Month: October 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Friday Vid

“The Weekend” – Modern Baseball

I was conflicted about what to share this week. Should I throw a scary song out at you? It’s somewhat traditional that I post “Thriller” the week of Halloween. Or at least I’ve done that three times. On the other hand, should I go back to last year’s October theme and share something from 1985? But since I haven’t done that yet this month, would that be bad luck to suddenly harken back to the last time the Royals won the World Series?

I decided neither of those worked, so I just scrolled through my suggestions on YouTube and found this. There’s a baseball angle. It’s about the weekend. And, hopefully, there will be a lot of awkward partying by Royals fans sometime in the next three days.

Have safe Halloweens and Go Royals!

R’s: Six and the Pennant

Once again, I’m left wondering what to write about a baseball game.

How about this, for starters: Game Six of the ALCS was the craziest, most dramatic, and best baseball game I’ve ever watched my team play in. Keep in mind, I did not watch last year’s Wild Card game but rather listened to it. While we all know that game is the pinnacle in the history of the Kansas City Royals, Friday night’s pennant clinching win is right up there with it.[1]

Friday had almost everything. An early lead off an ace who has dominated the Royals over the years. A stellar defensive play by Mike Moustakas in the 5th that preserved the lead. An even better play by Ben Revere in the 7th that prevented the Royals from breaking the game open (although they still added a seemingly huge insurance run in the frame). A monumental managerial blunder by Ned Yost that opened the door for the Blue Jays. Jose Bautista taking full advantage of that opening with a two-run homer, his second blast of the night, to tie the game. A 45-minute rain delay in the middle of the 8th, during which I, and I think most Royals fans, sat and stewed over Yost’s decision and Ryan Madson’s meatball to Bautista. The Royals promptly scoring the go-ahead run after the game resumed on a as great a play as you will ever see. And then Wade Davis coming back, after an hour trying to keep his arm warm, putting a runner on third with no outs, adding a runner on second with one out, and somehow getting out of the mess without letting either runner come home to preserve the win.

Whew. So much went on. Both teams played wonderful baseball most of the night. There were no errors and half a dozen defensive gems. There was terrific pitching on both sides. There were three controversial calls, all of which went the Royals’ way. The topper, of course, was that the Royals clinched their second-straight American League championship in the process. They had come from 2–1 down against Houston, with six outs to their name in game four, down four runs, and won that series. Then they smacked around the team that smacked around the American League for the last ten weeks of the regular season. And despite questions and inconsistency amongst their starting pitchers, despite barely hitting through the first five innings of most games, they were the last team standing among the five that began the American League playoffs three weeks ago.

Another thing that makes it tough to write about that game is because so much great writing was done by professionals in the wee hours of Saturday morning. They all kind of blurred together as I read them, so I fear repeating what others have said. With that in mind, here’s a list of must-reads that you should check out if you have not already.

Posnanksi
Verducci
Passan
McCullough
Kilgore

Still, a few thoughts are in order from my perspective.

