The Royals won't win the 2016 World Series.
If you disagree, Las Vegas is that way. They'll take your money, and give you a slip of paper. In the off chance the Royals win the 2016 World Series, the folks at the casino will exchange that slip of paper for a lot more money, and then you can place a bet on the Royals to win the 2017 World Series. Which they probably won't.
Keep doing it every year, and you'll lose. That's not to say anything about this Royals team. It's to dispute the idea that they've found the secret template, that they've figured out how this all works. They don't know which players will clamber up the side of the ninth inning and jump on the driver, biting his throat and taking the wheel. They just know it happened in 2015.
The Royals won the 2015 World Series.
Don't email me, Royals fans. The rest of this thing is filled with praise for the Royals and what in the heck they just did. It's amazing and stupendous and they should be proud of it. For a brief second, though, I just figured we could revel in the absurdity of it all.
In the next five months, teams will maneuver and jostle and wheel and deal, and then there will be five months after that. Those months will feature wins and losses and injuries and trades and triumph and heartbreak. Then there's a month after that, and it will be filled with nonsense and tomfoolery that no one predicted. During those months, 29 teams will screw up exactly the right way. Exactly the wrong way.
The odds are against every team, so it's probably not wise to think the Royals can bottle whatever in the hell that was and uncork it at this time next year.
No, the only way to talk about the 2015 Royals is how it happened, not why it happened. Don't pretend like you know why it happened, at least not with any specificity. Just appreciate that it happened.
The Royals, who caught the ball better than the other team, who held leads better than the other team, who put the ball in play and dared the other team to catch the ball as well as they did, won the World Series, and they did it with a relentless, hilarious, predictable zombie-barrage of perfect timing. Even if it wasn't something that can't happen the exact same way next year. Right?
Congratulations to the 2015 Royals, who deserved their championship as much as any team over the last 100 years. That was freakish. That was inspiring.
* * *
You want to know why (team) just won the World Series, eh? Okay, I'm game. Here's why (team) just won the World Series.
The Mets won the World Series because they climbed Mt. Olympus and stole the young pitchers the gods kept as pets.
The Cubs won the World Series because they had the best pitcher in the game, apparently, in Jake Arrieta. They also have about a half-dozen large young men who loved dingers, yes sir.
The Pirates won the World Series because they had one of the game's best players and a balanced roster, with a deep starting staff. And because it was about time for them to win one, really.
You can do it for all 10 postseason teams. You can do it for four or five of the teams that just missed the postseason. It was already obvious. Choose your own narrative. Pre-write it and save time.
In this case, the Royals parlayed a contact-hyper lineup, incredible defense, and dominant bullpen into a championship. Those are verifiable strengths, and they should be given full credit. Except they were augmented by the late-inning nectar of the gods, something inexplicable. No game was out of reach. No game was unwinnable. You can choose to believe this will happen every postseason for the Royals in the near future. If you want. Which seems to be at odds with the previous 100 years of how baseball works. But you do you, if you need to.
Me? I'll choose to believe that, holy crap, that literally happened to the Royals right in front of us, ha ha, how does that happen? Good for you, Royals. That was amazing.
* * *
With an assist from a valued Twitter user, we have an idea of how that happened.
In Game 2 of the ALDS, the Royals had a 17.7-percent chance of winning according to win expectancy. They won.
In Game 4 of the ALDS, the Royals had a 1.6-percent chance of winning. They won.
In Game 5 of the ALDS, the Royals had a 25.2-percent chance of winning. They won.
In Game 2 of the ALCS, the Royals had a 7.7-percent chance of winning. They won.
In Game 1 of the World Series, the Royals had a 10-percent chance of winning, which seems high. They won.
In Game 2 of the World Series, the Royals had a 34.8-percent chance of winning. They won.
In Game 4 of the World Series, the Royals had a 17-percent chance of winning. They won.
In Game 5 of the World Series, the Royals had a 4.8-percent chance of winning. They won the World Series.
In every series, there was Royals lunacy. They would single-single-single-error against the other team's setup man or closer, and then they would be in the lead with a confused grin. And while we've identified the Royals greatest strengths (they catch the ball better than most teams, they run well, and they have a death-ray of a bullpen), there's probably something we've overlooked. The Royals never had to face anything close to a Royals bullpen. The Astros were top-heavy. The Blue Jays were top-heavy, and then they lost one of their better relievers. The Mets were extremely top-heavy.
Basically, Addison Reed was the setup man for all three teams the Royals faced this postseason, unless he was Tony Sipp or LaTroy Hawkins. The Royals never had to face Wade Davis or his non-union equivalent.
Which is the point, I suppose.
* * *
Also, there was Royals devil magic.
You don't need photographic proof of the balls that just went under the glove of the infielder in every stupid series. You know they happened. You're chortling about them right now. Those plays happened because the other teams weren't as good defensively as the Royals. Don't leave that part out. But they were still choppers in front of the plate and dunks that shouldn't have fallen.
If you need photographic proof of something, though, here you go:
That was a stupid baseball play by Eric Hosmer. After hours of reflection and contemplation, with all sorts of anecdotal evidence that Hosmer was tooting out a magical scouting report destined to propel the Royals into history, I'm pretty sure it was a bad gamble.
