the day you always need an owner who supports your team and is willing to go the extra mile to help your team win. But that support means very little when you aren’t allowing your manager to have the best team on the field to help them achieve victory.

during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 5, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.

So how should the Angels handle this dilemma? What would seem like an easy answer is to decrease Scioscia’s power and allow whomever is in the GM seat to be able to do his job accordingly. But if Moreno didn’t allow that to happen with Dipoto I doubt he would let anyone else. The best thing would be for someone interviewing for the Angels GM job to flat out tell Moreno they won’t take the job unless they are truly in charge. The likelihood of that happening? Nil to none. There is always the chance that Scioscia could leave after this season, as he does have an out clause in his contract. Once again, I just can’t see that happening. In some ways the best thing that could happen is to officially announce Mike Scioscia as the Angels GM, since in a lot of ways he already holds that position, just not in name. Otherwise, it looks like the Angels will continue to be relevant but fall just short of their true goal, a World Series title. A lot of the pieces on the field are already there; unfortunately management is blocking something greater.

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As the Royals headed to Oakland this past weekend there was a ton of speculation about just what might happen as these two teams clashed for the first time since April. Most remember that tension filled series a few months back, as what started as a rematch of a great wild card game from 2014 turned into a heated and bitter battle that saw fielders injured and batters getting thrown at. If you forgot or were in a coma back in April, here is my summary. So with all this said, there was hope that all the drama had vanished and these two teams would just focus on the game being played. The A’s came into the series on a bit of a winning streak and the Royals were just the team with the best record in the American League. So what unfolded? Just a fun three game series that sure didn’t bring the dull.

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Series MVP: Kendrys Morales 

I was wrong. When Royals General Manager Dayton Moore signed Kendrys Morales this past offseason, there was a lot of worry that the Royals had gotten rid of one regressing DH(Billy Butler) for another regressing DH(Morales). Morales was coming off of a disaster of a season, as he didn’t even sign with a team until a few months into the season and just never seemed to get his feet out from underneath him. Morales had a line last year of .207/.285/.347, an OPS+ of 83 and a WAR of -0.3. I was one of those worried that Kansas City got a player on the decline and locked him up for multiple years(he is signed through 2016 with a mutual option for 2017). Instead, Morales has been one of the(if not the most) consistent hitter for the Royals this season and has solidified the middle of the order for Kansas City. This series was no different, as Morales was 4 for 11 against Oakland this series, 1 home run, 3 RBI, and 2 walks and had a number of key hits for them this series. His clutch percentage this season is 0.6 compared to last year’s -0.5 and is close to his best seasons of 0.8 back in 2010 and 2013. Morales even got some time at 1B in this series, as Hosmer was the DH on Sunday, thanks to sprained finger on his left hand. Even when others in the middle of the batting order have been slumping, Morales has been the rock of this team. There is still another half of the season to go but at this point you would have to say that this has been a plus signing for Moore and shows sometimes a player will play above his peripherals. A great signing that continues to pay off for Kansas City.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Edinson Volquez     

Speaking of great signings this past offseason, it is safe to say that Edinson Volquez is also in the plus section of that category. Volquez continued to marvel on Friday night, throwing 7 innings, giving up 3 hits and 1 run while walking 1 and striking out 3. It was also a milestone game for ‘Easy Eddie’, as it was his 200th career start and he achieved his 1,000 career strikeout. It was Volquez’s best game in over a month, as he had a game score of 69, his best since May 17th against the Yankees. At this point it appears that when Volquez keeps his walks down(2 or less) he seems to shine. When he walks 3 or more, he seems to struggle a bit more. One would assume more baserunners mean more trouble, and the walks have always been Volquez’s big issue throughout his career. The positive is that with some of the Royals younger pitchers struggling this season(Ventura, Duffy) Volquez has been a steadying force in the rotation and has kept his team in games while eating innings in almost every start. In fact so far this season he is averaging 6 innings a start, well above the rest of the Royals rotation. As we get deeper into the season, the need for a starter like Volquez is a must and will help keep the team atop the American League hierarchy. Now, if only the Royals could get some of his consistency to rub off on the rest of the rotation…

