A neo-Rip Van Winkle has just awakened from a spring slumber that began on April 5, the day before the Royals' season opener.
Naturally, Van Winkle wants an update on his favorite ball club so, after he rubs the sand out of his eyes, he calls his best friend, a long-time KC booster.
Van Winkle: Hey, this is Rip. I just took another one of my long naps. . .only about two months this time, not the usual 20 years. Can you bring me up to date on the Royals?
Friend: Sure, Rip. Hope you had a restful snooze. What do you want to know?
Van Winkle: Thanks. . .well, hey, first I've really been anxious to learn how the Bret Saberhagen trade has worked out. What kind of year is Saberhagen having?
Friend: Hot and cold, basically. Sabes was rocked in his first two National League starts, but then he rebounded and had a 3-2 record with a 3.81 earned run average before he went on the disabled list with a finger injury.
Van Winkle: I'm glad he's doing well. What about the three players the Royals obtained from the Mets? How're they doing?
Friend: Greg Jefferies leads the American League in doubles, and currently has a 17-game hitting streak, the longest of his career. Keith Miller is on the DL with a bad back, but he's hitting .304. And Kevin McReynolds leads the club in home runs and RBI.
Van Winkle: Hey, that's great. But what about Kevin Appier? I was worried the Saberhagen trade would put extra pressure on Appier, that he might struggle as the No. 1 starter.
Friend: What pressure? Appier has developed into one of the best starting pitchers in the American League. He's hurled 81 innings so far and has given just 58 hits. His earned run average is 1.99. Appier seems headed for his first All-Star game appearance.
Van Winkle: Wow, that's good news. I'm almost afraid to ask you about Mark Gubicza, though. Rotator cuff surgery two years ago, then that ugly 5.68 earned run average last season. He's washed up, isn't he?
Friend: Not hardly. Gubicza hasn't missed a start, has been remarkably consisent with a 3.37 ERA and leads the club in victories. He may not make the All-Star Game, but he's a candidate for comeback of the year.
Van Winkle: Boy, this is all such great stuff. I guess I'd better ask about Wally Joyner now. Considering the luck the Royals have had with high-priced free agents, I'm just certain he's been struggling while I've been sleeping. Right?
Friend: Nope. Joyner is well on his way to becoming the best free agent investment in club history. He's been among the league leaders in batting all season with an average comfortably above the .320 level and, as expected, his fielding at first base has been flawless.
Van Winkle: Boy, this is really exciting news. I can't wait to go to a game. I suppose I'll have a tough time finding a ticket, though. The Royals must be running away in the American League West.
Friend: Not exactly.
Van Winkle: What do you mean?
Friend: The Royals are last in the American League in hitting, near the bottom in pitching and have the worst record in baseball.
Van Winkle: Pinch me. I must be dreaming.
Friend: Funny, but I think Herk Robinson said the same thing not too long ago.
Van Winkle: Well, then, I (yawn) guess I'll just (yawn) go. . .zzzzzz.