By Jim Baker
Special to Page 2

The assignment: spend a week watching the last-place Kansas City Royals on television and document what I saw. Two questions, no doubt, immediately come to mind: Why does this assignment exist and why did I get it?

You've seen those ads for ESPN phones, right? You know: the ones in which the guy is trying to break in as an anchor and is stalking various personnel in the parking lot of ESPN headquarters. That was not filmed in Hollywood, folks -- that's what it really looks like in Bristol. In one ad, he gets stopped at the gatehouse by security personnel. Now, the last time I was there I kind of sort of ran into that gatehouse with my car. At 40 miles an hour. It came out of nowhere, really. Fortunately, no guards were inside at the time but the powers that be weren't happy. I think that's kind of why I got this assignment, to be honest, a let's-make-the-guy-who-destroyed-our-gatehouse-watch-the-Royals-for-a-week kind of thing.

So that settles the why-it-is-I-who-is-doing-it part, but it does not solve why it needs to be done at all. The thinking is this: if this team turns out be something anti-special, we as a culture need to have as much documentation of their doings as possible. If the Royals go 41-121 and lose the most games since 1901 or if they go 38-124 and post the worst winning percentage since the American League came into existence, well, then we'll have this diary of the past week from that season as an accounting of what went on in that historically charged time.

(Note: Not all Royals games were on televised in my viewing area this week, which, come to think of it, probably kept me sane.)

Runelvys Hernandez
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Wins may be hard to come by for the Royals, but apparently there is no shortage of food at the postgame spread.

Sunday, May 28: Royals @ New York Yankees
• Because baseball is the way it is, the Yankees -- arguably the second- or third-strongest team in the game in spite of all their injuries -- offered themselves up as streak-ending bait two nights prior. The Royals held off a comeback bid to win their first game in 14 tries. They were punished for their hubris on Saturday, getting clobbered 15-4. Is this the beginning of another protracted schneid?

Doug Mientkiewicz made the third out in the top half of the first for the simple reason that he is batting third for the Royals. At this moment, no other recent Royals move symbolizes the failure of the Allard Baird tenure quite like the Mientkiewicz signing. It's not that the Royals gave him a lot of money (they sort of did, relative to his talent), it's that:

1. They wanted him in the first place.

2. They wanted to use him on a fairly regular basis.

3. They are often batting him third.

Looking at everyone who has batted third about 60 times or more this year (updated through Sunday, June 4) we find 42 players. In terms of just their plate appearances out of the three-hole, Mientkiewicz is ranked 39th among them in OPS. The lowest spot belongs to the A's Bobby Crosby followed by the Angels' Garret Anderson. Unfortunately for the Royals, No. 40 is Mike Sweeney. Every player on the list has at least two homers out of the three slot, save for two -- Mientkiewicz and Anderson, who both have zero.

It's not that Mientkiewicz is a player without uses. He can certainly hold his own with the glove and he does walk a fair amount. There might even be a team or two that are so strong at other positions they could afford to carry a slick-fielding first baseman who hits like a fourth outfielder. A team like that would bat him eighth, though and not make him a load-bearing unit of the offense like Kansas City has. After reading all this, you may be surprised to discover the Royals are last in the league in runs scored.

• Remember the GWRBI? If this were 1986, Johnny Damon would have just gotten one with the first Yankee at bat of the game. He led off with a home run, staking New York to a lead it probably will never relinquish. Of course, this is just why the Game Winning Run Batted In is no longer an official statistic.

• Royals starter Runelvys Hernandez looks like he read Calvin Trillin's "American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater" and "Alice, Let's Eat: Further Adventures of a Happy Eater," was intrigued by the author's premise that Kansas City is the best food town in the world and set out to prove why. Baseball no longer has such sobriquets as Fat Freddy Fitzsimmons, Fats Fothergill, Blimp Phelps or Porky Odom. I think the reason for this is that overweight people now outnumber non-overweight people in America and nobody would dare anger the majority. If the practice were to return, though, imagine all the nicknames you could hang on Hernandez: Girthman, Chunkles, Fourchins, Chubsworth, Invisibelt. (The last one comes from Rob Neyer.) And I would have to assume a Royals fan has called him Fatelvys at some point.

