Sideline Slants

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
I admit it. I should have known better than to take a suggestion by my cocksure, know-it-all agent I.M. Slick.

About four months ago, Slick and I discussed the situation facing the then hapless Kansas City Royals. Slick said, “Why don’t you write down your feelings now in late March and print them in mid-July. You’ll look like a genius. We both know the Royals are going nowhere fast, so you’re not exactly going out on a limb.”

I didn’t disagree with him. So here are some thoughts I had in March that I thought I could take to the bank at the All-Star break.

Good thing I didn’t. I’d be bankrupt.

* * *

When you look up the word “bad” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of the Kansas City Royals.

As bad as this team has been, this season they’re worse. After losing 100 games for the first time in franchise history last season, the Royals are on pace to lose 120 or more games this year.

KC has set a record for ineptitude by being mathematically eliminated from the division race by Independence Day.

Comment: In truth, the Royals were in first place July 4. Detroit, on the other hand, is on pace to lose around 120.

As bad as the Royals have been, things could be worse if not for the stellar play of Mike Sweeney. The man is a hitting machine.

Comment: I’m half right. Sweeney is a hitting machine. However, he has been injured for awhile and the Royals have held their own without him in the lineup.

The Royals don’t have any real stars. They don’t have any depth. They can’t win with a healthy lineup much less an unhealthy one.

Comment: I’m right. The Royals don’t have a team full of stars. I’m wrong that they can’t overcome injuries. The Royals have somehow thrived in spite of injuries to opening-day starter Runelvys Hernandez, third baseman Joe Randa, starters Kyle Snyder and Jeremy Affeldt-and Sweeney.

Kansas City only picks up players from obscure places. And the players they pick up usually wind up with a round-trip ticket to obscurity.

You can’t pick up a player from a no-name league and expect it to help.

Comment: Little did I know that it would be “Lima time” in KC. When the Royals first called Jose Lima, he was pitching for the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League. After five starts, the former NL All-Star is 4-0 with an ERA of 3.06.

It may be 50 years before Kansas City has a pitcher selected to the All-Star game. It will be at least 100 years before a Royals relief pitcher is chosen.The pitching staff does their best to contradict the saying that the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball. Most batters have no trouble getting good wood on the ball against a Royals pitcher.

It will be a cold day in Marion County in July before the Yankees don’t have a pitcher selected for the All-Star game.

Comment: Wrong. Royals closer Mike MacDougal made the All-Star roster thanks to 24 saves. And get ready for some chilly weather. Before Roger Clemens was added at the last minute, the Yankees had no pitcher on the All-Star roster this year. For that matter, Boston pitching ace Pedro Martinez was missing, too.

There you have it. Baseball never changes.

Comment: What more can I say?

* * *

Any of you loyal readers who think you are smarter than I.M. Slick and I, are welcome to write and send to me your expectations for the end of the season. Pick the division winners and wild card winners, who will represent each league in the World Series, and the World Series champion.

Entries must be received by July 31. At the very least, I’ll give public recognition to the winner in Sideline Slants at the conclusion of the season.

Maybe I can talk the Free Press into giving a prize (something besides a book of my sports predictions or a free subscription to the newspaper).

Mail your entries to the Free Press or send an e-mail entry to staff@hillsborofreepress.com

* * *

They say statistics are for losers, but that’s not so for Kansas City pitcher Chris George. George compiled an impressive 9-6 record in the first half of the season, but based on his statistics you wonder how. He has given up an average of seven runs for every nine innings pitched.

Let’s put this in perspective. In late June, nine pitchers were on pace to potentially lose 20 games. Eight of those pitchers had a better ERA than George.

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