Category Archives: Major League Baseball

Extra day in KC for a good reason

I returned to Russell yesterday a little after noon, one day later than originally  planned.

Thank you, Jason Malasovich.

I’ve known Jason for over 30 years, longer than almost anyone else who does not share my last name. In fact, only two of my current friends list on Facebook has known me longer, Rosemarie Renz (Huguet) and Lisa Syrdal (Clague), both of whom I attended kindergarten through fourth grade with at St. Robert Bellarmine Elementary school.

Jason and I were teammates as 10-year olds playing basketball for Carolyn Park, the playground adjacent to what was St. Robert Bellarmine, which was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and again by Hurricane Rita and was not rebuilt. The same complex was brand new when it was destroyed by Hurricane Betsy in 1965 but rebuilt in that case.

Carolyn Park did not have a gym, so we practiced at Arabi Park Middle School on the northwestern edge of St. Bernard Parish, less than half a mile from the city limits of New Orleans. The year we played together as 10-year olds, Arabi Park was in its last year as an all-girls school. Jason went to fifth grade at Chalmette Middle, which was all-boys. In the fall of 1987, Arabi Park and Chalmette Middle both admitted the opposite gender, and since Jason lived in Arabi, close to Judge Perez Drive, the main thoroughfare of St. Bernard, he changed schools.

I attended St. Robert’s in the fifth grade, but I had a terrible time, so my parents pulled me out. They sent me to a school which I don’t want to talk about for the first quarter of my sixth grade year, one where stupid stuff (I would like to use another word, but won’t) was allowed and not discouraged. Finally, they decided to send me to Arabi Park.

Jason and Rosemarie were the only people there I knew for the first month and a half. I wasn’t in any classes with them except physical education until mid-December, when I was transferred into all the same classes as them and began to know the people I would be in class with until my departure for Brother Martin at the end of my seventh grade year.

The Arabi Park group split into three groups: one which went to Chalmette High, notably Jason and Shawn O’Neil; one which went to Archbishop Hannan, a co-educational Catholic school further east of Chalmette High, the group Rosemarie was in; and a third which went to Andrew Jackson, at the time a magnet high school which did not play football, basketball, baseball and softball. The notable ones among this group were Stacie Dauterive (now Seube) and her younger sister, Andree, who was two years younger (although their younger brother, Rene, ended up at Holy Cross, largely because he was a very good baseball player). I was the outlier going to Brother Martin, and was one of the very few who was accepted from a public middle school.

Hannan flooded during Katrina and relocated to Madisonville on the west side of St. Tammany Parish, closer to Hammond than Slidell.

Jason and I played basketball again together when we were 12 and in the seventh grade. Jason was pretty good and made the parish all-star team, as did Shawn and Michael Marques, a classmate of mine at Brother Martin who started for two years for the Crusaders’ varsity. I wasn’t too good, but there was one game where I did score 10 points in the first half and 14 total despite battling a bad cold.

When he was at Chalmette High, Jason played for the Owls baseball team and started at second base for two years. One night I went to a Chalmette game but I was cheering for the Owls’ opponent, Shaw, since I knew a few people coaching at Shaw, a couple of whom, including longtime football coach Hank Tierney, were in attendance. I also knew Shaw’s baseball coach, Pat O’Shea, who sadly passed away from prostate cancer last month at 67.

The last time I saw Jason in Louisiana was in September 1995. He was in the Golden Band from Tigerland, and my dad and I went to the LSU-Auburn football game and noticed him as the band was preparing for its pregame show.

I lost touch with everyone from Arabi Park quickly after I went to Brother Martin. I attempted to reconnect with Stacie in the summer of 2005, but Katrina interrupted those plans.

Facebook finally brought me back into their orbit. Go back to almost the beginning of this blog and you can see what happened.

I hoped and prayed that Rosemarie and I would connect when I was in Baton Rouge earlier this year, but it didn’t happen. I was sad about that, but seeing Brenda, Dorinda, Dan, Lisette and the others from LSU more than made up for it. I still miss you, Rosie, and hope we’ll meet very soon.

Jason commented on a picture I posted on Facebook last week. It was me with my very short haircut, thanks to Ashley at Sport Clips, who will be my only stylist for the near future with the lovely Amber Desario out on maternity leave to take care of her new baby boy. He asked me how far I was from Kansas City, assuming I was back in Russell and not knowing I was a lot closer than he thought.

I told him Saturday morning I was in town and would be available Sunday and Monday (I didn’t want to tell him I had blocked out trivia time Saturday at Buffalo Wild Wings AND Minsky’s LOL). So we made plans to meet last Sunday in Lee’s Summit, an area of Kansas City I don’t usually venture to.

These days, I don’t go east of Interstate 435 often, if at all, save for going to Liberty. About the only times I venture east of 435 and south of the river are when I absolutely have to do something in Independence or Blue Springs, or else I’m blowing past those communities to go to Columbia, St. Louis and outside Missouri.

