Al Central

April 04, 1999

Royals

That was then: Kansas City, which hasn't made the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, was 13th in the AL in runs and 13th in ERA, then set free its leaders in wins (Tim Belcher), batting average (Jose Offerman), homers (Dean Palmer) and RBIs (Palmer).

This is now: Payroll is already down from $36 million to $26 million. Next to go: Kevin Appier, Jeff King and Jeff Montgomery.

Upside: Not that it counts, but Kansas City had baseball's best spring training record. First baseman Jeremy Giambi hit .372 in Triple-A; outfielder Carlos Beltran is a top prospect, too.

Downside: The staff's 5.15 ERA was the worst in club history. Things are so bad that the team even checked out 37-year-old Canadian softball pitcher Mike Piechnik; he threw a nasty slider and screwball but balked on every pitch.

Inside pitch: The Royals were 43-38 on the road, their best away record in 18 seasons, but a club-worst 29-51 at home. That's no way to fill pricey new underground boxes behind the plate.

Outside chance: Tony Muser might have to pay up. He bet a friend that new shortstop Rey Sanchez would play at least 150 games; if Muser loses, he has to sing a disco song in a karaoke bar. Sanchez has never played more than 135 games.

Coming distractions: George Brett's Hall of Fame induction in July. Unless he's somehow traded, too.

Now playing: "Royal Bluff," "Farewell to the King"

Twins

That was then: Minnesota was in second place in mid-July, then went 19-36. The losses continued in the off-season with the retirements of Paul Molitor and Bob Tewksbury and departures of Pat Meares, Otis Nixon and Mike Morgan.

This is now: The Twins have committed to stay in town through 2000, but fans are free to leave; only 4,000 bought season tickets last winter. The club is now offering a season-ticket upper-deck seat for $99 (that's $1.22 a game) and throwing in an autographed Kirby Puckett bat for every pair bought.

Upside: Eric Milton, who has a Terrapin tattoo, took three no-hit bids into the sixth inning. Chad Allen had 32 spring hits.

Downside: Brad Radke, a 20-game-winner in 1997, fell to 12 wins last year and had a 6.27 ERA after the break. Rick Aguilera blew a major-league-worst 11 saves.

Inside pitch: Usually teams that ground into the most double plays hit a lot of homers; the Twins were next to last in the AL with 115.

Outside chance: Tom Kelly, whose 12-year tenure is the longest of any current manager or head coach in the four major sports, might throw in the Homer Hankie. He's one of only five managers to guide the same club to at least six straight losing seasons.

Coming distractions: Minnesota is hoping to pare payroll from $26 million to $11 million ($4 million less than Kevin Brown earns). Aguilera ($3.25 million) and DH/outfielder Marty Cordova ($3 million) will beat the team out of town.

Now playing: "There Goes Kelly," "No Way Out"

Pub Date: 4/04/99

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