The Kansas City Royals have seemingly been in a perpetual form of rebuilding. The team has struggled to find any consistent progression over the years. General Manager Dayton Moore has reminded fans for years to trust in "The Process." Craig Brown examined the history of "The Process" before the 2014 season at Royals Review, an SBNation site. It appears that "The Process" might finally be coming to fruition.
On the last day of August, the Royals will take the field against the division rival Cleveland Indians, and ESPN will feature the game in its Sunday Night Baseball broadcast. This late in the season, the sports channel focuses these broadcasts on exciting teams that are in the thick of the playoff hunt. That is unfamiliar territory for Royals fans.
It seems to be justified, however. While many fans have been waiting for the Royals to collapse, the team has continued to hold on to a first-place position in the standings. It is a spot that they share with the Detroit Tigers heading in to play August 31. They are a team that ESPN analyst Mark Mulder feels is capable of reaching the playoffs:
They are for real. They have a great bullpen and five consistent starters. They know what they are getting from their starter every night.
Indeed, pitching is a primary concern for most every playoff team. Mulder is not alone in his evaluation of the Royals' playoff aspirations. His colleague Buster Olney has similar sentiments:
Among the many dumb picks that I made before the season started—the Rays representing the AL in the World Series, for example—I picked the Royals to make the playoffs as a wildcard team. Now, I think they're better than that; I think they'll win the AL Central, because every day they run out a dominant bullpen and defense.
It sounds like the Royals are starting to make believers of the experts. Convincing Mulder that they can go far in the playoffs is still a different story. Speaking specifically about the Royals' style of play—which includes low strikeouts, strong defense and putting the ball in play—Mulder is not confident that the team can go far in the postseason:
Probably not. You never really string together 5 to 6 hits in an inning come playoff time. You need to be able to hit with some power.
Reaching the postseason may be enough for the Royals. Drawing attention this late in the season is certainly new to them and their fans. The progression continues.
Maybe this is all part of "The Process".
Quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by the writer.