By Danny Clinkscale
It is perhaps fitting that the Royals were honored at the White House today. Because in many ways it feels like it perhaps marked the unofficial
end to the Royals being champions.
The Royals actually will be champions until the final pitch of the World Series, but yesterday's clubbing at the hands of the presumptive 2016 Central Division
Champion Indians sent the Royals back to the .500 mark, nine games back of Cleveland. They are also 7th in the battle for two Wild card spots six games out
of the second slot.
The last time that the Royals visited the White House, they did it under entirely different circumstances. They did it just a short time after they won the World Seriestitle. That was a good thing. If they had followed this years template, they would have been in a similar predicament, in fact worse. The 1986 Royals were seven games out, on their way to a 76-86 finish, in a season in which they were never in contention.
So in the second time that the Royals have defended a title, it has gone just a bit better than the first. Well, sort of. By run differential, the Royals have exceeded their expected record of 43-51 by four games. It shows the strength of this team, their ability to carve out unexpected wins. Even while struggling most of the year, they have still sprinkled in a few wildly dramatic wins. They still have that in them.
But too many things have gone wrong. For the context of this season alone contracts for Omar Infante, Chris Young, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Alex Gordon, and Joaquim Soria have all been bad ones. There have been significant injuries. Moustakus for the year, Medlen most of it, Gordon for a month, Cain for who knows how long. For whatever reason the long ball is back with a vengeance in 2016, and that certainly doesn't fit in with what the Royals do.
There is no shame in this. Baseball's postseason is the hardest to reach in the major sports, and the Royals could get it going pretty good from this point forward and still not make it. People point to 2014 when the Royals dropped below .500 after this date and still made the Wild Card. A couple things on that. First it took .641 ball the rest of the way to get to 89 wins, and second, that is the only time that win total has made the A.L. wild card in the four years since it expanded to two teams
The Royals made consecutive World Series and won a title. That's strong stuff, especially the repeating as league champions. A three-peat was always going to be a big ask. It's been said many times, and anyone who listens to me talk baseball on the radio no doubt is sick of hearing that the Giants won three World Series titles in six years, and each time missed the playoffs the following season. Each time they bounced back and have the look of a team that just might do it again.
Of course the Royals still have time to change this narrative, but they will have to turn many things on their heads to do it. They have been the team of the improbable,and if we see them playing postseason baseball in 2016, they will have been the team of the very, very improbable.
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