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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Sports Potpourri: Playoffs for Royals in 2014?

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  • The Kansas City Royals’ baseball season is underway and the main objective is participating in the playoffs for the first time since the 1985 team.
    KC came close last season, but 2014 is expected to be the turnaround year.
    In 2013, the Royals had a spectacular spring training with their bats and then laid an egg in April and May. 
    They had just a fair spring this year. Nevertheless, they cannot afford another dismal start like they had in 2013.
    Spring training — so far as hitting is concerned — is fool's gold. 
    The warm air with low humidity in Arizona bears no resemblance to the misty and cold north wind blowing off the Great Lakes in Detroit. 
    Forget spring statistics, they mean nothing. Spring training games are like NFL exhibition games — they are insignificant.
    Kansas City has seven players who are no longer considered young and inexperienced:  left fielder Alex Gordon, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas, catcher Salvy Perez and designated hitter Billy Butler are all established major leaguers. 
    Second baseman Omar Infante and right fielder Nori Aoki are offseason acquisitions who are expected to contribute.
    If the Royals can get big seasons from two or three of these potentially superb hitters and at least acceptable performances from the others, they will be a much-improved ballclub at the plate.
    James Shields will be the ace of KC’s pitching staff and he got off to a great start in 2013. The problem was a severe lack of run support.
    Shields would have had an exceptional season if he had received even average run production from the hitters.
    Kansas City has six players who are capable of hitting 20 or more home runs:  Gordon, Cain, Moustakas, Hosmer, Perez and Butler. But being capable doesn’t mean they’ll produce. 
    Kauffman Stadium doesn’t lend itself to home runs, but KC needs more homers than they hit in 2013.
    This latest edition of the KC Royals has the potential to win the American League Central. If that happens, the sky’s the limit in the playoffs. It’s long overdue for Royals’ fans to finally have justifiable optimism.
    During the recent season, Big 12 basketball coaches spent much of their spare time declaring that their conference was the best in the nation. That cheer leading was ill-advised to say the least.
    Seven Big 12 teams received bids to the NCAA Tournament and Baylor and Iowa State were the only contenders to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. 
    Conference champ Kansas played awful while losing (60-57) in the second round to a very mediocre Stanford team.
    Page 2 of 2 - Round of 64 losers were Kansas State against Kentucky (56-49), Oklahoma against North Dakota State (80-75), and Oklahoma State against Gonzaga (85-77).
    In round of 32 games, KU lost to Stanford and Texas took it on the chin from Michigan (79-65).
    In the Sweet Sixteen, Baylor was crushed by Wisconsin (69-52) and Iowa State fell to Connecticut (81-76), thus ended a sorry performance by the Big 12.
    Big 12 teams not only didn’t have the best league in the nation — they weren’t even close.
    The Big Ten had the strongest conference top to bottom and the Pac 12 and Southeastern Conference were close seconds. 
    The Atlantic Coast was the fourth best league and the Big 12 finished somewhere behind those top four conferences.
    Big 12 coaches need to spend more time recruiting and less time blowing their own horns. The proof is in the pudding.
    Kansas State’s football team starts spring practice on April 2 and will end it with their spring game on April 26. 
    Coach Bill Snyder has a luxury that few of his cohorts enjoy: The Wildcats are all set at the quarterback position with two experienced and talented players contending for the starting position.
    Jake Waters finished the 2013 season by leading a consistently formidable passing attack. Daniel Sams also played extensively and displayed running and passing ability.
    Quarterback is the most important position on college football teams and it’s unlikely to have a nationally competitive team without depth and talent at this vital spot.  Kansas State has both.
    With Tyler Lockett returning at one wide receiver position, the Wildcats have the potential for an outstanding passing attack this fall. Lockett should receive serious consideration for All-American honors.
    Snyder lost linebackers Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker and strong safety Ty Zimmerman from the defense. Nevertheless, K-State returns a strong foundation for the 2014 team.
    Coach Snyder has returned to his recruiting philosophy of taking players who may not be highly ranked nationally, but have the qualities that fit the Kansas State mold.
    That method has proved very successful over a long period of time and the Wildcats have the talent and depth to put another outstanding football team on the field this fall.

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