At the end of the day, it comes down to scoreboards and standings. The KC Royals could have taken advantage of a weakened NL Central occasionally.
Save for the 2003 and 2013-2016 years the Royals have struggled to be competitive. There were a few windows of opportunity if they would have changed leagues to stay in the race longer and kept fans engaged. Not suggesting they could have won their division or played in the wild card game, but the chance to play meaningful games is big.
In 2000, the Royals finished 77-85 while two teams in their division won 90 or more games. In the NL Central, they would had better records than three other teams. If they would have played those teams more often it could have bumped up their win total enough to at least produce a winning record.
That 2003 season with Tony Pena and the Miracles? They were 83-79 while the Cubs won the NL Central with just an 88-74 record. The Los Angeles Dodgers were an NL wild card team with only 85 wins.
As Kansas City was putting the pieces together for their playoff teams they went 72-90 in 2012. The Cubs and Astros were faltering to 61 and 55 win seasons. The Cardinals entered the wild card game with an 88-74 record. Had the Royals been able to beat up on the bottom of the division, it is reasonable to think they could have been in the mix.
The Royals’ 86 wins in 2013 would have been two games closer to the wild card game had they been in the NL. The 2016 season would see the NL have four more teams with worse records than the AL. If they could have feasted on those teams more often, the opportunity to make the playoffs increases.
Some juicy irony with the health crisis is that we may get a twisted picture of what would have happened if the team would have changed leagues when they had the opportunity. A potential solution being batted around is to have three divisions aligned geographically with no concerns about American or National. This would put the Royals with their usual AL Central foes plus the Reds, Cards, Cubs, Brewers and Braves.
The Royals have a ton of history in playing in the AL, which includes two World Series trophies. That simply cannot be dismissed. However, they have always been built as an NL team and that would be a better fit year after year. Unless a major realignment happens in MLB, leadership back in 1997 let that slip through our fingers.