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April 7, 2009 at 1:20 am ET
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First Came Rocktober, Then the Rayvolution, and Now…Revive ’85?

The Colorado Rockies went on an unheard of run to finish out the 2007 season and made it all the way to the Fall Classic.80324101SD012_KANSAS_CITY_R

Then the TampaBay DEVIL Rays started strong last year and just got stronger in reaching the promised land. Which begs the question — who will it be this time around?

We’ll offer a hint: an in-house decision involving Kevin Seitzer may prove the X-factor for the Royals in 2009.

Do I have your attention?

I thought I might.

And yes, you read correctly. Seitzer, who hasn’t played a game for KC since 1991 and has been retired for 12 years, may hold the key that could unlock a miraculous season.

How could that possibly be?

I’m glad you asked.

But before we get to that, allow me steal one from Dane Cook. May I offer a word of advice before you jump to your conclusion?

Thank you.

The key component to this argument is its simplicity — the AL Central is a winnable division.

It’s there for the taking.

Yes, Minnesota appears to be the team to beat, but so did Detroit last spring, and I think we all remember how well that went for the Bengals.

Look, the reality is that Kansas City doesn’t have to compete day-in and day-out with heavyweights like Tampa and Boston and New York. Instead, they get to scrap with a Twins team bereft of Joe Mauer, a White Sox team with an offensive core that continues to age, an Indians club that relies on a slugger who hasn’t been a slugger for a couple of years now, and  a Tigers team that has trash thrown at them.

Put another way — the Central is ripe for the picking.

The Royals were 18-8 last September, and took two out of three at the Metrodome over the final weekend of the season, where the Twins had come out on top 53 times and had to win to reach October.

Kansas City’s 75 wins last season were the most the franchise had posted since its surprise 83-win, third place finish from 2003, and was just the third time since 2000 that they’d broken the 70-win plateau.

You know what else is simple? Attitude readjustment. Listening to players on this club talk, they’re flat tired of losing.

“I expect us to be in the mix down the stretch, playing for a playoff spot,” Mark Teahen said.

‘We’re going to compete,” Gil Meche said.

And now, skipper Trey Hillman has some of the pieces necessary to bring those sentiments to fruition.

KC added Mike Jacobs along with his 32 homers and 93 RBI from Florida, and hard-throwing righty relievers in Juan Cruz (4-0, 2.64 ERA, 71 K/51.2 IP) and Kyle Farnsworth (61 K/60.1 IP) to set-up All-Star closer Joakim Soria.

The most important moves, though, were acquiring lead-off man Coco Crisp to play center field, and that in-house decision.

Firstly, Crisp didn’t put up the Cleveland-esque numbers he’d posted prior to playing in Beantown, but Crisp can hit, he can run and is a fantastic defender. And he brings a winning attitude and expectation to a young club looking for just that type of leadership.

And that Seitzter/Gordon/in-house decision? I am a firm believer in utilizing former players who were highly successful to help youngsters that need just a touch of seasoning. The Royals do too, apparently, because the former All-Star Seitzer was brought in to work with uber-phenom Alex Gordon at the hot corner.

Gordon’s big league career hasn’t resembled that of a franchise player just yet, but he’s still only 25 and possesses a beautiful swing, athleticism and natural talent. Sprinkle in a little Seitzer, and voila — we may see the George Brett-like player many had envisioned two years ago.happy-learned-how-to-putt2

Gordon has bought into Seitzer’s message — hit the ball hard, hit it where it’s pitched and take what the opposition gives you. For Gordon, who can drive the ball to all fields, that could be dangerous. And you best believe that it works, because Seitzer was a .295 hitter and tied for the AL lead in hits for the ’87 season along with some guy named Puckett.

Prediction — Alex Gordon hits 25 homers and drives in 90 runs this season. Hell, I’ll even go so far as to say Gordon goes 20/20.

And should that happen, the Royals have the player they’ve lacked for so many years — one who can carry them.

But it’s not just the back-end of the bullpen or a rejuvenated offensive attack, it’s a starting rotation that will be better than most anticipate.

First of all, Gil Meche is Brad Radke west. Nothing about him is overwhelming, he’s just solid, he just wins. And Meche brings a calm to the top of the rotation after eight years in the majors, and just one losing season to speak of.

Secondly, Zack Grienke is Kansas City’s pitching version of Gordon. Kid was supposed to be a Cy Young contender, but until now, hasn’t lived up to the hype. Well, Grienke has lowered his ERA three years runnings, was 7-7 two years ago, 13-10 last season while striking out 183 batters in 202.1 innings, and is still only 25.

And this just in, Brian Bannister isn’t that bad. Forget the 5.76 ERA Bannister posted last season, and rather focus on the 3.87 that Floyd’s kid put up in ’07. And remember the logic that states one would have to be a pretty decent pitcher to lose 16 games? Well, it’s true. Bannister wins at least 12 in ’09.

Did we mention that Miguel Olivo and John Buck combined for 21 homers and 89 RBI last year? Or that Olivo plays every day as if it were Game 7?

Did we mention that infielder Alberto Callaspo batted .305 in 74 games? Or that Mike Aviles hit .325 and slugged .480 in 102 contests?

Mark Teahen may not be a stellar defender or a Hall of Famer hitter, but he’s capable of playing multiple positions and gives the Royals some pop from the left side, while Billy Butler provides some from the right side. David DeJesus has all-around game and Jose Guillen drove in 97 runs for a team that ranked twelfth in the AL a year ago.

They may not be the Frank White and Dan Quisenberry Royals of old, but this Kansas City club has the good fortune of playing in a weak division with a roster replete with young talent on the verge.

Rocktober was followed by the Rayvolution, and 2009 will revive ’85.

When you tune into the World Series this October, the team representing the American League, will be the Kansas City Royals.

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