Injuries to closer Joakim Soria and starting catcher Salvador Perez before the season started revived memories of years past. Compounded with the offense not picking up where it left off in 2011, the Royals stumbled out to a 3-14 record, dashing any hopes of 2012 being the pivotal season that fans and management deemed the turning point for the broken franchise.
A 12-game losing streak earlier in the year all but crushed the Royals' chances in the Central. That is until everyone realized that the Detroit Tigers weren't as good as originally hyped and the rest of the division wasn't capable of the sustained success it takes to finish on top.
One could argue that the Royals fall under the same category, but the best is yet to come with this team.
The rag-tag starting rotation and the anemic offense stand to get better, the law of averages says so. Even if the young bullpen takes a bit of a dip, the Royals are the one team in the Central (other than Minnesota Twins, but they have no shot anyway) that have yet to see all aspects of the game come together over an extended period of time.
Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon are erasing early season slumps, Perez is due back behind the plate any day now, Luke Hochevar has figured it out again (hopefully) and Felipe Paulino (their best starting pitcher statistically) will be back before June ends.
While Royals and contention haven't been synonymous since August of 2003, there are signs that this year could buck that trend.
Where do you think the Royals finish in the AL Central in 2012?
Playing in the worst division in Major League Baseball helps. But winning the AL Central means the same as it does in the AL East—an invite to the dance, where recent results have proven that anything can happen as long as you have your ticket punched to the postseason.
While the what if game has kept Royals' fans captive since winning the 1985 World Series, it is that blind hope that keeps this team relevant in Kansas City.
With a 28-22 record since their atrocious start, the Royals are one great stretch away from entering very unfamiliar territory, first place. Or the team can continue to chip away at the 4.5-game deficit, replacing thoughts of 2012 being the stepping stone to their coming out party next season with 2012 actually being #OurTime.