  • I was a little wound up Friday. Our neighbors were having a Halloween party that night, which began at 7:00 our time. I walked the girls over, hung out a little, but did very little socializing. At 7:45 I found an excuse to duck out and get all my game-watching gear together.
  • My thing this year has been chewing the hell out of sunflower seeds while watching games. My tongue may be developing a callus, which is kind of gross. Friday, even while taking a break during the rain delay, I nearly filled a large, red Dixie cup with my shells. Which is also kind of gross. I nearly had a disaster in the 9th when I set the cup down for a second and then tipped it over. Fortunately only a few seeds fell to the floor.
  • I watched the first 7+ innings on our upstairs TV so I could be close if the girls needed anything. They came in and went to bed just before the rain delay. While I figured it made the most sense to watch the rest of the game in the basement, you would be correct in wondering if I didn’t have serious misgivings about switching TVs in the middle of a game. Turned out it worked ok.
  • I was sure Salvador Perez got all of that pitch in the 7th and had put the Royals up 4–1 needing just six defensive outs to close the game. I was off of the couch, screaming at the TV, hands in the air. When Revere hauled it in, despite no one being in the room with me, I yelled, “He caught that?” That was such a great catch.
  • While talking about things that are great, I don’t know if enough can be said about Lorenzo Cain’s romp from first-to-home to score the winning run. There was so much wonderfulness wrapped up in that play. Eric Hosmer getting a pitch he could connect with and keep fair. Cain not running with the pitch then never slowing down. Third base coach Mike Jirschele’s perfect read and perfect decision to send Cain. Both Joe Buck and the Fox cameras being surprised that Cain was roaring through third. And the fact the play wasn’t even close at home. Hell, even with a perfect throw, Cain is probably still easily safe. Buck takes a lot of grief, but his description of that play was perfect: “That was breathtaking.” Even though it only won a pennant, that was a play for the ages.
  • I’m not a fan of little faith. I do consider myself a realist, though. I didn’t see any way Wade Davis could get out of the 9th without at least allowing the tying run to come home. I worried a simple base hit would score two and began stressing about Johnny Cueto handling the stress of starting Game Seven. But damn if Davis didn’t get it done. What a stressful 10 minutes or so, ending in absolute joy.
  • Regarding Yost’s decision to pitch Madson in the 8th, it epitomized old-school thinking. Yost said he was worried about losing Davis before the rain hit. Which I will allow is a legitimate concern. But the Blue Jays also hammer Madson, and the top of the lineup was batting. There isn’t a clearer example of when to use your closer in an inning other than the ninth. Even if Davis could not have come back, which he ended up having to do anyway, if he gets through the inning 1–2–3, or even allows a runner or two and then retires Encarnacion and/or Colabello too, then you can ask Madson or Luke Hochevar to get through the bottom of the lineup in the 9th with a two-run lead. Just a maddening decision that put the win in jeopardy. So of course it worked out. Ned has gotten better in a lot of ways over the past few years. But that was a classic #Yosted decision.
  • The game ended somewhere around midnight here in Indy. I watched all the network postgame stuff[2] Then I flipped over to Fox Sports KC and watched the local postgame coverage until well after 2:00. I had a couple more beers. I had a celebratory glass of whiskey. When I finally went upstairs, I found two kids sleeping on my side of the bed. Rather than try to transfer both of them in my slightly altered state, I just went and collapsed in the second bed in L’s room. Even then, I had trouble sleeping. I figure I got four hours of sleep, tops, and none of it uninterrupted. Saturday night I was wiped out. I went to bed right around 9:00 and slept until roughly 8:15 Sunday morning. That’s probably the longest I’ve slept in years without being sick.

And now the Royals are on to the World Series for the second-straight year. Which is amazing. All those years I just wanted the team to be competitive again, I never figured a World Series appearance would be a realistic expectation. And now two, in consecutive years? George Brett, Frank White, and Willie Wilson never did that. It’s just insane that this is happening again.

The Mets are frightening between their dominant starting pitching and their red hot bats. But the Royals are a fastball-hitting team, so they have a puncher’s chance at the plate. Hopefully the lengthy gap between Game Four of the NLCS and tomorrow’s Game One in KC will cool off the Mets’ bats. Hopefully Edinson Volquez can keep that velocity he found in the ALCS. Hopefully Yordano Ventura can find that perfect line between pitching angry and letting his emotions get the best of him. Hopefully Johnny Cueto can be closer to his Game Five ALDS appearance than his Game Three ALCS outing. Hopefully Chris Young can continue to dazzle and confound batters. Hopefully the bullpen remains stout. And hopefully the lineup continues to get big hits in big moments.

I don’t know if things can be more fun than they were Friday, but I’m looking forward to one more series before baseball goes away until spring.


  1. Greatest games in Royals history: Wild Card game, Friday, Game Six of the ’85 World Series, Game Three of the ’85 ALCS, Game Three of the ’80 ALCS, Pine Tar game. That’s done quickly with minimal thought.  ↩
  2. I used to be an Erin Andrews fan. When she was ESPN’s prime college basketball sideline reporter, she seemed to do her homework and ask solid questions. But she’s kind of a mess on baseball. Every question includes the phrase “…I mean…” which is an awful tick too many reporters use. Then whatever questions she tacks on before or after that phrase are often terrible. Trophy presentations are usually bad TV. She did nothing to make Friday’s watchable.  ↩

Friday Vid

“In My Eyes” – Best Coast

Normally in October, I’m starting the think about my Best Of lists for the current year. Reviewing albums from early in the year I may have forgotten about, digging out singles that I only listened to a few times and demand more consideration, and then shuffling all my favorites around in various orders so that, in about six weeks, I can publish my definitive lists for the year.