Jason asked me if we wanted to meet halfway, but I told him no, I was one person vs. seven for him, since he had his wife, Melissa, daughter Olivia and son Carson with him, in addition to three members of Melissa’s family with him. I wasn’t about to make them waste that gas. Since I had nothing to do Sunday, I figured I had all the time in the world to drive from Clay County to the southeast corner of the metro.

Their choice for a late lunch Sunday was Jack Stack barbecue in Lee’s Summit. I ate at the Overland Park location last month and was througoughly impressed. This time, I did not order nearly as much food as July. Burnt ends and potato salad. Delicious.

When we were eating, Jason told me he was taking his family to the Royals game vs. the Cubs the next night. I was planning on going back to Russell Monday, but I decided to go to the game, my first in four years.

I saw tickets were very expensive, and there wasn’t a ticket to be found in section 232, where they were sitting. At that point, I thought seriously about going home Monday and telling them I couldn’t make it, making up a white lie. Later, though, I was able to find a ticket in the same section as them, only one row lower. After purchasing the ticket–$98 plus fees and tax–I felt better and committed to Monday in Kansas City.

I splurged on reserved parking. Good thing I did. It was a much shorter walk in the heat from the car to the stadium, and it really came in handy after the game as you’ll see. I waited the 45 minutes in line for the gates to open, but met a very nice family of Cubs fans to talk to, so the time passed fast.

I originally bought a general parking pass, but I forwarded it to Jason and they used it. Saved them $15 (it cost $12 online).

Jason bought two giant hot dogs and asked me to split them with him. I resisted at first but then changed my mind. After all, he bought the dogs (I bought Melissa and the kids popcorn), so I said why not. The Chicago dog with tomatoes, sport peppers and relish was delicious. I wish Sonic still had them. The Kansas City dog had barbecue brisket and coleslaw, and it was also good. I didn’t even notice the slaw, and I don’t eat slaw.

It rained twice during the game, which the Cubs won 3-1 on the strength of a home run and RBI double by Javier Baez. The contest was delayed for 22 minutes in the top of the fourth; it rained harder in the ninth. However, since there was no lightning during the latter storm, umpire crew chief Joe West, the senior umpire in MLB, decided to let the game conclude, which it did with a 1-2-3 frame by Cubs closer Pedro Strop.

We had to wait out the rain about 15 minutes before we finally left. They drove home yesterday through Arkansas and north Louisiana, while I ventured west on Interstate 70.

What I wouldn’t give to see more of my old friends from Louisiana. Rosemarie and Stacie are near the very top of the list, as are Tiffany Peperone, Janine Koenig and Wendy Wall. Brenda was above all of them, but that was fulfilled in April. So was Dan.

I’m still a bit heartbroken over not seeing Liz and Lisa anymore in Kansas City, but that heartbreak was eclipsed by losing Dawn, who is loving it back in Florida. I don’t blame her. But life is empty without her and the others.

If Peggy and Caitlyn were to exit…oh boy.

FYI, the Cubs won 5-0 last night behind one-time Royals farmhand Mike Montgomery. The series finale is tonight, then the Cardinals come to Kansas City over the weekend.

I’m less than 90 minutes away from my next session with Crista, whose importance to my life outranks everyone I’ve mentioned, short of my own family and Dr. Custer.

KC, I’m out (for now)

Going to make this short because I have a date with a long stretch of concrete known as Interstate 70.

Cubs defeated the Royals 3-1 last night. Javier Baez was the star for the Chicagoans, launching a 420-foot home run just to the right of dead center field in the sixth inning to put his team ahead to stay. Baez added an insurance run with an RBI double in the eighth.

It wasn’t a complete sellout at Kauffman Stadium (about 5,500 short of capacity), but it was the Royals’ best crowd on a Monday in at least three years. I would say it was at least a 65-35 split crowd in favor of the Cubs. Considering (a) the Cubs have one of the largest fan bases of any team in North American professional sports, (b) the Royals are terrible and (c) the Cubs are here for the first time in seven years and won’t return until at least 2021, I was totally expecting it.

The Kansas City Police Department had me all turned around leaving the stadium. I’ll go into detail later.

That’s all for now. Time to make that long and painful drive west, but it won’t be nearly as painful this time because Peggy wants to meet me in Hays this afternoon.

Moose out (forever?), me in (for one night)

For the first time since June 9, 2011, the Kansas City Royals will play a home game without Mike Moustakas on the roster, not counting games in which he was on the disabled list.

The Royals host the Cubs for the opener of a three-game series. This is the Cubs’ first visit to Kansas City since June 2011, and will be the last until at least 2021, maybe 2024, due to the interleague rotation between divisions.

FYI, only the Cardinals come to Kansas City every year. In years in which the AL Central and NL Central are paired for interleague, there are six games between the teams, three on each side of Missouri. In the other years of the rotation, that number is cut to four, two at each site.

Your intrepid blogger will be in attendance tonight, my first visit to Kauffman Stadium since June 2014.  I wouldn’t have touched this game with a ten-foot pole, but a friend from my distant past changed my mind. I’ll explain later.

