* I hope you’re following along with the Shocker Invitational on my blog. It’s a fun endeavor and one that will play out over the coming weeks and months. I’m really interested in feedback on this among old and young readers, alike. There is a definite historical aspect to this fictional tournament made up of teams of current and former Wichita State basketball players.
* The goal is for this 16-team tournament to begin sometime in early February and culminate with a Final Four in the week between the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and the opening games of the NCAA Tournament.
* How do we play this off? We’re still working on that. But we think we can create a program to use on an XBox or Playstation gaming system. We want these players and games to be as realistic as possible, but understand that limiting teams to just five players, without bench players, will stretch that realism. Still, the hope is to devise a program that will allow us to make players who resemble those they’re representing, both in look and performance. Just understand that people a whole lot smarter than me are eager to get involved.
* In the weeks leading up to the tournament, I’ll be breaking down teams and talking to a lot of players from Wichita State’s basketball past for the blog. I will be on vacation for most of next week, but plan on hitting this hard in the weeks after. Except for Christmas week, when I’ll again be taking some time off. You use it or lose it, folks.
* The Royals’ trade of left-handed pitcher Will Smith to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Norichika Aoki is A-OK with me. It’s never easy to give up a left-handed pitcher and Smith is one who could have a long and successful career. But I don’t see him as ever becoming anything more than a No. 4 or 5 starter and Aoki feels an immediate need for Kansas City. He’s a solid leadoff hitter who makes contact. He has a .355 on-base percentage during his two seasons in the big leagues with Milwaukee. That’s not great, but it’s not bad. It would be nice if he drew more walks. But Aoki puts the ball in play and has been a better-than-average right fielder.
* The question is: Are the Royals intent on using him in right? If so, will they still pursue free agent Carlos Beltran? At this stage of his career – he’s about to turn 37 – Beltran can only help a team in right field or as a designated hitter in the American League? If Beltran comes aboard, that could signal a move for Aoki to center field. Or it might mean the Royals would trade DH Billy Butler.
* Why are people so down on Butler? Yes, his production did wane in 2013. But he has been one of the most productive DHs in baseball for a while now and is still only 27. It’s more than reasonable to expect him to have a strong bounce-back season in 2014. Butler hits into a ton of double plays. Double plays are maddening to a fan base. And Butler is in an interesting place with Royals fans, considering how durable and good he has been during his career.
* The Seattle Mariners have gone insane under the guise of trying to win an American League West title. Signing Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal is crazy. And Seattle reportedly is still interested in trading for Tampa Bay left-hander David Price. The Mariners are also mentioned as potential landing spots for Beltran, Butler and others, including Boston free agent Mike Napoli. Somebody in Seattle decided the Mariners were tired of being bad and this is a team trying to do something about it. Only problem is that buying championships usually doesn’t work unless you’re the New York Yankees.
* The last episode of “The Walking Dead” before their two-month hiatus was stupendous. I was on the edge of my seat. Not really. I’m not sure I’ve ever been on the edge of my seat. But I was captivated.
* I expect to see a more focused Kansas basketball team when the Jayhawks play at Colorado on Saturday afternoon. Bill Self has had more than a week to work with this young club after a blase three games in the Bahamas. I suspect we’ll see a more aggressive Andrew Wiggins. I’m curious to see how Self mans his backcourt in upcoming games. Naadir Tharpe doesn’t enthuse me. Maybe he enthuses you. But he doesn’t enthuse me.
* Give Bruce Weber time. That was a nice home win for Kansas State over Mississippi on Thursday night at Bramlage. Not pretty, not fluid, not exciting. But it was nice. And Weber deserves a lot more time than some K-Staters seem willing to give him to implement his system, both on the floor and in recruiting. Let’s see what he can do over the next couple of seasons before starting to make determinations.
* We’re putting up some outdoor Christmas lights this year. It’s been years since I’ve put up outdoor lights but now is the time. My wife is so excited. Perhaps I’m not such a Scrooge, after all?
* I’m thinking $240 million contracts are going to be tougher and tougher to sell to a public that includes so many living paycheck to paycheck. Or just wishing they had a paycheck. Sorry, I’m just having a contemplative moment here. I’m all for the marketplace determining salaries like this, but I keep expecting a backlash.
* Robinson Cano is a terrific baseball player, no doubt about it. But $24 million a year for 10 years terrific? I just did some math. Cano will make in one day just slightly less than I make in a year. I wish I hadn’t done that math.
* And no, I cannot hit a curve.
* It’s not Cano’s fault he’s going to making this ungodly amount of money. It’s not the Mariners’ fault for paying him, although I think it’s a foolish contract. It’s not really anybody’s fault. The market supports this kind of salary, obviously. The Mariners have a beautiful ballpark and they sell a lot of tickets, even though they’ve been mostly a losing team.
* I just did some more math that I shouldn’t have done. Making what I make now, I would need to work 3,428 years to make what Cano will make in 10. I’m going to check with my doctor to see if there’s any chance I can go that long.
* It sounds like I’m picking on Cano here. Or picking on capitalism. Or picking on something. I think I am, I’m just not sure what. I should be congratulating Cano and his agent, my good friend Jay Z. They cashed in. And that’s what we’re all trying to do, right?
* I can’t stop with the math. Somebody stop me. It will take Cano two days to earn enough money to buy my house. At least it’s two days and not one. So I feel better.
* Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend and may you all hit the jackpot of life, whatever that might be.