The Kansas City Royals of 2014 were the feel-good story of the year. They took the San Francisco Giants all the way to game 7 of the World Series, before saying “uncle.” They beat the odds of a small market franchise and made it to the Fall Classic.
When the last out of the 2015 American League Championship Series was recorded Friday night, the Kansas City Royals were crowned victorious. The champagne flowed, tears were shed and a city came together again to honor its heroes of the diamond. It was a fitting end for the Royals. They were going back to the World Series. They have the chance to give their beloved supporters something special. For the Royals, the time is now.
The story is not over for the Royals. Last year was the beginning of a two act play that must be finished with determination and grit. If there was any doubt the Royals had the heart to make a return trip to the World Series, it was squashed this past week. The Royals dominated the regular season and then calmly transferred that zeal to their postseason play. They are a talented and gifted team that has been built to win and they take advantage of that fact.
The Royals weren’t favored to win the ALCS. According to Sporting Charts, the Toronto Blue Jays had a run differential of 221. They led the American League and every team in the majors. After acquiring David Price and Troy Tulowitzki at the deadline, Toronto finished the season on a 43-18 run. The Blue Jays had been the best team in baseball over the past two months.
In this age of analytics and algorithms, the Royals are a throw-back. They may use the technology to help them determine certain aspects of the game, but they also believe in destiny. They have faith in the dumb luck of baseball and the talent that they have assembled.
How do the Royals get around the technology and still win? The Royals believe that when Alcides Escobar swings at the first pitch, they’ll win a game. They have won with him as the lead-off hitter. In fact, they are 82-49 with him in the spot and 13-18 with other hitters. His style is “ambush” hitting and it has paid off big for the Royals.
Staring at a 3-0 deficit with six outs remaining, the Royals believed they could win. In their seven postseason games this season, the Royals have been outscored, 19-16, in the first six innings. From the seventh inning on, they have outscored their opponents 20-5.
This is the chance of a lifetime for sports fans. A team like the Royals rarely shows up. They win on guts, talent, determination and the sheer belief that they will do it.
The remarkable comeback in last year’s wild-card game gave the Royals the reputation of being a team that never quits. Management went out and put the pieces together that would help that team get back to business. The moves worked out. The Royals are in a position to take care of unfinished business.
The Royals are going back to the World Series. They survived another rain delay that could have had the same bad results, but it didn’t. They stared destiny in the face and believed that it was theirs to own. A small market club, with diehard fans, has a chance to be a part of history.
If Escobar swings at the first pitch, Tuesday night, does that mean the Royals will win the Fall Classic? Only time will tell. The Mets will have something to say about that. But for the Royals, the time is now.
[Feature Photo by Jamie Squire / Getty images]