The baseball season gets real following the All-Star break. If a team is less than five or six games out of the division lead or the wild card race it has a good shot at making the playoffs.

The Kansas City Royals have an opportunity to make the playoffs for the third time in the past four years. It is well past time for all the gurus and pundits to quit speculating as to whether the organization should trade all their front-line talent or not due to next year’s free agency.

The backbone of the present team – Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Jason Vargas – may come to an end after the 2017 season. The team would be fortunate to keep two of these five players. The next five years could be another rebuilding process for the organization.

Some of baseball elites say the Royals should sell the all-stars on their current team to get young talent. That seems totally ridiculous with the team in a playoff spot. There is absolutely no guarantee that to trade for young talent would benefit the team in the long run.

Bubba Starling is the highest paid draft choice in franchise history and he has a hard time hitting his weight. The team’s No. 1 draft choice in 2015, Ashe Russell is taking a timeout from baseball to get his life in order. Any young talent is a risk, no matter how great their potential.

I do not understand why the Royals organization has failed to consistently support Whit Merrifield during his time with the organization. He has been a great asset to the team this year. If Merrifield had started the season in the major leagues instead of Christian Colon and Raul Mondesi, the Royals might have won three or four more games early and be sitting in first place in the Central Division.

Potential looks great on paper, but it does not always pass the eye test when comes to actual ability to play the game. The Royals have the chance to go to the playoffs with a bunch of players that are proven winners. The bounce back from the disastrous start proves that.

The team is solid defensively at every position. The bullpen has been very good for about a month. Offensively they are finally putting hits together in key situations. With their home runs, the team is showing the most power in the first half of the season in franchise history.

The key to a playoff run lies in the starting rotation. Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy MUST continue to be the top one-two punch in the rotation. They must duplicate their accomplishments from the first half of the season in the remainder of the season. Neither can get hurt or have a bad second half of the season.

Ian Kennedy needs to improve as a strong No. 3 starter and stop giving up the long ball so much in every outing. Jason Hammel at the No. 4 starting slot must put on his big boy pants and pitch like he is able when he is dealing. At the No. 5 spot in the rotation the Royals never have had a guy who was consistent.

If you look at 2014, 2015 and 2016 and you can see that if the Royals can piecemeal a solid No. 5 spot in the rotation they have a chance to make the playoffs. They went to the World Series with guys like Chris Young, Dillon Gee and Kris Medlen filling this spot in the rotation.  The organization has used every young arm in the organization to spot start in the No. 5 spot. No one has really gotten the job done in the last four years.

Dayton Moore needs to work his magic. He needs to find someone who can fill this role in order to remain in contention in September and October. It will be a tall order – he does not have the same talent in the minors that he had in 2014-15. The goal will be to come up with someone who can do the job at a minimal cost to the organization.

In other words, he needs to pull a sleeper out of his hat. The league has a lot of competition with teams in contention looking to fill the same spot in their rotations. In my opinion, this is not the time to sell, it is the time to go for it with a group of proven winners.

Ned Yost only has available to him the players given to him by Moore. The current group of players offer as good a chance for the Royals to make it back as any other team in the American League. Without a doubt, Dayton Moore has the knowledge and leadership skills to make the right call at the right time.

• The media and Royals fans need to stop talking about next year and enjoy the ride this year.

• It would be nice to see American Legion baseball get the support it deserves. Competition teams have hurt Legion baseball for the past 15 years. The annual Wood Bat Invitational tournament has proven that American Legion baseball is an important facet for the youth of this country. Some of my best memories are from playing American Legion baseball in Independence.

• My quote of the week comes from Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach: “Contrary to the opinion of many people, leaders are not born. Leaders are made, and they are made by effort and hard work.”

– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.