R’s: Time to Sell?

Logic often gets thrown out in sports in favor of emotion. We mask over flaws in players and teams we love because we love them. And we ignore brilliance among rivals simply because they wear the wrong color of jersey.

The Kansas City Royals are in a dangerous situation when it comes to emotion right now. All of us who are fans, and everyone affiliated with the organization, hoped the core of players who got the franchise to the ’14 and ’15 World Series had one more run in them this season before the dismantling began. Off-season moves to bring in Jason Hammel and Brandon Moss were largely based on giving the team a chance to play this October.

But a brutal April made the team’s postseason prospects slim at best.

May was better. A few guys who were ice-cold warmed up. They went 15–14, which isn’t great, but is at least trending in the right direction. More importantly, no one else in the AL Central seems interested in running away with the division. Despite all the Royals’ struggles, they sit just 4.5 games out of first. After finishing a series with Houston tonight, the Royals travel west to face San Diego, Anaheim, and San Francisco, three teams that are all struggling as well.

Emotion says if they can get hot on the West Coast swing, they can climb right back into the division race. Emotion says that Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, and Sal Perez deserve a few more weeks before the team starts selling off its most valuable parts. Emotion says the Whit Merrifield and Jorge Bonifacio are real deals and not young guys with holes in the swings the league is about to discover. Emotion says this team has come back before, why not one more time?

But logic, as always, is a bitch.

The Royals offense has been better over the past three weeks, but there are still gapping holes in it. Escobar and Gordon in particular seem mired in perpetual, horrendous slumps. Moss has been pretty terrible as well. Perez is fighting it right now. The rotation has been flat out weird, with everyone other than Jason Vargas having wild swings of good starts balanced with brutal ones. And the once vaunted bullpen has regressed to a more typical group where you never know what you’ll get from night-to-night.

Danny Duffy being out of the rotation for at least another month and Jorge Soler being such a disaster he’s now in Omaha are two more sobering pieces of logic.

Every time logic seems poised to win the argument, though, emotion defies it. The Royals sweep Baltimore. They win 2-of–3 from Cleveland twice. They come back from six runs down to beat the best team in baseball. Just enough moments for us to think, “Well, maybe if…” and start imagining scenarios in which the team is suddenly a half game out of first.

Plenty of writers have given up on the Royals and suggested they begin selling now. I see that logic. I might even agree with it to a large extent. But I don’t see any advantage in moving Hosmer, Moustakas, Cain, etc. right now. Wait until multiple teams are in the market for making big additions for the stretch. Wait for a major injury that forces a contender to make a panic move. Wait for Houston and Washington to cool off a bit and put their divisions back in play, increasing the number of potential trade partners.

I feel like I have a very pragmatic view of the Royals at the moment. I understand they’re going to trade guys sometime in the next six weeks, but I don’t think they should do so out of desperation. Still, I admit my view is still clouded by emotion. I want to watch Hos, Moose, and Lorenzo play in Royals uniforms as long as possible. Baring a series of miracles, I know this isn’t a World Series or even playoff team.

But keeping those guys around another month or so will make the memories of their October runs seem not so distant. And will keep the reality that the next October run is far off in the unseeable future at bay, too.

Weekend in KC

Another great weekend in Kansas City. Then again, aren’t all weekends in Kansas City great? At least when you’re visiting there. This trip was made more fun by it being the first full-family trip to KC in over three years. For my readers who weren’t involved in the weekend festivities, here’s a little run-down of what we did.

We drove over Friday. Had great weather and easy traffic the whole way. We marveled at how quiet our girls were when everyone has their own screen in front of them. The girls were basically silent for the first half of the trip, until we stopped in St. Louis for lunch. Then they remained quiet until we reached Concordia. Then they started getting a little antsy and ready to get out of the car.

