By Joseph Yamulla, Layout Assistant ||
October is a magical month. The weather starts to cool, and the leaves begin to fall. However, as long as baseball is being played, Summer is still in the air. The most spectacular moments in Major League Baseball history occur in the month of October because it is the time when players become heroes, and teams become enshrined as World Series Champions. As October closes, we have seen a very eventful conclusion to the baseball season. The Cinderella story Kansas City Royals fell short in the Fall Classic to the veteran and consistent San Francisco Giants. Then, to the surprise of many baseball fans, Joe Maddon announced he is opting out of his contract and will no longer manage the Tampa Bay Rays.
Baseball fans across the country fell in love with the underdog Kansas City Royals ball club this postseason. Prior to this season, The Royals had not made the playoffs since 1985. For 29 long years, Kansas City fans suffered with the pain and agony of losing. Yet, the special thing about baseball is that the fans kept coming. They kept filing into Kauffman Stadium, hoping for something special to happen just for one Kansas City summer. To their delight, in 2014, they got something that was beyond special: their dreams came true. They got to see their Royals battle through a long season and make it to the Major League Baseball Playoffs for the first time in 29 years.
During the playoffs, the Royals embraced their scrappy underdog mentality. They bunted, stole, slapped, and ran their way home past the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card elimination game. After they defeated an incredibly talented Oakland team, they had to face the powerhouse Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels, who have the sixth-highest payroll in Major League Baseball, were heavily favorited over Kansas City. However, the Royals did not care about who was predicted to win. There was just something special about the season they were having, and they knew it.
The team ranked dead last in the American League in home runs, and ninth out of 15 teams in on-base percentage. They were an incredibly mediocre offensive team statistically. Yes, they did have a strong pitching staff led by veterans James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, and Wade Davis, but it is hard to imagine how this team caught fire. The Royals could go back and play this season over several times, and things would never fall in place the way they did in 2014. It not only led them to win, but it led them to obtain the most important asset in baseball: confidence.
This confidence led them to a 4-game sweep over the favorited Angels in the American League Division Series and then another stunning sweep over the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series. The Royals won the pennant, and they headed to the World Series. The Cinderella Story team all of a sudden turned into the team of destiny that captured America’s hearts. That was, of course, until they ran into two powerful forces, the San Francisco Giants and Madison Bumgarner.
The Royals caused so much stir that few people outside San Francisco were even thinking about the Giants. However, San Francisco quietly took care of business. They went into a hostile environment in the Steel City of Pittsburgh and took down a tough Pirates ball club in the Wild Card elimination game. After that, the seasoned Giants took their talents to the nation’s capital and took down the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series in four games. After that, they moved on to Saint Louis and took down the Cardinals in five. Before baseball fans could blink, it was happening again. Here came the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants have a tradition of winning, and oddly, their wins come on even calendar years. The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. Well, it’s 2014, and it would seem appropriate that they would capture the trophy once more. Yet, no one thought anyone could beat this Kansas City team, who seemed to have destiny and all the baseball gods on their side, as they won an incredible eight straight postseason games.
To the Royals’ dismay, destiny and a feel-good story aren’t enough to win a World Series. Pitching, fielding, and hitting win World Series games; and in the end, the Giants just did this better than the Royals.
Bumgarner became the hero who led San Francisco to the title. He had two wins, with a strong bullpen appearance that clinched game seven. He posted an incredible ERA of 0.43. This was a World Series for the ages, and he deserved his award of Most Valuable Player.
This marked the end of a magical Kansas City run, a convincing Giants victory, and the Summer. Until next year, the Giants are the World Champions. Its not because they got lucky and not because Kansas City’s magic faded but because they were simply the best team to take the field in 2014.
Aside from the World Series, there was more shocking news that shook the baseball world. Joe Maddon, longtime manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, opted out of his contract and decided to leave the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Joe Maddon spent nine years in Tampa Bay and turned that franchise from the “bad-news bears” of Major League Baseball, to a legitimate contender just about every season.
Maddon pulled the Rays up from being the worst team in baseball every season to becoming a World Series team in 2008. He found a way to win in a very small market and gave people a lot to cheer about. Tampa loved him, and he loved Tampa, which is why it was such a shock to see him leave. Maddon will be managing the Chicago Cubs next season. Expect to see him work the same magic there and build a winning team in Chicago. Cubs fans are ecstatic, and Rays fans are heartbroken. However, the Rays still have an incredibly talented and young roster that can succeed under the leadership of veteran Evan Longoria.
This past October has stirred up all kinds of emotion. There has been triumph, heartbreak, pride, excitement, nervousness, shock, but, most importantly, optimism. Optimism is the most essential for one main reason. The reason may seem cliché and overused, but it’s true: there’s always next year. There will always be another pitch to be thrown, another ball to be hit, and another fly ball to be caught. There will always be another Cinderella Story such as Kansas City that shocks the country and captures our hearts. There will always be another World Series champion, and the pride that comes along with winning—and the sorrow of defeat. There will always be baseball, and there will always be next year.
In late February, players will pack their bags and head south for Spring Training. Fans will dust off their caps and little-leaguers will break in their gloves. The game will come alive again, more stories will be told, and Summer will be here once more.
First-year Joseph Yamulla is a layout assistant. His email is email@example.com.