This year it has been a little tougher to start that process. I’ll write about that in more detail in December, but it’s due to a combination of personal causes (changes in listening habits) and the music year in general (not nearly as good as last year, which was an all-time great one).

If I had to publish my favorite songs and albums list today, Best Coast would land very high. Which is a bit of a surprise. I’ve always liked Best Coast, but their songs often lack the depth that can make the difference between being a top five song and a top 15 one. But pretty much everything off their current album sounds fabulous. Wherever they land in this year’s lists, the spots will be well-deserved.

On Pet Peeves and Quotes

Over the weekend we had a conversation with the girls about pet peeves. We took turns sharing what some of our biggest ones were, which ended up being pretty funny. S. and I made most of ours about things the girls do that make us crazy. And the girls each chose ones that had to do with their sisters.

The clip below from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight would have been perfect had I decided to share a few of my real pet peeves with the girls. Misquotations in general bother me, but when people throw out a reference to the generic “Founding Fathers” that is clearly ignorant of history, it makes me go a little insane.

People, of all ideological stripes, who try to make modern political arguments based on the beliefs of the “Founding Fathers” are either stupid or intentionally ignoring some very important facts.

1) The “Founding Fathers” were not a monolith. They were not George Washington and his cronies. Or even Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and a bunch of lackeys. There were dozens of Founding Fathers. They would not put a rubber stamp opinion on Obamacare, Roe v. Wade, or immunizations if asked.

2) The Founders were a cantankerous group who disagreed on many aspects of how their new nation should be governed. As ridiculous as it is to believe that you could pick up Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc. and plop them down in the modern world and their views would be completely consistent with the ones they held nearly 250 years ago, it is even more ridiculous to insist that there was a singular view of government among the Founders that we can apply to governing in 2015.

3) Finally, what so many of these knuckleheads ignore is that the Constitution – a document some in our country believe to be a perfect, unalterable tract on par with the Bible – was a big, fucking compromise. Urban states compromised with rural states. Abolitionists compromised with slave owners. Maritime states compromised with states focused on internal trade. And so on. Yet modern politicians are blasted for making compromises with their ideological opponents and accused of selling out the Constitution.

All this make me batty.

Listen, it’s fine to say you believe something because of the principles John Jay or John Adams stood for when our nation was being formed. Or that you admire how Alexander Hamilton looked at the world. It’s another to claim that the “Founding Fathers” all believed the exact same thing, would not have changed that view over time, and we need to adhere strictly to those 18th century views. Whether you’re arguing for gun control, against universal health care, or about who gets to choose when we go to war, stop insisting that “The Founding Fathers” should get final say in the decision.

Oh, and now for the clip. Which, I admit, goes a little broader than my little rant there. But it’s a useful piece of advice: before you slap a quote from someone who has inspired you on your email signature or Facebook page, do some checking and make sure they actually said it.

https://youtu.be/Tu_bmX344nY

R’s: Back to the LCS

The Royals host the Blue Jays in game one of the ALCS tonight. Just like we expected, right?

Well, maybe for most of the past two months. But last weekend, when the Royals trailed Houston 2–1 and Toronto trailed Texas 2–0 in their respective division series, an all-Texas AL final looked much more likely.

But the two best teams in the AL righted their ships, made big comebacks, and now we’ve got the series that has had a slow fuse burning on it since the teams last met in early August. You know, when tonight’s Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez kept throwing fastballs in the vicinity of Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson’s head, when the benches cleared twice, and when Volquez said Donaldson was “crying like a little baby” after the game. Good times!

