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A Farewell is (Likely) Coming

moose mlb
MLB.com

Such is baseball.

Three years after parading the Commissioner’s Trophy through downtown Kansas City, three years after steamrolling everybody on the way to their second World Series title, the Royals have been hinting a rebuilding effort is at hand…at some point. The latest signs of that were the packaging of Jon Jay to the Diamondbacks for a pair of prospects and the pitcher-heavy draft completed earlier this week.

As was the case last year, any move towards a rebuild has been countered by the use of players like Paulo Orlando, Abraham Almonte, Ryan Goins and others who shouldn’t be any factors in the team’s long-term turnaround plan.

The Royals should be looking to blow up the team and start fresh — something that honestly should have happened already, as in before the 2017 trade deadline. I say “should” because, well, I’ll believe it when I see it.

As a Royals fan, I’ve already mentally moved from the glory days of 2014 and 2015 to visions of the 1990s and early 2000s, which could rank as some of the worst on-field baseball and team mismanagement any major league team has seen in history — especially for its duration. I’m OK with players like Whit Merrifield, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera and even Alex Gordon getting dangled for prospects (yes, Alex Gordon, although his return would probably be dampened a ton based off last year’s horrible stats).

But I’m not ready to see Mike Moustakas get traded.

In my brain, I know it should happen. He probably won’t get the return we’d like (thank you, Manny Machado), even though he had a career year last year, could surpass those stats this year, plays strong defense at third and is a great clubhouse guy. Dealing Moustakas, along with the aforementioned players, would essentially formalize the rebuild and signal the championship days are officially at an end.

I just don’t want to see Moose go. But such is baseball.

I remember seeing Moustakas in Omaha shortly after he was demoted in 2014. It was hard to tell exactly how he felt about his demotion — kind of hard to gauge that from the outfield berm seats — but he handled himself professionally and was recalled to the majors within 10 days. The stories about how he got to Omaha and how he performed once back in KC are pretty well known, so I won’t rehash them — but Moose became a player who was able to channel his intensity (to use the Force for good, if you will) and improve through the rest of the season, even if his batting average stayed below .220. His postseason batting average wasn’t stunning, but he certainly had a flair for the big moment against the Angels and Orioles.

Over the past several years, I’ve come to be impressed with Moose’s attitude, the intensity and his willingness to get better (witnessed by his defensive improvements well before last year’s power surge, which came after a serious injury that cut his 2016 season down to 27 games). One of the causes for which he became an on-air spokesman, foster care, has been a significant part of our family as well.

Look: the rebuild should be coming.

It should have already happened. You can’t try to reach the MLB playoffs while playing a lot of prospects. You’re fooling yourself if you believe that — and Royals management was either fooling themselves or trying to fool us when they continually rolled out that line last year.

The “championship window” should have lasted longer than two years. At least based on the hype from early this decade.

Such is baseball. And at least we Royals fans were able to enjoy a title and back-to-back World Series appearances.

It will be very interesting to see how this rebuild goes. Hopefully the Royals are blessed with good fortune by the baseball gods — especially because they haven’t in a lot of prior drafts. Hopefully upcoming trades and the next couple drafts fully restock one of the worst farm systems in the game. And hopefully a championship window begins reopening at the start of the next decade, although that’s a really rapid turnaround from where the Royals currently stand.

It will also be strange — and sad — to see more of the championship core in other uniforms representing contending teams.  For me, it will be extremely bittersweet to see Moustakas in another uniform. But when he returns to Kauffman Stadium, I’ll have my Moose call ready.

Such is baseball.

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First Takes and Second Helpings: April 2015

042815 baltimore

As you can see, this post will cover a gamut of topics…some serious, some not.

The serious first: Baltimore blew up the past two days after the death and subsequent funeral of Freddie Gray.

This tears me up because Baltimore has been a city I’ve wanted to explore more since I was a child. We didn’t travel much to Baltimore during our two years living in Bel Air, Md., about 35 miles northeast of downtown Baltimore, and when we did we never made it to an Orioles game (something that still eats at me). But what I saw as a five-year-old I liked. I have no idea whether the Baltimore of 2015 mirrors the Baltimore of 1975. All I know is people are destroying anything they can get their hands on.