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas, right, scores beneath Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt in the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

‘C’ is For Clutch

Let’s venture back to the 6th inning in Sunday’s game. Jesse Chavez was still on the mound for Oakland as they led the game 2-0 and he would give up a leadoff double to Mike Moustakas followed by a single to right from Kendrys Morales. Chavez would get Eric Hosmer to fly out to center field, with neither runner advancing. This would bring Salvador Perez to the plate and he would hit a chopper to third base. Max Muncy fielded the ball cleanly but with Moustakas chugging it home, Muncy would throw the ball high to catcher Steven Vogt, allowing Moose to score and also allowing Morales to get to third base while Perez would safely advance to second. Chavez would then intentionally walk Alex Gordon, loading the bases and making it possible for a force out at any base. Alex Rios would follow by hitting a fly ball to center field, a sacrifice fly and a productive out, to score Morales and tie the game, while Perez advanced to third. To cap off  the Royals rally, All-Star hopeful Omar Infante would line a single to right, scoring Perez and putting the Royals in front for good. The Royals have been about as clutch as humanly possible this season, leading the American League at 3.06 clutch percentage. In fact, the Royals are one of only 4 teams in the league hitting above average in those situations. There is a lot to be said for a team that steps up when necessary, but when you are doing it as often as Kansas City it also means you have the best record in the American League. Can you imagine just how much higher this stat would be if the Royals took a walk even occasionally?

Kansas City Royals' Eric Hosmer flings his bat after hitting a two-run single off Oakland Athletics' Jesse Hahn futinh the third inning of a baseball game Friday, June 26, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

There was much more that went on in Oakland. Here is just a few items of note:

  • Most of us were wondering if there would be some retaliation from the A’s in this series from their last encounter in Kansas City, but it appeared revenge was not on the menu. There was some concern after Franklin Morales hit Steven Vogt on the wrist Friday night, but no one took it as a purpose pitch. Speaking of Vogt, I felt for the guy this weekend. Between the hit by pitch and a couple other instances of balls hitting him while he was behind the dish he was the definition of the walking wounded.
  • I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but the gap between the Royals and A’s defense was very present in this series. I’ve mentioned this before when comparing the Royals to other defenses, but I feel it can’t be stressed enough. While the Royals are near the top of the league in Defensive Runs Saved and UZR, the A’s are near the bottom. If you want to point to some of the struggles Oakland is having, looking at a UZR of -23.9 for a starting point. I hate picking on Marcus Semien, but his problems are very apparent. Semien was basically a second baseman and third baseman before this year, so in some ways Oakland should have seen some of this coming when they shifted him to shortstop. The A’s are always good at moving players around the diamond and getting as much as they can out of what they have. Sometimes though the focus on offense hurts them on the defensive side of the coin.
  • Chris Young bounced back from his rough start last weekend against Boston to hurl a 6 inning, 1 run outing. Young is currently sitting at 69 innings so far this season, and one wonders how deep the Kansas City coaching staff will let him continue to start this year before he is shuffled back to the bullpen. Royals manager Ned Yost has mentioned he has an innings limit in mind; I have to believe he probably isn’t too far off from that total.
  • Omar Infante continues to hit, as he has now gotten a hit in 12 of his last 13 games. The current top vote-getter in the American League at 2B, Infante is hitting .360 over the last 2 weeks, with 5 doubles, 6 RBI’s and a BAbip of .419. The Royals are still looking at possible second base trade possibilities before the deadline, but for now Infante is earning his keep in the lineup.
  • Wade Davis came close to losing his streak of innings pitched without allowing a home run. Marcus Semien hit a ball off the wall in left center Sunday afternoon that was a little too close to the top. I did a little digging, and the last time Davis gave up a dinger was on August 24, 2013 to Ian Desmond of the Nationals at Kauffman Stadium. I don’t know if we will see this streak fall this year but it really puts in perspective just how impressive Davis’ performance these past couple years is.
  • Salvador Perez’s reached a milestone with his home run Sunday afternoon:

Congratulations to Salvy on this achievement, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to gain control of the ball afterwards:

Although I think Salvy might know who has it:

I’m going to die laughing if a guy named Mike Stone actually has the ball. If not, Mike Stone is getting unjustly blamed for being a jerk.

