The Royals have a 71-46 record, the best in the league, and are a mortal lock to make the post-season with a 12 game lead and only six weeks to go. They made some bold moves at the trade deadline, adding Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist for five minor league pitchers, suggesting Dayton Moore is moving all his chips in for a championship this year. The expectations in Kansas City haven't been this high in a decade.
So what would constitute a successful season to you? There are a few ways to look at this.
Have the best regular season record
The playoffs are notoriously a crapshoot with many times the best team not taking home the hardware at the end of the year. The 1985 Royals championship team was arguably one of the weaker playoff teams the franchise had over its run from 1976-1985, with the 1977 edition acknowledged as the best overall team in club history. Even last year's club was really a pretty mediocre club that got hot at the right time. Many have suggested a General Manager can only really build a roster for the regular season, that no one can plan for the idiosyncrasies and randomness of a short series. The acquisitions of Cueto and Zobrist simply improve the probability of winning it all, they can't guarantee against the ball taking a weird hop to lose an October game for the Royals.
Having the best regular season record in the league would be quite an achievement for a franchise that lost 100 games four times in the previous decade. This year's club has been a behemoth, running over the league in dominating fashion. Being this good over the 162-game marathon schedule is more impressive than being good in a short series in October and it would be tragic if this club got dismissed simply because they got cold for a week in October and were bounced out in the Divisional Series.
Win the American League pennant
No one gets hardware for the best record in the league. The regular season champs are relegated to the dustbins of history. Do you even remember who had the best record in the league last year? (it was the Angels). To be remembered, you need post-season heroics.
With a return to the World Series, Kansas City would once again get to be in the spotlight on national television (yay, more Joe Buck!) Returning to the Fall Classic would help validate that last year's club was no fluke. Only a handful of clubs can claim back-to-back pennant winners. The Royals would clearly establish themselves as the class of the American League, a notion few expected at the beginning of the year. Fans could begin to envision a mini-dynasty for the Royals.
Championship or bust
The Royals were two runs away from winning it all last year, so a case could be made that only topping last year's achievement would mean this year was a success. The Royals went on an unbelievable run that gave Kansas City the emotional roller-coaster ride of a lifetime, so its hard to see anything less than a championship season topping that. It has been 30 years since the franchise has won its only championship. Winning it all this year would make for a nice bookend.
It would also take the sour taste out of last year's World Series finish, which left the Royals so close to winning it all. With the window possibly closing soon, and Cueto, Zobrist, and possibly even Alex Gordon gone next year, this may be the club's last great shot at winning it all. Go big or go home. Championship or bust.
What do you think? Will anything less than a championship be considered a successful season in your eyes?