sportsball expert ink q poodle

explaining tim lincecum’s tragic freefall, fanfiction-style:

  • alien puberty
  • alien heat (“for two and a half years?” are you kidding, says ink, have you never been in fandom or are you just asking that to seem smart)
  • is some sort of higher being; mortal form slowly breaking down in preparation for his return
  • cursed by some sort of God Council from On High, because, against all edicts, he fell in love
  • cursed by the los angeles dodgers, who naturally have ties to dangerous criminals in the magical underworld
  • being slowly possessed by demons. he is their Chosen One, the one who will open their gateway to the mortal world. they will devour him slowly and painfully, with lots of excruciatingly described hallucinations, until there is nothing left, and then they will come for us. [booming announcer voice] only twenty-five men can stop them
  • they said they’d leave everything on the field for one another. now, when the stakes are at their highest, can they live up to that promise
  • … look okay i just have this mental image of gregor blanco or someone frantically scrambling for the shotgun in the back of bum’s pickup while tim lincecum writhes on the ground with black mist pouring out of his mouth
  • in the darkest timeline, buster posey never recovered from his ankle injury. tim lincecum made a desperate bargain to prevent that timeline from coming to pass, and has carried the burden alone ever since
  • soulbonding.
  • soulbonding to buster posey
  • soulbonding to hector sanchez
  • soulbonding to barry zi–okay, you know what, you get the point
  • in the end, all pitchers are like rose brides.

i like how the red sox made a whole separate ring for david ortiz to commemorate the fact that he has THREE !!! RINGS !!!! and meanwhile the giants are just like, yeah, these are all our middling relievers with three rings, check em out. oh, this guy? he’s not even good anymore, we just hid him in the back of the bullpen and hoped no one would notice 

and i didn't even mention sung-woo lee

So last night megaparsecs asked about the Royals and what’s been going on with them. Something pretty cool, actually! Cool enough that I wanted to talk about it at length, so gather round, kids, it’s time for baseball! (No, wait, where are you going? Come back … . )

Last week, the Kansas City Royals clinched one of the two wild card spots in the American League, sending them to the playoffs for the first time in 29 years. This was the longest postseason drought in major league baseball. It was, I believe, the longest postseason drought in major league sports. Entire Hall of Fame careers have come and gone during that time. Four baseball teams have risen out of the ashes, and one has sunk back into the earth. In 1985, the last year there was playoff baseball at Kauffman Stadium, 26 out of the 42 players currently on the Royals roster had not yet been born. One more, Wade Davis, was only a month old.

Here is a helpful infographic about life in 1985:

Yeah.

And here’s the thing: making the playoffs is not some terribly hard, exclusive feat. Over the past 30 years, somewhere between one-fifth and one-third (under current rules it’s five in each league, or 10/30) of MLB teams have made it each year. And baseball is a sport full of shenanigans, randomness, and more shenanigans: even a historically terrible franchise can luck into a star player in the draft, or have a few key pieces get hot at the right time, or see some division rivals collapse due to injuries. The four teams I mentioned above, the ones that postdate the Royals’ drought? All of them have been to the postseason multiple times. Two of them have won the World Series; one (the now-Miami Marlins) has done so twice. The current worst-in-baseball Arizona Diamondbacks, one of those four teams? They were division champs just three years ago. The 2014 bottomfeeders of the American League, the Texas Rangers? Made back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. What about those perpetual laughingstocks, the Chicago Cubs? Nope, even they had legitimate playoff runs as recently as 2003 and 2008.

So it says something about the Royals, doesn’t it, that in a generation’s time they couldn’t manage to sneak in, not even once, to the playoffs. About their misfortune? Probably. About their haplessness? Maybe. About the incompetence of a long string of owners, managers, and general managers who have guided the team? Almost certainly. But for whatever reason, a pall of hopelessness has hung over the Kansas City Royals for as long as most of us reading this have been alive. That hopelessness transcends win-loss records. It transcends losing seasons. It transcends untimely injuries, and boneheaded managerial decisions, and the countless stars who have gone away to make another team’s fortune. It seems to say, with a force greater than any logic, that as long as baseball is played, it will never be the Royals. They will always fall behind.

Except. Except. This year, somehow, the Royals did what no one, least of all their fans, really expected them to do: they contended. For most of the year, they were either in playoff position or very close to it. They fought for their division title–against the juggernaut Detroit Tigers, a team that had made the playoffs three years running–until the very last day of the regular season. For the first time in a long, long time, they looked and felt like a team that could succeed.

You probably don’t know what that feels like: the first rain after a thirty-year drought. I sure as hell don’t know what that feels like. But I’ll let Joe Posnanski, longtime reporter for the Star, take it away:

I think of a time when a genial man named Herk Robinson, as general manager, wanted to hire an artist to paint the Royals players in action in order to help the scouts. When told that the scouts already had something called video, which rather precisely transferred reality to a television screen, Robinson said yes, but art, true art, can transcend reality.

The Royals, those Royals, are going to the playoffs.

[ … ]

I think of a time when a manager named Tony Muser decided to change his image. Muser was and is a good baseball man but he had this Charlie Brown cloud hovering over him, so that no matter what fiasco befell the Royals, you sensed the Muser was still looking up at the sky certain that a piano was about to fall on his head. In his final spring training, he announced that he was going to be more positive, a Happy Tony Muser, and the players created a calendar where they would put a smiley face sticker on days when Muser actually smiled.

The Royals, those Royals, are going to the playoffs.

[ … ]

I think of a time when the Royals decided to buy Johnny Damon a house in order, I suppose, to instill loyalty and make him want to stay in Kansas City when he became too expensive. Damon ran kicking and screaming from Kansas City at first opportunity anyway, probably when he realized that for a few million dollars extra he could buy his own house.

