A Major League manager has duties that extend beyond what happens on the field, in the dugout and in the clubhouse. One major part of the job is to speak with the media on a daily basis. ATH estimates that Trey Hillman has had over 400 media sessions during his first season with the Royals. That’s two a day for nearly all of the 162 regular season games, plus spring training. Questioners come and go during the season, but it’s usually the same core contingent. Manager Hillman now knows many of these people very well. Today, he met with them one final time to discuss the 2008 Royals and what he sees going into 2009. Here’s a snippet of what he had to say:
Overall impression of 2008: Trey mentioned that the team made considerable progress as they finished 13.0 games behind the division leader after being 27.0 games back in 2007.
On pitching: Hillman’s opening remarks included emphasis on Zack Greinke’s strong season. He later touched on Greinke’s strong preparation during the season. The emergence of Kyle Davies (right) was a key point that Hillman drove home. He said that Davies worked with Bob McClure and really improved his mental approach to each and every start down the stretch.
Differences between Japan and the U.S.: Hillman did not see “earth shattering” differences between the managing environments. He did note that Japanese teams have only one minor league club, so players have a little more urgency to prove themselves.
The September charge: The Royals finished a MLB best 18-8. Hillman noted that the strong finish left him with some nice memories to hang on to. He was impressed with the high character and intense work ethic of Kila Ka’aihue and Ryan Shealy. Hillman described the emotion that Devon Lowery brought to his first big league appearance. Manager Hillman will be speaking to the Royals’ instructional league players in Arizona on Wednesday morning. The “never be content” attitude of Ka’aihue, Shealy, and Lowery figures to be a central theme of his speech.
Changes in approach for 2009: Hillman spent much of the 2007-08 offseason getting to know the players on his roster. Now that relationships have been made, he wants to focus on other areas. He believes that any manager should strive to get better each season. One of his goals is to manage people better.
How the Royals can improve in 2009: When a media member asked if the Royals needed another big bat in the offense, Hillman contended that the run differential could be narrowed more by improvements on the mound. He said that the Royals will look for ways to add runs, but sometimes it is easier to improve from a pitching standpoint.
Other notes: Hillman will be studying an external hard drive filled with video of potential free agents. He has a ‘wish list’ of free agents, but he will leave any negotiating to Dayton Moore and his baseball operations staff. Hillman knows that the health of his players will go a long way toward a successful 2009. He has been working with the Royals training and conditioning staff for a few months on a ‘check and balance’ system for individual health and workouts this off season.
Royals Player/Pitcher of the Month: The September winners are Ryan Shealy and Zack Greinke. As we mentioned yesterday on ATH, Shealy led the Royals with 7 home runs, 20 RBI, and a .603 slugging percentage. This is his first Player of the Month award. Greinke went 4-1 with a 2.18 ERA, which placed sixth in the American League. The right-hander did not allow a run over his final 2 starts. This is Zack’s second monthly honor in 2008 (also April) and third of his career (September 2004).
The ATH crew is counting down the days until spring training after the Royals finished 2008 on fire. Kansas City won two of three in the Twin Cities, which secured the best September mark in Major League Baseball at 18-8.
Today’s post is stat-heavy. If you dig into the September stats, you’ll see that a few of the current Royals put themselves among elite company in the team history books.
Seventh Heaven: Ryan Shealy blasted 7 home runs during September, which tied him for the sixth-best September total in club history. (John Mayberry and Danny Tartabull share the record with 9 in 1972 and 1987, respectively. Steve Balboni, Carlos Beltran, and Jeff King clubbed 8 apiece.) Shealy, recalled from Omaha on September 2, also led the club with 20 RBI and a .603 slugging percentage.
Record-Setting Rook: Mike Aviles finished his storybook rookie campaign with a few more records and notes. Aviles led all MLB rookies with 33 hits during the month (Minnesota’s Denard Span has 30 hits. He could add to his total if Minnesota has to play Chicago on Tuesday.) Aviles’ 33 hits ties him with Carlos Beltran for the second-best September total by a Royals rookie. George Brett set the mark with 35 in 1974. Aviles also crossed the plate 22 times during the month, which ties him for third all-time in franchise history. Brett and Al Cowens scored 23 times apiece as the Royals rolled through September, 1977. Tartabull had 22 in 1987 and Beltran matched that mark in 2002 and 2003.