  • Speaking of milestones(not #mikestones), Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie piled up his 1,000th career strikeout on Sunday. A nice achievement for a guy who is not a strikeout pitcher. The Royals were able to procure this ball though, so Mike Stone can’t be blamed for keeping another ball with significance.
  • And finally, Mike Moustakas continues to put himself in the front of the comeback player of the year category:

Not only are those numbers highly impressive, but Moustakas is also currently sitting at 85 hits for the season. In 140 games last year he got 97 hits.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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With only three games remaining on the road trip, the Royals are 5-1 so far with Houston on the track for the next series. The Astros could be a fun series, since they have played above expectations this year with a nice core of younger players. The Royals are surely going to try and stretch out their 5.5 game lead in the American League Central before Minnesota ventures into Kansas City this upcoming Thursday for a 4 game series. Right now this Royals team is looking unstoppable, but we have all seen what happens once you assume it is easy sailing. Hopefully Hosmer, Cain and Escobar can all get healed up this week and the Royals can take two more series. The All-Star game is around the corner and should give this team a much needed break. At this point, the positives far outweigh the negatives as we approach the halfway point of the season. Revel in this, Royals fans; we are truly seeing one of the best teams in Kansas City in years. If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then you must be a Cardinals fan…

 

 

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Coming off of a disappointing series against the Boston Red Sox(which between that and the fact I am on vacation I chose to not write about), the Kansas City Royals ventured to the West Coast and started the week with a 3 game set against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have been a major disappointment so far this year and most of the hope was that Seattle wouldn’t start finding their way back during this series. There were a number of positive developments in these 3 games for Kansas City, many of which helped them take 2 of the 3 games. So how did they do it? Let’s venture onward into a series that kept the Royals in first place in the American League Central.

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 22:  Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals scores on an RBI double off the bat of Mike Moustakas in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 22, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Series MVP: Alcides Escobar

I’ve made no secret over the years that Alcides Escobar is one of my favorite Royals and has been since his acquisition from Milwaukee back in December of 2010(for some guy named Greinke; what is he up to lately?). There have been a lot of questions surrounding Escobar and whether he should be hitting leadoff for Kansas City(and I go back and forth on this topic) but if the main purpose of hitting at the top of the order is getting on base, then Escobar did that in spades in this series. Escobar went 7 for 13 in these 3 games with 2 RBI’s and a BAbip of .583. He would also score 3 runs and raise his average to .285 on the year. Escobar was a big part of the 7 run 4th inning on Wednesday night and his double later in the game pretty much sealed the deal. Escobar has been All-Star caliber this year and looks to be finally getting the recognition he has been deserving of these last few years. As long as he gets on base at a clip like this I am okay with him batting at the top of the order and helping to make things happen offensively for the Royals.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Joe Blanton

I think we all knew when this series started that Joe Blanton would outduel “King” Felix Hernandez on Monday night in Seattle. Um, you didn’t? Well, pretty safe to say none of us would have. Blanton was flat out dealing on Monday, going 6 innings, 2 hits and 1 run while walking none and striking out 7. In fact, Blanton held Seattle in check after Robinson Cano’s home run in the bottom of the first inning and didn’t allow another hit until Austin Jackson’s double in the top of the 7th inning, which lead to him being taken out of the game. This was only the second start for Blanton this year and he would put up a game score of 71 with this sparkling start. In fact, in Blanton’s last 6 appearances(2 starts, 4 relief outings) he has gone 19 innings, given up 2 runs, striking out 19 and allowing batters a BAbip of .229. Blanton’s signing has looked like a genius move by GM Dayton Moore and has shown that added depth within any and all organizations is a must. The Royals have been hit hard by pitching issues so far in 2015, and luckily the Royals had a Joe Blanton tucked away in Omaha to start the year and pick up some of the slack. Sure, Joe Blanton isn’t going to any All-Star games any time soon(although we Royals fans would vote for him, wouldn’t we?) but that doesn’t take away from his importance to this ballclub. Who knows how many more starts Joe will get, but he has at least shown that if the Royals need him he can be a very serviceable replacement in a tight squeeze.

