The Fanboy

Friday night was fun. Perhaps it didn’t live up to every expectation I had for the evening, but my philosophy for the night was I would not complain about anything that involved a free concert by my favorite band within almost throwing distance of my house. There was a quibble here and there, but overall it was a very good evening.

We were going with our friends K and T. K went to the Frightened Rabbit show with me last April, and he and his wife T went to the Revivalist show with us a couple weeks back. Because of work schedules, T and I got to the restaurant hosting the show right after 5:00, when doors opened. There was a long line to get in, so I knew that our chances of grabbing one of the few tables that would allow a direct view of the stage were shot. We checked in, confirmed all the best tables were taken, and wandered toward the back of the place. There were several long tables in the game room that were completely empty. They were to the side and slightly behind the “stage,”[1] but offered a direct line-of-sight. We quickly claimed the four seats closest to the stage.

That’s when I noticed most of the band were playing shuffleboard right behind us. I nudged T and said, “That’s the band right there.” She’s a bit of a firecracker and started working me right away. “Are you freaking out? Just a little bit? OK, which one is the lead singer? You’re going to go say hello, right?”

So two things about me my oldest friends probably know: I’ve never been comfortable interacting with famous people, and if I have to speak in public in any way, I will quietly, stressfully, think through 1000 variations of what I can say. Knowing there was going to be a raffle after the show for a meet-and-greet with the band, yes, I did devote a ton of time Friday thinking of exactly what to say if I was lucky enough to get picked. But here I was, sitting less than five feet away from the band with a chance to have a private moment. That reluctance to bother a celebrity kicked in, though, and I waited for someone else to make the first move. It didn’t take long. A couple people sidled over to the lead singer, Scott Hutchison, said hello, and asked to take a picture. He seemed cool with it so when the band was on the opposite end of the shuffleboard table, I told T, “OK, next time they come down, I’m going over. Can you take a picture?” Of course she could, she said. Just then K arrived. As the band moseyed their way toward us, I handed him my phone, explained my plan, took a deep breath, and walked over.

“Excuse me, Scott?” Hutchison turned with eyebrows raised. “Hi, can I bother you for a minute to take a picture?” I have no idea what his response was, but I think it was affirmative. I offered my hand and said, “It’s really nice to meet you.” He shook it and said something back, I think along the lines of “it’s nice to meet you, too.” I had not shared my name. Did that make it awkward? It’s not like he’s going to remember me, right?

Anyway, K snapped a few pics and I turned and shook Scott’s hand again. “Thanks very much, I really appreciate it!” He pumped my hand and thanked me for coming to the show. I bounced back to my seat while trying not to trip on anything or otherwise make an ass of myself.[2]

This is a fine moment to remind you all I’m 45 years old. I felt about 14 for the 15–20 seconds that our encounter lasted. Good times, though! S rolled in a few minutes later and I happily showed her my pics.

As for the show, it was solid. Our seats were not great for sound. All the speakers were pointed away from us, so we got a rather muddled mix of the vocals and instruments, except for the drums. We were just to the left of the drum kit and they often overpowered the rest of the sound. I tried to squeeze around to get closer to the stage but there just wasn’t much room. I could get where I could hear better, but not see a thing. We had ordered food anyway, so I went back to my seat to eat.[3]

“The Woodpile”

The band generally sticks to a fixed set list. They ran through the first five songs on their usual list, then began paring it down. They ended up playing a single set of about 45 minutes, 10 songs where they normally play 15–17. It was an all-ages show, probably explaining why a few of their songs that have more obvious curse words in them got cut.[4]

It was a quick, tidy show. Again, it was free and in my zip code. No complaints. K, T, and S all passed me their raffle tickets for the meet-and-greet, but sadly none of our numbers got picked. I thought it might have been awkward to get picked anyway. “Hey, I bothered you before the show. I’m back!” We finished up our dinner and drinks and were out of the place by 7:30. Not the most terrible Friday night I’ve ever had. Hopefully two shows in Indy in five months isn’t too much to keep the band from coming back when they tour their next album. If they come through town again, I’ll be there again.

