Welcome to the World Series edition to this column. Before we get to prognosticating on who will prevail between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets, let’s dispense with a little mythology. For those of you who chafe at the fact that this event has never featured a team outside of North America yet is called the World Series, here’s an explanation for the name.
More than likely, it wasn’t about chest-thumping American patriotism. Instead, it was probably meant to be aspirational. In 1890, famous baseball magnate A.G. Spalding called for an annual championship event for his beloved sport. He had grandiose dreams that such an event would truly include the world. His annual publication, Spalding’s Base Ball Guide, wrote: “The base ball championship of the United States necessarily incudes that of the entire world, though the time will come when Australia will step in as a rival, and after that country will come Great Britain …” Sadly, reality never lived up to his dreams, but that desire probably had something to do with the name that was later applied to baseball biggest spectacle. (For those who think the World Series was named after a sponsoring newspaper called the New York World, alas, that’s not the case).
With the history lesson over, let’s go to baseball’s week 30 (week four of the post-season):
Who is going to win it all?
This looks like an evenly balanced series on paper. The Royals have experience and chemistry. The Mets have an advantage in the starting pitching department – especially if Kansas City starter Johnny Cueto continues to be erratic.
That said, I’m picking the Kansas City Royals to win the World Series.
My reasoning is as follows…
First, I like that the Royals dealt with more pressure in their League Championship Series. It took them six games to dispatch the Toronto Blue Jays, while the Mets eased into the World Series with a four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs. Recent history has favoured clubs who have handled more adversity in their playoff clash preceding the World Series. While there have been many instances in the 2000s in which both World Series clubs played the same number of contests in the league championship round, in those situations where one team had to play more games, they’ve typically gone on to win it all. Teams which played a greater number of contests in the league championship round before booking their place in the World Series have won six out of eight World Series titles since 2000.
Second, the fact that the Royals were at this final dance last year – and lost – should give them a leg up. Three of the last four teams that lost a World Series and then came back again the following year won in their second-chance opportunity. Considering the Mets only potentially have a single player who has ever won a World Series (it’s Juan Uribe and, at the time of writing, he was questionable for the event due to injury), means New York is particularly ill-equipped for the media scrum and the emotional rollercoaster that is the World Series.
Third, the Royals have home-field advantage thanks to the American League’s triumph in the All-Star Game (the circuit that wins that midsummer event gives their World Series representative the potential of four games at their ballpark in the best-of-seven World Series). For Kansas City, that advantage is huge. So far this post-season the Royals have won five out of six games at Kauffman Stadium. If you include last year, Kansas City has prevailed in 13 of its last 16 playoff contests at home. It’s important to note, this isn’t a post-season anomaly as Kansas City went 51-30 in their ballpark during the regular season (which was third-best in the AL).
Fourth, I’m not convinced Daniel Murphy will continue his magical run. He has been magnificent with a .421 batting average and seven home runs in 38 playoff at bats. But you have to remember that Murphy hit only 14 homers in 538 at bats. Past performance doesn’t indicate that Murphy can continue carrying his club’s offensive load. With their biggest hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, carrying injury, he is likely to be less than optimal. Unless someone else dominates at the plate, I believe the Royals have more depth in their lineup to succeed.
Bottom line: If the Mets win, it’ll be because their superior starting pitching dominates. But short of that, Kansas City will be hoisting their first World Series trophy since 1985.