Now that the Hot Stove season has officially begun, I wanted to take a crack at seeing the future. I’ve never been much of one for making predictions. I’ve been around so long to see that the unexpected often happens, making predicting a fool’s game. Yet here I am, ready to dive into that pool of potential ridicule. So next November, I’ll go back and see how accurate (or not) these predictions were. Feel free to share your own.
The Kansas City Chiefs will make the playoffs this season.
Yeah, I know this is a baseball site, but football is in full swing, and if you’re like me, you’ve been suffering and lately, enjoying this Chiefs season. I’ve been a die-hard Chiefs fan since 1967, and through the first eight games, I did not think this team would make the playoffs. Then something happened. The beleaguered defense has started to jell. Chris Jones is looking like Chris Jones again. If Frank Clark can morph into a poor man’s Derrick Thomas, they could be a force. The offensive line has improved, especially the interior line, and the tackles are not getting turnstiled as frequently, which is giving Patrick Mahomes time to be, well, Patrick Mahomes. They are 6-4 and I’m going to make the bold prediction that they are going to run the table and finish at 13-4. Denver has nothing. The Chargers have returned to being the Chargers and the Raiders? The Raiders, in the most Raider fashion, have spectacularly and tragically, imploded. Even if the Chiefs don’t get home-field advantage in the playoffs, they’re still going to be the team that no one wants to play. Until opening day, 2022, enjoy this run.
J.J. Piccolo/Dayton Moore will trade one of the young arms for a toolsy minor league outfielder
Whoever makes the calls at Kauffman these days will get itchy and trade one of the Royals prized young arms for an outfield prospect. The new acquisition will boast good speed, a plus glove, and the potential to grow into his power. The new player will most certainly start the year at Omaha and may or may not ever become a reliable major leaguer. The question is, who will they part with? It would seem that after his breakout 2021 season, Carlos Hernandez is off the table. I’d keep Kris Bubic, who showed flashes. That leaves a choice between Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, or Jackson Kowar. There’s always a huge risk in trading a young, developing arm (see Cone, David) but I think the Royals are just desperate enough for a bat that they might be swayed by other teams’ AAAA prospects.
Sal Perez will have another very good but not great season.
Perez was spectacular in 2021: .273/.316/.544 with 48 big flies and 121 RBI. He’ll certainly garner some MVP love when the vote is announced and rightfully so. Perez will turn 32 on May 10 and that’s traditionally the age when decline sets in. The truly great ones have shown the ability to hold off father time for a few more seasons. Sal will still lead the Royals in most categories. I could see him at .265 with 31 dongs and 105 RBI. Sal caught 124 games last season. Catching is tough on the body. Even though Perez has shown an amazing ability to handle the wear and tear of the position, the Royals need to start planning for the day he’s not here. Which leads to…
Bobby Witt Jr., Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez will all make their debuts early in 2022
This one seems like a slam dunk. Bobby Witt Jr., who is a mega-talent, will most likely be in the opening day lineup. If M.J. Melendez has a strong spring, you have to find a place for his bat and give him a shot. And Nick Pratto? I mean seriously? I love Carlos Santana but he’s going to be 36 in April, and he’s hit .199 and .214 in his last two seasons. There’s a reason why. If Hunter Dozier can stay healthy and find his bat, they’ll find a place for him, but the reality is he hit .216 last season. Under that backdrop, they have to give Pratto a shot. The kid was lights out at NW Arkansas and Omaha last summer. The future is now.
Owner John Sherman will get serious about building a downtown ballpark
This has already been bandied about, but there are many obstacles. First, the K is still one of the premier ballparks in the country. Granted, the cost of parking kind of sucks, and the area has never been developed into the multi-use entertainment district that owners crave. You only have to drive through the racetrack district to see what I mean. Second, can the team acquire enough desirable land downtown to make it happen? And if they do, will the mayor, council, and police chief make fan safety a priority? Take Minneapolis as an example. Target Field opened downtown for the 2010 season. It is a spectacular ballpark, easy to access, and close to bars, restaurants, and hotels. When it opened in 2010, the Twins drew 3,223,640 fans. They consistently drew close to or over 2 million fans until recently. In 2019, they drew 2,303,299. Last summer, they drew 1,310,199, a decline of almost a million fans from their last full season and a full 1.9 million fans below their opening year. Why?