I understand the anguish and anger over alleged police issues, but there’s no excuse for what we’re seeing. It’s humanity at its worst. It’s now happening with less provocation. I’m not sure which of those last two sentences is scarier.

To the silly: Weird work-related things.

042815  notebook

News is not always hard-core, and I’m grateful we’re not always talking about riots or shootings or fatal accidents or fires or budget shortfalls. Thankfully, we started our Feel Good Friday segment a few years ago to balance out all the nasty or the mundane we report on daily. And sometimes, that balance is totally unintentional or unexpected. Couple cases in point:

Earlier this month, I’m searching through district court documents to see what court cases of note are coming up. I didn’t see anything pertaining to my newscasts, but I did see this:

weird

That’s right. Officially, the state of Kansas is in trial proceedings against a car (a luxury car, mind you, although the status of rich Corinthian leather is to be debated). Not sure if this is a regular occurrence. Also not sure how John Stewart hasn’t picked up on this yet.

Yesterday, I’m typing up a story on court proceedings stemming from a combination battery and shooting incident early in April. Instead of typing “aggravated battery,” I punch up “aggravated batter.” Talk of deep-fried food crimes and misdemeanors follows. Insert your own joke here.

Now to the sad:

042815 fiala

Broadcasters outside the state of Nebraska may not have known Adrian Fiala, and that’s a shame.

Fiala passed away recently after a lengthy respiratory illness. He was a legend in Nebraska sports as a football and baseball player, and he then made his mark as a color commentator for several Big Red sports.

He was well-respected, even revered, for several reasons. Being a player, he brought a locker-room perspective to his broadcasts, and he did so realizing most of his audience weren’t former players so he educated without being pushy or overbearing. He was thoroughly prepared for his assignments and studied game trends. And, what I found most important, he was himself behind the mike.

I first met Adrian Fiala as a rather fresh part-timer assigned to run the board for SportsNightly, the Pinnacle Sports Network’s signature weekday talk show. He gave me a warm smile and a firm (very firm) handshake. Just that made me feel like I was part of the team — no small amount of welcome and assurance for somebody struggling to prove I belonged with some very polished broadcasters. On top of that, though, Fiala never — and I mean never — big-timed anybody on his broadcasts, either on or off mike.

This is a business filled with massive egos and a tendency for those egos to get loose, trampling anybody and everybody either lower on the totem pole or outside the field, treating those individuals as if they are less important or not important at all because they don’t have a four- or five-hour air shift to spew opinions couched as facts.

Adrian Fiala was a rare individual in this field. I’d like to be part of his broadcast crew at that next level.

And finishing up with the superlative.

Alex Gordon, Play of the Year candidate. Do I need to say anything else?

First Takes and Second Helpings, December 2013

barry-hinson

Man. I can’t believe it has been months since I last posted anything. Well, yes, I can, but that’s for another post.

It has been a busy quarter-year. Locally, we’re looking for a new city manager, the college football team made the D-2 playoffs and the women’s basketball team is in the nation’s top three.

Nationally, the Affordable Care Act still gets raked over the coals, two members of Pussy Riot were released from prison and a basketball head coach made headlines for comments about size and snipers (in one of the best postgame rants of all time).

And now that I have your attention (in no particular order)…

OWH_logo1. Am I glad this isn’t 1983. The Omaha World-Herald just published a story on December 1983. Worst winter weather of my life. A week straight where the high temperature didn’t crack zero. Lows of -15 to -24, and that’s just the air temperature. Christmas Eve saw a high of -11 and an obscene wind chill of -72 (calculated differently than we do today, but still…). A foot-plus of snow already on the ground which didn’t start to melt until February. Not how you want to spend your Christmas break at any age, but especially as a teenager. 1989 was almost as bad. I took a flight from Tucson back home at the end of my first semester break at the University of Arizona. Temperature when I left: Around 60 degrees. Temperature when I got back home: -15.

