With the news of the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame electing four new members last week, many fans of the Braves and Indians find themselves thrilled with the elections of Chipper Jones and Jim Thome. How could you not be? These are two players who excelled on and off the field, had long, successful careers, and are adored by fans throughout the league. They are no doubt Hall of Famers, and I don’t think anyone could make any kind of argument to the contrary. Unfortunately, the other two men to be inducted this summer hit a different note.
There are few times that growing up playing a sport coincides with a hometown professional sports team’s greatest run.
The Boston Celtics in the 60s
The Pittsburgh Steelers in the 70s
The San Francisco 49ers in the 80s
The Cleveland Indians in the 90s
Scott Boras is, in many ways, the archenemy of all Major League Baseball owners. His job is to persuade them to spend their money by signing his clients. He is very good at his job. Let’s be clear; when Boras says MLB is being destroyed by the “rebuilding” approach, he says that with the goal of getting fans riled up so they put more pressure on the owners to go out and spend.
I despised Alex Rodriguez toward the end of his playing career. He was a Yankee. He was busted for using performance-enhancing drugs. I was young, still considered the New York Yankees the “Evil Empire,” and couldn’t understand why anyone would cheat the game of baseball by taking banned substances. I don’t want to get into the whole PED discussion. That’s not why I’m here. I will say that I was one of the many people calling for then-commissioner Bud Selig to hand down the dreaded lifetime ban in 2013. “A-Roid” was easy to hate.
[In what is an annual tradition, the BBWAA once again screwed up their most important duty: faithfully electing qualified MLB players to the game’s ultimate shrine – Cooperstown. This year’s balloting went along better than most years, as only 3 writers chose to get *cute* by leaving Ken Griffey, Jr. off of their ballots. I will not give any credence to those writers, nor will I entertain any arguments as to why they might have done it.
It was idiotic, moronic, and selfish for those three to deny Griffey a unanimous vote as the BBWAA has done to every player who has so far been enshrined1There are arguments made by others that voters simply aren’t allowed enough votes [they’re allotted 10 per election.] Others will excuse writers by saying ‘Well, if Babe Ruth wasn’t good enough to earn 100%, and he’s the Greatest player ever, then no one should earn 100%. Of course, that’s an idiotic argument on multiple fronts.
First, when the Babe was elected, it was against every single player who had ever stepped on the field up to that point, including active players, that were eligible. Secondly, just because writers of previous generations were morons does not excuse writers of ensuing generations. Should the Babe have been elected unanimously? Of course. Is the fact that he was not more excusable than Griffey, Jr. not being? Of course. There were at best 8 players who should have been considered for a HOF vote this year. It’s simply not an excuse.. Continue reading 2016 MLB HOF Thoughts
|↑1||There are arguments made by others that voters simply aren’t allowed enough votes [they’re allotted 10 per election.] Others will excuse writers by saying ‘Well, if Babe Ruth wasn’t good enough to earn 100%, and he’s the Greatest player ever, then no one should earn 100%. Of course, that’s an idiotic argument on multiple fronts.
First, when the Babe was elected, it was against every single player who had ever stepped on the field up to that point, including active players, that were eligible. Secondly, just because writers of previous generations were morons does not excuse writers of ensuing generations. Should the Babe have been elected unanimously? Of course. Is the fact that he was not more excusable than Griffey, Jr. not being? Of course. There were at best 8 players who should have been considered for a HOF vote this year. It’s simply not an excuse.
The NFL has done something over the past few years to prove to the world that they feel they are the only professional sports league that matters. We all know that the NFL is the top dog when it comes to professional sports, but now they seem to be laughing in the face of America’s former National Pastime.
There was a time when the National Football League actually respected Major League Baseball enough to not schedule a Sunday night game that would be played opposite the World Series. That time is over. Football is so popular in America that a Week 8 regular season NFL game gets more viewers than a possibly decisive Game 5 of the World Series.
