Here’s to the Royals

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What if I told you that one October could make 29 years worth the wait?

Sounds like the opening to the best 30 for 30 of all-time, right?  Let me be clear, I am not a supporter of waiting 29 more years until the Royals make it back to the World Series, but as I sat and reflected on the best sports month of my life, I kept thinking that sans the ending, I wouldn’t trade the last month for anything.  Here’s to everything that made my October unforgettable.

Here’s to the players and coaches who took us on this unbelievable ride.  Thank you for representing Kansas City the way it deserves to be represented.  Thank you for understanding the magnitude of this run and for making the fans feel like a part of the magic.  You often reminded us that the energy we provided helped push you throughout the Postseason; thank you for providing the fuel.

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Here’s to The K.  The people who filed in brought their A-Game every single night, with broadcasters and fans of other teams alike commenting that they couldn’t remember a louder baseball stadium.  You’ve never looked so beautiful than with the World Series logo painted on your grass, and with 40,000+ screaming fans in blue in your seats.  The Giants may have survived Game 7, but they had to be scared coming back to The K.  Let’s keep opponents fearing our home for years to come.

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Here’s to Kansas City. While in San Francisco during Game 4, I saw the scene at Power and Light and thought to myself, “Man, I wish I was there.” I WISHED I WASN’T AT THE GAME.  From the welcome that SungWoo got in August to the absolutely delirious rowdiness that you brought in October, you continue to make me proud to tell people I am from Kansas City.  You are freaking rockstars, don’t ever change.

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Here’s to my friends. I spent my high school years in Chicago and my college years in Pennsylvania, and thus, most of my close friends now are fans of other teams.  When I dreamed of this magical run throughout the years, I have to admit, I imagined shoving it in all of your faces.  Instead, I got supportive texts, phone calls, and emails.  Instead, you rocked blue and cheered for the Royals.  Instead, some of you drove or flew from Chicago to KC to be a part of the madness with me.  You all root for the Cubs and White Sox and Phillies and Pirates and Twins during the season, and this October you rooted for the Royals.  It was as if I was playing in the World Series myself.  Your support was overwhelming and was truly one of the best parts of this Postseason.

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(And thanks to that guy for the amazing photobomb)

Here’s to my mom and dad.  29 years ago you were at The K for Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.  Being able to bring you both back to see playoff baseball meant the world to me.  I will be forever grateful that we made memories together during this amazing run.

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Here’s to all of the amazing people I met along the way, both during the season and in the postseason.  It is a privilege to make new friends, especially those who share a common bond.  Thank you for talking endless amounts of Royals with me.  Thank you for taking me in and making me feel at home again in Kansas City.  Thank you for being awesome.  Please know that whenever you’re in New York you have a place to stay, and a free drink the next time I see you.

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Finally, here’s to October. I no longer loathe you. I no longer disregard you. I no longer fear you. It’s no longer “goodbye, October”, it’s, “I’ll see you soon.”

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A Royal Dream

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From the parking lot, I could still see the glow of the crown coming from Kauffman Stadium. It was late, it was raining, and I was tired, but I didn’t want to go home yet. I couldn’t go home yet.

No more than 90 minutes earlier, the Royals had finished off an ALDS sweep of the Angels with a convincing 8-3 win. The anchors of that win – Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas, with a little Lorenzo Cain defensive magic mixed in. Just like they drew it up.

But it wasn’t always like this. Born in 1987, this was my first taste of Royals postseason baseball, and I sat in my car that Sunday night convinced someone would wake me up from a dream that even I couldn’t make up.

I didn’t want to go home. I couldn’t go home.

Frozen in the moment, there wasn’t much that I was able to do.  I texted a few friends, sent out a few semi-coherent (incoherent) tweets, and may or may not have teared up a little. I thought about the roller coaster that this season had been; about the ups (our one-month stint in first place from August 11 to September 12) and the downs (the Royals were 48-50 on July 21).  I thought briefly to myself:

I could stay in this car forever; in the rain, in the parking lot, in this moment.

I wasn’t ready for any of it to end, but the best part was, it wasn’t ready to end either.  And so, over the next week, the dream continued.  In it, games were close but I was never nervous.  In it, the opposing team hit the ball hard, but it was (almost) always caught.  In it, home runs flew off bats of Royals that I always believed had the power in them.

In it, the Royals were going to the World Series.

So here we are, in a Royal reality that may or may not be.  All I ask, is that if this is a dream, please don’t wake me up.

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Worth the Wait

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There was a time when everything was different. There was a time, before I existed, when the Royals were consistently one of baseball’s best. It was a time of division titles, trips to the World Series, and beautiful powder blue uniforms. It was a time almost 30 years ago. Today, the people I hang out with can’t believe such a time ever existed.

