The KC Royals should have moved to National League in 1997

Kansas city Royals (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kansas city Royals (Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals
KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

In order to have an even number of teams in each league, MLB gave the KC Royals the first option to decide to move to the NL Central.

As the then-named Tampa Bay Devil Rays were joining the ranks of Major League Baseball in 1998, they were originally slated to join the American League West to keep the number of teams in a division the same.  Looking at a map tells you this would be a more difficult travel schedule for the new franchise as their division opponents were the Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners, and then-Anaheim Angels.  The solution presented the KC Royals with a golden opportunity.

At least baseball was more on top of this than the National Football League.  During the same year, the NFC West consisted of exactly one team west of the Central Standard time zone, the San Francisco 49ers.  The rest of the division were the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and the St. Louis Rams.  Yeesh.

Major League Baseball proposed a plan that the owners agreed to that was to change the landscape for a few teams.  It was a big deal as it was the first time a team would change league affiliation.

Also joining the big leagues were the Arizona Diamondbacks who were slotted – geographically correct – into the National League West.  MLB did not want odd number of teams in each league so the decision was to move one franchise to the NL creating a 16-to-14 team split.

Kansas City was granted the option to move first. If they declined, then the Milwaukee Brewers would have the choice.  If they turned it down, the Minnesota Twins were next.

There were many reasons it would have been a positive move for the franchise but the Royals were a ship without a rudder.  David Glass was the leader of the Board of Directors because no owner replacement had stepped in place for Ewing Kauffman yet.  It was a missed opportunity.