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After Charger Gift, Chiefs Need to Win

Oct 15, 2016 -- 8:32am

By Danny Clinkscale

The Chiefs got the first half of what they craved last night

as the Chargers handed the Broncos their second loss since the 

Chiefs last played. At least a part of the nightmare scenario of what 

could have happened here in the middle of October was dodged. That 

would have been a Broncos win in San Diego and a Chiefs loss on Sunday 

at Oakland.

 

     The Chiefs could have been close to a must win mode with both the 

Broncos and the Raiders a full2 1/2 games clear of them. Now

if they can take care of business Sunday, all three contenders would 

have two losses, and it will be game on.

 

      But road business has been bad business for the 2016 Chiefs, and I 

put the emphasis on 2016 because every year is different in the National 

Football League. What we've seen in this seasons two roadies has been 

extremely tame offense, and in Pittsburgh, a flat out no show in all phases.

 

     It's time for the Chiefs to step forward and make a statement that their 

slow start was just that, and not an indication of what the Chiefs really are.

What we thought they would be was an offensive team taking the next step 

forward from merely efficient to dangerous. That was to be combined with the 

type of powerhouse defense that was featured down the stretch last year.

 

     Instead, with the exception of about 18  minutes against the Chargers,

the offense has actually been more pedestrian, careful, and flat out ineffective.

The defense has only had a few good spurts, mostly being susceptible to the 

run, and to big down the field pass plays, often early in the game to put the 

Chiefs in a whole.

 

     There is reason to think it will change. It's seem unrealistic that Alex Smith,

Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce are all going to regress this year, and Jamal Charles 

is expected to return to a more prominent role this week. That role is all the

more important because breakout contributor in 2015 Spencer Ware has for the 

first time in his entire football life developed a case of fumbleitis.

 

      The schedule softens for a bit after this Raiders game, so a loss now would 

not be the absolute killer it might have been before the Broncos fell twice in 

11 days, but a loss would do this. It would raise the specter that NO stretch 

of the schedule is soft because the Chiefs just aren't that good.

 

     I'm certainly not ready to say that yet, but one more road stinker would 

certainly have me thinking about it.  

White House Visit Wraps Title Feeling

Jul 21, 2016 -- 6:09pm

By Danny Clinkscale

  It is perhaps fitting that the Royals were honored at the White House today. Because in many ways it feels like it perhaps marked the unofficial

end to the Royals being champions.

     The Royals actually will be champions until the final pitch of the World Series, but yesterday's clubbing at the hands of the presumptive 2016 Central Division 

Champion Indians sent the Royals back to the .500 mark, nine games back of Cleveland. They are also 7th in the battle for two Wild card spots six games out 

of the second slot.

     The last time that the Royals visited the White House, they did it under entirely different circumstances. They did it just a short time after they won the World Seriestitle. That was a good thing. If they had followed this years template, they would have been in a similar predicament, in fact worse. The 1986 Royals were seven games out, on their way to a 76-86 finish, in a season in which they were never in contention.

     So in the second time that the Royals have defended a title, it has gone just a bit better than the first. Well, sort of. By run differential, the Royals have exceeded their expected record of 43-51 by four games. It shows the strength of this team, their ability to carve out unexpected wins. Even while struggling most of the year, they have still sprinkled in a few wildly dramatic wins. They still have that in them.

     But too many things have gone wrong. For the context of this season alone contracts for Omar Infante, Chris Young, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Alex Gordon, and Joaquim Soria have all been bad ones. There have been significant injuries. Moustakus for the year, Medlen most of it, Gordon for a month, Cain for who knows how long. For whatever reason the long ball is back with a vengeance in 2016, and that certainly doesn't fit in with what the Royals do.

     There is no shame in this. Baseball's postseason is the hardest to reach in the major sports, and the Royals could get it going pretty good from this point forward and still not make it. People point to 2014 when the Royals dropped below .500 after this date and still made the Wild Card. A couple things on that. First it took .641 ball the rest of the way to get to 89 wins, and second, that is the only time that win total has made the A.L. wild card in the four years since it expanded to two teams 

     The Royals made consecutive World Series and won a title. That's strong stuff, especially the repeating as league champions. A three-peat was always going to be a big ask. It's been said many times, and anyone who listens to me talk baseball on the radio no doubt is sick of hearing that the Giants won three World Series titles in six years, and each time missed the playoffs the following season. Each time they bounced back and have the look of a team that just might do it again.

