The Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series, a year after winning the 2014 American League Championship. This is both a sentence we at Royals Review never grow tired of writing and a sentence which, rather forcefully, establishes a new winning era of the Royals franchise.
The one problem is that, since winning the 2015 trophy, the Royals haven’t been very good at all. Over the last 192 games, the Royals stand a paltry 91-101. Kansas City wasn’t particularly good last year and has been a terrible mess this year, the composite result being a team with a decidedly losing overall record since their most recent World Series win.
If that doesn’t sound new to you, you’re probably one of the holdovers from the Rough Times. From 2004 through 2012, the Royals averaged 96 losses per year. Yes, they AVERAGED 96 losses per year for almost an entire decade, their best season clocking in at 87 losses, their worst at a depressing 106 losses. The year 2014 brought a 29-year postseason-less streak to an end, the biggest such streak in any of the four major American professional sports—Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, or the National Football League. A winning season was a rarity, let alone a postseason appearance or a championship.
So after the championship seasons of 2014-2015, Royals fans have lost their traditional point of view of the club, hardened by decades of pure, free-range, gluten free suck. How are we even supposed to keep perspective on a team that won it all not too long ago?
A simple answer: higher standards. For a longer answer, take a look at the table below. It includes every World Series champion since the 1994 strike-shortened season. It also includes every team’s next playoff year, the difference between the two, and a quick yes/no check on whether the team made the playoffs within five years.
The average difference between World Series trophy and the team’s next playoff appearance is two years. The median difference between the two events is one year. Every single team made the playoffs again within five years of winning the World Series except the Miami (formerly Florida) Marlins. Of course, the 2003 Marlins victory came a mere six years after their previous victory in 1997, a team which aggressively was aggressively torn to shreds by General Manager Dave Dombrowski in an effort to put together the next great Marlins team—a strategy which clearly worked.
There are two reasons why World Series winners tend to stay competitive. One is that it is extremely difficult to build a fluke team that gets to the playoffs out of nowhere and flames out—good baseball teams that make deep playoff runs have good foundations that yield multiple high-quality years. Two is that, as Dombrowski proved with his Marlins, World Series teams have good players that yield good prospect returns in trades, returns which can jump-start a rebuild.
This is by no means a definitive analysis. Widening the pool of possible teams here to include both World Series victors and losers would yield a slightly different result. Furthermore, it ignores the individual situation of each ball club, situations which cannot be exactly replicated.
But it is instructive. World Series calibur teams in the modern game tend to stay good for multiple years or return to the playoffs quickly, full stop. By getting to the top of the baseball world, Royals General Manager Dayton Moore has invited the type of evaluation which comes with that kind of success.
The Royals missed the 2016 playoff boat, and thus will at the very least exceed the median for recent World Champions’ playoff drought. If they miss the 2017 playoffs, which is more likely than not to happen, they’ll be exceeding the average as well. Ultimately, Royals fans are in no mood for another decade-long rebuild, which is what Moore took last time for the rebuild. The Royals have attained enough status that they deserve to be held to the highest standards. They aren’t doing well so far.