There’s two ways to look at it.
The Kansas City Royals are the American League’s version of the San Francisco Giants. Or maybe the Giants are the National League’s version of the Royals.
Either way, it will be like looking in a mirror Tuesday when the World Series starts at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals will be the sentimental favorite. They haven’t been to the World Series since 1985 and played nothing but tense, down-to-the-wire playoff games in winning eight straight when you add in the wild-card game. They have caught the nation’s imagination, and players like Lorenzo Cain and the three-headed bullpen monster of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland are becoming national stars right before our eyes.
The Giants are the old standby, having won Series titles in each of the last two even-numbered years. They are tried and true. But other than the lovable “Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval, they’re as blue as blue collar can get.
The Royals needed the minimum four games to dispose of Baltimore even though none of the games were decided by more than two runs. The Giants permitted just one victory to St. Louis, though two of their four wins were of the walk-off variety.
I’m sure a lot of focus will be on the managers. There are many experts that say the Royals made the Series “inspite” of Ned Yost, whose quizzical late-season moves were washed away in the glow of their amazing run. San Fran’s Bruce Bochy just finished managing St. Louis’ Mike Metheny into a corner and is renowned as one of the great field generals of our era.
Both teams are more college than pro. There’s a lot of “rah rah” on both sides, as they are a collection of role players who have come together as one. There’s no superstar slugger on either side and runs will be manufactured. The Royals play a National League style and Yost having managed in the National League with Milwaukee will certainly be a plus. Hopefully he’ll do a better job than Metheny, who basically handed the NLCS over to the Giants Thursday night when he brought in a rusty Michael Wacha, who needed only three batters to lose the game.
Pitching, of course, will be the key. San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner is a horse, a true ace. James Shields is his opposite for Kansas City, though “Big Game James” really hasn’t been sharp for about six weeks and he’s been more reputation than production. He did win the clinching game against Los Angeles, but it’s easy to pitch when you’re given plenty of ammunition from your offense. Shields was able to relax and pitch to contact before turning the game over to the irrepressible bullpen.
The offenses are probably a push and Kansas City has the edge in defense. Playing in Frisco will be much like playing at The K as it’s a spacious outfield, but there’s a lot of nooks and crannies the Royals will have to adjust to, especially in right field. But if any outfielders can, it’s those KC flychasers.
It’s nice to see some new American League blood. San Francisco and St. Louis have been hogging the National League’s invitation to the Series the last five years and it would have been interesting to see somebody new.
Of course an I-70 Series would have been the ultimate, a chance for the Cardinals to avenge their ego-sapping performance of 1985. But they ran into a Giants team that has had their number and quite frankly the result was predictable.
We’ve got until Tuesday to exhale and for Royals fans to get their voices back. I just hope the Series can live up to the excitement the playoffs provided.