Consistent Callaspo: Alberto Callaspo hit in 18 consecutive games during September. The streak was the longest by a Royal in 2008. Callaspo batted .344 (22-for-64) during the 18 games. His streak was tied for the ninth-longest in club history.
3 x 4: Kyle Davies, Zack Greinke, and Gil Meche each went 4-1 during September. The last time three K.C. pitchers won 4 games in the same calendar month was August, 1989. Bret Saberhagen went 7-0 while Tom Gordon compiled a 5-1 record and Mark Gubicza chipped in with a 4-2 mark. Davies, Greinke, and Meche became just the third trio to win at least 4 games in September. The last time, you ask? The year was 1978, when team Hall of Famer’s Dennis Leonard, Larry Gura, and Paul Splittorff accomplished the feat.
Closing Points: We can’t make it through this post without mentioning another dominant month from All-Star Joakim Soria. The right-hander converted all 9 of his save opportunities. The 9 saves surpassed Dan Quisenberry’s club record of 8 September saves, established in 1984. Soria tied Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels for the most saves in the big leagues during the month. KC’s closer posted a perfect 0.00 ERA while limiting opponents to an .091 batting average. His 42 rescues on the year ranks fourth in single-season club history, trailing only Jeff Montgomery (45 in 1993) and Dan Quisenberry (45 in 1983 and 44 in 1984).
A Look Ahead: Manager Trey Hillman is meeting with media members on Tuesday. We’ll bring you a wrap up of the press conference. During the off season, look for a few quick posts each week to keep you up to date on events in the Royals organization.
We’ve come to that point. Just three games left and one final full-length regular season post. The Royals already closed out their home schedule and now they begin their final series of the regular season inside the Metrodome.
It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere in the dome as both teams are in a race of sorts. The Twins and the Royals hold leads in their respective races and control their own destiny, let’s control the destiny of this post and go Around the Horn…
To set things up right, here’s a quick team profile for the series:
The Twins: They are 5-5 over their last 10 and 8-7 in their last 15, boasting a current four-game winning streak. However, the three most important victories of the season – to this point – were their last three.
Their sweep of Chicago took them from 2.5 games behind the White Sox to a half-game lead for the divisional crown. Minnesota’s magic number is four. That means any combination of four White Sox losses and wins for the Twins gets them into the playoffs without a tiebreaker or a make-up game (Chicago has played one less than Minnesota). Chicago is back at home playing out the season versus the Indians. A sweep by Cleveland means the Twins need just one win over the weekend. Likewise, if the Sox sweep their series and the Twins lose one game, Chicago is in. If the two teams are separated by a half game, the White Sox have to make up their rainout on Monday. Should the teams tie, they will play a tiebraker on Tuesday in Chicago. The Twins have been playing playoff baseball for about a week and they are tough in the dome, owning a .667 winning percentage at home.
The Royals: They’ve been as tough as any team in the Majors this month. After sweeping the Tigers under the rug for the third time this season,
the Boys in Blue are riding a three-game winning streak and are 8-2 in their last 10 and have taken 11 of their last 13. September has been good to the Royals who have posted a 16-7 record. It’s their highest win total for the final month since the 1985 World Championship team won 18. The Royals race has much less riding on it, but its become big news over the last few weeks. The team’s goal is to finish out of last place for the first time since 2003. As it stands, Detroit is half a game back, and would only have to play the missed date if the Sox are within a half game of the Twins. Without taking into account their possible game against Chicago on Monday, the magic number for the Royals and Detroit is also four. So scoreboard watching is a must this weekend as the Tigers welcomed Tampa Bay to Comerica yesterday, winning the first of a four-game series.
It will be a playoff atmosphere (in more ways than one) with large crowds on hand in the Metrodome. For their crucial series with the White Sox, the Twins hosted 120,952 fans. They drew no less than 35,000 each game and posted consecutive games with 42,000-plus.
So there it is, the final showdown of the season. The red-hot Royals versus the streaking Twins. Minnesota holds the season edge with a 11-4 record and a 4-2 mark in the Metrodome. But they haven’t faced the September Royals, featuring the second-highest team batting average in the Majors (.299), the second lowest ERA in the American League (3.71) and the Majors’ second lowest opponents’ batting average (.237). Other notable September figures include: David DeJesus leading the A.L. in hits (33), while hitting .388 (fifth in the A.L.) and he’s tied for fifth in triples (2). He’s ninth in on-base percentage (.443). Alberto Callaspo is also tied for fifth in triples, as is Mike Aviles, who is second in runs (19). Jose Guillen is tied for fourth in doubles (8). Ryan Shealy’s seven homers are tied for the A.L. lead and his .661 slugging percentage is fifth-best.
