Royals could go to Kendall in No. 2 spot

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Not that manager Trey Hillman’s lineup is going to make or break the Royals offense this year — it’s already obviously broken — but Jason Kendall has hit second the last two days and could be an option there in the regular season.
For what it’s worth, Hillman told the Kansas City Star that no one had an early lead on the spot, but he’s clearly considering his light-hitting backstop.
“I know his numbers have gone down the last three years, but we’re trying to get him to focus on keeping the ball out of the air,” Hillman said. “He can still handle the bat, and he’s pretty efficient in his bunting game. So that’s one thing we’re looking at.”
Kendall, as everyone knows, has been one of the game’s worst hitters the last three years. He batted .246/.327/.324 and .251/.331/.305 in his two years with the Brewers, and those OBPs were aided by 13 intentional walks, presumably all of which came with the pitcher on deck. He also tends to ground into a lot of double plays when he gets the chance, something that’s a terrible quality for a No. 2 hitter. He led the AL in that category in 2005 with 26.
It should be obvious that Kendall is a No. 8 or No. 9 hitter if he has to be in the lineup at all. Yet all indications are that Hillman hasn’t learned his lesson. The Royals last year got a disgusing .236/.278/.329 line out of their No. 2 hitters, with Willie Bloomquist and Mitch Maier receiving much of the time there. Having David DeJesus bat second and Billy Butler third seems like the Royals’ best option this year.

Mike Piazza presided over the destruction of a 100-year-old soccer team

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Mike Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame in January of 2016 and inducted in July of 2016. In between those dates he purchased an Italian soccer team, A.C. Reggiana 1919, a member of Italy’s third division. In June of that year he was greeted as a savior in Reggio Emilia, the small Italian town in which the team played. He was the big American sports star who was going to restore the venerable club to its past and rightful place of glory.

There were suggestions by last March that things weren’t going well, but know we know that in less than two years it all fell apart. Piazza and his wife Alicia presided over a hot mess of a business, losing millions of dollars and, this past June, they abruptly liquidated the club. It is now defunct — one year short of its centennial — and a semipro team is playing in its place, trying to acquire the naming rights from Piazza as it wends its way though bankruptcy.

Today at The Athletic, Robert Andrew Powell has a fascinating — no, make that outrageously entertaining — story of how that all went down from the perspective of the Piazzas. Mostly Alicia Piazza who ran the team in its second year when Mike realized he was in over his head. She is . . . something. Her quotes alone are worth the price of admission. For example:

Alicia, who refers to Mike’s ownership dream as “his midlife crisis,” offered up a counter argument.

“Who the f**k ever heard of Reggio Emilia?” she asked. “It’s not Venice. It’s not Rome. My girlfriend said, and you can quote this—and this really depressed me. She said, ‘Honey, you bought into Pittsburgh.’ Like, it wasn’t the New York Yankees. It wasn’t the Mets. It wasn’t the Dodgers. You bought Pittsburgh!”

In their Miami living room, Mike tried to interject but she stopped him.

“And imagine what that feels like, after spending 10 million euros. You bought Pittsburgh!”

At this point it may be worth remembering that Piazza is from Pennsylvania. Eastern Pennsylvania to be sure, but still.

Shockingly, it didn’t end all that well for the Piazzas in Reggio Emilia:

One week later, the Piazzas returned to Reggio Emilia, and were spotted at the team offices. More than a hundred ultras marched into the office parking lot, chanting and demanding answers. Carabinieri—national police aligned with the military—showed up for the Piazzas’ safety. The police advised the Americans to avoid the front door of the complex and exit through the back. Mike assured them it wouldn’t be necessary—he had always enjoyed a good relationship with the fans.

The carabinieri informed him that the relationship had changed. The Piazzas slipped out the back door, under police escort.

The must-read of the week. Maybe the month. Hell, maybe the year. The only thing I can imagine topping it is if someone can tell this story from the perspective of the people in Reggio Emilia. I’m guessing their take is a bit different than the Piazzas.