TJ talks about the Royals situation with James Shields and brings on Kevin Kietzman and Todd Leabo live from Spring Training.
TJ talks about Gary Pinkel getting a well deserved contract extension as well as the "boring" problem baseball has right now.
TJ talks with NBA Insider and Truhoop blogger Kevin Arnovitz about advanced analytics as well as KU's prospects in the upcoming NBA draft. Also, it was senior night at Allen Fieldhouse and KU won in typical dominating fashion. Mizzou? They squeaked by a lowly Texas A&M team, keeping their tournament hopes alive.
Expectations are a funny thing. Sometimes it says more about the people who have them than the ones being held to them. When people talk about the expectations at programs like Kansas basketball or Alabama football, usually they are talking about the fans, not the coaches. Those coaches are lauded for their brilliance and those fans are seldom called out for being crazy. Those fans have incredibly high expectations which are most often met because the coaches hired at those programs have backing and commitment from the university and its largest boosters. The reason I like crazy expectations is because they create and attract experienced, battle-hardened coaches who are capable of meeting them. And if they don't - off with their head!
Frank Haith, the bell tolls for thee!
Let's be clear, program expectations have absolutely nothing to do with reality or fairness. While seasonal expectations are based on things like facts, PROGRAM expectations are not time-sensitive and are not bound by logic or reason. They simply ARE. Thats one of the biggest misconceptions about sports. While NFL and NBA franchises are expected to succeed immediately and at all times by their fans and we dont see anything wrong with that. Roughly a third of all coaches in the NFL are fired EVERY SEASON. No one bats an eye. But in major college athletics somehow fans are expected to be reasonable in what limitations their program is perceived to possess and adjust their craziness accordingly.
That is just plain dumb.
HEY! FANS, DONT EVEN BOTHER GOING TO GAMES BECAUSE YOUR PROGRAM IS SECOND RATE AND ALWAYS WILL BE YOU MAY AS WELL NOT EVEN PLAY THE GAMES YOU HALF-BREEDS!
You think your basketball program should be held to a higher standard? IDIOT, WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT? YOURE NOT KANSAS!
It is dimwitted and myopic to think your program cant be every bit as elite as someone elses. Missouri Tigers fans seem to have a constant tug of war between unrealistic expectations and cynical helplessness. And in the middle is a rope held together with factoids that weave their way into every argument about where the basketball program is headed and where it should be.
Facts like, Frank Haith and Bill Self have near identical records in their first three years at Missouri and Kansas respectively. While that may be true, it does not follow that Frank Haith will go on to have Bill Selfs level of success at Missouri. But the fact is used to say, Frank Haith should be given time.
Time to do what? His philosophy on recruiting as it has been currently applied at Missouri isnt sustainable. Frank Haith has replenished the ranks at Missouri with a slew of transfers so as to avoid a major drop off in wins. The argument that Haith just needs time to build something only makes sense if hes ACTUALLY building something. But he isnt.What Frank Haith is doing is the basketball equivalent of a college kid going out and getting hammered drunk getting up the next morning, chugging a gatorade and a five hour energy and going to take a test and then going back out for another bender again that night FOR THREE YEARS!
Transfers can help you from time to time. But it isnt a sustainable model. You go out on a bender every night, your body will eventually crash, no matter how many five hour energies you drink. You try to sustain success at a major college basketball program with transfers every season, eventually you will crash Haith is headed for a bad fall. You know it. I know it. Mike Alden knows it.
If you believe Haith should be fired, you arent crazy or unreasonable, you arent impatient or unrealistic, youre a fan that wants your program to be better. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and no reason it is unattainable. Gregg Marshall will be a hot name, hire him? Think you cant, Mizzou? How about a blank check and total control of the program? THATS CRAZY, TJ!
Is it? Success comes at a price. And all great coaches are compensated well. Oddly enough, coaches like Bill Self and Nick Saban are actually underpaid. Paying for greatness is costly in the beginning. The other alternative is to take a shot in the dark on an unknown and hope you get lucky.
Sports is about minimizing risk. But sometimes that takes a LOT of money. The question is, do you have it and are you willing to spend it? If the answer is yes, crazy turns into brilliant in a matter of a couple seasons, and risk becomes a matter of definition.
Haith is pedestrian. He isnt crazy, isnt brilliant, he isnt terrible, but he isnt great. Hes a guy who can draw up a nice play, hes SAFE. But has no business building a program. At least not one fans will be proud of, one enemies will envy. Or are you too afraid to fire Haith, because the task of finding the right guy, is too daunting?
You know who would fire Frank Haith? Kansas. North Carolina. Duke. Why wouldnt Missouri? Because they arent good enough to want better? Everyone is good enough to want better. But youll never attain it unless youre willing to to be a little crazy.
Faith in Haith? Why not faith in fan? Mizzou needs to act a little crazy, it would do them a world of good.
In sports almost every team anyone roots for can be put into one of two categories, and the category a person puts that team in will often say everything you need to know about that team.