     Of course the Royals still have time to change this narrative, but they will have to turn many things on their heads to do it. They have been the team of the improbable,and if we see them playing postseason baseball in 2016, they will have been the team of the very, very improbable.

 

All in All, Royals Fans Should Be Smiling

Jun 07, 2016 -- 11:08am

By Danny Clinkscale

    The tenor of this blog might be a surprise to some. I think that Royals fans should be pretty happy right now. That's right, happy.
 
     No, you're not happy when you are on a winless road trip. Not happy to have had some very major setbacks due to injury. Not happy
that your starting pitching is among the worst in baseball, and on the road is calamitous. I could tick off a few more serious 
problems with the Royals as well.
 
     What should brings some happiness into the cloudy skies in Royals land are two simple numbers. 30-27. That's the Royals record,
a record in my mind that they have no business toting around.That record has outperformed the dreaded run differential (dreaded 
by many fans when I bring it up), which would have the Royals expected record flip-flopped at 27-30. The record is also in my mind clearly 
better than the overall quality of play with the basic eye test.
 
     I think the Royals miserable road record of 11-19 is a real reflection of that play. There is a perception that the Royals are a product of their 
home park, the K seen being perfect for their style of play with it's spacious outfield and frenetic fans fueling "frenzied hitting" and aggressive
play. The reality is that the two World Series teams for the Royals went a very nice 93-69 at Kauffman Stadium, but an even more impressive
91-71 on the road. Their style of play when clicking travels.
 
     I DO believe that the K has become an even tougher places for opponents, and that has propped up this year's edition of the team. Just think where the 
Royals would be without the American League's best home record, jazzed up by flat out stealing three games against the White Sox on the last homestand.
 
     Royals fans have every right to expect that better play is coming. The starting  pitching couldn't get worse. Kendrys Morales couldn't get worse. The defense 
is already starting to click back in. There is every reason to believe that Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain's play the past month can continue, and the bullpen has been 
great for so long it is a given.
 
     There are the concerns of too many callups having to carry the load, and while  the starting pitching couldn't get worse, it might also be what it is. But the Royals
showed last year they will be active in the trade market, and they have showed the last two years that they are World Series caliber. They have more bullets
in the chamber, and despite all their issues they are far from buried because..
 
     They are 30-27. Smiles everybody.
 

KU Fans Have to Wait For Arizona

Mar 31, 2016 -- 11:25pm

By Danny Clinkscale

 

   I am here in Houston at the Final Four, and on the flight down from Kansas City, there were more than just a few
fans who were sporting Kansas gear. No doubt they felt, and perhaps rightly so, that this was a season that warranted
some pre-planning for a trip to see their club try and grab a national title. Frankly, with the crowds at the first two weekends
of play, which to my eye were smaller than usual in KU backers, I think a lot of fans were saving their time and money for the
biggest weekend.

     But that was not to be the case. For the fourth time in six bids to make the Final Four at the regional final under Bill
Self, Kansas lost. I have always maintained that an Elite Eight season cannot be viewed as a disappointment. You have won
three games, and you are playing a team that has done the same. They are either a high seed like Villanova that has played
to that high seed, or a VCU-type that has beaten excellent competition and is fine form. But this is certainly more of a
disappointment than most.

     It was a season was that was widely viewed as bereft of great teams, but the best of that bunch was KU as the overall
number one seed, and a team that had won 17 in a row entering the matchup with 'Nova. But the Wildcats played tough,
and did the rarest of things, they completely took Perry Ellis away, as he sadly ended his career with easily his worst game
of the season.

     The takeaway from this is to view the overall performance of Kansas in the tournament under Bill Self. Numbers are
numbers, and KU has generally played about one game below their seed on average. It's difficult to play to your seed
when you are a one seed or a two seed, but you always have to wear it. People probably get tired of me using this stat,
but it's true. Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky and North Carolina all basically have averaged at least one Final Four every three
years during their coaches tenure. Now Bill Self is below one every six years. That's one reason this year was so big.
Three Final Fours in thirteen years would have been creeping closer to the company you want to keep.

    We all know that the tournament is given too much of the grade for each teams season, but that's the way it is. The Program
did an informal poll of whose season was better right at this moment, KU or Oklahoma. The result was not particularly close, and 'the selection
was Oklahoma. Frankly, I probably would disagree, but I get it. I feel like two head-to-head wins, the league and post season
tournament title and an Elite Eight is better than OU advancing one more round.

