It’s been awhile since I wrote about the Royals. The biggest reason for that is because the last time I wrote exclusively about them, they went in the shitter for the next week. My life without superstition would be empty and meaningless.

But here we are on July 21, the trade deadline is 10 days away, and the Royals sit 47–47, nine games out of first place, six games out of the Wild Card spot. After a slow start, Cleveland has looked like last year’s Royals for the past six weeks. It is Cleveland, so there’s always hope. But the Indians have every appearance of a team that’s going to run away and hide in the division.

The Wild Card race doesn’t hold much good news, either. The Royals only play teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race 12 times before the end of the year. The Royals may well get hot before the season is over, but there are limited opportunities to make those wins really count by hurting fellow Wild Card candidates.

Not that I have much hope that the Royals are going to get hot. Nothing has clicked this year. Too many significant injuries. Too much inconsistency at the plate and on the mound. And there’s just been a very different feel about the team. I hate to make assessments of player’s motivations without knowing them. This team just seems less focused than last year, though. There have been so many minor miscues that year that never happened last year. So many moments that needed a patient at-bat but received an overly aggressive set of hacks. Base running errors aplenty.

Every time they have a big, late inning comeback, I think, “This is it! This is the spark that will get them going!” And then they go out and look terrible the next night.

The easy answer is last year’s team was singularly focused on getting back to and winning the World Series. Even watching on TV you could almost feel the intensity late in games.

Maybe it was intensity. Maybe it was magic. Maybe it was an extraordinary run of good luck. Whatever it was, it feels like it’s gone.

So on the day the Royals go to the White House for the final official celebration of their World Series title, it also feels like a day to give up on getting back to the postseason for the third-straight year. Which is fine. I’ll absolutely trade last October for whatever comes next. I can deal with this year’s team not making the playoffs. But I was really hoping that if they fell short, it would be because the team faltered in September. Or because some other team got crazy hot late and the Royals just got beat by a better team. I didn’t want the hope to disappear in mid-July.

It also sucks because I haven’t been to a game in Kansas City in four years. A few weeks back I booked a trip for August and will get to go to the K for two games while there. I’ll still take a picture of myself next to the World Series trophy and enjoy seeing the team in person. But, man would it have been nice for the to be in the midst of the pennant chase and there be an extra charge in the air. My trip is four weeks away, so I guess it’s still possible, if unlikely.

Perhaps this is the Midwesterner in me speaking, but there’s also a part of me that feels like fans of other teams will use this as an argument against last year’s team. “I told you they weren’t that good! They were just lucky last year! These are the real Royals!”

Which is stupid because, who cares? This isn’t college sports where victories can be retroactively wiped out. Flags, and the memories that go with them, fly forever. Failure this year, or God forbid another 30-year drought, doesn’t change what happened in October 2015.

Still, for some reason, I’m rooting extra hard against the Blue Jays and Mets for the rest of the year. For some reason those taunts will sting a little more from their fans. Not that I know any Blue Jays fans, and the one Mets fan I know is a super nice lady at St. P’s.

I’ll keep watching and listening, though. Just in case there’s a little magic left.