This team also knows a thing or two about playing well in the final series of the season and keeping divisional crown hopefuls from achieving their goals. The title spoiler is bittersweet, but the Royals played it in 2006 when the Tigers needed one win for the Central Championship. Instead, the Royals swept them and the Twins snuck by.
Mitch Maier had a career night two days ago. His bases-clearing triple – just the second extra base hit of his career – helped the Royals in producing their biggest inning of the season during the fifth, when they plated seven (it tied their other seven-run inning on July 3 at Baltimore during the sixth).
Maier joined Mark Teahen as the only Royals to get two hits in a single inning this season. In fact, Teahen joined that club only a week prior versus Seattle. Previous to Teahen, the Royals had not accomplished the feat since Tony Pena, Jr. did it in 2007.
Maier, a Petoskey, Michigan native, had at least one fan in the crowd on Wednesday. His father stood up from his seat to cheer his son after the big triple – he was the lone fan in his section applauding the hit. Maier graduated from Novi High School – a suburb of Detroit, approximately 35 minutes from downtown.
Maier has played in 12 games since returning from the three facial fractures he suffered in August. While his average is not high in his return, his production has been there. In games when he’s registered at least four at-bats, Maier has five hits, four runs and five RBI. His three RBI night on Wednesday was a new career high. The only double and triple during his career have come since returning on September 13.
David DeJesus’ 13-game hitting streak came to an end on Wednesday. He tweaked his right hip flexor and was taken out of the game after one at-bat…
Alberto Callaspo’s career high 16-game streak is still alive and he is likely to make his return this weekend…Alex Gordon has hit in 10 straight, including all nine since returning from the Disabled List…Mike Aviles leads all rookies in batting average with just three to play (.322)…DeJesus, who may not see playing time this weekend, leads the Majors in batting with runners in scoring position (.419)…Kyle Davies will have his last start tonight, looking to build on two lights-out performaces during his last two starts in which he compiled a 15-inning scoreless streak, a season-high for a KC starter…The Royals pitchers have had 10 quality starts in their last 11 games.
I am going to be a tad bit selfish right now, something I have never tried to do while writing and covering the team for this blog. But it was suggested to me to be a little self-indulgent with my final entry (by our team President Dan Glass, no less). I am going to “out” myself as one of the team’s bloggers to say good-bye (don’t worry, the blog isn’t going anywhere, just one of its writers). I have taken a position at the National Baseball Hall of Fame (and I’m hoping I can blog there too).
From my days on K Crew, shooting T-Shirts and running in the Hot Dog Derby to working under the great people in my department, my time with the team has been amazing. It has been a privilege working on Around the Horn all summer and I’ve gotten the chance to meet some amazing people and tell the story of this team each and everyday. It’s been a lot of work but to sound a bit cheesy, it’s been a labor of love (for this team).
Thanks for reading. (Again, please keep checking the site. This is not the end of ATH, just the end for one, singular writer. In fact, I will even have one more post sometime next week. It’s one last Touch ‘em All interview for the 2008 season.)
- Trevor Hayes, Media Relations Assistant (that’s my K Crew picture from 2007)
Couple quick notes: Just one more FSN-KC game left, with coverage starting today at 6:30 pm. Tomorrow is the Royals final televised game of 2008, with a 2:55 start scheduled on FOX.
Today’s lineup: Check back later today…and all weekend…Go Royals!
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Touch ‘em All: Jack Morris on the ever changing game, the worthless-ness of certain statistics and how he’d run a baseball team
It’s the last off-day of the season and it’s been a little while since we’ve had a Touch ‘em All interview. But you’re in luck! Around the Horn has had one in the bag for a little while…Actually, looking at the schedule, it’s been a long while.
This interview was done on August 9 when the Twins were in town. Around the Horn was in the press box the day before and overheard Twins broadcasters Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris talking about pitching in their day. Morris pitched 175 complete games over his 18-year career. Blyleven threw 242 start-to-finishes in his 22 years as a Major Leaguer. That night neither starter had made it through six innings, but the winning pitcher was credited with a decent start.
