The Royals never had a chance this year.
Not when they started losing pitcher after pitcher to Tommy John surgery. Not when their fine young catcher, Salvy Perez, hurt his knee in spring training and missed the first half of the season. Not when Jonathan Sanchez was so bad that the trade to get him was a disaster, even after Melky Cabrera was exposed as a drug cheat.
The Royals never had a chance, not when a 12-game losing streak dropped them to 3-14 with a week to go in April.
But the Royals' August revival is showing that they do have a chance . . . to be a real spoiler in what could be a wild September race.
And the Royals do have a chance . . . to be good next year.
"This team's not far away," said one very impressed rival scout. "They're very athletic, and they really have a way of putting the bat on the ball.
"They're uncanny in the way they wear down a starting pitcher."
The result is that the Royals are beating good teams. They're 13-8 in games against playoff contenders this month, including 7-1 against the White Sox and Tigers, the top two teams in the American League Central.
They might well be the most dangerous non-contender any American League team will play the rest of the way (although the Mariners, with Felix Hernandez, could make a claim for that).
The Royals have eight games remaining against the Tigers (beginning with one on Thursday night). The Tigers play two of their final three series of the season against the Royals.
The Royals also have six games left with the White Sox, three left with the Angels and four with the Rangers.
This will be the 27th consecutive year without playoff baseball at Kauffman Stadium. It'll be the ninth straight year with a sub-.500 record (and the 17th in the last 18).
We've been saying for a while that the ugly streaks could end soon. It won't be this year. It might not be next year -- but more than ever, it looks like it could be.
"They're probably two veteran quality starting pitchers away," the scout said.
The Royals know that. Adding two quality starting pitchers this winter has been the goal, and Royals people insist money will be available to do it.
It won't be easy. The market isn't good. But the Royals have some players who would be valuable in trade, and if they really do have money available, perhaps it could happen.
Even now, though, this team is dangerous.