Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals

How rare is the Royals’ season-opening homerless streak?

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OK, you know I love stuff like this — the Kansas City Royals (as of 1:41 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday) have not hit a home run all season. That’s seven games, that’s pretty rare stuff. The last team to start a season without a home run in its first seven games was the 1990 New York Yankees — that was the worst Yankees teams of the last 100 years. The Yankees streak was finally broken when Mel Hall — yeah, Mel Hall — homered off a 500-year-old Nolan Ryan in the second inning of Game 8.

Well, if the Royals can stretch their streak to eight games against Tampa Bay today, they will enter some very cherished company — only seven teams since 1950 have started the season with eight straight homerless games.

But what I found interesting and kind of shocking is that, on the whole, the seven teams weren’t too bad. In fact, a couple of them were REALLY good teams.

Most games without a homer to start a season (since 1950):

11 games: 1972 Red Sox. Man was that a crazy team and a crazy season — the Red Sox did not hit a home run the first 11 games but actually ended up finishing SECOND in the American League in home runs. They were 85-70 and lost the division title by a half-game in one of the weirdest races ever. There was a short strike in 1972 and because of scheduling quirks the Tigers played one more game than Boston. The Tigers finished 86-70, and baseball decided, OK, season over, no makeup game necessary for Boston.

Could you even IMAGINE the outrage today if something that absurd happened? Here we are in a time where they will take months to review some meaningles play in the third innings. And we’re not that far away from a time where they decided it was just better to give the Tigers the title rather than schedule a make-up game.

The Red Sox first homer of the year was Rico Petrocelli off our pal jim Kaat in a 5-2 loss.

10 games: 1966 Kansas City Athletics. The penultimate year of the Athletics stay in Kansas City — I love that word penultimate and don’t care if I used it right — that A’s team was just semi-stinky and already had good young players like Catfish Hunter and Bert Campaneris and Blue Moon Odom, who would be part of the A’s 1970s dynasty.

Pinch-hitter Larry Stahl hit the home run that broke the streak — he hit it in the ninth off former Athletics pitcher Orlando Pena in a 13-5 loss.

9 games: 1985 Houston Astros. Pretty good team that year (83-79) and a REALY good team in 1986.

An old hero of mine, Alan Ashby, broke the streak with a solo homer off Rick Mahler in a loss. That team really did not have much power — Glenn Davis led the team with 20 homers.

9 games: 1982 San Diego Padres. Another pretty good team — they finished 81-81. Ruppert Jones — who was hitting cleaning for San Diego — broke the streak with a home run off Bob Welch. That was in the middle of a San Diego 11-game winning streak, so they didn’t need homers.

9 games: 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers. How about that … a 99-win World Series team that did not hit a homer in its first nine games.

Of course that Dodgers team was a whole lot of pitching and a whole lot of speed — they were pretty famous for their lack of offensive firepower. Frank Howard, who was more or less the only guy on that team capable of hitting a home run, broke the streak with a two-run homer off Houston’s Turk Farrell. Those were the only two runs of the game — Sandy Koufax threw a two-hitter and struck out 14. It was like that a lot in 1963, especially in Los Angeles.

8 games: 1972 St. Louis Cardinals. Here, finally, we have a team that fits what you would expect of a team that could not hit a home runs. Those Cardinals were pretty bad and they had NO power. Ted Simmons led the team with 16 homers, Joe Torre was the only other Cardinal to reach double digits (he hit 11). They hit 70 home runs as a team.

Simmons broke the streak with a solo shot off Phil Niekro in Game 9. The Cardinals still got crushed 9-3.

8 games: 1967 Los Angeles Dodgers. Well this was the season after Sandy Koufax retired, and the Dodgers — even with future Hall of Famers Don Drysdale and Don Sutton in the rotation — were pretty dreadful. Obviously pitchers dominated the game then. The Dodgers hit .236 as a team and scored 519 runs. Those weren’t even league-worst totals.

Ron Fairly broke the streak with a three-run homer off St. Louis reliever Joe Hoerner. Fairly finished the season with 10 home runs, behind Sweet Lou Johnson (11) and fourth-outfielder Al “The Bull” Ferrara (16).

So what’s there to learn here? Nothing really. Of the seven teams to start with eight homerless games, one won the World Series, one was a fluke away from a shot at a division title, two teams were right around break-even and three were fairly bad but not historically bad. Some of these teams carried their home run drought throughout the season. Some did not.

In other words, it likely means absolutely nothing that the Royals have not hit a home run in their first few games. But it’s fun to keep track of anyway.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.

It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.