The two workhorses were skeptical of the “quality start” stat, as well as the four holds and total of ten pitchers used to finish a nine-inning game. This season, 131 complete games have been thrown (73 in the American League and 58 in the National League). The Toronto Blue Jays lead the way with 13 as a staff and two teams (the Yankees and the Tigers) have had just one pitcher apiece make it from first pitch through the last out. Only three pitchers have five or more (CC Sabathia at nine for Cleveland and Milwaukee, Toronto’s Roy Halladay at eight and Milwaukee’s Ben Sheets with five).
Blyleven’s career high was 25 in 1973 and Morris’ career high was 20 in 1983. In Morris’ high year, the Yankees led the way with 47 and the Cubs were in the cellar with nine complete games as a staff. That year, 745 complete games were thrown. Morris was second in the Majors behind the Yankees Ron Guidry and his Tigers were fourth in the Majors with 42 as a staff.
ATH was intrigued by the conversation. In a little more than two decades, how could the game change that much? Well, we figured we’d see if Morris knew. He pitched from 1977 to 1994, with his last start on August 7, 1994. The Indians played just three more games in the strike-shortened season and Morris’ next start likely would have been August 12th (the day of the strike) or 13th.
We were fortunate to have Morris in Kansas City since he’s living in Minnesota and only does a few road games a year. The former hurler for the Tigers and Twins (among others) seemed like a perfect fit for today as the team left Detroit yesterday and headed to Minnesota, so here you go…
Around the Horn: Last night you and Bert were talking about saves and holds and complete games. You said you got bonuses for complete games. So, in your opinion, how has the game changed?
Jack Morris: Well the biggest change is the whole philosophy that baseball has adopted, and it’s unilateral across both leagues, and that is when they get to 100 pitches, starting pitchers are taken out of games. Complete games have become a dinosaur.
I don’t know, I’m just not sure that’s the way baseball should be played. That has not helped the quality of starters. It’s probably given relievers more of a chance to stay in the big leagues. But overall, I think the quality of starting pitching has diminished because of it. I am convinced that in a decade or so, you are going to see this become a fad that disappears from the game. For 80 to 90 years, it never was a part of the game. In the last decade or so it has become a major part of the game. But I think it will fade out and go back to the way it was for the first 90 years sooner or later.
ATH:Did they even keep pitch counts when you were pitching?
JM: Nah. I mean the first thing that came was the radar gun. I remember Earl Weaver was the first to use it to see if the starting pitcher was losing velocity or not. Ultimately, it’s are they still getting guys out or not? And if they’re getting outs, velocity isn’t as important. Now if they are starting to get hit, and they are guys that every pitch is similar in speed, where the slider and fastball is a one to two mile an hour difference, if those guys start losing it and getting hit, then they are going to have a chance of being taken out.
ATH: With you and Bert and even Rick Sutcliffe, who was also there last night, the three of you have more complete games combined than have been thrown in the entire season?
JM: Well last year alone, I don’t think there were 20 complete games in one year. Well I had that many in one season and I know Bert had that many several times. It’s just the way it changed. It used to be you might have more complete games than one staff, but now it’s the entire league. (Editor’s Note: He was a little off, there were 112 total – 64 in the American League – complete games in 2007 with Toronto again leading the way with 11 as a team. Three teams – the Marlins, Nationals and Rangers – finished without any.)
Jack Morris: No. It’s got to start all over. It’s got to start in the minor leagues and I guess Nolan Ryan is trying to change that over in Texas, or at least that’s the word anyway. It’s really starting at the college level now and the high school level.
My whole philosophy is that you have to pitch and throw in order to build arm strength. And you have to run to build endurance. Leg strength is huge for pitchers. Guys that go out there and they look at the scoreboard and see they are approaching 100 pitches and all of the sudden they start pitching different – looking at the managers and coaches in the dugout, looking in the bullpen to see if there is anyone throwing. They have a built in excuse, “I’m going to be done in 100 pitches.” Instead of, “You know what son, you’re out there for the game not matter win or lose. Go ahead and represent yourself and your team. If you take a whooping, so be it. You are going to learn how to pitch.”
ATH: You won over 250 games during your career. Tom Glavine reached 300, last year. Do you think there will be another pitcher to hit 300 wins or reach close to 250?
