The Royals not only haven't been to a World Series since 1985, but they haven't been to the postseason since then, either. How long ago was that? The top-grossing movie of 1985 was "Back to the Future," in which Michael J. Fox is transported back to an era so far removed from his own that it seemed like an entirely different world.
That world was middle America 1955, making for a 30-year time warp -- or just one year longer than the gap between now and the Royals' last postseason. But here they are, leading the AL Central Division and on pace for their best home attendance mark since 1994 (despite manager Ned Yost's comments about the small crowd at a game last week).
And Kansas City isn't the only championship-starved club whose playoff hopes have been rejuvenated as the season winds down. So many once-down-and-out teams are contending that this final month looms as the most promising finish in decades.
Consider: There are 10 postseason slots, and the 10 teams currently leading those spots have gone a combined 204 years since their last World Series. Of the six current division leaders, only St. Louis has been in the World Series in the past decade, and the Cardinals only overtook Milwaukee at the top of the NL Central in the past few days. The team with the next-most-recent Series appearance is the Angels, who played and won their only World Series a dozen years ago. (Oh, those spoiled, spoiled fans in Anaheim!)
That stat comes with an asterisk, of course, because the Nationals have never been to a World Series in the 45-year history of the franchise, dating back to when they were the expansion Expos playing in Montreal's Jarry Park.
So, Montreal fans: Are you rooting for or against the team that was stolen from you? I suspect the latter -- as an old Seattle SuperSonics fan, I most definitely do NOT root for Oklahoma City -- but that's all right because there are plenty of other appealing teams from which to choose in this hunt. And none of them is owned by the hated Jeffrey Loria, who took the Expos out of Canada. But all of them have been waiting a long time to play in late October.
As recently as July 21, the Royals were two games under .500, eight games out of first place and trailing five teams in the wild-card race. It appeared that the only way Kansas City could return to the postseason would be if Doc Brown redesigned his flux capacitor to transport the entire Royals roster back to 1985 (figuring out a way to fit Billy Butler into his DeLorean).
Since then, however, the Royals have gone 28-11, easily the best record in baseball. Things are promising enough that Kansas City is even selling postseason tickets. If they reach the postseason, perhaps Lorde will show up before an October game and sing a version of last year's mega-hit "Royals" (which was inspired by an old photo of George Brett).
"And we'll always be Royals (Royals)
It runs in our blood
After 29 years October is back for us
We crave Cristal sprayed in our clubhouse
Let us be MLB's rulers (rulers)
And call Alex Gordon MVP
And baby we'll rule, we'll rule, we'll rule, we'll rule
Let us live that fantasy."
In addition to the Royals' long drought, the last World Series for the AL East-leading Orioles was in 1983, when Cal Ripken Jr. still had hair. The last for the NL West-leading Dodgers was 1988, when some fans made a very bad decision to leave Dodger Stadium before the ninth inning of Game 1.
This isn't just about the division champs, though. In the wild-card race, the Athletics, Tigers and Mariners are contending in the American League. The Athletics haven't been to the World Series since 1990, when Oakland Coliseum still was a beautiful park with bathrooms that didn't overflow.
The Tigers are currently in the second wild-card spot. They have been to the World Series twice in the past decade, but they were embarrassed each time and haven't won the Series in 30 years, shortly after this infamous moment on "Magnum, P.I."
The Mariners? Well, the Mariners have never been to a World Series in their 37-year history. In fact, if you count the old Washington Senators (now the Twins), Seattle is the only current major league city that has never hosted a World Series. If that drought ends, I can't wait to see fans replace the "12th Man" shirts they wear to support the Seahawks with "10th Man" jerseys. (Or would it be "11th Man" because of the DH?)
Then there are Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. The Brewers -- who are in the second wild-card spot, led the NL Central for most of the season and now trail the Cardinals by only a game -- made their last (and only) World Series appearance in 1982, when "Happy Days," "Laverne and Shirley" and "Joanie Loves Chachi" all were still on the air. The Pirates, currently two games behind in the National League wild-card race, haven't been to the World Series in 35 years, or when Sister Sledge was popular.
But wait. This September gets even better. The Red Sox, whose fans became increasingly insufferable after they won the World Series in 2004, 2007 and 2013, are in last place with no chance to reach the postseason. Oh, how Boston fans continue to suffer!
The Yankees, meanwhile, currently are 9 1/2 games behind the Orioles and five games back in the wild-card race, with two teams (Cleveland and Seattle) ahead of them. Poor Derek Jeter. He might finish his career having played in only 16 postseasons. Maybe he can call Ernie Banks for moral support.
The only way this could shape up better is if the Cardinals, who have played in four of the past 10 World Series, fall out of the hunt. St. Louis and San Francisco (which is leading the National League wild-card race) each has played in two of the past four World Series.
Just think if the Cubs had a chance to reach the postseason this year!
Oh well. I guess even in a month that seems like a Lorde fantasy with all these postseason possibilities, we have to realize that we still live in the real world.