It's turning out to be a rough first for Hernandez as four straight hits have fallen after Damon's lead-off homer. "Fallen" is the operative word, too, as three of them could be qualified as bloops or semi-bloops. Alex Rodriguez plated two with his meekly hit single, making it 4-0 without benefit of an out being recorded. Hernandez got Robinson Cano to hit into a double play, so perhaps he'll get out of ... uh, no, he just walked Melky Cabrera.

How many times in a season does a player score from first on a single? Damn near zero, on average, I would think. Terrence Long polled a long shot to right and Cabrera came all the way around. The throw came into second, holding Long at first but allowing the run to score, making it 5-0. I see no reason why Long couldn't have made it to second. This comes into play on the very next batter when Bobby Keppel replaced Hernandez and allowed a single to Kelly Stinnett that easily would have scored Long.

• With two outs in the top of the second, Emil Brown rammed one into the gap in left-center. Inexplicably, he tried to stretch the hit into a triple. Even though it was Cano and not uber-relay man Derek Jeter who took the throw from the outfield, Rodriguez still had time to tie his shoes before putting the tag on Brown. (A quick reminder that the score was 5-0 at this point.) A passage from "The Great American Novel" by Phillip Roth quickly came to mind:

    With two out in the ninth and his team down by thirty-one runs, Nickname Damur got the fifth Mundy hit of the day ... a clean shot up the alley in left center, and then was out when he tried to stretch the double into a three-bagger. ... In the dugout, streaming tears, Nickname stood before Mister Fairsmith and tried to think of some sort of explanation of what he had just done.

    "I don't know, sir," he said, shrugging. "I guess you could say I gambled."

    "Thirty-one runs behind in the ninth ... and you say ... you say you gambled? My God ..."

Fairsmith, a character in the aging Connie Mack mold, then falls over and dies from shock. Nobody died in reaction to Brown's misguided attempt but I wouldn't have blamed them if they had.

Doug Mientkiewicz
Ed Zurga/ AP Photos
One home run in 51 games? At least we can assume Mientkiewicz isn't on steroids.

• When the Yankees added another run in their half of the second to make it 6-0, it was beginning to look like another blowout in the making. Then, a miracle occurred: the much-abused Royals bullpen battened down the hatches. Keppel, in just his second big-league appearance, did a good job, allowing just one run in 3 1/3 innings. Andrew Sisco, Joel Peralta and Elmer Dessens all pitched clean innings and the Yankees never scored again. In fact, the Royals won the rest of the game 5-0. If you had watched from the third inning on, you would have never known which was the team with the $200 million payroll and which was the team that would be hitchhiking to the airport after the game to save money.

Tuesday, May 30: Royals @ Oakland A's
• David DeJesus! The leadoff homer: friend to the downtrodden. No matter what horrible things happen later, the Royals always will have that to look back upon fondly -- that golden moment when, without the burden of making any outs, they held a lead. Now that he's back, DeJesus won't bring the Royals off the highway to oblivion all by himself, but he can get them a little closer to the nearest rest stop.

If you give any team the chances the A's have given the Royals in this inning, letting them get ahead 4-0, bad things are going to happen. Brad Halsey continues to look awful and is just the sort of pitcher a team on the skids deserves to run into once in a while. Giving Kansas City a four-run jump is going to prove problematic with the way the A's are going. They've scored more than four runs only once in the past 11 games. In fact, they've done it only 16 times so far in 2006, fewest in the American League. Even the Royals have scored five or more 19 times (Boston and Toronto have the most at 31 times).

• Are the Royals unable to line up a lot of sponsors for their games? The second-inning commercial break featured a plug for either Kansas City itself or the Royals. It's a series of vignettes with various Royals players expounding the wonders of Kansas City. Then there was a promo for a giveaway at an upcoming game. They repeat these two promos several times throughout the game, seemingly every other inning.

