Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts published by Craig Brown

Of course.

Could there be any other way? Nearly one month to the day Sal Perez walked us off and sent the Royals to the ALDS, one game remains.

One game to the championship.

I’m just going to go ahead and answer my own question. No. There couldn’t be any other way. Baseball demands a one game, winner-take-all contest for the title. After the Royals postseason, it’s the only way.

I’d like to do something different with this post. I know we don’t get many comments here, but if there was ever a day to comment, it’s today. Back in 2004, when the Boston Red Sox were on the cusp of winning their first World Series in decades, the bulletin board Sons of Sam Horn had a thread that was simply called Win It For. At the time I thought it was a very cool gesture and I told myself in the unlikely event the Royals were ever on the precipice of a championship, I would love to steal the idea do the same thing.

So today, Game Seven, I’d like to turn this blog over to you. Please leave a comment today. Who would you love to share this with? Who will you share this with? Who will you be thinking about tonight? It can be anyone… Your favorite Royal who never won, a die hard you’re friendly with, or a family member who brainwashed you with the Royals Way. Dedicate this to someone. This moment calls for it.

——————————————————————————————————

If you don’t mind, I’ll get us started…

Win it for Mike Sweeney. Who always gave this organization everything he had.

Win it for Kevin Appier. Underrated and under appreciated. But one of the best ever.

Win it for Art Stewart. Who never wavered in his faith and truly bleeds Royal Blue.

Win it for Buck O’Neil. Who would have loved this team.

Win it for 1985. So we can add another team to the pantheon of Royal greats.

Win it for Kansas City. A true baseball town starved for a championship.

Win it for the generation under 35. How they are Royals fans has always boggled my mind. True dedication. And such loyalty. This is their time.

Win it for my father and grandfather. Both now deceased, I went to the last Game Seven with them. They will be with me tonight.

Finally, win it for my kids. May they become brainwashed like Dad. They’re close. Winning tonight will most certainly push them totally over the edge.

—————————————————————————————————

Thank you for reading us for the last nine years. One game.

Let’s Go Royals.

Happiness

1 comment

The season could end tonight.

It’s October 28. The Royals are in the World Series. They are trailing three games to two. I don’t need to tell you this. You know. It could all be over tonight.

One month ago today, the Royals were closing out the regular season in Chicago. They had already clinched a spot in the postseason and were playing for the win to force a tie for the division. We so badly wanted the division. Once the Tigers won their game, Ned Yost pulled his regulars. Three innings of rest before the most important game in the last 29 years of the franchise. It feels like a lifetime ago. In many ways, it was.

The Royals fell behind early in the Wild Card game. They rallied, then stumbled again. Then, the most unlikeliest of comebacks. Not once, but twice the Royals were down to their final two outs. Their final two outs. They were, quite simply, two outs away from oblivion. An offseason of, “Well, we made the playoffs even though it doesn’t really feel like we made the playoffs” talk. Believe me, that was going to happen. It was going to be excruciating.

When Salvador Perez lined a base hit just inside the third base bag scoring Christian Colon from second, it kickstarted the wildest, most insane month of baseball in franchise history. The little Wild Card team on the precipice of extinction tore through the Angels in three games, destroyed the will of the Orioles in four games, and somehow, they won the American League pennant. Eight games, eight wins.

It’s been an amazing ride.

I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight. I just feel the need to say thank you. Again. Simply because this run has been so memorable, so absolutely fantastic, I need to say this before the season – and series – is over. Before the lockers are cleared out of the clubhouse and before the tarp is dropped on the infield for one final time. This Royals team has brought so much happiness, they need to be properly thanked. Thank you for breathing life into this October into this city. Kansas City is a baseball town. I held firm in this belief in the darkest of years and you’ve come through big time, Kansas City. The electricity just cannot be described. How baseball brings together a community is amazing.

Thank you for allowing me to connect with some of my fellow fans in ways I haven’t been connected in the past. Friends old and new are reaching out, just to talk about the Royals. I’m speaking about my own experience here, but if you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you’re a fellow diehard and have had similar experiences. People you haven’t heard from in ages are calling or texting, reconnecting over your shared fandom of an amazing October team.

