Bring On The Second Half

Back from a brief hiatus. Miss me? You probably didn’t even notice. That’s ok. But I did miss you.

As such, I was traveling on Tuesday night and wasn’t able to witness the All-Star Game and the long ball heroics from MVP Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez, and the scoreless inning from Kelvin Herrera. The 2016 season has been a rocky one, but on the national stage at least, Ned Yost still has the midas touch.

How cool was it that Hosmer, the only key Royal position player not to make the All-Star team in 2015, homers and singles to capture the MVP award? Sometimes, patience is rewarded. Even when it’s not your choice. Kansas City is still on a roll. I was pulling for Perez to get the postgame hardware, simply because it would have been excellent for him to hold both the All-Star Game and World Series MVP awards at the same time. You know how there’s the Serena Slam in tennis? How about a Salvy Slam? Maybe next year.

To be sure, the Royals have a bunch of local heroes, but on a national level, Hosmer and Perez are the guys. They are the ones who, if you are a random young baseball fan in Seattle or Boston, you pay attention to when they’re in the game. They’re the baseball cards you hope for when you rip open a pack. They’re the guys you pretend to be in the bottom of the ninth in the World Series when you’re playing whiffleball in the back yard. The Royals may be Alex Gordon’s team, but Hosmer and Perez bring the star power. And with the Royals scratching and clawing for every precious win in the just-completed first half, that’s why it was so great they were able to recapture October glory on a random July evening. Sometimes, it just looks so easy.

How can you not love this photo? The tweet is pretty good, too.

Same for Collins’ quote:

“I’m tired of seeing (expletive) Eric Hosmer getting a big hit. (Expletive) sick of it.”

I know the All-Star Game happened a couple of days ago, but since we’re still on the break, indulge me while recapping old news for a few more minutes and pretend you’re reading a newspaper.

The Sporting News ran an article that now was the time to fix the All-Star game. Well, maybe not now. Next year, probably. At any rate, it’s a silly, half-baked idea. All-Star Games by their very nature are imperfect exhibitions. Some are thrilling, some provide a nice moment, others are kind of banal. Sort of like normal baseball. Weird!

Baseball is meant to be fun. Sometimes, we get so heavily invested in our particular team, we can lose focus. It’s nice to, on that mid-July evening, take a step back and watch a game with recognizable names playing a meaningless game for nothing more than to have fun. (Insert your personal “This time it counts!” joke here.) No, you don’t always get to witness the match-ups you may have conjured in your pregame imagination, but there are usually plenty of other moments that can at least hold your interest.

Wild Cards and interleague play have ushered the sport into the 21st century and are here to stay. Maybe that has removed some of the luster of the game, but at the heart, it’s baseball. Some games are 4-2 nondescript affairs. Others are 8-7 barn burners. Shuffling rosters is no guarantee something exciting will happen.

Name three iconic all star moments. Three. I’m talking big time “Do you remember where you were when you saw” kind of things. Defining hits or plays. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I’ll give you mine:

1) Freddie Lynn hitting a grand slam off Atlee Hammaker in the ’83 All-Star Game at Comiskey Park. This was huge because one, it was the first grand slam in the history of the game, and two, it propelled the AL to their first win in 12 years. That mattered to a young me at the time because the All-Star Game was serious business and it was seriously awful the NL had been so dominant.

2) Bo Jackson leading off the 1989 game with a home run to dead center. There was nobody on the planet as massive as Bo in the late ’80s. Destiny was fulfilled when he crushed that pitch.

3) Maybe Reggie Jackson hitting a moon shot out of Tiger Stadium in 1971. Or a Ted Williams home run off Rip Sewell? Or maybe that time when Alex Rodriguez pushed Cal Ripken to shortstop? Or Pedro Martinez striking out five of six batters? Or Bud Selig shrugging his shoulders?

The point here is, while there are some nice moments in All-Star Game history, there just aren’t a ton of memorable moments. Moments that stay with you well past the final out. It’s easier if you just accept the game for what it is: A potentially fun exhibition played between the biggest names of the day. I’m not sure the game is broken. Or maybe I’m not sure you can improve upon it. Either way, it’s a fine distraction for an evening.

A distraction can’t prevent the grist for the mill for the reporting class. You have the whiners who complain about fan voting via fraudulent email practices. (The horror!) You have the trumped-up controversies like how dare Ned Yost remove David Ortiz after only two plate appearances. (The shock!) Then you have think pieces on national anthem controversies. (What the hell happened there?)

The second half dawns on Friday. We’ve given you a look back to remind you how we reached this point, and a look forward to provide you some key players to watch. If I’ve taken anything from this first half, it’s that it’s tough to repeat. Damn tough. If I were to sum up the first half for the Royals in a single word, it would be injuries. Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Brett Eibner, Wade Davis, Kris Medlen, and Sal Perez have all missed extended periods of time. All – save Eibner – are players the Royals have been counting on to provide production to get back to the postseason for the third consecutive year. Those who feed for the buzzkill are licking their chops, ready to celebrate the end of this Royal mini-dynasty. Maybe it is the end, but because of the time missed by key players, it’s difficult to say for certain.

The second half figures to be the same. Cleveland looks to be good money to dethrone the Royals atop the Central. The Wild Card race is, as usual, a bunch of mediocre teams bunched together. Some team is going to get hot and put some distance between themselves and the pack. Do you think just because a rocky first half is in the rear view mirror that things may smooth out going forward? You may want to revisit that opinion.

The Royals collected 45 wins in the first half and stand two games over the .500 threshold. Baseball Prospectus’ third order winning percentage has the Royals at 42 wins. If that were reality, the Royals would be four under .500 and the feeling you have about this team at this particular moment would be completely different. PECOTA says the Royals have an 8.5 percent chance of reaching the postseason.

There’s work to do. Buckle up.

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