Friday, July 17, 2009

"Tribute" to Tony Pena Jr.

Well, an era in Royals baseball is finished. Tony Pena Jr. has officially been designated for assignment* by the Royals.

*This means that Pena will be put through waivers. If none of the other 29 teams in the MLB want to claim the rights to Pena's contract, then he will decide whether to accept his assignment to either AA NW Arkansas or AAA Omaha or become a free agent.

TJ's career with the Royals started out incredibly promising, as he hit two triples in his Royals debut against the Red Sox on Opening Day in 2007. He finished the year batting .267 and was gaining comparisons to great shortstops like Ozzie Smith on the defensive side of his game. Dayton Moore looked like a genius with the move, acquiring him from the Atlanta Braves (go figure).

2008 began the notorious rise of Pena in a Royals uniform. He started as the Royals Opening Day shortstop, and provided the go ahead single against Detroit in extra innings on Opening Day. But after that, much didnt go right for TJ.

Finally, the Royals decided enough was enough with TPJ and called up Mike Aviles to replace him. Aviles hit .325 that year and the rest as they say, is history.

Later on in '08, the Royals staged probably their most infamous giveaway: a Tony Pena Jr. bobblehead doll. Sellout crowds usually attend these games and lineup hours before the gates open to ensure that they get the collectible. A crowd of less than 16,000 was announced and there were stories of people actually declining to take the doll.

Tony made a brief relief appearance for the Royals in July of 2008. In the late innings of a July 21st game against Detroit, in which the Royals were being blown out by the Tigers, Tony Pena came into the game and got 2 quick outs. He completed the perfect inning by baffling future Hall of Famer, Ivan Rodriguez.

After that, there really isn't much to talk about. Tony Pena Jr. has gone down as the worst offensive player in Royals history and will live on far past these horrendous years of Royals baseball (if they ever come to an end).

That being said, here is what I think the Royals should do. If Tony Jr. is not claimed off waivers (rumor has it that 21 teams have filed paperwork to claim him. SUCKERS!), the Royals should place him in AA and have him start working on pitching mechanics. It may have been a small sample size, but TJ looked very impressive in that small sample size. He has a 90+ mph fastball with cut on it, and a pretty wicked breaking ball in the mid 70s. Try it. If it fails, then what have we lost?

Monday, July 13, 2009

NHL in KC (Part 2/Anti-NBA)

Like I explained in my previous NHL post, KC has the right combination of corporate and community support to justify an NHL team being placed in our fine city.

Now, for those of you who counter with a Pro-NBA argument, I will shoot back in the least biased way that I can.

I'll be honest, I really cannot stand the NBA. I think it is more spectacle than it is sport. It is popular because Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are considered more celebrity than they are athlete. I don't like the league, I think it has become a circus, more like a hip hop concert than a sporting event, with music going on during the games and huge pyrotechnic displays before games.

I used to be a pretty big Chicago Bulls fan in the 90s (who wasnt?) and still follow the team on a casual basis, but other than that I hardly pay attention to the NBA.

Those of you out there may argue that I am just not a fan of basketball. Untrue. I am a HUGE college basketball fan. When the Big 8/12 tournament was held in KC, I went every year. I go to Mizzou and have attended at least 10 games a year since my freshman year, and that was during the Quin Snyder/Melvin Watkins era. I love college basketball that much.

I've been to NBA games too. I went to see LeBron James play the Memphis Grizzlies a few years ago. I went in expecting a packed house, full of excited fans ready to see the next Jordan. I paid $25 to sit in the very last row of FedEx Forum. That was the first thing that set me off. The atmosphere in the arena was awful. On a Saturday night, with the game's biggest star in town, and the Grizzlies in 5th place in the Western Conference, a crowd of 13,000 was announced. LeBron vs. Pau Gasol drew 13,000 people in a basketball hotbed.

That being said, I think the NBA just cannot draw in smaller markets where college basketball is king. I don't think anyone will argue that college basketball could make a case for biggest sport in KC, even over the Chiefs and Royals.

Lets say that the NBA relocates to KC*. The team is awful, but the arena is mostly full on most nights. But what happens when Kansas, Missouri, K-State, Wichita State, Creighton, Missouri State, UMKC, Nebraska, and Iowa State play on nights that the NBA team plays? Those fans are going to make the trek to that University to watch their team play. Good luck getting even a half full building if the Border War or Sunflower Showdown fall on the same date that the Milwaukee Bucks are in town.

*By the way, I think it would be awesome if the Kings relocated here. That is the only way I would support the team.

Basically, what I'm saying is that people in this town prefer college basketball to the pro game. Look across the country at the 3 biggest collegiate areas in the country that have NBA franchises. North Carolina/Charlotte, Indiana and Memphis all finished in the bottom 5 of attendance last year. Sure, you could argue that the teams are awful and no one wants to go see them, but did anyone see how awful the Hoosiers were this year? Each game looked sold out to me though. Whenever the Grizzlies play home games, FedEx Forum turns into a mauseleum, but when the Memphis Tigers play ANYONE, you would think that FedEx Forum is Cameron Indoor or Allen Fieldhouse. And Charlotte already had a team in the Hornets, but they moved on to greener pastures and guess what? The NHL's Carolina Hurricanes have vastly outdrawn the Bobcats since they were expanded.

My argument is that just because KC is college basketball Mecca, doesn't mean that the NBA is a viable option. In fact, I think it would fail miserably, unless the Sacramento Kings relocated here, but Kansas City is nowhere on the NBA's radar for relocation.

KC is at the front of the line for the NHL. The arena is ready, people have already bought tickets for a team that doesnt exist, and there is an organization dedicated to growing the game (NHL21). The fact of the matter is that basketball fans in this town don't care about the NBA in comparison to college basketball. The Jayhawks, Tigers, Wildcats, Shockers, Huskers and Cyclones are royalty here, and the NBA would have a tough time competing with that.