5.) Wild Card madness
It bears repeating that even if the Kansas City Royals check off the first four boxes on this list — boxes that, by and large, are under their control, it still might not be enough depending on how the rest of the team performs. There’s also the matter of how the rest of the Central Division and American League, as a whole, performs.
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For example, the 2013 Royals finished 86-76. That saw them finish with the seventh best record in the AL. Six teams — two from each division — wound up with win totals between 91 and 97. Counter that with the 2017 season. The Royals wound up 80-82, but they tied for the sixth best record in the league. The second Wild Card team, Minnesota, went 85-77. Basically, the 2013 Royals would have made the playoffs in 2017. That’s just how it works out sometimes.
If the team wants to make the 2018 postseason, they will need 2017-level Wild Card chaos. That involves run-away division leaders and a jumbled mess of teams fighting for that final spot. It wouldn’t be too surprising to have a similar scenario play out. Houston, Cleveland, Boston and New York all return mostly intact, meaning those four could again pile up plenty of wins.
Some would argue, as they did this season, that chasing a Wild Card spot when you’re so much worse than the other playoff teams is pointless. If the 2014 run didn’t convince you that anything is possible once you get in, then I don’t know what to tell you. However, there is an argument to be had that the team shouldn’t forfeit the long-term future of the franchise to chase a quite unlikely spot in the 2018 playoffs.
But that wasn’t the premise of this article. It was to show a blueprint for getting there — even if it meant making some shortsighted decisions.