Despite the complaints of a super-long season and continual declines in TV ratings compared to professional football, the health of America’s favorite pastime definitely continues to move up several notches with its playoff season. There’s nothing quite like the baseball playoffs, even if half of the local bars/eateries don’t air them. They don’t know what they are missing.
The baseball playoffs offer a fair test, but don’t overdue things like they do with pro basketball and hockey. And at the same time, they avoid the luck of one-game eliminations associated with the NFL. They offer the best of all worlds when it comes to competitive playoffs with a fair playing field and some unexpected drama. As television analyst Pete Rose noted, the final inning of the last American League Championship game between the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays proved why this is still America’s greatest pastime.
And now we are headed for a final and classic World Series bout between the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals, two 1960s-era expansion teams that are both hungry for a world championship. The excitement begins this evening (Oct 27) so lobby your favorite bar/eatery to display these bouts at a prime television viewing area.
The last time the Royals won was in 1985, while the Mets emerged as world champs in 1986 in the unforgettable duel with the Boston Red Sox. (That was the Series that added legacy to the infamous curse against the Sox). The Mets/Royals should be a great match-up. I am rooting for the Mets, but fear the Royals will end up as the ultimate victor. They displayed their experience card quite well, in their surprising upset against the Toronto Blue Jays, which probably fielded the best overall team.
The Mets, unfortunately, are fighting against history and even the old jinx of the Colorado Rockies. Hardly any team in recent history has swept its opponent in the division championship, endured a long wait, and then prevailed in the World Series. In fact, five of the last six teams with a five-day or more layoff, following a NL or Al championship bout, went on to lose the Series.
The most memorable layoff-disaster teams were the Detroit Tigers, and of course the Rockies. In 2007, the Rockies couldn’t lose if they tried, winning something like 22 out of 23 games in September and October, sweeping every playoff team in sight, until they confronted the ugly Red Sox. Then, when the Series started, the Rocks thought they had become a Woodland Park little league squad. I will never forget the very first pitch hurled by then Rocks ace Jeff Francis in the opener, resulting in a home run at Fenway Park. Needless to say, that was a bad omen and a sign of an ultimate sweep by the Red Sox.
However, Mets Manager Terry Collins isn’t worried about these statistics, viewing the layoff, following their rout of the Chicago Cubs, as a good period to rest his stellar pitchers.
And of course, these statistics don’t take into account such Mets characters as Daniel Murphy or David Wright, who have entered the baseball championship scene with a chip on their shoulder. Murphy, who is batting .421 in the playoffs, has already set a record for hitting a home run in every championship game so far. He is definitely in the Zone. Wright, meanwhile, does everything right. He always served as a menace for the Colorado Rockies, when they played at Coors Field.
Quite frankly, It will be hard to vote against the Mets in this final showdown. I mean a vote against the Mets is a tally against the scenic or un-scenic New Jersey beaches, rock star Bruce Springsteen, the heart of New York City and Hurricane Sandy victims, and best of all, their colorful fans. I take pride in the fact that I am the first journalist from The Mountain Jackpot to get evicted from the press box at Coors due to the enthusiastic antics of another Mets fan: My wife Maureen.
Hopefully, presidential candidates Donald Trump or Chris Christi, who both have strong roots in the New Jersey and New York City area, won’t show up at any of these games to spoil the fun.
For the Mets, they feature amazing pitching, with the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, and sport some timely home runs. But in the World Series, these timely home runs may be kept to a minimum, which is why I’m afraid the Midwest heartland team will win in the end
I originally put my money on the Toronto Blue Jays, mainly due to the addition of Troy Tulowitzki (Tulo), in the trade with the Rockies. (Why the Rockies did this trade, I will never know.) But I don’t know if it was playoff nervousness or what, the Jays were downright flat. The only Al championship game they displayed a rebounding sense of life was in fifth game, when they pulled an impressive comeback.
The Royals are boringly consistent hitters, carding one of the lowest strike-out rates in the game, and are great base stealers. The antics of Lorenzo Cain in scoring the winning run in the sixth and pivotal game in the AL Championship series was a sight to behold. He streaked all the way from first base to home plate on a mere single, and should have clearly been thrown out. Then, there are the intimidating relievers of the Royals, with the likes of Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar and Kevin Herrera.
So, as much as I hate to admit these facts, the heartland team will probably prevail. I hope I am wrong, just for the sake of the amazing Mets fans that would probably would still utter “Let’s Go Mets,” while they are getting mugged in New York City, or have to listen to stupid comments from Donald Trump.