2014 World Series Preview:
What Kind of Guy Am I?
Given that I had 75,000 words to submit to my publisher, in compiling the manuscript for Trading Bases there weren’t many baseball-themed stories from my life that I didn’t at least reference, if not entirely retell. There was one story however that ended up on the cutting room floor because I just couldn’t make the tone of the experience fit with the rest of the book. I certainly didn’t think there’d ever be a relevant time to recount a brief period of time during my early 30s. After all, how often do Kansas City Royals-related tidbits warrant disclosure? Here we are however, and as I publish my pick to win the 2014 World Series featuring the Royals, I’m armed with a 15-year old story that suddenly has relevance.
I once dated an heiress to the Kansas City Royals franchise.
I don’t want to overstate the relationship; it was brief and typical of any number of New York City-enabled meetings between young professionals. But it ended up being memorable for a couple of reasons. We were absurdly mismatched as her background and aspirations were befitting of someone who . . well, let’s just put it this way – in virtually every way she was a walking caricature of one whom, with a similar background, is not usually portrayed favorably in books and movies.
Except in one way. Owing to her life-long association with the Kansas City Royals, she loved baseball. And as we were of a similar age, we had a lot of notes to compare because my beloved Phillies had faced and beaten her Royals in the 1980 World Series. To me, the Phillies and the Royals had always been long-distance pen pals, or sister cities separated by leagues. Their path to the 1980 World Series was uncannily similar. Both teams were stocked with home-grown players who had won division titles in 1976, 1977, and 1978 but were ousted each year in the playoffs by their nemeses, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, respectively. (The Phillies also lost to the Big Red Machine juggernaut in 1976.) Both teams missed the playoffs in 1979 and it was assumed their window of success had closed. But in 1980 they both slayed their post-season demons and met in what is still (and always will be) the highest rated baseball game telecast (Game 6) of all time. That was a five-year identical path taken by both teams and it only heightened each city’s appreciation for their World Series opponent. In short, I loved that Royals team.
She wasn’t just familiar with that era, she and I had extended discussions about not only George Brett and Mike Schmidt but about the hated (from Kansas City’s perspective) Dickie Noles, about hemorrhoids (trust me – Google “1980 World Series” and “hemorrhoids” and imagine if blogs existed in 1980) and even the toothpick-chomping U.L. Washington.
Without going into details which would change the tone of this piece as well, you can’t imagine how incongruent it was that a woman who had never taken the subway, despite having spent a considerable amount of time in New York City, knew about U.L. Washington. I benefitted from this dichotomy because we met in the fall of 1999 and when the Yankees reached the World Series that year she procured a couple of tickets from the Kansas City Royals allotment and there we were during Game 4 of the 1999 World Series, watching the Yankees sweep the Braves a few rows behind home plate surrounded by the likes of Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, Jack Nicholson, and a bombastic-as-always Donald Trump.
(Oh, o.k., I’ll relay one other detail. So concerned was she that she’d have to take her first subway ride home from the game, I allayed her fears by explaining that Yankee Stadium was located not in the Bronx but on the Upper Upper East Side.)
In short, I have nothing but affection for the Kansas City Royals who provided the Phillies with their first World Championship and allowed me to attend not only my first World Series game, but a series clincher at that. I’m grateful for those memories. On top of that, my literary agent, as responsible as anyone for my words ending up on a bookshelf, is a Kansas City native and Royals fan.
If I don’t pick the Kansas City Royals to win the World Series this year, what kind of guy would that make me?
* * *
In a passage from Trading Bases, I described my then 6-year old daughter as a candidate “to reach puberty without knowing whether a baseball was inflated, stuffed, or wound.” Four years later she is on the cusp of that development stage and my observation is as sound as ever. In the ensuing four years, any chance that she’d show any interest in baseball got swamped by her obsession with all things ballet.
And yet, there was Lily strolling, with purpose, into our playroom last week during the late stages of Game 5 of the NLCS. She gazed at the on-screen graphic and asked, “so 3 to 3 means it’s tied, right?” I answered “yes” and observed her taking in every pitch.
