Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hail to the Royals!

Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals for nailing down their first American League pennant in twenty-nine years after completing their four game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles last night.

This run that the Royals have put on in the post-season has been amazing.  I mean, 8-0!  Who does that?  Well, since this is the first time it has ever been done, I guess the answer to that question is "nobody".  The really amazing thing is how close the Royals came to elimination in the Wild Card game thanks to an amazingly dumb move by manager Ned Yost when he yanked James Shields in the fifth inning with the lead, which was promptly blown when he brought in a starting pitcher who had never pitched in relief, let alone in a lose-and-go-home playoff situation.  His team bailed him out that night, and has proceeded to boot out the Angels and Orioles without losing a game.  I look at Yost standing in the dugout and he just seems totally clueless to me, but, hey, what do I know?  Right now, he seems, to me at least, to be the luckiest guy in the baseball world.

I spoke with my brother Jim the other night prior to game three.  Jim follows the American League much more closely than I, and he frankly stated that the Royals "bubble would burst" that night and that they wouldn't win another game after that.  I'm hoping that he didn't bet on that one.  He also stated that there was no way that the Royals were a better team than either the Angels or the Orioles, and by any objective measure, he is no doubt correct, but here they are in the World Series.  Baseball is an amazing sport in that it takes 162 games to identify the best teams, yet the sport's championship is decided in short bursts: short series that can end in only three or four games.  Is that fair?  Maybe not, but in the words of Hyman Roth, "This is the business that they have chosen".

And speaking of managers, most of the so-called experts will tell you that Buck Showalter is one of the very best managers in the game (and in comparison to Yost, he is Miller Huggins and John McGraw rolled into one), yet I was intrigued by his demeanor throughout the series with the Royals.  I don't want to say he seemed disinterested, but he seemed almost emotionless in the dugout.  He seemed to make all the right moves, and despite being swept, his team was in every game and could easily have won any of this games with the Royals.  I guess he figured that Durocher- or Weaver-like tantrums weren't going to do any good, so I suppose we should salute him for bringing some level of maturity to the dugout.

Over in the National League, the Giants took a three to one series lead with another thrilling, come from behind win over the Cardinals, and could close it all out tonight.

None of the series played so far have been pushed to the maximum limit, which would seem to indicate a strict lack of drama in the MLB Playoffs this year.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  With the exception of our own Pirates' 8-0 loss to the Giants, these playoffs have been exciting and thrilling almost beyond compare.  Extra inning games, walk off wins, lead changes, come from behind wins, great pitching performances, all sorts of managerial strategies, both good and bad ...these playoffs have had them all.  They have been totally and completely compelling in my view.

Yeah, I know that they start too late, take too long to play (four hour, nine inning games are becoming the norm), and are telecast on fourth tier, backwater cable outlets, but if you have been watching them, you have been seeing some absolutely terrific baseball games.  I am sorry that I will miss the Bumgarner-Wainwright match-up tonight due to a date with the Pitt Panthers at Heinz Field, but I look forward to the balance of that series (no, I am not writing off the Cardinals until I actually see the the final nails pounded into their coffin), and the World Series ahead.

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