• Watching Mientkiewicz skillfully run down fouls in Oakland makes me believe this should be his fate: defensive caddy for some super-slugging Oakland A's first-base stud. He caught one the night before that would have been in the concession stand in any other park in baseball. How many times has someone said to you: "Man, you know what I love best about baseball: watching guys run down foul pops." Personally, I've never heard anybody say that but we have to assume there's somebody out there who lives for that sort of thing. He's the guy who takes the MLB Extra Innings package just to watch Oakland's home games.

• Halsey's night of misery has come to an end in the fifth inning. He seems far removed from that golden moment two years ago when he beat the Dodgers on national television in his major-league debut.

Emil Brown was gunned down to end an inning yet again! At least they weren't down by five runs this time but, even with Oakland's run deprivation, I'll bet the Royals will miss that runner later.

They just showed a graphic that had Esteban German as 10th in the league in batting average for the month of May and Joe Nelson ninth in ERA, or maybe it was German ninth and Nelson 10th. In any event, this is some serious consolation prize braggadocio. Nelson is a 31-year-old who entered the year with a major league ERA of 25.07. Yes, it was in just 4 2/3 innings, but this is the sort of fellow who is getting a shot in Kansas City these days. I hope it works out for him and this great month isn't just a small sample size thing -- it would make a nice story.

• Runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth, nobody out and Frank Thomas, of all people, struck out swinging on a pitch a foot off the plate. This was just when it seemed like things were falling apart for Denny Bautista and the Royals. If the A's had just practiced some of their vaunted organizational patience, they would have run Bautista by the third inning.

Of course, after going to all the trouble of ciphering that statistic above, Crosby cracks a double into the gap in left and gets the A's to five runs for just the 17th time this year.

With Andrew Sisco now in the game, Jay Payton shows some fortitude and works the count to 3-0. He then reached across the plate -- not in his usual lunging way either -- and poked one over the fence in right. Goodbye, 6-1 lead.

Guber Burger
Trust us: you don't want to actually see a photo of the Guber Burger itself.

• The Sonic Slam contestant on the Royals broadcast is from Sedalia, Mo. Ironically, since Sonic is a drive-in restaurant, Sedaliais is the home of the Wheel Inn, one of my favorite drive-ins ever. They serve something called a Guber Burger. It is, and I'm not making this up, a hamburger with peanut butter on it. The peanut butter melts all over the tomatoes and lettuce. Somehow, it works in a strange sort of way. Sadly, a road-widening project might mean the end of this place. Like getting rid of just about every single old ballpark in the land, what are we going to do when all these great non-franchised, road-side places are gone and all we have left are McDonald's, Starbucks and, yes, Sonics? We're going to be pretty bored, that's what.

• Darryl Cousins called Tony Graffanino out on a close call at first. What made it interesting is that Dan Johnson's foot appeared to be off the bag and Graffanino actually struck his foot as he came down on the bag. Buddy Bell argued to no avail.

• Top of the ninth: first-and-third, nobody out. Emil Brown whiffed by hacking at three of the four down-and-outside sliders that Huston Street threw him. It was not a pretty at-bat as none of the three pitches were close to being strikes. Stairs tied the game, though. I said this last year and I'll say it again: When is somebody going to rescue chopper him out of K.C. and into the midst of a pennant race?

• Oh boy! Extra innings! One thing Royals fans can't complain about this year is that they've been subjected to too many innings. This is their first extra-inning contest of 2006.

I think we just witnessed a guy losing his job. The A's security guard sitting down the left-field corner picked up a live ball hit by Angel Berroa. I believe they'll hand him a pink slip when the game is over and take away his special hat.

