3 Up, 3 Down from Spring Training
The attitude is upbeat and confident in the clubhouse from what I witnessed this week. Players stick up for each other, they joke, they rib. Also, they do it clubhouse wide. Latin players and American born players mingle which isn’t always the case. This seems to stem from two of the team’s stars Eric Hosmer and Sal Perez who are good friends.
After years of trying to figure out who was going to be good enough to fill the final 3 or r roster spots the Royals now have to figure out which good player they have to cut. While tough to decide, this is a good problem to have as its better to have 26 or 27 good players for a 25 man roster than to only have 23.
While Omar Infante and Nori Aoki will never be confused with Jeff Kent and Vlad Guerrero they are major upgrades from years past. Gone are Frenchy and Getzy and also alleviated is the frustration they brought to Royals fans each time this year.
As stated above, the Royals offseason moves provided some good offensive help but little power. Without adding a big bat the Royals have again put their hopes on improvement from Hosmer and Moose and a bounce back season from Butler.
In the week we were here Ned had his normal testy moments. There will always be questions surrounding the manager…especially one that has been fired before. There is really only one way for Ned to answer those questions and start to eliminate them…continue to win games.
This may be more appropriately titled 2nd starter. Chen is a great 5. Guthrie and Vargas are good 3’s or 4’s. The Royals need someone to step up and be a good starter right behind Shields. We know that’s not Hocehvar or Davis. The Royals need Ventura or Duffy to win the job and break out in a major way.
For the next few weeks all eyes will be on Sochi and the XXII Winter Olympics. The Olympics are always a polarizing event. Some love the stories and watching events that aren’t on TV every week. Others dislike the unfamiliarity and the human element of judging that takes place in many events.
This year the games in Russia are being viewed with an even more scrutiny. People are waiting for every mistake to happen…every misstep…every glitch and God forbid worse. The games viewed by those who go into the week looking for the good will find it. Those who dislike the games will find much to mock. How we truly judge these games will be the reaction of the middle…a middle that I think will leave the next few weeks wondering why they decided to have the games in Sochi.
It’s not a blockbuster college hoops weekend without any marquee names playing the local 3 but still some intriguing games on tap. The best game is probably in Manhattan where the Cats host Texas. Texas is the hottest team in the league and the Wildcats need to avenge the loss in Austin. They also need to make sure they don’t start slipping into a danger zone when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Protecting home floor is key.
KU hosts West Virginia. Like Texas, the Mountaineers have been better than expected over the last few weeks. However, this game is at Allen Fieldhouse so we all know how it will turn out. Missouri travels to Ole Miss in maybe their last chance to get an impressive win. The Tigers have played well over the last 3 games with a road win at Arkansas followed by two good games where they fell short to elite teams. Without stealing one from Kentucky or Florida Missouri now has to win all or almost all of their remaining games. If they give the same effort they showed against Kentucky and Florida Missouri should win this one. Expecting that from the Tigers though is dangerous. They need to play like a desperate team.
The Chiefs don’t have a QB like Peyton Manning so many fans were likely hopeful when they saw a defense first team win the Super Bowl. Before that recipe is embraced and demanded people need to realize just how good that Seahawks defense is. They go relatively unnoticed being in the NFC and playing on the west coast, but this is one of the best defenses of all time. Replicating what they did is going to be almost as hard as getting Alex Smith to play like Peyton Manning. Omaha.
Football’s version of the Final Four takes place this weekend and it matches up what are the consensus 4 best teams in the league this season. That didn’t look like it would be the case early in the year when the 49ers were struggling, but health and an improved Colin Kaepernick has them looking like the Super Bowl contenders they were a year ago.
It’s too easy…and based on history probably foolish to take both number one seeds to reach the Super Bowl. It hasn’t happened since ’09 and before that the last time it happened was 1993. But, as evident in our program picks, I don’t always make the smartest picks. So I will take Denver and Seattle to advance.
A lot has been made of how the Broncos will get by after starting corner Chris Harris was hurt. I guess we’ve all forgotten how many the injuries the Patriots have suffered on defense and they have to contend with maybe the best offense of all time. The weather is supposed to be nice and I think the Denver weapons win out in a high scoring game. Broncos 38-Patriots 31.
The opposite is expected in Seattle where most figure these tough division rivals will beat each other up in a low scoring game. Most prognosticators are riding the wave of the 49ers momentum and are picking the upset. Too often when doing this we ignore the team that has been most consistent throughout the year because they haven’t surprised us with a turnaround. I think that’s the case here. I think Seattle has the better defense and the better running game which in a hard hitting affair should win out. Seahawks 20-49ers 16.
I’ve managed to go this far without having to mention the Missouri Tigers and their disappointing 1-2 start in SEC play. I will continue to not mention them. Instead I will make picks.
Mizzou over Alabama in a squeaker. I think Alabama will give them all they can handle but Mizzou has to come out with its back against the wall.
K State over West Virginia. Bruce Weber is 10-1 in conference play at Bramlage. It continues.
Kansas over Oklahoma State. They have a few days to prepare and 16-thousand at Allen. Conference race over.
