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Ask Sports: What is the latest date the Royals have been eliminated from the playoffs?

The Royals weren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs until Sept. 23 this year. When was the last time it was so late in the season?

Kansas City’s faint playoff hopes only ended a week ago — which may be more a function of a weak American League Central, rather than the Royals being a team in serious contention in 2012.

Regardless, the Sept. 23 date was the latest the Royals were alive for the playoffs in years.

How many years? Like most “this is the first time the Royals have done X” statistics, the answer is the 2003 season, the Royals’ most recent one above .500.

That year the Royals, who led the AL Central by seven games at the All-Star break, were officially eliminated in Game 157, also on Sept. 23, when they fell six games behind with five to play.

Since then the Royals elimination dates have come before the calendar turned to autumn.

Here are the last days the Royals were in contention for the past 10 years:

Prior to 2003, the last three times the Royals were in contention on Sept. 23 or later were Sept. 25, 1993; Sept. 23, 1991; and Sept. 27, 1989.

Assuming the Royals don’t lose out, however, they could have the third-best team record since 1996. Heading into Saturday’s game they had 70 wins. The other win totals they’re chasing in that era are 83 (2003), 77 (2000), 75 (2008), 72 (1998) and 71 (2011).

Unfortunately for KC fans, with the Washington Nationals making their first playoff appearance since the team was the Montreal Expos 31 years ago, the Royals are now the owners of the longest active postseason drought — stretching back to Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.