Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Sports

K.C.'s masterpiece not easily copied

The Kansas City Royals capped their victory parade Tuesday with a rally outside Union Station, a majestic hall that dates to 1914. Time and commerce marched on, and by the middle of the 1990s, the station was abandoned, neglected and very nearly demolished.

Not too long ago, the Royals were in pretty bad shape themselves. Futility was becoming ingrained — 17 losing seasons in 18 years — and the Royals kept trotting out George Brett.

Union Station has been revived beautifully, and so have the Royals. Brett rode in the parade Tuesday, proudly passing the baton of glory to Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez. No longer will the good fans of Kansas City need to squint at grainy images of Brett dressed in powder blue to see greatness on the diamond.

In the wake of the World Series, the tendency is to decipher the championship blueprint and suggest how it might be duplicated by other teams. The Royals had their share of good fortune, and misfortune. From 2005-08, the Royals' first-round picks were outfielder Alex Gordon, pitcher Luke Hochevar, Moustakas and Hosmer. All were among the first three overall picks. The Royals got to draft so high because they lost 100 games in three consecutive seasons, 93 the next.

Teams throw millions of dollars at what can seem like millions of kids in Latin America. The Royals got Perez, the World Series MVP, for $65,000 and pitcher Yordano Ventura for $27,000. At those rates, a team is not so much projecting as hoping.

The Royals developed and deployed pitching depth, weathering the loss of two members of the starting rotation this season — the injured Jason Vargas and the ineffective Jeremy Guthrie — and trading three young pitchers to get star pitcher Johnny Cueto. And when the Royals could not afford to retain pitcher James Shields, designated hitter Billy Butler and outfielder Nori Aoki from last year's AL champions, they trod warily into free agency and gambled on Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios. Total cost: $48 million, same as the Dodgers spent on Brandon McCarthy. The Royals went 3-for-3.

That tired cliche of "it's not about the money" rings at least somewhat true with regard to the Royals. For every dollar the Royals spent on their major league roster, the Yankees spent almost two, the Dodgers almost three.

The defining moment of this World Series was not a home run, not a strikeout. It was Hosmer making that mad dash for home plate, equal parts preparation from scouting reports and fortitude amid the pressure of the playoffs.

It would not be practical for every team to copy the Royals. But it would be nice if teams noticed that the Royals do not worship at the altar of the strikeout. The rise in analytic findings that strikeouts for pitchers tend to predict success — a fielder can't botch a ball if a batter never hits it — has correlated with the kind of velocity never before seen in baseball, where a 95-mph fastball has been reduced to "above average." We may yet discover a link between all that velocity and all those elbow injuries.

In the meantime, strikeouts pile up, with batters urged to work the count and excused for striking out. The Royals hit the first pitch if they like it. They put the ball in play, they run rather than slug, and they force the other team to make plays, and sometimes mistakes.

And the Royals won the World Series, depriving every other team of whatever excuse it might care to offer, extending a beacon of hope and faith to forlorn fans across the land.

— Los Angeles Times (TNS)

What's not to like about Mattingly-Marlins marriage?

Don Mattingly has spent a baseball life in the dugout. So the Marlins' mistake of Dan Jennings won't be repeated. He has a decades-long reputation of being a rational, even-tempered personality. So the mistake of Ozzie Guillen won't be repeated.

Mattingly carries the credentials of a borderline Hall of Famer with the Yankees and won three division titles as Dodgers manager. So the mistake of Edwin Rodriguez and the challenge of Mike Redmond won't be repeated.

Mattingly even played for George Steinbrenner and managed for the lost ownership of the Dodgers' Frank McCourt. So that prepares him as much as anything can for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. Or it at least assures that he guarantees his contract accordingly.

What's not to like about this hire? Mattingly is as solid a hope as the unstable ground of this franchise could make. He even comes in with his eyes wide open about how Loria has gone through six managers in six years.

"My biggest fear was were we going to blow it up and start it over, blow it up and start it over?" Mattingly said. "I want to be a part of something that is going to continue to grow."

Loria is famous for promising stability and patience today only to fire his manager tomorrow. For saying he lets everyone do their jobs and then demanding who plays centerfield. But for once he has hired a manager with a portfolio strong enough to stand up to his nonsense. So maybe this works.

"If I have any style, it's not style at all," Mattingly said. "Pretty much grind it out. Let's show up. Let's be ready to play. Let's keep working."

That's a philosophy developed over 14 years as the Yankees' first baseman, five as a coach under Joe Torre and five more as manager. You know what that translates into for his role?

Credibility. To the loud owner. To questioning fans and media. And mainly to players. That's a change.

Mattingly says he wants to last for 10 years. Let's see how he feels after his first Marlins season.

— Sun Sentinel (TNS)

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