Notes: Royals may be game's next feel-good story
Solid core of players have chance to propel Kansas City into postseason
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A year ago, Pittsburgh was baseball's feel-good story, ending a two-decade drought by enjoying not only its first winning season in two decades, but also its first postseason appearance since 1992.
Try the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals have the longest current postseason drought, dating back to their 1985 World Series championship.
There are, however, signs of life in Kansas City.
After an 8-20 May last season, the Royals did not phone it in. They rebounded and found themselves on the edge of the American League Central race in the final month of the season. They bounced back from the struggles of May to win 64 of their final 110 games, tied for second in victories over the final four months of the season behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers, and were an AL-best 43-27 with an AL-leading 2.97 ERA.
This is a season the Royals have had their sights set on. The home-grown nucleus of Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas is now a big league-tested crew, and their major offseason addition from a year ago, ace James Shields, is free-agent eligible at season's end.
The Royals' 86-76 record last season was the franchise's best since it won 92 games in 1989, and marked only the second winning season for the Royals in the last 20 years. They were 83-79 in 2003.
The second-longest World Series drought belongs to Toronto, which has gone 20 years since the back-to-back championships in 1992-93. The 28 other Major League teams have all been to the postseason within the last 11 years.
Cubs still looking for elusive title
At least the Royals did win the World Series in 1985.
The Chicago Cubs come into the season with the longest championship drought in history, having gone 105 seasons since those back-to-back championship seasons in 1907-08.
To put the drought in perspective, the NHL (1917), NFL (1920) and NBA (1946) were all founded, and a Chicago team in each league has won the championship. Four states were admitted, including Arizona, where the Cubs hold Spring Training. Arizona and New Mexico were admitted to the union in 1912, and Hawaii and Alaska in 1959.
Not only do the Cubs have the longest championship drought in Major League history, but the Chicago White Sox had the second longest, 87 years, which they snapped in 2005. Boston's 85-year drought ended in 2004, the third-longest in history.
The second-longest active streak without a championship belongs to Cleveland (65 years).
Philadelphia went the longest without winning a World Series, being shut out for 77 years before beating Kansas City in the 1980 World Series. The only franchises that have not won a World Series were born of expansion -- Washington/Texas (1961 expansion), Houston (1962), Milwaukee (1969), San Diego (1969), Montreal/Washington (1969), Seattle (1977), Colorado (1993) and Tampa Bay (1998).
The Mariners and Nationals are the only two teams to have never played in a World Series.
Parity rules in MLB
Free agency has not led to dynasties. To the contrary, in the 36 World Series played since the advent of free agency in 1977, 20 of the 30 teams have won a World Series. From the end of World War II until 1976, 12 of the 24 teams won a World Series.
Yes, the Yankees have won seven World Series since 1976, but they won 10 from 1947-1975, and 10 more prior to 1947.
And then there is one
Clint Hurdle, who managed the Pirates into the postseason a year ago, is the only manager known to be heading into the season in the final guaranteed year of his contract. The Pirates do hold an option for 2015.
Houston manager Bo Porter's contract terms are undisclosed. The Astros announced a year ago that he signed a multi-year deal, and this is his second year. The only other manager whose contract length is not public is Seattle's Lloyd McClendon, signed during the offseason to a "multi-year" deal, which would indicate he has at least two years guaranteed.
Buck Showalter of Baltimore and Mike Scioscia of the Angels have the most financial security. They both have deals guaranteed through 2018. The next longest guarantees belong to Joe Girardi of the Yankees and Mike Matheny of the Cardinals, both through 2017.
Canadian Crowds gather in Montreal
The two exhibition games in Montreal this weekend between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets drew 92,350, an average of 46,175, which promoters hope will help Montreal resurface as a possible city for a Major League franchise. And yes, that attendance is higher than nearly 97 percent of the Major League games played last year, but what can't be overlooked is that it was for two games, not a lengthy period of time.
The Montreal Expos averaged over 26,000 a game from 1979-83, but in their last 20 years in Montreal they averaged 20,000 a game only five times. In 35 years, the Expos drew more than two million fans just four times.
Baseball isn't against giving a team a second chance, however. The Expos moved to Washington, D.C., which lost previous franchises to Minnesota and Texas. Kansas City and Seattle are both on their second franchises, although in both instances congressional leverage helped force baseball to revisit the cities.
The other challenge facing Montreal is that there is no current franchise looking to make a major move, and there is no support for expansion.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.