  1. More of an alcove than a stage.  ↩
  2. To see the pic, check my Facebook feed.  ↩
  3. It felt very, very weird to be eating while watching my favorite band play.  ↩
  4. K and I were wagering on whether “Keep Yourself Warm” would make the list, with it’s line of “It takes more than fucking someone, to keep yourself warm.” It was not played.  ↩

Just Once

Music post #2 for the day. Consequence of Sound released their list of the top 100 one-hit-wonders of all time earlier this week. It’s a lot of fun.

All music lists are ripe for being picked apart for any number of reasons. I think one-hit-wonder lists are especially troublesome.

You can argue for hours about how to define a one-hit-wonder band in the first place. For example, Kris Kross had another top 20 song (“Warm It Up” peaked at #13), but 95% of people only remember “Jump”). Then you get into whether the songs are actually good vs. their cultural impact.

In general, I’m a fan of how COS picked their list. I can argue with some placements, but I like that they went with quality over impact. As they say in the intro, they genuinely like all of these songs. There’s no “Macarena” or “Disco Duck” on this list. I also dig that they look at the whole rock era, going back into the 1950s for a couple songs.

It’s a good list. Go read it and listen to a few either through the embedded YouTube videos or their Spotify playlist.

The 100 Best One-Hit Wonder Songs

Winning & Friday Vid

It’s a big music day around here. I had a nice Friday Playlist ready to go – mostly built on older songs this week – but I’ve decided to hold that off until next week so I can focus on a couple other music-related things to share.

That’s right, Kansas has a new album out today! (Insert record scratching sound here.) That’s actually true, which is bizarre. But, no, that’s not what has me excited today.

I’ve never won anything on a radio contest. Not concert tickets, not an album before its release date, not passes to get into some other event. Not even a free burrito. When I was a kid I would call into radio station giveaways quite often, but always waited in vain for notification that I was a big winner. To be fair, it’s been a long, long time since I even attempted to register for a radio giveaway. Adulthood has generally meant I could buy the concert tickets or albums I wanted.

So, yeah, I won some concert tickets this week. That’s cool on its own, just given my history with hoping to get free loot from a media enterprise. What’s more interesting – at least to me – is the the band involved and how I won.

My normal morning music routine on my drive to school and back is the girls listen to Radio Disney on the way to school and the moment they get out, I begin running through my SiriusXM favorites. The only real exceptions are when I’m listening to a new album by an artist I really like. I don’t even have any local stations stored in my favorites. I just don’t listen to over-the-air radio in the car.

Two weeks ago, though, S and I switched vehicles for the day so I could take hers in for an oil change. She does not have satellite radio and we no longer have a Radio Disney station in Indy. So we were listening to the “smart, hipster” station we listen to at the lake. Or kind of half-listening. Pretty sure I was yelling at one of the girls about something. Between songs the DJ was talking and I caught only a bit of what he said. I swore he said something about Frightened Rabbit playing a private show for the station’s anniversary. In Indy. At a restaurant we pass every morning on the way to school. But that couldn’t be right. Why on earth would they play there?

I kicked the kids out at school and raced home to do some research. Sure enough, Frightened Rabbit are playing a show tonight less than four miles from my house! Tickets were not available for public purchase, though. Instead you had to join the station’s VIP club and then click a link each day to put your name in the pool of people who would get passes. I set a reminder for every morning at 9:00 and dutifully clicked for both myself and an account I set up for S. If my favorite band is playing within jogging distance of my house, I had to be there!

Winners were supposed to be announced Wednesday, but Tuesday I got a message saying I had won! Those daily clicks paid off! Another friend won as well, so tonight S, I, and our friend will go watch Frightened Rabbit sing sad songs in a very small venue. I’m almost as wound up for the show as I was for M’s kickball game the other day.

I have no idea what to expect. Will it be the full band or just the lead singer? He occasionally does solo appearances under the band’s name. Will it be acoustic or plugged in? Since this is a late addition to their tour and between scheduled shows in Illinois and Ohio, will they play a full set or just do a few songs and call it a night? Will there be 500 people there, or will it be so sparsely attended that I can get right up on stage, perhaps even pulled up on stage to sing a few with the band when they notice I know every word to every song?

OK, that last one is a little ridiculous. I told you I was a little wound up about this.

I was beyond excited when the band added Indy to their spring tour and I got to see them back in April. But to see them twice in a year, and once in a rather intimate setting just down the road from my house? Way more than I could have asked for.