JM: Perhaps. You know, I think the way Moose, what’s the kid for the Yankees? Mussina, (ATH has to laugh that Morris called Mike Mussina, an 18-year pro with 269 career wins, a kid) the way he’s pitching this year, it looks like he might. I think he passed me earlier this year. The way he’s still pitching, he could get 300, but after him, probably not. They won’t pitch long enough.
Hell, who gets 20 wins anymore? Nowadays, 15 wins is like 20 wins, or maybe even 14. When you don’t have chances in games, if you’re not going deep into games, it’s something that’s out of your control. The bullpen will suck up those wins and losses a lot more than the starters. Starters are getting a lot more no decisions. But the infamous quality start has become an icon.
ATH: How do you feel about the quality start?
JM: I think it’s the most overrated statistic in the history of mankind. It’s absolutely meaningless.
ATH: If someone were to tell you, you had this many quality starts during your career, what would you say?
JM: I’d say I don’t care what the numbers say. I don’t care about ERA. I don’t care about innings pitched. I don’t care about anything. How many wins did I have versus how many loses did I have. And that’s all that matters.
It’s still all that matters. It matters for a team. It matters for an individual. Did you win or did you lose? End of story. Move on.
ATH: Is that the sort of attitude that prevailed among pitchers when you played?
JM: No. But that’s what they all should have to me.
JM: I think so. When I took the mound, I wanted to finish the game and I wanted to win. Winning most of all and then hopefully finishing the game. I took a lot of pride in resting my bullpen. I wanted them to have a day off because they might be needed tomorrow or the next three days.
ATH: Of the four rings that you earned, which of them is the most meaningful to you?
JM: It’s hard to say. Detroit was the first. I came up through the Tigers organization and the first time you ever get there, it’s always pretty good.
Being a kid from Minnesota and playing for Minnesota, it’s almost like a dream. And the kind of year I had in ’91, it was by far the greatest year of my career. And then I was lucky enough to go up to Toronto and help Canada win their first championship and be a part of that. I’ve always enjoyed Toronto, it was just as much fun.
Winning to me, that’s what makes this game exciting and fun. Without winning, it doesn’t matter if you’re in New York City or Cleveland. It stinks. But if you’re winning, you can make towns like Kansas City and Minnesota the place to be.
ATH: What was your experience coming through Kansas City so much, competing against the great teams they had?
JM: We played here when there was turf. So the field was a lot faster then. And the heat is always a part of Kansas City. It seemed like when you played Texas and Kansas City, you had to learn to deal with the heat factor. So it was always staying hydrated, trying to stay cool. But you didn’t want to sweat too much otherwise it was like a water faucet and you couldn’t feel the ball in your hand.
But they had great teams. Willie Wilson was a guy you wanted to avoid getting on base because he could explode with his speed. Frank White was steady as a rock. They had all these great pitching staffs with (Larry) Gura and (Paul) Splittorff and gosh who was the right-hander they had with the goatee that pitched all those complete games for all those years? (Dennis) Leonard. (Dan) Quisenberry in the bullpen, (Bret) Saberhagen and even (Mark) Gubicza. You knew you had to do your job on the mound because you weren’t going to get a lot of runs.
ATH: When you approached the mound, would you go out looking to shut them down or would you be thinking, I can let one or two squeeze by? What was you approach like?
JM: Well I never wanted to give up a run. Every inning, every pitch meant something. That’s your approach. It doesn’t always workout that way. I came in here knowing I can’t do anything about how many runs we score but I sure as heck can have something to do with how many they score.
ATH: Would you say it’s a more hitter-friendly game now, especially with the design of the ballparks?
JM: Well, in general I think they’ve become smaller. The one thing that has definitely changed is the foul territory. The distance behind home plate to the backstop, where the screen is and down the lines is getting smaller and smaller. They can say what they want about fan-friendly and more intimate – meaning the fans are closer – but in reality, it favors the hitters. Little fly balls that were pop-ups and could have been outs are now in the seats and they get another at-bat.
ATH: As someone watching – not as a player – would you prefer to watch a pitcher’s duel or a slugfest?
JM: I’m obviously biased when I say this. I’ve seen enough baseball games, I don’t like anything over two-and-a-half hours. Anything over that gets boring. So I want to see that crisp 2-1or 1-0 game. I don’t mind 5-4 games as long as they are played fast.
