Hot Stove #249 – Opening Day 2024!

Tomorrow at 3:10. Royals v. Twins. With Andy doing the honors…

A graphic with cutout photos of Andy Reid waving a co-branded Royals and Chiefs towel and walking out onto the field at Kauffman Stadium, a hand reaching for a baseball in a pile of chicken nuggets, and three Lombardi Trophies set against a white background with elements of blue. Text on the graphic reads, "Andy Reid, 2024 Opening Day First Pitch."

If you need a printable Royals season schedule, click here.

MLB’s first Opening Day game for the 2024 season was on March 20 in Seoul, South Korea, pitting the Dodgers against the Padres. California fans of the teams needed to be up at 3:00 AM to watch live. I missed the Opening Day game (L.A. won) but tuned in at the top of the 7th in the second game (at 7:00 AM KC time). I had missed a lot of action (Padres led 11-8), but another seven runs would be scored in the Padres’ 15-11 victory.

The big news as the series began was that Shohei Ohtani, from nearby Japan, would be playing his first game in a Dodgers uniform. After the first game, this highlight was overtaken by the breaking news that Ohtani and/or his interpreter might be involved in an illegal sports gambling scandal. Most baseball media sites led with that story, and the coverage has not abated. Below, Ohtani and his now-former interpreter in Seoul.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 20: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers talks to his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara in the dugout during the 2024 Seoul Series game between Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 20, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)

Royals on TV: When Google cable abandoned Kansas City, I switched to Spectrum as my Royals TV source. Cable-cutters can stream on Bally+ for $19.99/month (click here). Royals Review has a good summary of all available options (click here).

The Royals Roster – A New Look: The Royals will have a different look this year, mostly in the pitching ranks. The only eight players holding over from Opening Day of 2023 are Pasquantino, Massey, Witt, Isbel, Perez, Melendez, Singer and Lyles.

The Royals spent a good amount of free agent money, and hopefully this translates to more victories. The team also signed its top player Bobby Witt Jr. to a long-term contract.

During spring training, beat writers surveyed over 100 players for their opinions on a range of topics. On the question of what team will most surprise people, the #1 choice of more than one-quarter of the players was the Royals. As reported by MLB writer Thomas Harrigan, “Kansas City was one of the most active teams during the offseason, adding veterans such as Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, Will Smith and Hunter Renfroe to a young core led by burgeoning superstar Bobby Witt Jr…on the heels of landing potential ace Cole Ragans last summer.“

 A National League pitcher said, “It’s a clear attempt to be at the top of the division. They can see their division is up for grabs, so I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if they were up there.”

 I hope he’s right. Full article here.’s player survey:
Which team will surprise people in 2024?
1. Kansas City Royals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Chicago Cubs
Pictured: Bobby Witt Jr. wearing a white Royals uniform.

In another piece, Mike Petriello divided the 30 teams into nine tiers. The Royals are in Tier 6, grouped with three other teams that did not make the playoffs last year. He is not suggesting that these teams will have better season records than all teams in Tiers 7-9. But he thinks the Tier 6 teams will likely improve, be “extremely watchable” and play “exciting, interesting baseball.” Some specific positive factors for the Royals are the softness of the Central Division, potential Cy Young candidate Cole Ragans, franchise legend Salvy Perez and Vinnie Pasquantino (returning from injury). Full article here.

How Many More Wins in 2024?: The Royals start with a low bar of 56 wins in 2023. But is that truly the base number? In an article in The Athletic, there is a ray of hope. The authors concluded that two teams (the Royals and Padres) had an unfortunate mix of bad luck and underperformance (best example, Salvy had a negative WAR). If the team only regressed to the mean, the metrics say the 2023 roster would have won 67 games. With the hopeful improvement of the roster with free agent signings and maturing of some young stars, winning 70+ games begins to sound plausible.

The Royals have twice increased their win total by 20 or more games. In 1970, in their second year of existence, the Royals won 65 games. In 1971, they jumped to 85 victories, an increase of 20 wins. In 2002, they won only 62 games, but came back in 2003 to win 83, an increase of 21 victories.

To match with 2002/2003, the Royals need to win 77 games in 2024. I’m hoping we break the record. Here’s what some sportswriters think…

Royals Wins – The Professional Predictors: Two of the traditional sources of MLB win/loss projections are FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus (PECOTA).

The current FanGraphs number for the Royals is 76 wins.

The PECOTA number is 70.5 wins (shown below with the other AL Central teams.

I checked several gambling sites for the over/under on the Royals, and the consistent betting line is 73.5 wins.

The FanGraphs and PECOTA numbers for all teams are here and here. The USA Today projections for all teams:

Royals Wins – The Amateur Predictors: For the last three seasons, Hot Stove has convened a Nostradamus Panel to predict the number of Royals wins for the season.

