March 24, 2017

2015 World Series Notes

November 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Kansas City Royals are champions for the first time in thirty years. Can you believe it?

Wait, I’m channeling Joe Castiglione above. Still, what a great postseason run by the Royals. No deficit was too big and, in return, they wore teams out. When they needed starting pitching, Johnny Cueto tosses a two-hitter. Down a run? Alex Gordon can hit you a game-tying homer. Clinch a championship? Eric Hosmer can draw a bad throw from Lucas Duda.

There are times in sports when the great ones will their way to victory. What played out over five games was Kansas City doing just that. Whatever it took, they did. From exploiting the New York Mets bad defense to learning from their bitter defeat last year to San Francisco, the Royals passed their championship test with flying colors.

Since this column is late, imagine a history column running late, instead of links here are a few observations on my part for the Series.

–I wish more teams would look at the Royals’ mantra of making contact at the plate instead of the old Earl Weaver-based three-run homer strategy. When Kansas City made Mets starters work out of the stretch, the youth of the pitchers showed. The Royals ran all over catcher Travis d’Arnaud, putting runners into scoring position without hitting the ball out of the infield at times. They made the Mets play defensive baseball and pounced on any mistake.

What Royals hitters did in Game 2 to Jacob deGrom was a thing of beauty. Watching on television, you could see his confidence disappear as Kansas City either laid off or made contact with his fastballs. In 94 pitches, they missed three.

–As the Royals did from last year, I think the Mets will learn from this experience and be ready if they get another chance.

They played far from perfect baseball, but their starting pitching is built for October. Noah Syndergaard’s statement pitch starting Game 3 may have wrinkled a few feathers, but the Mets rode his arm for their only win of the Series.

If they can smooth out their relationship with Matt Harvey and Scott Boras, the Mets have four starters who can go deep into games and, potentially, dominate for the next three years. Another bullpen arm or two would help, but you have to figure the window in Queens for success is at the beginning, not the end.

–A good throw from Duda guns down Hosmer, but you are kidding yourself thinking the Series was changing back in KC.

Not since the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies have I saw a team scrap and battle as the Royals did every game. They carry a confidence bordering on cocky at times, but they reeled it in the last month and played as a full team. How else can you explain why a player bats for the first time in a month and wins the World Series?

–When working for Bleacher Report, I had the honor of covering the Boston Red Sox first game back at Fenway Park after the Marathon Bombing. On that emotional Saturday, Boston hosted Kansas City. Even then, nearly a year away from their first playoff run, their spirit and team play struck me.

The leader was, and is, Salvador Perez. His leadership screams across my television screen. He plays hurt, calls such a good game for his pitchers and can hit. In return, his starting pitchers gave him four championship starts. Perez is a coach on the field and manager Ned Yost is thrilled.

–Another thing Perez handled so well was Edinson Volquez.

Pitching Game 5 on raw emotion, and a player who struggles with command, Perez and the rest of the defense worked around the walks every time out. Volquez returning from burying his father to start the clincher should go down in World Series lore as Sandy Koufax clinching the 1965 Series on two days rest.

With the exercise regime teams keep pitchers on between starts, Volquez mastered the Mets without throwing any bullpen sessions between starts after leaving his team for three days. Under contract next year, Kansas City has a guy they can lean on every fifth day.

–Spare a thought for David Wright.

With his first inning homer Friday night in Game 3, Wright’s career hit living legend status in New York. The spinal stenosis injury, which shortened his season to forty regular season games, wore on him this fall. You could see him adjusting his hitting timing as the Series went on, but Wright was not the same force he used to be.

As with Sal Perez, there is a future coaching for Wright if he wants.

–Even with his injuries, you have to wonder how much of Yoenis Cespedes’ market dried up after the World Series.

At times, he looked lost in center field and his bat was not there.

–A shout out to the Royals scouts.

Kansas City knew where to place fielders, how to handle hot bats such as Daniel Murphy and exploit every Mets flaw. Despite having less time to get ready than New York, the Royals came prepared every game

They earned this title.

–On a personal level, one of the things it is easy to forget after your team struggles is how fun baseball can be.

Without a horse in this race, the entire postseason reminded me, and you, how entertaining baseball is. The play was not flawless and the games can drag on, but watching the postseason advance was addictive.

Baseball is a marathon. We start during the snow and end eating Halloween candy. Day after day, some remind us the sport is past its prime. We get sucked into what sells papers and drives talk radio.

This postseason reminded me baseball offers a drama unique to the sport. Errors are magnified and placed on the same pedestal as the successes. The timelessness of the game, so unique to the sport, allowed Kansas City to relax and execute. Watching Game 5, I knew the Mets were never going to give Harvey enough runs as the Royals would wear them down and respond.

I will attribute this to Vin Scully, because it sounds like him, but a wise sage once called playoff baseball a Shakespearian tragedy in seven acts. This one was done in five, but nothing compares to the nightly drama played out in living rooms across the country.

Am I the only one who thinks we might see sequel next year?

The links return Sunday.

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