We cruised into our hotel on the Plaza, relaxed for a bit, then headed straight to the original Joe’s barbecue location.[1] The girls had Joe’s three years ago, and were excited to have it again. But this was their first trip to the 47th and Mission gas station location. Luckily, since we rolled in at about 4:45 local time, there was a minimal line and we were able to snag a table big enough for us all to sit comfortably. Both S and M had pulled pork sandwiches, but C and L decided to split a half slab of ribs! Which actually meant they split half of a half slab and I knocked out the rest after finishing off my Z-Man. All-in-all, it was a fine meal enjoyed by all.

We walked around on the Plaza a little after, the girls got some dessert, and we made a stop at Rally House so the girls could get some gear for the Royals game Sunday. L really wanted a jersey. I was pushing a shirsey, pointing out if she got a t-shirt she’d likely get something else over the weekend. Nope, she wanted a real jersey. Then we had to pick a player. The kid options in light blue were Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, and Alex Gordon. She was leaning toward Hosmer until I told her he wouldn’t be a Royal after this season. She debated between Salvy and Alex before picking Alex. I didn’t have the heart to tell her he’s having a terrible year. She loved the jersey and that’s all that really mattered. Then we headed back to the hotel so they could swim for a bit.

Saturday the girls wanted to go to the Nelson Atkins museum. Kind of an odd request, no? Well C and L follow some YouTube family that lives near KC and had visited the glass maze at some point. The girls just made the connection a couple weeks ago, when I was explaining the shuttlecock statues to them, and suddenly they wanted to go to the museum. They thought the maze was pretty cool, didn’t really get the shuttlecocks,[2] and weren’t nearly as impressed by the Asian temple exhibit inside as I was when I was their age and visited on school field trips. Oh well, I was just excited they wanted to go to an art museum. And I think it’s awesome the Nelson is still free. It would be about $50 for me to take them to our local art museum if we don’t go during the four hour free entry window each Thursday.

After the Nelson we met an aunt, uncle, and cousin for lunch at Ponak’s on the Boulevard. We drove them by the Roasterie and Boulevard plants on the way. They thought the plane outside the Roasterie was pretty cool, but didn’t seem as interested in the location where a significant percentage of the beer I drink comes from. They loved Ponak’s, though! “THAT WAS SOOOOO GOOD!” Back in the day I would have put Ponak’s 4th or 5th on my list of favorite spots on the Boulevard. When I told them that, it just confused them.

After that, off to our first big group gathering at our friends the B’s, who moved out to Lake Quivira six months ago. Good times in and around the water well into the evening.

Sunday, we had brunch with a couple of S’s friends from residency and their families. More good food and catching up.

From there it was out to the K for the girls first Major League Baseball game with a group of 20 or so. Thank goodness we picked seats just under the overhang, because we got stuck in a two hour rain delay and only got a little water blown our way. That delay challenged all the kids that were there, especially since they kept the tarp on a good 30 minutes after the rain stopped. But today L told me she liked the delay, because we got to walk around and do some other things during, and it made our stay at the K last longer. But the game kind of sucked. 8–0 losses are tough to sit through regardless of your age and the weather. The girls had fun, though, and no doubt will be telling all their friends here about going to an MLB game.

On our way back to the hotel I stopped and got Planet Sub for dinner. Which meant I had to bore the girls with the story of how I had Yello Sub for the first time in August 1989, ordered a Yello Sub with no Dijon, and other than a brief stretch in the early 00s when I dined there frequently and varied what I ordered, the Yello/Planet sub minus Dijon has been my go-to meal there for nearly 30 years now. Hey, just because they don’t enjoy hearing the story doesn’t mean I’m going to stop telling it! A little more swimming topped off the night.

Our drive home Monday was uneventful. Thankfully all the big slowdowns on I–70 were westbound and we made it home before the evening rush hit in Indy.

As always, it was too quick of a trip. It was great seeing so many people, but the conversations never feel as deep or long as they would be if we didn’t have 150 kids running around and yelling the entire time. The girls had a really good time. M seemed to pick right up with the her two seventh-grade-to-be friends she hadn’t seen in several years. Some of the younger friends followed C around and thought she was the coolest. And L slid right in with the older boys, playing basketball with them[3] and sitting with them at the game Sunday.

