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.