The World Series starts tonight, and the playoffs have already accumulated enough history to bury us up to our necks.
Those of you who didn’t laugh hysterically when I recommended rooting for the Royals and Giants may now laugh derisively. The Giants and Royals both cruised through the preliminary rounds, racking up a combined record of 16-2. That’s .889, slightly above the .600 figure I cited as the minimum necessary.
I’m not making this up.
They didn’t make it look easy: there were plenty of close games and come-from-behind victories. No boring series featuring obviously outclassed opponents this year. It’s been baseball you want to watch, regardless of your religious affiliation.
As for history, this is the first time both World Series teams won less than 90 games during the regular season. It’s also, not coincidentally, only the second time both teams have come into the playoffs via the wild card.
That 16-2 record? San Francisco is responsible for both of the losses; Kansas City is a perfect 8-0 so far. That’s a new record for wins to start the playoffs. The Royals’ first three playoff wins required extra innings, another record.
The Royals won their final three playoff games in 1985, the last time they made it past the regular season. That gives them an eleven game playoff winning streak. If they win the first two World Series games, they’ll hold the record for longest playoff winning streak. Since the current record holders are the Yankees (twelve from 1927 to 1932 and again from 1998 to 1999), all right-thinking fans will be pulling for the Royals in the first two games.
Really. I’m not making any of this up.
The Giants can’t lay claim to as many records as the Royals this post-season–although they did win the longest playoff game in history (18 innings in six hours, twenty-three minutes)–but they’ve cornered the market in human interest stories. Just look at the last game against the Cardinals: the tying run came on a home run from Mike Morse, who’s been bouncing around the majors since 2005 (Seattle* to Washington, back to Seattle**, on to Baltimore, and now to the Giants). Due to an injury, he played in exactly one game in September, had sat out the first two post-season series, and had only three previous plate appearances in the NLCS.
* There are a lot of ex-Mariners around baseball.
** And a disturbingly large number of players who have been with the Mariners multiple times.
The story behind the winning runs is even more of a tear-jerker. As the San Francisco press has been reporting to the point of nausea*, Ishikawa was released by the Pirates in April, signed a minor league deal with Giants, and sat in Fresno so long he considered retiring. When he was finally called up at the end of July, he was hardly used, appearing in only 47 games. His misplay of a fly ball in the third inning gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. So, of course he hit the game-winning home run to send San Francisco to the World Series.
* We’ll come back to the nausea shortly.
You know, if I were making this up for a book, I’d never be able to sell it, right?
So here we are, with two teams that weren’t supposed to make it past the wild card game playing in the World Series. Since I apparently created this situation by advising you all to root for the Royals or Giants, I feel a sense of responsibility. So here’s my rooting advice for the World Series: the Royals should win the first three games, running their record playoff win streak to an unlucky thirteen. The Giants should then win the next four, with the last game going to twelve innings. That will fortify us all nicely for the long, baseball-free winter that lies ahead.
In the meantime, the rivalry is getting heated. At least one San Francisco radio station has banned Lorde’s “Royals” from the airwaves until after the World Series. Kansas City stations, unable to find a Top-40 hit that has anything to with Giants in the title are retaliating by playing Lorde’s piece every hour on the hour. No offense intended to Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, but that sounds like a cure worse than the disease to me. (For the record, Lorde appears to be taking the high road here. As of the last time I checked, her Twitter feed is blessedly free of any mention of the struggle.)
And here’s one final item that I really wish I was making up. Let it be known that wildly exciting playoffs are not a totally unmixed blessing. Consider this frightening object advertised in the SF Chronicle.
That’s right. It’s the Precious Moments Giants “Home Run With You” figurine. And yes, there’s one for everyone who wants to horrify their favorite Royals fan as well. (Other teams are also available: due to production lead times, the Cardinals and Orioles have similar figurines. So do the Yankees because, well, they’re the Yankees.) It’s enough* to put one off baseball for life. I told you we would be getting back to the nausea.