My dad was in the stands on that fateful October night in 1985, when Andy Van Slyke’s fly ball landed in Darryl Motley’s glove, clinching the Royals first and only World Series title. I was born just two years later, barely missing the Royals last postseason trip. That is, until Tuesday night, when we sat at The K together, completely unaware (and unprepared) for what was about to unfold.

A few friends reminded me that this would be a perfect time to return to this blog, and I more than agreed with them. The issue was, every time I started, I got lost. I struggled with trying to both comprehend what I witnessed the other night, and putting it into coherent sentences that people who read this (all ten of you) could understand. It was just that kind of night. Two days later, I’m still not sure I can do Tuesday night justice, but I’m going to give it a try.

To me, the night broke down into three components: The company, the atmosphere, and the game itself.

The Company

Tuesday night’s game will go down as one of the greatest games in the history of the Kansas City Royals, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity to watch it with my dad, who sat to my right.  As I said earlier, he was in attendance in 1985, the last time the Royals played a Postseason game.  When I told him I had a ticket for him if he could make it, there was no hesitation, his flight was booked.  In so many ways, he is the reason I had the tickets in the first place.  He has always pushed me, inspired me, and most of all, believed in me.  His guidance was the driving force behind my landing a job at MLB.com, and without him, my experience of Tuesday night’s game is very different.  “Blessed” is not a word I like to use to describe anything, but it’s hard to feel anything but that after getting to take in that game with him.

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To my left sat Chris Kamler (AKA “The Fake Ned“) and Rany Jazayerli.  Chris is a top dog in what is affectionately known as #RoyalsTwitter, and  was the driving force behind the magical 9 days that saw SungWoo come to KC.  I remember him telling me about how proud he was of the people of Kansas City during SungWoo’s trip, and I remember thinking that he was a perfect representation of why there was something to be proud of.  Rany has a dermatology practice in Illinois and writes for Grantland (how he finds time for both, I’ll never know).  He may have described himself to me as “a regular guy with an opinion who gets a chance to write about it”, but I was admittedly excited to hang out with him.  I knew I was in good company when I realized that the only person having a harder time standing still than me, was Rany.  If you haven’t read his account of the game, it is a must-read.  Between Chris, Rany, and my dad, I could not have imagined a better group to ride the lightening with.  At one point in the 8th, as the Royals began their first of what seemed like 85 rallies, Chris turned to me and said:

“I don’t know what’s about to happen, but I can promise you it’s going to be SPECTACULAR.”

Maybe the understatement of the century.

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The Atmosphere

Last season, I got the privilege of being in attendance at PNC Park as the Pirates ended a playoff drought of their own (20 years).  Many times I have told people that game was the best atmosphere I have ever seen at a baseball game.  Tuesday night was like if that game took a double shot of 5 Hour Energy, got locked in a cage without room to move for 30 minutes, and then got let out at game time.  We stood more than we sat, blue rally towels waved everywhere, and fans cheered like there hadn’t be a Postseason baseball game in Kansas City for 29 years (wait…).  When the A’s lead reached 7-3, you could have heard a cricket at The K, but that only made the 8th inning on that much more insane.  More than once, I was convinced that the ground was shaking.  In hindsight, it may have just been my body preparing to pass out, but I’m not sure that distinction matters.

The Game

By now, you know how the game went, so I don’t feel the need to recount everything that happened (if you’d like to hear that give me a call, I’d LOVE to tell you).  With that said, there are two things I don’t think I’ll ever forget about the game itself.  The first is how badly I wanted Salvador Perez, in particular, to win the game for the Royals.  I met Salvy at the Home Run Derby this year, and it was an amazing interaction.  First, Salvy seemed as excited to me me as I was to meet him (at least he acted like it).  He loved that I was a huge Royals fan, and insisted someone take a picture of us on his phone.  For a few minutes, the professional in me disappeared and the 10-year old baseball fan in me came out.  He was already one of my favorite Royals, but he locked up the number one spot that night.  I had noticed by being around the team previously how players gravitated to Salvy.  It made sense to me, he was the catcher on a young team; he was in a natural position to lead.  During games he was focused and fiery, and then after the game he would steal the microphone from a reporter and interview his teammates.  Pitchers respected him, everybody loved him.  What was interesting was that at the Home Run Derby, it was more of the same, but from players on other teams, both young and old.  His combination of skills, leadership, and charisma make him everything you want out of a player on your favorite team.

Up until the bottom of the 12th inning, Salvy had as bad of a game as I can remember, going 0-for-5 with two strikouts, and allowing two wild pitches and a passed ball on defense.  In the bottom of the 10th, with Perez at the plate and the winning run on third, I turned to Rany and Chris and said, “This is Salvy’s game to win, he’s gonna do it.”  Turns out I was two innings early, but the feeling was the same.  Seeing my favorite player redeem himself in the biggest way possible made the outcome that much sweeter.