NBC’s Sunday Night Football game between the undefeated Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos drew about 23 million viewers, while the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets managed to bring in about 17.2 million viewers. Some will point to the fact that the baseball game ran late due to extra innings. The numbers actually show that many viewers flipped over to watch baseball after the football game ended. Game 5 of the World Series actually hit a 12 year high for ratings, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the NFL.
The marquee matchup between the undefeated teams of Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers was a little disappointing, while the World Series game was a nail-biter for 12 innings. Fantasy football can also be partially blamed because many people likely had key players in the Sunday night game. After the ratings came out, this was the most watched Week 8 NFL prime time game in 22 years! Obviously the NFL’s schedule makers didn’t know that both teams would be undefeated, but they knew that this would be a marquee matchup that would draw ratings against the World Series.
During its first four seasons on NBC, Sunday Night Football had the decency to take one week off as to not conflict with the World Series. Since deciding not to take a Sunday night off, the NFL’s schedule makers have featured either the Green Bay Packers or New Orleans Saints in the game opposite the World Series every year since 2010. The thought process is supposedly that neither New Orleans nor Green Bay has a MLB team so there should be no conflicts of interest.
It seems that the NFL is not going to back down and wants high ratings no matter what it goes up against. If this trend keeps up, it may be baseball that is forced to change its postseason schedule to avoid the NFL. With the NFL now playing prime time games on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, that doesn’t leave much for MLB to work with. The World Series might have to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday with a travel day on Thursday. They could play the next two games on Friday and Saturday, although that would not allow for the current 2-3-2 format.
Even Pete Rose decided to do something else for Game 5 of the World Series. He had a contract already signed to appear for a private dinner, speech, and autograph session and was not able to be featured as an analyst on the Fox broadcast. It would be nice for the NFL and MLB to work together even if it’s just to schedule one week in October, but that seems unlikely. The NFL regards itself so highly that it will never budge and just wants to keep gaining money and popularity.
I’m back. At least I think I’m all the way back. I like to travel; check that, I love to travel, but there’s no question it takes a lot out of me, both physically and mentally.
Between Phoenix, Charlotte, and Cleveland, my phone spent a lot of time in Airplane Mode last week. As a means of making phone calls or doing any internetty things, the iPhone 6+ is basically a paperweight. Among those things, would be my preferred method of listening to music via streaming, but Google Play decided some songs are stored locally. I have no idea which ones, or what the criteria is for off-line listening, but it sure beats those non-SkyMall magazines. One of the songs that came up, De La Soul’s “Itzsoweeze”, reminded me why it’s on my playlist; it’s fun.
Now, what seems like a lifetime ago, I wrote a Pac-12 weekend recap called “Pac-Raps”, where each game would be tied into lyrics from some 90s rap tune. We’re going to do that again here, sans Pac-12 football.
Mos Def affiliation
This is the phat presentation
De La dedication
Common Sense collaborations
Peace to all of you Haitians
Check it out
Maybe I don’t have the star-power of Mos Def and Common collaborating with me on any More Than A Fan venture, a la the guests on “Stakes Is High” album, but I don’t mind thanking the likes of Kevin Noon, Joe Posnanski, Martin Rickman, Bruce Jacobs, Mark Asher, and countless others for speaking with me at one time or another, as I’ve ventured into this realm.
Of course, my De La dedication is all about the many scribes at More Than A Fan that do what they need to do to keep the lights on in these parts.
If money makes a man strange — we gots to rearrange
So what makes the world go round
If love is against the law — listen I don’t know
Gotta change how it’s goin down
We all know we can’t be consumed by greed, because that paper isn’t going to be there forever, but it’s about fame and glory, or whatever too. Think fame lasts forever? You must not get VH1.
In 2015, we probably think of one primary thing, when we wonder if love against the law, and the Supreme Court has dictated that it’s no longer a violation of law to go there. Instead, I think of defending your dedication to something like, say my beloved Cleveland Browns. I’m asked, why do you settle for such futility? My response is, I love them or I love nothing at all–NFL related, of course.
