Dispatches from Kansas City: “Did you have a decent time?”


HardballTalk’s Drew Silva is filing regular stories from this year’s MLB All-Star festivities in KC. Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four. Part Five.

When I picked up my press packet Saturday from the will call window next to Kauffman Stadium’s Gate C, it included an invitation to something called the “2012 MLB All-Star Gala” — to be held in a nearby tent after the Home Run Derby late Monday night.

I presumed it was another event for sponsors to strut their stuff and give out free samples to fans. It wasn’t.


Through the security gates and past a giant glass statue that looked like something off the set of a Superman movie, I entered the best party I’ve ever attended (well, since college). There were three stages — all featuring blues and jazz bands — and open bars at every turn. I ate candied bacon, expertly-prepared cowboy ribeye and slices of roasted duck while chatting with the industry people I recognized and meeting the ones I didn’t.

Frank Thomas dished out hugs and drank aluminum Budweiser bottles, posing for pictures whenever asked. I discussed the Justin Upton trade rumors with Arizona Republic beat writer Nick Piecoro and the underrated D.C. nightlife with Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The tent didn’t clear out until just after 1 a.m.

I received a gift as I left — a commemorative All-Star baseball resting atop a gold crown — and shook my head in disbelief on the long walk through the then-nearly-empty Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadium lots.

source:  “Did you have a decent time?” asked an elderly man in a yellow security polo, directing what little was left of the Derby and Gala traffic. “Rarely had better,” I responded, completely meaning every word of it.


Today I toured the Boulevard Brewery with ESPN’s Amanda Rykoff, a must-follow on Twitter for any baseball fan. We got to try out a test brew called “Hoppy Wheat,” which tasted even better than it probably sounds. Word is it’s being released to the public via small shipments in about three weeks.

After the tour and subsequent sampling we hit up Danny Edward’s BBQ on the reccomendation of our brewery guide. The burnt ends were melt-in-your-mouth terrific and the smoky baked beans contained chunks of pulled pork. I had never heard of the place and my cousin who has lived in this town for 24 years has never been, but it was as good as any barbecue joint I’ve tried on this trip. That’s Kansas City for you. Go off the beaten path and you’re still in pretty great shape.


source:  As I sit out in left field tonight watching the end of the All-Star Game, I can’t help but feel reflective.

Between the first-time press box experience, the up-close-and-personal media day and the many beers and plates of world-class barbecue in between, this past week has been a spectacular whirlwind.

I fell deeply in love all over again with this supposed cowtown. I exchanged dialogue with some of my idols in the baseball-writing profession. I got an email from Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, exclaiming that he was “LOVING” my work. And I was given the freedom to share it all in whatever way I saw fit.

“Bless my heart, bless my soul, didn’t think I’d make it to 22 years old,” belts Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard in a track called “Hold On” that I’ve been spinning with regularity since my trip first began in suburban St. Louis. I didn’t have many well-thought-out goals as a kid. I could never envision myself as a grown up — with a job and a level of respect from peers — so I never tried to. Now I can’t wait for what’s next.

2018 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Texas Rangers had been, more or less, the class of the AL West for several years, but that came to an end last year. Injuries, a bad bullpen and underachievement doomed them early and before all the leaves were on the trees the Astros had all but locked up the division. There were some bright spots — Adrian Beltre notched his 3,000th hit and Joey Gallo emerged as the 40-homer threat many have long thought he might be — but otherwise it was a bad year for the Rangers.

Will it be another bad year? Hard to say no, though there is a lot more upside with this club than with a lot of other sub-80 win teams from 2017. For that upside to pay off, however, the Rangers are going to have to win a lot of bets.

The outfield is a good place to begin looking for that upside. Nomar Mazara has not yet put it together over the course of a whole season, but he has shown some promise and could be poised for a breakout. Delino DeShields may not be what many thought he might be a few years back, but he’s got wheels and can get on base. Left field is being kept warm for top prospect Willie Calhoun who came over in the Yu Darvish trade and is having his service time manipulated, but he’ll be up soon. He’s expected to rake. Whether he can hold the position or, rather, will have to take at-bats away from Shin-Soo Choo at DH is an open question.

The infield needs a couple of fairly attainable things to happen for the lineup to really be a plus. First, it needs Adrian Beltre to be healthy and to show that he has at least some gas left in the tank. I have learned over the past 20 years to not bet against Adrian Beltre, ever, so Father Time will have to prove me wrong. It also needs Rougned Odor to snap back into shape after a lost-in-the-woods 2017. I hate the phrase “he’s better than that,” but he really is better than that. Elvis Andrus is Elvis Andrus and that’s fine. If Gallo can cut down on the K’s even a little bit and mix in a couple of more base hits to go with all of that power he could be an MVP candidate. In order of likelihood, I put it (1) Beltre being Beltre; (b) Odor bouncing back; and (c) Gallo cutting down on strikeouts, but if just two of those things happen the Rangers lineup will be in good shape.

There are a lot of question marks with the starting pitching and a couple of lottery tickets. Yu Darvish is long gone, but Cole Hamels remains at the top of the rotation. The problem is that Hamels had his worst full season in several years last year and it may be that all of the miles on his odometer are catching up with him. The biggest offseason pickup for Texas was Mike Minor, who had a monster comeback season with the Royals after multiple years lost due to arm injuries. That monster year came out of the bullpen, though, so it remains to be seen if he can move back to the rotation and remain both impressive and durable. He’s one of the lottery tickets, although one with much better odds than, say, the Powerball. He’s like a scratch-off with some risk but a decent shot at some winnings.

A longer shot is Matt “Mega Millions” Moore. The one time top prospect of the Tampa Bay Rays is still somehow just 28, but he’s coming off a lousy year in San Francisco, in which he led the NL in both losses and earned runs while plying his trade in a pitcher’s park. I guess you can be a silver-lining guy and say he’s durable again or you could do that thing where people look at a one-time phenom and imagine that he has at least one full-promise year in him, but it’s not super likely either. Martin Perez and Doug Fister round things out. You basically know what you’re getting out of those two at this point: competence, but not necessarily any shot at greatness. Bartolo Colon is knocking around and he’ll likely get some starts at some point. He always gets starts.

The bullpen was a mess last year. It’s not clear that it’ll be better this year, but it’ll certainly be more interesting, as Jon Daniels went out and signed Tim Lincecum and gave him a big league deal from which to launch his comeback. He may challenge for the closer role, though Alex Claudio has it for now. Matt Bush will look to recapture 2016 form as a setup guy. Jake Diekman should be back to full strength after a mostly lost 2017 due to colon surgery. Not a great group, truth be told, even if they will be fun to watch at times.

Overall, I think the Rangers are better than bad but the pitching is a big problem and they need too many things to go their way to count on being good. If everyone stays healthy and more than half of the guys who struggled last year return to form or fulfill potential, hey, it’s a pretty interesting group of players. A group which, while not good enough to challenge Houston, could be in the mix with the Angels and the Mariners to be a Wild Card representative.

If most of those bets don’t pay off, though, it’s gonna be a long year. I’m a risk averse gambler, so I’m going to hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I predict that the upside will remain out of reach.

Prediction: Fourth Place, AL West