In 1555, Nostradamus published a collection of 942 poetic quatrains, and these vague prophecies have been interpreted as predicting many major historical events (the rise of Napoleon, the death of Princess Diana, etc.). Do the quatrains apply to baseball, invented three centuries later? In an entertaining column, FanGraphs used a series of quatrains to predict what would happen in each game of the 2013 World Series. It did not go well, but I like their imagining Nostradamus as a hot-dog-eating Red Sox fan.

How has the Hot Stove Nostradamus Panel done? Disclosure: We do not consult any quatrains. We are gut Nostradamites (not a word according to spellcheck).

In 2021, our five guesses ranged from 74 to 81. The Royals won 74 (a shoutout to Steve Roling for his correct answer). In 2022, the range was 74-81, compared to the actual 65. Last year, no surprise, we missed big. The predictions for the 56-win season ranged from 66 to 78.

We are not very good at this. One likely reason is that we have all been Royals fans since day one and cannot stray from our team optimism – even for money (or bragging rights, since we don’t put up any money). So, I give the same warning I gave last year. Don’t place any legal bets in Kansas or illegal bets in Missouri or California (see Ohtani above) based on this panel of partisans for the Royals.

For 2024, we increased the panel from five to six members. The 2024 numbers from the Nostradamites: David Matson – 69; Bob White – 71; new guy Jim Heeter – 73; Steve Roling – 74; Lonnie Shalton – 76; and Jeb Bayer – 78.

Baseball Abstract – Bill James: Now, a segue from interpreting quatrains to interpreting statistics. This means Bill James instead of Nostradamus.

Bill James has had many mentions in Hot Stove, and this one was prompted by Steve Fuller loaning me two early editions of Baseball Abstract – the 3rd and 4th editions (1979 and 1980).


Working as a night watchman in Lawrence, Kansas, James found time to publish his first Baseball Abstract in 1977. It was typewritten, mimeographed and stapled. He advertised in the Sporting News. Sold 75 copies.

Happy birthday, Bill James: Look back at his 1970s Sporting News letters | Sporting  News Australia

[Some Good Local Trivia: John W. Lungstrum, a graduate of Pem-Day, Yale and KU law school, is currently a Senior Judge in Kansas City, Kansas (appointed to the Federal bench in 1991). In 1977, Lungstrum worked at a law firm in Lawrence. Bill James’ wife Susan worked at the same firm and obtained permission for Bill to use the firm’s mimeograph machine to publish the first Baseball Abstract. Judge Lungstrum: “Of course, I had no idea at the time what a big deal the Abstract was going to become.”]

Circulation quickly grew. James gained notoriety in baseball circles and ultimately reached a mass audience.

I’ll focus here on the 1980 edition

The cover featured a gorilla in a Rodin-Thinker pose contemplating a baseball. The drawing is by James’ wife Susan McCarthy.

In the introductory letter to his readers, James announced the name he had selected for the statistics revolution he had started:

“A year ago, I wrote in this letter that what I do does not have a name and cannot be explained in a sentence or two. Well, now I have given it a name: Sabermetrics, the first part to honor the acronym of the Society for American Baseball Research, the second part to indicate measurement. Sabermetrics is the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records.”

In his team description of the Royals, James lamented that they had not won their division in 1979. He primarily blamed the pitching, assigning some fault to manager Whitey Herzog for leaving the pitchers in too long. Ewing Kauffman may have agreed with this – he fired Herzog who was replaced by Jim Frey for the 1980 season. James: “I have no idea what they will do; I lose perspective on this team [James is a Royals fan]…The Royals have more good young talent now then they have ever had, and far more than anyone else in the division. If Aikens, Hurdle, Washington and Wilson (and some pitchers) play up to their potential, the Royals will not only win the division, they’ll blow it away.”

What happened? The Royals won the AL West by 14 games and beat the Yankees in the ALCS. Their World Series opponent was Philadelphia. In Baseball Abstract that year, James said, “The future of the Phillies has grown bleak, indeed.” Not the near future apparently. The Phillies beat the Royals, four games to two.

 1980 World Series - Wikipedia

 Baseball Abstract ended in 1988, but James became a prolific author and blogger. He also worked for several years as an advisor to the Red Sox. Sabermetrics spawned an industry in the baseball world, including the book and movie Moneyball. Every MLB front office today has a Sabermetrics team of techs to measure all elements of the game.

You should go to the Sabermetrics, Scouting, and the Science of Baseball  seminar - NBC Sports

Below, Bill James interviewing Joe Posnanski at a Rainy Day Books event on the Plaza in 2021. The subject was Joe’s book The Baseball 100. James was the perfect choice since he had done his own top 100 list in his 2001 masterwork The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. It was great fun to hear them compare notes. Joe believes Bill James’ influence on the game should be recognized by induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Agreed.