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Now onto some news and notes on the Royals 3 games in the Pacific Northwest:

  • Omar Infante had a big 3 run double in Wednesday night’s game and within the last couple weeks has not looked like the guy we’ve all wanted to take a long walk off a short cliff this season. Since the beginning of the Milwaukee series, Infante is hitting .395, driving in 5 runs while getting 4 doubles in that span. Before that Infante hadn’t gotten an extra base hit since he had a double in New York on May 17, almost a month before. I don’t know if the All-Star balloting has lit a fuse under him or if is just seeing the ball better, but if the Royals are stuck with his contract for 2 more years, they are going to need more hot stretches like this to validate his spot in the lineup.
  • Mike Moustakas put together another solid series, going 5 for 13 with a home run on Wednesday night and 3 runs driven in. Moose would also have a pair of 2 hit games in this series, 25 multi-hit games so far this season. To break that down by month, he had 11 such games in April, 6 in May and 8 so far this month. I know there has been some concern about Moustakas’ power and how it seems to have been sapped a bit by his new approach to hitting the ball to the opposite field, but if that means he sacrifices some power and gets on base more, I am all for that. To top off all the great Moose talk(and so far he has been my favorite story to follow this year), he is now sitting at 83 hits on the season. In 2014 he got 97 hits total. Total. Chew on that for a bit.
  • Danny Duffy returned to the team on Wednesday and threw a very positive outing on his return. Duffy only went 4.2 innings, giving up 8 hits and 1 earned run while walking none and striking out 4. His pitch total was a bit high(88 pitches through not even 5 innings) but in a lot of ways this start wasn’t about 3/4 of these numbers. What was most impressive was that at some point during his stint on the disabled list he worked on his motion to the plate and smoothed it out. In fact, that is the smoothest I have ever seen Duffy throw. I don’t know if this was worked on in his side sessions with the team, or if it was worked on while he was in the minors, but whomever got in his ear, “kudos”. The one stat that was the most evident of this new motion was the zero in the walks column. Duffy has long had issues with control, but he was consistently ahead in the count in this start and it proved to benefit him well. Now, let’s see just how consistent this makes him…
  • Former Royals prospect Mike Montgomery shut down Kansas City on Tuesday night, throwing his first major league shutout. Montgomery went 9 innings, giving up 5 hits and no runs while walking zero and striking out 10. Montgomery was once a top prospect in Kansas City’s farm system but started having control issues in 2010 and seemed like a lost cause by the time he was packaged in the James Shields deal in December of 2012. Tampa Bay dealt him to Seattle this spring and has found some success so far in Seattle. I’m really glad to see him make it to this point but a part of me can’t help but wonder if he would have been able to turn things around with Kansas City.
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 23:  Center fielder Lorenzo Cain #6 of the Kansas City Royals makes a running catch on a ball off the bat of Dustin Ackley of the Seattle Mariners in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on June 23, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Tweets of Royalty

 

Kansas City's Alex Rios beats the throw home to Seattle catcher Mike Zunino, scoring on the bases-clearing 3-run RBI double by Omar Infante.  Kansas City scored 7-runs in the inning.   The Kansas City Royals played the Seattle Mariners Wednesday, June 24, 2015, at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Last week there was two ways to look at the series against Milwaukee and Boston; either worry about the way Kansas City played against Boston or figure the team went 5-2, which is a record I will always take every week. So far this week, the team is 2-1 with 3 games scheduled against Oakland this weekend. You know, that A’s team that Kansas City had issues with back in April. You don’t remember? Here is a refresher article if you forgot what happened that series. I know I’m hoping for a calm 3 games where no fireworks are set off(we have a week before that holiday hits). Also, the All-Star balloting is still going on and obviously we are all voting Royal and last week I took a look at how ridiculous people are being about the voting. Finally, it will be nice to see former friend Billy Butler this weekend, but anything less than winning the series this upcoming week will be considered less than a success. The Royals are up 3.5 games over Minnesota as of this writing and hopefully that can be stretched out to 4 or 5 games by Sunday. Let’s get off the West Coast and head back to the midwest on Monday against Houston. This very well might be the Royals longest stretch this year on the road and the team won’t be back at home until July 2nd against Minnesota. Until then, the Royals are stuck living off the road and fighting off the competition.

