A year ago, when the Royals were the best-selling brand in the country, they were doing something special.
They were the only major American sports team to make the cut.
Their jerseys were on sale, and their merchandise was everywhere.
A year later, as the Royals have done again, they’re doing something very special again.
“I feel like we’ve reached our peak,” said Chris Sale, the Royals’ All-Star catcher.
“That was our peak, the last peak.
We’ve had the biggest, most successful, most competitive, most consistent season in our history, and that was the peak.
Now we’re going into our ninth year and, like, we’re just trying to stay in the right mindset.”
That’s the mindset of the Royals, who have been on a tear ever since their season ended, but they also feel like they’re in a period of growth and success that they haven’t experienced since the 1990s.
“It’s not about the top,” Sale said.
“There are a lot of people who have won, but we’re not in the same position.
There are a couple guys who have done it, and a lot more that haven’t, and it’s a period where we’re trying to keep the momentum going and make sure we continue to get better.”
And with that, here’s a look at the Royals as they head into their ninth season.
First, some history: The Royals were formed in 1994 as the New York Mets, who played their first full season in Brooklyn, in the midst of the lockout.
They went on to win the American League East in 1997, and again in 2002, the year the Royals reached the World Series.
In 2004, the Mets traded away ace Ken Griffey Jr. for pitcher Zach Britton, a first-round draft pick, and the right-hander was traded for reliever Brad Ziegler in 2007.
By 2010, they had reached the playoffs three straight years, winning the American Association Championship in 2014.
The following year, the team’s best player, Kendrys Morales, signed with the Tigers, a move that made him a free agent.
But the Royals didn’t have much of a chance to compete.
They started the season with a 3-16 record and were swept in their first four games.
After beating the Nationals on April 14 to advance to the National League Division Series, they fell to the Royals in five games.
In the World Baseball Classic, they lost in the first round to the Red Sox.
But they rebounded in the second round and reached the ALDS.
Then they fell in seven games to the Orioles.
Then came a stunning playoff comeback, beating the Astros in five to win their first title since 1995.
The Royals have won more than 90 games in three of the last four seasons, and they won the World Championship in 2013.
They’re now on the verge of a second championship.
“They’re the most talented, the most successful team in baseball,” Sale, who is in his ninth season with the team, said.
The only thing that separates them now is the Royals winning streak.
“You can talk about winning a title, but winning a World Series in a year is a whole different story,” Sale added.
“To have a streak like that that has been such a long time is something I’m very proud of.
We didn’t get to that point, and we’re still trying to find our way.”
So what has this year been like for the Royals?
“It feels good,” Sale continued.
“We’ve been going to the playoffs all year.
I’ve been happy with the way we’ve played.
It’s just a great feeling.
It feels like home.”
Now, on to the roster: The Kansas City Royals, after three straight seasons in the bottom half of the AL Central, are in a position to be a top-five team in the American leagues this year.
In terms of overall talent, they’ve added the likes of outfielder Salvador Perez, left-handed pitcher Mike Moustakas, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar.
The team also added first baseman Lorenzo Cain, who will play center field next to Yadier Molina, and right-handed hitter Lorenzo Cain Jr., who will be playing left field after signing a four-year, $42 million deal with the Astros.
In a year where the Royals added two All-Stars and two other big-name free agents, their farm system is still stacked with players who could become stars.
They’ve added outfielders Alcides Ayala and Jose Bautista, and infielder Brandon Moss.
“In the middle of the lineup, it’s definitely a strength that we have,” manager Ned Yost said.
“[Right fielder] Lorenzo [Cain] has played the position, so that gives you a lot to work with.
[Lorenzo] has a lot on his plate,