The Kansas City Royals have been stuck in a rut for a long time. When you can consider a 71-91 season a moderate success, you know you've got a bad baseball team.
The Royals find themselves in the unenviable company of the Pittsburgh Pirates when it comes to futility. Since the 1994 players' strike, KC has had just one winning season, which ranks second-worst in the majors, only behind the Pirates.
Having their best season in 20 years will be almost impossible this year. The 2003 Royals won 83 games, 12 more than last year's team.
Improving that much will be too tall a task for a young team. However, apart from that aberration, their best year since the strike-shortened 1994 season was 77-85 in 2000.
Finding six more wins is much more doable.
In the last 17 seasons, the Royals have won fewer than 70 games 11 times and lost at least 100 four times. Only once did they finish .500 or better.
Simply put, they've been terrible.
But, things have been getting better in the last few years.
After finishing tied for last in the AL Central in 2009 at 65-97, they've steadily improved, and they were only 10 games below .500 last year.
It will be some time before they're ever a legitimate threat again, but they're on the right road.
Their biggest positive point is their age.
With an average age of 25, the Royals have the youngest team in baseball, by quite some margin. They're also one of only two teams not to have a player older than 35.
Players like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Danny Duffy are promising youngsters. Moustakas had a brilliant finish to 2011, batting .408 down the stretch with four homers in his last 11 games.
Hosmer batted .293 with 19 homers and 11 steals in 129 games last season, and he has emerged as one of the highlights of a very good farm system.
Alex Gordon and Billy Butler proved themselves durable and productive, both flirting with a .300 average and playing over 150 games.
Acquiring Jonathan Sanchez from the San Francisco Giants is a step in the right direction for the rotation, though this is a team still suffering from the loss of Zack Greinke.
The Minnesota Twins will spend the season on the brink, merely an injury away from a total collapse. It happened last year, and they finished dead last in the division; it might well happen again.
The Chicago White Sox are entering a rebuilding phase and have some colossal black holes in their lineup.
Simply put, the Kansas City Royals wouldn't want to switch divisions if you offered them the chance. They're on the way up, just as the teams who have dominated their division for the last five years are tailing off.