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Monday, April 17, 2006
Updated: April 18, 8:52 AM ET
Worst franchise: Royals

By Jim Baker
Special to Page 2

If you were as bad at your job as Royals management is at theirs, you'd be reading this at the computer station of a public library because you certainly wouldn't have a job anymore or any of the things that go along with gainful employment, like your own computer or even a home.

No, you'd have your bindle propped up next to the chair while the other library patrons gave you a wide berth on account of your outdoorsy aroma.

Will the Royals, too, be transient or extinct soon enough? If baseball hadn't already usurped just about every viable market in the country, the answer might be yes. Instead, the good people of Kansas City -- as savvy and loyal a group of rooters as one was apt to find at one time -- have had their patience pushed to the brink.

This has been no overnight transformation, either. The Royals have managed to do this in neatly descending stages as if participating in a series of reverse-purpose five-year plans:

Years      Era                            Wins  Losses  Pct.
1969-1975  Gateway to Glory               551    574    .490
1976-1980  The Model Franchise            466    344    .575
1981-1985  Good Enough for the AL West    394    357    .525
1986-1991  Getting By                     492    488    .502
1992-1996  Viable but Fading              365    379    .491
1997-2001  Hell's Waiting Room            345    462    .428
2002-2006  The Bottomless Pit             261    398    .396

Royals: Past Five Years
Year Record Pct.
2005 56-106 .346
2004 58-104 .358
2003 83-79 .512
2002 62-100 .383
2001 65-97 .401
Last winning season: 2003
Last playoff season: 1985

The Royals have been brought to a point where their entire 2006 season has the possibility of becoming a complete rout. Management spent the offseason acquiring free agents that nobody else wanted (like Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Grudzielanek and Joe Mays) to build a team whose mission, at best, would be to avoid losing 100 games for the third year in a row.

Sadly, the Royals don't seem capable of even clearing that low hurdle. In fact, the long, slow decline illustrated in that chart could very well know no end. A team that thinks Mientkiewicz is the answer at first base deserves each and every one of its 120 losses. The Royals could well do what no other team in history has managed to pull off: lose 100 games three years in a row while increasing that loss total each time. Every other doormat franchise in baseball history has always managed to pull the nose up just enough to avoid that distinction.

And the nominees are ...
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Even the Royals' greatest built-in excuse -- the small-market dodge -- doesn't wash anymore. True, the Royals can't compete with the big boys for the premium free agents, but they can draft well (just one Royals draft choice from 1996 to 2002, Mike MacDougal, has made an All-Star Game appearance) and make the most of available talent as much as teams in other cities of their size have done.

The ascendancy of the A's, the Marlins' World Series championship in 2003 and the current rise of the Brewers all conspire to leave Royals management sitting in the corner wearing the dunce cap.

General manager Allard Baird has managed to do the impossible: He's made his predecessor, Herk Robinson, look like Branch Rickey.

At least the Truman Complex is going to be renovated and will include a promenade and all sorts of fan-friendly shenanigans. That should fix everything.

Jim Baker is a contributing writer to BaseballProspectus.com.