This is the column I hoped would never come.

It’s Tuesday morning and the Kansas City Royals are 73-76, 4.5 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot. They would have to pass four teams in 13 games to make the 2017 postseason.

Basically, a miracle is needed for the Royals to have life in October. It’s been a fear of KC fans since the team started the first month of the season horribly and failed to do much better than a couple games above .500 at any point this season.

This isn’t like 2016, when the Royals failed to make the postseason after winning the 2015 World Series. Everyone knew KC had its core group coming back for one final run before contracts came to an end.

That run never materialized. Barring said miracle, the Royals season will end Sunday, Oct. 1 against Arizona. After that? It’s impossible to say now, but chances are the 2018 Royals are going to look extremely different than the team fans fell in love with the past few years.

Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar are all free agents. Hosmer is having his best offensive season of his career and is entering the prime of his career. Moustakas showed the power everyone hoped he’d have when he was drafted and plays a solid third base. Cain is a dynamic, yet aging outfielder.

Those three could demand much more on the open market than Kansas City is willing to pay. With Escobar, the Royals could decide to hand the shortstop position to Raul Mondesi. Take those four off the roster and nearly 50 percent of the 2017 opening day lineup is gone.

There will some familiar faces come April 2018. Sal Perez and his engaging smile will return at catcher. Danny Duffy will probably take the mound for the second straight opening day. Whit Merrifield will take second base. Alex Gordon, for better or worse, will take his spot in left field.

This season’s disappointing finish and the tragic death of pitcher Yordano Ventura in January will make fans want to forget 2017. We’re all forced to wonder what 2018 and beyond will bring. As longtime fans know, things can be much worse than falling a few games out of the Wild Card.

I have a plan to get me through this winter and potentially watching every KC free agent sign with another team. I’m going to pull on my 2015 World Series sweatshirt, sip out of my 2015 World Series glass and watch my 2015 World Series DVDs. It’s going to be 2015 all the time in the Gardner household.

Adam Gardner can be reached at adam.gardner@npgco.com.

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