Sometimes the most obvious things jump right in front of your face and you wonder why you haven't been thinking a certain way all along.
(Sorry for the incredibly hokie, tired, cliched opening sentence... its late.)
The Royals don't have to be that good to win the AL Central.
Think about that for thirty seconds.
In the AL East, the Royals would forever be without hope. Even with a Yankee collapse (which might not be as unlikely as it seems, although, no, it wouldn't be because A-Rod "isn't a winner") there would always be the Red Sox around to win 93 games. In the AL West, you'd have Beane's A's and the revenue rich, and spending friendly, Rangers, Angels and Mariners. In one sense or another, every AL West organization is "well run", as is half the AL East. If you put the Royals in either division tomorrow, I would literally bet my life that they would not come within 5 games of first place for the next decade.
But the Royals aren't in those divisions, they're in the Central, which is probably baseball's underhanded way of approaching fairness without a salary cap; lets create a three division format which nicely manages to put most the "small market" teams in one division. Its almost as if the annual playoffs can be seen as "the three best teams and the best team from a media market under 2.5 million."
Anyway, of course you know this already.
But do the Royals really know it.
Consider the obvious implications:
1) There is no elite competition. The AL Central's champion, Minnesota, won 92 games. But with a none too sparkling 35-33 record against the East and West.
2) Thanks to the unbalanced schedule, the Royals played 76 games last season against their AL Central brothers.
Sure, the Royals are bad, even horrible. They have, to my estimation, maybe three players that any other team would trade an everyday player for: Greinke, perhaps DeJesus and possibly Sweeney.
Although it may just be Greinke.
The twist of it is though, the Twins really aren't that far ahead of the Royals, and neither are the White Sox, Tigers or Indians. The miracle ride of 2003 was both fluky and not that miraculous (83 wins, hello) but it at least showed that with a few breaks and inept rivals, alost anything is possible.
What this means is this; the Royals don't need to be the Yankees, they can be the Rangers, Orioles or Blue Jays (in terms of talent) and win the AL Central.
And yet, so far, the front office is handling this off-season as if they're the Devil Rays: resigned to failure, aware that any "major" free agent signings are futile, and praying that in 5 years all the minor leaguers in the system will become All-stars.
Talent is out there. Hope is out there. Maybe the Royals can't win in 2005, but they definetely can by 2006.
This organization needs a playoff berth... badly.
It can happen, and I think Allard has at least a decent enough vision to make it so, but there is no justification for this team to become the Expos/Nationals/Devil Rays/Brewers and throw up their hands and say "can't do it, coach, time for a spending freeze and 'youth movement'".
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