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The second thing I’ll always remember is Christian Colon rounding third on the winning hit, his hands in the air.  That’s the last thing I remember, the scene that plays in my head over and over.  I’m not even sure if I saw him score.  Once he raised his hands, it was hysteria.  The Royals drafted Colon ahead of Chris Sale, and for the first time, if only for a split second (until you remember he was drafted ahead of CHRIS FREAKING SALE), I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way.  Sure, it could have been someone else scoring that run, but the symbolism in that moment was real for me.

As you can imagine, I’ve found myself watching the highlights of that very moment a lot.  My emotions range from calm to hysterical during those viewings, but it always ends the same way: My hands in the air, my eyes closed, a smile on my face.  I hope that never goes away.

Here’s to You, Kansas City

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Last week, while chatting with some co-workers on a business trip, it got brought up that I was from Kansas City. “Oh, well that explains why you’re so nice,” one of them replied, in a manner that was sincerely meant as a compliment.

I guess people from Kansas City are just different.

I have always taken pride in where I come from, and while I now call Chicago home as well, Kansas City is where it all started for me. It’s where I found the best barbecue on planet Earth (come at me, Texas). It’s where I developed unwavering loyalty for often floundering sports franchises (but let me tell you about the current AL Central standings…). And, most importantly, it’s where I learned to treat people the way I wanted to be treated; to greet them with a smile and a handshake instead of as an awkward moment waiting to happen.

Barbecue, sports, and hospitality; it’s in our DNA.

The last ten days have put those three things on full display with the arrival of Royals superfan SungWoo Lee. By now, you’ve heard his story more times than you can count, but if you haven’t read Rany Jazayerli‘s piece that made the New York Times,  or Ethan Bryan‘s blog post , they both provide awesome perspectives from different angles of the story.  SungWoo went from South Korea’s biggest Royals fan to Kansas City cult hero in just ten short days.  The hashtag #SungWooToKC was used over 14,000 times during his trip.  He he was interviewed what had to be over 50 times, he was featured on SportsCenter, he threw out the first pitch at The K, and oh yeah, he put up the W after the Royals took over first place in the AL Central Monday night.

The entire country got to watch what, on the surface, was a celebration of SungWoo, but what they were really witnessing was a celebration of Kansas City.  It was a celebration of people opening up their homes, of restaurants sharing their food, of a team that rolled out the red carpet for its biggest international fan.  It was a celebration of people coming together over a common interest.  It was a celebration of a city whose hospitality continues to surprise even its own residents.  As Chris Kamler, who was one of the leaders of SungWoo’s welcoming committee, told me on Monday:

“We must have been stopped over 200 times at the Chiefs game on Thursday with folks saying, ‘Hey, welcome to KC, thanks for coming to our city.’ Every time I heard that I became overwhelmed. This is a damn fine town, and I’m really proud of it this week.”

How can you not be?  In a world where it is far too easy to get lost in the overwhelming amount of hate that exists, it’s nice to be reminded that there is some good out there, too.  So here’s to you, Kansas City.  Don’t ever change.

 

Darren Rovell Tweet Breakdown, Vol. 1

Last night, I couldn’t sleep.  Something in my life was missing, there was a void that needed to be filled, and I had NO IDEA where to find it.  While I lay awake in bed, I thought to myself: “Where can I find a hard-hitting story that combines my love for the NBA, baked goods, and all-around good will?”

I knew there was only one hope; a brave vigilante who tweeted in the night (and in the day), making sure no story, no matter how small, insignificant, or baked (see what I did there?), would go unnoticed.  Is your stadium half full?  He will find you.  Is a random State Fair frying a food that has never been fried before?  He will find you.  Does the mouthwash at your hotel look eerily similar to the body wash, so much so that someone could confuse the two and accidentally gargle the wrong one?  He will find you.  He is brave, unfiltered, and resilient.  He is known around the world as many things, but here, we will refer to him by one name: Darren.

And with that, I present to you, the First Edition of Darren Rovell Tweet Breakdown (which is about cupcakes. I told you that, right?).

It starts innocently enough. LeBron James has sent cupcakes to his neighbors to apologize for the recent traffic in their neighborhood. Everyone has forgotten about how they hate LeBron, and now they love LeBron. This all makes sense to me.

Did he make these out to “friend”? HOW COOL would it be to be LeBron’s friend? Well, these neighbors are about to find out (hint: he sends cupcakes)! I’m going to ignore that he only made this out to “friend” (singular) and that there is a slight possibility that more than one person lives in each household. Surely LeBron is not inferring that only one member of each domicile can be his friend, right? Each family should most likely fight to the death, just to be sure.

