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Feeling the Royals' pain

Posted: Friday February 26, 1999 12:25 PM


By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated

I've spent the past couple of days in Baseball City, Fla., with the Royals, which isn't entirely unlike spending a couple of days with a bad case of shingles. Kansas City will not only be baseball's worst team this year, but it's most boring. As I wandered through the clubhouse, walking past lockers with hallowed names like Shane Halter and Jed Hansen and Ken Ray , I thought to myself, Where have you gone, U.L. Washington ?

Then I saw the answer to my question. Washington, a spring training coach, was in the bathroom.

The wacky thing about this organization is its unswerving belief in the power of positive thinking. General Manager Herk Robinson , one of the nicest men in baseball, will remind anyone with a nub of an ear that the beloved Royals own six of the first 59 picks in the upcoming June amateur draft. What Herkules fails to recite is the team's list of first-round picks under his guard. They are:

1991: Joe Vitiello
1992: Michael Tucker
1993: Jeff Granger
1994: Matt Smith
1995: Juan LeBron
1996: Dermal Brown
1997: Dan Reichert
1998: Jeff Austin
and Matt Burch

The Royals will not win the World Series. They probably will never win the World Series. They do, however, have one of the nicest managers in the history of nice managers: Tony Muser . I approached Muser five minutes before early-morning drills were to begin. "Tony, would you prefer to talk after practice?" No, Muser said. Now would be fine.

For the next 50 minutes, I only had to ask two questions. Muser talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks. He'll talk about Jeremy Giambi , the rookie DH, but only as he pertains to the decline of Great Britain and the return of Blondie. He gave me some great stuff about Kevin Appier , as well as the psyche of a champion, the psychosis of animals, the key to life (it's a secret) and a few little dogmatic tips.

Supposedly, K.C. has hired a media consultant to work with its players and staff. One front-office type told me Muser has to learn to express his thoughts more concisely. I disagree. With 110 looming losses, he'll need to keep the chatter going for as long as he can.

Sports Illustrated staff writer Jeff Pearlman will check in with periodic Postcards from his tour of spring camps.

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