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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.
 

More Meaningless Baseball For KC is Good

Aug 31, 2015 -- 10:16pm

By Danny Clinkscale

 For years Kansas City Royals yearned for meaningful September baseball. We finally got that last year, right down to the last day of the season. But in year two of the Royals return to glory, the Royals  2015 excellence means that when September 1st comes tomorrow, we return to meaningless September baseball...of the most glorious kind.

     No, there won't be fingernail biting tension of a big series with the Tigers or Indians. Actually the month begins with a series with the Tigers, with the four time defending champions spiralling towards last place. So like all of the rest of the games until October 4th, the Royals will provide entertainment and evaluate their roster with the only important thing on their minds October 8th and the American League Division Series.

     With the Toronto Blue Jays rampaging along having won 24 of 29 games in the last month, we could have had some drama for best record in the American League, but the Royals refused to cool off themselves, going 19-11 to make sure that Toronto is still six games back with just 32 to go. So again rendering the remainder of the regular season a virtual dress rehearsal.

     For some it's important. Ned Yost has announced that Ben Zobrist will replace Omar Infante when Alex Gordon returns, but Infante has been given a stay of execution with Rios currently sick. Bad timing for Rios, who had finally started to hit. But the pitching side is where the real decisions are to be made. Good news has come in the form of Yordano Ventura's blistering performance the past four starts, seemingly cementing him a spot in the rotation along with Jonny Cueto and Edinson Volquez. There is a bit of mystery in the fourth spot, seemingly a coin flip currently.

     The bullpen actually provides a little controversy, something there has been precious little of in 2015, especially since the series of dustups early in the season. Greg Holland has been shaky, mediocre, and has had a cranky arm for months now, while Wade Davis has been almost numbingly brilliant. Yet currently Holland is the closer. The Royals have shown great improvement in choosing performance over loyalty in the past year. Here's hoping this works again in this case.

     So at least we are down to five weeks before the real excitement begins. For now Royals game are kind of like a hit Broadway show when they are at home, and your favorite TV show when they are on the road. You get entertained, there is no real downside, and most of the time smiles and laughs are provided in large doses. Save your fingernails, your lucky Royals bobblehead, and your alarm clock for those October nights......when the real fun begins. 

        

Mailbag: Groundhog Day in Big 12

Feb 04, 2015 -- 11:27am

By Danny Clinkscale

Taking a cue from Soren Petro...todays blog consists of an email sent to a KU fan complaining about our discussion about the Kansas streak of 10 (probably 11 now) straight league titles....

Here is how I responded.......

 

Clearly you like to cherry pick things to come up with some pathetic "we get no respect" statement.

 

Over and over, from guests to hosts, we have hailed the remarkable consistency of K.U. and how amazing the streak is...also pointing to the fact that even other top dog programs like Kentucky, Florida, Ohio State, UCLA, Syracuse and more actually miss the tournament, let alone win their league. And Kansas has the best NCAA streak (25) by six years.

 

That doesn't change the fact that no other top league has this happen. In the same span, the Big 10 has had 7 teams win or share the title, 5 different schools winning outright.....ACC 6 and 5....Previous Big East..9 and 5....SEC 4 and 4...Pac 12...5 and 5. All of those conferences have had multiple Final Four appearances in the span.....but in the run for KU, only KU has made the Final Four from the Big 12.

 

Kansas has proved out of conference and in the tournament that they are consistently excellent, and nobody is arguing that, but it's just factual to point out that it is virtually certain that Kansas would not have come close to 10 titles in another league. 

 

This discussion is never really about Kansas, it's about the others. Inevitability is wonderful for KU, but is not exciting competitively. I hope Kansas wins 20 in a row, but  it will carry more weight if the next ten come against opposition that is consistently excellent. That clearly has not been the case.​ Texas gave it a go for a few years, and maybe now Iowa State gives it a run. But for now it's Groundhog Day in the Big 12.

