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Royals' quest to repeat is no easy feat

July 20, 2016

KANSAS CITY -- For a day, the Royals get a chance to escape the daily grind, kick back and relive the magical moments of the World Series championship in 2015 during a White House visit with President Barack Obama on Thursday morning.Then it's back to reality. Then it's back to

KANSAS CITY -- For a day, the Royals get a chance to escape the daily grind, kick back and relive the magical moments of the World Series championship in 2015 during a White House visit with President Barack Obama on Thursday morning.
Then it's back to reality. Then it's back to try to get on track in a bid to become the first team in this century to repeat a World Series title. It is a challenge.
That doesn't make it any easier to accept for management or players.
This is a franchise that went through a three-decade blight, the World Series championship it claimed a year ago coming on the 30th anniversary of the only other World Series championship in franchise history.
That wasn't lost on general manager Dayton Moore, who as a college student had parked his car along I-70 above the left-field fence at Kauffman Stadium and watched as best he could his boyhood favorites, the Royals, knock off St. Louis in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.
Moore celebrated that night. And he celebrated again last fall.
Moore, his front-office/scouting compatriots, manager Ned Yost and his coaching staff and players were not satisfied. They got that taste of success and were determined to experience the moment again, unlike that 1985 team.
It hasn't been easy.
With a three-game series against the American League Central-leading Indians this week, there was a feeling the Royals had an opportunity to parlay their success at home -- where they had been 29-13 -- into a statement of their second-half intentions. But after rallying from a 2-0 eighth-inning deficit in the opener on Monday, they fell to the Indians, 7-3, on Tuesday night and then took an 11-4 loss on Wednesday afternoon in which they found themselves facing an 11-0 deficit by the time they came to bat in the eighth.
Now the Royals are facing some issues that have led to the fact they slipped back to .500 (47-47) on Wednesday, dropping nine games behind the division-leading Indians, but also six back of the Blue Jays in the bid for the second AL Wild Card spot.
They have been unable to fill the fifth spot in the rotation, losing 17 of the 25 games started by pitchers other than Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Vólquez and Ian Kennedy. They have felt the impact in their offense from the extended absences of third baseman Mike Moustakas, lost for the season with right ACL surgery in May; center fielder Lorenzo Cain, slow responding to a strained left hamstring that sidelined him June 29; and the struggles of left fielder Alex Gordon, who has hit .189 with three home runs and six RBIs in 74 at-bats since returning June 25 from a 28-game stint on the disabled list with a broken right wrist.
And although Moore is as competitive as any man in the business and will not give up looking for ways to fill the voids, he also realizes that in landing two key pieces for the championship run late last July -- infielder Ben Zobrist and right-hander Johnny Cueto -- he gave up five prime pitching prospects, which has tested the depth of the system.
But then these are not challenges unique to the Royals. It's Major League Baseball in the 21st century, where the teams have been expanded from the original 16, beginning in 1961 with the addition of the Angels and the Washington Senators, to the current 30 with the 1998 addition of the Rays and D-backs.
Not only has that led to what was 400 big league roster spots in 1960 to the current 750, but pitching staffs of four-man rotations with four or five relievers to a current alignment where a five-man rotation is part of a staff that includes seven or eight relievers.
Is it just a coincidence that there is parity on the field or are teams less durable because of the expanding rosters spreading the talent out among more teams?
Both sides can be argued, but what can't be ignored is that in the first 15 years of the 21st century, all 30 franchises have made at least one postseason appearance. The longest current postseason drought is 14 seasons by the Mariners. The Marlins, who won the 2003 World Series, and the Padres are the only other teams that haven't been to the postseason since at least 2006.
There has not been a team to win back-to-back World Series in the past 15 seasons, and only three times has a team even made back-to-back World Series appearances. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and lost in '09. The Rangers lost in both 2010 and '11. The Royals lost in 2014 and won a year ago.
Although the Giants have won three of the past six World Series, they didn't even advance to the postseason the three other seasons. The Red Sox also have won three World Series since 2001, but they have been spread out -- 2004, '07 and '13. And the Cardinals are the only other team with multiple championships this century, winning in 2006 and '11.
It's a trend the Royals would like to change in 2016.
It, however, has not been an easy journey.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy.