Andy McCullough covers the Royals for the Kansas City Star, which was a much less exciting bio sentence two months ago. Ask him about the madness.
Andy McCullough: Hello. My name is Andy McCullough, and I cover the Royals for the Kansas City Star. The Royals are in the World Series and I owed Sam a favor. Hence, this chat.
Letís discuss the high-flying Royals, if you like. Better yet, you can read about the Royals in the pages of The Star, and at kansascity.com/sports/royals. You can follow me on Twitter, if you enjoy unrelated Tweets about the emo revival, @McCulloughStar.
Alright, letís do this. We have 60 minutes to chat for the rest of our lives.
ssimon (Pelham, N.Y.): How is Kyle Zimmer doing ;)
Andy McCullough: He's been lighting things up in the Arizona Fall League, based on the scouts I've talked to and based on stuff that guys like Keith Law are writing. Once the World Series ends, I'm headed to Surprise to check in on Zimmer, Dozier, Starling and the rest of the prospect gang.
But, basically, the story on Zimmer hasn't changed much since he injured his lat muscle in May. The club still feels he can contribute in 2015, and they hope he could join the rotation midseason. But the next season he completes in healthy fashion will be the first. His talent is immense. His brittleness is frustrating for the organization - and, of course, for Zimmer himself. He's a bright guy, a hard worker and in the words of more than one KC official "a clean liver*." So his inability to stay on the field is tough for everyone involved.
*The noun here refers not to the organ, but the noun form of the verb "to live." The implication is basically the same, though.
Also, stop trolling. Now is not the time.
William (Spokane): Is Ned Yost just inconsistent or is he getting better?
Andy McCullough: He's getting better. A crucial thing happened in September. The Aaron Crow Game (the cousin of The Jonny Gomes Game) showed the limits of Yost's rigid bullpen management. After that game, pitching coach Dave Eiland implored him to be more aggressive in using Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis.
One point to Yost's credit: He listened. The next night, Herrera pitched in the sixth. Davis pitched in the seventh.
Another point to Yost's credit: He did not waver. Because the Royals lost that next night, and Yost could have easily backslid into the routine. He didn't.
During the ALCS, multiple Orioles officials lamented to me their frustration that Yost had optimized his bullpen deployment. It was almost unfair, they said. And this was when the team wasn't even using Danny Duffy, who was their best pitcher for much of the summer.
So, in short, Yost has gotten better. He still does goofy things, like letting his No. 3 hitter bunt in the first inning. But they've found a horseshoe. At this point, it's Ned's world, and we're all just living in it. Hope you are all enjoying the #Yostseason.
Chill Cosby (Space): In your approximation how many Lions are on the Royals roster? Any, besides Shields of course, with future astronaut lion potential?
Andy McCullough: Danny Duffy could become an Astronaut Grizzly.
Victor (Little Rock, Arkansas): Diehard lifelong KC fan, I drove up for Game 4. Still can't believe this. Love McCullough's stuff; replacing legends at the Star, but he does a great job. A million questions here to choose from ...
a) Top of 8th, Game 4, was Gore given the green light to steal third? After the Infante IBB, why didn't he steal 2nd (unlikely to draw a throw, and if he did, Gore could have stolen home)? Why wasn't Colon pinch running and/or sub in defensively? Infante doesn't seem 100%.
b) Where is Duffy? Hard to believe we can make a complete post-season run with our most electric starter being the #6 guy in the pen. Was Guthrie really going to pitch a Game 7 on 3-days rest over Duffy? Yost's backup plans if they lost Game 4 seemed terrible (I agree with yesterday's podcast point). If Duffy's windup mechanics are off, what's wrong with just using the stretch?
c) Will the rest help Salvy pick his pitches better?
d) (Most important) Will Fox stop blacking out games in Little Rock so we can watch on MLB.TV Premium? Hard to get KC games down here on almost any package.
Thanks for the podcast and KC coverage.
Andy McCullough: Wow. These are a lot of questions. I will answer them quickly.
a. No; Britton is quick to the plate, and difficult to steal second on; Yost is sticking with Infante, even though he is hurt.
b. Duffy is in the bullpen; I don't know, probably; when he pitches directly out of the stretch, he loses fastball velocity and sits around 90-91, as a LHP against RHH mashers, that isn't great.
c. Probably not. The rest after the ALDS didn't help him much. He likely needs an offseason to reset and reshape his approach. He's been an offensive mess since July.
d. I don't know, but I hope so, for your sake.
Slayer Softball (KC): Can we chat here?
Andy McCullough: Of course! How is your offseason going?
TJ (Blue Springs): The royals beat SF 3 in a row during the reg season. Can they sweep them in the WS?
Andy McCullough: It is possible.
A-Rod (New York): Miss you
Andy McCullough: I miss you too, Rod. I hope you get to lead your brothers into battle again next April. The baseball world needs you.
Justin (KC): If I had asked you three months ago what the Royals' offseason would look like, what would you have said? What about now?
Andy McCullough: The biggest difference wrought by these three months, I think, is the Royals will show even more faith in Mike Moustakas. Their needs remain the same: They need an RF, a DH, another starting pitcher and some bullpen help.
Right field: Nori Aoki is a free agent, and he'll certainly play for more than $1.5 million in 2015. KC may make an attempt to retain him.
DH: The Royals have a $12.5 million team option on Billy Butler, and they certainly won't pick it up. He wants to stay, even after an awkward September spent sometimes on the bench. That feeling may not be mutual, but a World Series trophy could alter any potential plans to cut ties with him. Butler is a popular player with the ownership group, and his roots here are deep.
SP: James Shields is a free agent. He'll get a qualifying offer and decline it. If the Royals sign him after that, Andy Martino will cover spring training in a Speedo.
Bullpen: You always need bullpen arms. Here is the one other major difference. It appeared pretty clear throughout the season that the Royals had to make a decision about Greg Holland and Wade Davis. Their total paycheck for 2015 should land around $15 million (give or take $100,000 based on Holland's arbitration figure), and that's a high price to pay for two one-inning relievers. But, of course, this run may alter their internal calculus. Our Sam Mellinger reported the Royals believe they make at least $1 million for every playoff game they host. If they have the spare cash, they may feel its imperative to retain the ingredients of this formula.
That said, relievers are relievers are relievers, and relievers are inherently damaged pitchers. They end up as relievers because there's something wrong with them that prevents them from starting. So they can be volatile. Holland missed a good chunk of September with, essentially, a cranky arm. His triceps was tight. He has the most trade value of the duo, but between his profile as a one-inning reliever and some injury concerns of rival officials, the team won't exactly be able to trade him for a front-line hitter. One suggestion I heard - from neither a Royals official nor a Nationals official - was a fair swap would be Holland for Tanner Roark. I'm not sure the KC front office would be overwhelmed by that offer, but that's the type that could be awaiting them.
All of this is to say: Yes, Moustakas will be back in 2015, despite hitting .212/.271/.361 in 140 games this year.
Cristobal Colon (Pasadena, CA): What do you think of Christian Colon? He had a nice 2014 and seems like a solid 2b. What do you see his future as and will he get a chance to start for the Royals? Want to know more about him. Thx.
Andy McCullough: A certain segment of Royals fans will always link Colon with Chris Sale, which is a fair standard for the organization, but somewhat unfair for Colon. He impressed team officials by embracing his utility role this season. When the club traded Danny Valencia in July, they said the imperative was getting Colon to the majors. It would make some sense for Colon to get 250-300 at-bats next season as a backup for Omar Infante and a right-handed complement to Mike Moustakas at third base.
But, who knows.
William (Spokane): What is your assessment of Norichika Aoki's defense?
Andy McCullough: Humorous but effective. I once asked Lorenzo Cain to sum up Aoki's routes in one word. "Wow," he said. Then he started laughing.
h (philly): do you know billy butler
Andy McCullough: Not in the Biblical sense.
gbcincy (Cincinnati): What mock t shirts will the Royals wear when they sweep the Giants? Something about the Golden Gate Bridge?
