Sunday, May 30, 2004

You Can't Handle the Truth! | The Kansas City Royals were one of last season's charming, near-success stories. They hung around the A.L. Central race for most of the season despite a roster filled with Mitchell Freedman types and an inexperienced manager who seemed more cheerleader than field general.

This year's Royals, though, are locked in the division's basement and have stumbled their way to the American League's second-worst record. You'd think that fingers would be pointing and heads rolling in Kansas City. You'd be wrong, according to Murray Chass's baseball notes column in today's New York Times:

The Royals are in last place with a 17-29 record. In the same number of games last season they were 25-21, a game and a half out of first place.

Given the state of their starting pitching, the Royals seemed doomed before the season began. Three pitchers, Runelvys Hernandez, Miguel Asencio and Kyle Snyder, were out for the season, and Brian Anderson, a journeyman left-hander, was the No. 1 starter.

But [general manager Allard] Baird sees the Royals' problems differently. "We just haven't played good baseball," he said. "I don't blame the players, the coaches or the manager. I wish I could put my finger on it. When you don't play up to your talent level and you are failing to execute offensively and defensively, you get what we have now -- losing games we shouldn't lose."

Talk about an odd soundbite. Baird either believes his team has hopelessly thin skin or is manfully offering to shoulder the blame himself. Because if a last-place team's players are blameless, coaches are blameless, and manager is blameless, whom does that leave? The guy who acquired the players and hired the manager and coaches, right?

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