For those of you we got to see, thanks for making time to hang out with us. I wish our conversations could have been longer and with fewer interruptions. For those we missed, hopefully it won’t be too long before we make a return visit and we can try again then.

  1. Always Oklahoma Joe’s to me.  ↩
  2. Meaning they’d fit right in with a signification portion of the KC population. I’m a big shuttlecocks guy.  ↩
  3. And “dominating” according to her.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Day at Work” – Nouveau Vélo. Man, I was sure these guys were Australian until I looked them up. They’re Dutch?!?! That jangle sounds straight out of Sydney to me.

“My Smile Is Extinct” – Kane Strang. Now this cat is from the South Pacific, although New Zealand rather than Australia. A great example of taking depressing lyrics and hiding them behind a bouncy melody to hide their pain.

“Holding On” – The War on Drugs. TWOD album 4, A Deeper Understanding, due August 25. Already pretty wound up for it and dusting off my Album of the Year spot for it.

“Ice Cream and Sunscreen” – Martha. Your summer song for the week.

“Kansas City / Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey” – The Beatles. We’re off to KC for the weekend tomorrow. Hopefully we get to hear this Sunday at the end of the Royals game.

Friday Photo

Belle of the Ball Fuji X-T2, XF35mm F1.4R, 1/340 second at f/2.8, ISO 200
I really should have shared this last week, as it was clearly done up for the Indy 500. I came across this during a walk around the downtown of our little suburb and loved it.


May 2017

  • The Beatles – 87
  • Frightened Rabbit – 55
  • Soundgarden – 36
  • Land of Talk – 30
  • The War on Drugs – 30

Complete stats available at my Last.fm page

Reader’s Notebook, 5/31/17

A little behind, so better catch up as I hit the summer reading season.

No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach – Anthony Bourdain.
I’m working through a number of shows I have stockpiled on the DVR, watching the Royals most nights, and still trying to read. But I do attempt to squeeze in an Anthony Bourdain show on Netflix about once a week. I’m a big fan, and have been for years. I’ve come to appreciate his shows even more over the past two years as I’ve taken up photography. His shows, in their various forms, are all wonderfully shot. If the unthinkable happened and I was totally uninterested in either the place he was visiting or the production choices Bourdain and his team made, I would still watch just for the amazing visuals.

This is a collection of photos taken during the earliest years of his No Reservations show. They are complimented by brief essays that provide a behind-the-scenes view into how each episode was put together. A quick, enjoyable read,

LaRose – Louise Erdich.
I loved Erdich’s The Round House so was really excited to read her most recent novel, which collected a whole mess of awards and accolades last year.

As with Round House, this story takes place on and near an Indian reservation in the Dakotas. An accidental shooting results in an Indian family returning to “the old ways” and sending their youngest son, Larose, to live with their neighbors to take the place of his friend who died. That’s a pretty wild concept to build a book on.

As much as I wanted to, I just did not enjoy this book nearly as much as The Round House. And, honestly, I can’t figure out why. The core story is fantastic, and as with so many books about different cultures living near each other, much of it boils down to how we find our identity, how the mixture of cultures affects each one’s traditional ways, and what the differences between people mean over time. There are some mind-numbingly chilling sections, as the story veers right up against more bloodshed and death before pulling back. And Erdich’s style is kind of a classic, western style that is as spare as can be.

But, man, something just didn’t click for me here. Which is a disappointment since it obviously affected so many other readers much more deeply than it did me.

The Wrong Kind of Blood – Declan Hughes.
Back around St. Patrick’s Day I came across a list of some of the best, recent, Irish noir novels. I jotted a few down and this was my first effort.

Ed Loy is a private investigator in LA who returns to his native Dublin to bury his mother. After the funeral, he drinks late into the night with a woman he grew up with. Drinks become more, and soon he is hired to help locate her husband, a land developer who has disappeared. Loy gets sucked into a deep mystery that goes back to his father’s disappearance 30 years earlier and eventually unmasks a massive ring of corruption, murder, and disguised identities. It’s full of whiskey, double-crosses, murder, buried bodies, and generations of lies.