Fell in love with this fish who got caught in my mesh
But yo she burned my scene up like David Koresh
I guess a diamond ain’t nothing but a rock with a name
I guess love ain’t nuttin but emotion and game
It’s a lesson well learned so praise is well due
I’m sendin off from Big I, to Kenny Calhoun
I could go on and on about the Browns, and how I’m always so twisted emotionally over the reboot, while I can’t let go of my decades-old angst against the original version that planted their flag in Maryland, but what does that accomplish? I deal with the fact that, more regularly than not, they light up dumpsters like Waco in ’93, but I just flew home to see them win, so no grievances for the team that calls the shores of Lake Erie home, not at the moment.
Let’s take our focus down I-71, to a struggling Ohio State team that still holds the #1 spot in the presently meaningless rankings. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, my focus moved from Sunday to Saturday, and I gave a little more love to John Cooper’s Buckeyes, and they would typically break my heart, in the same style that their former professional counterpart to the Northeast did so often. In 1999, something looking like my first love returned to the scene, but I was still locked in on Saturdays, Na’il Diggs, and Steve Bellisari. Then, they discarded the label-makers that wrote out “COOP” on the headsets, and went with some guys with sleeveless sweaters from Youngstown to right the ship.
The rise of the Scarlet and Grey was fun, but it was not fulfilling on a personal level. Perhaps it would be different if there was a degree with “The Ohio State University” on top hanging on the wall, or even a class schedule or some type of receipt in some drawer, from that school somewhere. It was the same emptiness that I felt when celebrating the Diamondbacks 2001 World Series victory; I didn’t put in my due time with either.
No regrets or anything, just a lesson well-learned. On another note, I have no idea what a “Big I” is, but Kenny Calhoun was all about “The U”, and I don’t need Billy Corben to tell me that. Dove, aka David Jude Jolicoeur, was from Brooklyn with Haitian roots. I didn’t realize it until LeBron James joined the Heat, but Miami is treated as local by those from the West Indies and nearby areas, as regional as Boston is to Maine, I suppose.
And add a reservation for the resident crew
And yo get your bowl cuz we cookin up stew
See them Cubans don’t care what y’all _____s do
Colombians ain’t never ran with your crew
Why you acting all spicy and sheisty
The only Italians you knew was icees, _____s price me
To those who only use social to associate with famous, or Twitter-famous, types, they really need to show some diversity in their conversations. I had someone from back east ask what was going on with the Arizona Coyotes and Glendale a few months back, offered my opinion, and someone stepped in to tell the person to trust only a local Fox Sports reporter has the right information. Talk about something that grinds my gears; my opinion was based off of that reporter’s reports, but someone had to play the role of white knight for a media-type.
I’m sure that reporter, and many others like him, don’t care whether or not they’re included in every conversation about the team they cover. These are close-minded individuals, who shun any idea that doesn’t come from their idols. Much like John Gotti likely never cared or knew who Jay-Z was, a journalist cares very little about how often they’re @’d.
Also, this song wouldn’t have made the cut for Pac-Raps for inclusion of the words blanked out, but you can figure out what those words are. I wish it were a word that would just disappear, but I’m not really welcome to the table where that discussion takes place. Whatever, it is what it is with that.
I’m keepin it clean, like a washing machine
And yo, get your locomotion run into full steam
I’m sending out a greeting to my man Daseem
I got a child so I gotsta get the green, right right
If you’re going to do something, do it right. Let’s not be so naive as to say that MLB did this for the fans; it’s all about the money here, but it coincidentally turned out to be a solid move to add a second wild-card team, expanding their post-season tournament to ten teams. Does one-third of the league belong in the post-season? It depends on who you ask, but it definitely worked for the eventual World Champion Giants a year ago.
One game, and it’s clean. I love the focus it puts on winning your division, in order to avoid a 1-game “do or die” scenario, and I like how many teams are playing meaningful games in late-September. Now, it’s not as clean as a washing machine if the Indians and Tigers have to play a game on October 5th, which may or may not equal the Tribe playing again on Tuesday to play-in to a play-in game, but there’s always a worst case scenario.
