Off the Cobb: Spring training is here

Pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, Arizona, Tuesday, so that means spring can’t be far away, right?

This has been the most unusual winter I can remember with the combination of bone-chilling cold (-18 degrees on Jan. 30) and the number of snows that have come and gone. It seems like as soon as the snow melts another round is right behind. And in the middle of it all, we had a couple of near-60-degree days. … Go figure. 

As of this writing, the Maryville R-II School District had missed eight days due to winter weather and was in the midst of dodging yet another winter storm with ice and snow. You can read elsewhere in this publication about the plan to make up those days.

How about a tip of the cap to the ladies and gentlemen whose job it is to ensure the safety of our students on days like these — the school administrators, bus drivers, municipal road crews and others.

Do they always make the right call? That’s a matter of many opinions. 

But one thing I’ve noticed to be true — if an error is to be made, it is done so on the side of caution.

As parents, that’s what we should want. It might cause temporary inconvenience, but that’s a small price to pay for safety. The decision to cancel or delay or let out early has been a delicate dance this year for sure.

As I mentioned at the top, it’s time for Spring Training and I’ve been seeing much speculation when it comes to potential lineups and starting rotations for my beloved Kansas City Royals. 

There has been a lot of talk about the Royals being what General Manager Dayton Moore calls an “action team,” meaning they plan to use players like Bert Mondesi, Whit Merrifield and Billy Hamilton to wreak havoc on the basepaths. … No talk, however, about how to get those guys (other than Whitley) on base enough to matter.

Most predictions I’ve seen so far have Merrifield batting in the No. 1 position, with Mondesi up next.

I’m ok with that, but I think if you are going to be an “action team,” you ought to start off the game like you mean it. 

Put Hamilton at the top, then Mondesi, then Merrifield. Surely at least one of those guys will get on base and advance for guys like Salvador Perez and Ryan O’Hearn to chase them in. Merrifield himself is a proven run-producer.

Regardless of how they get the job done, I don’t think scoring runs will be the biggest problem.

Preventing runs is what concerns me the most. 

The Royals have the potential to field one of the game’s best defenses, but I believe the pitching staff will again be one of the worst. 

I know Danny Duffy has somehow won his way into the hearts of KC fans, but he just isn’t good enough to be the best starter on a competitive team. 

Behind him, the team will be counting on the still unproven durability of Brad Keller, a Rule-5 pickup last season, Jake Junis, who might actually be the team’s best starter and most likely Jorge Lopez, who came over in the Mike Moustakas trade and later flirted with a perfect game. Mixed in with that will be oft-injured and oft-ineffective Ian Kennedy, who is nearing the end of his godawful contract.

Another old-timer, Homer Bailey, a career-long Cincinnati Red, who used to be a good pitcher, was signed to a minor league contract and could provide depth.

Eric Skoglund, who would have been in the mix, was suspended for 80 games due to a positive PED test. 

I really liked what I saw from Heath Fillmyer last year, but he appears to be destined for Omaha.

Kyle Zimmer, who has spent his entire career on the disabled list, has somehow found his way into the mix after working out with the renowned pitching gurus at Driveline Baseball. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Arnaldo Hernandez rocketed through the system, starting in single-A Wilmington and making it to AAA Omaha in 2018. He could end up in KC as early as this summer.

But the next wave of starting pitching can’t come soon enough for this team.

The only thing more uncertain than the starting rotation is the bullpen. 

Brad Boxberger, who has been a closer at times in his career, was recently signed to a one-year deal. He’ll join Wily Peralta, who became the team’s closer by default last season, at the back of the bullpen. 

Beyond that, the Royals bullpen is currently made up of a bunch of also-rans.

The most promising bullpen piece, Richard Lovelady, is currently assigned to Omaha and doesn’t have to be put on the 40-man roster until after this season, but some think he could force his way into the Opening Day offering.

The infamous PECOTA rating, known for consistently underestimating the Royals’ chances through their championship years, actually has the team winning 71 games this season. That’s 13 more than a year ago.

I can’t imagine what they see that would make them think the team is that much better.

If the team is any better at all, it will be purely through good fortune.

Unless I see something in Spring Training that changes my mind, I’ll predict 63-99 with cautious optimism.

Phil Cobb is the owner and publisher of The Maryville Forum and The Post.