Think of the worst defensive player you've ever seen. Think of how incompetent they were. Close your eyes. We'll wait.
Those players made the right play 88-percent of the time, maybe. Ryan Braun was an all-time disaster at third base as a rookie. He still had a .895 fielding percentage. Todd Hundley in left, Mike Piazza at first ... these were all ill-fated experiments that still succeeded about 90-percent of the time.
I'd wager that Duda makes that play -- pressure or not -- about 90 percent of the time. He's a poor defensive first baseman, but that wasn't a very demanding play. Throw the ball home. Throw the ball within a foot of home. He'll do it next time, if you ask. He'll do it the six times after that. In this case, with the Mets about to move on to a Game 6 with a merely decent throw, Duda uncorked his worst throw of the season.
There were a lot of those moments. What about the tricky hop to Carlos Correa in Game 4 of the NLDS? Or the ball juuuuust under Daniel Murphy's glove in Game 4? Not everything has to make sense. Sometimes, bad defense or bad hops have to happen at the worst possible time.
There weren't a lot of those moments involving the Royals, though.
Which is the point, I suppose.
* * *
There were a couple, though. Eric Hosmer botched a play in Game 1 of the World Series, and then he botched one in Game 5. They were brutal, horribly timed misplays. The Royals won both games.
The Royals made mistakes, too. Bunts at the wrong time. Starters left in too long. They just weren't penalized as much as the other teams.
Which is a fancy way of saying, "They're a team that won the World Series," then.
* * *
The Royals let James Shields walk, replacing him with Edinson Volquez. It seemed laughable at the time -- Volquez was a reclamation project two years ago, with the Pirates doing their best to fix him into a passable starting pitcher. Ha, the Internet chuckled. Ha. Then he was okay, with a memorable postseason implosion, and the Royals somehow came away with him as their offseason prize.
Ha, the Internet chuckled. Ha.
Big Game Edinson was tremendous. Whatever he found in Pittsburgh, he built upon in Kansas City. Suddenly he was firing 95-mph sinkers wherever he wanted, like that's a normal thing that pitchers do. He became the sentimental story of the postseason, but he was mostly adept at keeping the Royals close. The devil magic and the robot bullpen don't count for much if Kyle Davies is giving up six earned over the first three innings. Volquez was the perfect pitcher at the right time.
And it's not like he was there because Dayton Moore threw a dart. He was targeted for a reason. Smart people had smart internal debates and made a whopper of a smart decision. The Royals weren't supposed to make it back to the postseason, and then Edinson Volquez was something of a badass.
Volquez and Wade Davis for Wil Myers, who says no? Other than the commissioner, who steps in, Bowie Kuhn-like, to cancel the deal.
* * *
This isn't all about the Royals. The Mets had a tremendous season. With any luck and/or justice, they'll have more tremendous seasons in the future. Here's a question though:
The Cubs never led in the NLCS. Not once. They never had that moment of "we got this." Then they went away for the winter.
The Mets led in every game. They had that moment of "we got this" in every single World Series game. Then they went away for the winter.
Which one would you prefer, as an impartial fan? I don't think there's a wrong answer. A pennant is a pennant, so I'll take the brutality of the Mets. But there's something about the simple, quick release of the Cubs that makes me wistful.
I mean, damn, Royals. Stop it.
* * *
There was no correct answer with Matt Harvey in the ninth inning, except that most of us would have pulled him after the walk, at the very least. Even then, we don't know what happens. Instead of a double, it could have been a homer off Jeurys Familia again. The Mets were probably going to lose the World Series, even if Harvey came out and pitched from 40 feet in front of home, undetected.
Anyone mad at Terry Collins for that specific decision -- and not the bumblejackery with Familia in the previous games of the series -- probably isn't worth listening to. I would have pulled Harvey after the walk, too, but I'm comfortable in negative-blaming the Royals more than blaming the Mets. They were never going to die, even if logic suggested they might at some point. Harvey would have fallen, Familia would have fallen, Seaver would have fallen, Benitez would have fallen ...
* * *
The Royals were the team without a clock. They lived the entire postseason like they figured out the loophole of baseball, that it never ends if the last out isn't recorded.
Before the final game of the World Series, I talked about who the series MVP would be for the Royals with my co-workers. There were a half-dozen different guesses, all of them plausible, none of them obvious. The Royals didn't win the 2015 World Series behind a flukey spell of dominance from a lone hitter. They didn't win it because a single pitcher threw 30 scoreless innings. They won it because everyone had a moment, at least one, and they saved them for the perfect time.
Congratulations, Royals. Congratulations, Royals fans. I've watched a lot of championship runs over the last couple decades, but I don't remember anything quite like that. The 2016 Royals won't win the World Series. But that's okay, because the 2015 Royals did. They singled and singled and doubled right when they were supposed to, and the bullpen was a multi-faced demon. They caught the ball, and the other teams didn't. They didn't discover something we never knew about the game, they just highlighted what we already suspected.
And like hell would I want to face them in the 2016 postseason.