Before we dive into that, a few words about how the teams got here. After Monday’s comeback in Houston, the Royals cruised through game five. The final was 7–2, that’s an easy win, right? Not exactly. An infield error and a good swing on a minor mistake by Johnny Cueto put the Astros up 2–0 in the second. That lead held for two innings as the Royals bats continued to slumber. The Royals finally cut it to one in the 4th on a classic Royals play – Lorenzo Cain scoring from first on a shallow single by Eric Hosmer. They took the lead in the 5th when Alex Rios, of all people, hit a two-run double and scored two batters later.

From there on, it was the Johnny Baseball show. Cueto was all the Royals wanted him to be and more, retiring the last 19 batters he faced. There were some dazzling defensive plays behind him, but for the most part the Astros could not solve him. It was fabulous to watch.

Then the cherry on top, Kendrys Morales crushing a Dallas Keuchel pitch in the 8th to send Kaufman into a frenzy.

The Royals have to feel a little fortunate to get through the series. They were six outs away from going home for the winter in game four. But then they did what they do, and they’re moving on. That Houston team is a lot of fun to watch. They are going to be really good for quite awhile. I’m glad the Royals delayed their glory days by at least one season. I’ll be rooting for the Astros if they are playing anyone but the Royals next October.

As good as that game was, it was completely overshadowed by what happened in Toronto a couple hours earlier. The Rangers take a late lead on a bizarre play that I had never seen before: a run came home when the catcher hit a Ranger player’s bat with his return throw after a pitch. Between the review and the Toronto fans pelting the field, there was a 20 minute delay. Then in the bottom of the inning, nine outs from advancing, the Rangers made three-straight errors, got a force out that kept the bases loaded, gave up a 90-foot bloop that tied the game, and then gave up an 976 foot home run that won it. On the home run, Jose Bautista did the mother of all bat flips. Oh, and since this is the Blue Jays we’re talking about, benches cleared a few times along the way.

A quick aside about the bat flip: In general I’m pro bat flip.[1] I find most criticism of them tired. But I admit to some occasional hypocritical thinking on them. I do not like the Blue Jays or Bautista. In the moment, I hated his bat flip. But later on, I realized to be consistent I had to give it a pass. I will say this, though: for a guy who chirps about how other people play the game a lot, Bautista needs to look in the mirror. You can’t be pissed about how other people celebrate and enjoy their success when you’re glaring at the pitcher and screaming while you throw your bat ten feet.

So the history between these two teams, and the emotions both are riding should make this series extra interesting. Throw in Donaldson and Bautista’s hypersensitivity about any pitcher attempting to control the inside of the plate, and I’d set the over/under on bench clearing “discussions” at 0.7/game for the series.

I think the whole key to the series are the Royals starting pitchers. If they can control the Toronto bats, avoid big innings, and stay in the game, the Royals can absolutely win this series. That doesn’t mean they have to be near-perfect like Cueto was Wednesday. But they do have to find a way to keep hard-hit balls in play rather than sailing over the walls. They have to pitch inside with control, so they don’t get tossed because they hit their second batter of the night. And they can’t get lost in the emotions of the series.

Last week I picked Toronto to win. If I was a betting man I’d still go with that. But I’m not, and I’m still filled with the good feelings from Monday and Wednesday. The Royals are the most experienced team left in the playoffs. They won’t panic if they get down 4–1 early. They’re the better defensive team. They have enough arms in the pen to provide relief if a starter has racked up a high pitch count in the middle innings trying to avoid the big blast. My heart says Royals in seven, with Cueto going 2–0, including the clinching win.


  1. I LOVED Kendrys Morales’ reaction to his shot in KC. The skipping, the yelling AT HIS OWN dugout. That was a classic Wake The Kids moment in my basement.  ↩

Friday Vid

“What Is Life” – George Harrison

When I opened Apple Music today to scan the new releases, I noticed that George Harrison’s music is now available to stream. Which is weird because within just the last week or so I heard one of his songs on SiriusXM and wondered if his solo work had ever been cleared for streaming. As I recalled, only a song or two that appeared on soundtracks or compilations had been available in the past. Good timing!

So, while I have the new Beach House, Deerhunter, and Neon Indian albums queued up to listen to later, I’ve been enjoying some of George’s songs so far this morning.

