Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 4/25/12
Could it be worse? Could anything top this disastrous start to the Royals' 2012 season? Well, possibly. My first year as a beat writer covering the Royals for The Kansas City Star was in 1992, the infamous season the Royals started 1-16. That was truly depressing, and maybe worse than this, considering that Kansas City fans hadn't become accustomed to losing yet. Brian McRae, the Royals' centerfielder then, told me after the season that most everyone in the clubhouse viewed the rest of the '92 season as toast after that 1-16 start. "Most of the time you say that two weeks can't make or break a season," McRae said. "But after that start, we were done. We didn't quit, but we knew we didn't have the type of team that could dig its way out of that." The Royals had made perhaps their most controversial trade in team history a few months before, sending Bret Saberhagen to the Mets for Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds and Keith Miller. Jefferies was a talented young switch-hitter, and Miller was a nice complementary player. But McReynolds was on the down slope of his career and worse yet, he seemed completely disinterested. Manager Hal McRae shook his head once while watching McReynolds in the batting cage that summer and whispered to me, "That swing is like a rusty old gate." To the Royals' credit, they bounced back from the 1-16 start and went 13-9 over their next 22 games. From there, they played mostly .500 ball and finished the season 72-90. The next year, of course, involved the even more infamous Hal McRae blowup. The Royals had made significant improvements during the off-season leading up to the 1993 season, adding shortstop Greg Gagne, second baseman Chico Lind, and right-hander David Cone. They dealt Jefferies for switch-hitting Felix Jose. They also picked up third baseman Gary Gaetti after the season started. This was also George Brett's final season, and he hit 19 homers. That team had fairly high expectations. But the Royals started out slow, losing nine of their first 11 games. Then and it was 19 years ago Thursday the Royals dropped a particularly stressful 5-3 game to the Tigers on a clammy night at then Royals Stadium. It had been a typical Royals' loss that April numerous scoring chances wasted as no Royal could deliver with runners in scoring position (sound familiar?). Alan Eskew, then of the Topeka Capital-Journal, and I filed into McRae's office afterward for post-game questions. The late Gib Twyman, my colleague at The Star, also was there, along with a handful of electronic media reporters. It was John Doolittle, then a sports talk-show host with KMBZ, who asked the question that set McRae off. Doolitle asked if McRae considered hitting Brett for Miller in the seventh inning. McRae, who was saving Brett to pinch-hit in the ninth, got tired of the second quessing and went off. No doubt you've seen the video at least once over the years but in case you haven't. Eskew and I headed to the back of McRae's office as he started randomly hurling objects throughout the room... An ash tray came flying at us at one point. I ducked. Eskew didn't, and he got hit in the face, drawing blood (and a stitch or two). Ironically, the beat writers got along great with McRae, and that made McRae even more sorry that Eskew was the one who got hit. Eskew shrugged off the minor injury as simply part of the job, and didn't even think an apology was necessary. The blowup didn't really have a huge impact on the team's play. The Royals won their next two but then dropped four of five. Eventually, in May, the Royals started clicking. They crawled over .500 on May 26 and never dipped below that mark again, finishing the season 84-78. Of course, if you're looking for comparisons, that was a much older and more experienced team than the 2012 Royals, who are searching for some type of leadership from someone, anyone, to lead them out of this hole.
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