Andy McCullough: Hopefully something obscure like "'Flood' Is A Bad Record."
Bob Hamelin (Coney Island): How does the organization feel about Binford? Can he find MLB success with an 88-90 MPH fastball?
Andy McCullough: He profiles as a fifth starter, due to his lackluster arsenal. But his strike-throwing ability and acumen could allow that to play up, as does the prospect of making half his starts at Kauffman Stadium. The team tried him in relief with Omaha in September, and Binford did not respond well. He walked five batters in four appearances, after walking 17 guys in 130.2 innings between Class A and Double A.
Finn Polmar (Chicago): Dynasty league question: Current top 10 fantasy hitters? No particular order.
Andy McCullough: Put Lucas Duda in there.
Rick (Ontario): Is it just me, or are you nicer in this chat than the KC Star ones? Less snark?
Andy McCullough: We just started.
Omarion (Hardly, On., Canada): Is Jarrod Dyson as funny as he seems?
Andy McCullough: In my experience, no ball player is ever as funny as he seems. Except maybe Brandon McCarthy. He seems legitimately funny.
Bruh (Club): The Royals come to you and say "bruh, this walk-up music we're using sucks. You like music, don't you? Choose the walk-up music for this whole lineup..." Nine players, nine songs. GO!
Andy McCullough: I did this in a mailbag bag in August. Forgive the jumbled up lineup:
1. Nori Aoki: "The Downfall of Us All" by A Day To Remember. This would just be an amusing way to start the first inning.
2. Omar Infante: "Mojo So Dope" by Kid Cudi. Omar is a laid-back fellow.
3. Salvador Perez: "Simon Says" by Pharoah Monche. The Godzilla introduction would be excellent.
4. Billy Butler: "Some Guys Have All The Luck" by Rod Stewart. A classic for the perpetually put-upon DH.
5. Alex Gordon: "Put On" by Young Jeezy. Either this, or "My Hero" by Foo Fighters. Or "The Best" by Tina Turner. I doubt Gordon would like the latter choices.
6. Josh Willingham: "Top Notch" by Manchester Orchestra. Non-descript rock music.
7. Lorenzo Cain: "Hold On, We're Going Home" by Drake. Smoother than LoCain flagging down a line drive in center.
8. Mike Moustakas: "You Wanted More" by Tonic. What? It's a good guitar riff.
9. Alcides Escobar: "Bowtie" by Outkast. I don't know. Feels like it fits.
Jim (Houston): Who's going to win the World Series?
Andy McCullough: I don't know.
Joe (KS): Who is more likely to appear in the rotation in 2015: Manaea or Almonte?
Andy McCullough: Finnegan.
stevenmal (austin): Do you feel bad for all the negative articles your wrote about the team now that the Royals are in the WS
Andy McCullough: Nope. They were not negative. They were accurate. This team was two games under .500 four days after the ASB.
Finn Polmar (Chicago): Serious about Duda? Just making sure.
Andy McCullough: I am always serious about Lucas Duda.
ira (israel): Will you eat any avocado in california?
Andy McCullough: I know I am going to get lunch at The Slanted Door at some point.
clscholes (Independence): If you had the choice, what would the WS starting rotation for the Royals look like?
Andy McCullough: Danny Duffy would be pitching.
But I would say the Royals approach has been effective so far.
Alex (Madison, WI): What do you think the rotation will be opening day next year for the Royals?
Andy McCullough: Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Jeremy Guthrie and Johnny Free Agent.
Alex (Madison,WI): are you a robot
Andy McCullough: No robot would be this lazy in the gym.
Ty (kc): When do you presume Mondesi being in the big leagues? 2016?
Andy McCullough: Try not to presume anything with prospects. A wise man once said prospects can break your heart. But, sure, the Royals would be thrilled if Mondesi reached in two years. He didn't exactly light up the Carolina League this summer.
Jose R. (Toronto/D.R.): Congratulations on success, bro!
