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Kansas City Royals: Missing the Playoffs Is Fine, but Team Must Finish Strong

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COMMENTARY | The Kansas City Royals lost their second-consecutive game in shutout fashion to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night, ultimately watching their postseason run come to an end.

Couple that with results from earlier in the night and playoff aspirations completely faded away as the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays both continued their winning ways (each with six-game streaks) to keep their hold atop the American League wild-card race.

While the Royals have generally exceeded the expectations placed on the team prior to the season, being so close to a playoff spot comes with the heightened pressures of sustaining a winning culture -- something Kansas City has not had in close to three decades now.

The Royals went all in this offseason, acquiring Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels and trading away top prospect Wil Myers to the Rays to acquire James Shields.

The idea was that the pair would head a starting rotation that has lacked a true ace (or depth for that matter) recently -- an area that has been looked as the team's biggest deficiency overall. While the moves have paid off, the shortage of experience has proven costly for a largely untested roster -- making a strong finish to this season necessary for this group to continue gelling and to eventually turn the corner.

Kansas City closes the season with a four-game series on the road against the Chicago White Sox, a team that helped spoil the Royals' chances at reaching the playoffs by sweeping a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium last month.

The current win total of 83 would be the team's highest since 2003 and only the second time in the last 20 seasons Kansas City has finished with a record above .500.

To remain in contention over a longer stretch, however, would require another significant jump over this year's results. But dismissing the remaining four games by looking ahead to the offseason could have a lasting effect on the immediate and long-term future of this organization as well.

Missing the playoffs does not dismiss the strides this team has made, but failing to cap the year on a high note could produce a bit of a fool's good reaction to how this season has played out. Should the Royals not finish the strong, the overwhelming questions that have plagued this organization over the years will still be left unanswered.

This offseason could be the most decisive this franchise has ever endured, but there is still business to take care of that will help in the process of prolonging the ability for Kansas City to consistently compete.

Jeremy Sickel has successfully created and operated numerous websites. His work can be read on Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, and he has also appeared on various podcasts and sports talk shows around the country. Interact with Jeremy on Twitter @JeremySickel.

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