Chances are the Kansas City Royals weren’t going to repeat as MLB champions no matter what.

Don’t get mad, Royals fans. That’s just clear-eyed history.

Since 1979, baseball has seen two teams win more than one World Series in a row. The Toronto Blue Jays did it in 1992 and 1993, and the New York Yankees won a trio of titles in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Other than that, for the past 37 years, it’s been nothing but one-and-done. So the odds were stacked against Kansas City from the start.

Now, however, with third baseman and key offensive cog Mike Moustakas lost for the season with a knee injury, the task becomes even more herculean.

Moustakas was hurt on May 22 when he collided with Royals left fielder Alex Gordon while attempting to catch a foul pop-up. Here’s the play in question, in case you missed it:

Gordon, a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, suffered a fractured wrist and could miss three to four weeks, per’s Jeffrey Flanagan. That’s a significant blow, but not necessarily a debilitating one.

The news on Moustakas, meanwhile, is far bleaker. 

His torn ACL will likely require surgery and figures to cost him the rest of the 2016 campaign, per Flanagan

Moustakas, or “Moose,” as the fans at Kauffman Stadium affectionately chant, was hitting .240 with seven home runs and 13 RBI in 27 games and had already missed time with a thumb injury.

He was an integral part of Kansas City’s 2015 run, clubbing 22 homers while playing strong defense at the hot corner.

In the intangibles department, the 27-year-old 2007 first-round pick filled a vital leadership role.

“It’s going to be challenging to replace not only the production of Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas but also their presence in the lineup and in the clubhouse,” general manager Dayton Moore said, per Flanagan. “They are a crucial part of this team.”

Kansas City can lean on the remainder of its offensive core, including center fielder Lorenzo Cain, first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvador Perez.

With Gordon due back at some point this summer, the team will retain much of the backbone that led to an AL pennant in 2014 and a confetti-strewn parade in 2015.

Cheslor CuthbertKansas City’s No. 12-ranked prospect, according to—will get a look along with utility man Whit Merrifield, but it’s possible bordering on probable that the Royals will go shopping at the trade deadline.

No matter what, they just lost a portion of their championship identity.

Entering play on Friday, the Royals sit at 24-22, just two games out in the wide-open American League Central but far from a juggernaut.

More troublingly, they rank in the bottom third in runs scored and OPS, and their starting pitching sports an unsightly 4.66 ERA.

Suddenly, the 77-85 record that FanGraphs projected for K.C. before the start of the season—and that yours truly dismissed as a pessimistic head-scratcher—is looking reasonable.

The loss of Moustakas doesn’t seal a losing season for Kansas City. Every defending champion has to overcome obstacles. Just ask the Golden State Warriors.

But for a club that was already wobbling, this is a bad omen—and a tough pill to swallow.

Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star summed up the prevailing mood after news of Moustakas and Gordon’s injury status broke:

The reality cut deep into a close-knit room. In March, the Royals spoke confidently about their motivations this season: Another American League pennant, another championship, an improbable mini-dynasty in one of baseball’s smallest markets.

Seven weeks into the franchise’s first World Series championship defense in three decades, the Royals must trudge on with the left side of the diamond gutted by injuries.

Again, nothing is decided. The Central is stuffed with flawed hopefuls, including the division-leading Chicago White Sox, a team few expected to contend.

The Royals have sprinkled their mojo—fueled by speed, defense and a shutdown bullpen—all over the playoffs before. It could still happen again.

Chances are they weren’t going to repeat as champs. Those chances have inched down with Moustakas on the shelf.

Then again, in the immortal words of Han Solo, “Never tell me the odds.”


All statistics current as of May 26 and courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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