Andy McCullough: And here I thought SungWoo was going to get all the credit.
La Air (D-Town): Regardless of what they say, what are the odds of Dayton going to Atlanta?
Andy McCullough: To quote Dayton Moore himself: "My crystal ball is broken." It would be an upset. Moore refuses to discuss the situation publicly, but his boss, owner David Glass, has said on multiple occasions he does not expect Moore to leave.
BH (Independence, MO): Barring injury, next years KC rotation will have Duffy, Guthrie, Vargas and Ventura. While your crystal ball is broken: What's more likely for the "5th" starter, having a Brandon Finnegan prospect type there, or having a short-term veteran in the rotation with DD/JG/YV/JV?
Andy McCullough: You've heard about my crystal ball, eh?
I would say short-term veteran makes a ton more sense. Brandon Finnegan has been a solid reliever this last month. He has also made five (5) starts as a professional. All three were with Class A Wilmington. He needs seasoning. He'll be given a chance to win a job on the Opening Day roster next spring, but I would suspect you'll have to go to Springdale or Omaha to see him early next year.
Rick (Ontario): Didn't you at one point say you had tickets to some concert, and would miss them if KC made the World Series? Is this still true?
Andy McCullough: Yes. American Football reunion show on Oct. 11 in New York. I missed the show. Sick of this.
wcmartin (Wilmington, Del.): I vaguely remember a story this season (or perhaps the '13 season) about Yost begrudgingly permitting the front office to write the lineup card for a week. My recollection is the team did not fare well during that experiment. Were there any positive consequences during that week that perhaps had more of a long-term effect on Yost and/or the team in general? THANKS FOR LISTENING.
Andy McCullough: That was last year. I was in New York then, brah, covering Big Rod.
Nike (Doit): Favorite James Shields clubhouse story?
Andy McCullough: There's a good one involving Christian Binford and ice cream, but I'll probably save that for next spring training.
John (Texas): Any under the radar pitching prospects or young pitchers who could surprise next year by taking a big step forward like Corey Kluber, or to a lesser extent Carlos Carrasco and Jacob DeGrom? Thanks.
Andy McCullough: Do I look like Jason Parks?
I guess I do, kind of. Can we get a ruling on this?
Wendy (Chicago): I'm meeting with my lawyer this afternoon. Should I go for one-half the estate of Yordano Ventura or Eric Hosmer?
Andy McCullough: Uh.
Ty (kc): what trade was more important?
Andy McCullough: For comedic purposes, Aoki. But it would be fair to favor The Trade over The Greinke Trade by like one or two percent.
Phil (Philadelphia): Is Moustakas going to ever take it to the next level?
Andy McCullough: He has a .668 OPS across 1,993 plate appearances. His bat has been less productive each season. This may just be his level. A good defender, a below-average hitter. You could do worse at third base.
Alex (Madison, WI): Who is your favorite former writer for the Kansas City Star? There are a lot of good ones.
Andy McCullough: Wright Thompson and Joe Posnanski come to mind, of course, and I think Liz Merrill might be the most underrated writer in the country. She is tremendous.
The Flourish Pharaoh (Anywhere and Everywhere): Two questions:
1) What do you think the odds are that Davis returns to the Royals next year?
2) Say you had to assemble a basketball team consisting only of fictional basketball players. Wouldn't Teen Wolf be your number 1 pick?
Andy McCullough: 1. Strong. He has less trade value than Holland, and the Royals may not be as inclined to trade their relievers. 2. You would take Michael J. over those aliens in Space Jam? Bold.
Gabriel (Montevideo (Uruguay)): Is it true when you say that Yost is ironical with your questions? How is dealing with him everyday? Cool guy?
Andy McCullough: As a rule, I never use the word "ironic" in stories, mostly because I just don't know what it means. Yost is fine. He traffics in prickliness.
Mellinger (The Peanut): Why do you hate
Andy McCullough: The best day of my life will be when I am able to call Sam a former colleague.
