Monday, October 20, 2014

World Series Preview - The Wildest Cards in The Deck

And then there were two. After what always seems like it takes a full calendar year to complete the regular season came to a close, giving way to a post season that was one of the best and most surprising fans have ever been treated to. The clubs with the best record were both eliminated in their first series by teams that didn’t even with their division. The clubs with the highest payroll didn’t make it out the Divisional round, if the playoffs were determined by marketing dollars then the Dodgers and Tigers with rosters fill of Cy Young award winners, MVP’s, and Gatorade spokespersons should be throwing out the first pitch on Tuesday, but that’s not how it works. What did hold true was that the teams that were playing the best baseball are still playing and everyone else is home for the Holidays. The Royals and Giants needed all 162 games just to make it into the playoffs so it seems they’ve been playing playoff games for two months now, and therein could be the key, if you go in cold you get carried out cold, and conversely regardless of rest if you come in battle tested, you’ll last much longer. Regardless of what you might think the formula is and despite what it might look like on paper the two best clubs are the ones we have left standing, and they both needed to win a play-in game. The Giants got out of the blocks like they finished the season, playing their brand of baseball and simply just winning games. They burst out to a nine game lead on the Dodgers and looked like they were going to run away with the division. Then they hit a lull that culminated in the Dodgers coming up to A T & T Park in late July and sweeping their way back into contention. LA would eventually take over first, lead by 6 games down the stretch and hold off the Giants by winning 7 of their last 9 meetings. However once they got in, they’ve looked worthy to represent the National League going 8-2 against the League’s best. Meanwhile the plight of the Kansas City Royals was very similar. The Royals got out of the box fast including a 13-3 streak in June where they took control of the division but tough stretch in the second half of the season particularly against the division leaders Detroit who seemed to own them, put them in danger of missing the playoffs all together and fighting for that final playoff spot. But they got it an now they’re 4 wins away from the pinnacle it took them 29 years to get back to. KC has defied everything we thought we knew about baseball as we watched a club with a .549 winning percentage win 8 consecutive playoff games, sweep the team with the best record in baseball, win four extra-inning games (new record), and 4 one-run games. So the Series opens in Kansas City as they try to keep the win streak alive which got all kinds of things going through my head. Could you imagine if they manage to keep this streak going? What if they win 4 straight? This team goes down in the books as the greatest ever? Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinal teams of the past and this Royals clubs gets top billing over all of them? Or what about the Giants? In the first four games of the series they’ll send out pitchers where 3 of the 4 in their rotation have winning percentages of .538, .692, and .615 respectively. I look at this and ask how did they get this far? I mean, we’re all aware of the “every other year” phenomenon, and it make for great fodder but really?? In the end I don’t know if the Royals can keep it going and finish the post season with the most wins in MLB history, or if the Giants can win in another even numbered year, but I do know that I’ve seen every game of the playoffs thus far and these clubs, as unsexy as they may be, play the game the right way and it works for them. If they get a runner on first the either bunt or steal him into scoring position and then they get a timely base hit or move the runner over and get a sac fly. A walk is sometimes as good as a run with them. Defensively the Royals have been the best we’ve seen in years, quashing rallies with leather and breaking teams spirit in the process. A guy like Pablo Sandoval goes AWOL for 6 months, benched at one point during the season for lack of production, and suddenly is playing like the guy that took home a World Series MVP. And they did all of this with Angel Pagan, arguably their most consistent player in the lineup. We can all make strong arguments how one of the clubs watching from their living has more justification to be running out on the field on Tuesday but they would all be wrong. This is the World Series, and you don’t get this far without being the best in the world, and say what you will, the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals have proven that they are just that. Enjoy. View the complete World Series preview with highlights, stats, predictions, and more here.

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