 

 

 

 

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If you follow baseball in any manner, then I am sure you have heard the anger, the scorn, and the horrow spewed out by baseball fans who feel the voting for this years All-Star Game in Cincinnati is “making the game look bad” and “is not fair” to all the players who really deserve to go. You see, at this point there are eight(yep, 8!!) Kansas City Royals that would be starting in this year’s ‘Mid-Summer Classic’ and if you ask most fans they would tell you that is a travesty. That is, except for us Royals fans. We love it. We love that we are eerily close to starting our entire starting nine this year despite the fact that two of those players(Omar Infante and Alex Rios) have no business being in the Great American Ball Park on July 14th unless they have bought a ticket. But once again, we love it. Everyone else seems mad about this but they really shouldn’t be and I’m about to tell you why…

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Let’s start with the most obvious reason: this is an exhibition game. Seriously folks, this is a game played in the middle of the season that does not count in the standings and is purely just a chance to watch all the best players in the American League take on all the best players in the National League. Before interleague play it was one of the few chances to see players from your favorite team play against players you never see because they are in the other league. So if you were a Royals fan you never got to see guys like Tony Gwynn, or Dwight Gooden(in his early years) because they were National Leaguers. Nowadays though, it is no big deal to see guys from the other league, as there is a good chance you already played them during the season. Just look at last year’s World Series; the Royals and Giants played each other in August, so it was two teams who had faced off just a few months earlier. This game is purely for fun and players just aren’t going 100% for the most part, as they don’t want to get hurt in a pointless exhibition. But what about home field advantage going to the winner of the game?

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Before 2003, home field advantage in the World Series switched off every year. Odd years was the American League, even years were the National League’s. But after the 2002 All-Star Game ended in a tie, Major League Baseball decided to switch things up. You see, before then, the All-Star game really didn’t matter; sure, it was great for your first couple times you appeared in it or if you were playing in your home park. But otherwise, it was a game that was getting in the way of a couple days off and it was played as such. Back then, most managers tried to get as many of the players into the game so they would get an All-Star appearance in. Now, MLB tries to play it as “the game matters”. Problem is, the players still would mostly prefer four days off. Sure, you won’t hear them publicly say they don’t want to play in the “game that matters”. Hell, they’ll even say in public that the game is important and might give their team home field advantage in the World Series. But go look back year by year; players continually sit out the game. Sure, there are starting pitchers that can’t play because they started the weekend before the game. Some have legitimate injuries and need the extra days of rest. But a lot of them just don’t care because they understand it’s an exhibition. Sure, the guys like to be there, cheer on their team or watch the Home Run Derby; it is still an honor and they appreciate it as such. But many players take it for what it is: a game for the fans that doesn’t count in the big picture. Home field advantage is great, but if you get that far into the season, you should be able to win anywhere, road or home.

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There is also the argument that you should want the most deserving players to start in this game, the players who have had the best seasons up to this point. I get this argument and for years I fell in line with that. You don’t have to look far to see a perfect example of a player getting voted in that shouldn’t have: Derek Jeter in 2014. I know someone just threw their keyboard across the room right now by me saying that(probably a Yankees fan) but the fact is Derek wasn’t the best shorstop statistically in 2014. In fact, if we are going by just their play on the field, Jeter wouldn’t have even belonged on the All-Star roster. But Jeter was in his final season in the big leagues and it was a way of honoring him. Fine, I get that and even accepted it last year. But don’t fool yourself; this proves once again it is more about the exhibition than the home field advantage. For years, Hall of Fame caliber players have appeared in the All-Star Game for one last hurrah. I am perfectly fine with this, as I understand the game is just for fun. But if you are going to be okay with a player like that being honored and appearing in the mid-summer classic, you have to also acknowledge that whomever starts the game really doesn’t matter either.

