Royals flushed

Proving that they're at least as good as their payroll, the Royals lost their 12th straight game on Friday. As Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!" Actually, Pyle makes a fine metaphor for the Royals' front office: good-natured, but as dumb as the team's "New. Blue. Tradition." slogan. Stuck in Kansas City, the Royals can use the small-market excuse only so many times. While other small-market clubs have found a way to win (Oakland, Minnesota and Florida), the Royals have perfected the art of losing. Over the previous 13 seasons, they have managed only one winning season. They have rolled over more than Charlie Lau in his grave. Sorry to break the news to the fine people of Missouri, but it is time to give another city a shot at major-league baseball.

And you can add the Pittsburgh Pirates - the last team to lose at least 12 in a row (13 straight in 2006) - to the scrap heap. The Bucs haven't had a winning record in 16 years. Which was, coincidentally enough, Barry Bonds' last season with the Pirates before the slugger looked like a life-size bobblehead.

Searching for Bobby

Low & Outside knowingly grinned a few weeks back when Mike Francesa of New York's WFAN-AM bemoaned the defense of Yankees outfielder Bobby Abreu and his unwillingness to go back to the wall. Phillies fans knew that Abreu all too well, but the rest of the country just saw a fantasy-league gold mine. There's no denying Abreu's ability to put up numbers. In the Yanks' 6-5 win over the Twins on Friday, he went 3 for 4 with two triples and four runs. But there's more to it than just putting up glowing statistics. Just compare Abreu's numbers through Friday with a rightfielder with a similar career arc:

Player   G   R   H   HR   RBIs   SB   AVG.

Abreu   1,696   1,102   1,826   228   1,018   300   .300

Player A

1,449   894   1,718   256   1,027   87   .312

Knowing that Player A is the Tigers' Magglio Ordonez, who is the clutch player you would take?

Hairy business

Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi has been sporting a mustache of late, and, coincidentally or not, he has broken out of an early-season slump. After hitting .150 through the first 33 games, he is batting .367 over the last 21 games. When he was in Oakland, Giambi was a fan of the goatee, but he had to shave his chin in accordance with Yankees rules. Don Mattingly was once ordered by owner George Steinbrenner to cut his hair. A few years later,

The Simpsons

' Montgomery Burns insisted Mattingly shave his animated sideburns. Donny Baseball didn't have any, so he shaved the middle section of his head. It didn't matter; Burns cut him from his team anyway. To which Mattingly said to himself, "I still like him better than Steinbrenner." Who doesn't?

Notable

Red Sox righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka will begin a program to strengthen his sore right shoulder and hopes to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on June 12. Boston activated righthander Clay Buchholz from the 15-day DL and optioned him to triple-A Pawtucket. . . . Yankees catcher Jorge Posada made two strong throws to second base in an extended spring-training game and could rejoin the team as early as Wednesday. . . . Tigers lefthander Dontrelle Willis will start Tuesday after a short stint as a reliever since coming off the DL.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745

or jmclane@phillynews.com.