Believe it or not the NBA season has finally wound down to a conclusion. From a fan’s standpoint, the playoffs were about as exciting as watching grass grow. It could easily turn you into an NHL fan.
The continuous discussion of which player, LeBron James or Kevin Durant, was the best basketball player in the world got old quickly. They both can “ball,” so let’s just leave it at that. Basketball is a team sport.
The focus can now shift to baseball for the rest of the summer. From now through the end of July, teams will establish if they are in the playoff hunt or if they are in in a rebuild mode. The Kansas City Royals got off to a poor start to the 2017 season. The first 25 percent of the season has been hard to watch at times.
The offense started off as the worst in baseball. The starting pitching was good very early, but the injuries to Danny Duffy and Nathan Karns made it very difficult for Ned Yost and his coaching staff to come up with the right combination in the starting rotation. Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel have had several outings in which it appeared they were throwing batting practice.
The organization has tried to come up with several fill-in starters for the No. 5 spot in the rotation but no one has emerged to take over that role. The bullpen has been hanging on by a fingernail. Kelvin Herrera is no Wade Davis or Greg Holland. Joakim Soria is an accident waiting to happen about every third outing.
Yost and his coaching staff deserve credit for keeping the team intact in the AL Central Division with a skeleton bullpen cast of characters. Mike Minor, Peter Moylan, Scott Alexander, Matt Strahm and Chris Young are a far cry from “HDH.”
It is also amazing that the Royals are only a handful of games out of first place in the Central with DH Brandon Moss, Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar all hitting under .200 for most of the season. Eric Hosmer started slow but is coming around and now hitting over .300. He is also showing some power the last couple of weeks. Lorenzo Cain needs to be more consistent at the plate but has been hot recently.
Mike Moustakas has had a good year at the plate and in the field. Moose has a real shot to break the Royals’ single season home run record if he stays healthy. Salvador Perez is having a great power season offensively to go along with being the best catcher in the American League. If the summer heat in Kansas City does not get to Salvy, he has a shot to hit 25-30 home runs and reach 85-95 RBIs.
The best surprises of the season have been Jorge Bonifacio and Whit Merrifield. Bonifacio has provided much-needed pop in the offense. His play has been good enough that it looks like he has won the starting right field job away from Jorge Soler and Paulo Orlando. Bonifacio is playing a much better right field defensively than his critics predicted.
Merrifield has been no surprise. One of the biggest mistakes the Royals organization made at the beginning of the season was to not use Merrifield as the starting second baseman. The guy is just a player. He passed the eye test last year. He can hit, run and play great defense at multiple positions. At times that he has added some big boy power to his bat.
At this point in the season I am in Dayton Moore’s corner – the team should not be in a fire sale mode. The team has the potential to get hot and run off a two-week winning streak that could put the team in the middle of a playoff opportunity.
The Central Division can be had if you have a team with championship experience and can grind it out during a 162-game season. By the time the trading deadline comes around the Royals organization should know a direction to go with all their free-agent players for next year. If they can stay at around five games out of first, they should ride the season out with the core players on the team to see if they can make the 2014-2015 magic work one more time.
If they are 10 games out at the trading deadline, it will then be time to make hard decisions about who goes and who stays. If it comes to that, players who will be traded will be a lot about the needs of the other team. You cannot say that we should get rid of Cain instead of Moose, etc. Moose, Cain and Hosmer can make a lot of teams better. Herrera has one more year left on his contract, but if things go south I would bet he will be one of the first players traded. Royals fans need to hang in and hope for the best. Baseball is a hard sport to figure out. Anything can happen. That is why it is referred to as a national pastime!
• The Kansas City Chiefs looks like they are about to put a lot eggs in Tyreek Hill’s basket. He is shaping up as the No. 1 receiver for the 2017 team. He has electric ability if he can continue to maintain a good lifestyle off the field. This is a gamble for the organization.
• The quote of the week comes from the one and only great Babe Ruth: “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org