Thank you for reinvigorating my own fandom. Sorry, but 29 years is a long time. I’ll freely admit, I didn’t see this coming. I’m sure there are several fans who believed back in February and March. Good for them. I thought the team was going to be good. But this? No way. Not in my wildest dreams. Plus, I was pretty damn close to shutting down the whole blog experience back in March. Now, I’m kicking around book ideas. (If you’re an agent or a publisher, you know where to find me.) Like you, I’ve asked myself, “What would happen if the Royals actually got into the postseason?” After 29 years, I have my answer, and it’s fantastic.

Baseball, man.

Win or lose, this is a special team. Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to keep perspective. (See yesterday’s post.) This team and this manager still has a tremendous capacity to frustrate. Maybe the Royals are playing with house money. Yet when you get so close, you desperately want to win. At some point, just being there isn’t good enough. Winning is what matters.

As badly as I want the Royals to win, a loss in Game Six or Game Seven of the World Series won’t detract one bit from the thrill ride of this October.

Thank you, Royals, for the happiness you have given us this month.

Now go win two and let’s have a parade.

That was as poorly a managed game I’ve seen. Tip your cap to Madison Bumgarner who was brilliant, but the job of the manager is to put his team in the best position to succeed. The manager doesn’t swing the bat, he doesn’t field the baseball, and he doesn’t run the bases. However, he can – and does – affect the outcome of the game with a series of boneheaded moves.

Let’s recap.

— In the seventh, Eric Hosmer led off with a single. Sal Perez was up next. There’s no way Perez is going to square to bunt and really, he shouldn’t. As far as I can tell, Perez has never attempted a sacrifice. Thankfully, he didn’t hit into a double play. That brings up Mike Moustakas, who had been overmatched against Bumgarner up to that point. With Jayson Nix on the roster, you figure Yost could pinch hit for Moustakas and insert Nix in the field in the bottom of the frame.

No movement from Yost, and Moustakas went down on a fly ball to center.

Then comes the absolute worst move we’ve seen Yost make. Which is saying something, because he’s Ned Yost.

— To start the bottom of the seventh, Yost brought in Kelvin Herrera. Which was fine. And expected. Except he also brought in Nix to play second. It was a double switch. You cannot understate this: It was a horrible decision with disastrous results.

First of all, it meant that Nix had to hit in the top of the eighth. There was no one on the bench who could take over in the field. By inserting him into the field as part of the double switch, Yost ensured his worst bat off the bench would hit in a World Series game with his team trailing in the later innings. Absolutely indefensible.

If Nix isn’t forced to hit, you start the inning with Butler and Josh Willingham. Both right-handed hitters and both with the proven ability to get on base. Yeah, Butler maybe got jobbed on the strike calls in his PA, but this game is about putting the players in a position to succeed.

Second, Yost made the double switch to get more than an inning from Herrera. Why? The Herrera-Davis-Holland trio has been automatic all season. Why needlessly throw Herrera for the extra inning. Especially with an off-day Monday. Herrera threw six pitches in the inning, allowing singles to Sandoval and Pence. Immediately he was in hot water.

Third, Yost didn’t have Davis up in the bullpen at the start of the inning, or after Sandoval led off with the single. Seriously. He didn’t start throwing until after Pence hit his single. No way did Davis have enough time to get properly loose. Besides, Davis, a former starter, has a more elaborate routine to prepare to enter a game than your garden-variety relief pitcher. To not have him at least preparing to enter the game at the start of the inning, when the margins are thin and trouble can happen in an instant, is blatant managerial malpractice of the highest order.

Davis wasn’t sharp. He grooved a 3-2 fastball to Juan Perez. That wasn’t a Wade Davis pitch. What if he had had the proper time to get ready to come into the game?

One move (the double-switch) had far-reaching implications. It didn’t cost the Royals the game. But it didn’t put them in a position to win, either. That’s why it was such a bad move.

— Finally, James Shields was outstanding in Game Five. The defense let him down and that’s why he was down 2-0. He generated 20 swings and misses. Twenty. He collected 12 swings and misses on his cutter, three each on his change and curve and two on straight fastballs – both of those came against Sandoval when he climbed the ladder and punched him out. It was a clutch start when the Royals needed it. The unfortunate thing was his start ran parallel to Bumgarner who was excellent in his own right. Before the Ned Yost double switch brain cramp, this was a pitcher’s duel that was worthy of a Game Five of the World Series.

The Series now shifts back to Kansas City. As frustrating as this game was for us Royals fans, one thing hasn’t changed: They need to win four games. They have two opportunities at home to pull it off. Then, there can be a parade.

