You know by now that our eleventh annual MLB Preview ran in the May issue. We got six extreme musicians to preview all six divisions, and cherry-on-topped that with an exclusive Call & Response from Oakland A's closer/resident metalhead Sean Doolittle. In honor of Opening Day (hopefully you're not at work), here are a couple additional team previews.
TALON YAGER, THE DRIP
So close, but not so far away. 2014 was a great season for the Seattle Mariners and me. Coming within one game of the Wild Card, it was the first season in 13 seasons that meant anything. In 2014, the Mariners showed heart, talent and some definite power.
I would have to say Kyle Seager stole the show, putting up All-Star numbers and topping all of his stats from previous years... in some ways showing up Robinson Cano. The most awesome part is that he hasn’t even peaked! And hey, he only cost $100 million for seven years; if he only gets better, that would mean the Mariners got him for a steal.
This will be the year for the M’s! I can feel it down in my plums, getting a nice bluish hue. I love the HUGE signing of Nelson Cruz to a four-year, $57 million contract; he led the AL in homers last season with 40, and is sure to add to this already deadly lineup. I’m also excited to see what J.A Happ can do for the M’s; he posted an 11-11 record with a 4.22 ERA, which is subpar at best, but if you look at his stats, Happ has only gotten better the last couple of seasons. With Chris Young leaving, he seems to be a perfect addition. Fingers crossed that he has the best season of his career. Although getting him for Michael Saunders may have left some Mariners fans very unhappy. My opinion is it was a good trade. Saunders seems to have a hard time playing a whole season while staying healthy.
We made another move recently, acquiring Justin Ruggiano from the Cubs. Although, I’m not sure if Ruggiano is the answer to the Mariners RF problems. But who knows? I know I don’t, but from what I read, it looks like he has a hard time staying healthy as well; if he gets injured, it would make the Saunders trade very counterproductive. But the recent signing of Seth Smith, to me, is to reinforce that outfield spot in case of any injuries, and to add another lefty bat against opposing right-handed pitchers.
Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak are gone, and good riddance! Those two... actually, never mind. I’m not gonna waste time talking about those douchers. But I digress. As I said at the start of this, I think the Mariners have a great chance to bring home the championship for WA. Which I’d probably sacrifice a nut for. GO M’s!!!!!!!!!!!!
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
BRUCE LAMONT, YAKUZA
By far, this has been one of the most exciting offseasons for the Chicago White Sox in a long while. GM Rick Hahn went out and got everything this team needs to win. I mean everything. Starting pitching? Check. Add Jeff Samardzija to the rotation, which already boasts Cy Young candidate Chris Sale and the underrated Jose Quintana. Relief pitching? Check, check, triple check. Hahn went out and got a bona fide closer via the Yankees in David Robertson, along with a couple southpaws in Zach Duke and Dan Jennings. So you say we need a full-time DH/backup first baseman? Got ya right here with Adam LaRoche. Putting him in the four-spot, I would like to see how guys decide to pitch around our returning ROTY, Jose Abreu. Looking to upgrade in left field? Say goodbye to Dayan Viciedo and hello to motherfuckin' Melky Cabrera! Pepper in Emilio Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham returning to come off the bench, along with farm system studs like Carlos Rodon and Micah Johnson both getting a shot at the making the roster. Gotta say 2015 is looking pretty amazing.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
RICHARD CHRISTY, CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED
I’ll get this out of the way right off the bat (pun intended): The George Brett-shitting-his-pants story is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest baseball tales of all time. I’m not going to go into all of the sordid details -- you can hear for yourself if you type it in on YouTube -- but let’s just say Mr. Brett has some pretty fond memories of the times he fudged his Hall of Fame undies. This tale is only one of the MANY reasons that George Brett is my favorite baseball player ever, and seeing him in the stands last year during the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants made me smile every time he appeared on TV.
Now that I got the whole shitting saga out of the way, let me get to the reason I’m writing this article: the fact that last fall was the most fun I’ve ever had watching any type of sports in my entire life. I’ve been a lifelong Kansas City Royals fan thanks to the fact that I grew up in Redfield, Kansas, about an hour and a half south of Kansas City. I waited in line at a Wendy’s in Fort Scott, Kansas at the age of nine in 1983 for about two hours to meet Willie Aikens and Willie Wilson, and my parents took my sister and I to about 10 Royals games every summer when we were kids, thanks to the fact that ticket prices back then were about nine dollars each. 1985 was a very good year for my family to say the least. Seeing Kansas City beat St. Louis in the World Series is one of the highlights of my childhood. But ever since, I have to admit, the Royals took a backseat to my love of the Chiefs and the Jayhawks, thanks to many lackluster Royals seasons between 1985 and 2014. I never lost hope, but I never really watched a ton of games either. I would always go see them here in New York when they played the Yankees, but they just never got past the regular season. Until last year.
September 30, 2014. A date that will stand as the most amazing time I’ve EVER had watching a baseball game or any other sporting event for that matter. The location: John Brown Smokehouse, Long Island City, Queens. A bar and Kansas City-style BBQ restaurant that is owned by a Kansas City resident and friend of mine named Josh. I started going there after a write-up in the New York Times about how it was a Kansas City Chiefs bar. Best of all, it’s only stumbling distance from my apartment! The fact that I can walk to a bar in NYC where fellow Royals, Chiefs and KU fans congregate is mind-blowing to me. Plus, they have amazing craft beers and insanely delicious BBQ; I’m a very lucky Royals fan. Needless to say, the game was a nail-biter, going well past midnight and lasting 12 amazingly exciting innings. When Salvador Perez singled to left field to score Christian Colon and win the game, myself, my wife and the six other Royals fans at John Brown who stuck it out 'til around 1 in the morning for the whole game lost our shit. I couldn’t believe it. For the first time since 1985, the Royals were going to the freaking playoffs! They could have lost their next series against the Angels and I still would have been happy, but they didn’t! After a series of amazing, low-scoring games with incredible defense by the Royals, they advanced all the way to the World F’n Series! The baseball world was shocked. Ned Yost had built a team that surprised everyone in the baseball world.
Largely because of pitching ace Madison Bumgarner, the Royals lost in Game 7 of the World Series. The joy that the Royals brought me last September and October will last the rest of my life. Watching the news the next night after Game 7 and seeing a report about how the Kansas City Royals fans were chanting “Thank you” to the Royals even after they lost the World Series still brings tears to my eyes even as I write this.
The great thing about last year’s Royals team is that almost all of them are back this year, and they’re still a very young team. I cannot contain my excitement for baseball season this year. The Royals are already kicking ass and looking great in spring training, and I will be watching every game this year, mostly from a comfortable bar stool at John Brown Smokehouse with a Boulevard beer in my hand (a brewery from Kansas City that I’ve loved since the early 1990s, and they’re finally available in NYC!). In closing, like every other fan who will never forget what the Kansas City Royals achieved in 2014, I just want to say thank you.