Stephen (NYC): What's your best tip or advice for a young sportswriter?
Andy McCullough: Law school.
But if you really want to do this, I would advise you write as much as possible for your school paper. Apply to every internship you can. Be willing to work for free while you are in college. Read as much as possible.
And, then, just go to law school and save yourself the torture.
Byron Buxton (Minnesota): Are the players in KC scared of me?
Andy McCullough: I doubt they have ever heard of you, Byron.
Nedyo (No Central A/C): Have you ever had a bad experience with a Ouija board?
Andy McCullough: I don't think so, but anything is possible.
Nick (KC): Does Hochevar have any future in the KC bullpen?
Andy McCullough: He could, but these things are always difficult to predict. His rehab timetable may not match up with the Royals spending plans. If Hochevar wants to return for cheap, there should be a spot for him. But he earned more than $5.2 million this season, and KC won't pay near that for a guy returning from surgery.
Not Caesar (Chicago): Who had dumped the most beer/champagne on your head if you added up all the dumpings from the 4 combined celebrations?
Andy McCullough: Hosmer dumped two full beers on my head after the initial clinch in Chicago. That was the most.
cdgoldstein (DC): Just wanted to remind you that we knew this was coming back in July.
Enjoy the Series.
Andy McCullough: He has become Midas.
Rick (THe HAt): Who likes you the most in the Clubhouse?
Andy McCullough: I don't know. You would have to ask them.
The other Bob Hamelin (Cooperstown): Why did Vargas start ALDS Game 1 but Guthrie start ALCS Game 3?
Andy McCullough: Vargas was on rotation for that game in Anaheim. Against the Orioles, Yost and co. preferred Guthrie's right-handedness to Vargas' left-handedness.
Joe (KS): Are beat writers who tweet too much the new market inefficiency?
Andy McCullough: Is this a subtweeted insult to me? I guess it could be. I guess it could be.
Tommy (KS): Will someone really offer Sheilds a 5 year deal? There is too many innings on that arm without an injury.
Andy McCullough: Yes, some team will.
Aaron (El Do, Mo): Gore wasn't a difference maker in ALCS. Any chance he's left of WS roster?
Andy McCullough: That would be a surprise. Ned Yost compared Gore to Barry Bonds coming off the bench. True story.
Rick (Boozetown): Dumbest chat question you have ever gotten/?
Andy McCullough: Give it a second.
Kyle (America): Which player has the hottest wife/girlfriend?
Andy McCullough: Right there.
Frankie (Delaware): What's the deal with this Astronaut Lion stuff?
Andy McCullough: A buncha nerds started it when Shields was on the Rays. I enjoy the picture.
Alex (Anaheim): Speaking of McCarthy, will he re-sign with the Yankees?
Andy McCullough: It would be a good fit: groundball guy in that park, with a personality capable of handling the scene there. But, you know, generally bet against free-agent signings. They are always unlikely.
Rick (Liquorville): How do the Mets and Royal's fanbases compare? What are the similarities and differences?
Andy McCullough: I think a lot of fan bases are similar on the surface. There is a 15-to-25 percent pocket of crazy people on Twitter, a group possessed by what Moore calls "a critical spirit." But they're both passionate and determined and invested in the product. Most teams have pretty dedicated fanbases. What separates the Royals fans, of course, is the 29-year drought. Only diehards stick around through three decades of losing.
Justin (KC): badbaseballwriterbarbecuepictures.tumblr.com
Andy McCullough: It's a must.
Lion (Moon): The Royals' base stealing overall wasn't a factor in ALCS, after it looked like grownups playing against kids in first two rounds. Did the Orioles really do that great a job slowing them down, or does it take only competent batteries to keep the Royals from doing real damage on the bases? Long way to the question, which is: Giants pitchers don't do a great job holding on runners, Buster does a pretty good job throwing them out, call it all league-average. How many attempts and how many steals for the Royals in this WS?
