Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
This is a weird feeling for Royals fans. It’s August 19, and the team is about to play 5 consecutive games against the 2 worst teams in baseball, which should present the Royals an opportunity to extend their current 2-game lead over the Tigers. It’s a situation we’re not used to, which means most of us aren’t prepared for the insanity that comes with following a team in a playoff chase. I like to think I can stay pretty even-keeled most of the time, but if I’m being honest, the next month and a half will probably turn me into a nervous wreck with a heart condition. I’m okay with it. Let’s take a look at some links from the last few days.
– On FOX Sports’ Just A Bit Outside blog, Gabe Kapler has a great piece on James Shields, who is entering free agency this winter as probably the third best starter on the market. As a former teammate of Shields, Kapler suggests the Royals’ ace still has several very good years ahead of him, because he does so much to stay in great physical shape, and his mental toughness also will keep him at the top of his game.
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– David Lesky of Pine Tar Press discusses a few prospects the Royals may call upon in September to provide plus tools off the bench. Terrance Gore, Brandon Finnegan, Carlos Peguero, and Matt Fields are a few of the names who could bring value in specific roles as the team chases down that elusive playoff berth. They’re not suited for full-time duty, of course, but if those players are used properly, the Royals will be even more dangerous next month.
– Along those lines, Christian Binford was promoted to Omaha a couple of days ago, where he will pitch out of the bullpen. As the Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough notes, the Royals are looking at Binford as yet another relief option for September. While I do think Binford could be useful there, I’m not sure how much better he would be compared to guys like Tim Collins, Louis Coleman, and Buddy Baumann. Still, it probably won’t hurt, and Binford is likely returning to the rotation next year, hopefully with an eye on the big league rotation, following his impressive campaign in 2014.
– MLB Daily Dish’s Joshua Ward suggests Alex Gordon is making a case to be in the conversation for the American League MVP voting. Mike Trout obviously is at the top of the list, but Gordon’s defensive value has been huge for the Royals, and if he finishes with a strong September, it would be pretty easy to put him in the top 3 or 5 on a ballot, considering he’s the best player on what could be a division-winning squad.
– Over at Sports Illustrated, Cliff Corcoran outlines the three biggest issues facing the newly elected MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred. Corcoran says Manfred will need to work to maintain the labor peace the league has seen since 1994, focus on the stadium issues of the Athletics and Rays, and do what it takes to keep performance-enhancing drugs out of the game. Because he’s spent so much time working closely with Bud Selig, I anticipate an easy transition for Manfred, and likely a similar way of doing things.