2. Thank you, Barry Hinson. Wish we had more honest postgame news conferences such as his from a couple weeks ago.

3. It was hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year. Until the gifts opened up. Blame the shorter shopping season, blame Target’s credit card security breach, blame the busy schedule, blame whatever. However, watching everybody’s faces when they tore away the wrapping paper…it’s hard not to enjoy that.

catsstevens214. I’m still looking for a relatively new rock band I can gravitate towards. Not really feeling the shouty, wall of noise nature of rock today. And now I know how my parents feel when they listen to a lot of the rock that I like. Unnerving. On the flip side, I’m really wondering 1) why I didn’t get Rush’s Vapor Trails earlier and 2) why I got away from the fusion jazz that I used to really enjoy. And 3) how in the world Cat Stevens goes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Nirvana and Kiss. And 4) what’s it going to take for me to actually want to play my bass again. Talk about unnerving. So that’s what happens when you’re followed by a moonshadow.

5. Returning to weather. The way this winter has gone — gradual warmups followed by sudden cold snaps — we’re setting up for an early severe weather outbreak. Just saying. It’s way, way too much like a spring weather pattern with colder temperatures for my liking.

elreno_tornado

That’s it from here. Back to you.

Crisis in Cornhuskerville

pelini

On Monday morning, Nebraska football was licking its wounds from the weekend’s second-half meltdown at home against UCLA.

Those wounds were inflicted on the field. A few more may have been administered off the field by now official lightning-rod head coach Bo Pelini.

First coming to light was Pelini’s response to Tommie Frazier, one of the program’s all-time great quarterbacks, who called for several defensive coaches to be fired after the 41-21 loss. In short, the response was, “We don’t need him.” The link to the full article from the Omaha World-Herald:

http://sports.omaha.com/2013/09/16/pelini-on-tommie-frazier-we-dont-need-him/#bo-pelini-on-tommie-frazier-we-don-t-need-him

And from the Lincoln Journal-Star:

http://journalstar.com/sports/huskers/football/pelini-offers-his-take-on-frazier-s-comments/article_8b957832-0446-5383-b4ba-0f74104dbc7b.html

Pelini may be right about the program needing to ignore comments such as those, although doing so when they come from one of the best players in program history in such a manner…well…let’s just say it doesn’t add to the good feeling Pelini wants around his program but can’t seem to muster because the Huskers can’t get to the next level.

nu ucla

And that’s where the next Pelini blast comes into the picture.

Deadspin is rolling out an article based on audio apparently coming right after the Huskers showed some heart to charge past Ohio State two years ago. Problem: Pelini rips the fans who left before the comeback in no uncertain terms. The full story and audio, neither of which are for the faint of heart or fresh of ear:

http://deadspin.com/bo-pelini-on-nebraska-fans-fuck-you-fans-fuck-all-o-1327398903?utm_campaign=socialflow_deadspin_twitter&utm_source=deadspin_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

If Bo Pelini wanted to bring wavering Husker fans back to the fold, there is no way that will happen now. None. Not with the Huskers seemingly clueless on both sides of the ball, players and coaches. And not with the head coach torching the bridge to the program’s fandom in such a spectacular fashion.

The F-bomb fiasco aside, what galls me — and what may enrage other Husker fans, once they come to hear the full clip — is the egotism displayed at the end of the sound bite. In effect, Husker fans will see what they are missing when they drive me away. Trouble is, we can see what the Pelini era hath wrought. It resembles the rudderless hubris of the disastrous Bill Callahan era.

Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst hasn’t said how he plans to handle this Pelini-fed grass fire as I write this. But you can’t imagine Eichorst will simply stop with a meeting in his office. The clock was already ticking on Pelini’s tenure at the University of Nebraska, and ticking quite loudly after Saturday. This is not the way to set anybody at ease on how this season will end.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Nebraska

Various and Sundry, Part 2

 

Some random thoughts while getting ready for an extremely busy next two weeks:

1. It sounds like Emporia is in good stead to bring back the Pro Disc Golf Association World Amateurs or perhaps host another PDGA major event. During an interview right after the awards ceremony, the PDGA tourney organizer told me Emporia has to bid for consideration but would almost automatically be on the short list of sites if it did so. After how things went the past week, it makes no sense for the city not to bid. The only complaint I heard was whether Peter Pan Park was shut down for public use, and given the amount of activities and potential interaction between disc golfers and the public, that’s impressive.

