Royals frustration and potential for 2022

At the beginning of the season, I had high hopes for a potential .500 record and maybe if all worked out perfectly, a possible play contender. They have disappointed as they are minus 13 under .500 with 21 games left. Unless they go on a big winning streak, they will be under .500 again. (They are plus 4 since the All-Star break.)

Problems begin with pitching as young pitchers have exhibited growing pains but progress have been shown. There are times that Brad Singer have shown growth from last year and times that he has taken steps backwards as he struggles to develop a third pitch but his last game, he has pitched well over the last three games with a victory over White Sox. Daniel Lynch has pitched well since coming back from Omaha and a rough start early this year as he is 3-1. Kowar is still showing growing pain but getting better with each game but the gem of this young staff is Carlos Hernandez who is 6-1 this year but over his last seven games 4-0 and a ERA under 2. Kris Bubic has been inconsistent and may be a fifth starter in the future. Brad Keller was due to have a break through year but 8-12 this year. The good news is that he is under 4 ERA in his last seven games but still I expected more.

As one writer for Royals Review noted, “And the Royals still have some very interesting pitchers in the minors in Asa Lacy, Alec Marsh, Jonathan Bowlan, and Austin Cox to name a few. The fact that it is impossible to make a reasonably sized list of potential pitchers without leaving off several is a testament to the true depth the Royals currently have in their minor league pitching.” The bullpen is developing but again, this year a lot of potential but not yet developed and this point was reinforced by Royal Review writer, “In the bullpen the Royals have Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, Joel Payamps, Jake Brentz, Domingo Tapia, Richard Lovelady, and Tyler Zuber currently experiencing mixed levels of success at the big leagues. Of the starters I mentioned earlier some won’t pitch in the big leagues next year but more than five of them almost certainly will and there are plenty of reasons to think any or all of them could have at least as much success in the bullpen as they’ve had in the rotation.”

Hitting has been problematic but some pieces look strong. Every year, we hear about Merrifield needing to traded but since 2016, he has hit .292 and presently hitting .276 which for him is a down year. He is in top five in hits among both leagues and is number one in the American League. Nicky Lopez is hitting over .290 and now doing what he did in the minors, hit to all field and get on base. He is also 19 for 19 in stolen bases, never been caught. While he had a rough start in the majors as a hitting but in both Double A and Triple A, he hit over .300. So what he is doing now, he was doing in the minors. Salvy Perez has been great with his power and still a great catcher.

Andrew Benintendi was hitting well before he fractured his ribs but lately he has raised his average to .263 with 14 homers. He also played great defense and has replaced the great defensive skills of Alex Gordon. The problem with the Royals is number 5 thru 9. Mondesi has been injured most of the year and has been injured prone in his career. Hunter Dozier and Ryan O’Hearn has yet shown they are long term solution. In 2018, O’Hearn had a good year but nothing since then and Dozier had a good 2019, signed a long term deal but has disappointed since. Soler was the DH and occasional right fielder but while he had 13 homers at the break, he was hitting .192. (but is now hitting .285 with the Braves and 10 homers. He is looking like the Soler of 2019 who hit 48 homers and led the majors. ) Carlos Santana is only hitting .220 but does have 19 homers. Without consistent hitting behind the top four batters hurt the offense

The good news is that Royals have help on the way with Bobby Witt who has hit 31 homers and hitting over .300, M.J. Melendez with 36 homers and Nicky Pratto with 29 homers. They are others including Kyle Isabel who is hitting .271 with 15 homers at Omaha and Vinnie Pasquantino with 22 homers and hitting over.300 at high A and at Double A.

