Kansas City Royals are the American League Champs Once More
By Deron Denton
I hear there was a game at some sports venue in Kansas City on Friday night. I know many people celebrated a home team win because of the 10 minutes of fireworks that popped and crackled in the 23rd hour. The Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series again? Yawn.
Hell no! This isn’t New York or Boston or that Other Missouri Team. This isn’t Atlanta of the mid-90s. This is Kansas City, and until last year, our Royals suffered from the longest playoff drought in professional North American sports.
Speaking of 2014, please note an interesting example of the kind of synchronistic oddities that seem to arise most often in sports, and especially in baseball: The game that clinched this year’s World Series berth for our KC Royals was a mirror reflection of that heartbreaking World Series Game Seven against Bumgarner. Toronto stranded the tying run an excruciating 90 feet away in their last at-bat. Even the final score was a one run difference.
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As Royals fans, Friday’s game also felt like the mirror opposite of the emptiness we carried away from the K last year. We experienced the thrill of a huge “W” after witnessing a phenomenal and gutsy pitching performance by Wade Davis.
(As a side-note: The Blue Jays roster probably includes some players who are decent people and don’t act like spoiled toddlers. And their skipper seems like a nice dude. But based on what I saw in that series, the bitter loss they get to sit with all off-season couldn’t have happened to a better group of guys. Anyone who fake-throws baseballs to kids in the stands deserves all the derision we can muster. Okay – I just needed to get rid of the last of that Bautista bitterness.)
Onward and upward with the glory of victory …
Much has been made of the “bad called-strike” against Ben Revere. If cameras and computers called balls and strikes, it probably would have been a ball. But it wasn’t a called strikeout, so suck it up. (And then take it out on a poor trash can after a swing and miss, I guess.) I know the Royals had a few bad calls go against them in the postseason, from the mound and from the batter’s box. Those calls tend to even out. Besides, the Jays were hitless in 12 at-bats that game with runners in scoring position. Like Grandpa used to tell me, “You wanna trash the other team or the umps, you better clean up your own nappy dugout first.”
There’s a whole lotta love and adulation to choose from in giving thanks for this team making it to its second consecutive World Series … plenty of people who deserve to be showered with the victory champagne. Yost and Dayton Moore. Davis and Hererra. Hosmer and Cain. And your ALCS MVP: Alcides Escobar! (He is batting close to .400 this postseason.)
I’m in such good spirits that I’ll even give a shout-out to Zack Greinke. He demanded to be traded to a “real team” that could be a championship contender, exercising a clause in his contract back in 2010 that allowed him to refuse the initial trade to the Washington Nationals. Instead, he ended up going to Milwaukee, and the Royals received Cain, Escobar and (later, and less directly) Davis. So thanks, Zack! How many World Series have you been to?
But, in keeping with my sentimentality for underdogs and unsung heroes, special accolades to Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele. This is a guy who just loves the game. He began playing in the minors in 1977 and finally hung up his cleats in 1990, never making it to the Big Leagues as a player. All those years playing and observing payed off in Game Six of the ALCS.
Jirschele says he’d noticed through the series that Bautista has a tendency to automatically rapid-fire balls hit to him into second base, regardless of the situation. He was just hoping to have an opportunity to turn that to the Royals advantage. In the bottom of the 8th, with the game tied, Jirschele seized the opportunity by the throat, sending the Crazy Cain chugging home from first for what would be the winning run.
With that decision, Mike Jirschele didn’t just wipe the slate clean from all the (goofy) criticism that he should have sent Gordon in Game Seven last year – he played a crucial role in getting the Royals to the World Series this year.
And this year, we have a little unfinished business to take care of.