There are several factors naturally. Having a winning ballclub helps. The Twins won 94 games in 2010 and had only 73 wins last season. Everyone also wants to go to the new, shiny park when it opens. That eventually fades. The COVID pandemic certainly has played some part in keeping attendance lower. But one big, unspoken reason, is that people no longer feel safe in downtown Minneapolis. I’m sure that will provoke some readers ire, but I spoke to several people who were accosted around the ballpark last summer. Their response was the same: I won’t be going back, anytime soon, if ever. Yes, I’m well aware that Minneapolis has had some contributing factors, but at some point you have to return to obeying the law. From 2019 to 2020, the murder rate in Minneapolis jumped 71%, while car jackings rose 222%. Minneapolis and the Twins have a problem on their hands, and I’ve seen little from either party to make me feel that they are addressing it.
Seattle, another city with a beautiful downtown park and law-and-order issues, saw a decline of 32% in attendance between 2019 and 2021. Maybe 2021 was an aberration. We’ll see how this plays out in 2022. The Royals have had attendance problems of their own, but not due to safety concerns. There’s a lot to settle before breaking ground on a downtown park.
The Royals will win 79 games in 2022
This might be the most disappointing if it’s accurate. The club won 74 games in 2021, after a hot April. The Royals were at 16-9 on May 1 but went 58-79 the rest of the way. In 2022, they’ll start with the veterans: Santana, Dozier and Taylor, but by Mid-May the club will finally go to a youth movement. The kids will struggle until late July, then finish strong, giving all of us hope for 2023.
Adalberto Mondesi will play in 58 games
Mondesi will start slow, hitting .212 in his first 30 games. Then something will click, and he’ll be fantastic for the next 28 games, until a pulled hamstring ends his season.
The Royals will miss another chance to honor George Spriggs.
I’ve written about Spriggs several times, most recently in December of 2020: Celebrating the life of George Spriggs - Royals Review. He was the only Royal player to have played in the Negro Leagues. He originally signed with the Kansas City Monarchs, before a hitch in the military interrupted his baseball career. After being discharged from the service, Spriggs signed and played with the Detroit Stars.
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed him for the 1963 season and inexplicitly assigned him to Class A team. Spriggs finally got to the majors in 1965, as a 28-year-old, but the Pirates were loaded in the outfield, what with Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Virdon, and Manny Mota. The following season, the Pirates acquired Matty Alou to take over for Virden, and all Alou did was hit .342., which led the National League. The Pirates also had a young Al Oliver percolating at their AAA team. No, playing time in that outfield was hard to come by. Spriggs bounced to the Red Sox, then back to the Pirates, before the expansion Royals purchased his contract in October of 1968.
Spriggs spent the 1969 and 1970 seasons bouncing between Kansas City and Omaha. He appeared in 74 games for the Royals over those two seasons. His high point came on April 17, 1970, when he stroked four hits, scored three times and collected five putouts in leading the Royals to a win over the Angels. By this time, Spriggs was already 33 and his best days were behind him. It’s a shame he wasn’t given a fair chance earlier, but life and baseball, are rarely fair.
The Royals need to do the right thing and honor Spriggs. I’ve tried writing and emailing them to no avail. Do you realize how hard it is to contact anyone in the Royals front office? It’s almost like they don’t want to hear from their fans. The possibilities are endless. I’d start by bringing in the Spriggs family, perhaps on April 15, Jackie Robinson day. Give George the recognition he deserves. Wear a patch with GS and the number 6 he last wore with the Royals. In the meantime, I’ll keep beating the drum for George Spriggs.
The Royals will not re-sign Andrew Benintendi
I hope I am wrong on this one. Benintendi has played well despite stints on the injured list. His 2020 resume reads: 134 games, .276/.324/.442 slash worth 2.4 WAR, plus a Gold Glove. He got off to a slow start and was hitting just .225 heading into May but turned it on over the final 112 games of the year, collecting 118 hits and batting .286. He’s still only 27 and I hope the Royals would consider signing him to a three-year deal.
Buck O’Neil will finally get elected to the Hall of Fame
This is one that is shamefully overdue. The detractors have long said that Buck’s numbers as a player in the Negro Leagues do not warrant inclusion. While that may be true, no one can deny that his overall body of work, as a manager in the Negro Leagues, scout and later the first African American coach in the major leagues, his work with the Veteran’s Committee and the Negro League Baseball Museum as well as being the greatest ambassador of the game I have seen in my lifetime. If that’s not enough, let’s just close the doors to Cooperstown. It’s shameful that this did not get done while Buck was alive to enjoy the moment, but better late than never.