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Royals return to national glory

Mark your calendars, sports fans: on the 4th of July, the Royals will be featured on Sunday Night Baseball! NESN.com's Daniel Rathman:

    The last time the Kansas City Royals were featured on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, President Bill Clinton was in the midst of a reelection campaign, Derek Jeter was a rookie, and 2009 AL Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke was in middle school.

    The maiden Sunday Night Baseball contest was on ESPN on April 15, 1990. Back then, each team was guaranteed at least one appearance in the spotlight every season. But at the time, the Royals were a sub-.500 squad well on its way to becoming an afterthought in the American League.

    The most recent Sunday Night Baseball broadcast at Kauffman Stadium was on June 16, 1996. That night, the Royals – playing in front of just 19,437 fans at their home ballpark – lost to the Baltimore Orioles 13-5 and coughed up eight runs in the eighth inning. Perhaps that embarrassing implosion is what screamed “stay away!” to ESPN’s producers.

    --snip--

    The Royals are 920-1,275 since their last appearance on Sunday Night Baseball. For a beleaguered franchise that can’t seem to do anything right, a rare appearance on the national stage is an excellent chance to show signs of hope for the future.

    A win on the Fourth could be the first step toward rebuilding their long-lost respect.

Fourteen years is a long time. I'd love a little context here; has any other team gone as long? If not, who's currently in second place? (I'm making inquiries, will add update when I know something.)

That game back in 1996 really was a dud. Tim Belcher started for the Royals, and he was actually in the middle of a fine season, one of his very best. But he got knocked out in the sixth, and was succeeded by relievers Jason Jacome (5.65 ERA after the game), Hipolito Pichardo (5.91) and Tim Pugh (8.44). The Orioles weren't any better, featuring starter Rocky Coppinger (6.55), Jesse Orosco (6.86) and Alan Mills (5.65).

Those are just snapshots. Coppinger, Orosco and Mills would all improve their ERAs quite a bit by season's end, and the Orioles went to the playoffs. Still, Jon and Joe might have wondered what they were doing in Kansas City that evening.

They might wonder again on the Fourth of this year. Particularly if Trey Hillman can't jigger his rotation so Zack Greinke's pitching that night. Regardless, there's almost nothing the Royals can do in one game to rebuild that long-lost respect. To do that, the front office will have to stop making foolish moves and the team will have to win 75 or 80 games.

Which isn't to say it won't be fun, watching them. For at least a few innings, they'll seem like a real Major League team again.