I've liked some of Paul Splittorff's commentary tonight. I thought he did a nice job describing Mark Grudzielanek's short swing to drive in the go-ahead run. I was at Splittorff's final big-league appearance back in 1984. He was staked to a 4-0 lead against these same Oakland A's but wasn't fooling anybody. The Royals fans were growing impatient with him and started booing. You could tell they weren't booing Split, though, but manager Dick Howser for allowing him to be out there when he so clearly didn't have the goods anymore. Finally, after he allowed seven runs, Howser went out to get him. What happened next was really nice: he got a prolonged standing ovation. The Kansas City fans knew instinctively that this was the end for a guy who had given them a lot of good years. They knew he had hung on just a little too long and they didn't care anymore. Now that it was over, they could show their true appreciation. Whenever I think of what's happened to the Royals, I always think of that moment for some reason.

The A's threaten in the bottom of the 10th but make all three outs on first pitches from Ambiorix Burgos. Fines must be levied! This is not A's baseball as we have come to understand it through the filter of dozens of pundits interpreting "Moneyball" for us without having read it themselves in most cases.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006: Royals @ Oakland A's
The game isn't on here today but even if the Royals had won 9-0 on a perfect game (which they didn't, losing 7-0), the bigger news still would have been the firing of general manager Allard Baird and the revelation that his replacement will be Dayton Moore, late of the Atlanta Braves. Moore had a shot at the vacant Red Sox general managers' job last fall but took himself out of the running. The dichotomy between the Royals and Red Sox organizations is so vast it might not be calculable by existing metrics. In any event, Moore may be inheriting the biggest haunted mansion in baseball history.

Friday, June 2, 2006: Royals @ Seattle Mariners
• Top third: So we've played two innings and nobody on either team has smote the ball with authority yet. Jamie Moyer looks sharp and the Mariners are making Bobby Keppel's first major-league start a memorable one so far -- for him, anyway.

It's often said that you'll see something new every time you watch a baseball game. I don't remember a shortstop sitting down directly on his butt to field a ball and then start a double play from that position. Yuniesky Betancourt did just that to Angel Berroa, wiping out Doug Mientkiewicz who had been hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count. It wasn't a spectacular play or anything -- nothing in this game has been spectacular so far (hey, it's the Royals and Mariners, so it's not exactly world-class baseball talent to begin with) -- but it sure looked novel.

• Bottom third: One thing about Ichiro Suzuki's step-swing -- it sure looks foolish when he waves at an outside pitch as he did to end the inning against Keppel.

• Top fourth: Another breezy inning for Moyer. How do I say this diplomatically? If we are not going to be entertained by long hits, crafty baserunning or the snaring of hard-hit balls, then we better have the satisfaction of seeing a no-hitter to show for it.

Reggie Sanders
AP Photo
Maybe this photo holds a key: the Royals were shipped a supply of substandard bats this season.

• Bottom fourth: Dave Niehaus, the Mariners' play-by-play man, just described how he used to listen to Waite Hoyt broadcast Reds games when he was a kid. He said Hoyt related everything in the past tense: "And he grounded the ball to third ... and the throw went to first where he was out by a step." Can you imagine such a thing? Amazing. It must have been disconcerting. If I listened to that for three hours it would get deep into my head and I'd spend the rest of the day narrating my own actions just as though Hoyt would have: "He went to the refrigerator ... he pulled out some ice water ... he poured it ... he spilled some! He spilled some! He's going for a towel ... "

• Top fifth: Doesn't that just figure? The Royals' first hit of the game was a slow grounder up the middle by Emil Brown. There now have been two hits in the game: a bloop double by Raul Ibanez and this one.

Commentator Dave Henderson just pointed out that there is a beautiful magic hour light at Safeco. It does look kind of ethereal. How appropriate that a color commentator would comment on the literal color of the game.

You know those web-gem type plays when an infielder starts a double play by shoveling a ball to the pivot man with his glove? Don't they always look great? Of course, you never see the ones when it goes horribly wrong. Betancourt just shoveled one past Jose Lopez, allowing the Royals to put two men on. It's sort of like how you would never see Norm cutting a board wrong on "This Old House."

Did Niehaus really just say "the dangerous Doug Mientkiewicz?" I suppose any human with a baseball bat in his hands is dangerous at some level. If this were a bar fight you'd stay away from him. Not so much to worry about here on the diamond, though.

