Collar tightening for punchless Royals

By Steve Sell
September 01, 2014

Holiday musings...

• ROYALS CRASHING AND BURNING — In a matter of a week, they’ve gone from the can-do-no wrong Kansas City Royals to the can’t-do-anything right Royals, with a pardon being given to Alex Gordon, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera.

A week ago the Royals were the talk of the baseball world, as they had played close to .800 baseball for a 30-game stretch. They had vaulted to the top of the American League’s Central Division and playoff talk filled the air.

But remember, baseball is a marathon and not a sprint. It doesn’t take a team long to go from hero to zero.

The Royals are learning that painful lesson.

Instead of taking advantage of a 10-game homestand, two of the series coming against last-place teams, the collar has tightened around the Royals’ necks. That frenzied hitting that had come alive to complement the outstanding pitching has all but dried up. They have scored two or less runs in six of their last eight games and their plate discipline is beyond atrocious. Most guilty have been sluggers Salvador Perez and Billy Butler, who seem to swing at every offering they see even if they’re in the dirt. You would think that they would watch some tape of how impatient they are and they are getting themselves out more than the pitchers are.

Fortunately the pitching is keeping the Royals competitive. But if the hitters don’t pick it up again, they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye. They have a half-game lead over Detroit, but they may as well be tied since Sunday's game was suspended and it figures to be a loss when completed three weeks from today in Cleveland.

The Royals and Tigers have been eyeballing each other so intently that they've lost sight of Cleveland. The Indians have the advantage in that they have the best manager in Terry Francona and they're starting to peak at the right time, just as they did last year when they snuck into the playoffs as a wild-card entry. I wouldn't be surprised if the Indians wind up winning the division, with the Royals and Tigers both losing out in the wild-card.

• CHIEFS LOCK UP SMITH — The Chiefs will have no quarterback problems for the next five years.

Alex Smith, who is on the final year of his contract, has agreed to a four-year extension that should enable him to finish his career as a Chief.

That is if he can survive behind arguably one of the NFL's shakiest offensive lines.

Smith gives the Chiefs a chance in every game. He's the perfect trigger-master for coach Andy Reid's short-passing game offense and also is an effective runner.

Smith will be making id="mce_marker"7 million a season, which probably is overpaying him. But if they want to build a consistent winner, they need him. 

• KCAC TEAMS OPEN — Most of the KCAC football teams open this coming Saturday, but Bethel and Southwestern got a jump on their competition this past weekend.

Bethel began the season with a 37-6 victory over Haskell. The Threshers are picked to finish last in the conference, but were smart to schedule a soft opener to give them some confidence.

Southwestern, however, lost 47-17 to Oklahoma Baptist in a result that was considered surprising. The Builders were picked to finish in the KCAC's upper division at No. 5, but floundered offensively. Tyler Crandall, son of Moundbuilder coach Ken Crandall, struggled mightily by completing just 7 of 26 passes, while the running game spun its wheels.

McPherson College and Bethany College begin their seasons Saturday. The Bulldogs journey to Muskogee, Okla., to play Bacone College, while the Swedes are home to entertain Southwestern Assemblies of God.

The highlight game of the first full week finds Baker at Ottawa. The teams are ranked No. 5 and No. 14 nationally, respectively.