▪ Hello, everyone. These are my final musings for a couple of weeks so I’ll try to make them good.
▪ The American League Central is a far different place than it was a week or so ago. Cleveland has added slugger Brandon Moss. Detroit has traded Rick Porcello for Yeonis Cespedes to add to a lineup that already features Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and others. The Chicago White Sox, well, who haven’t they added? And the Minnesota Twins picked up right-hander Ervin Santana, supposedly a Royals target.
▪ Meanwhile, the Royals replaced one DH (Billy Butler) with another (Kendrys Morales) and may not have gotten better in the process.
▪ I look for right-hander James Shields to find a new team any day now. And where do the Royals go to get a pitcher to help replace his performance and innings? It’s tricky. Kansas City still needs to plug a gaping hole in right field. With the other teams in the division likely getting better (if Detroit loses Max Scherzer, the jury is out on the Tigers) there is some pressure on KC general manager Dayton Moore to produce.
▪ Getting to a World Series was a seismic moment for the Royals in 2014. Falling back to third place and out of the playoffs would not be the right way to follow up.
▪ It looks like most of the pitching in the American League has landed in the Central Division. The Royals are officially being chased.
▪ As for the National League Central, the division I pay the most attention to, things are also looking up. The Cubs are making big moves, the biggest of which is signing Jon Lester for way too much money. The Pirates should be good. The Brewers? Who knows? And the Reds held a fire sale at the winter meetings, trading starting pitchers Alfredo Simon (Detroit) and Mat Latos (Cincinnati). The Cardinals have added right fielder Jason Heyward, relievers Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle and right-handed hitter Mark Reynolds. I think St. Louis is up to something more, though. I think the Cardinals are going to sign hometown boy Scherzer. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking.
▪ I’m looking forward to Saturday’s Kansas-Utah game at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. It’ll be interesting to see how the Utes perform away from Salt Lake City in not exactly a road game, but really a road game. The crowd will be nearly 100 percent behind the Jayhawks. I was impressed with Utah when the Utes beat Wichita State in overtime last week in Salt Lake. Still, I expect KU to win this one, mostly because of the venue.
▪ It’ll be a thrill for Wichita State fans – and especially students – to have Dick Vitale at Koch Arena as part of ESPN’s broadcast crew for Tuesday night’s game against Alabama. Dicky V is polarizing; honestly I think he’s well past his prime as an analyst. He more of a marketing commodity than a basketball analyst and has been for years. Still, you can’t argue with what he’s done to elevate interest in college basketball. And he does have opinions, which is good.
▪ A few of us interviewed Vitale at last week’s Florida-KU game at Allen Fieldhouse. He’s a genuinely nice person and, at 75, shows no signs of slowing down. He loves the interaction with students and he’ll spend a lot of time with them Tuesday night at the Shockers’ game. He’ll add to the festivities.
▪ So Magic Johnson hopes the Lakers lose the rest of their games so they can have a better chance to get the top pick in the 2015 NBA draft? That’s pretty pathetic, Magic. It’s probably what a lot of Lakers fans are hoping, too, but you’re supposed to be above such things.
▪ Homeland didn’t get nominated for a Golden Globe? Well, I’m not watching the Globes then on Jan. 11. Oh yes I am. Who am I kidding? Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are hosting.
▪ Interstellar, probably the most-hyped movie of the year, wasn’t nominated for best motion picture drama by the Golden Globes. Interesting.
▪ Wow, Golden State has won 14 games in a row and is 19-2? I think I’m going to be a Warriors fan. I like their first-year coach, Steve Kerr. I like the way that team can score. And they’re 11-1 on the road.
▪ I love it when people show pictures of the deer they killed on Facebook. Actually, I don’t love that. But I’m not a hunter. So take me to task for being a Bambi lover.
▪ I just my influence and popularity by how many Christmas parties I’m invited to. Let’s just say it’s a little slow this year.
▪ We know the Missouri Valley Conference has been struggling in men’s basketball. I’m not sure what to think about the Valley so far this season. Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Evansville are a combined 22-2 so far but the other seven teams are 25-30. Is there hope for a competitive MVC race? I need to see a little more of UNI and Evansville, but those are probably the only teams capable of challenging Wichita State. And I’m not sure either one of them really is. Could 18-0 be in the cards again?
▪ If you think MVC men’s basketball is struggling, what about the women? Indiana State (7-1), Wichita State (5-2) and Southern Illinois (4-2) are 16-5. The rest of the conference is 14-40. Yikes. That’s simply unacceptable. How did women’s basketball in the Valley get to be this bad?
▪ Wichita State’s men’s opponent Saturday, Detroit, is 6-3 but has won five of its past six. No impressive wins, though. The Titans’ worse loss undoubtedly has been to Michigan. I joke, Michigan. But who loses to the Wolverines these days? Certainly not NJIT or Eastern Michigan.
▪ Keep an eye on Detroit senior Juwan Howard Jr., who averages 18.7 points. He’ll have a tough day, though, against WSU senior Tekele Cotton. Who doesn’t have a tough day against Cotton?
▪ Detroit plays in the Horizon League, which has an interesting concoction of mid-major schools like Valparaiso, Green Bay, Youngstown State, Wright State, Cleveland State, Oakland, Milwaukee and UIC. I get cold just thinking about this conference. But could you make a case that, top to bottom, it’s better than the Valley? Or is that stretching it?
▪ As you may have heard, we have a dog in our household now. His name is Tinker and he’s a 10-year-old Schnauzer. He runs our house now and we’ve bought him two Christmas presents. Two.
▪ Tinker is one of two major highlights in my life during 2014. The other, of course, is having our first season of competitive baseball in League 42, our non-profit youth organization that is preparing for an even better 2015. It’s been a fantastic year.
▪ Have a very Merry Christmas everyone and enjoy all that this time of year has to offer: Basketball, bowl games, egg nog, Christmas carols, etc. I’ll be back with more musings soon.