Two positives as we prepare for Game Six and (hopefully) Seven:

– No Bumgarner starts.

– Yost can’t outsmart himself with the complications of the National League game.

The last time the Royals faced a gut-check postseason situation, they walked off in the Wild Card. Here’s hoping they show the same fight over the next two games.

In a game that threatened to burst into a raging inferno of #Yosted, the Royals hung on for a 3-2 win over the Giants in Game Three of the 2014 World Series. It was a well-pitched game that ventured into the theater of the absurd in the later innings.

1) Eric Hosmer has the plate appearance of the postseason. Maybe the plate appearance of his career. With the Royals up 2-0 in the top of the sixth with Alex Gordon on second, the Giants brought in left-hander Javier Lopez to face Hosmer. He took a fastball for strike one. Then, the fun started.

Foul.
Foul.
Foul.
Ball.
Foul.
Ball.
Foul.
Foul.
Ball.
In play, runs.

Lopez throws below three-quarters and his ball runs away from the left-handed batter. Very difficult. And Hosmer was up to the challenge. He looked extremely focused and battled all the way before lining an 86 mph fastball up the middle for the Royals third run. A run that was extremely huge.

You won’t see a better plate appearance.

2) Ned Yost’s bullpen management left everyone scratching their heads. A collective “WTF” moment. Knowing the Royals were scheduled to play three games in three days, I felt Yost turned to Herrera too early. The sixth should belong to Brandon Finnegan. Or Jason Frasor. Although, I understand Yost going to his Gas Man in that situation. One run in, a runner in second and no one out. Maybe the proper call was to pinch hit for Guthrie in the top of the sixth and play the platoon matchups for an inning.

Of course, it worked. This is the life of Ned Yost in October.

Then, Yost let Herrera bat in the top of the seventh with Jarrod Dyson on base. Seriously. He let his reliever hit with a runner on base. Perhaps the most Yosted move of all time. Herrera walks Hunter Pence and pitches to the left-handed hitting Brandon Belt with Brandon Finnegan warm in the bullpen. Huh? Herrera strikes out Belt and then Yost summons Finnegan to face the left-handed hitting Travis Ishikawa who you knew would be pulled for a pinch hitter. Again, huh? Finnegan retires the two batters he faces and the Royals exhale and move to the eighth.

Really, it was a mess to get the game to Wade Davis in the eighth. Yost made several missteps over the sixth and seventh. A fanbase was ready to launch itself into unbridled hysteria. Again, Yost’s blunders don’t come back to bite him in the ass and he survives. Amazing.

Something to watch going forward: Herrera threw 27 pitches. Finnegan needed eight, Davis threw 12, and Greg Holland used just eight to get through his ninth inning.

3) The lineup shift paid huge dividends. Alex Gordon moved up to second and came through with a massive, run-scoring double. Lorenzo Cain made a pair of nifty grabs in right field. It made a difference.

The Royals have a 2-1 lead in the Series. Ned Yost has a career 10-1 record in the postseason. The Royals are two wins from the World Championship.

Ned Yost has run the exact same batting order out for 18 consecutive games. Eighteen games! The last eight of the regular season, the Wild Card game, the three in the ALDS, the four in the ALCS, and the first two of the World Series. Now, with the Series shifting to the National League park where the Royals will lose the designated hitter, Yost will have to ponder some changes.

I have joked that Yost will just throw the pitcher in the fifth spot in the order in place of Billy Butler. Pretty automatic, right? Of course, Yost isn’t going to do that.

What will probably happen is Yost will keep his top four, remove Butler and then push his usual bottom four one higher. There are rumblings Yost will actually make a change, removing Nori Aoki and replacing him with Jarrod Dyson. That’s a really good idea.

How about this for a lineup?

Gordon – LF
Escobar – SS
Cain – RF
Hosmer – 1B
Infante – 2B
Moustakas – 3B
Perez – C
Dyson – CF

I know what you’re going to say. Madness. But think about it. Alex Gordon is having a miserable October, hitting .176/.333/.353, yet I bump him to the top of the order. It’s going with my gut, because he’s done it before and he’s done it successfully. Also, because I believe the Royals really need to get Gordon going. Imagine the next three to five games if he gets hot. So much better. Maybe it’s a touch of insanity, but I prefer to think of it as a move to get an important bat going again. Moving his away from Perez has to help, right? I know we’re not supposed to talk about “protection” in the lineup, but I believe it makes a difference in small sample sizes. They’re not giving Gordon anything to hit because they know Perez isn’t going to follow with anything of substance. Moving Gordon ahead of Cain and Hosmer has to make a difference in the quality of pitches Gordon will see. At least I believe that.

