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Three Outs: Downtown, Relievers, and Travel

“Every day is a great day for baseball” - David Glass

Could a downtown baseball stadium be on horizon under new Royals owner John Sherman?
The Kansas City Royals play host to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Welcome to Three Outs, the weekly column that you wish was Mellinger’s Minutes but isn’t. In this week’s edition: downtown stadiums, the unpredictability of relievers, and some lit travel tips.

Out One: The Downtown Conundrum

With new owner John Sherman there has been a reinvigorated discussion about a new baseball stadium in downtown Kansas City. While there are certainly reasons not to do this, I keep coming up on two arguments that don’t hold any water and that I’d like to discuss.

First: “We don’t need a new stadium.” It may not feel like it, but Kauffman Stadium is the sixth-oldest stadium in Major League Baseball and one of the oldest stadiums in professional sports. Indeed, Kauffman Stadium and its Truman Sports Complex sibling, Arrowhead Stadium, are older than every stadium in the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL but 11 (12 if you count Madison Square Garden twice). Whether you like it or not, the market suggests that it’s past time for a new stadium. Hey, half a century is a good run.

Second: “The parking would be a nightmare” aka “It wouldn’t work downtown.” This is the silliest argument of all: of course a baseball stadium can work downtown. Cities across America have major venues downtown. They make it work. Kansas City is no different. This is because of three reasons: there’s a population base downtown already, which is not the case in the complex now; by being downtown, it’s no longer necessary to drive to the stadium when there are other options; and there’s infrastructure already set up to handle 100,000 commuters every day.

There are totally legitimate reasons to want or not want a downtown stadium, but they have very little to do with these.

Out Two: Relievers Are Unpredictable

The 2019 World Series was a bit of a throwback. Each team featured three aces: Gerritt Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke for the Houston Astros, and Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin for the Washington Nationals. It’s a throwback because recent playoff trends have been to lean more and more heavily on relievers. The 2014 and 2015 Royals kicked that off, showing that a team short on traditional high-end starting pitching could regularly win when any lead after six innings was going to stay that way.

But the trend towards relievers isn’t sustainable, at least as a repeatable strategy. That’s because relievers are just so damn unpredictable. Using Fangraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement, the top five relievers in baseball last year were Liam Hendricks, Kirby Yates, Josh Hader, Seth Lugo, and Taylor Rogers. Only Hader was among the top five most productive relievers in 2018, with four different names surrounding him. In fact, since 2016, only one other player has appeared more than once among the top five most productive relievers: Kenley Jansen.

Now, WAR isn’t the best way to evaluate relievers. But as shorthand, it’s a good measurement to signify what we already know: every non-elite reliever has a short shelf life, and injuries can quickly change the trajectories of even the best relievers at the height of their power. How baseball navigates the need for elite relievers in the playoffs when they’re so hard to get and keep is going to be an interesting thing to watch for years to come.

Out Three: My Secret Travel Tip

I’m thankful that I’ve been to a lot of places in my life. From New York to London to Paris to Rome, I’ve been to a pretty big set of Western cultural landmarks. Through my college degree program, I spent most of a year abroad in the UK studying and performing music. And while I love researching and planning trips, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea—nor does everyone get the chance to do so and build up some experiences. So I offer my secret travel tip that works for all lengths of trips:

Plan each day of your trip out and include all the places you want to visit or things you want do do. Then, for each day, remove one activity.

The one constant of any trip I’ve been on is overplanning. There’s a lot to do in so many of our vacation spots, especially the new ones we’ve never experienced, so we plan to hit everything we possibly can. By using my #secrettraveltip, though, you can mostly avoid that by giving yourself more time to do the activities you really want as well as some leeway when things go wrong—because they will.

Best of all? If you cut too much from a day and find yourself with more time than you thought, you can always add something in. Either way, remember that the most important part of a trip is your health, your nourishment, and your health. Packing your days to the brim may sound efficient, but in reality it can quickly become unreasonable and unhealthy.