We talk a good bit about sample sizes when analyzing baseball. A hitter's hot streak, or a great run by a starter with no track record of dominance, these things are looked at with extremely skeptical eyes during the season. And then the postseason arrives, and suddenly small moments, pivotal at-bats all take on enormous significance as the machine of ultimate narrative kicks into a frenzy. Thin-slices of baseball under the microscope of games of this magnitude fill us with wonder or horror. Yet the 2015 World Series held no David Freese-like freakshows.
The Royals claimed their first World Series title in 30 years, by doing exactly what one might expect. They played focused, aggressive baseball with not a single clear weakness in evidence. At no point did they appear to give up on a single play, let alone a full game. They brought a full head of steam, and the Mets were a shiny new machine with a fatal crack in its joinery. While it sometimes takes a long time for a weakness to be revealed, the pressure of this deep, well-balanced Royals team didn't take much time at all to expose the Mets' defensively.
It started on the very first swing they took in Game One, as a deep flyball off the bat of Alcides Escobar was misplayed by Yoenis Cespedes into an inside-the-park home run. We saw aging, oft-injured Mets' captain, David Wright boot the ball. We saw playoff hero Daniel Murphy blow several routine plays, twice in crucial situations. Still, the Mets were hanging in there behind a brilliant pitching performance by their ace, Matt Harvey. Battered, but not yet broken, they looked to have Game 5 within their grasp with a 2-0 lead. And then it all came unraveled.
With Eric Hosmer on third after driving in Lorenzo Cain from second, Mets closer Jeurys Familia came on for Harvey to escape the jam. He got Salvador Perez on a weak chopper to third. And then the Mets infield did it again. Hosmer broke for home and shocked first baseman Lucas Duda uncorked a throw that will live in infamy. The ball itself came nowhere close to catcher Travis D'Arnaud and for all we know left the stadium and hurried home ahead of traffic. There was no saving the Mets from their fate after a debacle like that. A bit of near madness on Hosmer's part that should've salted the game away for the Mets and breathed new life into their chances was instead a dagger right through their heart.
If you thought the Mets were going to pull that game out after that play, well, you're probably not too familiar with these dang Royals.
Relentless pressure is what this Royals team should be remembered for. They came so close to winning it all in 2014, and came out this year vowing to go out on their shield with the same aggressive, high-pressure style. In the biggest moments they never failed to execute, and never stopped forcing the Mets to answer. While the Mets' vaunted young rotation did their part, they were never quite able to shut Kansas City down entirely. Meanwhile the Mets' offense, which had been rolling crashed to a halt as a banged up Yoenis Cespedes became a non-factor, and playoff hero Daniel Murphy turned back into...well, Daniel Murphy.
It's one thing to talk about playing the game the Royals' way. Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus has vowed for two seasons to get his team running the bases aggressively. Pressing the opposition. Relentlessly putting the ball in play. Taking the extra base. Doing it intelligently is another matter. To push on through the inevitable screw-ups, and allow a team to test their boundaries, and those of their opponents, day after day, all the way through the season and then the most crucial moments of a World Series game?
Now that takes guts, heart and a willingness to blow it occasionally. There's no other way to get that experience than by doing it. Then there's the final key ingredient. Having the trust of your teammates and a common belief that you can overcome those mistakes. When you believe like that, whatever comes, you can play fearless baseball.
While I wasn't rooting for the Royals, it's impossible not to be impressed with them. Like the Terminator of baseball teams, they're just never dead in a game until the final out is recorded. The prevailing narrative was that the Mets starters had to allow their offense to build a lead to keep Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis in the bullpen. Coming back against the Royals is a tough task. But for the Royals, even against a pretty solid Mets' bullpen, coming back is expected. Against a different team, that might not have happened. But for once, a World Series played out quite clearly on the basis of how one team's strength was perfectly suited to break down their opponent's weakness.
Congrats Royals, if this is the end of your run, (I'm not too sure that it is), you didn't waste the opportunity.
2015 World Series Game 5 results: Royals capture first title in 30 years - Eric Stephen, SBNation.com
The Kansas City Royals came back for the third time in five games, rallying for a 7-2 win over the New York Mets in 12 innings in Game 5, capturing the World Series four games to one, the first championship for the Royals since 1985.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez wins 2015 World Series MVP - Eric Stephen, SBNation.com
Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit .364 to capture 2015 World Series MVP honors in the Kansas City Royals' five-game win over the New York Mets.
'Cost effectiveness' likely to help keep Nick Castellanos at third base for Detroit Tigers | Chris Iott, MLive.com
Al Avila weighs in here on the value of a low cost third baseman with a lot of upside at the plate. While Castellanos has yet to live up to advance billing, there are good reasons to stick with him.
Top 25 signs you're a die-hard Tigers fan - Brian Manzullo, Detroit Free Press
The "you may be a Tiger fan if..." of lists.
Daniel Murphy and the Costliest Errors in World Series History | August Fagerstrom, FanGraphs Baseball
Daniel Murphy spent most of this post-season looking like an October hero of epic proportions. And just like that, one bad play has him looking like the goat of the World Series. He's not alone.
Alex Rodriguez Is an October Surprise - The New York Times
After a fairly triumphant return from suspension and serious surgical procedures, A-Rod has taken on the broadcast commentary booth. While the competition there is a lot weaker than the A.L. East typically is, Rodriguez has actually been one of the more thoughtful commentators this post-season.
U.S. and Cuba in Trade Talks, for Ballplayers to Be Named Later - The New York Times
The Obama administration and Major League Baseball have been quietly working to create a system that would end the arduous journey Cuban baseball players have been forced to endure, and open up a huge untapped fan base and a deep well of talent.
While surgical procedures of all sort continue to be an expected part of a major league ballplayers' life, the use of performance enhancing substances to rehab injury remains anathema. Is that fair? Ryan Madson doesn't think so.
Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda: What can we expect? - Scott Mowers, Minor League Ball
Japanese players can be posted by their clubs this week.Will NPB's most decorated pitcher finally be posted by his parent club, and what can we expect from Kenta Maeda if he makes a move stateside?