• KCAC IN A DOWN YEAR? — It’s probably way, way too early to make this assumption, but from some of the media types I’ve talked with who see the conference on a regular basis, KCAC football could be in for a “down” cycle this year.
It didn’t help the whispers about the decline that the conference was 3-13 in non-conference play before last week’s openers.
Adding fuel to the fire is that defending champion Ottawa was crushed 43-17, at home no less, by Tabor. Also, perennial title contender Friends was nearly doubled by normal middle-of-the-pack team Saint Mary, 27-14.
Then you had Bethel, which has been spinning its wheels the last few years, rallying 30-23 past Bethany, thought by many to perhaps have the best chance to challenge the usual Big 4 (Ottawa, Tabor, Friends and Sterling). And finally, Sterling — which gave up 77 points in its season opener to nationally ranked Grand View — lost 28-21 to Kansas Wesleyan, which is easily the most impressive KCAC team so far after going 2-9 last year.
When I was in Winfield last week, somebody in the press box called the Coyotes “the traveling KCAC All-Stars” since they have bolstered their team with some players who had good years at other KCAC schools last year, only to transfer to Salina. That reportedly won’t be the case next year as a new rule supposedly is going in that players who transfer within the conference have to sit out a year.
One thing I have noticed when scanning the box scores and stats, there aren’t a whole lot of new impact players.
Who’ll ever forget when Shane Mascarenas and Aaron Lafitte came from Arizona to play for McPherson College and the Bulldogs then went 19-3 over the next two years? Or how about Ethan Haller, who passed Ottawa to KCAC supremacy and looked like a player who should be at a higher level, with the same going for his teammate, the electric receiver Clarence Anderson? And where are the Dexter Davises of the world, who was a freak athlete with Friends and wreaked havoc from his defensive end spot?
Like everything, these things go in cycles. It just seems to this longtime KCAC observer the talent level is not that of about four or five years ago, but there’s still plenty of season left to disprove that.
• FAILED STARTERS ARE GOLDEN RELIEVERS WITH THE ROYALS — Danny Duffy’s banishment from the Kansas City Royals’ starting rotation to the bullpen could be another stroke of luck for Ned Yost.
Duffy gives the stocked Kansas City bullpen yet another “power arm,” as Yost always likes to describe it. In his first relief appearance, he hung up four zeroes and fanned six in easily his best performance of the season.
Let’s hope Duffy has the same success as a failed starter-turned-reliever as Wade Davis and, to some extent, Luke Hochevar.
With his incredible success of the last two years, Royals fans probably forget Davis’ first year with the club was a total bomb (8-11, 5.32 ERA) as a starter. Statistically, he was perhaps the worst starting pitcher in the American League.
All he’s done the last two years, though, is bloom into perhaps the most feared reliever in the American League with a 16-3 record and an ERA under, gulp, 1.00. His numbers have been nothing short of remarkable and I think everyone knows that he should have been the Royals' closer the last two months before it was made official on Tuesday.
The star-crossed Hochevar was once a former overall No. 1 draft pick that the Royals kept on their roster for years just so they didn't have to admit he was a bust. Like Davis, his ERA included a lot of crooked numbers. In 2012, he was an unsightly 8-16 with a 5.73 and was the poster boy for everything that was going wrong with the Royals, who were perennial 100-game losers at that time.
In 2013, he finally was moved to the bullpen and while not as dominant as Davis, he was thought to be the eighth-inning guy for years to come. In 2014, though, he didn’t pitch because of Tommy John surgery, which allowed Davis to emerge, and his 2015 season has been spotty at best. Because he’s somewhat overpaid as a sixth- or seventh-inning guy, his time with the team is probably up since he hasn’t returned to his 2013 form.
Duffy can now come into games and air it out and not be concerned about his bloated pitch counts. Anytime I saw a game that Duffy was scheduled to pitch earlier this year, I waited about 90 minutes because they’re like torture. When he’s on the mound they move at a snail’s pace because he has so many 3-ball counts due to constant nibbling. Now Salvy can just put down ol' No. 1 and Duffy can let it rip.
Duffy probably secured a spot on the postseason roster by being moved to the bullpen. He may wind up with a new lease on his career.
• GUTHRIE'S CAREER OVER? — It was sad to watch Jeremy Guthrie struggle on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.
Guthrie, who's had some really horrendous outings this year, gave up four homers and nine runs before being mercifully pulled in the third inning of an 11-2 loss to Seattle.
Guthrie was put back in the rotation Tuesday when Duffy was sent to the bullpen. But his old problems resurfaced as he's now given up 29 homers this year.
Guthrie has been a great competitor for the Royals, but they can't afford to run him out there anymore in important situations. He won't be back with the club next year and maybe somebody will take a chance on him and try to straighten him out.
He's been a good teammate and solid citizen. He's given the Royals everything he had. It's time to move on.