The Royals, those Royals, are going to the playoffs. 

Yes. Yes, they are.

It could all end tonight. They’re playing the Oakland A’s in a one-game elimination–winner gets to advance to the best-of-five Division Series–and the A’s, despite a precipitous August decline, were an absolute juggernaut for much of the season. Jon Lester, a bonafide ace, will be pitching against them. But then again, it could not–it would not even be very strange–and either way, the 2014 Royals lit up Kansas City for the first time in twenty-nine years. Among both Royals players and fans, there is a palpable excitement, and there should be. They should be excited, and proud. Proud of finally making it for so long, proud of the way they’ve played over the past season: of getting the bat on the ball constantly and consistently; of eking out wins in close game after close game; of their bullpen, which mows down batters in the late innings like no other.

It all adds up to this. Tonight, in about four hours, there will be playoff baseball at Kauffman Stadium.

That’s something worth celebrating.

“The wind was blowing but I didn’t take a good route. That was on me, nobody else. I was feeling as low as I can feel in that moment. You give the Cardinals a run, as tight as it’s been in this series, it’s so detrimental.”

Ishikawa had a weight on his chest the rest of that inning, but then two things happened. Bumgarner got a pair of non-threatening fly outs to strand two runners in scoring position, and then center fielder Gregor Blanco offered another kind of support.

“Hey, I’m really proud of you,” Blanco told Ishikawa. “You’ve been doing so, so good out there and I’m so proud of how you’ve played out there. Whatever you do, it’s going to be OK.”

n o p e

mariasaurio replied to your post:As you probably know, back on Aug. 30, Aubrey Huff…

baseball is more interesting than I thought????

little did you know. all this time you thought baseball was a sports game, when ACTUALLY it is an amalgam of frightening mascots, pun-laden concession foods, and arcane superstitious rituals involving underwear.

i know. i used to be young and innocent too.

Only one man can understand the inner sanctum of Ned Yost’s psyche, but its inhabitant advertises the space as a place of optimism.

“I do not allow negative thoughts into my mind,” Yost said one day last week. “If they start creeping in, I stop it. Kick ’em out.”

Asked for a demonstration of this practice, his hands gripped his chair. His head shook. His eyes bulged. “Stop!” he shouted.

A few tables down, Hunter Pence spent much of his media session explaining the “Hunter Pence Signs” that have been so popular this season. Pence said his favorite one is one he saw during the August trip here that read: “Hunter Pence thinks he’s in Kansas.”

“When I read the sign, I was like, I guess I’m not in Kansas,” Pence said, shrugging. “I guess I’m in Missouri.”

i

The only even mildly interesting thing that has happened to the Royals this spring is when a swarm of bees delayed a game against the Angels. Then, after the bees were killed, Ned Yost took a public stand against the injustice. “I’ve never seen mass bee genocide like that,” he said.

oh my GOD

It’s Game Seven of the World Series. The score is 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth. The bases are loaded. The batter is the backup catcher, who is in the game only because the starting catcher’s wife had triplets that morning. We’ll call him Yantz. Yantz is a 37-year-old rookie who played 17 games in the regular season without as much as a double. But today he has accounted for all of his team’s offense with three solo home runs. The pitcher is the other team’s ace starter, who has thrown 40 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason; he has been brought out of the bullpen for just this batter, having thrown a complete-game shutout the day before to force Game Seven. It was clear even in that start yesterday that he was throwing in pain, having been worked to exhaustion in the pennant race and postseason. In a dugout shot earlier in the game he looked pale and weak sitting on the bench, but his adrenaline has kicked in. His first pitch registers 100 mph.

The ace gets ahead 0-2. He throws the next pitch in the dirt, and Yantz swings and misses. The pitch gets away from the catcher, and the hitter and all three baserunners sprint ahead, trying to preserve the rally. But immediately the umpire rules that Yantz tipped the ball foul, and the runners all stop. Yantz returns to the batter’s box; replays show that he didn’t actually tip the ball. Nobody is sure who was screwed by the umpire’s missed call.

Yantz lays off some pitches, fouls some others off. The count reaches full. Two more fouls. The second one nearly decapitates the runner on third, who (like the others) is off with the pitch. On the 14th pitch of the at-bat, though, Yantz crushes one to deep center field. Could it be? His fourth home run of the game? A walk-off grand slam? It’s high, it’s deep, it’s …

The center fielder leaps over the wall and gloves the ball! But the recoil on his extension snaps the glove back and the ball squirts out of it, back toward the infield. All three outfielders sprint toward it. Runners are circling the bases. Yantz is around second, heading to third, and his coach waves him around. It’s going to be close. A good throw will get him. Yantz turns, chugging, when …

He trips! He flies face first into the dirt. The throw home was a perfect strike. He gets up and scrambles back to third. The catcher fires to the third baseman, and …

The throw hits off Yantz’s helmet and ricochets into the outfield. Yantz has no idea where it is. As four defenders converge on it, he sees the ball, turns around and runs back toward home. The throw comes in to the plate. It’s arriving just as Yantz arrives, but …

The catcher hasn’t left Yantz a lane to the plate! So Yantz barrels into him. The ball sails past the play, the umpire rules Yantz safe, the visiting manager rushes out screaming for a video review, but the umpire waves him off. The catcher lies motionless. Yantz’s teammates mob him. The game is over! The game is over! The game is over!

Oh, and Yantz plays for the Cubs.

So that’s it. That would be the greatest moment in baseball history.

 Sam Miller