Here we are, at the end of the Royals’ championship window for this group of players. I know, the Royals have made some noise about re-signing their impending free agents, but I’ll believe that when I see it. Odds are, the key players are going to be too expensive, and at any rate there is almost no chance they’re all back in 2018.
This Royals team will almost certainly finish in third place in the AL Central. Just like last year, and just like in 2013. And just like 2012, the first full year Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez played in Kansas City together. We were told once that the Royals had “the best farm system in the history of whatever.” And yes, we got two World Series appearances and one World Series title from that. But is it fair to be disappointed that we didn’t get more?
I don’t think it’s greedy to have expected more. Certainly this year and last are disappointments, and I don’t think anyone would argue that. On the other hand, the 2012 season was a learning experience for that group, and expecting that many youngsters to win that soon is not realistic. It can happen, but usually it doesn’t. And 2013 was a different kind of learning experience for them—remember, they went 8-20 in May of that year, then 64-46 the rest of the season, and that bad month cost them a playoff spot.
Write off those two years, and then you get a magical postseason run in 2014, and arguably the best team in baseball for the whole 2015 season, capped with a title. So two learning years, two winning years we’ll remember fondly as fans, and two disappointments.
But then I remember that it is hard to win in baseball. Here is list of all the teams that have made consecutive World Series since the Yankees played in four straight from 1998-2001:
2008-2009 Philadelphia Phillies
2010-2011 Texas Rangers
2014-2015 Kansas City Royals
That’s it. Three teams, and the Rangers lost both of their appearances while the Phillies also split theirs. In that regard, the Royals did just fine. Did they do better than, say, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have won their division now for a fifth straight year but not played in the World Series in those previous four appearances? I don’t think I’d make that trade.
Here is the list of American League teams who have made it past the wild-card game in consecutive seasons since 2011:
Detroit Tigers 2012-2014
Kansas City Royals 2014-2015
Texas Rangers 2015-2016
Toronto Blue Jays 2015-2016
Neither the Rangers or Blue Jays will be appearing in this postseason. Judging by their American League peers, the Royals have done just fine in this stretch. Another wild-card appearance (or two) would have been nice, yes, but for many reasons AL teams lately just don’t seem to have long strings of playoff success like they did just a few years ago.
The Royals, especially the last two years, had some bad injury luck and some self-inflicted wounds. Injuries to Cain, Moustakas and Alex Gordon hurt the cause last year. Yordano Ventura’s untimely passing last winter hurt this year’s team. Not finding a reliable second baseman until late May last year and dealing away Wade Davis for Jorge Soler, who contributed nothing this year, were big factors.
OK, one more list. Here are the Royals’ run differentials since 2011:
2017 (through Sunday): -72
Maybe this really hasn’t been that good of a team, especially the last two years. They’ve been in the hunt thanks to the relative lack of exceptional AL teams and the existence of the second wild-card spot.
That’s not a slam. For years, Royals fans suffered 90- or 100-loss seasons and dreamed of the day they would experience pennant races and important baseball in September. Regardless of the run differentials, the Royals have delivered that for five straight seasons. Sure, it would have been nice to experience even more postseason play. But we got two World Series and a plethora of memorable moments we’ll be telling our kids about. You could call it The Dynasty That Wasn’t, but I’m not going to complain.