The worst World Series ever, huh?
The debate floated across social media over the weekend, complete with a headline labeling the 2014 Fall Classic the worst championship matchup in baseball history.
It’s only the third World Series since 1903 to feature two teams that won fewer than 90 games in the regular season. The previous two came in shortened seasons. In that sense, there seems to be a valid point.
But does it matter?
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“It’s still the World Series,” Royals pitcher Jason Frasor said. “The World Series. I don’t think anyone cares how we got here.”
The route here, though, is also quite unique.
The Royals and Giants won the Wild Card Games in their respective leagues, and they make up only the second World Series meeting between two Wild Card teams since the inception of the additional playoff spot in 1995.
The first came as much less of a surprise. In 2002, the 99-win Angels defeated the 95-win Giants, led by Barry Bonds. They were seen as capable teams.
The numbers suggest the 2014 meeting of Wild Cards is a bit more unlikely.
The Royals finished ninth in runs in the American League and hit 10 fewer home runs than any other team in baseball.
The Giants, lauded for a stout pitching staff in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, were actually only seventh in the National League in team earned run average. They were fifth in the league in runs.
But the regular season and postseason represent a different beast. What works for the long grind of 162 games isn’t always the best formula for a short series. Top-of-the-line pitching is emphasized. Depth, less so.
The Royals’ combination of exemplary defense, speed and a lights-out finish to the bullpen may have led them to their first postseason berth since 1985, but it’s had an opportunity to shine even brighter once there.
“At the end of the day, Wild Card or not, if you make it to the playoffs, you did something well for 162 games,” Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie said. “Just because you missed winning your division by a game or two shouldn’t surprise people that the Wild Card team can go through the playoffs. So, yeah, I think in any given year, you can see Wild Cards.”
It may not be the last such matchup, Guthrie predicted. He directly attributed the Royals’ postseason surge to the emotional high produced from winning the AL Wild Card Game against the A’s in dramatic fashion. The Giants rolled over the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game.
In 2012, Major League Baseball added the Wild Card Game as a way to reward division winners. It accomplishes that. But it also appears to provide built-in momentum to the one-game winners.
“We are the Wild Card brothers, and there’s something to be said about going through that game,” Giants outfielder Hunter Pence said. “You just jumped into a game seven. If you’re able to make it out, it’s pretty special.”
The Royals responded with seven more victories to sweep the American League Division Series and the AL Championship Series.
So it may be only 89 wins in the regular season, but it’s eight straight in the postseason.
The number that matters now: Four more in the World Series.