     Houston is not the greatest place to have the Final Four, but Kansas fans would have been delighted to come to this Texas
town which really doesn't care that much about college basketball. They will have to wait 'til next year and hope that they
could serve themselves a combo platter of the last week of spring training for the Royals, and a visit by the Jayhawks to
college basketball's biggest party......because the Final Four pops up in Glendale, Arizona.

Royals Getting Roar of Media

Feb 21, 2016 -- 10:02am

By Danny Clinkscale

   I sit overlooking the Surprise Stadium field on a cool morning as the 

Royals start official workouts. All is quiet at my location, but quiet is not 

the watchword for the Kansas City Royals at spring training, and that is 

a good thing.

     Ned Yost held his first regular daily press conference before the days

workout, and there were at least 30 members of the media gathered

around him. I can clearly recall times a couple of years back when there 

would be no more than five of us. But of course he is now the manager of the 

World Series champions.

     He is also a manager with a contract extension through 2018, joining his 

direct superior Dayton Moore with lengthened contract security, although

how lengthy Dayton's deal is has not been revealed.  Yost had previously 

often intimated that the clock was ticking on the time that he might want 

to manage. But managing a plug and play World Series title team is 

too much fun to walk away from.

     ESPN will go full scale Royals twice in the first five days of camp. The days 

of Royals fans trying to play the East Coast Bias card are gone, at least for the 

moment. The Royals have been a noisy team as they have ascended to the 

top of the baseball world, and now there is matching noise all around them.

     The are training at a complex that just got a $23 million facelift,

courtesy of the city of Surprise, the clubhouse having about tripled in size,

as one of a large group of outsized improvements befitting their new 

station in life.

     The big question now is will all of these factor take a bit of the edge away from 

this edgy bunch, who used that to fuel them past the expectations of all 

of the analytical people. They are being done a favor by those same folks 

running out many of the same projections of a .500 or lower season, and 

no playoff appearance. They say the right things and laugh it off, but you 

have to think it will stoke the fire, at least a bit.

     The Royals have had good health, and they have had their share of breaks.

But the reality is that they are good, but in a different way than people 

expect you to be able to use to win. They also have had an almost uncanny run

of good decision making, and even when some decisions are rightly questioned,

they all work out anyway.

     There lies out there the thought, or maybe fear, that all of this remarkable

work has to hit a speedbump at some point.  But then again maybe this 

is just what the Royals have become. Just enough starting pitching, electrifying 

bullpen work, scintillating defense,  and improving offense. Then of 

course you toss in their noisy brashness. We'll find out soon whether they 

continue to roar.

No Dog Days in February for Kansas

Feb 02, 2016 -- 7:22pm

By Danny Clinkscale

We have reached the halfway point in conference college basketball, and there
are three definitive levels for our three power five conference teams.
     
     The first level is held by Kansas as it usually is, but that top level among the
three does not add up to their usual spot at the top of the Big 12. After Texas beat
Baylor last night to start the second half of the league season, at the moment Kansas is
in a tie for fifth in the league. Of course it is also true that they are only one game
out of first in the tightly bunched top of the league.

     Two overtime wins on their home court have separated the Jayhawks play being
of minor concern to their fans from there being widespread panic. Kansas pulled out thrillers
against Oklahoma in three overtimes and Kentucky in OT in their last outing. If they
hadn't they would be sitting at 15-6, and while KU's pedigree might still have
them in the top 25, there is currently no ranked team with six losses.

     Kansas has been wildly inconsistent, and generally just plain shaky on the road, but
they have also show the stretches of brilliance that gives some optimism that that there
could still be special things in store in this season. Wayne Selden continues to somewhat
reflect the fortunes of his team, by being sometimes brilliant, sometimes invisible. In league
play Selden has five games of 11 or less, and three of 19 or more. His virtuoso turn
against Kentucky basically won the game for KU, and it shows what can happen when
he turns it up.

     But Kansas also struggled with size of the opposition, and also generally plays games
against top opponents where the best guard on the floor is wearing the other teams uniform.
Those two combined are the yang to the yin we see on the positive side for the hard to
gauge Jayhawks.

     Kansas State might well have played closer to their ceiling than KU and they sit at
2-6 in league play. Two tough OT losses to ranked conference teams have submarined
a solid league performance after a strong non conference showing. The 'Cats were
generally thought to be a team that would struggle mightily after almost completely
turning over their roster, but solid performances from three freshman give more hope
than might have been anticipated.

