The American League Championship Series, featuring the Kansas City Royals for the second straight year, starts tonight. Without question, the two best teams in the AL – despite some ALDS tribulations – are squaring off. It is what we expected, what we anticipated and likely is going to be a great series. Hey, that these two teams don’t much care for one another just adds to the fun.
The Royals, long installed as baseball’s badboys, played in the only series that did not feature accusations, bench clearings and controversy. Surely, however, Kansas City was somehow to blame for the Rangers and Blue Jays melees right? Jake Diekmann after all is from Nebraska, so is Alex Gordon and likely it was Alex (at the urging of Yordano Ventura) who got Jake to rile up Sam Dyson to the point that he would have the audacity to say something to a saint like Troy Tulowitzki! Okay, just joking around…
The Royals do jump around, flip bats, yap, tip their hats and have elaborate celebrations in mid-game. They are not above throwing inside and not inclined to ignore the yapping from the other dugout. That is who they are. They are not headhunters and constant instigators. In fact, of the handful (and it was JUST a handful, national media people) of incidents this year, the only opposing team that was likely totally innocent was the Angels.
The Blue Jays flip bats (at times with epic grace – I’m serious, Jose Bautista’s flip on Wednesday was outstanding), they yell and yap and stare people down. They crowd the plate and throw inside. They don’t take any crap and dish out plenty of ‘baseball advice’ to the other team during the game. Has Josh Donaldson stopped talking yet? I will be honest, I don’t have a problem with any of it.
I love baseball played with emotion. I don’t mind a team doing any of the above any more than I mind when two guys from opposing squads share a light-hearted moment on the bases. You can be mad and play well. You can joke around with the other team and still play hard. It is all fine.
The Blue Jays seem to have a problem with a team doing any of the things that they themselves do. Bautista is a big ‘staredown guy’ when one throws inside, but when Blue Jay Aaron Sanchez buzzed someone inside, that’s just good pitching. Bat flips? Love them and so does Bautista, but god forbid Eric Hosmer flips one after a home run in Game One. You don’t get to be loud and intimidating and flashy and then become incensed when the other side is doing the same thing.
This could be a tremendous series both in terms of pure baseball and with regard to being emotionally charged. I look forward to it, but let’s also remember that both teams get to be emotional. And let’s keep the beer cans and cups in the stands, okay?
Relevant data points:
- Kansas City pitchers hit 52 batters in 2015. Toronto pitchers hit 59.
- Kansas City batters were hit 77 times. Blue Jay hitters were plunked 54 times.
- Toronto pitchers allowed 173 home runs. Kansas City pitchers allowed 155.
- Toronto hitters blasted 232 homer runs. The Royals just 139.
- Blue Jay hitters struck out 1151 times, while Kansas City hitters fanned just 973 times.
Shortly, the ALCS roster will be out. I would not anticipate many (any?) changes from the ALDS. Again, where exactly do you see Jonny Gomes pinch-hitting in this series? If you cannot envision a likely scenario (the only one I come up with is Gore pinch runs for Morales, game goes extra innings and his spot comes up in the order) then you probably can count on Paulo Orlando as ‘man 25’.
A more intriguing question might be would you pitch Volquez, Ventura and Cueto on three days rest in the ALCS. Volquez goes in Game One and Ventura in Game Two, both on regular rest as does Cueto in Game Three. Do you go with Kris Medlen in Game Four or Volquez on three days rest? How about Ventura on three days rest in Game Five or Cueto on three days in Game Six? Does Ned Yost dare do that with all three starters? I might consider it.
Is just the idea of bringing one, two or three starters back on short rest enough to drop one of the six outfielders and carry another reliever? Given that pitching Chris Young in any of the three games in Toronto is not a best case scenario, that might be in consideration already.
The fun starts tonight and while there might be some whining, some glaring, some flipping (from both sides) it will indeed be fun.