Alcides Escobar bumps down to second. He’s taken just one walk and has a .311 OPB in the postseason. Not leadoff material. However, he’s handled the bat well enough that I’m fine with him staying toward the top of the order.

Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer at three and four are automatic.

Omar Infante is heating up when it matters most. The double and home run in Game Two were spectacular, but he also had a .433 OBP in the ALCS to go along with four hits. Mike Moustakas has hit some big home runs, but mostly has been a steady presence. Which is to say he’s an improvement over regular season Moustakas. He still doesn’t belong higher in the order. Bump them up a couple of spots.

Salvador Perez has continued his offensive struggles this month. Even when he’s gotten a big hit – like in the Wild Card game or the double in Game Two – he’s been lost nearly every other time at the plate. been hitting well at the top of the order, relatively speaking. He needs to be buried at the bottom of the lineup while hoping he can collect a big hit or two.

Jarrod Dyson is the biggest change in my lineup. With triples alley in right-center, and with a tremendous defensive potential outfield, I think Ned Yost has to put his best glovemen in the outfield. That means Dyson in center, Cain in right and Nori Aoki to the bench. Plus, you have Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas, who are the two fly ball pitchers in this postseason rotation. Aoki has been a… let’s just say an adventure in the outfield. Plus, his bat on the bench gives Yost an attractive pinch hit option along with Billy Butler. And don’t forget Josh Willingham. That trio could come in handy in the National League park.

This lineup largely goes left-right-left-right. Since we saw how Bruce Bochy is going to manage his bullpen in the middle innings, that seems important. The exception is at two and three with Escobar and Cain from the right side. Since that’s the case, I would entertain flip-flopping Gordon and Escobar at the top. I’m not thrilled with Escobar leading off, but he’s been doing it since mid-September and well… You can’t argue with the results since then.

Yost has to move out of his lineup comfort zone. Why not shift things around to get what could be an optimal lineup when all you need is three wins?

Sorry for the belated post.

First, let’s talk about the managing. Ned Yost made several moves we can discuss. He sent Alcides Escobar on a stolen base attempts in the bottom of the first. Escobar was thrown out and a few pitches later, Lorenzo Cain hit a double to short left-center field. Interesting call. Notice that Yost hasn’t had Nori Aoki bunt in the first inning in these playoffs. Obviously, I’m fine with that. However, I didn’t understand the stolen base attempt in the situation. Cain is swinging the hot bat – Hosmer, too – so maybe in the first you practice a little patience and see what happens. I don’t know. I do know that the Royals collected three hits in the first, along with a walk and scored one run.

Then, in the sixth, Yost lifted starter Yordano Ventura after he allowed a pair of singles sandwiched between a fly out. Enter Kelvin Herrera for the five out hold. Obviously, in that situation you’re hoping Herrera won’t throw a ton of pitches – he ended up offering 32 – but with the off day Thursday, I suppose that’s OK as well. It was clearly the right situation to bring Herrera into the game. Yes, Yost could’ve gone with Brandon Finnegan, but the comfort level is there with Herrera. So in the big game, you use him. Herrera wobbled a bit in the seventh, issuing two walks. It looked like he lost his arm slot and wasn’t comfortable on the mound. A frightening moment, made less frightening by the fact the Royals scored five a half inning prior.

The other move Yost made that I almost questioned (remember, he’s on a roll, so we’re not really allowed to question) was when he pinch ran for Billy Butler after his go-ahead single in the sixth. Why bring Terrance Gore into the game when there’s a runner (Hosmer) on base ahead of him? It just didn’t make sense to me. Also, at that point, it was a one run game. Butler’s spot in the order was going to come around again. At the time, I feared we would miss his bat. This is October and Yost is Yost. So it all worked extremely well. Gore came around to score on Sal Perez’s double and then Omar Infante clubbed a home run. Three hits. Three daggers. Ballgame.

Second, I’m tired of pitchers who aren’t very good losing their mind when their mistakes get crushed. If you don’t want to give up a double and a home run, make better pitches. And if you need to get angry at someone, look to yourself.

