The Royals are bad, perhaps hopelessly so, but stories like this one make you feel as if the league still needs them. Yankees players and announcers do not spend their offseasons driving around on a bus signing autographs for the mallfolk of rural Kansas. Joe Posnanski's column about the 2006 Royals Caravan contains a few accounts of unhealthy optimism and a few rotting old chestnuts (see, these kids today, they just don't appreciate the players like they did back in our day, cough hack wheeze) but also a fair amount of legitimate poignancy and a few killer behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Apparently Zack Greinke is the dugout equivalent of Dr. House or Anya from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," with no filter between his mind and his mouth. Jeremy Affeldt really likes heavy artillery. And put one more check in the column that says Kyle Farnsworth is the closest thing in real ball nowadays to Nuke LaLoosh: "'Hey, Kyle,' [Matt] Stairs said. 'Why did you go after Affeldt?' Farnsworth looked back. 'Um, I think I got the wrong guy.'"
Kansas City has a lot of guys who could start on their roster right now but very few who actually should. Scott Elarton and Mark Redman are probably making too much money not to make the rotation. Greinke is still the hope of the franchise. After that you've got a lot of guys who have only earned the designation of "major league starter" because they happen to play for the Royals: Denny Bautista, Mike Wood, Affeldt, Jimmy Gobble, Runelvys Hernandez. Bobby Madritsch, who had a good season for the Mariners year before last, will get a look at midseason when and if he returns from shoulder surgery. As Posnanski says, things ought to get better for the Royals in 2006 because it's hard to see how they could get any worse. Baseball Prospectus had as their stat of the day the bottom five pitching staffs in the AL by VORP -- the Royals were second worst at -26.3. (Tampa Bay took the crown at -32.2.) The third place team, the Rangers, was over 100 points better (88.7). That's not a gap. That's a yawning chasm.
Here's all you need to know about Kansas City in 2006: There's a serious debate going on as to whether Doug Mientkiewicz or Matt Stairs should be the Opening Day starter at first. Well, that and that their mascot's name is apparently "Sluggerrr."