Royal flush

Yahoo! Sports' MLB analyst Ryne Sandberg gives answers to four pressing questions in the major leagues.

1. Who or what is to blame for K.C.'s losing ways?
I can't place the blame on one particular person for the Kansas City Royals' franchise-record losing streak, which grew to 16 games with Monday's 11-3 defeat at Seattle. Going into the season, the Royals didn't have much of a chance to compete in the AL Central, not with a young team that figured to slump at some point.

And with the way the game's economics are these days, small-market teams are going to struggle. They can't compete with big-market teams when it comes to paying big salaries. In fact, teams like the Royals are often forced to trade their star players as they did with Carlos Beltran last year. They had no choice but to deal him to Houston, which was in the NL wild-card race.

Still, it's miserable to be on a team that's on a long losing streak. It seems like any mistake snowballs toward another defeat.

In 1997, I was on a Chicago Cubs team that started the season 0-14. We played a bunch of games against two of the best teams in baseball at the time (Florida and Atlanta), and before we won our first game, we were already 10 games behind in the standings.

We had so much optimism coming out of spring training, and to start the season with that streak was a complete letdown. That was my last year and I had serious thoughts of retiring at the time. But I stuck with it and actually finished the season strong.

2. Where will Maddux be in 2006?
There has been a lot of talk about whether or not Greg Maddux should retire after the season. My thoughts are that it doesn't matter what any of us think. Maddux has earned the right to decide on his own.

I believe Maddux still has some solid innings left. He threw a complete game last week against St. Louis and, even though he gave up 12 hits and four runs, it was vintage Maddux. He spotted his fastball on the outside and got hitters to ground out with his changeup.

If Maddux doesn't retire, I think the Cubs should bring him back. He is still a solid No. 4 or No. 5 starter and is great to have on a young team. He's a solid clubhouse guy and when he's on the bench, it's only baseball talk.

Right now, I still see Maddux in a Cubs uniform in 2006.

3. Should the White Sox trade for Junior?
I think Ken Griffey Jr. going to the Chicago White Sox would be a great move. They would be wise to acquire him even if Scott Podsednik wasn't injured. Griffey is still a very tough out, and the White Sox could use him as their every-day designated hitter.

Adding Junior – who may be dealt now that he has cleared waivers but can veto any trade – would give the White Sox the upper hand going into the AL playoffs. Their lineup would be much more potent and it would give them another left-handed power bat.

Griffey has taken a lot of heat because he's been injured the last few years, but maybe becoming a DH is what he needs. Many of his injuries have occurred in the outfield and being a DH would keep him healthier.

4. Who should be more concerned about the Yankees – Boston or Oakland?
Despite being banged up, the New York Yankees have won five consecutive games after Monday's 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay. The Yanks are 3½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East and 1½ games behind Oakland for the AL wild card.

Even though Randy Johnson has a bad back and Carl Pavano could be out for the year with a shoulder problem, the Yankees still have a potent enough lineup to make a run at the playoffs. I think the A's are in trouble of losing their wild-card lead if they don't start playing better. Oakland lost its second straight game Monday and now trails the AL West-leading Angels by two games.

I think the Yankees will overtake the A's and win the AL wild card. They have playoff experience that Oakland doesn't have, and they also have a lineup that can make any pitcher nervous.