In honor of the lads’ appearance here tonight, for today’s vid I offer up this one I found last night, which could offer some hints of how they will tackle tonight. It’s a small club performance from 2010 in San Francisco, the night before they played the Filmore for the first time. It’s pretty, pretty good.

Splat and Drat

It was not to be. M’s kickball team got routed in the city championship game yesterday, 27–1 in five-plus innings.[1] Their opponents were just too good in every aspect of the game.

St. B’s had a 5–0 lead after one, 10–1 after two, and 13–1 after three. Although the margin wasn’t great at that point, the game felt over. Our girls looked defeated and were struggling to make plays they had made all year. A ten-run fourth killed any hopes of a comeback.

As good as St. P’s was on defense, St. B’s was even better. They were throwing out girls at first from deep short. Consistently. I’ve seen that play made once or twice all season in our games[2] and they pulled it off at least five times yesterday. When we got girls on base, St. B’s made the perfect play to get the lead runner every time. They had a girl kick two grand slams despite our outfield being pushed as deep as it’s been all year. They were just a fantastic team, and I’m not sure we could have beaten them once if we played nine more times.

There were a few bright spots. Although our girls really struggled yesterday, they were all in decent spirits after the game. Our coach said she thought that was the first time this group has ever lost a game where there weren’t a couple girls in tears afterward. The St. B’s coach complimented them after the game for their sportsmanship. St. B’s had been beating the crap out of people all season, and she said some of the teams they played were a little surly during and after games. She said she was really impressed with how our girls kept their heads up and were gracious after the game ended. And M got on base twice, one of only three St. P’s players that did that.

Our girls got a trophy for finishing second. And cupcakes. That had everyone smiling for the group photos all the parents demanded after the game. I know they were disappointed in the result, but they seemed to be bouncing back pretty quickly. One girl was already asking about the spring season. Maybe all those St. B’s girls will be playing soccer and we won’t have to worry about them in May.

  1. There’s a 25-run rule in kickball beginning in the middle of the 5th. St. B’s had a 22-run lead going into the bottom of the fifth. The umpires stopped the game when a three-run triple put them over the mercy rule threshold.  ↩
  2. Amazingly M was responsible for making one of those plays. The difference was she kind of flung the ball and hoped it ended up in the right spot – and got lucky – while the girl on St. B’s tossed perfect strikes to first every time.  ↩

Go Time

Game day!

In about nine hours we’ll have a new sixth grade city champion in kickball, and M’s team just might be that team. It’s a perfect day for kickball, too! It’s going to be hot and clear, which is ideal for heating the asphalt to well over 100° – so everyone – players, coaches, and families watching – is all sweating uncontrollably. I especially enjoy it when my sweat drips onto the scorebook and smears my notations.

Our coach went down to the semifinal game yesterday to do some scouting. We don’t have a final score yet, but our nemesis St. B’s was way ahead when she left, so we’re assuming they will be the opponent. She said they’re really good, but if our girls play defense the way they’re capable, we can absolutely win the game.

The girls all seem excited for the game. We’ll see if they’re still loose after school, or if any of them are as nervous as us parents will be. We tried to sneak in two practices, but as has been the story of this fall in Indy, Friday’s was interrupted by heavy rains that caused flash flooding. So we retired to Dairy Queen, which is a solid backup plan.

I got a good distraction from my nerves yesterday: for the first time in my life, I won tickets to a concert from a radio station give-away. I’m super, duper excited for the show I get to see, but that’s a whole other post that you’ll get to read tomorrow.

One other quick kickball story before I go try to distract myself from thinking about tonight’s game. My girls and I were out practicing kicking, pitching, and fielding in the cul-de-sac a couple nights ago. We were using a really old kickball that was worn down to a single shade of orange.[1] A neighbor down the street was walking his dog after work and saw us. A few minutes later he strolled over carrying a yellow playground ball.
A Real Kickball

“If you want to play kickball, you should use this,” he said as he offered the bouncy-ball to me.

“Ah, this IS a kickball, R!” I said as I passed him our Mikasa. “At least it is if you go to Catholic school in Indianapolis.”

I explained how the girls play for St. P’s, how I’m the coordinator, and my back-story of insulting S on our first date when she told me kickball was one of the sports she played growing up. He was flabbergasted.

“I thought that was a basketball! They really play with this? Do people get hurt? It’s so hard!”

My job is not just putting teams together, recruiting coaches, and issuing jerseys. Also I am an ambassador for the sport, spreading the truth of CYO kickball to the ignorant masses.

