Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
This last month of Royals baseball was, by far, the most fun month of baseball I’ve ever watched in my entire life. I was born after 1985, so that statement doesn’t clear a very high bar, but the point remains. As the team carried on with their magical playoff run, one theme that continued to pop-up was that what we were seeing was like something out of a movie. It was hard to argue, with the 4-run comeback in the Wild Card game, the sweeps in the ALDS and ALCS, all the way up to Game 7 of the World Series.
Everything did seem like it was straight out of a script from Hollywood…except for how it ended. Then again, not every sports movie ends with the protagonist coming out on top, so it’s not out of the question we see something portraying this incredible season. One blog even went so far as to suggest which actors would play which members of the Royals if such a movie is made.
This got me thinking about how a Royals movie would look, because typically these kinds of movies will focus on just a couple of central storylines. But in the case of the 2014 Kansas City Royals, I have no clue how a director (or producer, or whatever they’re called; I blog about baseball, not movies) would narrow everything down and only develop a fraction of what happened.
I would argue you could begin the movie prior to Dayton Moore joining the organization, because that’s really when this entire journey started. Of course, that gives you even more storylines from which to choose, and there are simply too many great ones already. Here are just a few:
– Alex Gordon was hailed as the next savior of the franchise, then didn’t live up to the lofty (and unfair) expectations, and then he turned his career around to become one of the best all-around players in the game. He turned down the potential for a massive contract to stay with the organization that drafted him and stuck with him through his struggles.
– Billy Butler endured more losses with the Royals than any other player, and still stuck around to see things through. Even when he wasn’t hitting to his standards, he never stopped supporting his teammates, and came up with several huge hits in the playoffs.
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– So many people criticized the James Shields trade (myself included) and essentially said Shields wouldn’t be good enough to justify the trade. He led the rotation, both on the field and in the clubhouse, and the effect he had on the organization will be felt for years.
– Danny Duffy walked away from baseball, only to come back, struggle, and then face injury just as things started to turn around. When he rejoined the squad early this season, some people suggested he couldn’t handle pressure and couldn’t keep his emotions in check, or some other bogus analysis. Duffy proved his worth by posting a team-best 2.55 ERA as a starter.
– Brandon Finnegan was drafted in June after pitching in the College World Series. He went on to pitch some massive innings in the playoffs, including the MLB World Series. His hat is in the Hall of Fame now, so I think this counts as important.
– The talk around Yordano Ventura has always been about how his short stature could never withstand a starter’s workload, especially with him throwing so hard. He proved that viewpoint to be the utter nonsense it really was by pitching 208.1 innings, while still touching triple digits in his final start of the year. That last start was in a must-win situation in the World Series, and it came just two days after losing his friend, Cardinals’ outfielder Oscar Taveras, in a car accident. His hat is also in the Hall of Fame, and I would suggest his leg kick be inducted immediately.
– The back of the Royals’ bullpen was historically great, with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland putting up arguably the greatest collection of relief seasons in baseball history. Herrera and Davis combined to face 677 batters in the regular season and playoffs. They combined to allow 0 home runs. I’m not sure if that’s something a movie could get much out of, but it’s one of my favorite stats of the season, and this gave me an excuse to type it here.
– Jarrod Dyson was a 50th round draft pick. They don’t even have a 50th round in the MLB draft anymore, and yet Dyson had an enormous impact on the season, including one of the most important stolen bases of all time in the Wild Card game. He’s also hilarious and a quote machine, and every movie needs one of those guys.
– Lorenzo Cain didn’t start playing baseball until his sophomore year of high school, and Alcides Escobar had the worst offensive season in baseball in 2013, yet both played huge parts in the Royals’ success, particularly Cain with his breakout playoff performance. The only reason both players are in the organization is the front office’s trade of Zack Greinke, just a year after he put up one of the best pitching seasons in recent history.
– Ned Yost transformed himself from a guy who was fired in the middle of a playoff run in 2008, who pundits called “Nervous Ned,” who never strayed from his rigid bullpen roles, to a guy who is smiling and cheesing it up during Game 7 of the World Series while relying on his best relievers in the 4th inning. (This was one of my favorite parts of the postseason, and I really hope the fun Ned is back in 2015.)
– Dayton Moore came to the Royals in 2006 with a plan. His plan appeared to take some undesirable detours, and many people began to doubt him and his process. Moore kept working tirelessly to build a competitive team, and finally, his dedication and hard work paid off.
– Then, of course, there’s Kansas City. Going 29 years between playoff appearances isn’t something any sports fanbase should have to endure, but despite all of that anguish, when the Royals finally came back to the postseason, the fans of Kansas City showed how much they care about baseball. That Wild Card crowd was unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of as a sports fan, and the fans’ support never wavered through the rest of the team’s magical run, even sticking around nearly an hour after Game 7 had ended to chant “THANK YOU, ROYALS” over and over again.
That list wasn’t supposed to be as long as it was, but more stories kept jumping out at me. And that’s not even a complete list. I didn’t even mention Sung Woo Lee, who’s already getting a documentary made about his incredible story.
Because there were so many fascinating storylines, I’ve decided that a single movie could not possibly do the 2014 Royals season justice. No, if Hollywood wants to accurately depict what this season was all about, it’s going to take a series of movies. Or maybe a miniseries on HBO or something. Maybe someone with far more writing ability than myself could pen a book series on the whole thing. I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here.
The point is, this was the most fun I’ve ever had following a sports team, and regardless of the way in which this story is retold, it’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.