In sports some teams are trusted, others are hoped for.
It says everything about a team. Take Kansas Basketball for example. Kansas Basketball fans have near blind trust in their program. Justifiably so, fans in my lifetime have been given the longest active NCAA tournament selection streak in basketball, two National Titles, eight Final Fours and in particular, Bill Self is nearing a 10th* consecutive Big 12 Title. The trust has been EARNED.
On the other hand, look at the Royals. Theyve been mired in subpar baseball for nearly three decades. One winning season has fans BEGGING to believe in the teams ability to make the playoffs, but thats just the point: fans WANT to believe, that doesnt mean they do. Fans hope the team will be good, they dont trust. The source has given them too much to be skeptical of to trust the team has turned the corner. You can hope all you want Mike Moustakas wont be an offensive black hole this season. You can hope Jason Vargas is every bit as good as Ervin Santana a season ago. You can hope the offense will be able to make up (and then some) the production and wins the best ERA in the American League and three Gold Glove fielders provided last year. BUT YOU CANT TRUST.
Kansas fans write in Ws against every opponent. TCU? WIN. West Virginia? WIN. Villanova? WIN. Even when Kansas loses, fans still trust the source so implicitly their trust in the team never wavers. The Royals? Royals fans are a mess of insecurity and skepticism because 27 years of baseball have conditioned them to be. That doesnt mean you arent a fan, or that you dont want the team to win. ALL fans, no matter how bad their team is WANT WINS. But the level of expectations is set by the track record of ownership, management, coaching and ultimately production on the field.
I can hear you now though, But TJ! The Royals are a professional franchise in a different sport at a higher level! How can you compare the two? Actually, Major League Baseball and College Basketball are far more similar than people realize. The lack of a salary cap in the MLB creates a talent acquisition model much closer to college athletics than you may realize. But that isnt really the point. The point is this - smart, innovative people get results.
Robb Heineman, CEO of Sporting KC, is a perfect example. When Heineman took over the KC Wiz it was a franchise playing in an empty stadium that wasnt theirs in front of 1500 people dressed in Warlock costumes trading goblin cards and casting spells in the stands. It scared people away and made them look small. They had no branding, no presence in the city, no respect and sparse success. He realized this, got the team its own stadium, changed the image of the club, put people in charge of the on-field product who knew how to win in the league and created an in-game atmosphere that made soccer popular in the hates to try anything new or European midwest.
Meanwhile, Americas pastime has been passing away in Kansas City.
Far too often we confuse popularity with influence. No one will ever question the popularity of the Kansas City Royals in this town - they are CLEARLY more popular than Sporting KC. Yet, sporting is changing peoples minds on a daily basis. On top of creating new fans, they influence opinions on the fan experience, the MLS as a league and the sport of soccer in general EVERY DAY. In fact, their influence has reached the point the success of the team and the franchise in general both on the field and at the bank has called into question how the more major franchises are run in Kansas City. THATS INFLUENCE.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about what Sporting KC has done over the last 8 years is that everything theyve done has increased both the value of the team to fans and for its owners. Robb Heineman told Kevin Kietzman in a recent interview the franchise has increased in value, 10 to 15 times, what it was worth when he took over as CEO. In that interview he also laid out what his and the franchises goals are every year IN ORDER: WINS, Hardware, fan experience. The money came in anyway, because innovation and rewarding fans with what they want most results in financial success for sports teams.
Heineman immediately saw the problem with the KC Wiz, no one trusted them. That trust needed to be restored, and Heineman restored it.
David Glass viewed the Royals as an investment opportunity. To his credit, hes accomplished his financial goals. The franchise has increased in value and fans will never complain that the stadium doesnt have all the bells and whistles a fan friendly, family friendly park would have. Enough bells and whistles to distract you from the fact the team hasnt made the playoffs in 27 years? I dont know how many bells and whistles that takes, but its a lot. Glass knows one thing inherent in sports, and for this I give him credit. You can sell hope, you can market it, and fans will eat it up. Fans inherently want to hope their team will turn the corner. Its the most fundamental part of being a fan. And Glass has been SELLING hope since day one. Heineman wanted to BUILD TRUST, Glass wanted to SELL HOPE. One is fan-serving, the other self-serving.
Glass views success in terms of dollars and cents, Heineman views success in terms of wins and losses - and he gets the dollars and cents anyway.
Hope is nice, its easy to sell, its inherent to fandom - we love it. But it isnt as nice as trust. As we enter into March Madness, we trust the Jayhawks. As we enter a new MLS season, we trust Sporting KC. Nate Bukaty said in preseason of a team trying to replace key components of the roster including an iconic goalkeeper, maybe its because they won a title, but everything looks like its going to work. Yes, its because they won a title. They have proven to all of us they deserve our trust.
As we head into another year of Royals baseball... lets hope this year is a good one.
