Posted by: Mike Cornelius | November 5, 2015

The Royals Wear The Crown

So we come to the end, which of course leads immediately to a new beginning. Teams must decide on which potential free agents should be extended qualifying offers by Friday, and off-season changes have already started with the naming of new managers in Seattle, San Diego, Miami and Washington. The Marlins and Nationals demonstrated starkly different approaches to the naming of new field generals. The hiring of Don Mattingly went smoothly in Florida, perhaps because owner Jeffrey Loria has so much experience at the process. In our nation’s capital it was a comically clumsy fiasco that resulted in the selection of Dusty Baker only after Bud Black had turned down a lowball contract offer. While Ted Lerner and family have shown some willingness to pay for talent on the field, they continue to try to buy managers on the cheap.

But before moving on to the wishes and dreams of the hot stove league, let us take a moment to reflect on the denouement of the season just ended. Years from now, the single line “Royals over Mets in five” will lead most to believe that this World Series was a one-sided affair, lacking drama or doubt. What is most remarkable about the recently concluded Fall Classic is that those future fans will be both utterly wrong, and absolutely right.

While it may have lasted but a single contest above the minimum, the 111th edition of the World Series was a taut affair from the first pitch until the roof finally caved in on New York in the 12th inning of Game 5. The first and last games went to extra innings. There were lead changes in every single contest, with most featuring several. The Mets led at the midpoint of every game, and as late as the 9th inning in two of the games they lost and into the top of the 8th in a third. New York batters slugged six home runs to just two by Kansas City hitters; but the Royals out hit the Mets forty-seven to thirty-five, and other than the homers New York managed just one other extra base hit.

It was a Series filled with unexpected performances, both good and bad. Johnny Cueto was Kansas City’s prize trade deadline acquisition, but he was mostly a bust after coming over from Cincinnati. In thirteen starts down the stretch Cueto was 4-7 with an ERA of 4.76. So naturally he won Game 2 with a complete game two-hitter, the first World Series complete game by an American League starter since Jack Morris’s ten inning epic carried the Twins to victory in Game 7 of the 1991 Fall Classic. Jeurys Familia took over the closer role for New York after Jenrry Mejia received a PEDS suspension early in the regular season. He tied a franchise record with forty-three saves, then added two more in the NLDS where he retired all sixteen Dodgers he faced. Familia recorded three more saves during New York’s sweep of Chicago in the NLCS. So of course he blew not one, not two, but three save opportunities against the Royals. Yet in fairness to Familia, he did so while being charged with just one earned run, and while generally inducing ground balls from Kansas City’s batters.

A Series filled with unexpected turns made for great viewing, especially so for those who watched simply as fans of the Great Game, and without a particular stake in the outcome. The television ratings were the best in several years, even with Fox losing its video feed for several minutes during Game 1. The technical difficulties even led to a brief stoppage of play on the field, as MLB officials realized that the umpires and managers were without the replay videos that are now an integral part of the game.

Yet statistics aside, in critically important ways the Series was as lopsided as the final tally of games suggests. Through five games the Royals cemented their reputation, forged during their improbable run through the 2014 playoffs, as a team that does not quit. After all the Mets were two outs from drawing first blood in Game 1, five outs from victory in Game 4, and two outs from staying alive in Game 5, but lost all three. It was a Series of which it can be said in equal measure the Royals won and the Mets lost.

Kansas City had the single best pitching performance of the Series, from the unlikely personage of Cueto. The Royals had more timely hitting from beginning to end. They also had heads up base running, epitomized by Eric Hosmer, who is not exactly fleet of foot. Hosmer scored the tying run in the top of the 9th of Game 5 by racing home from third on a ground out by Salvador Perez. The grounder pulled Mets third baseman David Wright to his left, leaving Hosmer unguarded. Wright tried to look Hosmer back to the bag, but it was a futile gesture with no New York player near the base. Hosmer took off for home as Wright took a couple of steps before unloading his throw to first, and was easily safe when Lucas Duda’s hurried throw home sailed wide of catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

On the opposite side of the ledger the Mets committed six errors, including two costly ones in Games 4 and 5 by second baseman Daniel Murphy. New York’s Terry Collins also made what was arguably the biggest managerial blunder of the Series when he allowed a gassed Matt Harvey to talk him out of going to the bullpen after the 8th inning of Game 5, with the Mets leading 2-0.

This World Series lasted five games, but perhaps the die was cast right from the first. In Game 1 in Kansas City, Alcides Escobar led off the home half of the first frame for the Royals. The first pitch from Harvey was a 95 mph 4-seamer. Escobar drove it to center, and by the time Yoenis Cespedes finished playing soccer with it Escobar had scored standing up with an inside the park home run. That was probably not the beginning that Mets fans had imagined. A few hours later, with New York on the verge of victory, Alex Gordon smashed a 97 mph sinker from Familia over the wall in deepest center field to tie the game at four. With two quick swings the Royals, who came ever so close one year ago, made plain their determination to go all the way this year. Kansas City batters didn’t hit another ball out of the park for the rest of the Series. In the end, to become champions of the Great Game they didn’t have to.

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Responses

  1. This is by far the best analysis I’ve yet read of this World Series. Any writer would be proud to have written it, and should be jealous that they did not.
    Fine work, Mike
    Bill

    • Extraordinarily generous words Bill, thank you so much! As a fan without a particular rooting interest I found this Series, with all its late inning twists, very exciting to watch. Of course I’m sure if I’d been watching while wearing either a KC or NY cap, I would have found it considerably more stomach-churning. Fans of both teams should be very happy and proud that they were the last two standing.

      What do you make of the Mets extending a qualifying offer to Murphy?

      Thanks again,

      M-

      http://www.onsportsandlife.com

      Michael Cornelius

      603.498.5527

      • Hi Mike,
        By extending a qualifying offer to Murphy, I think they are counting on him rejecting it so that they can then get a high draft pick as compensation. I think that’s their best move, and I think his best move is to reject it and test the free agent market. In a way, it’s a win-win for both teams. He should still get a nice contract from some team, and the Mets get a pick. Worst case scenario, he accepts the offer, becomes even more popular with the New York fans as a result, and puts up his usual very decent offensive numbers. This may be one of those unique instances where there is no unhappy ending.
        Thanks,
        Bill


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