As I saw her standing across the room with her eyes on the screen for the first time in her life, I started narrating. “Ball 1,” “That’s a single for St. Louis, runner on first – see the yellow diamond that lights up on the mini-baseball field in the corner of the screen?” etc. After I’d announce the result of each pitch, she’d invariably ask, “Is that good?” Eventually she made her way over to the couch, and as the tension grew so did her chatter. “Why did Panda pass the ball to the other guy?” led me to quickly explain that the carom of his glove to Brandon Crawford was not only unintentional, it was extremely fortunate for San Francisco.
Then it happened – the thing that makes baseball so great, or maybe more accurately the thing that makes being a parent and a baseball fan so great. I’ve written many times about the changes to the American sports landscape over my life as a fan and how, unlike some other die-hard baseball purists, I’m at peace with them. As I alluded to above, there will never be as many people watching televised baseball in America as there were one and two generations ago. The sport gets labeled, with some accuracy, a national sport with regional fan bases, and while there is a lot of truth to that, even that may overstate the effect on local habits. Owing to the success of the Giants for the last five years, San Francisco is currently as baseball-crazed as any city in America and yet I will probably miss most of Games 1 and 2 because of client dinner and event commitments that were scheduled in the last couple of weeks. That simply wouldn’t happen during the NFL playoffs and I can honestly say, most everyone in the financial industry at least, avoids planning events the Monday of the NCAA Championship in April. As I’ve stated many times, I not only understand those developments, I was part of the demographics that willing drove them.
With all that said, I will never waver in my belief that there is no sport that, at its very best, has more excitement, tension, explosions of joy, and crushing disappointment than baseball. And if anyone doubts that, they should have been in my playroom during Game 5 of the 9th inning of the NLDS.
After the “touch pass” from Sandoval to Crawford resulted in the second out of the inning, the Cardinals followed with a stolen base and a walk to load the bases. As I called out each pitch of the most important at bat of the game, I realized there was silence from the other side of the couch. I looked over and Lily, who had never previously shown a bit of interest in baseball, had succumbed to the tension and curled into the fetal position.
“Lily,” I thought joyously to myself, “you’re now a baseball fan.”
If I don’t pick the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series this year, what kind of guy would that make me?
* * *
I didn’t write any other previews this year but I’ve been crunching the numbers all postseason and during those times when I had high conviction about a pick, I made my thoughts known on Twitter. Following those calls and the supporting data has been very successful as many of my followers have been cashing tickets as follows:
NL Wild Card: Over 6 ½ runs scored WIN
ALDS, Game 1: Detroit (-120) LOSS
NLDS, Series: Giants (+165) WIN
NLDS, Game 1: Giants (+165) WIN
NLDS, Game 2: Giants (+170) WIN
ALCS, Series: Kansas City (+105) WIN
NLCS, Series: Giants (+115) WIN
NLCS, Game 1: Giants (+110) WIN
If I don’t rely on the data to guide my pick to win the World Series this year, what kind of guy would that make me?
* * *
You can rest assured that despite my split allegiances, I did let the data make my pick which follows. I haven’t discussed bullpens, and rotation SIERAs and defense etc. but you can be sure those items are reflected in the selection and I have as much conviction in this call as I did in both my Royals in 5 and Giants in 5 calls in their respective pennant-winning series
I may have let the data make the selection but in relaying that call to readers, my internal reaction has made clear to me what kind of guy I am.
That’s why I take great pleasure in telling you, I’m hoping, for selfish reasons, this series is over in 5 games. I’ll put a tiny taste on in ending in 4 and for sheer excitement and the possibility of extensive national attention, I’d love if it went 7 games.
But I’m calling for it to end in six games. What kind of guy am I?
Turns out, I’m a Steve Perry guy in a Katy Perry world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2N_7xB5_Q4
Giants in 6.
Mop Up Duty:
Joe Peta is the author of Trading Bases, A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball* (*) Not necessarily in that order, a Dutton Books/Penguin (U.S.A.) publication currently available wherever books are sold. Here are three on-line booksellers you can currently choose from:
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