The Kansas City Royals are World Series Champions for the first time since 1985. They overcame a two run deficit in Game One of the World Series to force extra innings. They were down 3-2 in Game Four of the World Series when Daniel Murphy’s error in the 8th changed the game and changed what looked like it would be a 2-2 series tie into a 3-1 Kansas City advantage. In Game Five, they scored two in the 9th to tie the game and force extra innings.
Any team that makes the playoffs has about an equal chance of winning the World Series. It’s about getting good pitching, making contact with the ball (BABIP), and minimizing errors. The Kansas City Royals did all those things when it counted. They also benefitted from a great defense, especially infield. A special mention should go to World Series MVP Salvador Perez who hit .364 this series while doing a great job handling an excellent pitching staff.
The New York Mets have excellent starting pitching and future, especially in that area, looks bright. (A little too bright for this Phillies fan.) Harvey pitched 8 innings of shutout baseball while striking out 9 in the last game of the season. He was left in for the 9th where he issued a walk and gave up a double. Those two men on base were the tying runs that sent the game to extra innings.. In the 12th inning, the wheels came off the cart and the Royals scored five.
I don’t believe in blaming the losing team. They got to the World Series. The Mets won 90 games and their first NL East title since 2006. Those are tremendous accomplishments but three things have to be talked about: their pitcher management, the infield defense, and Daniel Murphy. It’s easy to second guess the decision to keep a pitcher in the game when it doesn’t turn out well but it’s important to remember that these guys pitched the team to the World Series, there has to be a trust between staff and coaches, and it is easy to know something was the wrong decision after having seeing the outcome. With all respect to David Wright, who has fought through injuries and played third base well for the Mets for over a decade, the infield defense seemed slow to react at times and often seemed to let balls get into the outfield. The issues around the infield defense are best exemplified by Daniel Murphy’s error in the 8th inning of Game Four. The error, on a routine ground ball, allowed the tying run to score and Murphy went from hero to goat in the time it took Ben Zobrist to cross home.
The thing about baseball though, more than any other sport, is that one player can’t win it all and one player can’t lose it all. Yes, the starting pitcher is a crucially important piece of the team but a pitcher needs a good defense behind him and decent run support to “win” games. These days a pitcher may only go six innings, so a team needs good defense, quality hitting from at least hitters 1-6, and a bullpen that is reliable The Cavaliers can dish the ball to LeBron James as many times as they like in the fourth quarter. Atlanta can go to Julio Jones as many times as they want in a third down situation. In baseball, Bryce Harper hits once per nine the same as Darin Ruf.
According to fangraphs, LeBron James is worth about 21 WAR in an 82 game season. In contrast to this, Bryce Harper led MLB with 9.4 WAR in a 162 game season. What is my point? My point is that blaming Murphy or any other player for a single defensive error is pointless. Baseball is a beautiful game in part because of how democratic it is. Everyone has the same number of turns. It may be frustrating for the fan who wants Buster Posey or Jose Altuve to hit every other plate appearance or the fan who wishes Carlos Correa could cover the entire infield but the necessity of involving everyone is one of the aspects that draws me to the game.
Murphy’s error was costly and it deserves to be remembered that way. He doesn’t deserve to be remembered as costing the Mets the World Series. The Mets and the Royals got to the World Series as teams. The outcome of the World Series was determined by those teams, by that unit, by that particular baseball family in that particular moment in time. Failure is a built in part of the baseball game from the at bat to the fact that only one team can win the World Series.
Baseball is a game in which players will fail over and over again. You can see baseball as a game about failure or you can chose to see baseball as a game that rewards perseverance. Everyone fails in baseball. The best players are lucky to only fail 7 out of 10 times. Baseball is about knowing how to pick yourself up, dust the dirt off the back of your pants, and try again. I can’t wait to watch everyone pick themselves back up and try again next year. I’ll see you all in April so we can watch it together.