Back-To-Back Pennants For The Royals

How hard is it to reach the World Series in back-to-back years? The folks in Kansas City who were around during this franchise’s other glory period know all too well. In the decade from 1976-85, the Royals won six division titles, two pennants and a World Series—but they never went to the Fall Classic back-to-back. The most successful teams of the 21st century—the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox—haven’t won successive pennants.

Kansas City, like Texas in 2010-11, whether they win or lose the Fall Classic, achieved something special last night in a 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays that gave this postseason its best moment to date.

Let’s start with the umpiring. Toronto is not going to be happy today and they’ve got just cause. The most visible play was Mike Moustakas’ solo home run in the second in which the umpires reviewed whether a fan had put his glove over the rail. The play was ruled a home run on the field and New York let the call stand.

I would have overturned it and put Moustakas at second, where he likely doesn’t score (at least as the rest of inning played out). The interference wasn’t blatant, and even after several replies, I see the argument for letting the call stand. But to me, fan interference is so egregious (how hard is to keep your glove behind the fence?) that the benefit of the doubt must go to the outfielder.

At the very least, the kid (who was 19 years old and not a 13-year-old like Jeffrey Maier in 1996) had his glove further out than he would admit to Erin Andrews who, bless her heart, conducted about the most softball interview you possibly could when she went out to ask him where the glove was. I like Joe Buck’s response in the booth, that he was going to send a lawyer down there for some cross-examination.

In the ninth inning, when the Blue Jays had runners on first and third and one out, trying to tie the game, Ben Revere clearly didn’t a called strike on a 2-1 pitch. Just as clearly, Revere was right. The pitch was high and outside and it changed the at-bat, setting up the strikeout which enabled the Royals to escape. The missed ball and strike call gets worse when you consider that, in the bottom of the eighth, a 2-2 pitch to Lorenzo Cain that was clearly much better was called a ball. Cain scored the winning run.

Cain’s “Mad Dash”, as analyst Tom Verducci, where he scored from first on a single was the decisive play. Verducci attempted to compare this to some of the great baserunning plays of all time, such as Enos Slaughter doing the same thing to win the 1946 World Series for St. Louis. It was a good aggressive play, but let’s not overdo it.

The single, by Eric Hosmer, was far from routine. He pulled it down the line, where it looked like it would be a double. As soon as it left the bat, knowing Cain’s speed I immediately thought “he’s going to score.” Give Cain full credit for running hard off the bat and not looking back at the ball and instead straight ahead at his third base coach—a fundamental mostly lost in today’s game—but I need time to digest this play and see if it’s really one of the great baserunning displays of all-time.

I’ve never been a fan of this particular group of Kansas City players—it seems like there’s a lot of jock arrogance on the field. But I was rooting for them in this ALCS, feeling the same way about the Toronto cast and figuring that the Royals fans are at least more knowledgeable about baseball than the Blue Jay fans, who roared on routine fly balls.

And what’s more, I always like seeing the shots of George Brett watching the team. The Hall Of Fame third baseman was the best overall hitter of my youth in the 1980s and there’s a soft spot in my heart when I see him backing the organization he gave his career to so enthusiastically.

So congratulations to Brett, congratulations to the Royals fans…but come Tuesday night, Let’s Go Mets!