The Royals were one swing away from back-to-back World Series titles. Yet when many think of the defending champs, the Royals are met with a collective shrug instead of immense respect.
The latest example of this ho-hum attitude toward Kansas City came from Baseball Prospectus, which predicted that the Royals would finish last in the AL Central in 2016. This is coming one year after the same publication predicted the Royals would bring up the rear in the division.
Even Vegas has no faith in the Royals, whose odds to repeat as champs are 14-1. There are four other teams -- Cubs, Giants, Red Sox and Mets -- that have better odds to dethrone the Royals. If Salvador Perez homered instead of popping out with the tying run on third in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, we're talking about the Royals on the verge of a dynasty.
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So why don't we believe in Kansas City? It's likely because the Royals lack star power. Kansas City fans can point to the team's seven All-Stars, but four of those were voted in as starters and third baseman Mike Moustakas won the final fan vote.
The Royals lack a marquee player who puts up dazzling numbers. Lorenzo Cain is solid (.307, 16 HRs, 72 RBI) but doesn't strike fear in opponents. The lineup is littered with players who put up good but not great numbers. They had one player who drove in more than 100 runs (Kendrys Morales at 106), and no one who hit more than 22 homers.
Doesn't seem too dangerous, right? But it's the hitters' penchant for making contact and coming up with the critical hit that can wear down opponents. The New York Mets' vaunted pitching staff had all sorts of problems finishing Royals hitters, who struck out 37 times in five games against some of the best arms in baseball.
And just ask the Mets about Alex Gordon's ability to come up in the clutch. His solo blast in the bottom of the ninth off Mets closer Jeurys Familia helped Kansas City take Game 1. The Mets never seemed to fully recover from Gordon's blow.
Royals pitchers also have a bend-but-don't-break mentality, having the ability to get the key out. Their bullpen is where Kansas City really shines, turning many games into seven-inning affairs once the Royals' relievers take the hill.
Yes, they lost Johnny Cueto to the Giants, but would you really be surprised if the Royals didn't miss a beat with their free-agent signing -- right-hander Ian Kennedy? Ben Zobrist is also a loss, but enough to go from 95 wins and a division title to 76 wins and last in the AL Central, like Baseball Prospectus is predicting? Doubtful.
Kansas City is much more than the sum of its parts. No, the Royals don't have Kris Bryant, Buster Posey, David Price or Matt Harvey -- the stars of the four teams with better odds to win the World Series.
The Royals have an intangible that fans and prognosticators just can't put their finger on. It's something that's difficult to quantify on a boxscore. Maybe it's time for us to stop overlooking the Royals and start fearing them.