A year ago I wrote about the Baseball Playoffs and how two Wild Card teams made it to the World Series for the first time. I never wrote about the World Series results, but as those of you who follow baseball know, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in seven games to win their third title in five years. It was an exciting series and the Giants won because of Madison Bumgarner, the most dominant starting pitcher ever in the Post Season. The Giants didn’t make the playoffs this year but the Royals did with the best record in the American League. This season I did have a rooting interest because my Yankees made the playoffs as a Wild Card Team, but the Houston Astros defeated them in the one game playoff, which didn’t surprise me because the Astros top pitcher, Dallas Keuchel had dominated them in the regular season and did it again. Despite their record, the Royals had to come from behind to defeat the Astros three games to two in the Divisional Series and then the Toronto Blue Jays four games to two in the League Championship Series to make the World Series again.
Despite the Yankees being eliminated, this year was different for me from last year because I had a rooting interest since there still was a team from New York in the playoffs. I rooted for the Mets in the National League Playoffs as they defeated the L A Dodgers and their outstanding starters, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the Divisional Series, three games to two. The Cards, Pirates and the Cubs were all in the Central Division and they had the best records in all of Major League Baseball with the Cards winning 100 games, the Pirates 98 games and the Cubs 97 games. So the Cubs beat the Pirates in the Wild Card Game, and then went on to upset the Cards in the Divisional Series. So when the Mets played the Cubs in the Championship Series, I never expected the Mets to win because during the season they had lost all seven games to the Cubs. Yet the Mets ended up sweeping the Series as their second baseman, Daniel Murphy set a record as he hit home runs in six straight games and their pitching dominated the Cubs pitching. So I expected the Mets starting pitching of Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard to continue to do well against the Royals as they had in the National League Playoff games.
As you can see baseball is so hard to predict, but Tom Verducci wrote an article for Sports Illustrated after the World Series entitled, “Crowning Moment” that was very thorough in explaining why the Royals became the World Series Champions four games to one. This also helped to explain why the Royals are the greatest comeback team ever. The Royals since their first and only championship team in 1985 had lost more games in that 30 year span than any other team in the major leagues. However, they started to turn things around when they hired Dayton Moore as their general manager in 2006. His goal from the beginning was to build a team for their big ballpark, Kauffman Stadium by looking for players who were athletic, good defensively, had speed and who would put the ball in play. The first three characteristics weren’t unusual when looking for players, but the last characteristic proved to be very beneficial this season as the Royals struck out less than anyone else and they were especially good against fast ball pitchers like the Mets starters. The thing however that made this team stand out according to Verducci’s article was that all the players bought into the Royals System. So this is a tribute not only to their general manager Moore, but also their manager Ned Yost and his coaching staff. This was pointed out by backup catcher, Drew Butera, who was acquired from the Angels in May. Butera said in a pre-game scouting session earlier in the season that the Royals not only went over the opponent, but also the tendencies of the home plate umpire, something his previous three teams never did.
During the fifth and deciding game of the World Series, a big controversy developed after Met manager, Terry Collins decided to keep starter Matt Harvey in the game after he had pitched so well and had a 2-0 lead. Collins did this after Harvey told him he wanted to stay in the game. I thought Collins made the right decision, but it turns out the Royals noticed that Harvey’s pitchers were up and his slider had lost its tilt in the eighth inning, so they were happy he came out for the ninth. Sure enough, the first batter walked and the second batter hit a double and Harvey was replaced with the Mets still ahead, 2-1. The Royals knew that Mets third baseman David Wright threw slower and from a different position because of a back condition. Royal first baseman, Eric Hosmer was on third in the ninth knowing this, and also that Mets first baseman, Lucas Duda didn’t throw well so after a ground ball was hit to Wright, Hosmer took off for home and the throw home was wide and Hosmer scored. So they tied the game and won it in extra innings to clinch the World Series. Granted some of their decisions could have turned out differently, but the fact that the Royals came back in seven of their playoff games was a testament to how thorough their philosophy and game preparation proved to be.
I watched one of the World Series games at Chippers Restaurant at the Pine Island Clubhouse where I was joined at the bar by another Mets fan. I ask him and any other fan whether your team made or didn’t make the playoffs this year, to let us know how you feel. Your opinion is welcomed and appreciated.
Author of: Induction Day at Cooperstown-A History of the Baseball Hall of Fame Ceremony and fellow Knight of Columbus Council 12240-Davie, FL. I can be reached at [email protected] or 954-533-6242 / 914- 769-8819