The question for the Royals, is how close are they? David Lesky noted, “Man, this Royals team is annoying, huh? They’re 10-9 against the White Sox, 4-3 against the Astros, 4-0 against the Brewers, 3-1 against the Mariners and you can even include 9-7 against the Tigers, who have been generally pretty good since the first month of the season. But even with the win last night, they’re under .500 against the Orioles, Rangers, Angels, Cardinals and Indians, all teams they should either beat or be competitive with. I talked last week about their record against mediocre teams, but the Orioles and Rangers are downright bad and the Royals weren’t able to win more than they lost against those teams this year.” Against the good teams, they have been competitive but to be a playoff team, you have to beat bad teams. They are 21-13 against White Sox, Mariners, Astros and Brewers but Indians and Cardinals have dominated the Royals.

David Lesky noted, “With the good, it means that they’ve got enough talent to beat these good teams. With the bad, it means that they probably aren’t treating all 162 as important. Maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world, but also if they’re ever going to actually win anything, they’ll need to find a way to bank wins against those teams.” He is right.

My own view is that 2022 can be like 2013, maybe 2014 but it comes down to the younger starters taking a step up. Hernandez looks like a top starter and Lynch has shown he can be a number two. Kowar and Singer have the skills and Keller is only 26 years. We are talking Kowar, Singer, Keller, Lynch, and Hernadez and if you want to go 6 man rotation, you have Bubic.

As for the offense, I don’t see O’Hearn or Dozier long term but Dozier has a long term deal but Witt, Jr is one of those one in a generation player who can play defense, run the bases and hit for power plus average. I am a homer for the Royals but there are holes in this team that need to be address. Michael Taylor is a great defensive center field but he is a .240 hitter. Can you afford a .240 center who plays great defense? Only if the other 7 or 8 hitters carry the load. If you have only 4 hitters, a good defensive center field who is a mediocre hitter is a unaffordable luxury. Mondesi is a good athlete who is now trying third base with Lopez staying at short and Merrifield at second. That could be a solid infield.

Pitching is the key and over the past three years, Royals drafting has drafted enough pitching potential. Royals Review concluded, “For all the criticism the Royals have borne in recent years for failing to develop enough talented pitchers to support their ambitions we must also give them credit now that they have begun producing valuable big league pitchers at such a high rate. Their recent success in drafting and development has opened up a path to contention not wholly-reliant on insane amounts of luck for the first time since at least 2017 and they must attack it with gusto. It is not an easy, simple, or safe path but it is a path. The saying goes that fortune favors the bold. The Royals were bold in drafting so many college pitchers at the start of the 2018 draft. They were bold in overhauling their development process to ensure these pitchers successfully reached the big leagues in a position to truly contribute to the success of the club. Now they must be bold enough to fill the remaining holes on the team with something more than cast-offs, bargains, or wishful thinking. If they do, we just might see the third Royals playoff team in the last nine years.”

Changing of the Guard

Jenson Booksby won the first set against Novak Djokovic 6-1. and while Djokovic won the next three sets but the 20 year old showed potential of being contender for a major. He is a grinder, similar to a young Nadal.

British Emma Raducanu easily beat Shelby Rogers who just took care of the number seeded Barty. She is now in the quarter finals along with Leyhla Fernandez, anotheer 18 year old.

Carlos Alcaraz is another 18 year old male who is also in the quarterfinals. Djokovic is 34 as he goes for number 21 and a calendar grand slam. In the women Tennis, we are seeing potentially two stars who can be the next super stars.

Wow at US Open

Friday some great things happening, Osaka got away with two code of violations in the tiebreak of the second set. Ready for to serve the set and match, Naomi got broke and simply melted down in the tie break, throwing her racket and walking off the court. More on the third set.

Sloan Stephens had her match in control with one set in the bag and looks like she was in command but Kerber won next two sets 6-2, 6-3. This was Kerber first victory over Stephens over their last six matches.

Carlos Alcaraz won a thrilling five set against Tsilsipas in a big upset. The 18 year old at times look like he was wilting under the pressure of the event but yet he manage to stay in the game. He lost the fourth set 6-0 but he went toe to toe with Tsilsipas, forcing a tie break, which he won. 7-5

Osaka lost to Fernandez in the third set 6-4 as Fernandez broke Osaka first set in the third and held her serve. Osaka looked rattled in the first three games but she finally regained her composure. Fernandez had her A game and didn’t let this opportunity slip.