If you asked a random sampling of people what the best song by an ex-Beatle was, I bet you’d get a list, in some order, that included “Imagine,” “Live And Let Die,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and “My Sweet Lord.” Although, let’s be honest, a lot of folks would forget the George track and throw in something like “Band On The Run” or “Woman.”

I’d argue this is the best-ever post-Beatles song by one of the Fab Four. The guitar riff that defined “Harrison-esque” that is still mimicked today. The incredible Phil Spector, Wall of Sound production. That little blast of south-of-the-border horns. And a perfect chorus that has been sung along to on car rides for over 40 years now.

Hot Sports Takes

Warning: you might want to put some space between you and whatever screen you’re reading these on. For they are extremely hot sports takes![1]


I must be getting old. I actually kind of enjoyed the Chicago Cubs clinching their NLDS against St. Louis yesterday. In fact, I found it pretty damn cool.

I say that’s a sign of age because I’ve long hated the Cubs. I didn’t hate them for their “Lovable Loser” fans, or because there are tons of Cubs fans around Indy, or even because they broke my heart when I was little. Nope, I always hated the Cubs because, when I first began watching baseball in the late 1970s, the only daily options to watch baseball were on WTBS and WGN, which showed the Braves and Cubs respectively. And both teams were terrible. So I hated them both out of spite, for not providing a team I could watch and enjoy on a daily basis.

Watching the two games in Wrigley this week was pretty amazing, though. That joint was absolutely on fire. The park may be small, but those 41,000[2] or so fans made quite a racket on each Cubs home run. And the ninth inning last night was pretty great.

It helps that the Cubs have a ton of young, fantastic talent that rose to the occasion. And I like Joe Madden. They’re fun to watch.

We’ll see how far they can keep this thing rolling.


I TOLD YOU ANDREW LUCK WAS GETTING HURT THIS YEAR!!! Now there is some question about when exactly he was injured. Was it on one of the 87 hits he took through the first three weeks of the season? Or was it when he was on his own, diving for a first down? Or when he threw his body at a defender who had picked him off and was returning the ball? The Colts won’t say.

In fact, the Colts aren’t saying much of anything. Their front office and coaching staff are apparently at war with each other, so they’ve suddenly turned into Bill Snyder acolytes and are providing almost no meaningful information to the media. So beyond when/how he was injured, they’ve also not shared exactly what the injury is, how serious it is, or how long it should take to heal.

The whole front office thing is ugly. And unusual. While owner Jim Irsay has been a piece of work over the years, the Colts have generally been a pretty steady, drama-free organization. But coach Chuck Pagano is pissed they won’t give him a long contract extension, and has apparently been upset with many of their free agent and draft choices in recent years. You never know exactly what the truth is in these situations, but the general opinion holds that he is upset the Colts haven’t done more to shore up the offensive line and defense, protecting their franchise player on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, GM Ryan Grigson is basically saying Pagano has the talent to win, and if he can’t get past the Patriots this year, it’s the coach’s fault, not the front office’s.

There are already rumors the Colts will go after Sean Payton when the season ends. Which seems premature, given that Payton is still under contract in New Orleans.

This feels like something that is going to get very ugly before it ends. The Colts being in the absolutely terrible AFC South, and sitting at 3–2 despite playing with 150-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck the past two games, is keeping it on the back burner for now. But I think it’s going to blow before too long. Especially when you look at the Colts’ schedule for the next month.


As a rule, I generally avoid any of the ESPN shows where talking heads sit around and argue. Since even Sportscenter is filled with that crap now, that means I rarely watch any non-game programming on ESPN. But last week, while I was getting my hair cut, I was forced to sit through 20-odd minutes of First Take, the blight on humanity that features Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. I just happened to be watching the morning after the referees messed up the end of the Detroit-Seattle game. THEY YELLED ABOUT THAT ONE PLAY FOR 20 MINUTES STRAIGHT! All the ladies working that morning were complaining about Smith and Bayless. I’m really not sure why they didn’t have it on Sportscenter, or some other random sports channel like they often do.

TRUMP OR HILLARY: PLEASE FIX THIS! Send these jokers to fight ISIS.


