KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' recent decision to drop their Rookie classification team at their training complex in Surprise, Ariz., basically was made for one reason.
"We're not really big fans of complex baseball for the development of players," said director of player development Scott Sharp. "We feel that players can develop better outside the complex environment."
There's just a better feel for competitive baseball with the Rookie clubs at Idaho Falls and Burlington, N.C. There are fans in the stands, there's a community presence at the ballpark, there are road trips, and all the trappings of Minor League baseball.
That was missing at Surprise, where most games were played on the complex's back fields, "fans" consisted of idle players or visiting scouts, the atmosphere was subdued and summertime temperatures boiled. Not only that, players might be in Arizona virtually year-round for Spring Training, extended camp and the summer league followed by the fall or instructional leagues. For some players, there might be a second year at Surprise.
"We feel like guys can stagnate by spending 20 months in Arizona before they ever get out. That was why we did it," Sharp said.
The Royals didn't cut any coaching or staff positions and likely will make up for lost player slots by adding a second team in the Dominican Republic. The dropping of Surprise leaves them with seven Minor League clubs.
Deserving recognition heaped on KC's defense
KANSAS CITY -- Royals fans and the team's pitchers knew it all along, but the postseason awards are making it official: the Kansas City defense was pretty doggone good this year.
For the first time, three Royals won Rawlings Gold Glove Awards in the American League -- left fielder Alex Gordon, first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvador Perez.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar and center fielder Lorenzo Cain also were nominated for Gold Glove Awards, and Cain was named the Royals Defensive Player of the Year by Wilson. Not only that, but the Royals were co-winners with the Orioles as Wilson's American League Defensive Team of the Year.
"Kansas City is a small-market team, but for all these guys to be recognized like this just shows how good of a baseball team we have and how these guys work," Hosmer said.
In 2012, third baseman Mike Moustakas was one of the three Gold Glove Award nominees as well. He wasn't too shabby this year, either.
Closer Greg Holland certainly assigns the Royals' "D" an "A" grade.
"It gave me the ability to attack hitters more. I've never been afraid of throwing the ball over the plate, but you also realize when you have a defense that's that solid all the way around, one through nine, if you make them hit the ball four or five times in a row -- even if they hit it hard, somebody's going to make the play," Holland said. "They did it day-in and day-out, saved a lot of runs and in turn, that saved games."
Perez, just 23, gave the pitchers a lift not only with his arm and blocking abilities but with his game-calling this season.
"He's still learning, he's just a kid, man," said starter James Shields, "and to be able to make the strides he made from Spring Training and to be able to work with a new staff ... I mean, there are not many catchers that could possibly do that and have a lot of success. He did a phenomenal job this year."
Hosmer's ability to snare slightly-errant throws has made all the other infielders better in manager Ned Yost's view.
"He not only makes them look so good, but there's a comfort level with our infielders with Hoz at first base, because they know they have the opportunity to make a spectacular play," Yost said. "They know that they can catch a ball, wheel and throw, and no matter where it's going to be -- high, low, left or right -- Hoz is going to be there to pick it."
It was a great blend of superb defense and strong pitching for the 2013 Royals.
"Just the way we played behind our pitching staff, really there wasn't a weak position on our infield or our outfield," Gordon said. "So it was great to see that good pitching matched with that great defense."
Eiland throws GIBBY support behind Holland
KANSAS CITY -- Closer Greg Holland is the only Royals player nominated for a GIBBY -- the Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards, for which fans are casting ballots on MLB.com -- and he has pitching coach Dave Eiland's vote.
"It's a credit to him," Eiland said. "Everybody talks about his stuff -- his fastball and his slider and his good change are almost unhittable when he's on -- but it's his approach and his makeup as well that make him as good as he is. You don't teach a guy or force a kid to have that kind of makeup. He just kind of has it, he was kind of born with it."
Holland had 47 saves and blew just three saves in his 2013 campaign. Those rare glimpses of vulnerability reminded Eiland of his time as Yankees pitching coach with legendary Mariano Rivera.
"It kind of leaves you speechless, because you're not used to seeing it. It kind of brought me back to my years with Rivera -- like, 'Oh wow, well, I guess he is human,'" Eiland said. "But Greg was absolutely tremendous. I don't think anybody could've predicted a better year for him than he had."
Checking in with 'Amazing' wives of Getz, DeJesus
KANSAS CITY -- Sort of like the Royals and the Rays making a late run for it this season, the baseball wives team is hanging in there determinedly on CBS-TV's "The Amazing Race."
Nicky Getz, wife of Royals second baseman Chris Getz, and Kim DeJesus, wife of Rays outfielder David DeJesus, got slowed down in Sunday night's episode in exotic Abu Dhabi. They missed a connecting ride on a yacht, had trouble arranging a tray full of dates in a market and lagged in a high-speed run in a race car. (All this after Kim rappelled down a 200-foot building.)
So in the episode's final scene, they are the last team to check in and they're in tears because their race seems over. They had made it through seven episodes and were among six surviving teams of the 11 that started the crazy round-the-world dash.
But wait. The host informs them this was a non-elimination leg and they're still in the race.
"I thought we were going home!" says a relieved Nicky as they hug happily.
But can they pull a worst-to-first comeback? Stay tuned next Sunday.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.