45-42 is a respectable record. It's the kind of record that you can be friends with, if only perhaps in a group of other records at dinner. You probably wouldn't want to spend a lot of alone time with it, because you have a suspicion that the two of you don't really have that much in common. But situated around a table with some of your more favorite records, it's something you can be chummy with on the occasion.
45-42 is what my friend refers to as a "Now what?" situation. When things have simultaneously gone poorly and well, the best course of action from this point forward remains murky at best.
The Royals are in the middle of such a season. While the starting pitching hasn't been good, they still have a winning record. While the offense hasn't been living up to expectation, some portion of that may be due to injury, or ineffectiveness, or regression, or all three.
And yet, Kansas City finds themselves on the cusp of the All-Star Break, too close to call it quits and not quite good enough to really consider a push. Of the fifteen teams with a negative run differential, the Royals are one of three teams with a winning record. The White Sox (-10, 45-42) and Marlins (-3, 46-41) are the other two, and Kansas City has the worst run differential at -23.
Is that a product of the starting pitching being bad? Will it improve without outside help? Can the offense rebound a little? Will injuries stop happening? Will Wade Davis be effective when he gets back? If any of these things happen, can they catch Cleveland?
These questions, and more, are bouncing around in the atmosphere looking for resolution, and there really doesn't seem to be much out there, and more to the point, how do you make decisions in a climate of such uncertainty?
That's what Dayton Moore is faced with: A team that has both simultaneously under-performed and over-performed, who has dealt with bad play and injuries with little end in sight for either one, without the resources to really hedge any of the issues that have sprung up over the season's opening months.
If the team had bottomed out like the Twins or the Angels, there is a clear mode of thinking that could lead you to exploring trade options for some guys, kickstarting a rebuild for the upcoming cycle. On the inverse, if the team were in first place with all of these issues, you could rightfully stay the course, or even look to improve somehow.
But what do you do when you're 45-42, in third place in the division, and sitting behind four teams for the Wild Card lead? For a team that was expected to perform better, that's a tricky spot to be in.