I apologize for the lengthy absence. When basketball season ends, I wind down. Feeling sufficiently wound down, I’m ready for a lively couple of weeks here on the blog, after which I’ll be taking some vacation.
Yes, for me it’s hit and miss during the less-busy months of the year.
Today, I want to reach out to the fans of the Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and, finally, Kansas City Royals.
Those eight teams are a combined 40-87 and, collectively, 42 1/2 games out of first place.
There’s nothing quite as aggravating as a slow start to the MLB season, especially when there was initially some promise. Royals fans, I’m talking to you here.
More specifically, I’m talking to the Royals’ public relations staff, which hailed this season as “Our Time,” before it even started.
Well, “Our Time” is riding a 10-game losing streak and hasn’t won at home in nine tries going into tonight’s finale of a four-game series against Toronto. The Royals, at 3-12, have the worst record in baseball. We’ve been down this road before.
Fortunately for Kansas City, no team in the American League Central has lapped the field to start the season, so they’re only – “only” – 6 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit. That doesn’t sound so bad except when you consider we’re only 15 or 16 games into the season.
Fast starts have been few and far between for the Royals in the past decade-plus. Makes sense, because Kansas City has been mostly awful during that stretch and years before.
I was interested today to read that Kansas City has had at least one losing streak of six games or more before May 15 in each of the past nine seasons. Think about that for a moment. It’s an incredible number and it got me to looking at the best and worst starts for the Royals going back to 2000.
Finding good starts is difficult. In fact, there has been only one that stood out, a 24-15 record in 2004 when Kansas City found itself in first place by 3 1/2 games on May 15. The Royals finished 83-79 that season, only five games behind the Central Division-winning Minnesota Twins. By KC standards, it was a championship season.
Otherwise, only two other Royals teams since 2000 have been above .500: the 2011 team was 20-19 while the 2009 team was 19-17. Only one other time has a Kansas City team been in first place on May 15 during that span; the 2009 team was tied for the division lead.
Otherwise, May 15 has offered little hope to the Royals, who since 2000 are 189-276 in pre-May 15 games and have been at least five games out of first place in nine of those 13 years. From 2004 through 2007, Kansas City was 10 1/2, 16, 13 1/2 and 12 games out of first place on May 15, with two weeks of school still remaining in most places.
Bad starts defuse a fan base and you can already feel it happening with the Royals. It’s bad enough to lose 10 games in a row at any time during a season. But when you lose the first nine home games on your schedule, even the strongest fan starts to disassociate.
The Royals have disappointed in every facet so far. Outside of a few guys, nobody is off to a good start. Starting pitchers aren’t logging as many innings as they should, so the bullpen is being worn down early. And after tonight, Kansas City plays 14 of its next 21 games on the road, with the only home games coming against the Yankees and Red Sox. OK, so maybe the Red Sox aren’t so scary, but you can see where the Royals are headed here.
Sure, there is time for a good team to turn things around. You would expect the Red Sox and Angels to eventually figure things out. Same goes for the 7-9 Philadelphia Phillies in the National League. Those are good teams (we think) that are scuffling early on, and every team goes through scuffles during the course of a long season.
With the Royals, though, it’s more than a scuffle. It’s a trend, alarming because of the lack of success inside Kauffman Stadium. Some slow starts can be reversed but when it comes to the Royals, I have my doubts.