Friday, October 29, 2004

Can it ever get better?

I’ve seen a couple of quotes recently that have disturbed me. First, this one from Red Sox (and former Royals) reliever Curtis Leskanic:

“Ending up on this team is a dream,” said Curtis Leskanic, the reliever released by the Royals midseason who soon will be fitted for a World Series ring. “It's like falling out of a dump truck and ending up on a cloud.” (Kansas City Star, 10/28/04)

And this from Free Agent du jour Carlos Beltran:

“I experienced being on a team where they don’t do anything to help the ballclub,” Beltran said. “One of my priorities if I stay with this ballclub (the Astros) will be keeping the young guys ... our young players have potential to be real good.” (, 10/29/04)

What are these guys saying? It’s obvious that players who have played in Kansas City leave the club with a bad taste in their mouth. Over and over again, players in Kansas City have said the same thing while they were here – they want to see a commitment by the team to try and put a winner on the field.

And while the Royals have put up a good front, there are no indications that the team is about to turn the corner. Here is their record since 1995:

2003Kansas City Royals8379.5127.0
2002Kansas City Royals62100.38332.5
2001Kansas City Royals6597.40126.0
2000Kansas City Royals7785.47518.0
1999Kansas City Royals6497.39832.5
1998Kansas City Royals7289.44716.5
1997Kansas City Royals6794.41619.0
1996Kansas City Royals7586.46624.0
1995Kansas City Royals7074.48630.0

The Royals have finished at least 15 games behind every year but 2003. In 2004, they had their worst season ever, finishing 34 games behind and losing 104 games.

That’s a pretty consistent record of futility. The only aberration is 2003, when the Royals jumped out to a 9-0 record to start the season. The Royals were hot to start the season, went ice cold in May, got hot again in June and led the AL Central by 7 ½ games at the All Star Break. They played just well enough to finish in third place in the AL Central.

Building on the “success” of their first winning season in 9 years, the Royals decided to focus on 2004 as the year they win their division. They scrapped their weak hitting catcher Brent Mayne and signed former MVP slugger Juan Gonzalez. The Royals also pushed the Kauffman Stadium fences back 10 feet. At the time, and based on the how the Royals played in 2003, these all felt like great moves. They weren’t.

The Royals went from their best season in 9 years to their all time worst season. What happened? Poor decisions. One area that the Royals did not improve in the off season was pitching. They opened the 2004 season with a rotation of 4 left handed “finesse” pitchers. They got hammered.

They opened the season with two slow corner outfielders to patrol the greatly expanded outfield. They entered the season with 3 first basemen/designated hitters. Instead of continuing to play the sort of scrappy, aggressive baseball that served them so well in 2003, instead they waited for the long ball. In a stadium with deeper fences. The Royals lost a lot of games.

2005 doesn’t look much brighter, and this is why. We’ve seen all of the farm talent. By the end of this disastrous season, the Royals had called up every prospect in their system. None were very impressive except for David DeJesus who took over in center field after Carlos Beltran’s departure.

And now we can see where those former players are coming from. I can remember guys like Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye saying the same things. “If I can feel confident that they are trying to be competitive, I want to stay.” They’ve all left and the team is still not competitive. Mike Sweeney said the same thing when he signed his recent contract. In the contract it stated that if the Royals failed to reach .500 in either 2003 or 2004, he could seek free agency. Thanks to a freak .512 season in 2003, he’s stuck here. I don’t think the spirit of his contract was to keep him here to endure yet another 100+ loss season.

When Sweeney leaves (either via trade or after his contract runs out), I’m confident we will hear the same types of quotes. He wanted to be here, but didn’t feel like the organization worked hard enough to produce a winner.

Small market excuses be damned, this organization needs a clean sweep – top to bottom.

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