One of the other things that totally bugs me about today’s game is there’s going to be five to six pitching changes on each side during the game. That right there takes 25 minutes to do. Too many pitching changes and the pace of the game has gotten way too slow.
JM: Roy Halladay. He’s an old throwback from our generation that’s pitching today and he’s doing quite well.
It’s funny, the Milwaukee Brewers are renting CC Sabathia right now. They don’t seem to care about his pitch count, do they? He’s got four or five complete games (keep in mind this was still early August and CC was traded about a month before the interview took place, though the point is still valid considering Sabathia pitched on three days rest last night and will go again this weekend on short rest, if needed). They aren’t going to sign him and so they don’t care. They’re going to take every ounce of energy he has to help them win this stinking pennant. I love it. Because it just shows that it can be done.
ATH: Do you feel like players give their all as much as they used to?
JM: Yea, I do. But the agenda has changed. You don’t see tremendous pride in defense in the outfield anymore. I think there are guys, like a Denard Span or like a Michael Cuddyer for us, who will do whatever they can and have pride out there. But all of their contract negotiations are based on offensive statistics. How many home runs did you hit, how many RBI, how many runs did you score, on-base percentage? It’s not how many assists you made, or did you make a great throw to the cut-off man. You’re not paid to do that. So consequently the emphasis is gone.
Like Manny Ramirez, he’s a liability in the field. I have no problem saying that. The guy is pathetic as an outfielder. But he’s one of the greatest hitters of this era. He’s a perfect case where he should have been a designated hitter. He has no pride in the outfield. None at all.
ATH: Growing up in Minnesota, is that why you are broadcasting for the Twins?
JM: I first started my broadcasting in Detroit and I was living in Minnesota. I was doing 50 games on television and every game except the series in Minnesota were road games for me. That got old. I got tired of traveling.
Right now, I’m barely doing any road games. I do 40 to 45 games with Twins’ radio and about 95 percent of them are home games. It’s been a nice gig.
JM: Yeah. I mean baseball is a game where there’s no job in baseball where you aren’t committed to it. You can’t put on a uniform and expect to sit at home in your office. You have to be there and that’s the part that tugs at me. For 18 years it consumed me and I had no other life. And now that I’ve experienced real life again and enjoyed some of the things I enjoy about being normal, it’s hard for me to go back and give 100 percent of my time to the game of baseball.
That’s the tug of war that I go through. Broadcasting allows me to be part time and still feel like I’m a part of it. Yet, I still get a little time away. Yet, part of me wants to do more broadcasting which will force me to stay away from home more. It’s a constant tug-of-war for me, but I love the game and always will.
ATH: Do you do television at all?
JM: Just with the Tigers.
ATH: Which do you prefer?
JM: TV is easier. But you have to wear ties and make-up and (stuff) and it’s ugly. I don’t like getting all dressed up. I like the casual look. That’s more me. Not that I couldn’t do it.
Radio you have to paint the picture. You have to describe to the listener. Where as TV, you can get you point across by saying “Watch what I just said.” And then you rewind it and watch it all over again. So therefore I think TV’s a little easier to do.
ATH: What’s been your most memorable moment as a broadcaster?
JM: Well, I was there when the Tigers lost their 119th (in 2003) and looked like they were going to set an all-time record. I hate to say that, but it looked like my old team was bad. 2003, they were really bad and it looked like we were going to break that record.
ATH: Thank you so much for your time. It was great to sit down with you.
JM: Alright. Thank you.
The Royals opened their final road trip last night with a 6-2 victory over the Tigers. They are now one-game back from the Bengals as Trey Hillman’s club continues to play well in September.
David DeJesus placed the Royals on his back last night, collecting seven total bases and falling a homer shy of the cycle. In his seventh career four-hit effort, DeJesus scored twice and added his 73rd RBI of the season. He’s hit in 13 straight, averaging .420 over his streak.
That has been an absolute key to the September surge. Timely hitting has carried the Royals with three separate players compiling hitting streaks of 10 or more games this month. Joining DeJesus is Jose Guillen who had a career-high 14 gamer from Sept. 4-17 and has hits in 17 of his last 19 games. The Royals also have found a regular second baseman in the wake of Mark Grudzielanek’s season ending early with Alberto Callaspo, who has both looked solid turning the double play and is in the midst of a career-high 16-game hitting streak. Callaspo’s streak is tied for the longest by any Royal this season. Guess who has the other 16-game hitting streak in 2008? Here’s a hint, his initials are D.D. and he wears No. 9.