Itzsoweezee, it’s gettin hot this year
Itzsoweezee, it’s gettin hot
Summer ended this week, and I couldn’t be more welcoming to the Autumn months. For those that still care about baseball, you’re going to get both New York teams, the Cubs and Dodgers, and some small-market teams that you haven’t seen in the post-season in a while. Add football with its sea-legs beneath it, both on Saturday and Sunday (and sometimes Thursday), to serve as a prelude to Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell beginning their pro careers, and October is a beautiful month on the sports landscape.
They make it to easy to enjoy sports.
I own the deeds to some acres in the West Indies
Where my pops is building residence to house my seed
Now here’s the lead, y’all niggas pray to hot rods and not God
While Versace play you niggas like Yahtzee
Crackin jokes like you Patzi
(When’s the last time you had Happy Days?)
Blazin up your herb to escape the maze, but the problem stays
This is what the track is about, right here. Be you. And that goes for sports fans, just the same. Don’t get caught up in buying jerseys and sneakers. Don’t spend your whole life on the phone or computer. Apple, Samsung, Nike; they’re all taking us for a ride, reducing us to little pink or blue plastic pieces in “The Game of Life”. You missed a Tweet, and didn’t get the breaking news until ten minutes after everyone else? So the hell what!
If you partake in the herb, that’s cool. What? I’m no cop. That isn’t the only escape though; for a lot us, it’s these games, and if they frustrate us, so what! Life can be one problem after another, and when our teams lose or win, we are going to have to wake up to those same problems the next day. We might as well enjoy the time in between.
Think big get it big is my motto
You can go and play your lotto, I’ll be singin like baby won’t you be mine
You’ll be pressin rewind, you can never see mine
Keep your eyes focused, you can’t touch this or quote this
Style is crazy bogus so you can’t try to approach this
Stomp you out like roaches, pullin on my coattail
Like some horses pullin coaches, WHOA your roller coasters
It’s hotter than the temperature that’s cookin in your toasters
While the heat’ll put you deep into hypnosis
All I have to say, is this is a great verse.
Live in the moment.
Know what you want on your highlight reel, and replay those moments in your mind.
Itsoweezee, Enola in the area
Itsoweezee, Timbo King’s in the area
Itsoweezee, Maseo’s in the area
Itsoweezee, ninety-six in your area
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd lawd!
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd lawd lawd
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd, for y’all peace
It all comes full circle. In sports (and My Cousin Vinny), it’s win some, lose some. The champs are all 0-0, once the calendar resets itself to begin the next season. The chumps take their high draft choices and start on equal ground with the team that won it all, but that win was last year’s news.
The time is now, and you can’t worry about last year, last week, and the people that were with you then. You see who stands by you now, and that’s your team.
It appears that the Indians’ favorable schedule down the stretch is keeping the glimmer of playoff baseball alive in September.
I can’t believe it. You can’t believe it either. As I wrote last week, the Cleveland Indians are still relevant as it pertains to the 2015 playoffs. At the beginning of August, most writers and fans alike had capped this season as a disappointment and were looking ahead to 2016. Slowly but surely, the Indians strung some wins together and figured things out.
Currently, the Indians are just 4.5 games out of the second wildcard spot currently held by the Texas Rangers. In front of them are the Los Angeles Angels (3.0 GB) and the Minnesota Twins (1.0 GB).
Let’s take a look at each of the current contenders and their remaining schedules in the months of September/October:
The Minnesota twins are currently locked in a series with the Chicago White Sox, having won game one of the three game set last night, 6-2. After their remaining two games in Chicago, the Twinkies travel home to Target Field for a 10 game homestand featuring visits by the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, and, after an off day on 9/21, the Indians. They then travel to Detroit for a three game set, followed by a four game set at Cleveland to finish out the month of September. Their final series of the season comes against the Kansas City Royals at home at Target Field.
