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When do the Tigers and Royals have to admit that ‘rebuilding’ has turned into plain old losing?

When do the Tigers and Royals have to admit that 'rebuilding' has turned into plain old losing?

Right around the time the last good teams fielded by the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals were fading, baseball gifted them a rosier path forward. In rapid succession, the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros vaulted from 100-loss depths to the playoffs and then to World Series titles. Instead of having good teams and bad teams, MLB fans quickly found that they were watching either good teams, disappointing teams or “rebuilding” teams.

These were franchises that had certainly experienced the best of times and the worst of times. The Royals suffered through almost 30 years of irrelevance before general manager Dayton Moore’s seemingly doomed focus on homegrown talent achieved critical mass with two World Series appearances and one ring in 2014 and 2015. The miserable 2003 Tigers lost 119 games with little buoyant hope for the future, but from 2006-14 the club finished over .500 in all but one season, made two World Series and minted two generational legends.

That those golden eras had to end, likely with dips back into cellar-dwelling days, wasn’t news. What had changed was the level of intention behind the losing, or at least the branding of it.

The Astros under GM Jeff Luhnow (later fired over the sign-stealing scandal) and the Cubs under Theo Epstein dispensed with the notion of giving an honest effort every year and sold a few painful years as the price of a championship. The fact that they delivered lent legitimacy to the tactic, to the idea of running out a bad baseball team.

As Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas approached the end of their contracts in Kansas City, Moore initially resisted the idea that the window of contention was closing. But he eventually acknowledged the wings front offices had grown, a blend of trust and piqued prospect interest that allowed teams to coast through three, four, five seasons of “failure” without revolt.

“Baseball fans, although they may get frustrated with the lack of wins at the major-league level at…

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