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Lesky’s Notes: Remembering the 2014 playoffs

It sort of seems like FSKC should have just shown the 2014 playoffs on a loop instead of the last two seasons.

Kansas City Royals v Cincinnati Reds

I made the joke on one of my weekly radio spots that MLB better figure out something soon or else Fox Sports Kansas City was going to run out of good games to show from the 2019 season. And I’m not sure if they had completely run out of the fun ones, but they’ve gone to some much more enjoyable games that are making me re-live the 2014 postseason again and I’m not mad about it. I’ll get to that in a little bit, but I guess we should be thankful that they still have all those games to show after so few wins over the last two seasons to give us something baseball-related to watch in the absence of the game we love. Oh and hey, there’s a new idea out there now with games being played in Texas as well as Florida and Arizona. If you’re looking for a criticism from me on that, just know that I also can’t figure out how that one would work, just like the others.

  • Watching the 2014 postseason has reminded me just how crisp those teams really were. I think a lot of people making fun of teams emphasizing the little things. Heck, I do. But they actually are important. It’s just not that they’re not quite as important as the big things. If they were, they wouldn’t be little things, they’d be big things. But I digress. That team handled the little things pretty much perfectly. Some of this is talent-based, but some of this, I believe, had to do with the coaching staff the last couple years. The attention to detail just wasn’t there. I’ve mentioned that quite a few times. I think having Rusty Kuntz back on the big league staff will be a huge help for the team because he’s really the guy who takes care of all that. I’m not saying that MITCH was a problem or anything like that, but Rusty is just a different sort of coach who, along with some incredible advanced scouts, helped to make those winning Royals teams truly tick. And, you know, it wouldn’t hurt if the outfield defense could get back to the insane levels they were during that run. I don’t feel like Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier will do the trick, but if you can get Brett Phillips or Bubba Starling in center, it’ll at least help a little bit. Either way, don’t forget to enjoy that team over the next week or so. ALDS Game 3 is on tonight on FSKC, so you can see the first series win of the postseason before it’s on to Baltimore.
  • One of the things that jumped back to me during some of the 2014 games is just how much of a warrior Greg Holland is. He had an absolutely shredded elbow when he went in for Tommy John surgery in 2015, but it started long before that with signs showing up later in the 2014 season. His velocity in September 2014 had dropped a couple miles per hour, and even with that, he threw eight hitless innings in September as the Royals were fighting for a postseason berth. Then he went ot the postseason and threw 11 innings with 15 strikeouts and allowed just one run on four hits. So even if the injury started on September 1, that’s 19 innings with one run on four hits allowed and 29 strikeouts. I mean come on, that’s silly. Because he wasn’t the one who threw the last pitch in the 2015 World Series, I think maybe he doesn’t quite the credit he deserves, but the dude was absolutely amazing for the Royals and a huge reason why they got where they did. I love that he signed with the Royals this offseason and was having a good spring before everything got shut down, but I really hope he doesn’t get the Soria treatment if and when he struggles whenever a season begins. I’m hopeful that him being on winning Royals teams will make him exempt from that, but I fear that it won’t, so I guess this is my early reminder that the 2020 Royals were never going to be good, and if Holland struggles, he’s still an all-time great Royal, and that run in 2014 was just the icing on the cake of proving it.
  • I think Alec Lewis might have mentioned this in his chat the other day on The Athletic, but it got me wondering what this whole situation might mean for Alex Gordon. He obviously came back on a cheap one-year deal that I think most of us figured would be his swan song, but he seemed to be really clicking with Mike Matheny and enjoying the different energy in camp. Does a shortened season mean he might want to come back for another season after this one, whatever this one looks like? I think a lot of people assumed that some of the prospects who might replace Gordon would be ready to go in 2021 (namely Khalil Lee and Kyle Isbel), but the uncertainty over the minor league season might change that a little bit, so maybe it isn’t the worst thing if he can come back for another cheap deal in 2021. Of course, on the flip side, maybe being home with his family at this time for really the first time in his adult life could change his thought process there. He hits the ball on the ground a little too much to see a big uptick in stats if they end up playing the season in Arizona, but that will help to boost him a little bit. Outside of a coach on the field type situation, I’m not sure that Gordon fits especially well in a purely reserve role. Even though he was solid against righties, he still only posted a .409 SLG against them in 2019, and to make matters worse, the two mentioned above both bat left-handed as well. If the 2021 team looks sort of similar offensively to the 2020 team, there really wouldn’t be a right-handed bat to pinch hit for unless Ryan McBroom runs with the first base job and Ryan O’Hearn loses his role. So I guess what I’m saying is that if Gordon does want to come back in 2021, it’d be in the Royals’ best interest if he’s starting because his replacements aren’t ready. What’s really best is that he plays this season, plays well enough to be satisfied and is ready to retire to leave left field for Lee or Isbel in 2021.
  • There’s inherent risk in looking back on spring training that was canned more than a month ago, but I keep thinking about how fantastic both Josh Staumont and Tyler Zuber looked in Surprise to start the spring. I don’t know if Staumont is ever a guy who you can count on for a full six months without control issues popping up occasionally, but if he can even be 85 percent of the guy they saw in Surprise, the bullpen is in good hands moving forward. And with rosters likely expanding beyond the 26th man whenever the season starts, I think there’s a pretty good chance we see Zuber in the big leagues. Those two, along with Trevor Rosenthal looking flat nasty (again, it was more than a month ago, so, you know) and the bullpen actually has a weird chance to be a strength for this team. And I think I’ve mentioned this before, but if they end up with seven-inning double headers and they play maybe one every other week, the Royals may be in a position to snatch up some wins they otherwise wouldn’t have. The rotation would look an awful lot better if they literally never had to face an order a third time. That’s not always realistic over the course of a 162-game grind, but if you shorten some games and you have an opportunity to yank starters quickly, maybe a bullpen with the three mentioned above along with Scott Barlow and Ian Kennedy could boost the starters by putting them in a better position to succeed and could boost the team in general. As with everything right now, it’s just idle chit chat to be considering that, but I really do think it’s possible that’s a benefit to the Royals.