The last time that the Kansas City Royals headed into the offseason after putting together a winning season was exactly a decade ago. Tony Pena had been named Manager of the Year, and should probably be canonized for the numerous miracles required to bring that team over .500. Desi Relaford, Chris George and Brent Mayne had prominent roles on the team. Angel Berroa and Ken Harvey were the young studs, expected to help carry the Royals offense to even better days ahead.
We all know how the following season turned out. After the corpse of Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago were the Royals top free agent signings, the Royals fell back to mediocrity. Berroa proved to be a one year fluke, and while Harvey was an All-Star that year, he was out of the majors after twelve games in 2005, victimized by recurring back problems.
Now, the Royals find themselves once again heading into the offseason following a winning season. However, unlike the 2003 Royals, this incarnation may have more staying power. Instead of having a rotation fronted by Darrell May, the Royals have James Shields, a proven winner. Carlos Beltran was beginning to break out as a stud, but he was really the only major threat in the lineup. With these Royals may not have a player like Beltran presently, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon are a solid core for the lineup. Greg Holland is already much better than Mike MacDougal ever was, and may be getting better.
The Royals do have holes heading into the 2014 season. They need at least one other starting pitcher, and could use upgrades at second and right. Yet, the Royals appear to be much closer to being able to sustain their success this time than they were a decade ago. The younger players appear to be more capable of being able to carry the team forward for the next few years, and there is an impressive crop of starters seemingly on the verge of making an impact.
Of course, in another decade, we could all be sitting back and regarding the 2013 squad in the same light as the 2003 team. Perez could get injured, like Harvey. Alcides Escobar could turn into Rey Ordonez, not just defensively, but with the bat as well. Shields could blow out his elbow just after signing an extension, making it where the Royals are unable to keep key players due to salary concerns while Wil Myers begins a Hall of Fame career. Meanwhile, we would all be downing our beers and wondering what, exactly, it was that the Royals did to anger the Baseball Gods so badly.
However, the 2013 Royals were expected to compete for the playoffs, which they did. The team a decade ago came out of nowhere, the perfect storm of career years and a collection of players that did not realize that they were not supposed to be there. While the clock struck midnight for the Cinderella Royals of 2003; this time, the Royals appear poised to keep on going.