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White Sox Series Presents Meaningful Opportunity for Royals

In baseball, your division is everything. You can win up to 90 games, but if, for example, you play within the AL East, you could still be in third or even fourth place. That's the current plight of Boston or Tampa Bay (or New York or Toronto, depending on how the season plays out). On the flip side, who can forget when the Padres won the NL West just a few years ago with a .500 record, making the playoffs simply because their division was so bad.

For the Royals, that makes the AL Central, well, central to their thinking -- or at least it should be. They don't have to generate a certain amount of wins, nor do they have to measure up to the other clubs around the American League. They simply have to have more wins (and less losses) than the White Sox, Indians, Twins and Tigers. And, believe it or not, this current series (and upcoming one) against the White Sox is a great litmus test around the mid-season mark of exactly where the Royals stand.

That's because the Royals already know a few things about the division. Minnesota can and will stay on top. Detroit can and will spend money to be at the top. Those things won't change in the near future, and the Royals also know that the current level of talent and performance won't place them in similar territory anytime soon (i.e. this season or even next, for that matter). But what's important is to know what tier you are in and work your way up from there. After all, for this franchise, a third place division finish would actually provide some momentum and belief for a system and fan base that could use it.

The White Sox present the primary foe in the way of doing just that. The Indians are choosing to remain in the basement and while there are some decent prospects on board, they're nowhere near contending at this point either. Playing .365 ball is just atrocious for a winning percentage. But the Sox, though they're obvious contenders at only 1.5 games back, they also represent a reachable goal for the Royals -- to best the White Sox in 2010. To do so would mean that Kansas City has some spark, has some life and can be a potential threat going forward into next year.

Much ground can be made up in these three games and the ones soon after the All-Star Break. Here's hoping KC can string together some impressive pitching performances against that line-up and hold their own in the batter's box as well. The week might still find the Royals trailing in the standings, but bridging that gap goes a long way toward the confidence and momentum a young team needs.