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Rany On The Royals 

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No, the reason I'm ending this column is because I finally get it; I understand why Rob Neyer decided to end our conversations last fall. I didn't understand at the time, because I still had plenty to say about the Royals. But I was seeing our column from the perspective of a Royals fan, and what was great about "Rob & Rany" was that it didn't appeal to the Royals fan, it appealed to the baseball fan. It did so because the Royals were a perfect microcosm of all that goes wrong in baseball management: the once-mighty small-market team that had abandoned the principles that helped it reach the top, and was now paying the consequences.

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This year, the kid is Jeremy Affeldt. On March 3, the southpaw took the mound for his first appearance and put on a pitching performance so astonishing that it headlined not one, but two separate columns in the Kansas City Star the next day. Affeldt struck out five of the six hitters he faced, and since these were the Pirates, one or two of them might have even been threats to put the ball in play. One observer, not normally given to hyperbole, told me that Affeldt's outing was, in a word, Koufaxesque. (This from someone who saw Sandy Koufax pitch many times.)

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Sweeney represents the final chance at redemption for David Glass and the Kansas City Royals. For years, Royals fans have been fed the party line that the team had no money with which to pursue free agents, and that story washed down easy for a while, because in its place we were offered the promise of an exciting young ballclub that was built from within, a team that could be competitive without outside help.

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If they're still in first place, it must be spring.

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Today, though, I don't want to talk about any of the blunders that Baird has made. Instead, I wanted to concentrate on the very first meaningful decision that Baird made after he was promoted to GM, one that yielded only a brief mention by the media at the time, but that has the potential to be among the biggest mistakes Baird will ever make.

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If you follow the Royals--or any part of the Kansas City sports scene--you already know this. Joe Posnanski sees the world through a different shade of glasses than most people do. Where you and I see the Carolina Panthers, 1-15 on the year, he might see the 1989 Dallas Cowboys. When a midwest thunderstorm rolls through town and starts dropping hail the size of watermelons, Posnanski will be thinking how nice it is that he doesn't have to turn on the sprinklers.

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I was wrong. The Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton informed me that Brown does, in fact, have an option left.

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Last year began with a feeling of hopelessness brought on by trading a 27-year-old outfielder for a 36-year-old reliever. The Royals haven't done anything nearly so stupid this during this off-season--not yet--but they haven't done anything to change the impression that they have become completely irrelevant as a franchise. They're not just a bad team, because some teams are bad as a necessary first step to becoming good. The Royals look like they're playing in the American League just as a favor to it for scheduling purposes.

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Billy Beane, who robbed the Royals of Jermaine Dye, who gave us a pet rock for Jeremy Giambi, who helped the Royals achieve their dream of owning Roberto Hernandez. Hell, he even took away Kevin Appier, and never mind that it was the right thing for the Royals, it still hurt like hell.

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The Royals finished the season with just three potential free agents, and already had the foresight to re-sign the least enticing one, Brent Mayne. With a midnight deadline looming on December 7, the Royals were able to come to terms with Luis Alicea, for essentially the same money as last year: $800,000 with incentives.

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So at a time when news about contraction and Bud Selig's latest open-faced lie rule the day, I'm going to write about the draft. No, not the one in which teams have a chance to draft Vladimir Guerrero--the one that gives teams the opportunity to select the next Scott Chiasson.

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It was less than four months ago that Allard Baird stood before the baseball world and announced that he had traded one of the best right fielders in the game for Neifi Perez. In one of the great non sequiturs of all time, Baird claimed that because the Royals could not re-sign Rey Sanchez--Rey Sanchez!--Jermaine Dye had to be sacrificed. He spoke about how he could not stand to see the Royals unsettled at a "premium position."

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