• Bottom sixth: I think I've figured out what Adrian Beltre is doing with his career: He's trying to have a season that typifies every era of baseball history. He covered the '30s/'90s two years ago. Now he's doing his impression of the 1910s and the dead-ball era. Allard Baird and Bill Bavasi could have a one upsmanship contest on who made the worse free-agent signings.

Baird: I open with Joe Mays.

Bavasi: I see your Joe Mays and counter with Adrian Beltre.

Baird: I see your Adrian Beltre and counter with Terrence Long.

And so on ...

• Top seventh: Moyer, as you know, doesn't throw very hard, but he just sawed off Tony Graffanino's bat, resulting in a weak roller up the first-base line to end the inning. An ignoble way to make an out if ever there was one.

• Bottom seventh: How quickly the dream dies. Back-to-back home runs by Lopez and Ibanez on two pitches. How often do you see the follow-up homer hit so fast after the first one that the first home run hitter still has his batting helmet on getting his props in the dugout? That's what happened here. Seattle is really tagging Keppel now. Every batter this inning has hit the ball right on the rivets, resulting in Keppel's dismissal for the evening. Regardless, that was a pretty nice big-league starting debut (6.2 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs). He's had three big-league outings and all of them have been positive. Warning to WFAN radio in New York: It's time for Mets fans to start railing against the organization for cashiering this guy a year ago.

• Top eighth: Mientkiewicz just lined a single into right. It might have been the best hit ball all night for the Royals. Moyer has gotten a double play just about every time he's needed one and, oh -- son of a gun -- he's gotten another one.

• Bottom eighth: If Jeremy Affeldt can hustle his way through the Mariners' lineup this inning, this game could end in less than two hours. Too bad I'm getting paid by the hour. The Mariners aren't cooperating, though, with Ichiro and Beltre both putting singles through the infield. Lopez parked a double in the left-field corner, scoring both runners. The two-hour dream is dying. Could we have expected anything else from a Royals reliever -- even one in exile from the rotation like Affeldt? Royals starters have the worst ERA in the league and have a 5-26 combined record. Their relievers are about a half-run better (as relievers usually are as a rule) but they also have the worst ERA in baseball as a group.

Calvin Pickering
Nick Laham/Getty Images
If only Calvin Pickering were still around to at least make things a little more fun to watch.

• Top ninth: It's nice to see Moyer coming out to pitch the ninth. There's still something gratifying about looking at a box score and seeing a complete game. He's thrown only 84 pitches and, at age 43, it's not like he's a fragile young thing needing protection from overuse.

Moyer dispatched Kansas City to complete his two-hitter. In the end, it took two hours on the nose to complete, the shortest game ever in the long and varied history of Safeco Field. The Royals, after scoring at least six runs in five of six games, have now been shut out in consecutive games. On the other side of the ball, they are on pace to surrender a staggering 1,044 runs this year. That's some 100 more than last year.

Saturday, June 3: Royals @ Seattle Mariners
• Top of the first: The Royals make it 19 innings in a row without scoring.

• Here's how fans can become delusional: Seth Etherton, tonight's pitcher, had a nice outing earlier this week. Bobby Keppel did well last night. Zack Greinke should be back soon enough. If Runelvys Hernandez discovers that nothing tastes as good as thin feels, all of a sudden the Royals will have four viable starters. It's that easy -- easy to become deluded, I mean.

When you hit like Paul Bako, you should never, ever have a passed ball. He just had one and it turned out to be costly, too, as Raul Ibanez hit a sac fly to short right-center to score Ichiro, who would still be standing on second if not for the PB. Standing there, that is, until he scored on the high-arcing home run blast by Richie Sexson which followed soon thereafter.

David Glass in the house! If I owned a team that was 13-39, I'd sit in the stands only at away games, too. The anonymity he enjoys in the Pacific Northwest must be a comfort.

• You know, if the Royals had held onto Calvin Pickering at least there'd be somebody fun to watch in their lineup. Emil Brown in the clean-up spot? Come on, how can he compete with the Pickering Experience? If you can't be good, at least be entertaining.