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The other part of this silliness is the fact that most players who start the All-Star game normally only last the first 3 innings. That’s right, all this uproar about the Royals players starting and most of them will only play the first few innings. Yep, sure worth all that anger that is consuming you, huh? Maybe this would be a bigger problem if the starters played all 9 innings but they very rarely do. So you prefer Jose Altuve to Infante at second base? Well, more than likely Altuve will be in late in the game when it might matter more and it will completely negate the argument of having him start. In games like this it almost matters more on who finishes the game rather than who starts it.

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As a Royals fan I think I shoud clarify something here. I agree with most of you in saying Infante doesn’t deserve to start in this game and is purely getting in because of the Royals rabid fanbase. Look at it this way, non-Royals fans. Before 2014, our team really didn’t matter much for close to 20 years. We have seen some absolutely putrid baseball in that span and for quite awhile we were the laughingstock of the sport. But now we matter and it has re-energized the fans. Sure, I wore my Royals appearal all the time in this span; I am a die-hard. I will be here till the end and I have no problems with that. But some fans needed a little poke. That poke was winning. The Royals are a good baseball team now and have given the fans a reason to support them and be proud. The voting has been so skewed toward the Royals because this is a hungry fanbase. We’ve been starving for years for good baseball and now that we are getting it, it is causing everyone to step up and vote. Hey, we are even doing it legitimately ! Trust me, even I thought there was some sneakiness going on, but outside of a few instances of writers getting suspicious e-mails , it appears voting is truly on the up and up. Winning causes fans to be more involved, and Royals fans had 30 years of no playoff baseball; just imagine how most of us feel,  like this might not happen again for a very, very long time. So as fans, we are taking advantage of the team’s success.

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The one other thing to remember here is that outside of Infante, the other 7 possible starters are legitimate candidates for the All-Star Game this season. Sure, a few of them might not be having the best season at their position, but they are all putting up numbers worthy of an All-Star selection. Look at someone like Mike Moustakas, who has turned his career around this season and is having a career year. Sure, Josh Donaldson is raking this year and is probably having the better year, but Moose is still an All-Star in my mind. Go ahead, go down the list-Cain, Gordon, Escobar, Hosmer, Morales and Perez; all worthy of being at the game in July. This would be a different case if they were having bad seasons, but they aren’t. Starting or not, these guys all should probably be All-Stars-except for Infante. Even we don’t really want him on our team. But we want our guys at the All-Star game and unfortunately, he is a Royal.

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15:  Kansas City Royals Fans hold up giant heads of Alex Gordon #4 and Salvador Perez #13 of the Kansas City Royals in the stands during Game Four of the American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

So all you non-Royals fans, calm down. This is a one year anomaly that even we acknowledge will probably never happen again. Let us have this moment. I was fortunate to be at the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City and as much as I talk about it being an exhibition, it is still a fun exhibition and a game that I am glad I can say I was in attendance. I highly recommend everyone who is not a Royals fan to go online and put your votes in; this is a fun exercise and one in which you can celebrate your team’s best players. How does the old adage go? “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. So join us and let’s see just how competitive the voting can get. Instead of getting angry about the results it might be better to just join in and try to topple this monster we have created. Trust me, the rules for the balloting is the same for you guys as it is for us; we are just taking advantage of it more. Let this be fun instead of sounding like old men telling kids to get off their lawn. The whole point of this is purely fun. Also, if the voting doesn’t change before it is all said and done, I think we should make Mike Trout an honorary Royal and give him his on Kansas City uniform. Just a thought. I have to go now; I have important things on my schedule:

Remember #VoteRoyals(and #VoteNori) and vote often at http://www.royals.com and http://www.mlb.com . Let the good times roll.