Thanks to these three, the Boys in Blue are delivering for their manager in a big way. They are 8-2 in their last 10 and 14-7 in September. They own the highest American League September batting average at .295, they are second to only Cleveland in the A.L. in wins this month and the pitching staff’s 3.88 ERA is third with their .239 opponent’s average second.
The Royals may have only three game left on FSN-Kansas City, but it turns out they have four more TV games. Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, who are 2.5 games behind the White Sox at the moment, has been moved to FOX. The Twins, who are home against Chicago now, may still be vying for their playoff lives.
Instead of a 6:10 start, the game will now begin at 2:55 with Gil Meche making his last start of the season. The change will mark the Royals second exposure to the FOX spotlight this summer. You may recall the blisteringly hot day in Kansas City on August 2, when the Royals played the White Sox on FOX.
In the first of two-straight 19-hit affairs, the Royals beat the Pale Hose, 9-7. The temperature at first pitch that day was 95, but the heat index soared to over 110. So don’t miss it this Saturday, the Royals will get in on the playoff action again, playing the second game of a three-game season-ending series.
David DeJesus’ four-hit effort last night is his third at Comerica, where he is hitting .357 in 36 career games…Gil Meche became the Royals first 13-game winner since Paul Byrd notched 17 wins in 2002…The team’s 14 September wins are the most since 2000 (14-14) with a 15th victory being the best since 1987 (15-13).
Around the Horn would like to announce that due to the ongoing renovations at Kauffman Stadium, we had to vacate yesterday, leaving behind our old press box and working environment. The only thing left populating the offices where we once worked are construction workers who are busy tearing those offices apart. It was a sad day for all of us who were moving yesterday. That press box was the original, created in 1973. We just thought you, our loyal readers, would like to know what’s up with us.
Last night had no shortage of memorable moments and team photographer Chirs Vleisides was there to capture it. Among the most special was Kila Ka’aihue’s first Major League home run off Sox starter Gavin Floyd, complete with a curtain call made to a standing ovation from the almost capacity crowd.
The young slugger got a bit of a personal surprise with his September call-up, having to be added to the 40-man roster after hitting a combined 37 home runs in the minors this season. With 26 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and another 11 in just a month at Triple-A Omaha, Ka’aihue had the fourth highest total in all levels of the minor leagues. He was named Texas League Player of
the Year, despite playing the final month of the season in the Pacific Coast League.
Ka’aihue was so dominant at Double-A he finished tied for the lead in home runs even though he played in 37 fewer games than his co-homer champ Arkansas’ Corey Smith. His 80 walks fell three short of the leader who played in 136 games compared to Ka’aihue’s 91 at Double-A. He coupled his high walk rate with a low strikeout rate. The Hawaiian struck out just 40 times in 287 at-bats in the Texas League. He had a .314 average and a .463 on-base percentage, neither of which qualified for the end of the season titles.
Alex Gordon also homered, his first one since coming off the Disabled List. Kyle Davies looked strong again, posting his second straight seven-plus inning start. He threw 15 scoreless innings, ending in the eighth last night. Joakim Soria tied Doug Bird for third on the Royals all-time career saves list, notching his 41st save of the season and 58th of his career. Only Jeff Montgomery and Dan Quisenberry have more saves in their Royals careers than Soria. David DeJesus delivered yet again in the clutch, going 1-for-1 with runners in scoring position. DeJesus’ infield single moved the runner over who later scored. With the hit, DeJesus raised his RISP average to .413 – which leads the Majors and is percentage points more than Texas’ Ian Kinsler.
DeJesus also hit his second career inside-the-park home run and the third for the Royals this season. An interesting note about the most exciting play in baseball, 77 of the team’s 93 inside-the-park home run have come at home in spacious Kauffman Stadium – it really makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
Last night was also “Shirts Off Their Backs” Night, which was a solid success, raising nearly $20,000 for Operation Breakthrough. With 23,754 in the stands for the 5-2 win over the White Sox and tickets going for a dollar, the total raised was close to a dollar per fan.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
It’s fan appreciation night/weekend and we can’t express enough gratitude that the Royals have for all of you out there. We’ve got a lot going on this weekend to show you how much we appreciate you.