Moustakas started at third base for the last Royals-Cubs game in Kansas City, a 6-3 Royals victory on June 26, 2011, giving Kansas City a 2-1 series victory. NOBODY playing for the Cubs that Sunday will be in the lineup this evening for Joe Maddon, nor will star third baseman Kris Bryant, on the DL with an inflamed left shoulder.

Meanwhile, two Royals who were in the lineup, Alex Gordon (left field) and Alcides Escobar (shortstop), probably will be penciled in by Ned Yost tonight, although Yost may sit Gordon since the Cubs are starting recently acquired Cole Hamels, and Gordon does not hit left-handed pitchers well.

The batting orders from that day:

  • Cubs–Koskie Fukudome (RF), Starlin Castro (SS), Aramis Ramirez (DH), Carlos Pena (1B), Reed Johnson (CF), Blake DeWitt (3B), Alfonso Soriano (LF), Geovany Soto (C), D.J. LeMahieu (2B)
  • Royals–Melky Cabrera (CF), Eric Hosmer (1B), Billy Butler (DH), Gordon, Jeff Francoeur (RF), Moustakas, Matt Treanor (aka Mr. Misty May) (C), Escobar, Chris Getz (2B)

Other notables:

  • The starting pitchers were Randy Wells for Chicago and Luke Hochevar for Kansas City.
  • James Russell and Chris Carpenter (the one nobody has heard of, not the one who was once the ace of the Cardinals’ starting rotation) relieved for the Cubs, who were managed by Mike Quade.
  • Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Joakim Soria all pitched in relief for the Royals, in their first full season under Yost. In fact, I was in attendance at the last game for Yost’s predecessor, Trey Hillman. Hillman’s Royals defeated the Indians 6-4 on a Thursday afternoon, but were still 12-23. By time I returned to my hotel an hour later, Hillman had been fired and Yost hired.

I might be the only person in attendance who won’t give a damn who wins, save umpires and media members. I can’t stand the Royals (at least since Ewing Kauffman died in July 1993), and I can’t stand the Cubs (I’m a Brewers fan, and two of my favorite people on earth, Larry and Lisa, are Cardinals die-hards).

One of my dear friends from my LSU days, Laurie Cannon (Moll), is a huge Cubs fan now living in Chicago with her family, so I would lean to the Cubs this series.

I paid for reserved parking tonight. It’s going to be a zoo, and I expect the Cubs to have more fans than the Royals for this series. Same over the weekend when the Cardinals visit.

My time in Kansas City is almost up, at least this time. I’ll be in session with Crista in 48 hours, so I have to get back to the west soon. This has been a lot of fun, though.

One of my infrequent posts

Your undisciplined blogger here. I’ve got to do better. I’m making this statement for at least the 481st time on Foots Prints. I failed to follow through the first 480 times.

Sports is kind of in a lull right now. The World Cup ended two weeks ago with France defeating Croatia; the Open Championship ended eight days ago with a command performance by Francisco Molinari, who didn’t crack under the pressure of playing with Eldrick Woods in the final round; and one league of Major League Baseball is about as suspenseful as watching paint dry. Four of the five playoff teams in the American League are known: Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Astros. The fifth spot will either come down to the Mariners or Athletics. Everyone else? Forget it.

Fortunately, the National League still holds drama. The Brewers somehow are only three games back (in the loss column) of the Cubs despite going 1-7 in Miami and Pittsburgh the week before the All-Star break, and Milwaukee has a comfortable lead as the first wild card. The Marlins, Mets and Padres are all done, and while the Reds are playing better under Jim Riggelman, the early hole they dug under Bryan Price is too much.

I don’t know if the Brewers can hold on to a playoff spot. They got some help in acquiring Joakim Soria and Mike Moustakas, but the injury bug has hit Miller Park hard. Milwaukee would have trouble in a one-game playoff against either Arizona, Atlanta or Philadelphia, and then if the Brewers won, they would have to play the Cubs in the division series.

John Tavares signed with the Maple Leafs. The ex-Islander will make Toronto a dangerous team offensively, but Mike Babcock knows there’s no way teams can win 6-4 in the NHL every night in this era. It isn’t the 1980s, when Edmonton was able to rush the puck up the ice consistently with Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Coffey and Glenn Anderson and score seven or eight on many nights. Also, Toronto doesn’t have a goaltender anywhere near the caliber of Grant Fuhr to take on 40-45 shots consistently.

If Babcock doesn’t find some help on the blue line, and quick, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen will die from taking on too many shots, and Toronto will never climb above Boston and Tampa Bay in the Atlantic.

The Bucks? Well, letting Jabari Parker walk wasn’t the problem. DRAFTING Jabari Parker was. If the Bucks were smart, they would have taken Joel Embiid number two overall instead of Parker, and even if Embiid would have been slow to heal from the injuries which plagued him at Kansas, it still would have been much better than Parker. Until the Bucks find help for the Greak Freak, they won’t be making it past the second round of the playoffs any time soon, even if the East is wide open after Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto.