Fernandez and Alcaraz may be the future of Tennis making noise this US Open.

US Open

For those who cares, a little more than 50% of Tennis players are not vaccinated. It will be interesting to see if Corona virus plays a role. In a discussion with LA Batchelor, my point is that while I will not force a player to get vaccines, players have to take the risk that they will get sick and be out of the tournament. Of course, you may get Covid even if you are vaccinated.

With both Williams’ sister out of this US Open, what we have known now for the past years is official, the new era in women Tennis has begun. Naomi Osaka has now won four majors since 2018 and if there is one player who can replace the Williams sister both in winning and appeal, it is her.

Coco Gaulf is a seventeen year old phenom who may be the best for the Americans over the next decade. She defeated Magda Linnette but her inconsistency showed. She was up 5-3 in first set and ready to wrap it all but she lost 4 games in a row to lose the first set 7-5 and then started the second set but losign the first two games before taking 6 of the next 7 games. She won the third set and faced Sloan Stephens who just four years ago was the great American hope in the post Williams era when she won the US Open.

Stephens faced Madison Keys in a match would have considered a second week match up both women found themselves facing each other in the first round. Stephens took the first set 6-3 before Keys pounded Stephens 6-1. The third set was nip and tuck before being settled in a tie break. Stephens won her first match and then dominated the younger Gaulf, winning in two sets. (

Novak Djokovic is seeking history with a first men calendar grand slam since Rod Laver did it in 1969. (On the women side, Stephi Graff accomplished this in 1988. Novak is chasing history in not just in a calendar grand slam but if he wins the open, he will have more majors than any other men for the moment as both Federer and Nadal are not at the US Open.

Royals

Royals are up 7-1 against the Cubs and moving toward winning their 6 of their last seven games against the Astros and Cubs.

  1. Royals younger starters are pitching better, Hernandez is 3-1 and been pitching lights out and Lynch is 3-1 since coming back from Omaha. Bubic is up and down but came back with 6 hitless innings against the Cubs. Singer had a good outing his last start but there are still questions on whether Singer can find a third pitch to compliment what he has. Brad Keller is 2-3 in his last seven starts but only a 3.43 ERA so he is getting better.
  2. Perez is having a career year, and the good news over the final 40 games is Merrifield is hitting better, Benintendi is now hitting his stride again after his injuries, and Dozier is showing life now. If the pitching holds up and the hitting improves, Royals can be spoilers.
  3. Young relievers Lovelady, Brentz, Barlow and Staumont are pitching well plus Tapia shows that he might a good reliever.

Royals are perplexing since they have shown they can beat the very good teams but still they are 14 games under .500. I thought they would be better than they are but there are signs of hope for the future.

In the minors, Witt, Jr. looks like the real thing as he has hit both Double and Triple A pitching, and Pratto is showing he may not be far behind from the Show even though I view him as being behind Witt, Jr. Melendez has hit 31 homers in both double and triple A and is another bright spot.

Kowar is another pitching prospects that maybe close. While he had a rough start in his start for the Royals in his first call up but he has the potential to be a number one or two starter.

The Royals have some questions for next year but the future is brighter than we think but how close are we to contending? Rick Sutcliffe observed about the Royals, the key to contending is to develop a solid starting rotation and he believes that Royals may be have that with their young pitchers. With Merrifield, Bentintendi, and Lopez along with Perez and Witt coming up, you have solid hitters in 2022. If Dozier returns to his 2019 form, that adds another bat and if Mondesi can actually play a few games, that is a potent line up.

The key will be depth, and with young players like Rivera is proving to be a good fielder and Olivares and Isabel could add depth to the out field position. Final question is the present team of GM Dayton Moore and Mike Matheny the guys to take the team to the next level. Moore has one World Series but through 2016 to 2018, his selection of trades and free agents were complete flops but since 2017, there are young players who are coming through the system who can be the building bloc for the next playoff contending and this year, Bentintendi may prove a good trade. Can Moore produce one more championship or is one miracle enough for a GM? Matheny has led Cardinals to the playoffs four times and one pennant during his tenure there. His overall record 671-576 so he has shown he can manage. Is he the right guy for this team? The question that Owner John Sherman must answer going into 2022.

