I wasn’t alive the last time the Kansas City Royals were in the playoffs. Neither, for that matter, were 14 of the players on the Royals’ 25-man roster.
The Royals last enjoyed playoff baseball in 1985, when Hall-of-Fame third baseman George “Mullet” Brett delivered a World Series trophy to “The Paris of the Plains.”
With a football team that last won a championship in 1969, professional sports in K.C. have experienced what could politely be called a drought. To put that in perspective, K.C. has won one pro championship since Nixon was president.
But don’t tell this year’s Royals. They’ve been playing some of the most exciting baseball I’ve seen in years. They’re young, they’re fun and they’re fast.
Real fast. They led the majors with 153 stolen bases, and they were successful on 81 percent of those attempts — the third-best percentage in the bigs.
They had three players swipe 28 or more bags, with all three of those speedsters finishing among the top 10 thieves in the American League.
That speed has helped on defense. Watching center fielder Lorenzo Cain play in the American League Division Series was like watching a highlight film. He made two #SCTop10 diving catches to preserve the Royals’ lead in the seventh inning of Game 3 alone. Left fielder Alex Gordon may not be the fastest Royal (only 12 steals in 2014), but he has won three straight Gold Gloves and had 17 outfield assists each in 2012 and 2013. He only had eight in 2014, but that’s mostly because base runners’ self-preservation instinct kicked in and they collectively stopped challenging him.
The Royals also throw fast. Real fast. Just 23 years old, starter Yordano Ventura is young enough to be in college. He seems to be doing just fine without a B.A., however, as his average fastball velocity of 96.8 miles per hour was the best among Major League starters this season, and it helped him to a 14–10 record and a sparkling 3.20 ERA. They’ve got firemen in the pen, as pitchers Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera (who throws a 100-mph heater) and Greg Holland combined for 204.1 innings and an ERA of 1.28. To put that in perspective — that’s really good. The numbers speak for themselves.
I could list 40-yard dash times to prove my point further, but trying to completely describe speed using numbers is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.
A better example is the Royals’ Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics. Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, Jarrod Dyson was on second base. Stealing third is a bold move, Cotton. The throw for the catcher is a mere 90 feet, as opposed to the 120-foot hurl to second, but Dyson, like former Kansas City Monarchs star James “Cool Papa” Bell, is so quick he can flip the switch and be in bed before the lights go out.
As he is wont to do, Dyson swiped the bag, setting up outfielder Nori Aoki’s game-tying sacrifice fly. The Royals would go on to win 9–8 in 12 innings to advance to the ALDS.
That was just the beginning. They swept the 98-win Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in three straight, and hold a 2–0 lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series heading into Game 3 tonight. They’re 6–0 in the postseason, including four extra-inning wins and another victory in which they scored the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth.
This is the most exciting thing to happen in Kansas City since Lewis and Clark camped there for a long weekend in 1804.
People say watching baseball is boring, and that baseball can’t compete with more fast-paced sports like football and basketball.
Those people obviously haven’t watched the Royals.
Charles Condro is a senior in Trumbull College and a former Sports Editor for the News.