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KCRexit? Royals risk withdrawal from AL race

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Kansas City faces an uncertain future following a failed referendum on remaining in the AL playoff race.

A Royal voter contemplates his vote to withdraw from AL contention.
A Royal voter contemplates his vote to withdraw from AL contention.
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

In a shocking development over the weekend, the Kansas City Royals moved closer to ending their participation in the American League playoff race following the results of a referendum on the organization’s ability to compete with other leading AL teams. Heading into the weekend’s contests, leading observers predicted a close matchup but did not expect the crushing loss by a collective 27-15 margin. At press time it was unclear whether the late surge in "remain" votes, though holding a 6-1 margin, would be enough to overcome the broader trend. The weekend’s results sent shock waves throughout the AL’s member organizations, which had expected the team to continue taking a prominent role following its assumption of a leadership position for the past two years. Projection markets were in flux, as bettors and analysts scrambled to update futures for the remainder of the league. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior Royals manager said, "Let me be frank; we need to hunt for a solution."

Regional residents were stunned by the unexpected results, despite weeks of campaigning that clearly indicated a significant risk of the move pundits are now calling KCRexit. Many younger fans bemoaned the potential loss of AL competitiveness before they had had a chance to fully benefit from the team’s recent success, blaming an "old-school" approach to lineup construction and other factors. "There’s a generational divide, and it’s going to cost us our future in the AL", said one stricken supporter. Others maintained that a withdrawal from playoff contention held significant benefits for the Kansas City region. "The AL’s been overshadowing the NFL far too long," griped a local football fan. "Make Kansas City chief again, that’s what I say." Meanwhile, one local columnist caused outrage by claiming that the team deserved to choke for not playing the game the right way, fueling debate over how to "make the Royals great again."

Debate also erupted on the controversial question of labor sources, with some observers arguing that Kansas City should look internally for solutions to its struggles rather than rely on the AL marketplace for talent. "Look, most of their free-agent signings this year are a bust", said one scout close to the dirt, "while they’ve had all sorts of production from players brought up within the organization. All these outsiders coming onto the team just block good jobs for true Royals." Those in favor of remaining in contention pointed to the strong contributions of past arrivals such as Ben Zobrist. "It doesn’t matter where you came from," said a supporter, "if you can help the team we want you here." Nevertheless, budget mismanagement seemed a strong motivating factor for the "leave" campaign.

Reactions within the AL were mixed, with polling indicating large majorities in Toronto and Baltimore supporting a "good riddance" policy, though New York Yankees trade minister Muffy Van Nieukirk issued a statement saying that "Kansas City has long been a valued source of talent development for the AL and we wish that beneficial relationship to continue". Reports indicate that AL executives are already discussing the potential for negotiating new trade deals with Kansas City. Security experts also expressed concerns that the move could leave Kansas City open to hacking and data breaches from foreign competitors outside the AL, with one noting that "leaving AL contention presents a cardinal risk to the Royals."

A withdrawal seems certain to spread beyond the heart of Royals territory in Kansas City, with affiliates in Omaha and Fayetteville showing reluctance to follow their larger neighbor’s lead. Omaha had already signaled its interest in devolution through a plebiscite renaming the former O-Royals  "Stormchasers". Meanwhile, a faction within Minnesota announced plans to pursue leaving the AL to join the Midwest League, in a move widely seen as improving the Twins’ ability to compete. Though overnight yields showed a short-term rebound in the Royals' performance index against non-AL teams, the future of the AL playoff race now seems quite murky indeed.