I’ve written off the Arizona Cardinals. I don’t care what their record is. Actually, the worse, the better. They need a lot of help. Josh Rosen isn’t going to be the magic panacea to get them back to the Super Bowl. The offensive line sucks, and it has sucked since the Cardinals were in St. Louis. The running game has been non-existent since Ottis Anderson was in his heyday. I am not confident Steve Wilks is the answer.

I’ve also written off my alma mater’s football team. I just can’t see any better than 7-5. I hope I’m wrong. I’m looking at Miami, Auburn, Georgia Alabama and Texas A&M as games where LSU will be at a decided disadvantage. If the Mississippi State game were in Starkville and not Baton Rouge, I would have to favor State, but it’s a toss-up in Death Valley. The Florida game would be a toss-up in Baton Rouge, but in Gainesville, the Gators have to be favored. LSU is at a decided advantage in Baton Rouge vs. Ole Miss, but the Rebels will treat it as a bowl game since they are on probation. LSU has held the upper hand against Arkansas under Orgeron, but the Razorbacks will be dangerous in November after they learn Chad Morris’ system, especially in Fayetteville.

Forget the football played with a prolate spheroid and on a gridiron.

Football season is still 11 days away. The REAL football season, that is.

The Premier League kicks off August 10 when Leicester City visits Old Trafford to play Manchester United. It’s the second consecutive year Leicester has had to go on the road and play the Friday night game to open the season; last year, the Foxes lost 3-2 to Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. The rest of the league plays either that Saturday or Sunday.

The smart money is on Manchester City to repeat as Premier League champions. Why not? Pep Guardiola has built a machine at the Etihad Stadium, and it is still a step ahead of United and Liverpool, the other two teams which figure to be at the top of the table with City. Chelsea and Arsenal have new managers and the distraction of the Europa League, which forces teams to play on Thursdays before turning around to play league matches on Saturday or Sunday, and that will hurt. Tottenham has a golden opportunity this year with Arsenal and Chelsea a bit down and the excitement of moving into the new White Hart Lane, but will Spurs take it?

I don’t think Leicester will be anywhere near the danger of the drop zone, but I can’t see another Claudio Rainieri-Jamie Vardy miracle, either. Mid-table would be fine with me, maybe seventh and a spot in the Europa League.

Bournemouth probably has no business in the top flight, given it plays in a stadium which seats less than 12,000 has nowhere near the resources of the Big Six of the Premier League, and not as much as Leicester, Fulham and a few others. However, Eddie Howe is a fine manager, and that’s the reason the Cherries are still in the top flight and the likes of Sunderland, Stoke, Swansea, West Brom and Hull aren’t. In fact, Sunderland has cratered into League One, the third division, just two years after competing in the Premier League. OUCH.

Meanwhile, the pressure in Italy’s Serie A is on Juventus, where Cristiano Ronaldo has taken his talents after a long and storied run at Real Madrid. The Turin side is always expected to be at or near the top of Serie A, but this year, the pressure has to be crushing.

The same can be said for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. It has been Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and 16 weak sisters in most recent years in Germany, but last year, Dortmund was not only looking up at Bayern, but also Schalke and Hoffenheim. Christian Pulisic, the 19-year old American phenom, has a lot of weight on his shoulders at Dortmund, but it’s a position every MLS player would kill to be in.

I have an appointment in Prairie Village Thursday afternoon to get another treatment on my back. Now I know what to expect.

My dear friend Peggy celebrated a birthday yesterday. I know how old she is, but I won’t tell you. Sorry.

Watching The Price is Right now. WHY DO CONTESTANTS LOOK AT THE CROWD? They don’t know a damn thing. If I’m going to lose, I want to do it my way. I’m sure the contestant coordinators don’t pick the highest IQs, so what help can they be? Also, looking at the crowd wastes time!

Another jinx vanquished

There will be no World Cup matches today, fitting since today is the 242nd anniversary of the independence of a nation which cannot fight its way out of a wet paper bag in association football, at least when it counts the most.

It’s even more fitting the World Cup is off today, because  the country celebrating the 242nd anniversary of its independence gained said independence from the country which birthed “the beautiful game”.

One of the constituent countries of the nation where association football (soccer for those snooty Americans) is still alive in the World Cup, thanks to ending a curse which had long haunted it.

England advanced by winning a shootout (kicks from the penalty mark) yesterday over Colombia.

Repeating: England advanced by winning a shootout.

Let that sink in for a few seconds.

It’s the first time The Three Lions have won a shootout in the World Cup since it was introduced to team sports’ greatest spectacle in 1978 (but not put into practice until 1982).

Previously, England had been eliminated in 1990 (semifinals vs. West Germany), 1998 (round of 16 vs. Argentina in a match which saw David Beckham draw a straight red card two minutes into the second half; that England was able to hold Argentina scoreless for 73-plus minutes was amazing) and 2006 (vs. Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo burying the winner).

England appeared as if it would win in normal time 1-0, with Harry Kane burying a penalty kick in the 57th mniute after he was taken down in the box rather aggressively.