I continue to have no idea how to explain college football. Is Ohio State just so much better than everyone else, that they can cruise through games, make a few plays late, and keep rolling into January? Or are these close games against mediocre teams a sign that they’re going to fall apart at some point?

How long can TCU keep giving up 40+ and relying on miracle plays late to get wins?

Can Baylor survive the epic shootout coming with TCU and not slip up against another Big 12 team along the way?

Do you trust Utah, Clemson, or Michigan State?

Here’s what I do know: Alabama is going to win the whole freaking thing again. They’ll beat LSU, crush whoever comes out of the SEC East, shut down whichever Big 12 they play in the national semifinal, and then roll over Utah, who will upset Ohio State in the other semifinal.

Saban, like always, is a witch.


  1. And by hot I actually mean rather tepid.  ↩
  2. It amazes me that Wrigley holds that many people.  ↩

R’s: To The Brink And Back

This time I got to watch.

Fifty-four weeks ago, when the Royals made their insane comeback against Oakland in the Wild Card game, we were in the final hours of our Time Without Cable.[1] Thus I was huddled up with my computer and a bluetooth speaker, listening to the Royals radio broadcast deep into the night.

Yesterday, I got to watch most of the Fox TV broadcast. I did have to listen to a couple innings as I picked the girls up from school. We got home just as Terrance Gore was attempting to steal third base in the top of the seventh. I was back on the couch in time to watch Carlos Correa hit his second home run of the game and then Colby Rasmus add an apparent insurance run on his homer.

The season was over. The Royals bats had been lifeless almost the entire series, no way were they waking up now. Houston fans were making a deafening roar. You could see in the Astros dugout that it was going to be a formality to get the last six outs and move on to the ALCS. I texted some friends wondering how many pitches the Royals would see in the last two innings. I suggested it would be less than 20.

It was a fine day to be wrong.

The Royals saw around 50 pitches in the top of the eighth alone as they launched a small-ball, small-market rally[2] that ended when they had scored five runs to take the lead. My body was numb from the rally and my tongue was numb after I polished off roughly half a bag of sunflower seeds through the inning. Moments later, I let out a mighty roar when Eric Hosmer obliterated a baseball and added two more runs to the Royals total in the top of the 9th. Upstairs, I could hear girls giggling at me, while outside birds scattered from the trees. I think a car alarm may have gone off in the neighbor’s garage. Somewhere, a dog barked. I was a little loud.

Wade Davis breezed through the 9th[3] and the series was headed back to Kansas City. The Royals dugout was both excited and business-like. They had been through this before. They knew there was another game to play. The Houston dugout looked utterly defeated.

The question was quickly raised, how did this compare to the comeback a year ago? At first I was dismissive of the comparison. Sure, it was another elimination game, a moment when the end of the season was staved off in dramatic fashion. But the game a year ago had the tension of the Royals’ comeback stretching over two innings, then going on to extra innings, where they had to comeback one more time. Monday’s game seemed lost, but it also turned on a dime. With Davis coming in for the 8th with the lead, I was pretty sure the Royals had the win.

But the more I thought about it, and the more information that got shared on Twitter, I rethought that opinion. The Royals odds to win a year ago were slightly higher than they were yesterday when the 8th inning began. Last year was at home, with the KC crowd to help fuel the comebacks. This year it was in front of Houston’s frenzied fans. And, sure, Houston’s bullpen can be suspect. But there was a feeling in the stadium that the game was over. A feeling that was completely flipped over the course of the next 40 minutes.

I’m going to cop out and say they were both pretty fantastic and, like my kids, I can’t pick a favorite. Last year’s game has the added weight of being the moment that launched the Royals through the next three weeks of the post-season. Was yesterday’s as big of a boost, or will it be a game we remember fondly but singularly because Houston wins game five tomorrow? I guess we’ll know in about 36 hours.

Which means we have 36 hours left to savor another phenomenal moment in this chapter of Royals history. Hopefully they’re not done yet, and there are more pages to write.


