The Kansas City Royals have made the Major League Baseball playoffs this year for the first time since 1985. In a sport where the lowest payroll is well over forty million dollars, it’s hard to find a band of loveable overachievers. When Derek Jeter, the #46 best baseball player of all time per WAR (and possibly the worst defensive player ever) gets commercialized to the point where he is celebrated by literally every team in the league on the event of his departure, there is a “National Game of the Week” every day of the week depending on which channel you watch, and a third of each league makes the postseason, it’s hard to see these guys as old school, hard working types banding together to win.
In the 2013 season, we may have seen as close to the Impossible Dream season as we will ever see again. A Red Sox team coming off of a last place finish watched their adopted city take a body blow in April, and they responded by winning the World Series, seemingly out of nowhere, being led by guys who, years before were about as likely to lead a team to a Series victory as Larry, Moe and Curly were. David Ortiz was cut by the Minnesota Twins before he told everyone just whose [bleeping] city he played for. Dustin Pedroia may have been balding on his thirteenth birthday, is listed 5’8” and has already won more MVP’s than the aforementioned Jeter, Jon Lester is a starting pitcher that had to beat cancer before he became the guy with a 2.11 postseason ERA.
Jon Lester pitches in the playoffs tonight. The #NVRQT message that he stands for is one that everyone can get behind, and many a Red Sox fan will still be rooting for him and his story, even as he pitches for the Oakland Athletics. Some Red Sox fans are also Dragons fans though, and those fans will be looking in the other dugout for their storyline.
This isn’t about the Royals decision to renovate Kauffman Stadium rather than build new (nor the lack of attendance increase they received from it, because that was in line with new stadiums as well), although it kind of is. It’s not about their lengthy playoff drought although it kind of is. It’s not even about them standing by Dayton Moore (GMU ’89) since 2006 despite a record of 594-702 (.458) since his first full season as GM in 2007, complete with five 90+ loss seasons and zero 90+ win seasons. It’s about the combination of all of these things.
The Royals have watched six teams get new stadiums in the last decade, while they put lipstick on their 48 year old “The K”. It’s been ten years since Michael Lewis’ book “Moneyball” came out, extolling the value of the walk in baseball. The Royals have been in the bottom ten in baseball in walks every year since it was published, including dead last three times. They gave a contract extension to a below .500 General Manager who went to GMU! Based on this it's pretty clear that they may think that George Brett is still on the team, that you should wipe a little dirt on that concussion and it’ll be fine, and that the internet is a fad that will be over any time now, certainly well before Y2K wipes us all out.
And that’s just it.
The Royals may be outdated, out of touch, and small market, but they’re winners now!
Every season brings with it a 0-0 record. Every season brings with it hope. And even if your Athletics Department's flagship program is twenty years behind the time, at a “technology-infused”* school, and would rather self teach themselves cutting edge techniques than bring in someone from outside “the family” to assist, there is hope.
I bought my season tickets this year because I support the Dragons. I support the student athletes and I support the laundry. I bought my season tickets because the Royals, who were dead last in walks again this year, won anyway. Because it’s sports and weird stuff happens and there’s always a chance. And when that happens, I want to have been there the whole time, have gotten the whole experience, the wins and the losses. That's the best part of being a fan.
Buy your tickets, get your popcorn ready. Listen to the top 40 hit from DJ Bru Featuring Calvin Hicks "Four Letter Words (Defense)". Tip off is in 45 days away. For tonight though, it’s the Royals who give my Dragons hope.
Sorry Jon, Go Blue.
*“Drexel is an academically comprehensive and globally engaged urban research university, dedicated toadvancing knowledge and society and to providing every student with a valuable,rigorous, experiential, technology-infused education, enriched by the nation's premier co-operative education program.”