Clearly, of the remaining games, the most important series comes against the Los Angeles Angels next week. Considering it’s a four game series, it could make or break the Twins’ wild card hopes in addition to sinking other squads’ hopes. In a perfect world, you hope that the teams split the two game series and gain no ground either way. The Indians have a favorable weekend series against the White Sox at the same time as the Twins v Angels series, so a sweep there could really place the Indians in a position to own the 2nd wildcard spot conversation entering the final two weeks of the season.
Another problem the Twins face down the stretch is the perceived strength of their schedule. They only face 4 teams after their weekend series against Chicago: Cleveland, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Kansas City. Of those four teams, one is going to be a division winner (KC), two are currently competing with the Twins for the second wildcard spot (CLE and LAA), and one is down and out this year, but still can pack a wallop (DET).
While the Minnesota Twins have been a nice story this season (see: Houston Astros), the strength of their schedule down the stretch may overarchingly doom them.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Los Angeles Angels are currently in the middle of a three game home set against the Houston Astros and won their game last night 3-2. After finishing with the Astros, the Angels travel for 10 straight games against the Mariners (3), Twins (4), and Astros (3). After a day off, the Angels open a 6 game home stand against the Mariners and Athletics, before traveling to Texas for a 4 game showdown with the Rangers.
Of the teams remaining in the wildcard race as it stands right now, the Angels probably have the hardest schedule of them all. The AL West has been the surprise division (in my opinion) this year in terms of divisional excellence. The thought entering the season was that the Angels and Mariners would clash for the division crown while using the injury plagued Rangers, downtrodden Astros, and talent-less Athletics as target practice in between. In reality, Seattle has been an overwhelming disappointment considering their talent level. In addition, the Angels have played well below expectations and nobody really knows what team their going to get when playing them. The Rangers, even with all of their injuries entering the season, have found ways to win games and keep themselves relevant while the Houston Astros shocked the world and took the division by the horns while never looking back. The Athletics are the only team that have really played to expectations before the season started.
Instead of just one team to worry about down the stretch (Mariners), the Angels have to play three decent baseball teams within their own division. While this makes for interesting storylines as a writer, Angels fans are undoubtedly worried about the strength of schedule they face over the course of the upcoming weeks and what that means to their playoff hopes. Unfortunately, Mike Trout can’t play every position.
Like the Angels, the Rangers play many games remaining on their schedule in their own division. The Rangers have it slightly easier in that they see the Athletics twice (6 games) and have a random series at the end of the month against Detroit. Other than that, the Rangers play the division leading Astros twice (6 games), the Mariners once (3 games), and finish their season at Los Angeles (4 games).
If you read the second paragraph under the Angels tab, it applies here as well. The only difference being the strength of schedule the Rangers face. It is slightly less difficult than the Angels with two series against the Athletics and one series against the Tigers.
Of the AL wildcard teams mentioned in this article, the Indians overwhelmingly have the easiest schedule down the stretch. Cleveland plays 3 at home against Detroit followed by a four game set against the Royals and a three game set against the White Sox – All at home. After an off day, they travel to Minnesota for 3 games and then to Kansas City for 3 games. They then travel home for the final home series of the season against the Twins (3 games) and Boston Red Sox (4 games).
Easy, I think, is a relative term in baseball. The Indians have some challenges when it comes to their remaining schedule. The difference, I think, is the strength of the challenge as compared to other challenges faced by the latter wildcard contenders. Yes, the Indians face the Royals seven times down the stretch. Yes, the Indians face the Twins six times down the stretch. Those 13 games will be tough, of that I have no doubt.
But are we really afraid of going 0-13 against those two teams? Of course not.
Are we afraid of dropping all but one game in the series against the Royals and Twins? Of course not.
When I look at teams like the Angels and Rangers, I actually believe that they could walk into each others’ ballparks or Seattle’s or Houston’s and get blanked three straight games.
That’s how good I think the West is this year.
