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Friday Notes - March 20, 2020

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A global pandemic can’t stop me. A vacation can, but not a global pandemic.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals
Mar 29, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen is introduced before the game against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

This is, uh, weird. Yes, folks, that insight is free. I know that this whole situation is exponentially bigger than baseball, but I also don’t know what we’re supposed to do without baseball. Even though spring training drags a bit toward around this time, we were supposed to be getting ready for Opening Day, and now we have no earthly idea when that will be. I was listening to the Bauer Hour on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday morning because I was just so hungry for some sports and he was talking about how the players don’t really know what to do either. They’re training for an undetermined date, which isn’t exactly ideal. From a purely baseball perspective, does this benefit the Royals in any way? I’ll get to that in the notes. Strange times, my friends. Strange times.

  • Okay, first off. I wasn’t around when this all started to hit the fan last week, so I wanted to kind of rehash the situation, even though we’re now more than a week into this all. One thing I believe is that I think the sports leagues handled this poorly, which led to a reaction from the general public that has actually caused some issues. No, I don’t believe anyone overreacted in the suspension of seasons or cancellations or anything of that nature, but I think that because people follow sports and live their lives accordingly, I believe the sports world may have been part of the cause of the mass panic that ensued with the grocery stores and places like Target and Walmart. It’s easy to say this in hindsight, which I fully understand, but the right move, I believe, would have been for all the sports leagues to say they were shutting down operations for a week and in that week, the commissioners and major players with the players associations would meet to determine a plan of action. Maybe they would have known from the start that things were going to shut down for weeks or even months, but I really believe that a less drastic first action from the sports leagues would have been a little more calming for the general public as we were all processing what was happening. Perhaps it would have just delayed the mass toilet paper purchases or the egg outages around the United States, but once sports says they’re done, people start to believe they’re packing up for an apocalypse. I could very well be completely wrong on this point, but that was my first shot as I was watching from afar what things looked like and I feel like it could have at least been delayed or mitigated in some ways if the leagues hadn’t jumped immediately to an indefinite suspension.
  • Now onto the Royals chances with fewer games. Sure, a shorter season means weird things can happen. Bad teams have good runs all the time, so if the season is short enough (honestly like 40 games, which I really doubt would happen), you could see some craziness. I don’t think the Royals have the pitching to take advantage of it, but the bullpen was the one part of the team I was actually confident would be considerably better based on spring action, so maybe they can shorten some games. But if they pack more games in during a shorter period, they’ll need depth, which they might have with the minor league pitching but probably not. Anyway, looking at 2019, the Royals best 20-game stretch was 11-9, though they did go 8-12 with a +11 run differential at some point. Their best 40-game stretch was 19-21, which was also their best 40-game run differential at -5. Beyond that, it starts to get ugly. They were 26-34 in their best 60-game stretch (24-36 with a -35 run differential in their best run differential stretch). And they were 34-46 in their best 80-game stretch (32-48, -48). Okay, so we know that based on last year, it’d have to be 20-games or shorter for them to have a chance. Let’s assume the bullpen really is better and they can get a crazy lucky stretch during the 60-game run where they turn 26-34 into, let’s say, 34-26. That’s three games better than the Twins worst stretch. It’s a full four games better than the Indians worst. It’s actually 11 games better than the Tigers best. And it’s 12 games better than the White Sox worst, though they’re better this year. Basically what I’m saying is to hope on that improved bullpen and a 60-game slate and it may be Always December in Kansas City.
  • And since there’s literally nothing going on, I was thinking back on some of my favorite Royals moments of my lifetime. Since I was born in 1985, I don’t even really actually remember the first World Series, but one thing that’s been on my mind a lot lately for no particular reason was Bret Saberhagen’s no-hitter against the White Sox in 1991. I don’t remember if school had started back up yet or not. It was August 26th, so if it was today, it absolutely would have but I feel like we didn’t start until later back then. Either way, my parents let me stay up and it was seriously one of my best childhood memories of the Royals since they were so bad for the vast majority of it. I vaguely remember Denny Trease saying something early about how Sabes had no-hit stuff and I would assume my mom got upset about that because there are just some things you don’t say out loud! Anyway, for those who don’t remember it, he was on. I had to go back and look at Baseball Reference for the full game to really remember everything, but he got 13 outs on the ground that night, including his last one, which was a ground ball to Terry Shumpert. As a six-year old, I was pretty pumped, and maybe the memory from the whole thing that makes me smile is that I ran upstairs to tell my sister goodnight and when I knocked on her door (she was 15, so, well, moody), I gleefully told her that Saberhagen threw a no-hitter. She said, “that’s great, goodnight” and closed the door without even missing a beat in the phone call she was on with one of her friends. Ahh, being a kid. Anyway, that’s a game I’ve been thinking about and since there isn’t anything else to talk about, I thought it’d be fun to walk down memory lane with you all.
  • Adam Silver had a fantastic interview on ESPN on Wednesday night (I think) where he talked about some of the options with the NBA season. They’re in a much different boat than MLB because they were about to wrap up their season and head into the posteason, but still it was eye opening in some of the things he mentioned. He talked about the top option is obviously to come back and play in front of fans. That’s obvious. He also mentioned cancellation of the season, which is obviously a worst case scenario. But then he mentioned coming back and playing without fans present. It’d be awfully weird, but if they can get back on the court in a few weeks, even without fans, that’s a great option. And it makes me think that there’s a very real scenario that baseball happens in the same way. I don’t think much of Rob Manfred, but he’s there to make money for the owners and playing 162 games, even if some aren’t with fans, makes more money than simply not playing. This all comes with the caveat that they’d have to be cleared for even that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if baseball itself comes back faster than maybe we expected, but we won’t be able to attend for a little while longer. Just a thought, which is literally all we have in these crazy times.