  1. Remember, CYO kickball uses the Mikasa S3030 kickball, which is hard like a basketball and checkered like a soccer ball.  ↩

Leaf Changin’ Time, Fools!

Awwwwww yeaaaaaaaaah! It’s leaf-changing season, ya’ll! That’s right, the time of year when your gutters are constantly overflowing with dead leaves and seed pods and your yard needs to be raked/mowed every 45 minutes so your lawn, which is still trying to recover from the summer, doesn’t get smothered before the winter. It’s also the time of year when we can suddenly see our douchebag neighbors who are blocked by our trees, bushes, and crazy weeds we let grow in the summer to gain a little privacy.

Sorry, I should focus on the positives of the season, which are many. For example, this very nice, adjustable map that shows when/where the best leaves for fall viewing will be. Go ahead and yank that slider left-and-right to perfectly time a visit to your local fall color wonderland.

Fall Foliage Prediction Map

Fall Sports Roundup

The countdown continues for the big kickball game Wednesday. Other things distracted me a bit over the weekend, but I imagine the nerves are going to start to kick in again later today.

The distractions were good ones, though. First, C had her best ever finish in her cross country meet Saturday. She finished 16th in her first meet of the year. She was running against 5th and 6th graders in that race and there were over 100 girls total in her race. A week ago, she fell into two mud puddles on a terribly sloppy course and still claimed 9th place in the 3rd/4th division.

This Saturday she was again running on a pretty wet course. Fortunately this one was mostly grass, so it was more spongey than muddy like the previous week. But it was also super humid and the sun popped up just as her race began. All the kids seemed to be struggling with the thickness of the air.

She was again running in a race that spanned four grades, but this week she would just be scored against the 3rd and 4th graders. But we had no way of telling which girls were in which category. One parent noticed that some of the girls had yellow numbers, others had white. We decided that must be the way to tell the two groups apart. We were wrong.[1] But we were counting the yellow numbers as they went by. And when C passed us, just before the finishing stretch, she was in 12th place and right on the heels of the girl in 11th. She didn’t quite catch that girl, but came in right at her PR time and was looking strong. It was a great race.

We were having guests over that evening, and this was a late afternoon race, so we didn’t stick around through the next three races to wait for the awards ceremony. I was shocked when I got a text a little after 5:00 saying C had finished 5th! Holy crap! She was again the fastest St. P’s 4th grader, two places behind our super-fast 3rd grader, and had two classmates in the top ten with her. I ran up to her room and told her. She got a silly grin on her face and said, “Since when did I finish 5th?!?!”

She’s doing a great job and having a lot of fun running.

Sunday was L’s second soccer game of the year. She moved up to U10 this year, which means a much bigger field (60 x 40 yards), 7 v. 7, and 25-minute halves rather than the small field (35 x 20 yards), 4 v. 4, and 8-minute periods U8 rules she played the last two years. And she’s a seven-year-old playing against kids that are beginning to get a lot bigger than her. She was humbled in her first few practices, when she couldn’t just get possession and weave through the defense at will then fire away. In fact, after one practice she decided she did not want to be a striker anymore and instead wanted to be a sweeper.

Their first game was pretty rough. They had a 2–0 lead at halftime, but the coaches made a poor choice in goal to start the second half and gave up four goals in about five minutes. Our kids ended up losing 7–4. L had one decent chance to score but couldn’t convert.

This week we got a better matchup, our kids looked more comfortable, and our coaches had the lineups a little better balanced. Just like last week, our kids broke through late in the first half and had a 2–0 lead at halftime.

That’s when homegirl decided to do her Roberto Baggio act. Early in the second half, she got the ball out wide right just over the midfield line. She angled toward the middle of the field, got a defender to turn and commit that way, and then cut the ball back hard right. That defender was toast. She got him spun around then cut back left again, dribbled through the 18-yard box, and fired a shot in from about six feet out. It was a pretty sweet play!

She had a couple more near-misses before she pulled off a Roberto Baggio play. She collected a loose ball in the corner and dribbled through about five defenders along the end line. She faked the goalie one way, took a quick touch to get an angle, and shot the ball by her with the outside of her foot. Another sweet-ass move, if dear old dad says so!