• There's one upside of swinging at the first pitch every time up: you greatly reduce the chances of undergoing the humiliation of striking out. (Striking out still carries a stigma for some reason, even though we know very successful teams and players often strike out quite a bit.) It's something to think about when you watch various Royals whack away at first pitches. Of course, as soon as I type that, David DeJesus slaps a first pitch into left for a hit, putting men on first and second.

If I were Buddy Bell, I would be lighting s--- on fire after the call home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds just made on a sliding Paul Bako. Seriously, torch something and throw it on the field -- that will get their attention. The Royals can ill-afford to get hosed like that. Bako made a very nice slide away from Kenji Johjima, who took the throw on the first-base side of home. Now, the throw did get there first, but three or four feet up the line. Johjima had to lunge to make the tag. Bako was very obviously safe but the replay -- from a great high angle behind home plate -- conclusively showed that not only did Bako's hand slide across the entire plate before Johjima even got there, but that Johjima may never have even touched him, late or otherwise. So, if the Royals go on to achieve some sort of scoring futility streak, here's a vote that it gets an asterisk. 21 innings and counting ...

• Isn't that always the way? When a player gets called out on a piss-poor ruling, he always makes a throwing error in the following inning. Bako, clearly traumatized by his unjust demise at the plate, just whipped an errant pickoff throw down the right-field line, allowing Jose Lopez to go all the way from first to third. When you hit like Paul Bako, you should never have a throwing error. Of course, Lopez scored on a sacrifice fly, making it 5-0.

• Top fourth: The Royals are now trailing 7-0 but have their best shot at scoring in a while. Mientkiewicz led off with a ground-rule double that landed among a group of women who looked like they were ready for the bachelorette party scene in "Battle of the Junior Super Vixens" and one of them grabbed it nicely. You usually don't see that sort of thing at ballgames, sadly enough. Brown followed with a single and there are now runners on first and third with nobody out and Matt Stairs standing in. And there it is: a run-scoring single. Now we can get on with the business of ... well, not sure if there is any business that needs to be attended to.

• When you hit like Paul Bako, you should never drop a pitch when your opponent is trying a double steal.

Just when the Royals were clawing their way back in, Andrew "Cisquatch" Sisco has walked the bases loaded with nobody out. After two of the runners score on outs, I think he may have earned himself a trip to Omaha with this performance as Sexson unloaded his second bomb of the night to make it 11-1. Everett and Johjima follow with singles and Buddy Bell is beginning to look like he wishes he were working as a prison guard at a facility holding tubercular serial killers instead of managing this team.

• The Royals respond to surrendering the four-spot by going down in order on strikeouts by Joel Pineiro.

• With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Ichiro poked a triple and the Royals brought in the infield. You can see why they'd do that as there's a big difference between being down 11-1 and 12-1. It worked, too.

• Has this happened to you watching a game from Seattle, especially those of you who are fortunate enough to live near a rail line: you hear a train whistle and assume it's coming from outside your own domicile? Johjima flew out to Shane Costa in right just as the train was coming through Safeco as it is wont to do. I thought it was the 11:10 NAFTA special going by my window. Nope -- it was on TV.

What can we assume from the advertisement that ran between the seventh and the eighth inning? Here's the scene: it's obviously the wee hours of the morning. A very addled young man can't make up his mind at the drive-thru window at Jack In The Box. We are led to believe he has been there a while, hemming and hawing. When prompted, he can barely articulate a response. Suddenly, the miniature Jack-In-The-Box figure on his dashboard starts talking to him. It tells him to keep things simple when ordering. (Implying that it's too much trouble to pronounce something like a Ciabatta burger.) The kid agrees with the animated Jack but wants to know how many tacos he should order. Jack suggests 30 and the kid, squinting as he speaks in that certain looking-through-the-haze sort of way, says that was the number he, too, had in mind.

I think the message here is obvious: They are acknowledging that a lot of their late-night customers have come by their overwhelming hunger by means that would, if they were professional athletes caught doing so, get them suspended. And Jack In The Box is cool with that. In fact, they celebrate and heartily welcome the excessive purchasing needs of this breed of consumer.

