Royal-ty

Apr 17, 2003 3:54 AM

The 2003 season is two weeks old and the early season surprises continue.

As made clear last week, it is way too early to form any conclusions from what appears to be major deviations from expected form. But we certainly should keep an eye on the unusual developments, especially to see how those teams perform when their sharp early season form shows what might be a "temporary" reversal.

San Francisco, Kansas City and the New York Yankees have gotten off to the best starts in the young season. The Giants and Royals have lost just once each in the first two weeks while the Yankees have just a pair of losses. New York’s start is no surprise with the biggest payroll in baseball and the best 1-to-5 starting rotation.

The Giants start is perhaps a mild surprise considering the absence of closer Robb Nen and some significant roster changes. But then again San Francisco was in last year’s World Series so their fast start can be explained. That is not the case with Kansas City. The starting rotation boasts several young, unproven arms that have had very brief but undistinguished careers.

The Royals do have perhaps the game’s most underrated offensive player -- Mike Sweeney -- and a compliment of players with solid promise and potential. Pitching problems may surface as the young starters accumulate innings but at least for a month or so KC fans have reason to be optimistic.

Montreal is also off to a fine start and opened its ”˜home’ season in Puerto Rico by taking the first three games against the Mets, one of the big disappointments in the season’s first fortnight.

The other major disappointment early on has been Arizona whose two aces, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, have struggled over their first few starts. Combine that with an aging lineup and inconsistent offense and the D-backs need a quick return to form by both aces if they are to remain contenders.