In many cases, succession or ascendancy is pretty easy to spot. It may be a boring process, and sometimes there’s a lot of tension in the rise to power, but it’s pretty obvious to all what’s happening.
Sometimes, though, the rise to the top is as sudden as a coup at 0300 hours. And most people don’t see it coming until the new leader is on the throne (usually just because it happens at 0300).
Regardless of how the World Series ends, we’re seeing that coup in broad daylight thanks to the Kansas City Royals.
Not guaranteed a playoff spot until the third to last game of the regular season and scrambling to dig themselves out of a hole and win in heart-shocking fashion in the Wild Card game against Oakland, the Royals have used a combination of pitching, defense and timely hitting — not to mention an approach that went out of style some 25 years ago — to advance to the Fall Classic and captivate baseball fans everywhere.
So what if the Royals were playoff virgins or half the team (or whatever the figure is) wasn’t even alive the last time the Royals won the World Series? So what if they were last in both walks and home runs? So what if the manager made some, um, head-scratching decisions that at certain points of the season jeopardized a playoff push?
And so what if they had to go through the American League team with the best record (the stupidly-long-winded Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and the team with the biggest power numbers (the Baltimore Orioles) to cement their place in baseball history?
Would you have scripted the Kansas City playoff story the way it has unfolded? Did you have Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas playing vital roles on offense when the team needed it most? Lorenzo Cain batting over .500 in the series? Did you write in the defense making statement play after statement play?
And would you have every Ned Yost move shining like gold?
That’s what happened.
This playoff ride has been an inexplicable meld of factors, but in my mind the two things that stand out are revival and exorcism.The All-Star Game two years ago showed the baseball world Kansas City was a dormant, not dead baseball town. In effect, it was a dry torch waiting for a light. Watching the Royals not only find the match with the 2014 playoff appearance but share those moments with a starved fan base has fanned that flame with the force of Santa Ana winds.
The exorcisms taking place during this inconceivable run go well beyond the 29-year playoff exodus:
The defense of Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Nori Aoki all offset one of the plays capturing how far this franchise had fallen, the Terrence Long-Chip Ambres stare-at-each-other-and-jog-into-the-dugout-while-a-fly-ball-falls-behind-you-by-15-feet back in 2005, while the leather flashed by Moustakas makes up for Ken Harvey’s portfolio of misadventures on the other side of the diamond.
Yost’s postseason success provides the comfort after Tony Muser learning of his firing from a reporter, Tony Pena dancing in the shower, Buddy Bell’s infamous “never say it can’t get worse” statement and Trey Hillman nuking Gil Meche’s career.
Raising the American League trophy erases decisions on Dan Reichert (a potential bullpen stud if ever given the chance), the revolving door of managers, Jose Guillen, Neifi Perez and Eduardo Villacis. And others. Well, maybe erase is too strong a word. But it sure helps to repress those memories.
And now, after 29 years losing and now finding their way, the Royals are back in the palace. The way things are going, they may well claim the throne. It’s the only end to the season that’s fitting.
Let’s go Royals.