Colombia played borderline dirty all match, with the manager giving an English player a hard shoulder as they exited the pitch at halftime, and another Colombian player getting away with a headbutt as they jostled in the box on a free kick.

However, Colombia’s Yerry Mina scored the equalizer only seconds from full time, and the match continued. The half-hour of extra time was scoreless, and the groans went up from Newcastle and Sunderland in the North East to Bournemouth and Southampton on the south coast, and all points in between.

The tension had to be most palpable in Sunderland and Liverpool.

English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is a native of the North East of England. He played for Sunderland before leaving the Black Cats in the summer of 2017 after they were relegated out of the Premier League.

Everton, located in Liverpool and the archrival of the world-famous Liverpool Football Club, won the bidding war for Pickford. However, the Toffees were unable to fully take advantage of having Pickford and Wayne Rooney, finishing well behind Burnley for the final European qualifying spot, and obviously behind the Big Six of the Premier League: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal.

FYI, the four most famous residents of Liverpool, two of whom are sadly no longer with us (one at the hands of a bloody murderer) did not care about the Merseyside Derby, the name given to the Liverpool-Everton rivalry. It was reported The Fab Four did not care much for football, at least the kind played with a round ball (Paul McCartney performed during the Super Bowl XXXVI pregame show and Super Bowl XXXIX halftime show).

In fact, when England won the 1966 World Cup at the old Wembley Stadium, Paul, John, George and Ringo were on the last leg of their last concert tour in the United States. And if you think few Americans care about soccer in 2018, the number of soccer die-hards in 1966 may have numbered less than the number of members of United States House (435).

Back to 2018, Pickford and his mates.

The announcers on Fox stated throughout extra time that Colombia was a lead-pipe cinch to advance to a quarterfinal meeting with Sweden. They felt Colombia had enough momentum from the late equalizer to score in extra time, then kept harping on England’s failure in shootouts in the past when it looked like the third shootout of the round of 16 would be a reality.

Surprisingly, English manager Gareth Southgate chose Kane to go first. Many managers save their best kicker for the fourth or fifth round, which is what the United States women did in shootouts in the World Cup finals of 1999 and 2011. In 1999, Mia Hamm, arguably the greatest female association football player to date, went fourth, leaving the heroics to Brandi Chastain and her famous sports brassiere. In 2011, Abby Wambach went fourth, but because the three before her–Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath all missed, it didn’t matter, and Japan won. More of the blame lies on the shoulders of Hope(less) Solo (now Stevens).

Kane and Marcus Rashford scored for England after Radamel Falcao and Juan Cudrado did the same for Colombia. Luis Muriel scored the third kick for Colombia, but Jordan Henderson’s attempt was turned aside by David Ospina, shifting the edge to Colombia.

The pressure was now on Pickford. If he could not stop Mateus Uribe, the South American side would have a huge edge, knowing it would at the very least go into sudden death.

Pickford got a piece of Uribe’s arching shot. It hit the crossbar anyway, and England’s condition was upgraded from critical to satisfactory. It became completely healed when Kieran Trippler scored to knot it up again.

Carlos Bacca stepped to the mark for Colombia. He went right, and Pickford was spot on, easily stoning the Colombian substitute forward.

Southgate sent Eric Dier onto the pitch in the 81st minute to spell Dele Alli, the Tottenham striker. Dier now was called upon to take the last kick of the regulation round. If he missed, the kicks would go into sudden death. If Dier scored, England would play again Saturday.

Dier went hard and low to his left. Ospina guessed wrong. England was jolly indeed.

England now plays Sweden, a 1-0 victor over Switzerland. The winner of that match plays the winner of Croatia-Russia, which is also Saturday.

Friday’s matches are France-Uruguay and Brazil-Belgium. I picked Croatia, England and Brazil as semifinalists before the knockout round, and I’ll stick with that. I had France playing Portugal, with Les Bleus losing. I’ll pick France to win, though, against Uruguay.

Maybe it was time for England to end its curse. The Red Sox ended the Curse of the Bambino in 2004. The Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA championship, ending Cleveland’s sports curse which spanned 51 1/2 years. The Cubs ended the Curse of the BIlly Goat by winning the 2016 World Series, their first in 108 years. The Astros broke through last year, their 56th season, to win their first World Championship. The Eagles won Super Bowl LII earlier this year, Philadelphia’s first NFL title since 1960. The Capitals won their first Stanley Cup last month, ending a long run of playoff futility.

See? Most bad things will end. The bad news? All good things WILL end sooner or later.

Meanwhile, the Rays and Marlins played 16 innings last night. How depressing. Paid attendance: 6,259. I’d like to know how many people actually went to the game in Miami, and how many were left when it ended at 0040 Eastern.

The Royals and Orioles seem to be racing to the bottom. Both have lost 60 games, and both are so far out of the playoff race they need the Hubble telescope to find the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Mariners and Indians. Both are on pace to lose 114 games. Neither will probably lose that many, but both will likely fall short of 60 wins.

