If you are a Kansas City Royals fan, Tuesday was just fabulous. Congratulations to Adalberto Mondesi. He hit the three-run homer that helped the Royals to a 9-4 win over Minnesota that ended a 10-game losing streak.
The Royals have now climbed back to 30 games below .500 (26-56). Only the sad sack Orioles have a worse record this season.
It was the first time since June 4 – June 4! – that the Royals had scored more than five runs in a game. That night they scored six in a loss to the Angels and then they went on a 19-game streak without scoring more than four.
How can this be? It was only three years ago that the Royals beat the New York Mets in five games to win the World Series. The Royals finished with the best record in the American League (95-67), 12 games ahead of the Twins in the AL Central.
And on the very first pitch thrown by Mets starter Matt Harvey in the bottom of first inning of Game 1 of the World Series, Alcides Escobar hit an inside-the-park homer. That doesn’t happen every day. In fact, it was the first inside-the-park home run in a World Series game since 1929 and the first hit by a leadoff man in a World Series game since 1903. Or have you already forgotten about Patsy Dougherty?
It seemed predestined, didn’t it?
But since, the Royals have been spiraling. They finished .500 (81-81) in 2016 and 80-82 in 2017. And now this. Still, baseball has seen this this type of rapid deterioration before and not so long ago.
The Florida Marlins won their first World Series championship in 1997, then moved most of their stars in the offseason to cut payroll and lost 11 of their first 12 games in 1998.
Owner Wayne Huizenga traded or released Kevin Brown, Moises Alou, Robb Nen, Al Leiter and Jeff Conine before the season. Then once things turned bad in 1998, he traded Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson and Jim Eisenreich.
The Marlins finished the season 54-108, the first defending champion to finish last in its division the next season.
The Marlins won their second world championship in 2003, Josh Beckett’s complete-game shutout finishing off the Yankees in Game 6. Then they let All-Star catcher Pudge Rodriquez and outfielder Todd Hollingsworth leave through free agency and traded first baseman Derrek Lee to the Cubs. The Marlins finished the 2004 season at 83-79.
It was all about the money.
The Royals demise this season can be traced to the admission made by Royals general manager Dayton Moore to MLB.com in December that the team was leaking money. Moore said the Royals had lost approximately $68 million since the world championship.
“We’re going to look to trim payroll — not because (owner) David Glass is telling us to do that,” Moore said. “But it’s like buying a house or going to college — you save your money so you can use those resources later, like in 2020 and 2021 for us.”
Within months, the Royals watched two of their best players, Lorenzo Cain (Milwaukee) and Eric Hosmer (Padres) leave through free agency. They traded pitchers Ryan Butcher, Scott Alexander and Joakim Soria and Brandon Moss.
Then “Baseball America” ranked the Royals farm system as the second-worst in baseball, without a single prospect among the publication’s Top 100.
This season, their problems have been many, but best exemplified by the following:
Ian Kennedy, a righthanded starter who is still owed $48 million, has dealt with injuries all season. He made his first start on Tuesday after coming off the disabled list with a strained oblique, but didn’t make to the fourth inning because of left side tightness. He hasn’t won a game since April 7.
In April, the Royals Alex placed Gordon, owed $44 million, on the disabled list with a left hip labral tear. Gordon had already had surgery on his right hip in 2009 that sidelined him for three months. After hitting .220 and .218 the last two seasons, he is hitting only .251 this year
In May, the Royals had to place reliever Blaine Boyer, a Red Sox last season, on the 10-day disabled list with a back strain. At the time, Boyer had a league-worst ERA of 11.76 among relievers with at least 20 innings pitched.
In June, the Royals activated Jorge Bonifacio from the suspended list after his 80-game suspension for testing positive for Boldenone, a horse steroid.
Also in June, the Royals dealt reliever Kelvin Herrera to Washington for three minor leaguers. On the day of the deal, his ERA was 1.05 ERA in his 27 appearances and he had converted 14 of 16 save opportunities.
Last week, the Royals put starter Jakob Junis on the 10-day disabled list with lower back inflammation. In his last five starts, Junis had allowed 29 runs in 27 innings, including 12 home runs. He has an ERA of 5.13 and leads the majors in home runs allowed (24). And they followed it by sending starter Jason Hammel (2-11, 6.16) to the bullpen.
In response, the Royals are taking some chances. On Sunday, they signed 16-year-old Japanese pitcher Kaito Yuki as an international amateur. He just completed junior high in May. Good luck with that.
“If we’re not positive, it all goes to hell,” manager Ned Yost told The Athletic. “You think the record looks bad? If the coaching staff and the manager is not positive and keep everybody playing with energy, it’s horrible.”
Oh, one last thing. Entering Wednesday, the winning percentages of the Orioles (.283) and Royals (.286) were already historically bad. The last time two different teams were below .300 by July 4 was in 1912.