     That hasn't added up to conference wins though, and although the execution and effort
have been there, the talent level still needs an influx in the next off-season. You are swimming
upstream when you have to work around 27 percent three point shooting, but after this weeks
terror train of at Kansas and Oklahoma, the schedule eases for the last six games, and
bagging at least a few wins would do wonders for confidence.

     There just isn't any at Missouri, and Saturday's blowout loss at home against fellow cellar
dweller Mississippi State has to be hoped to be the bottoming out.  Besides all of the
off the court issues that swirl around and certainly can be used as some defense of
coach Kim Anderson, on the court there has been little to hang your hat on. Missouri
has been a poor shooting, rebounding, and ball handling team.

     There has been pretty good play from a couple freshman, but there is a whole lot needed
to be added. It is not the games against strong squads that cause the consternation, but
really efforts like the Mississippi State games against fellow strugglers that makes
it hard to see where the good news is going to come from.

     The self-imposed sanctions probably bought, and probably rightfully so, Kim Anderson
more time, and just about anyone who has ever crossed paths with the classy coach
is rooting for progress. But that is probably going to have be judged in things besides
victories.

     February is often cited as the dog days of college hoops. That has always been relative
at Kansas, but the February games will have more intrigue as the Jayhawks try and rally for
a 12th straight league title. For K-State and Missouri, the likelihood that playing out the
string will be more the reality seems strong. We'll see.
 


We have reached the halfway point in conference college basketball, and there
are three definitive levels for our three power five conference teams.
     
     The first level is held by Kansas as it usually is, but that top level among the
three does not add up to their usual spot at the top of the Big 12. After Texas beat
Baylor last night to start the second half of the league season, at the moment Kansas is
in a tie for fifth in the league. Of course it is also true that they are only one game
out of first in the tightly bunched top of the league.

     Two overtime wins on their home court have separated the Jayhawks play being
of minor concern to their fans from there being widespread panic. Kansas pulled out thrillers
against Oklahoma in three overtimes and Kentucky in OT in their last outing. If they
hadn't they would be sitting at 15-6, and while KU's pedigree might still have
them in the top 25, there is currently no ranked team with six losses.

     Kansas has been wildly inconsistent, and generally just plain shaky on the road, but
they have also show the stretches of brilliance that gives some optimism that that there
could still be special things in store in this season. Wayne Selden continues to somewhat
reflect the fortunes of his team, by being sometimes brilliant, sometimes invisible. In league
play Selden has five games of 11 or less, and three of 19 or more. His virtuoso turn
against Kentucky basically won the game for KU, and it shows what can happen when
he turns it up.

     But Kansas also struggled with size of the opposition, and also generally plays games
against top opponents where the best guard on the floor is wearing the other teams uniform.
Those two combined are the yang to the yin we see on the positive side for the hard to
gauge Jayhawks.

     Kansas State might well have played closer to their ceiling than KU and they sit at
2-6 in league play. Two tough OT losses to ranked conference teams have submarined
a solid league performance after a strong non conference showing. The 'Cats were
generally thought to be a team that would struggle mightily after almost completely
turning over their roster, but solid performances from three freshman give more hope
than might have been anticipated.

     That hasn't added up to conference wins though, and although the execution and effort
have been there, the talent level still needs an influx in the next off-season. You are swimming
upstream when you have to work around 27 percent three point shooting, but after this weeks
terror train of at Kansas and Oklahoma, the schedule eases for the last six games, and
bagging at least a few wins would do wonders for confidence.

     There just isn't any at Missouri, and Saturday's blowout loss at home against fellow cellar
dweller Mississippi State has to be hoped to be the bottoming out.  Besides all of the
off the court issues that swirl around and certainly can be used as some defense of
coach Kim Anderson, on the court there has been little to hang your hat on. Missouri
has been a poor shooting, rebounding, and ball handling team.

     There has been pretty good play from a couple freshman, but there is a whole lot needed
to be added. It is not the games against strong squads that cause the consternation, but
really efforts like the Mississippi State games against fellow strugglers that makes
it hard to see where the good news is going to come from.

     The self-imposed sanctions probably bought, and probably rightfully so, Kim Anderson
more time, and just about anyone who has ever crossed paths with the classy coach
is rooting for progress. But that is probably going to have be judged in things besides
victories.

     February is often cited as the dog days of college hoops. That has always been relative
at Kansas, but the February games will have more intrigue as the Jayhawks try and rally for
a 12th straight league title. For K-State and Missouri, the likelihood that playing out the
string will be more the reality seems strong. We'll see.
 

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