The Royals host the Red Sox this weekend. There are only nine more big-revenue home games left on the schedule at Kauffman Stadium: the three this weekend, plus three-game sets with the Cardinals and Cubs.

In case you’re curious, the Royals and Orioles play three in Kansas City Labor Day weekend. I’m sure the ticket office at The K is burning up over ticket sales for that one.

Why did I watch?

When I last posted Sunday, I stated I would not watch the NCAA men’s basketball championship game between Michigan and Villanova, fearing the Wildcats would toy with the Wolverines.

However, I did, simply because I was in a Wichita hotel room with limited television options and no way to plug my iPad into the TV. I was in Wichita to pick up an online order and shop at Target, something I cannot do in Russell or Hays. Also, there was work going on in the bathroom downstairs, so I wanted to give the workers free rein without distraction.

Michigan started well, but by the middle of the first half, it was obvious the national championship would reside on the Main Line of Philadelphia for the second time in three seasons.

Final: Villanova 79, Michigan 62.

Jay Wright has probably cemented his place in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., if he had not already. Wright is one of just 15 coaches to win multiple championships since the first NCAA men’s tournament in 1939.

The Big Ten has not produced a men’s basketball national champion since Michigan State in 2000. The Pac-12’s drought is longer, going back to Arizona in 1997. As bad as that is, both of the “Rose Bowl” conferences have had precious little success in women’s basketball as well–the Big Ten won its only title in 1999 with Purdue, and the Pac-12 last won with Stanford way back in 1992.

I’m done with basketball for the rest of 2018. I don’t care about the NBA–unless the Bucks would make a deep playoff run, which isn’t happening–and I don’t watch early season college basketball. Too many mismatches.

Major League baseball is suffering from a rash of postponements, which happens when there is bad weather in the northern latitudes. The Royals saw last Sunday’s home game vs. the White Sox snowed out, and it was too cold for them to play Wednesday in Detroit, so there will be two doubleheaders later this month. Next up is a trip to Cleveland, which isn’t exactly a tropical paradise.

MLB needs to stop with this idea that every team should have a home opener within the first two weeks of the season. If it’s too cold in Boston, New York, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago, then they have to play on the road in April. The schedule will even out in July and August. Besides, who really wants to play in Atlanta in August? Even St. Louis is miserably unbearable. The Florida teams and Houston don’t count because they have retractable-roof stadiums. Milwaukee was smart enough to put a retractable roof on Miller Park, so why didn’t other teams in the Great Lakes region? Wrigley Field is one thing, but there was no reason the White Sox shouldn’t have done it. Or the Tigers. Or Twins, which played indoors for 28 seasons.

The NHL playoffs start next week. I am absolutely loathing Tampa Bay, Nashville and Vegas all having good chances to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. I will never, ever agree with the idea of hockey in southern locales. I’m glad New Orleans had a team when I was living there, because it would have been awfully tempting to go. It’s up to the Bruins and Maple Leafs to carry the flag for the Original Six, because the Rangers, Red Wings, Canadiens and Blackhawks are long gone.

Seven days until I depart for the native land.

Back on the blog

If you thought I had passed on into the afterlife, I don’t blame you. But March was a pretty bad month for me, so I figured it best not to chronicle just how bad it was. However, I did post some very nasty things on social media which I really am hating myself for.

I am so happy March Madness ends tomorrow night. I have had it with basketball. Enough already. I’m not watching the championship game.

If Michigan keeps it close, it will be a miracle. I can’t remember Michigan being this big an underdog in a major athletic event in my lifetime. Probably the last time it happened was the 1969 football game vs. Ohio State when the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes 24-12 to end Ohio State’s 22-game winning streak.

Villanova isn’t as big a favorite as Georgetown was vs. the Wildcats in the 1985 final, but it’s close. With the way the Wildcats dismantled Kansas, there’s no reason to think the Wolverines will come any closer, even though Michigan is riding a 14-game winning streak.

Michigan is 1-4 in previous title game appearances. However, the one the Wolverines won was against Seton Hall, a Catholic school from the Big East, just like Villanova. Unfortunately for John Beilein, Glen Rice has been out of eligibility since that night in Seattle 29 years ago.

Kansas got its comeuppance last night. Jayhawk fans had been talking trash all tournament, crying about the lack of respect  and whatever else they could complain about. They can shut up until November.

Notre Dame just hit a buzzer beater to defeat Mississippi State in the women’s championship game.

The good news: UConn didn’t win the title. Again.

The bad news: Notre Dame won.

I do not like Irish coach Muffet McGraw. Not after she whined and bitched and complained about Geno Auriemma constantly during the 2014 Final Four, when the Huskies beat Notre Dame in the final. I am not an Auriemma lover by any means, but McGraw sounded like a shrill shrew.

I also found reason to dislike McGraw after she allowed her players to wear t-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter before several games in recent years. That has no place in sports. Period.

I also have heard in a few places McGraw is pro-abortion, which if she is, should disqualify her from being employed by Notre Dame or any other Catholic university. Then again, many pro-aborts have been featured speakers at Notre Dame, so it would not shock me if McGraw fell in line with that view.