The Indians just have to play their style of baseball, get a few hits, and play no- to minimal-error baseball. They do that, and they have a chance to travel to New York for a one game wild card playoff against the vaunted Yankees. I believe that this team is in the right place, when it comes to their hitting, pitching, and defense, to make a push.
I’m not overly optimistic about our chances. I think, as a Cleveland sports fan, I packed away optimism, along with the ideals of “hope” and “dreams”, in a box long ago.
I do think the Indians have a golden opportunity to do something special and I hope they can muster together enough to make a wildcard appearance happen.
I guess, as the leaves change, we will see if the Indians fortunes change as well.
*Note: Teams directly behind the Indians in the standings were not included in this article due to its potential length if they were added and the shear number of teams still vying for a spot. As teams either move in front of the Indians or separate themselves from the pack, this article will be updated to reflect their chances and remaining schedules.
If anyone objects to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace.
Yeah, I didn’t exactly give anyone the chance to do that. It was one of two requests I asked of the Justice of the Peace that officiated our nuptials. The other, I stole from Spaceballs. We required the short, short version for our outdoor mid-summer Phoenix wedding. While I’m on the subject, allow me to tip my proverbial cap to Jen, my bride of eight years. Without her blessing to do this, we wouldn’t be here right now. As an act of gratitude, I may even unload the dishwasher or take out the trash.
For some reason, I’ve been trusted with the master key to all of More Than A Fan, and I have to tell you, this is all so surreal. I keep expecting to wake up and I’m actually waiting for someone to yell at me, to tell me what I can’t do. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘ghost’ of Josh Flagner will linger in my head, and it will haunt me if get out of line, but that isn’t my intention. In fact, my intentions are not a priority these days; my obligations are. Let me break those down.
First, it is paramount that we keep the lights on. I laughed about it in BASEketball, when Squeak went to turn off Doug and Coop’s gas, but it wasn’t very funny when the natural gas ceased to flow in my own residence. You’d think you could live with it, especially on nice spring days, but a week of ice-cold showers and painful shaves had me changing my tune. It’s a good excuse to grow a beard, but my mind hadn’t gone there.
I learned from a friend, who had little money and no power, how to rough it with easily bought neighbors, an extension cord, and a power strip. Unplugging the TV, to open an outlet, to plug in the coffee maker, to heat up the water to shave, well, that’s no way to live. It’s obviously not how you run a website. Keeping the lights on, in this figurative sense, it requires money, so you’re going to see advertisements and we might even do some things we’re not proud to do (but, hopefully not).
Next, I have an obligation to these fantastic writers, as well as our loyal readers. A glance around More Than A Fan reveals that Matthew Kline always sees something that could use tweaking or fixing in sport, Jared Andrews knows the peaks (present-day Blackhawks) and valleys (historically, the Cubs) of being a Chicago sports fan, and what a time for Britt Zank to be waxing poetic about his beloved Kansas City Royals!
Our resident Canadian, John Poulter is writing about and talking about his hometown Toronto Blue Jays at the right time. Let’s see how all of that plays out. When we get to football season, Jared may be slightly less elated to speak on the tragedy that the Chicago Bears have become, compared to the suddenly-inspired, Joe Maddon-led Cubbies. Outside of Arizona, there can’t be too many folks longing for the cold days of winter, but maniacal hockey fans probably have their countdowns down to the hour by now. Though his Maple Leafs are so cursed, they might as well be Cleveland’s fourth team, John still makes his way to the Air Canada Centre more than a few times a year, come win, lose, or shootout.
They do play their fair share of hockey south of Ontario, and our hockey staff has you covered with opinions from Anaheim to Boston, and everywhere between. As for me, my biggest NHL interests reside in the desert, specifically in a small-time city that generally seems not to care about at least one of its major professional sports franchises. Never a dull moment with the drama surrounding the Coyotes, my favorite hometown team.
