Photo from sportslogos.net/Chris Creamer
By Nick Kalantzopoulos
Baseball fans rejoice! The 2015 World Series is upon us, and a team from New York will represent the National League.
That’s right, the New York Mets will take on the Kansas City Royals in this year’s Fall Classic. Both teams proved that they were the best in their respective leagues, with the Mets taking down the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games and sweeping the Chicago Cubs in four, while the Royals beat the Houston Astros in five games and took care of the Toronto Blue Jays in six.
With Game 1 of the World Series starting tonight, there’s a possibility that October baseball will creep into November for the first time since 2010. This is one of the many storylines heading into the World Series. Here are ten more:
10. It’s Been Awhile for Both Teams
Regardless who wins the World Series this year, fans will have waited over 30 years. The last World Series the Mets won was in 1986; and the Royals won a year earlier in 1985. Since they last won a world championship, the Mets have made the World Series once in 2000. The Royals have also made it one time, though their last appearance was a little more recent, in 2014.
9. Uncertain Future For Mets
Part of what made this run to the World Series so remarkable for the New York Mets is that on the day of the Trade Deadline, July 24, they were three games out of first place and last in the National League in runs scored.
In a span of one week the Mets traded for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, utility men from the Atlanta Braves, and Yoenis Céspedes, an outfielder from the Detroit Tigers.
Since then, the Mets have led the National League in runs. They even traded for relief pitchers Addison Reed of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Tyler Clippard of the Oakland Athletics. Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson clearly made a push toward the now, and his team has rewarded him for it.
However, these particular trades give the Mets a short window to win with this team. Céspedes, Clipart, Uribe and Johnson, and even longtime Met Daniel Murphy all have contracts that expire at the end of the season. This suddenly potent Met offense might be on its only leg in this year’s Fall Classic.
8. Royal Home Field Advantage
Home Field Advantage in the World Series is determined not by who has the better record, but by the which team won the All-Star game. In this year’s Mid-Summer Classic, the American League beat the National League 6-3, and thus the Royals will have Home-Field Advantage over the Mets.
Royals fans were made particularly famous this year by how they attempted to secure home-field for their team. In the middle of June, eight of the nine players who were leading vote getters in their respective starting positions for the A.L. All-Star team were in fact Royals, leading many to believe that K.C. fans were stuffing the balloting boxes.
Unfortunately for them, M.L.B. commissioner Rob Manfred stepped in, helping lead the league to disqualify over 60 million votes, which led to only four Royals becoming starters. Fortunately for their fans, the A.L. won the game, and now the Royals are reaping the rewards.
7. Rust For Mets?
The Mets dominated the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series, sweeping them in all four games. The Cubs didn’t even hold a lead at any point of the series.
Clinching the series last Wednesday, the Mets were given the chance to rest, relax, and enjoy the ride they’ve been on.
Several Mets, including David Wright, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Wilmer Flores were guests on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” which taped from Brooklyn on Friday.
They talked about enjoying their performance in the National League Championship Series, but not being satisfied. However, their rapid take down of the Cubs may not help them against the Royals. According to ESPN Stats and Info, five of the last six teams with five or more days off went on to lose the World Series. The Mets have had exactly five.
6. Royal Bullpen
In a game in which starting pitchers are throwing fewer innings than ever before, the Kansas City Royals set in a precedent in last year’s playoffs, riding three relief pitchers who throw in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Gregg Holland, pitchers who all threw upwards of 90 miles per hour, essentially turned their games into six-inning affairs.
With Gregg Holland going down during the regular season this year, the Royals altered their three-headed monster, moving Davis to the ninth, and moving their new reliever, Ryan Madson, to the eighth inning. Davis, like Mets closer, Jeurys Familia, has yet to give up a run this postseason.
5. Mets Starters
During the 54 years that the Mets have played baseball, when they’ve won, they’ve done so through pitching.
When General Manager Sandy Alderson was hired in 2010, he set forth a plan to focus on young, talented, hard-throwing pitchers.
Easier said than done of course. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz were all drafted before Alderson was hired, by ex-GM Omar Minaya.
Attempting to finish the five-piece puzzle that is a starting rotation, Alderson traded Cy Young Award winning pitcher R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays for a prospect named Noah Syndergaard, among other young players, and dealt his most expensive chip, Carlos Beltrán, to the Giants for pitcher Zack Wheeler.
Harvey first reached the majors at age 23 in July 2012, and started the All-Star Game in 2013. deGrom started as a 26 year-old rookie in 2014, and went on to win Rookie of the Year. Syndergaard and Matz, 23 and 24 respectively, reached the majors this year.
Unfortunately for young hard-throwing pitchers, injuries have become an epidemic. Harvey was out a full year after Tommy John surgery in 2014, and deGrom and Matz went through the same procedure while in the minor leagues.