I was very angry with Saint Louis University when it employed the late Rick Majerus, who was outspokenly pro-abortion. Majrerus not only coached at Saint Louis, but also at Marquette, another Catholic institution. Do administrators at Catholic universities do their homework? I’m beginning to believe not.

There was some good news from the sports world this weekend. The Royals lost twice to the White Sox, while the Padres, led by their $147 million man, former Royal Eric Hosmer, were swept by the Brewers. The Reds were also swept–by the Nationals–so MLB opening weekend was pretty god in my book.

I slept until 12:40 this afternoon. Maybe that wasn’t the worst thing.

All-Star trash

Yesterday, two of the four major North American sports leagues held their All-Star games.

Both are horrid.

The National Football League once again staged the running joke that is the Pro Bowl. There was a time it meant something to make the Pro Bowl, but today, it’s all about bonus clauses in players’ contracts. The only reason any NFL player cares about the Pro Bowl is the cash he will be making.

Of the 88 players originally named to the Pro Bowl, 10 were members of the Super Bowl LII participants. Another 27 begged out of the game due to injury, whether or not the injury was real.

This meant 37 players who were not originally named to the Pro Bowl got an invitation, and even some of those replacements were injured themselves. Regardless of whether they were injured or not, the players collect their bonuses simply because they were a “Pro Bowler”, even if they were the fourth alternate at their position.

The NFL should eliminate the Pro Bowl. If they want to designate players as “Pro Bowlers”, fine, but then only those originally named can collect bonuses. Or why not have the NFLPA and NFL coaches vote on their own All-Pro team? It would mean a lot more to the players who were named the best by their peers than by the media, although the Associated Press All-Pro team is still pretty significant.

The NFL is constantly publicizing its drive to reduce injuries. Eliminating the Pro Bowl would help.

As bad as the Pro Bowl is, at least it is an actual football game.

The same cannot be said of the National Hockey League’s All-Star game.

Actually, it is now three mini-games of three-on-three between teams made up of players from each of the NHL’s four divisions (Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central and Pacific). The mini-games are divided into two 10-minute halves, and if the score is tied, there is a shootout.

The Metropolitan and Atlantic teams play for the “Eastern Conference” title, and the Central and Pacific teams play for the “Western Conference” title, with the first two winners squaring off again.

If this format isn’t asinine, I don’t know what is.

First, I cannot stand the NHL’s 3-on-3 overtime format in the regular season. Hockey is grueling enough with an 82-game schedule, so I believe overtime should be eliminated. Let tie games stay tied. If the NHL really wanted to reduce ties, it would adopt the association football format of three points for a win, and one point to each team for a tie (draw). The carrot of two extra points instead of one would get more teams to be more aggressive.

Second, the NHL All-Star game has usually been skating up and down the ice as fast as possible and shooting the puck as hard as possible. Checking is frowned upon. Penalties are almost non-existent, and if one is called, it is for something that would rarely, if ever, get called in the regular season or playoffs.

If the NHL wants to have an All-Star game, DO IT RIGHT. Make it real hockey, have the referees call penalties as they would in the regular season or playoffs, and no overtime and no shootouts.

The NBA’s All-Star game is a real basketball game, but defense is completely optional, if not abhorred. If a team doesn’t score at least 150 points in an All-Star game, it isn’t trying. Players will vacate the lane and let the opponent drive to the hoop unimpeded rather than standing their ground.

Major League Baseball has the best All-Star game by far, but from 2003 through 2016, there was a stupid provision where the winning league would secure home field advantage in the World Series for its pennant winner.

The only reason this came about is because the 2002 All-Star game ended in a 7-7 tie in then-commissioner Bud Selig’s hometown of Milwaukee. If Selig, who begged and pleaded with Wisconsin voters to build Miller Park for him so the Brewers didn’t leave America’s Dairyland, was so worried about a tie, he should have allowed pitchers and catchers to re-enter. Also, the manangers have to share some of the blame for the fiasco, since they were trying to play everyone so nobody’s feelings got hurt.

That’s the problem with today’s society. We have to let everyone play. We have to give out participation trophies.

But these are PROFESSIONAL athletes, not kids. They got their bonus no matter if they played in the All-Star game or not. If their ego can’t handle being a mere spectator in an exhibition game, they’re in the wrong business.

The English Premier League gets along just fine without an All-Star game. I think the four major leagues on this continent would not go bankrupt if their All-Star games went by the wayside. Maybe I’m wrong, but I didn’t watch one second of either game yesterday. And I am certainly avoiding the upcoming NBA All-Star game like the plague.

Happy New Year, Kansas City (at least so far)

Kansas City may have suffered from bitter cold the last few days of 2017 and the first few days of 2018, but most sports fans in the city are over the moon.

Yes, Kansas’ men’s basketball team lost last night to Texas Tech, the first time the Red Raiders have ever won in Lawrence, and that dates back to when the Big 12 was formed for the 1996-97 basketball season. Tech didn’t play every year in Lawrence until 2010-11 after Colorado and Nebraska left and reduced the conference to ten teams, but that is a long time to go without a win in a given facility.