 

 

 

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When last we checked in on our Central Division heroes, they were wrapping up a series with the Rangers thanks to the power of one Salvador Perez(or should we start calling him ‘The One’?). So expectations weren’t too high headed into Minnesota, as Kansas City had been floundering offensively and the hope more than anything was to not fall back any farther in the division. But what wonders do amaze, as the Royals came into town, showed a little bit of offense that we had been missing, a whole lot of defense that we have gotten used to and some very solid pitching. This formula apparently gains you a series sweep and a 2 game lead in the American League Central. Niiiiiiice! So lets journey up north and dissect a fun 3 games.

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Series MVP: Salvador Perez

When you’re hot, you’re hot. Perez continues his stealth hitting at the dish with a 5 for 11 series against Minnesota, including a home run on Tuesday that was a no-doubter:

Just perfect(outside of Physioc on commentary) and even Sal knew that was gone. Salvy would also take a walk in this series(color me shocked!) and raised his slugging percentage almost 20 points. Maybe the funnest stat from this series was Perez’s BAbip of . 500 in this series. In a lot of ways Salvy is the heart of this team and he adds so much to this team not only on the field but in the clubhouse. He also makes sure his pitchers have plenty of baseballs:

When Perez is cold he has even worse plate discipline than normal and seems to swing at every pitch thrown his way. But when he is hot it feels like no one can get him out. Lucky for the Royals he is on the hot side of that spectrum right now and is help an offense that has been lackluster over the last few weeks.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Chris Young

During some of the Royals series’ there isn’t one starter who performs good enough to get this honor. Then there are times when all 3 outings are deserving, like this week. I’ll discuss Jason Vargas’ outing on Monday and ‘Easy’ Ed Volquez’s start on Wednesday later, but the man of the hour was the almost flawless outing of Chris Young on Tuesday. Young would throw into the 7th inning on that night, finally leaving after allowing his first hit of the game to Trevor Plouffe. Yep, on the same night of the Giants Chris Heston throwing a no-no against the Mets, Young held the Twins hitless for over six innings. Chris would go 6.1 innings, allowing 1 hit and no runs while walking 3 and striking out 2. Another great outing for Young and he continues to make it hard on the Royals when it comes to what to do with their rotation, especially once Danny Duffy is ready to return off the disabled list. I’ve even heard mention that Young deserves an All-Star spot this year; look, I know we are voting for as many Royals as possible this year but this might be just a tad far-fetched(just a bit; I’ve been pleasantly surprised at Young’s results so far this year). What I can tell you is that until Young struggles on a regular basis, he will be a part of this rotation. The Royals don’t expect him to perform like this all year, so they are already thinking ahead to ‘Plan C’. For now though, lets just enjoy the ride.

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Sparkling ‘D’, As Always  

The Royals defense has almost become a thing of legend these last two years. On a weekly basis, we could sit here and sift through highlight reels of the Royals making sensational play after play. This week there were a number of phenomenal plays, like Alex Gordon’s great catch on Tuesday:

There is a reason that man won the Platinum Glove Award last year for the American League. Not to be outdone, Alcides Escobar put on quite the display on Wednesday:

 

Oh, there was also this play on Monday:

Finally, #ShortstopJesus made one more phenomenal play on Tuesday:

If you want an idea why Kansas City continues to stay at the top of the division while Cleveland bounces back and forth, all you have to do is look at the two teams defense’s. The Royals have 42 defensive Runs saved, Cleveland has -12. The Royals UZR is is 30.2, the Indians is -11.8. I’m not trying to pick on the Indians as much as point out how two teams that I have often felt are very similar seem to play the game in two completely different ways. One wonders if we would be discussing a Cleveland/Kansas City pennant race if the Indians defense improved even to just league average.