This is just the latest example of what I have been saying for some time: Emporia hosts well, and it really hosts sports events well. There is a reason we have five state championship events (football, volleyball, basketball, softball and baeball) for different classifications here. There’s a reason why specialty sports events like the Dirty Kanza do so well. Simply put, it’s the attitude of the organizers and the volunteers involved. People here care about the experience others have while they come to town. They also realize they are battling with towns of similar size desperately wanting the same amount of prestige that comes with having these special events, and they are up against larger cities where hosting big-time events would seem more of a natural fit. Whatever the reason, the PDGA World Amateurs turned out to be another feather in Emporia’s cap…as if we here expected anything different.

2. No rest for the weary as Emporia now pushes toward Twinkie Time — as in the first-ever Twinkie Festival on Monday.

This should be a blast at Flinthills Mall. Games, contests galore and Twinkies all over the place. Looking from the outside in, it may see a bit strange to celebrate a cream-filled snack cake in this manner. However, look at where Hostess was last fall (liquidating, taking over 500 jobs out of the local economy) and look at the national reaction to the disappearance of Hostess products (namely the Twinkie). It is indeed time to celebrate, and with Emporia’s plant now producing more Twinkies than any other plant in the United States, given its new flagship status, there’s no better place to celebrate than right here.

One thing to consider for next year: who’s going to pony up the over $10,000 needed to make the eating contest sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating…and bring the guys like Joey Chestnut to town for the event…

3. Color me an irascible middle-age man, but the Kansas City Royals’ upcoming bobblehead for Relish, one of the three hot dog racers seen at every home game, is one of the dumber ideas I’ve seen. And the reason is it’s not unique to Kansas City.Relish Bobblehead

 

Let me explain. First, why waste a perfectly good bobblehead on a hot dog racer?

Second, the oversized costume racers are pretty much everywhere at major league and minor league parks. It’s fun to watch, but honestly, if you have seen one hot dog derby, you have pretty much seen them all.

What I’m saying is customize the derbies. For Kansas City, make it barbecue-related. Dress up one contestant in a brisket costume, one as a rib and one as a bottle of sauce. St. Louis? Make it beer — and open up the Anheuser-Busch advertising possibilities in the process. Even minor league parks can get in the act. Omaha comes to mind because it’s my hometown and also because it’s known for steak, so you have your steak, horseradish and baked potato contestants.

In other words, the next time you see Mustard splattering on the Kauffman Stadium track down the stretch, remind yourself how these contests would be more engaging if organizers thought outside the bun.

Fifth of July Musings About the Fourth of July

704fireworks

Some random thoughts that occurred to me yesterday:

1. I love fireworks. And I love fireworks shows. I know a lot of people are of the mindset of “you see one, you have seen them all,” and I guess there is a fair amount of truth to that. But I have loved fireworks shows since I was young. Part of that probably had to do with going to the Omaha show was a big deal for us (time of night, location of show versus location of our neighborhood and the like). Part of that probably was I like to blow up stuff and my parents were concerned I may blow up myself and my younger brother. But part of it is there is a certain anticipation to what you’re about to see or possibly feel. Will the next shot be a concussion grenade? A star burst? A strafing effect, perhaps? What will the grand finale look like?

704fireworks7

One of the things I’ve come to realize and appreciate is you don’t have to live in a big city to have a big-time show. Here in Emporia, Kan., the city, Lyon County, Emporia State University and the Flint Hills Optimists team up for what is traditionally a 30- to 40-minute, action-packed show. Last night was no exception. Plenty of oohs and ahhs came from the young and the young at heart. I work the event, giving traffic updates for KVOE. It makes for a long day — a long holiday — but it gives me a unique perspective on the planning behind the event. And it lets me see (well, hear) a lot of appreciation for the finished product.