It was damn good.


Memorial Day weekend is in the books, the girls are out of school, and summer is officially here!

The school year wrapped up uneventfully. All three girls passed. Or at least we assume so; middle school grades are mailed so I supposed there’s still a tiny chance we’re going to have an uncomfortable talk with M about her academic plans for next year.

I kid! By our calculations she’s going to get her highest GPA of her career. Which is a good thing since she had her phone taken away for five weeks to being this quarter after she failed to take care of some academic business in the third quarter. Point proven, lesson learned.

If there’s one weekend when everyone in Indiana is watching the weather forecast, it’s Memorial Day weekend. “Think they’ll get the race in?” is the most popular conversation starting question around here. And this year it did not look good. At various points over the past week, it looked like the entire weekend would be a washout. Fortunately some of the storms went south, some went north, and the rains Sunday waited until both the race had ended and we were pretty much done in the water for the day.

It’s been a crazy wet 4–5 weeks around here, and because of that, the lake was not super warm. I dipped my toes in a few times and thought better of dipping more. So I contained my enjoyment of our new dock area to the decking. C and L did a few jumps off the elevated deck into the water. There were a few tubing and kneeboarding trips. And they kayaked and paddle-boarded a lot. But this wasn’t one of those spend three straight hours floating kind of lake weekends.

It was a family weekend, with most of the local family coming down for at least part of the weekend. A highlight of the gathering was the first birthday for one of the local nephews. We had the obligatory smash cake for him, which he enjoyed. Lots of other good food for the grownups.

We hung around through yesterday afternoon, which ended up being the best lake day of the weekend. The sun finally came, and stayed, out and it warmed up a little. A perfect day to spend mostly doing more work in preparation for the summer season. Yard work, power washing, adding some hardware to the new dock, and some other activities that had me over my FitBit steps goal before lunchtime.

And now summer break has begun. The girls aren’t doing swim team this year, so there’s no built-in activity each morning. There are some camps coming up. But for now we’re just going to wing it on our daily activities. Hopefully I can keep them from sitting in front of screens all day. And hopefully they, and I, all get along most of the time. We have a library trip scheduled for here in a bit. And our one trip of the summer – to Kansas City – is just three days away. Other than that, the next 10 weeks are wide open.

Friday Playlist

Special playlist for a special time of year.

“Friday I’m In Love” – The Cure. A highly significant song in my life. Although it was Pearl Jam and Nirvana that were most responsible for shifting my taste in music away from Top 40 pop and R&B back in 1992, this song had a huge impact as well. It was so bright and shiny, unlike the gloom that I generally associated with The Cure. PJ and Nirvana might have piqued my interest, but this song sucked me into the alt-rock universe.

“Jack & Diane” – John Mellencamp. If it’s Memorial Day weekend in Indiana, you better hear this song a few times after you have a good buzz going. 

“My Friend Dario” – Vitalic. Speaking of Memorial Day weekend in Indiana, hopefully they get the race in on Sunday. The forecast is not promising at all.

“Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Let the summertime begin!

“Same To You” – Lydia Loveless. My #11 song for last year finally has an official video. And it’s kind of creepy.

On Roger Moore

You probably heard that Roger Moore died yesterday. History has been very kind to Sir Moore. Once upon a time, his run as James Bond was laughed at and derided. Eventually, though, people figured out that his portrayal of Bond was perfect for its time, and making his Bond dramatically different than Sean Connery’s was necessary. Connery might have turned Bond into a sensation, but Moore turned Bond into a franchise that fills theaters to this day.

Everything I ever read about Moore made it apparent that he was a very gentle, kind, and gracious man. Lovely was the word often used to describe him. That makes me happy. I think the easiest thing to do when you gain fame and fortune is to become jaded, spoiled, grumpy, or outright hostile to others. I like that Moore didn’t view fame as a burden, but as a glorious blessing.

