* Despite heading to a hundred victories this season, the Royals continue to draw criticism: Manager Ned Yost leaves his pitchers in too long; they don’t move runners; they make silly mistakes.
* The Chiefs are 3-0 in the pre-season but questions that would rival a college entrance exam fog a sound analysis of how they will fare in the regular season.
* A couple of former Southwest Conference also-rans, TCU and Baylor, are favored in the Big 12 Conference football race while pundits figure Kansas State and Kansas will have tough seasons.
* Missouri high schools are heading into their third week of competition while Kansas teams will see their first action of the season this weekend.
The expanded sports menu for the Greater Kansas City area now offers blue plate specials, a variety of choices and quantity to satisfy the hunger.
Ah yes, the Royals. Dad-gum if they’re not tough to watch. There they were the other game, giving up just three runs but stranding runners like marooned Spanish mariners from a storm-ravaged galleon. Then they go wild at the plate, engorging themselves like behemoths at a buffet table. Besides all that, good pitching then bad pitching.
The hitters are getting all this praise for most of the season while the starting pitchers dodge thrown rotten tomatoes. Even the bullpen has faced the rat-a-tat of disgruntled detractors.
The Royals starters have a 4.25 ERA while the relievers are at 2.38. Opponents are batting just .245. The Royals at bat? Pretty impressive, .270 overall.
You know, it’s just darn hard to criticize the 81-51 record. Whatever the Royals do, they have that ability to overcome the adversity. Someone is down, someone steps up. Now that’s the quality of a winning team.
Oh, by the way, if anyone in the organization utters the small market problems of the Royals, tell him to stuff it. The team is now worth $900 million and the ticket, concession, retail, parking and combined-TV revenue is bringing in millions — for example, an estimated $1.8 million a home game just on tickets sales.
At first blush, the Chiefs certainly look like contenders for the playoffs. But the schedule is difficult and the questions are numerous. On paper, every phase of the Chiefs appears to have been improved over last season. So why so many questions? It’s the Chiefs, mind you. And things have gone wrong for far too long.
But just look at the linebacking corps and you gotta smile. NFL observers pick Baltimore No. 1 with its linebackers while the Chiefs are No. 2.
As with the Ravens, the Chiefs have four starting linebackers with terrific pass-rushing credentials. One scouting service said there were few better than Justin Houston, the fifth-year veteran who came within half a sack of Michael Strahan’s single-season record with 22 in 2014. That effort led to a six-year, $101 million contract in July. It’s the biggest contract ever given to a linebacker. On the other side, Tamba Hali is coming off his lowest sack total (six) since 2008, but he’s still a good pass rusher and run-stopper when healthy. Derrick Johnson, who tore his Achilles tendon in the 2014 season opener, returns. He’s a leader, a pass rusher, a run and pass defender. Josh Mauga, who came to the Chiefs from the New York Jets last season, is listed as the starter on the inside but if he should fail, the Chiefs have plenty of others to step in. Dee Ford, in his second year with the Chiefs, is recovering from a rib injury, but he’s expected to get back to action and showcase his terrific speed and wait to replace Hali.
The Chiefs will close out the pre-season tonight at St. Louis and will open regular action September 13 at Houston.
The Big 12 is taking big hits from the national media, some of them from an administrative standpoint and others from the inability to win the big games.
Both national and area reporters are down on Kansas State and Kansas with the Wildcats expected to have trouble reaching the top five and KU possibly not winning a league game.
It’s a case of South Dakota vs. Kansas in the openers for the Wildcats and Jayhawks. On Saturday, the Cats will host South Dakota and KU South Dakota State. For K-State, there are too many questions that need to be answered. Maybe some of them — including the top quarterback and No. 1 running back — will get answers.
The rest of the Big 12 and my picks against the spread in bold: Thursday, Oklahoma State at Central Michigan +23½, $11; TCU at Minnesota +16½, $11; Friday, Baylor at SMU +36, $11; Saturday, Akron at Oklahoma -31½, $11; Georgia Southern at West Virginia -19½, $11 (West Virginia opened a 38-point favorite but was bet down to -19½), Texas at Notre Dame -9½, $22.
Some top inter-conference games are scheduled and I’m going to get on some. The SEC once again is getting all the ballyhoo but some observers believe the Big Ten will put pressure on Bubba and his minions for conference prestige. On Saturday, Alabama will host Wisconsin.
That isn’t the only intriguing battle for the SEC. Many may look at the 2½-point spread that South Carolina has over North Carolina and slobber in anticipation, like they’re sitting in front of a pulled pork sandwich. That’s a Thursday game. At first, I really liked the Gamecocks but you better check out the stats because the Tar Heels have one terrific offense. Then Saturday, there’s Louisville at Auburn and folks shouldn’t overlook the coaching ability of the Cardinals’ Bobby Petrino.
Now for the betting. Bama giving 12. Oh heck, I’ll take the Badgers for $11. I will pass on South Carolina, but I’ll go with Louisville and the 10½ for $22.
Other national games with my picks in bold: Thursday, Florida International at Central Florida -13, $11; Michigan at Utah -5, $11; Friday, Kent State at Illinois -14½, $11; Washington at Boise State -12, $11; Saturday, Virginia at UCLA -19½, $11; BYU at Nebraska -7, $11; Monday, Ohio State at Virginia Tech +13, $22.
It appears the Missouri side of Greater KC has some really good football prep teams, like Blue Springs South, Staley and Fort Osage. We’ll see how the opening week goes on the Kansas side.
If you can’t have fun with all this going on, you are one sedentary creature.