Now what?

The Royals have lost nine in a row. The went winless on an eight game homestand that featured games against the Cincinnati Reds (.375 winning percentage) and the Texas Rangers (.413 winning percentage). Their most recent effort, a 3-2 loss against those Rangers, ended when Hunter Dozier was thrown out attempting a delayed steal of second.

With TOOTBLAN, you get nine.

Often boring, usually frustrating, as these losses pile up, it ultimately doesn’t matter. Well, it kind of matters. The Royals are playing for the first overall draft pick in the 2019 draft. Dayton Moore abhors the idea of tanking. It runs against his value system to give the fans a compelling product. Yet this is where we are. These are your Royals.

We remember the halcyon days of scoreboard watching and counting down the magic number to secure a spot in the postseason. The scoreboard is still there and we are still watching, but the focus has changed … What did Baltimore do? They’re winning? Thank god!

The Royals are averaging 2.05 runs per game in June. They have a -64 run differential in 18 games. Your recollection may vary, but for me the gold standard for futility in a calendar month is April in 1992. That team averaged 2.7 R/G and won just three out of 20 to start the season. Included in that was an opening stretch where the Royals were victorious just once in 17 games. Even though they were basically eliminated from any kind of playoff contention by the third week of the season, that team rebounded with a record that was just four games under .500 the rest of the way. These Royals offer no such hope.

This has been a breathtaking breakdown. No facet of the game is safe. The starting pitching? Abysmal. Jake Junis toed the slab on Wednesday as likely the Royals best starter. All he’s done is post a 4.43 ERA and 5.05 DRA in 91.1 innings of work. That’s not to knock the effort. He’s the guy you feel gives his club the best chance of victory. It’s not his fault the offense can’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag. Imagine how bleak it’s going to look once Mike Moustakas moves to greener playoff pastures. At least on Wednesday, the bullpen pitched three shutout innings which gave Moustakas the chance to cut the lead with his home run. There are no real victories here, my friends. Only moral ones.

Kelvin Herrera is gone. Moustakas is almost certainly close behind. Remember Lucas Duda? 

We’re still weeks from the All-Star Game and I have to be honest, I have no clue how to process what we’re seeing. The Royals teams of the past (the latter years of the Allard Baird era and the early part of the Dayton Moore tenure) were likewise abysmal but sparked something of despair from those who followed the team closely. There was no plan. They insisted there was, but there really wasn’t. It was about piecemealing a roster together with castoffs, minor league nobodies and surly veterans, bitter that the curtain was falling on their career in the dead end of Kansas City. Those teams were difficult to watch. 

Now we’re less than three years removed from a World Series title. Less than three years! That’s earned the regime some deserved goodwill and just a little bit of leeway as they recharge the roster in preparation for another run to October in…2021? 2024? The teardown is obvious and, thanks to the economics of the game, necessary. Although the Royals needed to in the past, they never quite hit the reset button the way they’re doing at the moment. The last time we saw a complete teardown, it was when the nucleus was brought along. The 2011 and 2012 versions struggled, but the seeds were there.

This year’s team has sparked something of indifference. Losing sucks, but we understand. What are you going to do? Hey, did you see that Seuly Matias hit another bomb and Nick Pratto was the MVP of the Sally League All-Star Game? 

So we find ourselves in a familiar place as the losses pile up, yet it feels like new territory. The Royals are on pace for 114 losses. If that happens – and there’s absolutely no reason to be optimistic here – that would make the 2018 version the worst team in franchise history. An ignominious mark, to be sure, and one certain to chase a portion of the fanbase away. But as we’ve come to learn, the dark days can, and often do, come to an end. And suffering through those dark times make the good ones that much sweeter.

Here’s to better days.

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