Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Let me try to summarize the season so far. I need to do this as a sanity check.

First, our most prized young pitcher has emotional issues and walks out of camp, followed shortly thereafter by our closer hurting himself, our pre-ordained number two starter needing knee surgery, our next-youngest starter eating his way to the minor leagues, and our number three hitter and captain hurting his ankle and missing significant time again, prompting the Royals to name their disabled list after him.

Then, as camp broke, the GM and manager decided that the two extra bullpen slots should go to a career minor leaguer and a failed soft-tossing lefty starter with a career ERA of 5.27, rather than two guys who throw real heat, and sport enormous strikeout rates and genuine potential, even though cutting one of them loose exposed him to be returned to his former team. Plus, they had already determined that they were going to keep a 38-year old former outfielder/first baseman, even though they acknowledge that he can't really play outfield anymore, isn't needed at first base since the signing of Doug Mientkiewicz, and won't be the DH very often because that's where the team captain calls home. That move will cost them nearly $1.5 million in salary this year. On top of that, the club handed the fourth outfielder job to a rookie who has barely 400 career plate appearances above A ball even though the veteran he was battling is a much more accomplished hitter at every level, plays defense just as well, and hit .350 in Spring Training. As a cherry on this sundae, they grabbed a middle infielder off waivers despite having to pay him his entire $2 million salary and despite being forced to cut the guy they acquired in exchange for the very same middle infielder only the year before.

The season kicked of with their new erstwhile ace, Scott Elarton, actually pitching well above expectations in all of his starts, but being winless nonetheless because the team scored the whopping total of four runs in his first three starts. The new number two starter has been so terrible that when he allowed six earned runs in just over five innings yesterday, his ERA actually dropped to an obscene 11.68, a mark that looks more like the price of a marked-down DVD at Blockbuster than an ERA. The ERA of their new number three starter is even higher, meaning he's either a worse pitcher or a better movie. Their number four starter, a bright spot entering the year, has already been forced to the DL, despite the fact that he says there's nothing wrong with him.

The leadoff hitter and best all-around player pulled his hamstring. The captain hurt his hand and is still feeling the effects of his bum ankle. The bullpen's ERA is 8.27, and the American League is hitting .345 against them. One of the crappy relievers they kept decided to withhold the fact that his elbow was hurting until after he allowed six runs in just over two innings in Tampa to blow a lead. As a team, they are hitting .228, getting on base at a .287 "clip", and have a collective OPS of .667, all dead last in the majors, even behind all sixteen National League teams that have to let their pitchers hit. In fact, the pitchers for the Mets and Braves each have a higher average and OPS than the Royals do as a team.

The team has played four full series so far this young year and have been swept in three of them. They're dead last in offense, having scored only 45 runs, fully one per game less than the next-lowest team. But at least they're a balanced team; they're dead last in runs allowed as well. At this point last year, the Royals were 4-8, had scored 42 runs and allowed 72. That ratio projected to a winning percentage of .272, which translates to a record of 44-118. Now, obviously, they did better than that, so perhaps their is hope for this team after all. Right?

Um, probably not. This year, the team is 2-10, has scored 45 runs and allowed 91, a ratio that projects to a winning percentage of .216, and a record of 35-127. In other words, the Royals will have to play eight games ahead of their current pace just to avoid tying the record for most losses by a team in one season. They need to play 21-games better than their projection to avoid being the first team ever to lose 100 or more games for three straight years AND lose successively more games in each of those seasons.

Well, at least we can say we watched something historic.

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