The month that sets up MLB races

Updated: July 20, 2011, 2:38 PM ET
By Howard Bryant | ESPN.com

Eight years ago to the day, on July 20, 2003, the once-proud Kansas City Royals were 54-42, 6½ games in first place in the American League Central. Tony Pena, the manager, was the talk of the league for his no-nonsense, no-excuses approach, and, in surprising response, the Royals' core of players (Carlos Beltran, Raul Ibanez and Angel Berroa to name a familiar few) kept winning, and winning.

The year before, the Royals had lost 100 games. Since the 1994 baseball strike, ...

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