• Jimmy Gobble in the manse! Another Royals pitcher who was supposed to be something and who has turned out not to be. That's not really fair to say though as you could make the same claim about 88 percent of all pitchers. He tossed a nice inning, though, getting two Ks. The Royals actually had three good relief performances tonight (Joel Peralta, Elmer Dessens and Gobble) compared to two poor ones (Sisco and Ambiorix Burgos). That's really no way to do proper baseball accounting, though.

• J.J. Putz just struck out Stairs to start the inning. Look, you can try to pronounce his name as "Pootz" as much as you want, but for those of us who grew up on a steady diet of Borscht Belt comedians, there's only one way to say it.

And that's that; Seattle 12, Kansas City 1. 13-40 now with little hope in sight.

Sunday, June 4, 2006: Royals @ Seattle Mariners
After last night's beating, the Royals' run differential stands at 201-347. Extrapolated over a 162-game schedule, that reads 614-1,061. Basically, that's what the '62 Mets would have looked like if they could have given away an extra 100 runs. A deficit of 447 runs is unprecedented. Even allowing for some normalization over the rest of the season, the Royals stand an excellent chance of posting the worst raw run deficit ever. Here are the 10 biggest that I could find:

Runnin' With The Devil
YEAR TEAM RS RA DIFF
2006 Kansas City Royals 614 1061 -447
1932 Boston Red Sox 566 915 -349
1915 Philadelphia Athletics 545 888 -343
2003 Detroit Tigers 591 928 -337
1945 Philadelphia Athletics 542 875 -333
1962 New York Mets 617 948 -331
1916 Philadelphia Athletics 447 776 -329
1911 Boston (NL) 699 1021 -322
1996 Detroit Tigers 703 1103 -320
1945 Philadelphia Phillies 548 865 -317

 

Even taking into account differences in schedule length, the Royals would grab the record at this or a somewhat reduced rate. Consider this: The average American League Central champion of the past decade has had a run differential of about plus-100. For the Royals to get into that kind of shape, they have to execute a 550-run swing. That's a very daunting prospect for new general manager Dayton Moore. It's still a cool job, though, and I'm betting none of you would turn it down.

• So far, Mark Redman has faced three batters and surrendered a line single to Ichiro, a towering home run to Adrian Beltre and a line out to left by Jose Lopez. In other words, he's not fooling anybody at the moment.

• Jarrod Washburn has struck out three of the first four Royals he's faced. I think he's already matched his career high in strikeouts.

Royals broadcaster Bob Davis (or maybe it was Paul Splittorff) on Emil Brown's home run over the center-field fence to make it 2-1: "Maybe that will be the catalyst to get them going." Does he mean in the macro or micro sense?

• Now this is more like the Jerrod Washburn we know so well. Three straight hits have allowed Kansas City to tie the score in the third and put runners on the corners. After a sac fly by Reggie Sanders, the Royals have their first lead since Tuesday.

• Beltre continues his Royals renaissance. He just hit a ground-rule double that hit a fan in the face on the first bounce. The guy was wearing a glove, too. Consider that that bachelorette party didn't have any such problems with Doug Mientkiewicz's ground ruler last night. Such humiliation! They showed him up close. He looks a lot like Jim Belushi. No way it's Jim Belushi, right? Belushi would have a better seat than front row in right field, wouldn't he? OK, they keep showing him and he's looking less and less like Jim Belushi. (Later on, they do another analysis of the play. Upon further review, it seems that an old prospector-looking guy sitting next to him partially screened him by making for the ball himself before backing off at the last moment. The lesson here is obvious: in the post-Zapruder film universe, don't screw up at a televised event.)

There's got to be a phrase to describe this kind of inning. The leadoff hitter got on but was erased on a double play. Thanks to Beltre and another walk from Redman followed by a single from Sexson, the 3-2 lead is gone. The Mariners had to start all over again. What would you call that? How about ...

Restart rally?

Revival rally?

Resurrection rally?