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And the Best Throw of the Series Goes to…

Look, baseball has a very long season. Loooooooong. There is going to be times you lose your cool as a player and vent on the field. It happens to the best of them. On Wednesday night, Torii Hunter of Minnesota lost his cool, big time:

Well, if I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I would have brought some one dollar bills! I know there was some snarkiness coming from Royals twitter this week about Hunter, but at the end of the day this stuff happens. It’s not like Hunter represents the organization like this on a weekly basis. The man lost his cool, was aggravated and then vented. Probably won’t be the last time that ever happens in his career either. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this. Plus, he had great form on that jersey throw. I’m not so sure the Royals right fielder could have pulled that off. I just hope Hunter realizes he might have gotten Royals manager Ned Yost excited:

Oh, Neddy!

 

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Onto the news and notes section of this series held in the Twin Cities:

  • I mentioned earlier how the rotation put up some quality starts during this series. On Monday, Jason Vargas put together his best start of the season(according to his game score and my eyeballs) by going 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and no runs while not allowing a walk and striking out 2. Young followed with his superb outing and then Edinson Volquez sparkled as well, going 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and 1 run while while walking 3 and striking out 6(and compiling the same game score as Vargas this week, a 64)on Wednesday. Two months into the season it is obvious the rotation is the weak link on this team, but when they pitch like this it gives one hope that they might be turning a corner.
  • I’m starting to think Jason Frasor is the bullpen version of Jeremy Guthrie. Over his last 8 outings he has not allowed an earned run, but good lord has he allowed baserunners! Over those 8 innings, Frasor has given up 10 hits and 7 walks while striking out 2. He also might be the poster boy for anyone against pace of play in the game, as Frasor feels like the pitching version of Mike Hargrove’s ‘human rain delay’ routine. Bottom line though, he has  a big zero in the runs column, and at the end of the day that is all that matters. I just wish he wouldn’t walk the tightrope every outing.
  • Raise your hand if you thought halfway through June that Mike Moustakas would still be hitting regularly to the opposite field? Not so fast, Neddy. You can’t blame any of us for feeling this wouldn’t be a regular thing. But now that it is, I have become giddy:

Moustakas has rejuvenated his career and it makes one ask the question we asked when Moose and Eric Hosmer first came up; if you can only keep one of them when free agency hits, who do you keep?

  • It’s safe to say that Alex Rios might have some lingering effects from his hand injury earlier in the season. In the 9 games since his return, Rios is hitting .129/.182/.161 and has a BAbip of .167. If you remember, Rios had a lingering hand issue last year that sapped his power while he was playing for the Rangers and even that injury has not completely healed. In those 9 games he also has only one extra base hit, a double on June 7th. The Royals need a healthy Rios to produce but hand injuries have a tendency to take longer healing. I hope the Royals have Paulo Orlando on speed dial.
  • Speaking of slumping hitters, the Royals fanbase has been wondering just how long manager Ned Yost will stick with Omar Infante at second base with his lackluster play this season. I decided to look at just the past month(May 10th through June 10th) and the numbers are frightening. Infante has a slash line of .174/.179/.217 and his BAbip is .200. Even worse, he has only 3 extra base hits in this span and WALKED ONLY ONCE!! Look, I firmly believe that if you aren’t producing, the very least you can do is get on base in some capacity, either by walking or stepping into a pitch and taking one for the team. Infante is doing none of that and his defense, while not bad, hasn’t been as sparkling as it should be. Christian Colon has only started twice in this span and Infante has only sat out a game once. At the very least, Infante should be sitting a few days a week if this is what he can do at this point. There’s also this little nugget of information:

Don’t feel sad enough yet? Omar still has two years left on his contract. Ugh.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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The sweep puts Kansas City in a prime position this weekend, 2 games ahead of Minnesota in the American League Central as the Royals head to St. Louis. It should be another heated weekend as the best record in the AL meets the best record in the NL. Hopefully Kansas City can ride this hot streak through the weekend and into next week’s matchup against Milwaukee. Best case scenario? Win the series against the Cardinals and extend their lead in the division. Worst case? Lose series to St. Louis and let Minnesota and Detroit catch up to them. Either way, it’s nice to be back on top.