They've force-fed kids like Zack Greinke and Angel Berroa and it has backfired. They've changed general managers and ... and now what once was one of the game's model organizations is taking another swing.
"Our thought process, through the whole thing, on July 1 last year we had Scott Elarton and Jimmy Gobble in the rotation," says Dayton Moore, who replaced Allard Baird last June. "Luke Hudson was just put in the rotation and we didn't know what to expect.
The Royals knew they weren't going to be in the financial ballpark for Barry Zito. They knew it was crazy money time again in the free-agent market.
They also knew they couldn't just sit back and do nothing after not only three consecutive 100-loss seasons, but after four in five years.
"We could go get guys who were nothing more than fourth or fifth starters who cost $4 (million) or $5 million," Moore says. "Or we could take a chance, be proactive, listen to our scouts, trust our pitching coach and trust in Gil, all three of those departments.
"It was a no-brainer for us. We knew we would have to step up because the Cubs and Blue Jays were in the mix and they had strong bids on the table."
Meche was at dinner with friends on that December night when his agent finally phoned with the news: You're a Royal. They added a fifth year, here are the financial details, and enjoy the rest of your evening.
"I kind of freaked out," says Meche, a grounded and humble kid from Lafayette, La. "Especially with the amount, $55 million. That's always been my number. I wear No. 55, I've got 55 career wins and now $55 million."
If you were puzzled by the whole thing, you're not alone. Meche fielded about 30 voicemails the next day from friends and relatives with the same general reaction: What the ---?
"Some people asked why, some people thought it was a great fit, some people asked why go to that team," Meche says. "They said free agents, they usually go to a winning team."
Meche's answer to that also answers Ricciardi's cutting statement, about it being an eye-opener when a guy shuns the chance to go to a team with a chance to win and compete against the Yankees and Red Sox and instead chooses the Royals.
"I thought this was the biggest challenge I could go to. Everybody puts so much emphasis on the Royals paying someone besides Sweeney," Meche says of designated hitter Mike Sweeney. "I'm looking forward to it. I feel good.
"A lot of guys who have been here the last couple of years feel different about the club."
None of the Royals' projected rotation members were part of last season's opening day rotation which, considering the ugly pitching numbers last season, is a good thing.
Though Meche is being paid like a savior, the Royals don't expect him to be one -- at least, not immediately. They know he needs to throw more strikes. They know he's yet to live up to expectations. They know he needs to become more consistent.
"I remember people saying similar stuff about John Smoltz and Jason Schmidt in Atlanta," says Moore, who was a top assistant to Braves GM John Schuerholz before taking charge of his hometown Royals. "We're obviously paying Gil Meche on what we think he will be.
"That said, at 28 he's won 55 games. That's pretty good."
Moore adds: "If we expect as a front office staff for our players to go compete and be aggressive, and we expect our scouting staff to compete in Rounds 1 to 50, and we expect our international scouts to win signing competitions, as a front office we better be prepared to go out and compete on decisions we think are best for the long term.
"It's all about getting players. Are the Kansas City Royals better with Gil Meche or without Gil Meche? You put it in those terms, probably 10 out of 10 people would say we're better with Gil Meche."
Certainly, the players inside the clubhouse agree.