Field of Dreams

As the world is turning upside down and America looking rather pathetic and confused. As we witness Afghanistan collapse and 20 years of sacrifice down the toilet, I think back to the Yankees-White Sox game at the Field of Dreams.

James Earl Jones speech in which he tells Ray, the people will come, following the theme of the movie, build the field and they will come.

Baseball began before the beginning of the Civil War and the first professional team, Cincinnati Red Stocking began 1869 during President Grant first term. The National League was formed in 1876 as President Hayes won a controversial election and after American became a World Power by winning the Spanish American War.

The first World Series was played during Teddy Roosevelt first term. As America went from a rural farming nation, fought a Civil War, began the industrial period of the second half of the 19th century and entered the 20th century, baseball was there.

World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, baseball was there and during the post War era to the present which saw the beginning of the computer era and today, a America in disarray, baseball is still here.

Baseball was part of our history and while baseball has lost its popularity compared to football and basketball, it still reigns as a major sport. It is now a international sport, with players from around the world populating our national pastimes where the leading home run hitter is Japanese. Kansas City leading player Salvador Perez is a immigrant and now US citizen.

As for the game, White Sox won the game 9-8 with a walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth and it was perfect. Tim Anderson walk off homer was something that had not happened in 102 years, a walk off homer to defeat the Yankees. And the last man to hit a walk off homer against the Yankees in a White Sox uniform was Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was major character in the movie.

Denise Stillman, a business woman, who led a group of investors to buy the field with the idea of turning it a Mecca of youth baseball and dream of having a major league baseball game there. Lawsuits and aggressive cancer nearly derailed the dream but after Stillman’s death, her family pursued her dream and this past week, it happened. A major league game happened. And the White Sox Tim Anderson did what no one since Shoeless Joe Jackson did, beat the Yankees with a walk off homer.

Kevin Costner has starred in two of the best sports film in history, Field of Dreams and Bull Durham. I have been to the field of dreams and been to Durham field, the home of the movie Bull Durham. As the world looks like it is collapsing, this movie reminds us of the power of baseball but also the power of America.

Speech

Mann: Ray, people will come, Ray.

They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.

“Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,” you’ll say. “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and peace they lack.

Mann: And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.

Mann: People will come, Ray.

Mann: The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.

America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.

This field, this game — it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.

Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

Royals and Cardinals.

1985, they met for all the marbles. Now they are meeting for pride as the Royals are out of the running and Cardinals will be joining them.

As for us Royals fans, the positive news begins with the starting pitching as Carlos Hernandez beat the first place Chicago White Sox two games in a row. Hernandez has the stuff to be a major league pitcher but up to now not yet taken that step. From Batoul Hammoud writing in the King of Kauffman, “And as long as Hernandez continues to develop his ability to rely on everything in his pitch arsenal, he is a good candidate to become a lethal starter in the rotation for years to come with Kansas City.”

Another pitcher has been Daniel Lynch, who in three starts, has won 2 of those starts and ERA under 2. His first trip to the majors was a disaster but after a short Omaha stint, he came back a different pitcher.

Our Royals starting pitching since the All Star Break have seen numbers of quality of starts. Olivares has hit three homers since his trip back from Omaha and we will have two months to see if he can be a major league outfielder. Nicky Lopez is hitting like he did in Omaha where he was a .300 hitter. He is hitting .280 and flashing a great defensive game. Salvy is already hit 27 homers, tied for most in his career and now has three season of 27 homers, one of two Royals to do this. Steve Balboni was the other. He is now 18 homers behind Mike Sweeney for number two on the home run lists. Perez homers is the most of the Royals from this decade and of those players who won the Championship in 2015 and had four straight winning season.

