2014 World Series: The pick


I’m not keen on making predictions for lots of reasons, not the least of which is I might be wrong. Making them is akin to what it must have felt like when a fastball left the hands of the late Ryne Duren: nobody was sure where it’s going.

Think there was anyone who foretold the last three weeks, who said the Royals would win eight games in a row, the Dodgers would be eliminated because Clayton Kershaw twice couldn’t hold a lead, the Giants would return to the World Series on a home run by Travis Ishikawa?

There’s a reason Bruce Springsteen’s “cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do,” in his song 4th of July, Asbury Park, and that Arnold Rothstein picked the Reds over the White Sox in the 1919 Series.

(If you had asked, I would have probably opted for the Dodgers, based on Kershaw and all the speed/power combination players in the middle of their order.)

The Royals are slightly favored to win the World Series, but probably shouldn’t be. The Giants have the best starting pitcher (Madison Bumgarner, who has 15 scoreless Series innings entering Game 1), and maybe two (Tim Hudson), the better manager and the better history. They have Mike Morse recovering just in time to make use of him as the designated hitter, Joe Panik emerging at second base enough to make one wonder why they ever dabbled with Dan Uggla. And they have Gregor Blanco, who’s like some kind of good-luck charm or baseball Steve Kerr, who does little or less until you’re convinced he never will (Blanco is 7-for-44 this postseason with four walks, yet continues to bat leadoff. About the better manager …)

But the Royals have a 1969 Miracle Mets feel to them, from Lorenzo Cain playing the part of Tommie Agee and diving joyfully through the outfield to catch every sinking line drive like a kid frolicking in the first snow, from Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer sharing the role of Donn Clendenon and hitting the big home run, to the back end of the Royals staff doing what the front end of the Mets did.

The ’69 Mets earned three of their four Series wins in the seventh inning or later, and the Royals will probably have to as well. They’ll be fortunate to play to a standoff in the first six innings; if they don’t, the Giants have the lefty relief pitching — Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt — to neutralize the Royals’ lefty power (Hosmer, Moustakas and Alex Gordon, though Gordon and Norichika Aoki hit lefties better than righties).

The Royals don’t have the quality of lefty relief (rookie Brandon Finnegan, starter Danny Duffy and erratic Tim Collins), but fortunately won’t need it as much, with the important exception of Brandon Belt and switch-hitter Pablo Sandoval, who was a .317/363/461 hitter vs. righties and .199/244/319 vs. left.

Matchups don’t matter much to the Royals, which is a retreat from the modern-day reliance on getting the platoon advantage. If nothing else, it may make for less commercial breaks in the late innings.

Three years ago, Joe Posnanski penned a piece for Sports Illustrated looking back at the Royals’ 2015 World Series win. It was met with some derision, no small part of it here, when the Royals were 48-50 this year. Mea culpa. Today it’s a tape measure home run of a projection, its only error perhaps that it was off by a year.

Royals in five.

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