Royals have dug a deep hole

By Steve Sell
May 01, 2017

Monday’s musings...

• FORGETTABLE APRIL — The first month of the six-month Major League Baseball season is now in the books.

And the Kansas City Royals are the worst team in baseball despite being just two years removed from being its best.

After a 7-7 start, the bottom fell out for the Royals as they dropped their final nine games of the month to finish 7-16, the least number of wins in baseball. Worse, they are 0-5 against Minnesota and 0-3 against Chicago, teams in their own division. They have yet to play Detroit and Cleveland (regarded as the two strongest teams), so they went all of April without a win inside their division.

The surprising White Sox come to town today and Cleveland comes in later in the week. By the time the long homestand is completed, the Royals could already be looking to next year.

The Royals have been hideous at the plate and after the starting pitching got off to a great start in the first 16 games it, too, has gone south over the last seven. The pitchers know they have to practically throw a shutout to win.

The Royals have had to play catch-up in most of their games. They have scored more than five runs only twice, that being seven on two occasions. Longtime standouts Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar are near the bottom of all hitters in baseball as they are under .200. Eric Hosmer has shown signs of shaking his slump, but has just one homer. Brandon Moss gives the Royals three regulars hitting under .200.

I think the problem with this lifeless team is that it knows if it’s out of the race by July 31 that an all-out fire sale will begin. However, at this current pace, it could happen by Memorial Day. Lorenzo Cain is almost certain to go, as is Hosmer. I’m not sure the Royals could give away Escobar right now and Mike Moustakas rounds out the free-agent class. Maybe they won’t deal off all four, but some of them will be moved because they still have some value for a contender.

The Royals’ stunning fall shows just how quickly things can change in baseball. Just look at the other last-place teams in the division after a month – Toronto in the AL East, Seattle in the AL West, New York’s Mets in the NL East, Pittsburgh in the NL Central and San Francisco in the NL West. All of those teams were thought to be playoff contenders at the start of the year.

Remember, though, baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. At some point these tortoises might catch up with the hares.

• BIG 12 LOSING CRED — What in the world has happened to Big 12 football?

In the NFL Draft that was completed on Saturday, just 14 players from the Big 12 were chosen in the seven rounds. That is by far the fewest of the Power 5 Conferences.

Let’s face it. Oklahoma is easily the most recognized school in the Big 12 and it hasn’t been approaching the standards of past Sooner teams recently. Texas, which has as many big money boosters as any school in the country, has fallen off the map since Vince Young led the Longhorns to the national championship in that memorable game with USC. 

Kansas State is a steady 8- or 9-win team, but never receives national recognition. Oklahoma State and West Virginia have had their moments and TCU for one year blazed across the sky, but for the most part has been mediocre. Then you have Baylor, which is now being known more for off-the-field issues and earlier there was talk of the death penalty. Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas basically are locked into the second division and spinning their wheels.

Until the Big 12 teams start to shore up their defenses, the trend will continue. Top defensive recruits will shun the conference because the pinball offensive numbers being put up hurt their draft stock. 

These are definitely trying times for the Big 12.

• CHIEFS DRAFT ON POTENTIAL — I was checking the so-called “experts” grades for the Kansas City Chiefs' draft and obviously the marks are in the eyes of the beholder.

I saw anywhere from an A-plus to a C-plus for the Chiefs.

What we do know for sure is that No. 1 pick Patrick Mahomes is a project, but his upside is unlimited. He will spend this year wearing a baseball cap and charting plays unless there’s an injury to Alex Smith, who has been highly durable during his time with the Chiefs.

The pick who could make the biggest impact is third-rounder Kareem Hunt, a running back from Toledo. He’s regarded as a bigger, stronger version of Charcandrick West and gives the Chiefs terrific depth. KC now has West, Hunt, Spencer Ware and offsesason pickup C.J. Spiller. Don’t forget the always reliable Anthony Sherman returns as their blocking back.

The most intriguing pick was No. 2 Tanoh Kpassagnon, a defensive end from Villanova who is regarded as boom-or-bust. Almost every expert used the term “raw” when describing him, but the Chiefs love length and athleticism on defense. Like Mahomes, don’t look for him to contribute much in 2017.

Mel Kiper, the so-called draft “guru,” gave the Chiefs a C-plus, the lowest grade of those who posted. Chris Rolling of “Bleacher Report” gave the Chiefs an A-plus — somebody might want to question his knowledge of the game.

• PYLE GETTING LOOKS — McPherson High's Ben Pyle, one of the top junior basketball players in Kansas, received his first official Division I offer.

According to his Twitter account, Pyle has been offered by Abilene Christian University. Also on his account it was revealed he took an unofficial visit to Northern Iowa last week. Northern Iowa probably is the team to beat next year in the Missouri Valley with the departure of Wichita State.

Given Pyle's talent, these won't be the last offers or visits he takes and he should be one of the Top 5 seniors in Kansas next year.