Who would have thought that George Brett had 201 stolen bases to go with his 317 HR, 3000 plus hits and .305 average? No one in this generation of Royals have matched that.

Fury and Wilder

This is the third fight between the two. In their first fight, Fury barely survived a knockout in the twelfth as he managed to get up and get a draw. In their second fight, he won rather easily, pounding Wilder all over. Wilder is a good athlete who boxes, Fury is a boxer who has athletic skills. In their second bout, Fury adjusted and was more aggressive, using his heights and weight to his advantage.

Wilder problem has been that he has depended upon his power but not boxing skills. He has not improved his boxing skills and until his second fight with Fury, if he was behind on points, he would depend upon his power. Against the Cuban fighter Ortiz, he was behind on points in both fights but his power save him and his power allowed him a draw against Fury and Fury own guts and ability to get up from a devastating knockout save Fury from defeat.

In their last fight, Wilder did not change his strategy but Fury did by not just boxing but he opened up more and took advantage of Wilder defense liability. Wilder must use his athlete ability and move side to side before unleashing his punches. In the past, he has often move in a straight line back ward to escape and against a good boxer like Fury, this made Wilder vulnerable to Fury own power.

Wilder has a puncher chance to win and he has the power to do that. Fury, whose own goal is Joshua to unite the titles but that fight fell through and now he is fighting Wilder, who he prefer not to fight. Will Fury come in overconfident? If so he could run into a Wilder’s right hand.

Fury is the favorite and he is the better boxer and if he boxes, he will set up combinations to win this fight easily. Wilder will win only by knockout, and that is not out of question.

Djokovic wins number 20

We are witnessing greatness in Tennis as we witnessing the final endgame of who will be greatest of all time. Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have won 20 majors and since Roger won Wimbledon in 2003 for his first major, these three men have won 60 majors over the past 18 years. That represent 80 percent of the majors played over the period.

Roger is nearly 40 and I would be surprise if he wins another. Nadal is 35 and Djokovic is 34. They are still playing near their best despite their age. Normally, 34 is the point where men tennis player are on their way down but both players are still playing well and are still among the best in the game.

Federer last major win was Australia three years ago when he was 36 so we can assume that either Nadal or Djokovic have one or two more majors left in them and Djokovic is the youngest by one year to Nadal but appears to be better on more surface than Nadal who has won 13 of his 20 majors on the clay surface of French Open.

Over the next three or four years, the GOAT in Men’s Tennis will be settled.

Royals nearing the All Star Break

Royals are approaching the all Star break as a team in a disarray. Pitching so far dismal as I have observed before, four of the starters have ERA of 5.97, 5.50, 5.36, and 4.52. Greg Holland is tied with five saves but he also has blown4 saves. Barlow has 4 saves and blew 3 others.

Holland is interesting case since he has leads the team in save opportunities and there are times that he looks like the Holland of old. And there are times that he is an old Holland. His ERA of nearly 5 runs sums up where he is in his career. He is not the consistent closer of years past but so far no one else has yet to take the closer role. Staumont looked like he was headed in that direction but a stint on IR slowed Staumont down. Royals are closer by committee and Holland is not what he was but there are very little choice not to use him.

Royals are near last with a 5.04 ERA, given up 112 homers and have blown 15 saves as a team. Can’t win with that.

I had high hopes for this team, since it is a better team than what we have seen over the past three years. Bringing in Benintendi and Santana has worked out. Benintendi is close to the Benintendi of 2018 an Santana is hitting .250, getting walks and have 14 homers. Where you expected him to be. 2019, Dozier and Soler showed that they were ready to be power hitters and RBI’s producers but since then, they have gone south. It leaves a big hole when your power hitters are hitting below .200 and Ryan O’Hearn is hitting .217. Merrifield leads the league in stolen bases but is hitting 20 points below his lifetime .293 but Perez is hitting well with 20 homers and 51 RBI’s going into the All Star Break.

In spite of Soler and Dozier failures, the Royals are number 10th in batting average.