She had a third goal later, but the referee was out of position and didn’t give it to her. After the game, when I asked L if that ball went it, she said, “YES! That ref wasn’t even watching!” I liked her attitude and told her I was giving her credit for it anyway.[2] Her team won something like 8–0. We honestly quit paying attention once it got out-of-hand.

I think she’s more excited about being a striker again now that she’s seen she can score at this level.

  1. We never figured out what the difference between the yellow and white numbers were.  ↩
  2. Hey, we don’t keep official score in these games, so I can give my girl credit for a goal the ref robbed from her!  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Hard Girls” – KT Tunstall. Tunstall has been a little uneven over her past couple records. Her new album has not received great reviews, but the good songs are a return to the smart pop sound that was the core of her breakthrough.

“Buffalo Stance” – Neneh Cherry. One of the great one-hit-wonders of all time. A legitimately fantastic song that came along at just the right moment. I remember shooting around in Robinson Gymnasium one Friday afternoon my freshman year of college while the KU Crimson Girls practiced a routine to this one court over. Not sure why none of them were dazzled by my shooting percentage that day, which had to have been in the high 40% range!

“Kool Thing” – Sonic Youth. LL Cool J was involved in one of the great, early hip hop beefs as he and Kool Moe Dee went back-and-forth over several albums. But Sonic Youth just destroyed Uncle L on this track, a reaction to a rather tense interview vocalist Kim Gordon did with James Todd for Spin magazine. Big bonus for Chuck D’s presence.

“Wish I Knew You” – The Revivalists. S and I went to see these guys last Friday, our first show together in something like 11 years! We went with friends who suggested it, as we both just knew one song – this one – by the band. It was a decent show. I was surprised at how many people in the rather large crowd knew all the words to many of their songs. And I was impressed with how the band held this, which I’m guessing is their most successful single ever, for the final song of the night. And then stretched it out into a nearly eight minute jam. Go with your strengths, brothers!

“Heat Of The Moment” – Asia. Easy to mock now, but this was a monster hit back in the summer of ’82. I heard it this morning on SiriusXM and the first thing I thought of was the video, which seemed super innovative at the time. Your average five-year-old could whip up something 800 times more cool on their iPad today. The drummer is good for a laugh or two, and I always forget about that subtle cowbell in the final verse.

On The Kicking Of The Ball

Well, maybe my stressing about games played on diamonds isn’t completely over for this year. Despite the Royals season spiraling down the drain, I have one more game to get myself worked up about: M’s kickball team made the city championship game. They will play for the title next Wednesday. And I’m already a nervous wreck.

Her team had a fantastic regular season. They won their first game by nine runs over a very tough team. Their second game was supposed to be against another very tough team, but that was the day we had tornado warnings and we had to postpone it. They ran off three more wins by an average of 30 runs per game and had another postponement in there as well.

So Tuesday night they were making up the two rainouts. First they would play St. L’s, who were also undefeated. That game was the de facto division title game, as St. P’s opponent in the nightcap had not won a game all season.

The St. L. game was fantastic. St. P’s put nine runs on the board in the first inning, and left the bases loaded. They added 10 runs in the second, and left two on. After two innings, our girls were up 19–9. St. L’s was probably a better kicking team, as they have a group of girls who play soccer while St. P’s has none. But St. P’s is a terrific defensive team and can turn great kicks into outs, while St. L spent the first two innings booting the ball all around the infield on defense.

But St. L’s tightened up their defense and slowly clawed their way back into the game. In the fifth they had runners on first and second, no out, and their best three kickers coming up. The first launched a screamer to short right. Our right fielder was looking directly into the sun as she tried to track the ball. She got her hands on it at shoulder-level, then lost control of it. The St. L’s runners took off, thinking it was going to hit the ground. But our fielder recovered and caught the ball just above her shoe-tops, then quickly got the ball to first to double off that runner. The first baseman tossed the ball to our pitcher, but the St. L’s runner who left second was standing on third. All the coaches and St. P’s parents were screaming at our pitcher to throw back to second. In kickball, though, when the pitcher gets control of the ball inside the pitching circle, the play is dead. And our pitcher took the throw from first base inside the circle. So instead of tossing the ball to second to wrap up a triple play, the runner on third was given a free pass back to second. Our girls pulled off a triple play in practice a couple weeks back, and had been promised a trip to Dairy Queen if they did it in a game. I think they were more bummed about not getting ice cream than the inning continuing.