After a humbling first year in the SEC, the Missouri Tigers, made changes, worked harder, worked better, adapted and competed. The results were dominating play, one of the best pass rushes in the country and a potent and balanced attack on offense. It was accomplished through injury, adversity and criticism. Mizzou didn’t just win 11 games and the didn’t just win the SEC East, they won the respect of their SEC brethren and those who cover the conference.
They certainly earned my respect. The key is, they EARNED it. I’m here to tell you today, the SEC made Missouri a better program by raising the standards it had for itself and the standards its fans had for success. I’m also here to tell you Missouri made the SEC better as well. The East is now harder to win, the conference in general has greater appeal, and the addition of Missouri has lengthened the already impressive list of programs that can compete for National Titles and Heisman Trophies.
Some may want to turn this into a “Missouri beat the SEC” narrative. Somehow, Missouri’s biggest detractors in the Big 12 have become its biggest proponents of the conference’s strength, even though Missouri isn’t in their conference any longer. A lot of Big 12 fans seem to be living vicariously through Missouri’s success. If that puts a smile on my face, I’m sure it puts a smile on the face of Mizzou fans.
Simply put, it’s a good feeling to be envied, and Mizzou is the envy of a lot of programs right now. They are the envy of nearly every program in the Big 12 (save OU and Texas), Arkansas and South Carolina who weren’t able to have this great of success as quickly as Mizzou, Texas A&M who was supposed to be the more successful of the two transition programs, and the Big 10 who could have added them, but chose not to.
That’s a long list. A REALLY LONG IMPRESSIVE LIST!
However, the challenge hasn’t been completed and there is still work to be done. It’s one thing to get to an SEC Championship game, Arkansas did it in its 3rd season in the SEC, South Carolina in its 19th and Mississippi State is winless in the game as well. There exists a perceived distinction still between the haves and the have-nots in the SEC. It’s like an elite country club that to its members represents an inherent value. Winning the SEC Championship game would get Mizzou into that club.
One thing is for sure, Mizzou is done proving they can compete. The answer is an unequivocal yes.
My message is this, don’t quit. Not every year will be like this, recruiting still needs to get better, fundraising still needs to get better, facilities still need to get better and Gary Pinkel will still need to constantly evaluate his coaching staff. But the difference now from a year and a half ago is that there is no doubt they can and likely will do all those things.
Mizzou is better for having joined the SEC, and the SEC is better for having them.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter football players hold up four fingers to signify it is the time in the game to shift into gear. It has largely become somewhat of an empty gesture, but for the Kansas City Chiefs, that’s when the defense gets most of its work done.
In the second half of games the Chiefs defense has accumulated 21 sacks compared to 14 in the first half, 8 tackles for a loss compared to 4 and 6 forced fumbles compared to 1. The Chiefs are better in pass coverage with 32 passes defended in the 2nd half compared to 20 in the first half along with 7 interceptions to 3 on the season.
The Chiefs close.
Bob Sutton said during his press conference this week, “If you’re waiting until halftime to make adjustments, you’re done,” indicating that adjustments defensively are ongoing.
Tyson Jackson, who was credited by his coordinator as often doing the “dirty jobs” said the process of making in-game adjustments was difficult but ultimately is the primary reason they are currently 7-0.
The Chiefs also usually have a lead late in games. I asked Justin Houston after the win over the Texans how the Chiefs channel their ability to turn it on in the fourth quarter and he said the motivation comes from the offense giving them a lead to protect. In a game in which the defense was somewhat taken by surprise by a quarterback they’d never seen before, the defense was able to get turnovers and pressure late in the game after being mostly limited through the first three quarters.
The Chiefs have outscored opponents in the 4th quarter 57-17 this season. While the offense hasn’t been great, they’ve always managed to give their defense a lead to protect, and the defense takes it from there. Currently, the Chiefs have two players on pace to get more than 20 sacks, something that has never happened in NFL history. It probably won’t happen this season, but to already be halfway there less than halfway through the season is a testament to the scheme and how well these players fit into it.
Beyond the numbers, the Chiefs know how to win games, which makes them the most dangerous team in the NFL right now. No one is better at closing than the Chiefs.
Well, that didn’t take long. Sanders Commings has been back with the Chiefs a day, and already he’s getting fans excited… or worried… or embarrassed - take your pick. There is no question, Sanders Commings doesn’t hold back his feelings or confidence in his team, “we want to lead the NFL in every defensive category. There is no reason why we shouldn’t win the Super Bowl.”
After injuring his collarbone during the first practice of rookie training camp, Sanders Commings was unable to contribute on the field. Now he’s back in the locker room and out at practice for a three week evaluation period, during which the Chiefs will make a determination whether he can come of the Injured Reserve list and join the 53-man roster.
The Chiefs are first in the NFL in sacks (31) and interceptions (10). Kansas City has allowed fewer points than any team in the NFL and is 3rd in opponent passing yards per game at 189.7. Justin Houston is first in the NFL in sacks and Tamba Hali is 3rd. 10 players on the defense have accumulated a sack six weeks into the season.
Confidence is a good thing right?