Third, the last six outs for the Giants: strikeout, strikeout, groundout to first, strikeout, strikeout, strikeout. Yost isn’t kidding when he says he doesn’t have to think after the sixth inning. This bullpen is so key.

Fourth, it would appear Infante is feeling OK. He’s made a couple plays on the infield at the end of the ALCS and now in the World Series that lead you to believe the shoulder is holding together. Last night, it was a nice play to grab a ball up the middle from Buster Posey with a runner on first. If that ball gets through, you have maybe first and third with Pablo Sandoval at the plate. So Infante’s snare seems important. And then the home run. He was sitting dead red, got a meatball and crushed it. Totally unexpected. Totally awesome. Dude. And we can’t forget his double in the second, either. Ripped and a one-hopper against the left field wall.

Fifth, I love me some Billy Butler. What a great moment on Wednesday, after he was lifted for Gore, the BIL-LY BUT-LER chant started and quickly spread through the stadium. He came out for a curtain call. A curtain call for an RBI single. So great. The relationship between Butler and the fans is a complicated one, which I have never understood. (Well, I have understood, but I really don’t want to.) It’s clear he cares for this franchise, his teammates and this city. It’s entirely possible Wednesday night was his final appearance in the home whites. If that was his last Royal at bat at The K, it was perfect: A line drive to left-center, pushing the Royals ahead.

Welp. We’ve seen better postseason games, haven’t we?

The tendency of a Game One in any series is to analyze and over-analyze. It’s the first game, so surely what we saw has to carry over to the remainder, right?

Rewind yourself.

Certainly there are conclusions we can draw: James Shields isn’t right. Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval can hit the ball. The Royals are hacking. Again.

If there’s anything to be dispirited over, it would be the bottom of the third inning. Omar Infante reaches via an error and Mike Moustakas doubles to set up second and third with no one out. Just put the ball in play. Just put the damn ball in play. Instead, we get Alcides Escobar swinging at pitches at his eyeballs and Nori Aoki hacking at curves in the dirt. Lorenzo Cain puts together a helluva plate appearance, falling behind 0-2 before working four straight balls for the free pass.

Bases loaded, two down. And Eric Hosmer swings at the first pitch he sees – a slider on the outer half he tries to pull, yet predictably rolls his wrists and softly grounds out to second. Inning over. Threat over. Ballgame over.

The Hosmer ground out was the first of 12 straight Royal batters retired by Bumgarner. Only the Sal Perez home run in the seventh broke that streak.

If you’re surprised at the offensive futility we witnessed on Tuesday, welcome to the bandwagon, I guess. You must be new. These are the 2014 Royals. They can’t swing the hot lumber all month. Yet I would caution you to count these guys out just yet. It’s a short series, so there’s a certain danger – and poor timing – but they will continue to rely on their starting pitching and defense to keep the games close. Three runs can be enough. Oftentimes for the Royals, it is.

Which is why Shields has been a colossal disappointment this October. He threw his change-up 11 times, got five swings and just one miss. Of the three change-ups put in play, all went for hits. His bread and butter pitch has turned stale. Why? Who knows. It could be the mileage on his arm. It could be mechanics. It could be the current moon phase. What we do know is he’s been underwhelming in all of his postseason starts. Underwhelming enough that if the Series makes it five, Ned Yost has to consider replacing him with someone like Danny Duffy, who once he found his groove, threw quite well for throwing only nine innings since the end of August. Of course we know that Yost won’t do that. He would never do that. Shields is his “ace” and his ace will take the ball.

I’m not fine with that. Not after what I’ve seen. While Yost said Shields would get the ball for his next scheduled start, things could change between now and Sunday. If it’s an elimination game, I’d really be worried.

The Royals still need four wins to pull this off. They suffered a setback, but it’s not fatal. There’s still time to recover. It now rests on the fireballing arm of Yordano Ventura.

Let’s throw fire.

I’ve had a fun time the last several days as I’ve watched some of the brightest analytical baseball minds attempt to figure out the Royals success. Hell, I enjoy analysis and while I don’t consider myself smart enough (or good enough with numbers) to be a true sabermetrician, I tend to lean toward the statistical and analytical side of things.

The great thing about the Royals of October is there’s simply no explanation. Sure, pitching and defense and speed are supposed to be the bedrock of postseason baseball. But the Royals made it to October by scoring 651 runs while allowing 624. Remember how I said I’m not good enough with numbers? Well, forget that, because the Royals had a positive run differential of 27. By the straight pythagorean, that translates to 84 wins. By third order pythagorean, the Royals are a 79 win team. The 2014 Royals – the real players in real uniforms – won 89 games. And they’re playing in Game One of the World Series tonight.

