Bullpens and luck

My latest for SportsWorld is on the Royals remarkable bullpen and how — luck or skill — Kansas City happened upon what might be baseball’s new paradigm.

I’m not sure how far this will go. But the Royals essentially have three closers with the firm: Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Will teams keep going in this direction? Is a sixth-inning closer something teams will consider in the future? How about a starter that goes four innings every four days and then five closers? 

I have little doubt as I talk to people around baseball that teams are watching this Royals team very closely and wondering if there are lessons to be learned.

The Power of Three on SportsWorld.

Blast from past: Dayton Moore

I wrote this in 2006 shortly after Dayton Moore took the job as Royals GM. I was reminded of it by somebody and reread it … I found it fascinating how much Dayton Moore has held true to his core beliefs through many years when it looked like it wouldn’t work. The manager stuff he talks about here just reiterate his feelings about Ned Yost.

The Royals didn’t win the division but I do wonder if he sent that bouquet of flowers to the ESPN guy. I’ll have to ask him when I get to KC.

* * *

Dayton Moore thinks often about the Plaza in the heart of Kansas City. It comforts him. He thinks about the shops and the restaurants and the people who walk around at all hours. He thinks about free parking. He thinks about the fountain with four equestrian figures on the corner of 47th and J.C. Nichols. Those four horses represent four great rivers around the world.
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Analytics Guys and Heart Attacks

I’ve written this before: Bob Ryan is one of my favorite people on earth. Love his energy, his unflagging enthusiasm for sport, his storytelling … few things make me happier than seeing Bob on the road and just talking sports and life with him. Bob’s just fantastic.

Of course, he did tweet this:

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This is NBC’s SportsWorld

Well, I may have mentioned that there are some big things going on over at NBC. Today we launched SportsWorld. I could go into depth about what SportsWorld is, why I think it’s cool, where it’s going, but I hope it is obvious if you go over there.

I wrote in-depth on Ned Yost.

I wrote in-depth on Dale Earnhardt Jr.

I wrote in depth on a remarkable little British soccer town called Burnley.

And so on. SportsWorld is going to be a place for in those depth stories and video documentaries. People will compare it to Grantland and Sports On Earth and SB Nation’s Longform and so on, and that’s good because those are fantastic places with amazing work. I hope we’ll carve out or own little spot that is different.

This is something I’ve been talking about with my friend and boss Rick Cordella for a long time, before I even started at NBC. This is his vision. His feeling is that when you have the storytelling history of NBC, and the storytelling capabilities of NBC Sports and the Golf Channel (check out the Arnie documentary) and NBC Olympics along with really wonderful writers like my pal Ray Ratto (who would never admit to being my pal), you have a chance to build something pretty unique and special. That was the vision that inspired me to come to NBC almost two years ago, so this is a very exciting day.

Anyway, enough marketing. This is SportsWorld. Hope you’ll love it. And if you are my age or older, click on the old YouTube video and listen to the music of the original SportsWorld. It might bring back a few memories.

Going all the way back to 1977

Look at that face. That is the face of experience, right? Those are the eyes of a man who has faced a thousand pitchers. That is the wrinkling face of a man who dived into the dirt countless times, all across the country, in efforts to spear scorching ground balls and line drives. 

Brooks Robinson, man. He was the aging gunfighter by the time I knew of him, my father’s hero, the man whose reflexes had slowed, whose power had sapped, whose legs had grown heavy … but he knew things, secrets, mysteries of the game that the kids couldn’t quite fathom. 

How could anyone be cooler than Brooks Robinson?
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Why do we Yostify ourselves?

The other day, I made mention of something that I would guess is pretty obvious to long-time baseball fans: The regular season has never meant less. As of this moment, teams that finished with the best records in the American and National Leagues are out. Only two division champions are still in, along with teams that finished with the seventh and eighth best records in baseball.

Here is actually what I Tweeted: “Don’t get me wrong, I love all baseball. But why even play a regular season?”
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A Royals Toast

In the afterglow, I find myself trying to remember the low moment, the moment that summed up all of what it meant being a Kansas City Royals fan the last 20 years or so. I think of the time Tim Belcher was named the Kansas City Royals pitcher of the year despite the somewhat limiting fact that he had a 5.02 ERA and had pitched no better than the numbers. He sat on stage glumly, accepted the award with a sheepish speech about how he didn’t deserve this award (in this case, he really didn’t) and sat down no doubt thinking he couldn’t wait to get out of Kansas City (which he did a year later).

The Royals, those Royals, are going to the playoffs.
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Bronx Fans Bid Captain farewell (for now)

One of the scholasticists behind me said, “Let’s go. We’ve seen everything. I don’t want to spoil it.” This seemed a sound aesthetic decision. Williams’ last word had been so exquisitely chosen, such a perfect fusion of expectation, intention, and execution, that already it felt a little unreal in my head, and I wanted to get out before the castle collapsed. But the game, though played by clumsy midgets under the feeble glow of the arc lights, began to tug at my attention, and I loitered in the runway until it was over. Williams’ homer had, quite incidentally, made the score 4-3. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with one out, Marlin Coughtry, the second-base juggler, singled. Vic Wertz, pinch-hitting, doubled off the left-field wall, Coughtry advancing to third. Pumpsie Green walked, to load the bases. Willie Tasby hit a double-play ball to the third baseman, but in making the pivot throw Billy Klaus, an ex-Red Sox infielder, reverted to form and threw the ball past the first baseman and into the Red Sox dugout. The Sox won, 5-4. On the car radio as I drove home I heard that Williams had decided not to accompany the team to New York. So he knew how to do even that, the hardest thing. Quit.

— The last paragraph of John Updike’s Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.

I understand why Derek Jeter will play this weekend — for the fans who bought tickets just for him at Fenway, for the spirit of the game, for all that. But … that should have been the last at-bat.