  1. As that six-month period in our lives shall hence be known.  ↩
  2. Single, Single, Single, Single, Single, E6, K, BB, 4–3, BB, K.  ↩
  3. As he had also done in the 8th.  ↩

Friday Vid

“Leave A Trace” – CHVRCHES

One of the big music surprises of 2013, on multiple levels, were CHVRCHES. Their opening single, “The Mother We Share,” came out of nowhere and was an utter delight. Still, it felt like a bit of a novelty, unlikely to be followed by anything else as engaging. The second surprise came with the release of their first full-length album, The Bones Of What You Believe. While “Mother” was its best track, the rest of the album was excellent, led by a three-song, opening salvo that was as good as anything else released that year.

They added yet another surprise last month with the release of their second album, Every Eye Open. I’m not sure why so many doubted them, but it is another extremely strong effort, front-to-back. Lead singer Lauren Mayberry has become a feminist icon along the way, thanks to her emphatic denunciations of the objectification of women in pop culture.

R’s: October Baseball

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, the Royals had just come off their epic – no EPIC – win over Oakland in the Wild Card series and were headed to Anaheim to take on the Angels, who had the best record in the American League. Would there be an emotional hangover from the Wild Card win? Could the Royals pitching staff silence the Angels bats? Could the Royals get on base enough to make their speed a factor? There were so many questions going into that series, all of which were answered emphatically.

This year it’s the Royals who enter the ALDS with home field advantage earned over a 162 game season. They face a young, upstart team that has tons of speed and plays fantastic defense.

But this series seems a lot more even than that Royals-Angels series looked on paper before it began. The biggest question I see as the series begins is which version of the Royals rotation will show up? The version that struggled through late August and the first half of September? If it is that one, they’re in serious trouble. Or will it be the rotation that seemed to find its footing in mid-September and closed the regular season strong? If so, combined with a better bullpen than Houston, I feel good about the Royals chances.

Last year I was nervous going into the Angels series. Nervous because I was worried the Royals wouldn’t be able to compete. Nervous because I didn’t want their first post-season series in 29 years to end in three or four games. Turned out those worries were needless, and that series was a hell of a lot of fun. And despite that nervousness, there was an underlying joy in the Royals finally making the playoffs.

This year I’m nervous because of the Royals’ September swoon. I’m nervous because Houston has a lefty ace in Dallas Keuchel that, even though he’s a completely different kind of pitcher, brings back nightmares of Madison Bumgarner last October. I’m nervous about Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez. I’m nervous that the series could come down to Kris Medlen or Chris Young needing to make a huge start to save the series. I’m nervous because all the pressure is on the Royals this year after their regular season.

The more I think about it, this feels a lot like March, where I’m more nervous about KU losing than excited about them winning. Perhaps not quite to that point; I’ve been making sure to enjoy what the Royals accomplished this year and despite my concerns, I’m approaching the ALDS with feelings of excitement and optimism. But being the favorite does change the size of the butterflies a little.

I hope the boys are ready.


Now for some predictions.

ALDS

Royals over Astros in four. I DO NOT want to have to face Keuchel in game five. All games are close and the Royals bullpen is the difference.

Blue Jays over Rangers. Two hottest teams in the league go at each other hard for five games. Lots of runs, maybe a few tense moments after bat flips are rewarded with high-and-tight heat.

NLDS

Cardinals over Cubs. Too bad for Chicago that Jake Arrieta can’t start all five games. I take experience over youth here. I went to lunch today with a friend who is a Cardinals fan. He’s convinced they’re going to lose.

Dodgers over Mets. Neither team is a paragon of health. Kershaw and Greinke are the difference.

ALCS

Blue Jays over Royals. 1985 is avenged! David Price steals a game at the K, and that tips the series Toronto’s way.

NLCS

Cardinals over Dodgers. The Cards continue their strange, October mastery of Kershaw.

World Series

Blue Jays over Cardinals in six. Toronto made some masterful moves around the trading deadline. They shocked the world in getting Troy Tulowitzki. They waited long enough to get David Price. They shored up their bullpen and outfield. Then they got starter Marcus Stroman back in September. All the while, they were absolutely sizzling hot for nearly three months. Those moves all pay off as Price is nearly unhittable and the hitters continue to mash.

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