Sometimes, the unexplainable happens. Yeah, I know some writers are paid to make sense of such things. But how do you explain the 2014 Kansas City Royals?

What I like about this Series is both teams have had ample rest. Sure, the bats may be a little slow out of the gate on Tuesday, but I really like the fact both teams have had the opportunity to recharge the batteries on players like Sal Perez. I also like that both bullpens will be fully functional. And I also like that both managers have had the opportunity to set their rotations. It’s a level playing field, so there’s no narrative here about one team being rested. Or rusty.

I’ve seen some words floating around the internets about how this is the worst World Series ever – at least according to records of the participants. Complain if you must, but this is what Bud hath wrought. The team with the fourth best record in the American League, squaring off against the team with the fifth best record in the National League. I’ve gone on the record before that I’m no fan of the Wild Card. I guess that puts me in the, “Get off my lawn” group. That’s fine. However, contrary to outward appearances, I’m not stupid. The Royals benefit from the benevolence of Chairman Bud and the greed of the owners who are adding playoff tiers in an effort to squeeze even more money from their public. Whatever. The Royals are a Wild Card team and they’re in the World Series. Next April, they’re going to raise a flag – either an AL pennant or a World Championship banner. There won’t be an asterisk on the cloth. The rules are the rules. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened in 1975, but this October run is every bit as legit as all the others going back to 1903.

We know the Royals starting lineup for Game One and we know how they were acquired. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are holdovers from the Allard Baird regime. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer belong to Moore. That’s four first rounders in the lineup. Then you have free agent signing Omar Infante. And international free agent Sal Perez.

Then the trades. Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain came to the Royals from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade. Someone – I wish I could remember who – mentioned the Greinke trade wasn’t well received at the time. Maybe my memory is hazy, which is entirely possible, but I don’t remember it that way at all. I remember that trade as an inevitability once Greinke said he didn’t want to continue to play for a perpetually rebuilding team. Then of course you have the James Shields and Wade Davis trade. And we can’t forget the Nori Aoki deal. Is it kind of funny the Royals have three former Brewers in their starting nine? I think it’s funny. Don’t forget the manager, too.

Speaking of Ned Yost, don’t you find yourself warming up to the guy? He’s gone from fired two weeks from the postseason to a remarkable 8-0 in playoff baseball. Hurray for second chances. Maybe I’m reading way too much into this, but it looks to me like the guy has had a 1,000 pound weight lifted off his shoulders. Yeah, yeah, yeah… He’s not into vindication or whatever. Right. When people are calling you “dunce” (For the record, I never did that.) or “Nervous Ned.” (I did do that.) and they keep bringing up how you spit the bit in Milwaukee, it has to feel damn good to not only prove you can get the job done, but to do it in style. And eight wins in eight chances is most certainly style.

The bunts have to stop and I have no doubt he’s going to make some sort of infuriating move somewhere down the line, but damnit if he isn’t winning me over in some small way. I’ve enjoyed the shots of him in the dugout, raising both arms when Moustakas or Hosmer crushes one and quickly putting them down as if he remembers how all the great ones keep the celebration on the inside. It’s cool, Ned. Let it out. You deserve this.

Another great byproduct of this World Series is how it’s an opportunity to showcase Kansas City. As you probably know, I was born and raised here. Went a short distance away for college, and apart from some European adventures, I’ve spent most of my adult life in this city. Because I love it. I love everything about this city. From the Plaza to Westport to downtown. The WWI museum, the Kauffman Center and Union Station. The OP Farmers Market and the Louisburg Cider Mill. There’s so much greatness about this city. I remember when the Royals were awarded the All-Star Game, some worried about the lack of public transportation and how the stadium was kind of in the middle of nowhere. I remember I told people not to worry, that the All-Star Game was a big party and that Kansas City knew how to throw a great party. And we didn’t disappoint. Now, a little over two years later, we have another chance. KC is the middle of the baseball universe again. The city is alive and it feels so right. And we feel so ready. The buildup has been fun, but the actual event is going to be a blast.

