They redefined and reinforced what team baseball is supposed to be for a new generation, and they are World Champions because of it. The Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets 7-2 in 12 innings on Sunday night in trademark fashion to win the 111th World Series four games to one for their second championship and first in 30 years.
The Royals had much success from 1976-1985, but then became victims in baseball’s arms race as bigger market clubs began to dominate smaller market clubs both on the field and off the field. It was these economic disparities that were at the heart of the infamous 1994 strike which canceled the postseason. In the end, the strike accomplished nothing more than to alienate the public—and somewhere raise awareness to these issues at the heart of baseball. Time has proven out, however, that if a club is run by the right people with the right ideas, they can and do succeed regardless of market size.
Today baseball’s economic playing field is still unbalanced, but organizations like the Royals have proven a smart front office can still build a champion. General Manager Dayton Moore has certainly done that in Kansas City. But this team has qualities you cannot put a price on or buy in any way. Field manager Ned Yost has calmly guided the ship. The Royals lost in 2014 in seven games, primarily by one hot pitcher in the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner. But overall they showed the better team. In 2015, they proved it for all.
Yet in Spring Training, Kansas City was being ignored. Vegas odds had them over/under at only 71.5 wins, and they eventually won 95. But those that truly knew baseball understood the club they had coming back, and it was no surprise when they won their first seven games of the season. They were the best team in the American League virtually all season, an inevitable slump coupled with hot play from Toronto briefly dropping them to second best. But a five game winning streak at the end got them home-field advantage, something that came in handy in beating back the Blue Jays to win the pennant.
But there are so many intangibles that led to the Royals’ crowning. This is a team that never quits, never gets down, and never stops. Watching this team these past two years constantly reminded me of the way Vanderbilt plays the game under Tim Corbin, and it has been a joy to see. No one is ever too proud to do anything that needs done. It is a true team in every sense, and there are no real weaknesses. The Mets had more star power, but there was never any situation they had the upper hand—as the Royals have one more trait, they are fearless.
This was embodied by their use of the motivation from the pain of last year’s defeat. They would not be denied. In the Division Series they were six outs from elimination in ‘game four’ in Houston. They scored seven in the eighth to win 9-6. Overall, in 16 postseason games, Kansas City outscored their opponents 51-11 from the 7th inning on—spurring eight come-from-behind victories out of 11, three in the World Series.
The Royals face many questions in the offseason with nine players from the World Series roster at contract decisions. One thing is for certain though, the Royals are well prepared, will persevere, and make the correct choices. As of Friday, it is 104 days until pitchers and catchers report.