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Lesky’s Notes: Let’s talk about playing the season in Arizona

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They could play the whole season in Arizona, but, well, there are a few problems.

MLB: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals
Sep 15, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi (27) scores against the Houston Astros at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The nice thing about writing these columns weekly is it will give me an easy way to look back later at all the ideas surrounding how to re-start baseball this season. It seems like there’s a new one every week for me to talk about. This week is obviously no different as there’s the new Arizona proposal out there that I’ll get to shortly. That plan backs up my belief that there’ll be baseball this year in some format because it just means too much to everyone’s wallet to actually play the games. Should they and will they are two separate questions, but at least some of the projections have improved. Whether we should believe them or not is a different story and not one I’m here to argue, but I don’t know about all of you, but I’ll take some positive news here and there during all of this.

  • Okay fine, let’s talk about the Arizona plan. I like the effort here. I just don’t see any way it works. Forget the health aspects for a minute even though those are the most important. The logistical questions are daunting at best. First of all, there are 11 big league parks in Arizona and maybe 12 if you include where Arizona State plays their games. There are 30 big league teams. Using the math that only two teams play in a single game, that leaves six teams in the dark every day. The easy fix there is play multiple games on one field in a day, which makes perfect sense, except for we’re going to be getting into summer soon and if you weren’t sure about this, it gets hot in Arizona. It’s so hot there that the stadium they built has a retractable roof so they can close it and turn the air on. So day games are probably out given that it’ll be 115° on many days. Sure you can probably play one at Chase Field every day and then play a night game there as well, but what happens if that first game goes into deep extra innings? I suppose the answer there is to enact the minor league rule that the 11th inning and later starts with a runner on second, but even that’s no guarantee to end the game. Okay, back to the other fields. Ignoring the fact that even with two games at Chase Field, you still have four teams that need a place to play, but now you’re playing only night games at the spring training facilities. The game starts at, let’s say, 7 Arizona time. It’s a game between the Nationals and Marlins. Oops, it’s 10pm there. The whole point of this is to get eyeballs on televisions and you’re likely excluding a good chunk of fans from 22 teams that will be broadcast at 9pm or later local time every night. I found the issue with this in just actually playing the games and haven’t even gotten into the other details that make this nearly impossible to pull off. In my opinion, you can probably expand the footprint to include San Diego and Los Angeles since they’re close enough to the Phoenix area, which alleviates some of that, but it’s easy to see real fast why there are major flaws in this plan. Again, I love the hustle, but I haven’t even gotten into the serious stuff and we’ve already seen why this won’t work.
  • Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com posed the question of what the next Royals retired number is and mentioned 3, 4 and 13, obviously for Ned Yost, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez. My answer is that Yost is the next likely candidate simply because he’s the only one retired. You can argue whether he deserves it. I think two trips to the World Series, one title and being the all-time winningest manager in team history makes a solid case. I also think being the all-time losingest manager in team history with five of his nine full seasons spent below .500, including two 100+ loss seasons makes the case against him. I also don’t think it matters what any of us think here because I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a 3 on the Hall of Fame building in a couple years. My argument on Twitter was that I’d like to see a different one retired - 29. I’ve said this for a few years and made this argument in a few places before on the internet that the number 29 has been so good for the Royals between Dan Quisenberry and Mike Sweeney that it belongs on the HOF as well. You could argue that it’s now unofficially retired, a la Yordano Ventura’s #30 since nobody has worn it since Sweeney in 2007. Sweeney has the third highest average in team history, seventh highest OBP (tied with some guy named George Brett), second highest SLG, second highest OPS, seventh most hits, sixth most doubles, second most home runs and fifth most RBI. Maybe those aren’t enough to get a number retired. Actually no, I agree that they’re not. But when you combine all of that with what Quiz did, man, I don’t think anyone should wear it again and I think it should be immortalized officially.
  • I don’t know if you guys have been following the OOTP simulation that Baseball Reference is doing, but the Royals don’t look half bad over there. One of the biggest differences between that and reality is that it looks like only Danny Duffy, Brad Keller and Mike Montgomery are being used as starters. In the other games, the Royals are using openers and even Jakob Junis has been used exclusively as a reliever to this point. The results aren’t bad with the Royals actually above .500 to this point. In reality, I think whether or not they do utilize an opener depends on the way the schedule is finalized once they do start playing baseball again, but they have quite a few candidates who could be very good in that role. A guy like Josh Staumont who handled it in Omaha is an obvious choice, but Jesse Hahn, Jorge Lopez, Trevor Rosenthal and maybe even Greg Holland could be pretty fun to start a game with. Some highlights from the young season, through Wednesday, include Adalberto Mondesi hitting .396/.408/.688, Hunter Dozier putting up a .340/.360/.681 line with a ton of RBIs and Alex Gordon hitting .324/.467/.500. OOTP hasn’t picked up on Nicky Lopez’s added muscle, though, as he has a very respectable .316 average and .380 OBP. I don’t know what the hell any of it means. Actually I do, the answer is nothing. But it’s nice that there’s a world where the Royals do get off to a relatively decent start and don’t have us counting down the days to training camp so soon, I guess. It’s better than nothing!
  • One of the biggest questions that I think will be asked and need an answer whenever the season gets going again is what impact this has on the Royals young arms. If the season had gone on without a hitch, I believe we’d have seen Brady Singer relatively quickly and then Jackson Kowar in short order behind him. I think Tyler Zuber and Daniel Tillo would have both been in line to debut as well, but I don’t think the altered season really changes that much with them. I do believe that Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic also could have found their way to the big leagues, but I wouldn’t have necessarily bet on it. Now, I think there are probably going to be some changes to that plan that can’t really be answered until we see what the schedule will be, but my guess is the plan with Singer doesn’t change much. Service time issues will still remain, but I think he pitches a good chunk of whatever season there is at the big league level. The others will depend slightly on if there is even action in the minors this year and more on what the schedule is like. If it’s filled with double headers, especially those of the seven-inning variety, which has been mentioned, I think you actually see some of the young guys this year when you wouldn’t otherwise. It’s actually a really great opportunity to get guys like Lynch and Bubic four or five innings of MLB action here and there without having to throw them to the wolves. If the season is played a little more typically, I think they’re less likely to get their shot in 2020. I guess it’s just another situation of not really knowing until we know something more, which, well, I don’t do great with not knowing.