Phoenix rally?

• In the top of the fourth, the Royals have sacrificed Angel Berroa from second to third to give the eighth- and ninth-place hitters a chance to bring him in. You tell me and we'll both know. The move was rendered academic when John Buck belted a home run to make it 5-3. Anyway you look at it, it was a wasted out. By the way, that's the kind of blast you expect from someone of Buck's size.

Bob Davis just referred to a line out as a "trolley wire." Why have I never heard this slang before? Where the hell have I been the past 75 years? For those under the age of 60, trolleys were a form of mass transit that used to share urban street space with automobiles. Originally horse-drawn, they eventually went electric -- hence the wire reference. The Dodgers team name is actually shorthand for Trolley Dodgers. That's really all I've got on trolleys. Oh, and kids used to grease the tracks sometimes to watch them slide backwards on slight grades.

• Reggie Sanders just broke his bat in the process of singling to short leftfield. This being an even year, it means that Sanders is scheduled to have a slugging average of less than.500, so the single feeds into that:

Reggie: Odd man out?
EVEN SLG Pct. ODD SLG Pct.
1994 .480 1995 .579
1996 .463 1997 .510
1998 .418 1999 .527
2000 .403 2001 .549
2002 .455 2003 .567
2004 .482 2005 .546
2006 .476    


The Royals have returned to the land of six runs in a game and then Mark Teahen makes it 7-3 with a two-out single to plate Brown.

• The Mariners followed up the Royals' outburst by rolling over in the fifth. Could it be that Kansas City could actually coast to a victory? These are the three wins they've had that can be considered not especially close:

11-5 over Cleveland, April 22. Kansas City built a 7-0 lead before the Indians plated four in the fifth to make it interesting. The Royals made it disinteresting with a run in the fifth and three more in the sixth. They coasted the rest of the way.

11-7 over Chicago, April 7. Down 6-0 at one point, the Royals stormed back and took the lead in the sixth. They added insurance runs in the eighth and ninth.

5-1 over Cleveland, April 23. The Royals were up 3-1 after two. The Indians got two men on with one out in the fifth but didn't score. That was their only serious threat of the game.

The Royals had one three-run victory and everything else has been by one or two runs, so this is pretty novel.

• First and second, nobody out and the Royals sacrifice. Oh well. It leads to another questionable decision, this time on the other side by Seattle manager Mike Hargrove: an intentional walk to Grudzielanek to get to Sanders. It would have been nice if Reggie Sanders' 300th home run (he's sitting on 299 in his quest to become just the fifth 300 HR/300 stolen base player) was a grand slam right here, but his eventual two-run single to make it 9-3 certainly helps the cause.

• Bottom sixth: Two-out extra base hits by Willie Bloomquist and Mike Morse make it 9-4. If the Royals blow this lead they might as well scatter to points north rather return to Kansas City. Better to take up logging and tracking in the Yukon Territories than try to live down blowing another six-run lead.

• Top eighth: Bases loaded, nobody out. The Royals could have their biggest offensive day of the year and make some strides toward undoing that chart we showed at the beginning of the day. Scratch that. Strikeout of Reggie Sanders and a 6-2-3 DP courtesy of Emil Brown and the threat is squelched. If the score holds, they will have lopped 27 runs off that projected 447-run differential.

• Man, this is anticlimactic. Elmer Dessens is having maybe the best relief appearance for Kansas City yet this year: a 3 1/3-inning save. Royals win! Royals win!

In conclusion
We've learned that no team can go on forever playing .125 ball on the road, which is what the Royals were doing when this week began. We also know that someday, when Alex Gordon is winning his second consecutive MVP Award and scalpers are having their way with World Series patrons outside of Kaufmann Stadium, we'll look back on these days with wet-eyed nostalgia the way some people recall the Great Depression and World War II as the good old days.

Jim Baker is a regular contributor to Page 2 and also writes for Baseball Prospectus. Sound off to Page 2 here.


SPONSORED HEADLINES



Jim_Baker
Jim
Baker
ROYAL TREATMENT