30 Years In The Making: The Royals Win The World Series

The Kansas City Royals are young, aggressive and they come from behind. All those virtues were captured by the defining play of Sunday night’s Game 5 in the World Series when Eric Hosmer scored the tying run in the ninth inning on a play that almost no one else in baseball would have tried.

1985 MLB season

Hosmer was on third with one out in a 2-1 game. Salvador Perez got his bat sawed off and hit a weak groundball to the drawn-in Mets third baseman David Wright. After doing the obligatory looking back of Hosmer, Wright threw to first. Hosmer took off. New York first baseman Lucas Duda, fired home and the ball was wide. Tie game. For all intents and purposes, this World Series was over and the ominous silence that settled over New York’s Citi Field until KC’s final five-run outburst in the 12th inning spoke volumes.

This was a high-risk play by Hosmer. Wright did everything as he should have, taking nothing for granted and looking back Hosmer back until he had to throw the ball to get the out. A good throw by Duda would have gotten Hosmer at the plate. But to a certain extent, that’s why it was such a smart play.

If Hosmer does nothing, there’s two outs. Even allowing that it only takes a good throw—not a great throw—by Duda, doesn’t it make more sense to force the first baseman to make a rapid transfer and throw under pressure, than to gamble that Alex Gordon—batting .222 for the Series—would get a hit with the pressure now off the Mets infield that would play at normal depth?

I’ve occasionally wondered why runners are so conservative on the bases in these situations and I’ll wonder even more after Sunday night.

One thing I won’t wonder about is why New York manager Terry Collins stuck with starter Matt Harvey in the ninth inning, allowing the pitcher to talk his way back on the mound with a 2-0 lead. Collins managed the ninth inning as he should have. Prior to the inning, I was thinking that I’d give Harvey two hitters—the tying and lead runs—to try and keep his up-to-then magical night going.

Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain and gave up a double to Hosmer, but given that closer Jeurys Familia had been hit by KC in his two previous save situations, I believe you had to give Harvey every chance to close the complete game.

Having said that…Familia gets a tough place in history with his third blown save last night, the first in World Series history. He entered the game with the tying run on second and got three straight harmless outs, with only Hosmer’s baserunning daring tying the game. I understand you still have to count it as a blown save—because the opportunity for a save did exist—but it’s hard for me to think of anything as truly being “blown” when the tying run was already in scoring position with nobody out.

How about a rule that says if the closer enters into a situation where a game can be tied without a hit, it’s not a blown save? It’s just “Missed Save Opportunity (MSO)”. Because what we need in baseball is another stat.

Perez got the Series MVP. I was initially surprised at the vote, thinking that it would go to third baseman Mike Moustakas, who had a number of key hits. Or maybe Wade Davis, the closer who pitched so well. But upon further review, Perez was the right choice. Moustakas had seven hits, but they were all singles. Perez had the best overall stats of any KC regular and while Davis was good, he only saved one game. This is a classic case of a true team effort, reminding me of the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies, when several players had a claim. But Perez was the best choice.

I’ve made no secret of my distaste for this particular edition of the Kansas City Royals, with a lot of trash-talkers that could use a lesson in class. But there are some individuals that I am genuinely happy for. Perez leads the list. A low-key hardworking player and one of the toughest guys in baseball, for the battering he takes behind the plate, Perez played Game 7 of last year’s World Series seriously injured on his leg and made the final out. I’m happy for him.

I’m happy for Alex Gordon, who came to the majors in 2006 as a third baseman with impossibly high expectations—to be the next George Brett. Gordon struggled under the burden, shifted to left field and through persistence, finally found his way. He might not be the next Brett, he’s pretty good. And speaking of Brett, I’m happy for the Hall Of Fame legend, who stayed with the Royals his entire career and is always seen in the stands or press box with the team today, even through the countless lean years.

I picked against the Royals in both the ALCS and World Series, so they made a believer out of me. Fortunately, my other picks in the seven full series of the MLB postseason worked out better. If you wagered in $100 increments on these selections (which I didn’t, this is just for fun), you would have turned a profit of $205. Successfully hitting the Mets as underdogs against both the Dodgers and Cubs made the difference.

And while I didn’t pick KC at money time, this result vindicates something I was saying all last October to skeptical baseball-fan friends. That the Royals of 2014 were not some Cinderella story. They were a young, talented team that was making a name for itself and was going to be back for many Octobers to come. They still will be. So will the Mets, along with the Astros and Cubs and other young teams that made their mark in this postseason. There are some exciting years ahead for major league baseball, especially in Kansas City.