I love baseball and I love the Royals. I hope that’s obvious. I’ve only been squatting on internet bandwidth, writing about this damn team since 2005. I was burning out. Last March, I didn’t know if I wanted to write about them anymore. I left SB Nation in May because it wasn’t fun – both the team and writing for a network. I spent a good portion of this summer unsure of what I wanted to do and just going through the paces. But this October has awakened something in me, I didn’t know existed anymore. The joy from winning baseball and the elation at the victories has been something else. I never get nervous watching my teams compete. Truly. I think that has something to do with the time I spent in the media. No cheering in the press box and all that. But in the later innings of Game Four of the ALCS, I was nervous. I was so nervous, I thought I needed to sit down at a couple of points. I’m not sure that’s ever happened. How fun. Baseball is fun. Royals baseball is fun.

I owe you a prediction, I suppose. Let’s go with the Royals in six.

Thanks for hanging with me. Thanks for reading.

Go Royals.

Lost in the euphoria of the sweep of the Orioles was the fact the Royals offense went into cold storage when the series shifted back to The K. After scoring 14 runs off 25 hits in Baltimore, the Royals managed four runs and just 12 hits at home. Of course, it was enough to squeak by, and in the October world of short series and long breaks, it probably doesn’t matter. I just find it interesting that in the last two games the Royals scored their runs on a ground out, a sac fly and a fielders choice that resulted in an error allowing two runs to score on one play. Also, of the 12 hits in the two games, the Royals mustered only one extra base hit. That was Billy Butler’s double leading off the eighth in Game Four. Terrance Gore ran for Butler, but was stranded at third. Welcome home, Royals offense.

But the beauty of the 2014 Royals is they can make two runs stand up. It was a recipe we saw often. Just give five or six strong innings of starting pitching and get the hell out of the way for the Three Relievers of the Apocalypse.

It seems like I wrote about this at length once the team went on it’s second half tear. Every night it was a different guy with a big hit in a key situation that seemed to do just enough to plate a run or two and then the game is left in the hands of the pitching and the defense. Although the Royals have played some wild games and had some late inning heroics on the back of the long ball, this is a team built for October success through it’s pitching and defense. We saw that on display in Games Three and Four. Again, in the short series of October it looks like the Royals can beat you in a variety of ways. It’s not going to be easy against the Giants, but you know the Royals will be competitive in damn near every game. If not all of them.

As a team in the ALCS, the Royals hit .280/.362/.417. They drew 15 walks, which feels like an extraordinary number for this team in a four game series, and stole just a single base while collecting 10 extra base hits. By contrast, the Orioles hit just .217/.283/.297 with two steals and seven extra base hits. Remember how going into the series the talk was how the Royals were going to run like hell and the Orioles were the brutes of baseball? Hmmmm… Baseball narratives are fun, aren’t they?

I guess the point is, expect the unexpected. Or, if you prefer, anything goes. If some expert at ESPN or the MLB Network tells you how it’s going to be, change the channel to some home improvement show. Because they know exactly as much as you or I.

— Ned Yost named his Game One and Two starters and it’s no surprise it’s James Shields and Yordano Ventura, respectively. Shields hasn’t had a start you would define as “quality” this postseason. He’s allowed a bunch of baserunners and has had a difficult time preventing them from crossing the plate. He’s allowed 10 runs in 16 innings. I did the math. That’s a 5.63 ERA.

Shields will be squaring off against Madison Bumgarner who’s been brilliant this October. On paper, and based on recent history, it’s not a favorable match-up at all. But this October we’ve learned to throw out all that kind of nonsense. Count out Shields at your peril.

— The Royals have played eight postseason games. They’ve had the same lineup for all eight. In fact, the lineup hasn’t changed since September 21. So it’s pretty safe to assume we know what the lineups will look like for Game One and Two.

Everything changes in Game Three, when the Series shifts to San Francisco, as the Royals lose the DH. I half expect Yost to just insert Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas in the fifth spot in the order. Automatic managing is the best. Hey, I’m only half kidding. Everything Yost touches in October has turned to gold. At this point, if he told me Nori Aoki would hit home runs in every World Series game, I’d believe him.

— I’ll make my prediction on Tuesday. After final rosters have been announced and I consult my tarot cards and locate my missing Ouija board.

World Series Reading:

— Here’s your feel-good story of the day: Six year old Noah Wilson, who is currently at Children’s Mercy Hospital undergoing cancer treatments, got World Series tickets from Joe Torre.

— For you old-timers, the Royal Lancers aren’t as active as they used to be, but they’re still around. Still making a difference.

