King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Royals blow huge lead and lose. Same old Royals? Not really. Plus: A Beloit Mindset for baseball fans: What do 18-year-olds know?


Salon Staff
August 24, 2006 8:00PM (UTC)

Let's say you're a Kansas City Royals fan. I know, I know, but let's just say. Things are looking up lately. The team finally ended the long, incompetent run of Allard Baird as general manager and hired longtime Braves hand Dayton Moore, who seems to know what he's doing.

He's acquired close to two dozen new players in his first couple of months on the job, mostly minor leaguers but also cheap and potentially useful big-league types like Odalis Perez, Joey Gathright and Ryan Shealy. More important, there seems to be something of a plan.

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Buddy Bell is still the manager, but small steps, small steps. At one point the Royals were 17-47, playing .230 baseball and on pace to set a major league record for losses with 125. Since then, they're 29-35. That's a .453 winning percentage.

It's still not great, but it's more like this year's Orioles, Indians and Mariners than, say, the 2003 Tigers or the '62 Mets. It's downright respectable. The Royals could lose all the rest of their games and not set the record for most losses in a season. Hey-hey!

And there's good news bubbling up in the farm system, with top hitting prospects Alex Gordon, Justin Huber and Billy Butler expected to arrive in the next year or two.

So why all this about being a Royals fan?

Just when you thought that you were out they pull you back in.

The Royals, these new Royals, scored 10 runs in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday night against Cleveland. They knocked Paul Byrd, an old friend and a perfectly respectable twirler, out of the box after he only got two outs, though six of the nine runs he allowed were unearned thanks to an error by Ryan Garko.

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So after an inning, the Royals led 10-1.

And they lost.

They lost a four-run lead, 13-9, in the ninth, thanks to a walk, three doubles and a triple. But four-run leads in the ninth are no big deal. That happens. Losing a 10-1 lead, even a 10-1 first-inning lead, is just epic.

Same old Royals, right?

No.

It doesn't mean anything. Losing a game 15-13 in 10 innings after having a 10-1 lead in the first is just one of those things, kind of like losing 15-3, without that big first inning. Happens to all sorts of teams.

The New York Yankees, who are waltzing off with the American League East at the moment, lost a game 12-2 to the Orioles a week ago. Then they whipped the Boston Red Sox five straight times, as you may have heard. You remember the Red Sox. They beat the Yankees 14-3 one day in May. The Yankees have also lost games this year by scores of 19-6 to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and 22-1 to the Indians.

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Two years ago the Red Sox lost back-to-back games to the Yankees by scores of 14-4 and 11-1. They also lost a game to the Indians 15-3. And things turned out pretty well for them.

And then there's the 1927 Yankees. Whenever you talk about how anything can happen in baseball, you have to talk about something bad that happened to the '27 Yankees. Tommy Lasorda tells the story of addressing a team of his after they'd lost seven straight. He told them to cheer up, the losing streak was just a collection of bad breaks. The '27 Yankees, he assured them, the greatest team of all time, had once lost nine in a row.

Later, he tells his wife what he'd told the team and she's surprised. She asks if the '27 Yankees really lost nine games in a row. He says, "How should I know?"

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Well, they didn't have Baseball-Reference.com when Lasorda was managing, but the answer is no, the '27 Yankees never lost nine in a row. Their worst losing streak was four.

But they did lose a game in Detroit on July 9 by the score of 14-4. The Yankees were already leading the league by 11 and a half games at the start of play that day, and the Tigers were a middle-of-the-pack team. But that day, the Tigers dominated the team that set the standard for greatness in modern baseball.

Or at least, for part of that day they did. That game was the nightcap of a double-header. The Yankees won the opener 19-7.

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What 18-year-olds know: The Braves always win [PERMALINK]

Beloit College has released its annual Mindset List, which is a list that "looks at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives" of incoming college freshmen, who this year were mostly born in 1988.

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In other words, reading it is a good way to feel old. Assuming you are old, of course, by which I mean 25 or older.

You've seen it. This year it notes that for 18-year-olds, "Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S." and "Disneyland has always been in Europe and Asia." In the sporting realm, there's "Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics" and "They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams."

It's become an annual ritual among the posters at Baseball Primer to try to come up with a Beloit Mindset list for baseball. What are some true statements about 18-year-old baseball fans?

I find this a diverting pastime. This year's suggestions include "The Braves have always been in the playoffs," "Wrigley Field has always had lights" and "Shortstops have always hit."

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Some of my contributions in the last two years:

  • World Series games have always been played only at night.

  • Umpires' chest protectors have always been worn under the shirt.

  • Both benches have always been warned after a HBP, and pitchers have always been thrown out of games for hitting guys.

  • There's always been an ESPN, and baseball's always been on it.

  • Not only has Frank Robinson always been a manager, he's always been an old, crotchety manager.

  • Baseball cards have never come in packages with gum. And adults care about them.

  • The Chicago White Sox have always worn black uniforms.

  • The Kansas City Royals have never been contenders, never mind winners.

  • The Oakland A's never, ever win a playoff series.

    What I find interesting is that this sort of thing doesn't make me feel old. What makes me feel old is when someone younger than me reveals that he or she has never heard of something that was common knowledge not too long ago. For example, in this year's Beloit Mindset thread on Baseball Primer, a poster with the handle Crispix Attacks reveals that he's 23 years old, and until this year's All-Star Fan Fest he'd had no idea there was such a thing as a bullpen car.

    "They were showing a repeating loop of the last game of the 1979 World Series," he writes, "and a friend and I were watching, and when one of the pitching changes was made and the reliever was rolling to the mound in that ridiculous car, we both looked at each other and said, 'What the hell is that? Why is he being driven to the mound in a car?'"

    Oy. I'll explain later. Right now, Merv Griffin's on.

    Previous column: Little League World Series

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