Our Blue October has come to an end, and we knew it was coming. The last day was defined the night before with a barrage of strange hits in the second inning resulting in a 3-3 World Series and one final, deciding game. Now we sit in the aftermath with that strange melancholy that sports fans all have had at some point because you want to be happy about your team’s accomplishments, but you were so close and didn’t get the prize which is hard to just brush aside as nothing.
The regular season itself had some pretty special moments, especially through a pretty fantastic August, but the postseason was truly special. It started by truly welcoming October as a Wild Card game went on and on through the last night of September, rallying against Oakland and then rallying again. Then back to back series sweeps where Lorenzo Cain made play after play in the outfield, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer pulled out their rakes, Billy Butler stealing a base, and any sort of lead feeling like enough as it was handed over to a dynamic bullpen that just kept slamming the door in the face of all comers.
Watching these things happen was a new sort of joy coming from a game I have loved since I was a child collecting baseball cards in the late 80s. Game to game I found myself thinking differently than I had previously as well. If you have read my work here, you know that the vast majority of it is heavily slanted toward numbers. Playing with numbers is part of what has always kept me interested in baseball as the layer of abstraction protected me from 100 loss seasons. Now I found myself just sitting and watching, almost actively avoiding looking up stats. Give me a week or so and I will be digging though numbers again to see what might be good in helping this team return to the playoffs again next year, but during the run I didn’t feel that need.
As the World Series kicked off surrounded by a raucous crowd in The K all that really mattered was the people of Kansas City and the surrounding area. In the past month I have discussed Royals baseball, in person or online, with many people who in the past were disinterested in baseball at best and at times their tone toward baseball bordered on hostility. All of a sudden everyone was pulling in the same direction, even some Cardinals fans I know were glad to root along with us. It was bizarre and downright fun to be a part of.
Honestly the fans around here shown almost as brightly as the team itself, and the team and Ned seemed to be drawn toward us even as finally
Oct 29, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals fans hold up a sign before game seven of the 2014 World Series against the San Francisco Giants at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
the city had a reason to rally around them. Will that feeling last? I’d like to think so. My sincerest hope is that next season we don’t have to wait until October for everyone to be on board, and that a relaxed and grateful Royals clubhouse becomes the norm.
It took seven games for the World Series to play out, which if you win is really the ideal situation. Game seven is a unique sporting event where baseball disassembles itself from a game of consistency and into one of immediacy. Normally tomorrow doesn’t take precedence, but it is at least a consideration. We saw this in game six of the series when Bruce Bochy called off the dogs pitching Jean Machi for 3 innings and resting Buster Posey some. Sometimes in baseball it doesn’t make sense to keep fighting at 100%, but in game seven there is no tomorrow for either team. That can sometimes lead managers to do crazy things, both of the insane asylum sort and of the fox sort.
This game seven saw two managers do exactly what you want them to do when everything is on the line. Give the ball to your best guys. Madison Bumgarner is getting all of the accolades, and for good reason, but the back end of the Royals pen did exactly what I was hoping they would do and then Ned Yost on Soren Petro’s show today said that was the plan. Kelvin Herrera was going to come in at the first sign of trouble and soak up as many outs as possible, then Wade Davis and Greg Holland would mow down as many as they could too. Herrera went two and two thirds, Davis two, and Holland the last, though he likely would have gone longer if necessary. They combined for nearly 6 run free innings to give the offense a chance to make up that run, and Bumgarner matched them blow for blow. We saw the best arms on both teams dominate, it’s just too bad the Giants had the lead when they all showed up.
We can talk about Alcides Escobar‘s ill advised bunt, and whether Alex Gordon should have been waived home, those are worthy discussions, but I am not in the mood to look backward or cast blame. It was a hell of a game and a hell of a series, though a weird sort of series with mostly lopsided ends. There is also a lot to look forward to as a Royals fan. The rotation needs one more arm, but looks like it will be good again, the bullpen could be the same dominant structure if we don’t mind tying up a big chunk of payroll there, Moustakas and Hosmer could carry their postseasons over and become the cornerstones we all expected, and so on. It will be an interesting off season followed by optimism that maybe we can do it again.
All of those discussions are worth having, and soon I will be ready for the forward looking ones. Soon, but not today. For now I am content. I am not happy about losing game seven, but I know that in time this season will be a good one to remember. I am not happy that I don’t get to come home and watch baseball almost every night for another five months. And yet life as a Royals fan is pretty great today, and hopefully for a while yet to come.