This story, which I’m betting many of you have already read, is just a perfect summation of who Roger Moore was. Since it was posted to Twitter, there’s no good way to share it other than linking to the original post. It’s worth the hassle required to read it.

A Chance Meeting

Wait ‘Till Next Year (Again)

For the third time in three seasons, M’s kickball team advanced to the City tournament. For the third time, they came up short.

A disastrous top of the 7th inning put them on the wrong end of a 19–8 score in yesterday’s championship game. It was their second-straight, second-place finish. Their run began with a semifinal loss in the fall of 2015.

While the result wasn’t as lopsided as their 26–1 loss last fall, this one was probably more crushing. As I had mentioned, we had heard the team they were playing, St. R, could kick the crap out of the ball but were not great fielders. That was not an entirely accurate scouting report. They were good kickers, if perhaps not as good as we had been led to believe. But they could really field. They probably weren’t as strong defensively as we are, but they were way better than we expected. With a few exceptions, we are a kick-and-run team. Put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense, then use our speed to take extra bases.[1] St. R got outs on plays that had produced runners and runs all year. And that, really, was the difference.

Rosters are usually bigger in spring kickball, which leads to a problem. If you have a huge lineup, and have a decent number of weak kickers, it becomes really hard to turn your lineup over and get back to your best kickers. Although just 10 girls play in the field, everyone kicks. We had 16 girls playing yesterday. Add in a slow start offensively, and it wasn’t until the bottom of the 5th when our best kickers were coming up for the second time.[2]

St. R scored three in the first, we answered with one. They added two more in the second and it remained 5–1 going into the bottom of the 5th. Our coach told the girls she needed five runs that inning, and that’s exactly what they gave her. Up 6–5. She should have asked for more!

But St. R answered right back, scoring three in the top of the 6th, two with two outs. We tacked on one in the bottom of the inning, and went to the final inning down 8–7.

St. R scored two while making two outs on the bases. 9–8, and we still had two more girls to get one out before their lineup turned over. That’s when our girls cracked a little. They dropped a ball, they threw to a wrong base once, they missed covering another base, we got a terrible bounce on a deflection. It was 11–7 and the top of the lineup was kicking. Eight runs later we finally, mercifully, got the third out. Making it worse was we had our bottom five coming up. We got two on, and one in, but our #16 kicker made the last out.

This game was way more frustrating than either of the other two City losses. Part of it was this felt like our girls’ year. It was spring, with the big rosters that are often filled with younger girls, and we had a team of all sixth graders. We added a really good athlete who hadn’t played before but had lots of potential. Most of our girls were in their 7th season and had always played on good teams, so they were battle tested. And unlike last fall, when that team was clearly better, St R felt like a team that we would split a 10-game series with. It was their day and not ours.

I don’t have access to old schedules and results, so it’s hard to know for sure how many games we’ve played each season. But based on a rough estimate, this class has gone 26–5 over the past four season. Three undefeated regular seasons with three losses in City. The other two losses came as fifth graders against a team of all sixth graders, by a total of five runs. They’ve had a great run. Losing at City sucks, but I’d rather be on a good team that lost at the end than on the teams that they blast every regular season and are lucky to win 1–2 games a year.

We’re not sure if this is it for this group. Most of our best players are juggling multiple sports during each season, and it gets harder and harder to keep kickball in the mix when it is softball, soccer, lacrosse, cross country, track, etc. that are club/travel and high school sports where kickball is “just for fun.” Our coaches are optimistic this group will stick together next fall, though. We get one of our top four players who didn’t play this spring back. So maybe one more shot to finally get over the hump and claim a City title. And if not then, maybe next spring. Or in the fall of their 8th grade year…

  1. I’d love to take some credit for this team being like the 2014–15 Kansas City Royals, but obviously I can’t. It’s all about the genes in this class.  ↩
  2. Worth noting St. R had 14 in their lineup. But they also had fewer weak kickers and were able to turn their lineup over quicker. Their best kickers kicked five times, where ours just kicked three times.  ↩