It’s tough not to overreact to the last thing we’ve seen. See any polls of the greatest anything of all time and they are littered with Johnny Come Lateltys. Similarly, people are taking vast leaps based on Oklahoma’s domination of Alabama.
Lots of people are saying that this proves the SEC is overrated and not far and away the best conference in the country. There are a few problems with that. Firsts, they are 5-2 in bowl games overall. That’s best among conference except for a perfect 1-0 out of the Sun Belt (way to go Louisiana Lafayette). So does one game outweigh the other 6?
Another problem with the one game is all that matters concept is how then do you compare what happened to Baylor against UCF just a night before. Doesn’t that loss by the Big 12 Conference Champ look just as bad as what Alabama did against OU?
Tonight MU plays OSU and whichever side wins their fans will no doubt claim conference superiority and more. This will also be about whether or not Mizzou made the right move leaving the Big 12. Barbs will be thrown around one direction or another and neither with much merit.
20 years. A long time. 2 decades. 5 presidential terms. 10 olympiads. One score (according to Lincoln). Its time for the Chiefs to erase 20 and replace it with 0. The opportunity is there for the Chiefs to win their first playoff game since 1994 when they travel to Indy tomorrow. Sure they lost by 16 just 2 weeks ago at home to the same team. But, they also lost the tournover battle 4-0. That number could easily turn into a 35-7 0r 42-7 type score.
The Chiefs have been a team that takes care of the ball and wins the turnover battle. It shouldn’t be surprising if they eliminate that turnover ratio. If that occurs, the game is simply a coin flip. In my opinion it comes down to who makes the big play…the Chiefs rushing attack or the Colts passing game. In the end I think it’s the Chiefs that come out on top.
The Chiefs and Broncos are getting ready to square off for the biggest game round these parts since the Ravens playoff game. A lot of analysis has been spent on the Broncos offense and the Chiefs defense and which can make the game “their style.” Can the Broncos score at least their low of 28? Can the Chiefs at least match giving up their season worst 17?
To me this game doesn’t come down to 17 or 28. I think the numbers that will matter in this one are 7 and 3. The team that maximizes their own opportunities and limits the opponents is the team that should win this game.
The Broncos score touchdowns 80 percent of the time they get into the redzone….the best in the league. The Chiefs on the other hand give up a TD in just 23 percent of red zone trips…by far the best in the league as well. If you were to simply slit those in half the number is 51.5 percent.
When the ball goes over to the Chiefs they score touchdowns 48 percent of the time they make the redzone…good for 26th. On defense, the Broncos are 23rd in the league giving up TD’s 60 percent of the time. Again, splitting the difference the Chiefs figure to score TD’s 54 percent of redzone trips. By those numbers the Chiefs figure to actually score TD’s more often than the Broncos when they get into the red zone…by just a few percentage points.
The key then may be how often they can get there. The Broncos average 4.3 trips into the red zone per game…best in the NFL. The Chiefs are 13th getting into the red zone 3.2 times per game. The Chiefs are either going to have to find a way to get into the red zone more…or make sure they up their percentage of TD’s when they get there. I think the latter is the better option.
Similarly I think it’s unrealistic to expect to shut down the Broncos off sense. I think the more likely scenario for success is to try to keep the Broncos to 3’s instead of 7’s. When watching the game Sunday don’t freak out when the Broncos move the ball. Just pay attention to when the teams get inside the 20. The team that wins is likely to be the team that gets 7s and not 3s.
By Doug Stewart
It was a wild weekend for fans in the state of Missouri….the Tigers and Chiefs were trying to stay undefeated, and on the other side of the state the Cardinals were hosting three World Series games. For one fan, Saturday night was full of ups and downs.
All times approximate as watching my watch wasn’t at the top of the list of to do’s.
4 pm - Arrive outside of Busch Stadium - UP
6:20 – Maty Mauk throws an interception to South Carolina - DOWN
6:30 – The Mizzou defense bails him out allowing no points to score - UP
6:50 – Tickets work, inside Busch now - UP
6:55 – Nachos, Grilled Cheese and two souvenir beers in hand - UP
6:56 – $42.00 bill arrives - DOWN
7:07 – First pitch – UP
7:20 – Cards take early lead – UP
9ish – Cards load the bases with no out – UP
9:10 – Strikeout, pop up, pop up – DOWN, DOWN, DOWN
9:15 - Red Sox get a run back – DOWN
9:30 – Red Sox tie the game – DOWN
9:50 – Get word that Missouri leads 17-7 in the 4th – UP
9:55 – Cards get two and the lead back in the 7th – WAY UP
10:00 – MU Tied heading to overtime - DOWN
10:05 – Red Sox score 2 to tie in the 8th – DOWN and falling fast
10:10 – Word that Mizzou misses FG and loses – NEAR COLLAPSE
10:30 – Allen Craig doubles to give Cards 2nd and 3rd with one out – RECOVERING
10:32 – Molina thrown out at the plate – DOWN
10:32:02 – Throw to third gets away – UP
10:32:06 Craig appears out at the plate – DOWN
10:32:08 Fireworks go off because the Cardinals won somehow – UP UP and AWAY
Since that moment…for the Cards fan it’s been all down. But what a wild ride those four hours were on one Saturday night.