What will be finished first—the World Series or that bag of Halloween treats? Here’s hoping for decent weather as we brace ourselves for the gusty chill of New York versus Kansas City in the 21st consecutive championship of major league baseball since the last cancellation.
These are two very interesting and good teams. I could feel like a cagey prognosticator for calling the Royals the best team in the American League back in April except for the fact that I was ready to abandon that assessment midway through September. Toronto was red hot and the Royals, while in comfortable possession of the lead in the Central Division, seemed to be leaking oil. What had made the Royals look so formidable in the Spring was their solid defense, great team speed and base running ability, adequate starting pitchers and those almost flawless relief pitchers. They had lost Nori Aoki but gained Alex Rios. They had lost Billy Butler but gained Kendrys Morales. Then, to make them appear complete, in mid season they accepted the gift of Ben Zobrist from Billy Beane and the Athletics and the probable clincher, Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati. Omar Infante had seemed to lose a step both at bat and in the field at second base, so Zobrist solved that problem more than adequately while also providing backup relief for the outfielders, particularly the ailing Alex Gordon. Cueto would join Edinson Volquez to replace the departed James Shields as a reliable big game pitcher. It was all just about perfect, except that Cueto and Volquez were not being so reliable down the stretch and one of the feared relievers, Greg Holland, was lost for the season with injury. So how sharp were the Royals going to be come playoff time? Well, quite sharp enough as we have now seen.
The Blue Jays did not suddenly become losers, but the loss of lefty reliever Brett Cecil showed a relative lack of depth on their staff, David Price was human and, after Marcus Stroman, the hurlers were mediocre at best. Many good things were shown to the viewers of the ALCS, including the outstanding play of Ryan Goins at second base and the awesome power of Jose Bautista. This is a very good team that unfortunately plays in a bad yard that seems to make players prone to injury (ban artificial turf before it’s too late, along with maple bats!) and is too easy to hit home runs in at the same time.
What about those damned Cubs ruining everything? First, they eliminate the Pirates, who had won 98 games, just because they had a pitcher who had apparently sold his soul to the devil just to win 22 games. Then they knock off the Cardinals, who had won 100 games, just because St. Louis, who had been shelled with machine gun fire and mortars all season long, finally succumbed after one of the most valiant efforts of all time. So the National League pennant has to go to the Central Division, right, even if it’s the team that finished THIRD in that division? Wrong! Why? Well, the Cubs were severely diminished by the loss to injury of brilliant shortstop Addison Russell, but the fact of the matter is that they ran into a team that got very hot at just the right time. That would be the Mets, a team that I definitely wrote off early in the season that really took off after acquiring Yoenis Cespedes from the suddenly inept Detroit Tigers. It was another player who must have sold his soul to the devil, Daniel Murphy, who was largely responsible for the NLCS success, however, but it certainly helps to bat in front of the powerful Cubano. I mean here is a career journeyman infielder who doesn’t field very well, hits pretty well but with only occasional power, and runs well and can steal a base. Suddenly, he was better than Carlos Beltran and Reggie Jackson in their youth. Baseball:that’s why we love it
MEDIA REPORT: The bad thing about the NLCS being over is that now we’re stuck with Fox. This is the empire that demonstrates equal opportunity in hiring to criminals, a perhaps admirable quality that now brings us Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez at the same sad table. The coverage by TBS was far better, although everyone producing live sports now seems to feel like we’d rather hear players, coaches, and managers talk in trite bland terms (Joe Maddon the welcome exception) about the action than see the actual game. The post game who’s your daddy, cigar, and wine thing was embarrassing, though. Perhaps the lowlight of the ALCS was the interview of the young man who caught the reviewed homer by Moustakas. I will offer a free tofu sandwich to whoever can forward me a tape of Joe “ADD” Buck completing a coherent sentence.