That’s so clever, because LeBron IS just a kid from Akron! You go, LeBron! Sure, this cupcake could just be a strawberry cupcake that Darren stuck a striped cigarette into when he was playing “What would be awesome for LeBron to send me if I was his neighbor”, but this is also the kind of hard-hitting sports business news we’ve come to expect from Darren. Please tell us more!

Who doesn’t love chocolate? Personally, I would have called these “Homecourt Chocolate Dunk” (because LeBron plays basketball, get it?), but who am I to question to cupcake-naming genius that coined the “Just A Kid From Akron Cherry Cola” cupcake? Anyway, enough about how I feel about the cupcakes. Darren, of course, is a man of the people, and this riveting story that is packed with sports business implications sure to rock the Twitterverse. Highlights, you say? Oh, we’ve got those!

#Cuptakes!

That’s a personal question, Ricky.

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Good question. Darren?

But you can’t turn away, can you?

 

Contrary to Popular Belief, The Royals Season Didn’t End Yesterday

Royals fans are an interesting lot, to say the least. Almost three decades without a postseason berth could turn a saint into a cynic, so you really can’t blame any of them for thinking that with each loss, the apocalypse looms near. And hey, the Royals aren’t without their serious issues. Let us examine (explanations in parentheses for my non-stat guys out there. Hey guys!):

  • 3-7 in their last 10 games
  • 18-22 vs. the AL Central
  • 10-20 in 1-run games
  • 23rd in wOBA (they don’t hit)
  • 20th in ISO (they don’t hit for power)
  • 24th in wRC+ (they’re below average at creating runs, duh)

Add to all of this, that three players considered to be cornerstones to the Royals 2014 success (Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer), have flopped. Hard.

Still, the Royals sit just 3.5 back of the second Wild Card spot.  While their recent play is certainly cause for concern, I’m not sure it warrants some of the tweets of impending doom I have been seeing.  I am going to refrain from embedding those select tweets because I respect the baseball opinions of most of the people who posted them, and I’m not really in the business of calling people out (except Darren Rovell, of course).

With all of that said, the Royals are, once again, just 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.  So before we all go pretending that we like soccer because Sporting KC is good (I’m looking at all of you, Kansas City), let us examine a few things actually trending in the Royals favor:

  • In July, Eric Hosmer has decided to hit. He has posted a .424 BA and a 1.120 OPS to go along with a .487 wOBA, .230 ISO, and 215 wRC+. That’s a start.
  • The Royals next 10 games are against the White Sox, Indians, and Twins. All winnable.
  • In the last 10 years, 16 (that’s a one and a six) teams have made the Postseason who were at least 3 GB of a Postseason spot on July 21.  Don’t believe me? Check out my handy dandy chart below.  You can trust it because it’s a chart, made in Excel, which basically makes it science.
Year Team GB Division/Wild Card
2013 Indians 3.5 Wild Card
2012 Cardinals 3 Wild Card
2011 D-backs 4 Division
Cardinals 6.5 Wild Card
Rays 5.5 Wild Card
2010 Phillies 7 Division
Giants 4 Division
2009 N/A N/A N/A
2008 N/A N/A N/A
2007 Phillies 5 Division
D-backs 4.5 Division
Yankees 6 Wild Card
Rockies 4.5 Wild Card
2006 Yankees 3.5 Division
Twins 9.5 Division
Dodgers 4 Wild Card
2005 N/A N/A N/A
2004 Angels 6 Division
Astros 6 Wild Card

So, while miles and miles of postseason futility will tell you that this thing was over before it started, all is not lost yet.  Until the Royals lose tonight, in which case all is definitely lost.

 

 

 

 

I Have a Blogging Problem

When I started this blog, I told a select group of friends who I knew, at the very least, would act like they were going to read it.  It was the blogging equivalent of scheduling Florida Atlantic in Week 2 (just kidding, FAU, you guys totally have a shot), I just needed a little encouragement to get myself warmed up.

Instead, this response from a close friend was the general consensus:

“You should owe Word Press money for all of the free blogs you’ve started.”

I reacted defiantly, BY GAWD I WAS GONNA COMMIT TO THIS.  I fired off three blogs in a week, one of which most likely killed the Royals chances of winning anything this season.  I was committed.  I was doing this.  I was a blogging machine.

That was three weeks ago.  This is my first blog since.

My name is Alex Robinson, and I have a blogging problem.  But I’m working on it.  Still, based on past performance, my DFS and poker friends know it’s only a matter of time before I regress.

Now that I have sufficiently wasted your time talking about myself (sorry (not really)), check out Shawn Achor’s TED Talk on how Happiness inspires productivity.  I’m confident it will be the best thing you’ll watch today.