To say the weather this spring was anything but pathetic would be an understatement. High school athletics have seen the hardest spring season in over a decade to be able to play games.
In the next two weeks the conference scheduled sporting events should be over, but this year it is possible that some of the made-up conference games might have to be played after some of the district events. Spring sports athletes had very few opportunities to play in a mild weather situation. Hopefully the warm weather arrives in time for district play.
It is already getting old to hear Royals broadcasters blame poor weather conditions for the team’s poor level of play. Baseball in the spring in Missouri nearly always produces a hurdle, but it is not an obstacle that can’t be overcome.
Coaches of spring sports need to emphasize that bad weather is not a legitimate excuse. The biggest stumbling block for the Royals has been relief pitching, not the weather. They do not have any reliable relief pitching, period. The only bright spot among the relievers has been closer Kelvin Herrera, but the team rarely has a large enough lead in late inning to even use him much.
Media gurus and fans who think they are Casey Stengel have begun to use the old negative phrase that we have been “Yosted.” Let’s get real. Ned Yost has no chance with the guys he currently has in the bullpen. During last Saturday’s game, Yost came out to the mound to make a pitching change. He shook his head and talked to himself all the way to the mound.
It is difficult for any team and manager to have confidence if the starter is going to be replaced by a bunch of guys whose ERA’s are over 10.00.
The starters have pitched much better than records show in their early starts. In fairness, the loss of Salvador Perez for the first month of the season has been a killer. The team needs the offense and power of the All-Star catcher. Mike Moustakas, Lucas Duda and a healthy Perez in the 3-4-5 positions, the team has guys in the middle of the order that are all capable of hitting 30 home runs a year.
The loss of Perez early has also had a major impact on the defense. He can throw any opposing base runners in the league out. However, the area that has been the hardest hit is with the pitching staff. All the pitchers respect Salvy and are confident when he is behind the plate. None of the relievers, except for Herrera, come to the mound in relief with any clue how to approach the hitters.
Even in spring training the pitchers competing to make the team appeared to struggle with a plan on the mound. As I returned from Arizona, I felt the team would be lucky to win 75 games. If I was in Las Vegas right now I would be more likely to wager that they would win 70 or less. The relief corps looks unable to handle the middle innings and set-up roles. Remember 75-80 percent of baseball is pitching. Most good modern baseball era teams place a high importance on strength of the bullpen. Twenty-five years ago, teams were built around the starting rotation. Now bullpens make the winners. The Royals of 2014-15 proved that to everyone.
The rest of the 2018 Royals squad is not the 1927 Yankees, but they are still not bad enough to lose more than 90 games. They have an overall team that has .500 talent but relief pitching that may be the worst in the major leagues.
It is early, and things can change. By the law of baseball luck, even terrible teams should win 60 games. The Royals are not a terrible team, but if they are unable to find some good relief pitching in a hurry, it is likely even the best fans may fall asleep early.
We all have watched at least five games in which the Royals were ahead, and the relievers came in and gave up 8-10 runs. To give up 8-10 runs in three innings could make for a long, long season. Hopefully, Dayton Moore and the coaching staff will continue to grind away to find pitchers who can fill the gaps. It is early – as fans let’s hope for both good weather and good Royals baseball.
• Former players of high school basketball legend, Bud Lathrop, recently honored him with the placement of a bronze bust of him in the Raytown South High School lobby. Basketball players, opposing coaches and fellow Raytown South coaches came together at Raytown South to honor Bud as a Kansas City high school sports icon.
• During the Chiefs offseason the team, through free agency and the draft, became much younger and faster. It will be interesting to see how coach Andy Reid and his coaching staff put together this new team on the field.
• My quote of the week comes from Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson: “I guess I was never much in awe of anybody. I think you have to have that attitude if you’re going to go far in this game. People have always said that I was too confident, but I think you’ll find that most guys who can play are pretty cocky. I’ve always been that way. I always thought I was good enough to play with anyone.”
– 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 email@example.com.