Unfortunately last night the team couldn’t keep the roll going, but with the beauty of baseball, they’re back at it tonight. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get to it and go Around the Horn…
“Shirts off their backs” Night should be huge. Around the Horn is in fact a little disappointed that we aren’t allowed to win a jersey. They only cost a buck. And you thought Buck Night last night was good deal because you could get a soda, peanuts or a hot dog for a dollar?
Dollar scratch tickets will be on sale throughout the stadium – each one is a chance to win a jersey which will be worn for tonight’s 6:10 game versus Chicago. Just over 40 jerseys will be up for grabs. Each one will be handed out on the field after the game to the lucky winner complete with the autograph of the coach or player who wore the jersey.
All of the proceeds will go to Operation Breakthrough, which helps children who are living in poverty receive a safe, loving and educational environment. The organization has been around since 1972, serving Kansas City faithfully.
If that wasn’t enough, the Royals are also giving out FSN-KC stocking hats to the first 20,000 fans. It’s at this point we’d like to say thanks to the crew here at the Stadium for the wonderful work they’ve done all season long bringing you the games at home. Last night was the last 2008 home telecast, which also signaled the end to Frank White’s FSN season. Around the Horn heard nothing but good things all season long about the Royals Hall of Famer. His work ethic and dedication to his new craft could be seen all summer long.
David DeJesus has the chance to accomplish two milestones in his career that we’ve not seen a lot of around here. Currently he’s hitting .300 and .408 with runners in scoring position. DeJesus hasn’t accomplished either of these achievements during his career. But where he sits at the moment, DeJesus would be one of 10 Royals to hit .300 since 2000 and one of four not named Mike Sweeney (four times) or Carlos Beltran (twice).
His RISP statistics are much more impressive. He went 1-for-1 last night with runners at second or third and raised his average to .408. He’s second in the Majors behind only Ian Kinsler, who’s stuck at .413 because of a season-ending injury. But more importantly, he would be one of three Royals in franchise history to end the season over .400. George Brett hit an amazing .469 in 1980 (the year he challenged a .400 overall average for the season) and Mike Sweeney hit .402 in 2002. For DeJesus to be lumped into such rarified air would be a huge boost to his career.
We’ve talked a bunch about his breakthrough season, in which he’s set career highs in homers, RBI and stolen bases. He’s just six hits shy of another career high (a virtual lock if he ends the season hitting .300). His runs production is down from 101 last year to 66 this season, but that load has been spread out some as his role has changed (Mike Aviles has picked up where DeJesus left off, having scored 64 runs which is three behind Alex Gordon, the team leader).
How’s he do it? Work is what hitting coach Mike Barnett will tell you. But DeJesus says he has changed his thinking at the plate. He doesn’t look at the scoreboard. He just tries to put together one at-bat at a time. Runners on base? No problem. The pressure is on the pitcher not the hitter.
Jose Guillen combined with Alberto Callaspo to nail Alexei Ramirez at the plate last night in the third. It was the 100th outfield assist of Guillen’s career and his 10th this season, his third double-digit season…Mark Teahen went 2-for-2 with a walk against Mark Buehrle, belting his first homer off the Sox starter. Teahen is getting the better end of this lefty-lefty matchup, hitting .419 against Buehrle during his career…Robinson Tejeda exited last night’s game with a left hip flexor strain and will be re-evaluated in the next few days…Callaspo, who again extended his career-high hitting streak, now at 13 straight games, has scored eight runs over his last six games.
The dates for Royals FanFest have been announced. The second annual event will be held Jan. 17-18 at the Overland Park Convention Center.
This is the first of many plugs for the Alumni Fantasy Camp. It’s a great time and a chance to live out those dreams of being a ball player. Royals Alumni serve as the coaches and managers for the teams. For a week, you will be treated like you are in the Majors. It’ll be at the Royals facility in Surprise, Arizona from February 2-7. Expenses include five days and nights in Surprise, as well as the experience of a lifetime.
We’d also like to mention that the Royals Charities are having a car auction on September 26. And VOTE VOTE VOTE…Mark Teahen for the Roberto Clemente Award and Buddy Blattner among other KC broadcasters like Fred White and Ryan Lefebvre for the Ford C. Frick Award.
Today’s Official Game Notes.