In the bottom of the sixth, the lead was down to six runs and St. L’s had two on with two outs. Their kicker sent a liner down the third base line that stayed just fair then spun toward the sideline. Our best player was in right-center and immediately took off after the ball. I didn’t see any way she would get the ball back in quick enough to hold the kicker to third, so began filling in three runs for St. L’s. I looked up to see the St. L’s kicker rounding third and our player 10 feet behind her, hauling ass. “What are you doing?” I thought. There was no way she could catch the runner. Our girl took two more steps then made a perfect, two-handed chest pass that zipped over the runner’s shoulder into the hands of our pitcher who was covering home. She tagged the runner to end the inning.

It might have been the single greatest defensive play in kickball history! This was kind of like Bo Jackson throwing out Harold Reynolds from the wall, only a girl ran over 100 feet – in two different directions – at full speed to make the play possible. It should have been a three-run game with St. L’s still kicking, but instead their rally was snuffed and their girls were deflated.

St. P’s added four runs in the 7th and were up 25–17 going into the last half inning. Even with that lead, I was nervous as hell. Yes, we had made great plays to kill rallies in three-straight innings. But they were all kind of lucky plays. Our offense had gone quiet since the first two innings and it sure felt like St. L’s had the momentum.

No need to stress: our girls had their cleanest inning of the night, giving up just one run and closed the game with an easy out at home that ended with them dog piling each other in celebration. St. L’s had kept our girls out of the city playoffs last spring, beating them twice by a total of four runs. Although that was a very different team (St. L’s was mostly sixth graders to our all fifth grade team), St. L’s best current sixth graders did play on that team. Our girls did not want to miss out on the postseason because of St. L’s again.

Up next was the nightcap. It would really suck to have worked so hard to beat St. L’s and then slip up against a team that had been run-ruled in every game they played.[1] Fortunately, our girls took care of business. They dialed it back a little, mostly keeping the ball on the ground and only taking the extra base when they absolutely had to. They closed them out in the minimum number of innings.

Now, thanks to the playoff format, St. P’s gets a bye directly into the championship game. Last fall they reached the semifinal, and lost a game to a team they should have beaten. Odds are they’re going to play another one of their nemeses in the final, St. B’s. In fourth grade, our girls pounded everyone they played. Except St. B’s, who smoked them twice. They actually run-ruled our girls in the first game, I believe the only time that’s ever happened to this class. Afterward, all the St. P’s parents were looking at each other wondering what the hell had just happened. We were happy to lose by only 15 the second time they played. St. B’s is famous/infamous for having a great program that is filled with girls who play travel soccer. They kick the shit out of the ball.

But our girls are pretty damn good, too. I think they’re excited for the chance to play them. The coaches and I are already stressing about the game. Seriously, I’ve had a headache for about 36 hours because all I can think about is next Wednesday. I think my hands are going to be pretty shaky when I try to hold the scorebook.

  1. Then we would have to play St. L’s again, with the winner moving on. No tie-breaker for head-to-head competition.  ↩

R’s: Put A Fork In Them

Last Sunday, as I often do, I turned on the American Top 40 replay from the 1980s on our local soft rock station. The countdown was from this week in 1985, and I caught it just in time to hear the #1 song from that week, John Parr’s “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)”. First thing first, whether you approach the song with irony or earnestness, it’s a damn fine song. I enjoyed every second of it, as I always do.

But I also felt a touch of melancholy. That song became one of the unofficial theme songs for last year’s Royals, as it both celebrated their team speed and the pressure they put on other teams and harkened back to their first World Series title in that fall of 1985.

Sadly, it looks like there will not be October baseball for the Kansas City Royals this year. Royals fans will not be singing “St. Elmo’s Fire” out of pure joy and completely free of irony this fall.

Intellectually, most fans have known this for some time. That epically bad July pretty much sunk their playoff hopes. A scorching August made us start thinking it was possible for this group to pull off another miracle, this one over the course of two months instead of a few innings. But a thoroughly mediocre start to their September and the math of games left vs. games behind means that it’s time to face reality.