It’s weird to say it and a little awkward to see it typed out, but Phoenix absolutely is my hometown. I’ve been here 14 years, later this month. However, if you know me at all, you know my birthplace and long-time home is a seldom-respected city of yesteryear in Northeast Ohio, known as Cleveland. As More Than A Fan and I are brought together once again, I remember our common bond, we were both born in Cleveland, as was the site’s founder. Deny it, as anyone might, that’s our home base. It’s where our original readers come from, and in February 2013, Daniel Zaleski and the rest of management decided those readers had earned their own page.
The voices at MTAF: Cleveland are different from what they were in the beginning, but the tone is the same. We’d be speaking out of turn to evaluate fan bases, but I personally understand the dedication of those fans, near the shores of Lake Erie. In some cities, the night ends when the games end. The 2-1-6 is different; they’re talking Browns on the 4th of July and the discussion about a 7:05 Indians game could well into the AM hours of the next day, both online and on the airwaves. We cannot understate how the Cavaliers are overwhelmingly the best team in town at the moment, but they aren’t the only basketball team in downtown Cleveland.
A few blocks from the Quicken Loans Arena stands the once state-of-the-art Wolstein Center, and while crowds are a far cry from what they used to be for Vikings basketball, the entire Cleveland State Athletic Department remains near and dear to the heart of the many alumni that reside in and around the city. I cut my teeth on underdogs and upsets when the ’86 hoops team knocked off Bobby Knight’s 2-seeded Indiana as a 15, and rooted hard for this mid-major that’s never lost an Opening Round game in the NCAA tournament, as they went toe-to-toe with Butler in the Horizon League, before Butler bolted for greener pastures a few years back. For everything else on Cleveland’s only Division I athletic program, I defer to our own Bob McDonald. He is the decided authority for all-things-Cleveland-State.
I’m the one who decided that, so take that for what you will. The bottom line is, for our readers from Cleveland to parts unknown, we know you have options. We owe you good content for following our crazy views on the wide world of sports, and we need to deliver it on a consistent basis. If that does not happen, I have failed in my role.
On that note, my last obligation, or really, my moral imperative is to take care of (MTAF Founder) Josh Flagner’s baby the best way I know how, by treating it like my own. He has an actual baby to take care of now, so he should appreciate that. Josh, I promise not to drop this thing on its head, feed it paint chips, or let it be a Brian Hoyer fan. All kidding aside, if there’s a better way for “my” More Than A Fan to pay homage to Josh Flagner (and co-founder Lisa Pitz) than to recognize their charitable efforts, I don’t know what it is.
Off the webpage and in the community, philanthropy is a big part of our mission statement. I want More Than A Fan to be more than a place that simply houses brilliant, unfiltered sports opinion, but good-standing members of society. This team should demand that of me, as well as of themselves.
We aren’t just more than fans in these parts. We hope to be more than readers, writers, editors and publishers, but a community that takes care of one another and looks out for our own. Together, we make More Than a Fan a place that we can all be proud of, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, ’til link-rot do us part.
On August 5, 2015 the Royals have a nine and a half game lead in the AL Central. I’m just going to give you a minute to let that sink in. The Royals are as close to a lock for the playoffs as anybody in baseball (yes I’m knocking on wood). Now that you’ve had time to let that sink in, the Royals also need to let it sink in and start planning ahead.
As with anything in sports people can come up with pros and cons for everything that happens. The Royals being this good and having the possibility of clinching a playoff spot so early is no exception. I believe there are more pros for this circumstance, but if you look at the big picture, you have to acknowledge the bad with the good.
I’m sure most of you are wondering, “How can the Royals clinching a playoff spot be anything but amazing, no matter how early”? I think the only con that comes with clinching early comes from the minds of the players. You worry about the players exhaling and relaxing. This is especially true for a club like the Royals who play so well with a chip on their shoulder. The last thing you want them to do is go into the playoffs relaxing and thinking they got this. Sports are full of teams who coasted into the playoffs only to fail. The Royals saw this first hand last year when they played the Orioles and Angels.