2. Does basketball on Christmas top baseball on the Fourth of July? Not in my mind.

rally sauce

3. It has come to the point where I don’t truly have a Fourth of July until I watch the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest on ESPN. Talk about an over-the-top event. Honestly, it’s gross to watch everybody gorge themselves at top speed. But add the commentary and you suddenly have television that’s compelling, if only sometimes for the right reasons.

And because ESPN has recognized the unique draw of the event, it has given the contest prime billing on the Mothership instead relegating it to, oh, say, ESPN 2 Million. Which means we get another distinctly American tradition: player (I mean, eater) introductions.

Simply whetting our appetite for more.

4. Hate to end on a down note, but before the Fourth it was announced President Barack Obama would not affix the hate group label on Westboro Baptist Church despite petitions from over 360,000 citizens. The government says it’s up to private groups to make that designation, and I guess I get that. I also understand full well the Constitution grants us the right to freedom of speech, which as a radio “professional” I am grateful for every day. However, if there is a group that begs for that designation, it’s Westboro Baptist. Think of anything the church group (repeat: church group) has protested or stated, and try to say any of those statements were made in love. Try real hard. It doesn’t work. It’s sobering to call a church group a hate group, but that’s what you have.

Careers at a Crossroads

gio frenchy

The Kansas City Royals made two moves over the weekend which I did not see coming.

First, the Royals brought up second baseman Johnny Giavotella from Omaha. Second, they designated outfielder Jeff Francoeur for assignment.

On the surface, there is really little in common with the transactions. Johnny Go Go’s roster move is designed to plug an offensive hemorrhage at second base (and, yes, you can use whatever meaning you choose for the word “offensive”), while the Francoeur DFA is official management recognition of what Royals fans have realized for two years: the Glorious Francouer Experiment was no longer working.

The juxtaposition of the two careers, however, and the treatment of the two players while in Royal blue is striking.

In short: Francoeur has always been a favorite of General Manager Dayton Moore. Giavotella has not. They have been treated accordingly.

gio frenchy2

Which explains the Royals effectively ignoring Francoeur’s horrific 2012, trading away his likely replacement in Wil Myers (although, truth be told, the pickups — James Shields and Wade Davis — haven’t been all that bad), leaving David Lough at Triple-A Omaha until recently and waiting roughly 20 games longer than stated before finally pulling the plug on Frenchy’s time in KC (don’t get me started on the George Brett factor. Francoeur was already being shopped when Brett arrived to save the Royals’ day).

Which also explains the sense Gio has never gotten a fair shake at the major league as long as Chris Getz was in the way. Granted, Gio didn’t hit much and didn’t help his cause with his glove the first two times up…

So now, with Getz out of the picture, Elliot Johnson inconsistent and Miguel Tejada limited due to his age, it’s up to Gio to prove the Royals wrong. He has to know this is his last but only true shot with the club. Scuffle like he did last year and there will be no hesitation to drop him. Continue like he did when he returned to the club Sunday (3-for-4), and there still is no guarantee for next year — but at least he makes the Royals brass think about where he fits into the future.

The future is past, though, for Frenchy. In a way, it’s a shame. He worked hard, by all accounts, and took his diminished role well, at least publicly. However, in addition to his woes offensively the past season-plus, he also began losing steps defensively last year to the point where all he has left is his arm. And for me, the halo of “great clubhouse leader” was tarnished significantly over the past offseason when the story leaked out Frenchy pinned his lower RBI totals on DH Billy Butler getting on base ahead of him and effectively being too slow to score. Had nooothing to do with a bad plate approach or poor hitting mechanics.

