Sports Potpourri: Royals draft, Big 12, KU vs K-State rivalry

 By Mac Stevenson

The Kansas City Royals have completed their 2018 draft and—if the numbers are any indication—have started the long climb back to being a competitive ballclub. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

KC drafted nine high school prospects and 34 college players. Of those 43, 26 were pitchers (21 of the 26 were college players); obviously, the Royals tried to draft mainly college players in order to take advantage of their experience and maturity.

When you consider that KC will soon have 26 new pitchers injected into their minor league farm system, they will eventually have a much-improved pitching staff. That’s the first big step back to having a respectable ballclub.

Last week the Royals traded outfielder Jon Jay to Arizona for two pitching prospects and that’s just the beginning of the exodus of KC’s best players. The next three that will likely be traded are third baseman Mike Moustakas, catcher Salvy Perez, and closer Kelvin Herrera. If that happens, Kansas City’s MLB team will hit the bottom of the barrel.

If KC doesn’t get a number of great prospects for their three best players—just to keep from having to pay those three a high salary—that’s going to be proof positive that the Royals’ ownership has locked and sealed the money safe.

The trouble with MLB is the free agency for players after they’ve been with a team for six years. That’s when most of them are in their prime and only owners with more money than they know what to do with can afford to pay the ridiculous salaries that run up to $20 million and more per year.

A possible solution would be for the average players to get together within their union and set the free agency at 10 years in return for increased compensation for themselves. And insert a realistic salary cap of something like $5-$10 million a year for the stars.

As loyal and supportive as KC fans have been over the years, they shouldn’t have to suffer through three or four years of awful baseball because of a system that has been out of control for years—that was caused by a small group of rich, selfish, ultra-stupid and egocentric owners that let it get out of control.

Administrators of the Big 12 conference left their 2018 annual spring meeting with smiles on their faces. The conference had a revenue of $364.87 million; that’s a record and an increase of $8 million from 2016-17. Each Big 12 school collected about $36 million and some, including Kansas, topped $40 million because of their media income.

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was particularly pleased and said, “We mostly spent time celebrating what has been an extremely successful competitive year, financial year, legislative year. So we feel very good about the state of the Big 12 Conference.”

Bowlsby said the highlights of the Big 12’s year included the following: Oklahoma’s participation in the four-team football playoff for the national championship and Kansas’ basketball team advancing to the Final Four in the men’s NCAA Tournament; the Big 12 was the only league to have teams in both Final Fours.

In addition, Oklahoma State’s golf team won the national championship; seven men’s basketball teams made the NCAA Tournament; and eight Big 12 football teams had a 5-3 won-loss record in eight bowl games.

In the early 1950’s Phog Allen coached Kansas basketball and Jack Gardner was Kansas State’s head coach. Jack and Phog weren’t exactly close; they didn’t exchange Christmas cards.

Both teams were consistently ranked in the top ten in the nation. K-State lost to Kentucky in the national championship game in 1951; KU won it in 1952; and KU lost to Indiana in the championship game in 1953. That was three seasons in a row that KU or K-State played in the title game.  And the interstate rivalry was fierce for fans and players alike.

K-State’s Bruce Weber and KU’s Bill Self are not bosom buddies either; the hostility is subtle, unlike Jack and Phog’s often public—through the media—confrontations. But Coach Self and Coach Weber do not exchange holiday greetings either.

The Wildcats have all their starters and key reserves back from their Elite Eight team and the Jayhawks’ Final Four ballclub has some players returning and are loaded with new talent. KU will have the biggest and best frontline in the nation.

Even though Kansas has recently dominated the basketball rivalry, it’s heating up again. And that’s good for both schools. Kansas State has completely dominated the football rivalry during the Bill Snyder era; nevertheless, the upcoming basketball season should reawaken memories of how confrontational the competition was on the basketball court about 68 years ago.