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Sports Potpourri: KU’s precarious situation, Royals

 

By Mac Stevenson

Kansas University’s athletic department is in a precarious situation that could develop into a catastrophe for KU’s fans and everyone associated with the Jayhawks’ basketball team.

Last week the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York brought further charges against Adidas marketing director Jim Gatto; KU players were mentioned along with problems at North Carolina State, Miami, and Louisville. That’s not very good company for Kansas to be keeping.

This all stems from a confusing investigation by—of all people—the FBI. What in the world is the FBI doing investigating the recruiting behavior of college basketball teams? Isn’t that what the NCAA is for? It would seem from the national news that the FBI has enough problems without becoming embroiled in college athletics.

Evidently some of the players’ parents have been paid cash by Adidas for the promise that their sons would give their endorsements to that company when they joined the NBA. Two prominent names mentioned in connection with Kansas are Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa. Preston was under a hush-hush investigation at KU concerning a car he was driving and never played a regular-season game for the Jayhawks. De Sousa played for KU during the second semester and the NCAA Tournament.

One thing is certain: nothing good is going to come from this mess. It sounds as if the NCAA hasn’t been—at this point in time—heavily involved in the investigation. That will change. And Kansas hasn’t had a pleasant relationship with that elitist group.

Kansas has reaffirmed their association with Adidas since the appalling publicity has surfaced involving KU basketball. That’s a terrible decision by the university administration; they should be running away from Adidas as fast as they can, regardless of the money at stake. No one knows where it’s all headed, but the national media is now involved and the national publicity has already done irreparable harm to the Jayhawks’ program.

KU football is among the worst in the nation and the Jayhawks’ athletic department can ill-afford to have anything debilitating happen to the basketball program. Whether or not any serious penalties are assessed by the NCAA, the recruiting has been damaged by the national publicity. Kansas administrators are in a dire predicament, whether they admit it publicly or not.

Hitting has been the primary nemesis of the Kansas City Royals baseball team so far this season. Part of that can be attributed to the cold, windy, and wet weather in KC, Detroit, and Cleveland. It’s hard to swing a bat when your hands are numb from the cold.

Through the games of Friday (April 13), KC’s hitters had just 33 RBIs and 36 runs scored; those two stats are dead last among the 30 teams in MLB. That’s not just the weather, that’s exceptionally poor hitting.

On the plus side, KC’s starting pitching has been much better than expected so far. The team ERA for through 12 games was 4.44, which was 21st among all teams. However, that’s deceiving because the bullpen has inflated the team ERA.

That brings us to the bullpen, which has had some pleasant surprises and has also shown an alarming lack of quality depth. Brad Keller (1.50 ERA) and Tim Hill (1.80) have been excellent in the early going. Bryan Flynn (5.79), Burch Smith (6.75), Justin Grimm (7.11), Brandon Maurer (12.46 and gone now), and Blaine Boyer (23.14) have been substandard. Closer Kelvin Herrera (0.00) hasn’t had many save opportunities; nevertheless, his pitching in five games and four innings has been encouraging in the early games.

Kansas City needs at least two big-time hitters and it doesn’t look like that’s in the offing. Mike Moustakas is the closest to a high-quality hitter, but he’s just not there. Moustakas is a major league hitter and fielder; however, he doesn’t fit the label of great.

KC might have a better-than-expected season; however, realistically, that isn’t likely to happen. What’s most discouraging for KC’s legion of loyal fans is the sorry state of the farm system, which has been allowed to sink deep into the pit of mediocrity. This is a crucial branch of the Kansas City franchise that owner David Glass has allowed to deteriorate because of an insufficient budget.

KC is a small-market team and the only way to have a consistently competitive ballclub is to have an outstanding farm system. GM Dayton Moore has been handicapped by a lack of money in the development of a first-class farm system.

The discouraging aspect of KC’s present situation is that there’s no easy fix. With a weak farm system, the Royals’ outlook for the next few years is bleak indeed.