While Francoeur waits to clear waivers, Johnny Go Go now tries to make good on his shot at the same time the Royals enter a pivotal stretch in their schedule. Three at home with the surprise of the AL Central, Cleveland, starting tonight. Three at home with Oakland. Four on the road at the Yankees. Three at Cleveland. Starting this series, the Royals are 38-41, 4.5 games behind the Indians and 4 behind Detroit. Not only do they need to handle the Tribe, but they also have to do well against a potential division winner in Oakland and a wounded but always dangerous club in the Yanks. Statistically, if you’re not at or above .500 at the All-Star Break, you don’t reach the playoffs, and the Royals have to go 8-5 minimum to get to break-even.

A 5-8 record? Worse than that? Instead of possibly adding a bat, which the Royals may well need, KC is likely selling off pieces. Giavotella would be among the first to go at season’s end, but look also for Ervin Santana and others (Tejada? Lorenzo Cain? Eric Hosmer? Butler?) to be dangled to actual contenders for the stretch run. Should that happen, the heat shifts further from team to management.

For the Kansas City Royals, Johnny Giavotella and Jeff Francoeur aren’t the only guys with careers at a crossroads.

The Campaign Trail: Some of My Favorite Ads

BoKnows

I’m not sure why this didn’t come to my brain during the Super Bowl ad crush, but recently I’ve been thinking of my favorite TV advertisements or ad campaigns.

Originally, I wasn’t about to rank these…but after careful consideration, these are my favorites. Some of these are well-known across the country. Others may be of regional interest.

And my apologies. The YouTube embed feature simply isn’t working for some strange reason.

10. Keystone and Keystone Light: Bitter Beer Face (late 1980s)

In many cases, beer ads are silly or sexy. If you don’t remember the Keystone ads (or are too young to remember them), they exuded silliness.

They also exuded effectiveness in my case. If I remember correctly, and that’s a bit debatable partially because of Keystone, the ad campaign came out my (first) freshman year of college. I don’t remember whether I suffered from Bitter Beer Face as a result of the cheap concoction.

9. Budweiser: The Lizards (1990s)

This started with frogs going “Bud…wise…errrrrr” and developed into the jealous lizards — and one well-placed, if totally unintelligible, ferret.

8. Budweiser: Spuds Mackenzie (mid-1980s)

For a couple years, Spuds Mackenzie was the face of Bud. I still have no idea how the dog got so much run, but I’m sure profits spiked as a result.

7. Dodge Ram: God Created A Farmer (2013 Super Bowl)

To me, this is one of the most powerful uses of still photos and voice I have ever seen. The use of Paul Harvey’s voice lent an eerie yet apropros gravity to the 2-minute ad.

6. Wendy’s: Fashion Show (mid-1980s)

Wendy’s was struggling at the time, well behind McDonald’s and Burger King, but it came up with some good ads. This was one of them. Is next…

5. Godfather’s Pizza: The Studney Twins (late 1980s)

Somebody wrote this ad was mildly racist. I’m not sure if I see this. What I do remember is Godfather’s came up with some weird, funny stuff in the ’80s. I loved the Studney Twins (and the Charles on Economics ads featuring Ben Stein, which I’ve had trouble finding). My parents did not.

4. E-Trade Baby (2009-2013)

One good reason to watch the Super Bowl the last few years was, well, the Super Bowl itself. Another was the E-Trade commercials featuring the talking baby. Best of the best, though, was the one talking about the “milkaholic Lindsay.”

3. AT&T: It’s Not Complicated (2012-current)

Pick any one of these ads and they are super funny. On one side, you have the kids being kids….but they are juxtaposed against this super-serious guy who apparently has lost all his childhood joy. The one issue I had is I was so engrossed with that interplay that I didn’t pay attention to who the ad was for.

2. Nike: Gotta Be The Shoes (late 1980s, 1990s)

Nike has been responsible for awesome commercial campaign after awesome commercial campaign. The pairing of Michael Jordan and Spike Lee was a total classic.

1. Nike: Bo Knows (1990s)

Bo knew football and baseball. He may not have been all that comfortable dealing with the media or ad reps behind the scenes, but he definitely knew how to pitch products. Between this and the Bo Diddley ads…absolutely priceless. And my favorite.

List off your favorites.

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Free Samples of a Sleep-Deprived Brain

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