Kansas City Royals fans don’t have to work very hard to conjure memories of the fairy tale 2014-2015 seasons. It had been three decades between playoff wins, and at the drop of a hat the Royals tore through the playoffs in back-to-back years. We got an American League Championship and a World Series Championship out of the deal. It was amazing, and it certainly doesn’t feel very far away.
On the other side of the Truman Sports Complex, on the other hand, something happened on Sunday which has become extremely commonplace: the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs have defeated the Broncos a whopping twelve (12) times in a row. It is forever in NFL years, and looking back at the NFL calendar, 2015 just feels forever away. For the Royals Review Twitter account, Max Rieper posted a snapshot of what the Royals lineup looked like the last time the Broncos beat the Chiefs.
The last time the Denver Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, the Royals trotted out this lineup the same day. pic.twitter.com/sCWKjMziVG— Royals Review (@royalsreview) January 9, 2022
Part of the reason why the Royals’ mid-00s playoff runs feel not as far away is because we’ve continued to see the same players step onto Kauffman Stadium recently (albeit non-consecutively). Salvador Perez, Jarrod Dyson, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland were even on the 2021 Royals squad. Meanwhile, only three players are still around from the 2015 Chiefs squad: Travis Kelce, Daniel Sorensen, and James Winchester.
Discussing how we feel about the passage of time either individually or as a group is a deep, dark rabbit hole that I’m not going to explore here. Objectively, seven years is seven years, yes, but subjectively different things can feel further or closer to the present for a myriad of reasons, and that’s ok.
Still: I think that the relative temporal closeness—for whatever reason—of the Royals’ most recent glory days is obscuring a simple fact, which is that it has been a long time since then. Some of you may consider 2016 and 2017 to be a part of those glory days, but it’s hard for me to consider the same when the Royals couldn’t simply win more games than they lost in either season. That’s a pretty low bar for “glory,” but even with the bar that low, the Royals missed it.
I’ve seen a lot of bad baseball over the past six seasons, when the Royals have continued to lose more games than they have won. In 2022, that probably won’t stop, even if we get a season in the first place. The 2021 Royals only won 74 games, with underlying stats that suggested they should have won fewer. They’d have to win eight more games with an unproven collection of youngsters and a limited payroll that won’t accommodate even one additional true impact player. It could happen, but lots of things could happen that don’t.
The current Royals brain trust still carries the reputation of a winner despite the Royals putrid record over the last four years. They carry that reputation because they earned it. But, if there’s one thing I would like to impress on fans and media about the Royals, it’s this: it has been a long time since the glory days. Reputation does not last forever. It’s time to start judging the Royals based on their on field product instead of our memories of what happened two Presidential elections ago, when the Broncos could beat the Chiefs.