On one hand, it’s kind of amazing they are still, theoretically, in the Wild Card race. Two-fifths of the starting rotation turned to shit before May 1. Another key part of their rotation has been terrible since July 1.[1] They’ve battled major injuries all season. They’ve hit like shit much of the season. And over the last month the venerable bullpen seems to have finally regressed after three years of magic. Yet, while I think the past few come-from-ahead losses have dashed our dreams of another October run, they could still go on one of their 15–4 runs and sneak in. The problem is, there are only 18 games left. There’s just not enough time.

So this October is going to feel a lot different than the past two. Which, in a way, could be a good thing. For one, my blood pressure will hopefully remain normal as I’m not watching brutally tense baseball games for four hours each night while quadrupling my normal sodium intake as I go through a bag of sunflower seeds every two days. I won’t be drinking 3–4 beers every night, so I doubt I’ll put on the 5–10 pounds I’ve put on the last two Octobers. I’ll get more sleep.

Mostly, though, missing the playoffs will be a reminder that the last two Octobers were insanely glorious. I still, a few times each week, flashback to some moment in the ’14 or ’15 runs and just chuckle that any of it happened. This October would have/could have been special on its own. But coming up short this year will make me appreciate the last two years even more.

As I’ve given up hope over the last week, I’ve also been thinking ahead. Next year is, famously, the final year in the Window of Opportunity for this core group of players before they begin departing to bigger markets who can afford their next contracts. There are no guarantees in sports, but this team feels fairly well positioned for next year.

Danny Duffy turned into a stud in the second half of the season. Ian Kennedy and Yordano Ventura solved many of their early season issues and steadied themselves. There’s always the chance Ventura finally cracks the code as Duffy did this year and harnesses his full potential. But as he is now, he’s not a bad #3 option. Jason Vargas will be back next year. I probably have too much faith in him, but I still think he’s going to be a solid starter. That leaves just one spot to figure out, and the Royals have plenty of options for it, both old and young.[2] I’m cautiously optimistic about the starters.

Hopefully the offseason will fix whatever is wrong with Wade Davis without him needing major surgery. Might Greg Holland be ready to pitch again, and willing to re-sign with the Royals? Will Luke Hochevar be able to bounce back from his late-season surgery? There are a lot of questions in the bullpen, but given that group’s track record, there is also a fair amount of confidence that they will figure things out.

I don’t see any big surprises in the lineup. We pretty much know who all of these guys are. Maybe, MAYBE, Eric Hosmer finally takes that superstar turn he so often seems close to taking but can’t quite seem to do. Maybe Alex Gordon doesn’t hit .200 for three weeks at a time four times a year. Maybe Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar learn how to only swing at strikes. But I doubt all that.

The biggest offensive key is keeping Lorenzo Cain in the lineup for 140+ games. He doesn’t always have to be hot for the team to be hot, but he does have to be in the lineup. Even when he’s battling bumps and bruises, he gets on base and makes things happen.

What do you do with the DH spot? Kendrys Morales has had a true Jekyll and Hyde season. When he’s not hit, he’s been awful. But when he does hit, he’s been as good as any DH in the league. Does that balance mean he will sign at a number the Royals can afford? And if so, do you take the risk on two more years of the risk he completely falls apart? Or do you let him walk and figure Mike Moustakas and Cheslor Cuthbert can platoon at third base and DH? Moose seemed to finally becoming the player he was supposed to be – a guy who hits about .270 but hits around 30 bombs and gets on base at a decent clip – before his injury in May. Cheslor did an amazing job filling in for Moose, but has cooled considerably at the plate over the last month and has shown issues in the field as well.[3] Or do you trade one of them?

The Royals always have a pretty low margin for error. I don’t think that changes next year. Inconsistency on the mound, another tepid year at the plate, or just a couple key injuries could turn 2017 into a long, sad season as the free agents to-be get traded in July. But I also think there is a really good base in place. A little luck with injuries, a few players performing closer to their career averages, a smart signing or two in the winter, and they can absolutely be a team that makes one more post-season run before it’s time to start rebuilding.

I’m giving up on the 2016 season, but I’m not giving up on this team.

  1. Edinson Volquez. Crazy that same guy pitched amazing in games one and five of the World Series just last year.  ↩
  2. The idea of moving Joakim Soria to the rotation has been kicked around for years. Given his complete inability to deliver in the clutch out of the pen this year, maybe it’s time to give that a shot?  ↩
  3. Is he fighting an injury? He was damn near flawless in the field until a couple weeks ago and has been kind of a mystery since.  ↩