You should be Royals; Why everyone needs to get behind Kansas City in the baseball playoffs 8 years ago

You should be Royals; Why everyone needs to get behind Kansas City in the baseball playoffs

One of the great droughts in American sport is finally over and you should clamber aboard the bandwagon for the ride.

Almost as well known as the great sides are the suckiest ones. The losers, the also-rans and the never-weres. Teams who have gone decades without a hint of success are in their own bracket of fame.


And we’re not talking teams like Mayo here either. Yes we all know it is now 63 years and counting since they won Sam but in that time they have won 19 Connacht titles, plus countless underage and club success. Ditto for Limerick’s hurlers since ’73.

When it comes to the Kansas City Royals, the fairytale story of this year’s baseball post-season, you need to think more like Newcastle, trophyless since 1969, as a template.

The Royals qualified from the regular season this year for the first time since they won the whole bloody thing in 1985, an astounding 29 years without even a hint of success. That span away from the play-offs was the longest run in America’s major sports, with the Toronto Blue Jays now taking the mantle as they sit 21 years from their last dip into extra games.

True, it was, and even now still is, harder to make the baseball post-season than in the NFL, NHL or NBA, but c'mon, almost three decades out of contention is some achievement.


And for the vast majority of that span, the Royals were not just out of contention, they were atrocious.

As other teams embraced the use of statistics to improve their odds against the big spending teams, the Royals seemed to go the other way, spending huge money, or trading valuable pieces away for players on the downside of their career. It seemed Sabermetrics and Moneyball were dirty words.

Their worst spell was from 2002 to 2012, when they lost 1042 games out of 1782, putting them way below .500 for over a decade. In 2005 they contrived to lose 19 games in a row.

So, how have the Royals pulled it around? They have done it in a rather unconventional way. They don’t hit home runs (their tally of 95 is the lowest in the league this year by some distance) but they are fifth in hits so they get on base a lot and they are top in stolen bases, so they take maximum advantage of those positions.


Most impressive is the number of strikeouts taken by their batters. Their total for the year, 985, is 119 fewer than their nearest rivals, the A's. That is frankly ridiculous.

What that tells us is that the Royals have got to the promised land by sheer hard work, making batters work and pulling walks and hits out of pitchers by wearing them out. It is a tough way to play the game, but perhaps the only way if you don’t have the talent of the big boys.

Last night, the Royals ran out at Kaufmann Stadium for the horrendously cruel Wildcard game against the Oakland A’s. After 162 games, one game would decide who would go through to the Divisional round. Compared to a Premier League season that is like a top four spot being up for grabs at the end of the campaign, but decided by a 20-minute match.

The early signs were not good for the long-suffering Royals fans. They managed to go 7-3 down to the A’s before finding their groove to score four runs in the final two innings to take the game to overtime.


How bad were the nerves in Kansas? Well the local police sent this tweet out as the second extra inning started.


Oakland took the lead in the 12th, meaning the Royals had to score to stay alive. They did. Twice, and the second run, scored after Salvador Perez’s single, completed the great comeback and sent the city into raptures. Check out the full highlights of the game here.


Next up for the Royals are the big-spending Angels, a team with the likes of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in their ranks. It will be an uphill struggle.

But after the years of misery, and the tremendous courage last night, you’d want a heart of stone not to cheer for the Royals. Just look at the front page of the local paper today. Imagine what it will be like if they go all the way to to the World Series. There won't be room on the bandwagon then so clamber aboard now.

Kansas City Star Oct 1