Zack Wheeler had to undergo the same surgery this March, making him unavailable for the entire season. Wheeler has still been able to watch the rest of his teammates dominate this postseason with a vast supply of hard fastballs and wicked off-speed pitches.
Syndergaard leads the pack with an average fastball velocity in the upper nineties that can get around 100 m.p.h from time to time. deGrom and Harvey hover at around 96 m.p.h. on their fastballs and Matz, as a 6-foot-2-inch left-handed pitcher, throws in the mid-nineties as well.
These four young studs dominated the Cubs young power hitters in the N.L.C.S., however things may be different with the A.L. Champion Royals.
The Cubs were last in the N.L. in hitting pitches at least 95 m.ph. whereas the Royals were first in the A.L. This battle of power pitching versus contact hitting and speed should make for a great matchup.
4. Captain America
Given the nickname when playing for the United States in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, David Wright this year became the lone New York Baseball captain, when Derek Jeter retired.
Like Jeter, Wright chose not to wear the symbolic “C” on his jersey when he was given the offer in 2013, once again proving his loyalty to the team he re-signed with earlier that offseason.
Knowing that he could leave and pursue a contract with another franchise, Wright had faith in Sandy Alderson’s plan. He signed a seven year extension, taking a hometown discount with the team he rooted for as a kid.
Earlier this year, Wright went down with an apparent hamstring injury, which he believed would linger for two weeks. What followed was three months away from baseball, and a diagnosis of spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine. This injury had shortened the careers of many before him.
Now Wright has changed his whole pre-game workout routine, stretching more, and hitting batting practice less. In his first World Series, Wright has promised time and time again, that this is why he struggled to get back to the Mets.
3. Royal Redemption
Last season the Royals came as close as a team could possibly go to winning a World Series. With a decisive Game 7 in their home stadium, the Royals faced the San Francisco Giants and the man who would go on to win the World Series M.V.P., Madison Bumgarner.
Bumgarner pitched five scoreless relief innings to save the game for the Giants, and the Royals stranded a man on third base when catcher Salvador Pérez popped up to then-Giant third baseman Pablo Sandoval, to lose 3-2.
Unfortunately for the Royals, they could not re-start this season in the World Series. They were, however, up to the challenge. They ran away with the A.L. Central Division title, and won home-field throughout the playoffs.
The Royals have the experience the Mets do not and hope to use it in their favor.
2. When Did Daniel Murphy Become Babe Ruth?
Daniel Murphy hit a career high of 14 home-runs this regular season, a modest number. Murphy had made one All-Star team in his career, but was known more as a slap and slash hitter, who focused on hitting singles the opposite way rather than pulling the ball for extra-base hits.
In fact, “Murph’ed” was a derogatory verb. This was assigned to Murphy whenever he would make an overzealous error on the base paths. A baseball player who lacked the defensive skills to play a specific position in his career, Murphy has gone from left-field to first base to second base, to third base and now back to second with the return of David Wright from injury.
Basically, Daniel Murphy was the last person people expected to become a hero in the playoffs, but has become that and more.
Daniel Murphy’s first ever playoff game was in this year’s National League Division Series, against Clayton Kershaw, the man who has won three of the past four N.L. Cy Young Awards for Best Pitcher, and is widely held as the most dominant pitcher in the game.
Murphy pulled a home run in the fourth inning against Kershaw, breaking a scoreless tie, helping lead the Mets to victory in Game 1. Murphy homered again off of Kershaw in Game 4, this time in a loss. However, this was just the start of his playoff tear. Murphy hit another home run in Game 5 against another 2015 N.L. Cy Young Award Candidate, in Zack Greinke. That broke a tie for good and sent the Mets into the N.L.C.S.
Murphy then went on to hit a home run in each of the four games of the series against the Cubs, making him the only player in M.L.B. playoff history to hit a home run in six consecutive games. Daniel Murphy also joined Lou Gehrig as the only player to get a hit, drive a runner in, and score a run in seven consecutive playoff games. Daniel Murphy ran away with N.L.C.S. most valuable player, and the spotlight will shine on him brightest starting tonight.
1. Is New York A Mets Town?
With the elimination of the Yankees in the first game of the playoffs, and the run the Mets have made to the World Series, has New York become a Mets town?
It has not been so since the mid-1980s when the Mets won their last championship, so perhaps that is what needs to occur first. Or maybe New York will always be a Yankees town.
Either way, when the personalities and overall talent on the Mets roster, the conversation is a tricky one. Many believe that the success of the Mets will lead to an increasing of the Yankee payroll, in hopes of attracting free-agents in the offseason that will take attention away from the Mets.
As for this upcoming week, the Mets and Royals take over baseball, and it is building up to be an exciting one.
Prediction: Mets four games to two.