However, Kansas City’s professional sports teams are on cloud nine.

The Chiefs have bounced back from their miserable 1-6 slide to win four consecutive games heading into the playoffs. What has Chiefs fans more excited than the AFC West championship–the first time Kansas City has won division titles in back-to-back seasons in franchise history–or the playoff game Saturday at Arrowhead vs. the Titans is the play of rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes II.

Mahomes, drafted 10th overall by Kansas City after the Chiefs traded with Buffalo to move up 17 spots in the first round of the 2017 draft, saw his first regular season action and performed well, passing for 284 yards and leading the Chiefs on a game-winning drive in the closing seconds at Denver last Sunday. Mahomes’ performance may prompt the Chiefs to trade Alex Smith prior to the 2018 draft, or at the latest, during training camp. Smith will be the starter in the playoffs, but if he doesn’t get the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game, he’s likely departing One Arrowhead Drive very soon.

The Royals don’t start their 2018 campaign for almost three months, but earlier today, their fans were sent into ecstasy when it was announced first baseman Eric Hosmer was offered a 7-year, $147 million contract by the club.

Hosmer, who was drafted second overall in 2008 behind Steven Strasburg, the All-Star pitcher for the Nationals, has become arguably the second most popular player in Royals franchise history behind George Brett. Hosmer came up to the Royals in 2011 and has been a mainstay in Ned Yost’s lineup ever since, leading Kansas City to the American League pennant in 2014 and the World Series championship in 2015.

It was widely expected Hosmer, along with third baseman Mike Moustakas and center fielder Lorenzo Cain, would leave Kansas City before the 2018 season. The thought was if the Royals fell out of the 2017 playoff chase early enough, they would trade any or all of the players in order to get something in return, but Kansas City hung around long enough to convince Dayton Moore to keep the players around. The Royals faded and finished 80-82, their second consecutive non-winning season since winning the World Series (they were 81-81 in 2016).

Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain all received one-year, $17 million qualifying offers from the Royals in November. The players all rejected them and tested the free agent market.

So far, no takers.

The only player who has received interest is Hosmer, who was offered 7 years and $140 million from the Padres, who are in the midst of a massive rebuild. Right now, it looks like Hosmer will be back in Kansas City.

Moustakas and Cain might be forced to take a one-year deal in Kansas City and retest the market next winter, or else take a bargain deal from another team.

Kansas City fans wanted Hosmer back. Looks like they’ll get their wish.

Now if only the NBA and/or NHL would return to Kansas City…keep dreaming.

Another year on this globe

I officially turned 41 a little less than two hours ago. Of course, not as big a deal as last year, but it is Friday the 13th, the sixth time my birthday fell on a Friday. I was born on a Wednesday in case you’re curious.

My 13th birthday DID fall on Friday the 13th. I was in eighth grade at Brother Martin High (most of the Catholic high schools in New Orleans have an eighth grade), and I recall Tropical Storm Jerry formed in the Gulf of Mexico. It was pretty gray and damp the rest of the day and all of the next day.

This is the first Friday the 13th birthday since 2006, when I turned 30. I was busy that day: woke up in Wichita, drove up the Kansas Turnpike to Emporia for a tennis tournament, then went to Abilene for a football game, and finally back to Russell, becuase I had to turn around and cover a vollyeball tournament the next morning.

Last year, I was in Hays for a volleyball tournament because Cailtyn was playing and Peggy was coaching. This year, I’m in Kansas City.

My parents always leave town around the time of my birthday to go south, first to visit my brother and his family near Nashville, then down to New Orleans to visit my Uncle Jerry and also gamble on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. My parents were going to go to Biloxi right after visting Nashville, but had to alter their plans when Hurricane Nate came ashore in Mississippi last Saturday night. They went yesterday instead.

The first professional sports event of my lifetime was Game 4 of the 1976 American League Championship Series, which started a little more than five hours after I came into the world. The Royals needed to win in the rebuilt Yankee Stadium to stay alive. They did, prevailing 7-4, setting up the fifth and deciding game the next night. Of course, the Yankees won that one 7-6 when Chris Chambliss hit Mark LIttell’s first pitch of the bottom of the ninth (barely) over the right-center field fence to send the Bronx Bombers to their first World Series since 1964. Maybe it was best the Royals missed out on that World Series, because Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine destroyed the Yankees in four straight. I don’t think Kansas City would have fared any better.

The Royals lost to the Yankees in the ALCS in both 1977 and 1978 as well before finally breaking through in 1980 (the Orioles defeated the Angels in the 1979 ALCS). At the time, Kansas City tied the Mets as the fastest MLB teams to reach the postseason (8 seasons), although the Metropolitans won the World Series in 1969.

Not going to be a particularly busy birthday. Lots of trivia at Buffalo Wild Wings and a visit to Minksy’s later. Same for tomorrow. Sometimes routine is good.