— Jim Bowden ranks the World Series players from 1 to 50. It’s behind a paywall, so I’ll just tell you, the highest rated Royal is Alex Gordon at number four.

— Here’s how umpire Eric Cooper learned he got the World Series gig.

— Don’t sleep on the Giants infield defense.

Thank you, Dayton Moore. For never backing down and assembling a championship calibre team. There was plenty of doubt, but you remained true to your vision and The Process. This is a just reward.

Thank you, Ned Yost. Second chances kick ass because you get the opportunity not only for redemption, but to use lessons that were learned in the first chance. I hope that doesn’t come across as a back-handed compliment, because it’s not supposed to be one. You developed a game plan and executed it flawlessly throughout this postseason. Living right this October (and September, too.)

Thank you, Billy Butler. The longest tenured Royal. For your doubles, your embrace of this city and the fans, and for your BBQ sauce. And for your stolen base in Game Three of the ALDS.

Thank you, Alex Gordon. For your dedication and for reinventing yourself into a complete player. Watching you play the game is so much fun. In my opinion, you are the Royals.  #A1 forever.

Thank you, Sal Perez. For your leadership, your never say die spirit, your walk-off hit in the Wild Card game and your Instagram videos.

Thank you, James Shields. For showing a young pitching staff the way. Your arrival in Kansas City couldn’t have been more controversial. You delivered exactly what was hoped for in the trade.

Thank you, Wade Davis. For anchoring a lock-down bullpen. The key to The Trade. I’ll always remember your smile after you underhanded the ball to Hosmer in Game Four of the ALCS. And for the Wade Davis Experience.

Thank you, Eric Hosmer. For the home runs in the ALDS and the bat flips.

Thank you, Mike Moustakas. For the play at the dugout suites in Game Three of the ALCS. Forever in the pantheon of great postseason plays.

Thank you, Lorenzo Cain. For covering more ground in the outfield that the giant American flag that’s brought out in pre game ceremonies. And for your enthusiasm and joy playing this wonderful game. ALCS MVP!

Thank you, Nori Aoki. For the bunts (really!) but especially for the GRAND SLAM in Arizona. Kanpai!

Thank you, Danny Duffy. For your recovery from Tommy John surgery to emerging as one of the top young left-handers in the game. I had my doubts, but you proved me wrong this year. So gnar.

Thank you, Alcides Escobar. For being the rock up the middle and forming, together with Sal and Lorenzo the backbone of the Royals stellar defense.

Thank you, Jarrod Dyson. Draft picks from the 50th round aren’t supposed to make this kind of impact. But I guess, “That’s what speed do.”

Thank you, Greg Holland. For your slider and for the ninth inning security.

Thank you, Kelvin Herrera. For the propane. For the gas.

Thank you, Omar Infante. For giving us the upgrade at second base we so desperately needed.

Thank you, Jason Vargas. For stepping into a role vacated by the departure of Ervin Santana and massively exceeding expectations. Your start in Game Four of the ALCS had me on the edge of my seat all afternoon, but it was damn near perfection.

Thank you, Raul Ibanez. For being the veteran leader down the stretch. Is it possible you were the final piece to this puzzle? And for your home run in the 1-0 win at Oakland on August 1.

Thank you, Brandon Finnegan. For stepping in to a bullpen role and pitching successfully in high leverage situations. From the college World Series to the MLB World Series in a just a few months. Amazing journey.

Thank you, Yordano Ventura. For throwing fire.

Thank you, Jason Frasor. For the sixth inning in Game Three of the ALCS. Such a scary inning for this team in the postseason. Helped by Moustakas Catch.

Thank you, Terrance Gore. For the wheels and the disruptive presence on the bases. And for the mad scamper from second base against the White Sox.

Thank you, Josh Willingham. For coming over in the trade and providing a bat with some power and some OBP.

Thank you, Jeremy Guthrie. For the win in the clincher in Chicago, kicking off a celebration that hasn’t stopped. And for grinding out your start in Game Three of the ALCS. Yes, there will be base runners, but you seemed to save your best starts for when they mattered the most.

Thank you, Erik Kratz. For the two home runs against the Twins in mid-August.

Thank you, Bruce Chen. For your class. Forever Royal.

Thank you, Our Readers. For sticking with us these last ten seasons.

Thank you, Royals. American League Champions.

 

%d bloggers like this: