clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Kansas City Royals, in a pennant race? Sacre blue!

Surely we must be living in an alternate universe. The Royals don't do October. They usually don't do September, either. But they're in the race. So deal with it. For now.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

We are 10 days away from the end of the baseball season, so let's take inventory of the teams waiting in the queue to get into the playoffs in the American League.

The Baltimore Orioles? Check. They won entry into the tournament two years ago. Maybe a surprise that they turned the AL East into the AL Easy, but no big surprise that they're in the October dance.

The Los Angeles Angels? Check. The Angels are always in the mix, it seems. They have star power and they have one of MLB's best managers.

The Detroit Tigers? Triple check, as they are the three-time defending AL Central champions. Another team with star power with a roster that includes MVPs and Cy Young winners left and right.

The Oakland A's? Check. A late-season fade ended their West Division title hopes, but they were in the ALDS in 2012 and 2013 so seeing them duking it out for the wild card is no shock to the system.

The Seattle Mariners? Check. The Mariners haven't been in the post-season for a little bit, but they won 116 games in 2001 and they were in the playoffs a few other times in the 1990s as well so the Pacific Northwest isn't a stranger to fall baseball.

The Kansas City Royals?

Whoa. Hold the phone.

Who are these playoff contender interlopers, these Royals?

The Royals and the post-season don't mix. They're like oil and water.

The Royals not only don't play in October, they usually don't have to bother showing up in September, either.

We're talking about a franchise that hasn't sniffed a playoff game since 1985. Ronald Reagan was president. Darryl Rogers was coaching the Lions. Cell phones had antennas.

The Kansas City Royals, in a pennant race?

Check the calendar for a month of Sundays. Call down to the docks to see which ships have come in.

The Royals, battling the Tigers for first place in the Central Division?

Did someone replace Lucy as Charlie Brown's holder? You mean Chuck might actually get the kick away?

The class nerd is on the verge of getting the girl. The house might lose.

The Royals are just a half-game behind the Tigers as the two teams get ready to convene in Kansas City for a big three-game series this weekend.

The Royals, playing a big series in late-September in which they're not spoilers?

Is this an alternate universe? Did I hit my head? Call the dudes from the Matrix.

Who told the Royals that they could get in on this stretch run thing? Fire the bouncers.

The Kansas City Royals, a franchise that has made a habit since 1985 of drafting and cultivating players and then trading the good ones or letting them go to free agency, are very much alive for a division title on September 19.

This is heady stuff for the boys from KC. More often than not, the Royals are mathematically eliminated in February. The mail they get is addressed to Also Ran.

The Royals have been good for one thing, however, and that's for supplying the rest of the major leagues with premium big league talent. That's been going on for over two decades.

Go to or and check out all the terrific players that have come through Kansas City since the mid-1990s on their way to other teams.

Kansas City traditionally was the stopover city of big league baseball. Good players didn't unpack their bags while playing for the Royals. Nobody bought, everybody rented. Many didn't even bother leaving the hotel.

MLB rosters for the past 20 years have been dotted with ex-Royals or ex-Royals farmhands who made it big after leaving Kansas City, usually via trade. Other talented ones left via free agency, like Raul Ibanez back when he was young and good, not old and decrepit like he is now.

The Royals snagged Ibanez from the Mariners in 2000, where he was a role player, and Kansas City gave him some serious playing time. In typical Royals fashion, as soon as Ibanez displayed that he was a bourgeoning star, he was deemed too expensive and left as a free agent after the 2003 season.

The Royal Flush down the toilet.

Who remembers Carlos Beltran as a Royal? How about Johnny Damon? Does Jermaine Dye wearing KC on his cap ring a bell? Remember when Zack Greinke anchored the Kansas City rotation?

If it wasn't established big league stars they were trading, the Royals were pulling the wool over their fans' eyes with false hopes for the youngsters they kept.

Do you remember Carlos Febles? Angel Berroa? How about Aaron Guiel? Or Dee Brown, and I don't mean the basketball player?

Don't worry; I didn't remember them either until I looked them up. But I do recall that they all were supposedly part of the Royals' resurgence that never happened, in the early-to-mid-2000s. The Royals have tried several resurgences over the past 20 years or so but it's hard to resurge when you keep trading all your good players or letting them flee.

The Royals haven't been in serious playoff contention since 1985, when they won the World Series in an upset over the St. Louis Cardinals.

So what the heck are they doing here, battling the Tigers for first place with a handful of games left in the season?

The short answer is, this time the Royals have finally cobbled together a mix of youth and veterans plus a killer late-inning bullpen that, for the time being at least, is playing good enough baseball to win upwards of 90-plus games.

They (usually) catch the ball. They can run around the base paths like a bunch of Roadrunners. They can pitch, especially from the seventh inning on.

But the Royals don't hit home runs and they don't have that feared slugger in the middle of their lineup. If they were a football team, they'd be playing the West Coast Offense.

The Royals' game is predicated on winning 3–2, with all three runs being manufactured like Billy Butler's BBQ sauce.

We'll see if management will keep this core of Royals around long enough to experience sustained success. We'll see if they invest in a basher to make the young guys like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and yes, even Alex Gordon, relax a little because they won't have to do as much. We'll see if they finally put a stop to their pattycake offense.

We'll see if they keep free agent-to-be "Big Game" James Shields, their ace starting pitcher.

In typical Royals fashion, Shields was acquired from Tampa Bay only because Kansas City was willing to part with potential star Wil Myers.

If Shields leaves after this season for greener pastures (literally and figuratively), then the Royals won't have Myers or Shields.

How do you get better that way?

But the Royals are in the race this year, no question. They have a shot at Blue October.

Now let's call in the "Candid Camera" crew and end this thing, already.