The pros with clinching the playoffs early start with the fact you can rest. Baseball is a long season without many days off built in. The Royals have fifty-seven games remaining with only five days off. In 2014 the Royals had to play all out to clinch a playoff spot in the last week of the season. Playing like that they didn’t have time to give guys rest or days off because they had to try to win every single game. This caught up with the Royals in the playoffs as many players like James Shields and Salvador Perez saw their production drop. This year is different though. The Royals have a good enough record and a large enough lead that they shouldn’t feel the need to win every game. I’m not saying the Royals shouldn’t try to win every game, no matter who is playing they should be trying to win. The point is that they don’t have to win where they need all hands on deck every day like they did in 2014.
This will be especially important once the rosters expand on September first. At that point the Royals will have enough players on the roster to give everyone days off. Given the chance, I’d be happy to give Ned Yost my plan for how this rest should work out. First thing I’d do is make sure Perez gets two days off a week. I would have backup catcher Drew Butera become Jeremy Guthrie’s designated catcher and then find one more day a week off for Perez. The outfield would be my second point of emphasis with the rest due to all the injuries there. Alex Gordon will need time to work back into full time shape so he’ll need many days off. Alex Rios and Lorenzo Cain have also battled injuries and could use as much rest as possible to insure their 100% for the playoffs. Luckily the Royals are deep at outfield with Jarrod Dyson, Paulo Orlando and Ben Zobrist all able to play any of the three spots. With that type of depth it should be easy for Ned to give everyone at least one day off a week with little drop off in production.
The infield would be my least area of concern. Omar Infante is the only health concern and with Zobrist added to the roster Yost could find all the rest Infante needs. My main suggestion in the infield would be getting Alcedes Escobar some rest. The only few games Escobar has missed all year was due to the dirty slide of Brett Lawrie in April. I’d like to see Zobrist or Cheslor Cuthbert give Escobar one day off a week. In the same way I’d use those same two to give Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer each a day as well. With the ability to expand the roster and call up guys like Christian Colon there should be plenty of depth at every position to make sure every starter gets at least one day off per week.
Going along with the days off for everyday players is making sure pitchers get their rest too. The expanded rosters will allow for more arms in the bullpen which will help both the starters and relievers. Once September comes around I’d like it if Ned limited starters to fewer than 100 pitches per outing. This would insure the starters having strong rested arms for the playoffs. I’d also like to see the back end of the bullpen get some more rest as well. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland must be 100% rested for the playoffs. As the Royals showed last year in the playoffs, we have the bullpen to shut teams down and I want them rested enough to be able to go. With the expanded rosters we should be able to add four or five arms to the bullpen to soak up plenty of innings to give H.D.H. the rest they need. I think if Ned can give all these guys this kind of rest, their bodies will be fresh and ready for the playoff sprint.
Having a strong fresh mental state is also just as important as having a fresh body. When every game counts and a loss can end your season, that is a lot of pressure to put on a team. Errors hurt more, strikeouts hurt more and everyone is just trying almost too hard to get everything perfect. In a game like baseball where failing seven times out of ten makes you an All Star, having each failure multiplied can destroy a psyche. By having such a large lead the Royals can avoid this distraction. They can just go out there and have fun playing the game like they always do and not sweat the small stuff. That’s been the trademark of this team all year, they never quit. They always seem to find a way and a lot of that is because they have fun and don’t let striking out in the first inning effect their at bat in the seventh inning. Even if they lose a couple games in a row, they don’t start pressing and trying to win the next game with every pitch and swing. Instead they know they’re good and trust to keep doing what they’re doing and they’ll be fine.
Whenever the Royals clinch their playoff spot this year the team and fans will celebrate. Kansas City hopes this is sooner rather than later because we all need a break. Fans like players spend a lot of time and energy following the team all season. It would be nice for us all to get some time off to rest and recharge for what we all hope to be a long playoff run. Now that I’ve spent this entire article talking about the Royals clinching a playoff spot, I’m going to go ice my hand. I may need to order a new desk as well; knocking on wood this much isn’t good for man or the furniture.