Kansas City Current: Congratulations to the NWSL’s Kansas City Current on the opening of CPKC Stadium. I love the setting on the Missouri River adjacent to the Christopher S. Bond Bridge. To answer the question that some of you have, CPKC stands for Canadian Pacific Kansas City, the company formed by the merger of Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern.

CPKC Stadium announces return of Big 12 Soccer Championships to Kansas City Kansas City Current

And thank you to Port KC for repairing the lights on the Bond Bridge and adding teal filters to match the primary Current color.


Next step. If someone knows owners Angie and Chris Long, please pass along the idea of a drone photo shot from the far side of the bridge at a night game. One of my favorite stadium views is PNC Park on the Allegheny River as seen from the far side of the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

PNC Park and Clemente Bridge Sold Out Crowd on Fireworks Night - Etsy  Finland

Lonnie’s Jukebox (1) – Steve Lawrence (RIP): Steve Lawrence died earlier this month at the age of 88. Those of us watching TV variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s saw a lot of Lawrence and his wife Eydie Gorme singing pop standards. They have been described as the last of the “tux and gown” duos.

Lawrence never considered himself part of rock ‘n’ roll, but his name is burned into my brain as part of one of my favorite pieces of rock ‘n’ roll trivia. It starts with…

“Go Away Little Girl” by Steve Lawrence went to #1 in 1963. But he was not the only singer to hit #1 with this song.

STEVE LAWRENCE: go away little girl COLUMBIA 7" Single 45 RPM | eBay

“Go Away Little Girl” by Donny Osmond went to #1 in 1971. This was the first song to hit #1 by two artists on the Billboard Hot 100.

The next song to hit #1 by two artists was…

“The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva went to #1 in 1962.

“The Loco-Motion” by Grand Funk went to #1 in 1974.

Now for the BIG TRIVIA. Both “Go Away Little Girl” and “Loco-Motion” were written by the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

I remember hearing this fact at the time, probably from listening to Casey Kasem work his way through the Top-40. Grand Funk’s “Loco-Motion” hit #1 on May 4, 1974, coming up on 50 years ago. I’ve never forgotten the two songs and the four artists. And the two songwriters.

Gerry Goffin & Carole King: selected hits, 1960-1965 | Songbook

Per Wikipedia, seven more songs have since gone to #1 by two artists. But I can’t remember what they are.

The Goffin/King combo came up again last week when I was listening to a podcast episode of “A Life in Lyrics” with Paul McCartney. He recalled being 16 and starting to write songs with John Lennon. At the top of one of the songs, he remembers writing “another Lennon/McCartney original.” He liked the sound of co-writers because quite a few of the hits they had listened to were written by “Goffin/King,” “Leiber/Stoller” and others from the Brill Building in Manhattan. He admitted that he first assumed King was a guy, but it turned out to be Carole King.

Rita and I had a Steve Lawrence sighting last week. We rewatched “The Blues Brothers” and were reminded that Lawrence played booking agent Maury Sline. Jake and Elwood meet Maury in a sauna to beg him to find a music venue for the following night.

Jake: “Maury, you gotta come through for us. We need 5,000 bucks fast.” Maury: “5,000 bucks? Who do you think you are, the Beatles?”

Maury comes through, and as we all know, it was a great show. And the orphanage was saved.

 Lonnie’s Jukebox (2) – Eric Carmen (RIP): Eric Carmen died earlier this month at the age of 74. I first heard his distinctive voice as the lead singer of the Raspberries. Two of my favorites are…

“Go All the Way” by the Raspberries (1972).

“Let’s Pretend” by the Raspberries (1973).

RASPBERRIES * 45 * Let's Pretend * 1972 * STOCK Vinyl * VG++ USA ORIGINAL w/ PS - Picture 1 of 2

Carmen moved on to a solo career and had some big hits. A sampling…

“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen” (1975).

“Never Gonna Fall in Love Again” by Eric Carmen (1976).

When I was getting Carmen’s discography info from my Billboard singles book, I saw that the melody of the two songs above were built around themes by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Having no ear for that, I contacted Hot Stove Classical Music Editor Dan Margolies. He not only confirmed the connection, but he and KC Symphony Director Michael Stern aired Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto a few months ago on 91.9 Classical KC. They discussed pop music pieces based on the concerto, including those by Eric Carmen. Learn something every day.

“Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen (1987). The link is to the song as it was played in the movie Dirty Dancing. Carmen recorded the song for the movie soundtrack and months later released his single (went to #4). Click here for another version showing clips from throughout the movie. If you liked the movie, you will love these clips.

Hungry Eyes - Wikipedia

And now…

Play Ball!