So, so, so far behind on sharing links. So I’ll break them into two sets. We’ll begin with articles related to YOUR WORLD CHAMPION KANSAS CITY ROYALS!
A rather significant sports journalism event took place during the baseball playoffs: ESPN shut down the wonderful Grantland sports/pop-culture site. Many took that as a sign that there isn’t room in the modern, hot-takes-centric media world.
Turns out, though, there’s actually a ton of great sports writing out there. Despite the collapse of print media and struggles boutique sites like Grantland have gone through, we are living in an era when an amazing amount of fantastic sports writing still manages to get published.
There were a ton of great articles about the Royals over the past month. Here are a few of my favorites.
We’ll begin with two wrap-up pieces posted after game five of the World Series.
Our old pal Joe Posnanski (who we’ll hear from again) was predictably great.
And Jeff Passan, Yahoo’s national baseball writer who just happens to live in KC, isn’t quite on Posnanski’s level. But this is pretty good.
Rather predictably, a number of old school (or at least old thinking) voices shouted that the Royals were the “anti-Moneyball team” after they won the world series. Which if you have half a brain, and understand that Moneyball was about more than the Oakland A’s love of on base percentage and slow first basemen, you immediately know is a stupid take.
Fortunately there are a couple excellent pieces that point out how dumb that argument is.
Here were are, a dozen years later, and the market has shifted. Everybody’s read “Moneyball.” Everybody is pushing the limits of their analytics. Every team has brilliant, open-minded analysts and economists and psychiatrists reading code and studying trends and looking for secrets.
But … are they all looking in the same places?
Or, to put it in riddle form: If every team is playing Moneyball, which one is the Moneyball team? Holy barbecue Batman, could it be: The Kansas City Royals?
At Hardball Times, Alex Skillin points out that many sabermetrically-inclined analysts may be selling the Royals short because of their past.
A closer look at how the Royals are run and the manner in which they’ve built their current roster reveals an organization that is smarter and more progressive than it’s given credit for. In fact, if Kansas City had a better reputation within the sabermetrics community, the Royals would be receiving far more praise from analysts and statheads alike for their play this season.
I really enjoyed two non-Kansas City writers’ works over the past month.
At Sports On Earth, Will Leitch offered up daily columns. Here are three of my favorites.
First, he point out how the mood around both the Royals and the city had changed from last October.
Following the Mets’ meltdown in game four, he wrote about how the national media was missing the big, true story of the World Series.
Grant Brisbee wrote some wonderful stuff at SB Nation.
Here, he addressed the strange blend of feelings amongst Royals fans both excited about potentially winning a World Series and being worried that Lucy would once again pull the football away before the moment of triumph.
The Royals are caught between waiting for the other shoe to drop and beating other teams to death with the shoe. They’re heading to New York with their best shot to win a title in 30 years, unless it’s not quite as good as the shot they had last season, not yet. The Royals are at the doorstep of a World Series championship, and nobody’s sure how to act, other than fans cheering wildly because any team that’s gotten this far by doing that deserves it.
His Series wrap-up covered a lot of ground but I loved every word.
The Royals were the team without a clock. They lived the entire postseason like they figured out the loophole of baseball, that it never ends if the last out isn’t recorded.
Congratulations, Royals. Congratulations, Royals fans. I’ve watched a lot of championship runs over the last couple decades, but I don’t remember anything quite like that.
There were a number of fine pieces during the ALCS that I could share as well. I’ll pick only Brisbee’s, though, which points out how a few key calls went the Royals way in game six and uses that as a jumping off point for how any number of small decisions are often the biggest factors in a team winning or losing.
Teams aren’t supposed to face insurmountable odds in two straight postseasons and come up with miracle comebacks. In the Wild Card Game last year, the Royals were down to about a 3 percent chance of winning after Mike Moustakas lined out to end the seventh. In the ALDS this year, the Royals were down to less than a 2 percent chance of winning the must-win Game 4. According to my English major math skills, that means less than a .006 percent chance of winning back-to-back pennants.
The Royals like to eat math. They like to do it in front of you, looking you in the eye the entire time. Know this about them.
Oh, and Jeff Sullivan kind of hit on that Nick Hornby angle as well at Fangraphs. I love his lead, comparing the Seattle Seahawks consecutive Super Bowls to the Royals’ back-to-back pennants. He argues if you’re going to go 1–1, you do it how the Royals did it, not the Seahawks.
It’s not that there was no way to come to accept the crushing defeat. There was one way. There was one way to achieve perfect closure, and the Royals just found it. The demons of uncertainty have been vanquished. The angels of certainty dance in their stead. There’s no more opponent for the Royals to rally past — they’ve accomplished the last of the accomplishments.
- There’s a section in Fever Pitch where Hornby tries to work out what the perfect soccer result is. I can’t find it, but I believe it was a 3–2 win where your team is behind both 1–0 and 2–1 before coming back to win. ↩