Andy McCullough: I recall the Royals running wild on the Giants in August, but I think that was mostly against Tim Lincecum. Baltimore places a premium on slowing the running game. There will be more opportunities against the Giants, but not a ton. Good teams hold runners. Good pitchers don't even let them on base.
Sean (Overland Park): How many 2014 A.L. Gold Glove winners will be Royals?
Andy McCullough: Definitely one in left field. The shortstop and the center fielder are also worthy candidates. I don't know if the first baseman hit enough to merit one, but as the defending champion, he'll have a chance.
Jack (Truth or Consequences, NM): WWE Raw is in KC Monday. Any chance of Butler, Gordon, Hosmer, etc. invading the ring like that first Nexus appearance?
Andy McCullough: We all know Cain would be the best wrestler on this roster. Tremendous athlete.
Alex (Madison, WI): What's surprised you most about KC since you moved here? Favorite BBQ place?
Andy McCullough: The ease of my daily commute is a pleasant reminder that I no longer live in New Jersey. I'm not much for BBQ, but I enjoy OK Joe's and LC's.
Winston (Oakland): What's your access to players like in the postseason? Do you still have some privileged status for talking to the Royals or is it all group interviews now?
Andy McCullough: The clubhouse is closed before the games now. It is mostly group interviews, but there is plenty of time to grab players one on one when necessary.
Slayer Softball (KC): We need a 10th, you in'?
Andy McCullough: I'm gonna pass, you guys. Unless you are playing winter ball in Aruba next month.
Frank (Kansas City): Mike Moustakas has been a great defender this year, but other than a decent home run total, has looked completely lost at the plate. What are your thoughts on his future, and who will be the Royals' third baseman in 2016?
Andy McCullough: We touched on this earlier, but I would think he'd be their third baseman again in 2016. Hunter Dozier made some noise in Wilmington at the start of the year, but stalled in Double A.
Aaron (MO): Cain my be the best athlete, but we all know Gordon would take the best chair shot.
Andy McCullough: I bet Gordon no-sells.
Duffy's Mom (SoCal): Can I expect more game time from my son in WS? Where can I get that bear jacket?
Andy McCullough: I doubt it, m'am. I believe you can find that coat on the Internet somewhere.
Wyatt (Wyoming): Is this the most exciting thing to happen in Missouri since ah, since, ah...., I've got nothing to put here.
Andy McCullough: The Cardinals also play their home games in Missouri.
Winston (Oakland): Which player has the hottest mom/grandma?
Andy McCullough: Christ.
Just Blase (Indiana): What is your opinion on Nelly's verse on the Cruise Remix?
Andy McCullough: That is a tremendous user name. I have not heard this song you speak of.
G (KC): Will Hosmer play first in all games in San Fran?
Andy McCullough: Yes. He is probably their best hitter.
clscholes (Independence): I'm glad you have discovered LC's. Many people skip over that wonderful, dirty place.
Andy McCullough: Good spot.
Andrew (KC): Do you feel like the Royals have shown better plate discipline in the playoffs than they did in the regular season? (Other than perhaps the last two games.)
Andy McCullough: They have. I am not exactly sure what the source of their renewed patience is, but it's been noticeable. Who knows if it carries over to 2015. If they fly a WS banner at The K, it won't matter, anyway.
Bob Hamelin (Hot Dog Factory): Is there any hope left for Bubba Starling? What are the whispers from inside the organization?
Andy McCullough: The organization remains publicly optimistic about Starling's future, and insists he just needs time to develop. Rival officials from other clubs remain dubious.
Why Touki (Arizona): Who's the best hitting pitcher on this team?
Andy McCullough: It may well be Jason Vargas. I am sure James Shields thinks it is James Shields.
Jason (KC): Is it time to give up on Bubba Starling?
Andy McCullough: No. It is time to be worried, though.
The Flourish Pharaoh (Anywhere and Everywhere): Absolutely Teen Wolf over Space Jam aliens. Patrick Ewing ain't winning nothing these days. What about Air Bud though?
Andy McCullough: What about Air Bud, indeed.
This was fun, guys. Maybe we'll do it again sometime.
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