Special October Memories

Nov 04, 2014 -- 1:57pm

By Danny Clinkscale

For a whole lot of America, and here in Kansas City, the Royals Cinderella run to the seventh game of the World Series was the greatest story you can imagine. But unfortunately, if you look at it without Royal Blue glasses, it was clearly the October of Madison Bumgarner. As I look back on a wildly crazy month, of 14-18 hour work days (about the best work days you can imagine), I'll give you a little baseball, a little behind the scenes, and maybe something you would never imagine would be memorable.

 
     Clearly Mad Bum is probably about as popular as Mad Cow here in Kansas City, but  he was perhaps the most dominating figure I have ever watched in person in my entire  lengthy career. In October he was clearly Ruthian, Jordanesque, Orr-like, in his transedence  of a team sport where this is not supposed to happen. While Royals fans were not paying much attention, and really, they didn't need to, Bumgarner was throwing a shutout in the Wild Card game, actually lost a game to Washington while pitching well, and then pitched brilliantly in two Giants wins over the Cardinals.
 
     So we kind of should have been ready, but really could you be ready for 21 innings, 9 hits, 1 measly run, 1 walk and 17 strikeouts???????? And the last five of those innings on two 'days rest. At one point in the final game, a shot of the dugout showed Bumgarner in the dugout yawning.....seemingly like the best kid at the playground about 5 o'clock saying "Y'all really wanna keep on tryin' to hit me, or you want to go home and grab some dinner, cuz I'll stay and get you out, but......really, now". The final game was awe inspiring, although for us it was spelled "awww".
 
     Besides that otherworldly performance, and the joy that the Royals team gave the great fans of Kansas City who deserved it so much, I have an unusual memory from this whole month that will for sure stay with me.....Phyllis. That's all I know her as, an elderly, white haired woman
from New York. She was the lady that you heard running all of the American League press conferences, running them with a firm, perhaps stern, but always professional demeanor. I don't know this, but I imagine she has been doing this for 30 years or more. She had no concept
whatsoever of the technology we were using, or at least trying to, and was really a person from a different time, but I actually grew to like her.
 
     Which was strange, since we couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. At the first press day I covered in Baltimore, the media session was to be on the suite level at Camden Yards, It was a huge level with about five restaurant areas. But Phyllis wouldn't let us up there. I just wanted
to work a bit and have my lunch in a room far away, but she actually hunted me down and kicked me out of there. Of course I didn't know she was PHYLLIS, American League press honcho, I thought she was just some old lady running the suites with a silly iron fist. I was pissed and she knew it.
    
     Then the first actual press conference came, and there was Phyllis, running the show in her strong New York accent. I went up and told her afterwards that I didn't want to get off to a bad start. She acted as if nothing had happened, and said "No bad start....and you asked a very professional question...professionally". Quite a few of the media folks weren't real fond of Phyllis, but I guess I got her more than others. She soldiered through some sickness in San Francisco, and I was genuinely happy that on the return to Kansas City she looked healthy and vibrant.
 
     Her National League cohort joined us for the World Series. I think her name was Kaye. She was even more unique, although we never struck up a relationahip. Also an older lady, she wore a different hat every day, and her demeanor was kind of like what you might imagine the Diane Keaton characters in Woody Allen movies would be like thirty years later. When recognizing you for a question, you had no idea what
was going on. She shook her head in a combination of ways that said "Yes, you are next....no you are not... or....no chance in hell".
 
     You do remember different things than just ballgames and score and stats when you do this. But you also never forget what a ride like the Royals took us on could do for a city. I truly was uplifted for the long-suffering Royals rooters, who not only got wins, they got epic stories day after day after day. And so did I, and as you can tell, they weren't all on the field.
 
     You treasure these things. I don't know if the Royals will have this happen again, I don't know if I'll see anything like Mad Bum again, I don't know if I'll ever see Phyllis again. But I did in a very special October 2014.
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