The best team in the American League by virtually any measure is playing like it again. The Royals are laughing and high-fiving and smashing home runs. Guarantees nothing, of course, but it’s nice to see all the same.
Likely the Royals’ game one starter in the American League Division Series, Yordano Ventura is pitching better than at any other point in his career. His dominant stretch has come because he’s throwing better curveballs more often.
The Royals say home-field advantage is huge, but they got to the World Series last year without it. The only remaining question is whether the Royals will have home-field advantage in the league championship series this year, but the numbers are hazy, sometimes contradictory, and mostly inconclusive.
It’s good that the process of selecting players in the NFL Draft is seen like some form of advanced neurophysics, instead of the educated guessing game that it is. The process of drafting players has greatly improved, but the results may not have. It’s striking how much improvement is still to be done.
The Royals and local government are opening the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy next fall in the 18th and Vine District, next door to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It will aim to introduce and teach baseball, softball and life skills to as many kids as possible.
The Royals are champions, again, finally, a playoff team with plenty of time to spare. This is so different than a year ago, in almost every important way, the only common denominator the only one that matters — that pure, chaotic, champagne-soaked joy as a reward for an accomplishment some eight months in the making.
Kansas City fans could see Greg Holland’s effectiveness fading and sputtering, but making the move to name Wade Davis as Kansas City’s closer required a rejection of the paternalistic, loyalty-first instinct that’s been fundamental to the Royals’ rise.
Fifty years ago — on Sept. 25, 1965 — fans at KC’s old Municipal Stadium witnessed one of the greatest nights baseball has known. The night Satchel Paige pitched his final big-league innings against Yaz and the Red Sox.
The locker room was nearly empty. Thirty minutes had passed, maybe more. Guys had showered, changing out of their uniforms and into their jeans. They’d shaken their heads and walked slowly out the door and into the world. How could they comfort the man who thought it was all his fault? They vowed to come back strong. That they are professionals, that it’s a long season, that all their goals are still in front of them, and it almost sounded convincing. Almost.
The Chiefs have played against Peyton Manning six times since he joined the Broncos, and eight times before that with the Colts. Every time, they study hard and practice hard and build up a pro athlete’s confidence during the week. They convince themselves this is their chance. Every time but once the last 17 years, they’ve been wrong. But Thursday night sure feels like the Chiefs’ time.