erik lundegaard

Sunday October 01, 2017

Good-bye To My Favorite Team of the 21st Century

It's the last day of the 2017 MLB regular season and Joe Posnanski has a nice piece on the final game together for three foundational members of the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals—Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain—all of whom will become free agents, and all of whom helped the Royals, the sad-sackiest team of the 1990s and 2000s, to two pennants and a world championship. These grafs in particular:

Then the Royals drafted Moustakas and Hosmer in back-to-back years, not only because they both had the precious talent that Kansas City lacked (power) but because they seemed confident, cocky even. That cockiness was what Royals general manager Dayton Moore wanted more than anything. He wanted players who would not be drowned by the overwhelming weight of the Royals' longtime awfulness.

“Guys,” Moore told them after they were drafted, “this is YOUR team. I don't want to put pressure on you, but that's how it is. The Royals will go as far as you carry us.”

I recently rewatched the game that really began it all, the 2014 wild card match with the Oakland A's, when the Royals were down by four in the 8th inning, 7-3, then made it 7-6 with runners in scoring position but couldn't tie it. Until the 9th inning when they did. In the 12th the A's went ahead 8-7 but the Royals came back again, scoring two to win it and go on. And on. And on. Sometimes with more insane come-from-behind victories. Sorry, 'Stros. 

Watching that wild-card game again, the thing that struck me was the way Hosmer scored the tying run in the bottom of the 12th—sprawling across the plate ahead of the throw on Christian Colon's high chopper. It looked so much like that iconic moment a year and a month later, when, in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, Hosmer made his mad dash home to tie the game against the Mets and send it to extras, where the Royals won it all. The Royals' back-to-backs are bookended by these Hosmer mad dashes and sprawling slides.

Is this Royals team my favorite team of the 21st century? I certainly give props to the 2004 Boston Red Sox for their humiliation of the New York Yankees, coming back in unprecedented fashion with an almost carefree manner. M's teams? I always liked the 2000 squad and their surprise run, while the 2001 club, with all of those wins but nothing to show for it, is a little too heart-achey. I've liked the M's the past two years, too, the Robinson Cano/Nelson Cruz-led M's. They've been about as fun as a team who hasn't gotten anywhere could be.

But this Royals team? Man. Speed, defense, the sturdiest bullpen in the world. Forever putting the ball in play. Forever coming from behind. When I was a kid and read about how the St. Louis Cardinals won the 1946 World Series—Enos “Country” Slaughter scoring from first on a single—I could never wrap my head around it. How does anyone score from first on a single? Well, Lorenzo Cain did it twice during the 2015 postseason—including what would be the winning run in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the ALCS to send the Royals to the World Series again, this time against the Mets, the one they would win.

That's all over. It was over before, as Joe mentions, with the depatures of Wade Davis and Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist and Jarrod Dyson. But now there's no doubt. 

Godspeed, guys. Just don't sign with the fucking Yankees.

Lorenzo Cain scores from first on a single by Eric Hosmer  

The mark of Cain: 1st to home on a single. 

Posted at 08:48 PM on Sunday October 01, 2017 in category Baseball  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard