Into the last weeks of Major League Baseball’s regular season now, the teams with the best records in the American and National leagues play in stadiums separated by about 240 miles of Interstate 70.
Never mind that they also are worlds apart.
“Kansas City is the farthest-east Western city in America, and St. Louis is the farthest-west Eastern city,” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said.
As such, he added, “The underlying differences between (the cities) are exacerbated during sporting competitions.”
Especially the one they’re on trajectory toward: Royals-Cardinals World Series, The Sequel.
The time is just right for this now, a year after that loaded storyline would have messed with the singular tale of the Royals revival.
So Nixon is ready to unleash his goofy half-Cardinals, half-Royals jacket, with the plan to wear the cap of the home team in each stadium.
Not that he’s guaranteeing this all will come to pass, of course, and he reminds that he didn’t promise any such thing as a plank of his platform.
“All I’m saying is … I’m due a World Series with my two teams, OK?” said Nixon, alluding to veiled plans for the scenario that would show off “the great diversity and the great flavor of our state (knowing) the eyes of the world are going to be on us.”
As she weighed the possibility, Kansas City Sports Commission president Kathy Nelson thought about the magic of the 2014 postseason and the World Series between the Royals and San Francisco.
She reckons this would register a notch above even that hullabaloo, fortified by the energy (and economic impact) of fans traveling back and forth on the road she views as she does State Line: a connector, not a divider.
As long as, she said, laughing, “they get the road construction done” on I-70.
“It would be incredible,” she said, “for our state.”
Or “Christmas in October,” as St. Louis Sports Commission president Frank Viverito put it.
So much baseball remains to be played that addressing this prospect now can’t even be dismissed as jinxing it.
There are infinite reasons why this dream matchup for Missouri won’t come to pass, not the least of which can be seen in the example of the Royals unfathomably reaching the World Series last season:
They hadn’t so much as made the playoffs since 1985, eked in with a wild-card berth and rather miraculously rallied to get past Oakland in that game.
This is why they play the games, as the saying goes, and predictions are a fool’s errand.
But based purely on the current standings, well, Nixon is right when he says “it’s the most likely thing that’s going to happen” amid a vast array of would-be plots.
It’s also an enticing proposition to consider wherever you might sit in a land where the Cardinals’ rich and lengthy history makes it more a red (baseball) state than a blue one but where overlaps are everywhere — and loyalty demographics likely have grown more fluid in the last year.
It’s not hard to find transplants of either city in the other, for instance. Mixed marriages are routine, and you can bet there are plenty of fans of both teams … at least when they’re not playing each other.
The organizations enjoy such common denominators as Whitey Herzog having managed both teams and Royals owner David Glass and announcer Denny Matthews growing up Cardinals fans.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore long has admired the Cardinals organization, and Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak is a friend and fan of Moore.
“I admire everything he’s been through; he’s a class act,” Mozeliak said last week at Busch Stadium. “Fortunately, everybody was patient enough to let (Moore’s rebuilding process) work itself out. You could easily imagine that the story could have ended differently had someone chosen not to take that route.
“So kudos to everybody with the Royals. They were able to withstand those ups and downs and get to where they are.”
Moore is so superstitious about this speculative sort of stuff that we didn’t even try to ask him about it.
But on the premise that this was more whimsical than predictive, Mozeliak acknowledged the appeal of the potential meeting.
A certain synergy looms with teams in such close proximity, for one thing, an infectious spirit that would captivate communities and individuals that might otherwise not be engaged.
“If you’re having really high-level baseball teams in your state, Cardinals and Royals, it’s going to draw hopefully a younger generation into the game,” he said. “At the very least, more fans, but maybe even more to the point where they want to play it.”
Accordingly, Mozeliak playfully suggests he expects a big-time catcher to come out of St. Louis in the near future because of the popularity of Yadier Molina — a notion that could be just as applicable to the influence of Royals’ catcher Sal Perez.
If having it becomes all about Missouri might not move the needle for TV ratings nationally, that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be plenty to see here with two mesmerizing teams that combined to have 13 players chosen to the All-Star Game.
While networks always want the largest cities possible involved, Mozeliak said, the teams are playing well enough that from any informed national standpoint the matchup couldn’t be frowned on.
“How do you not like the resilient Cardinals, who have literally not missed a beat the entire season when starter after starter has gone down?” Viverito said. “At the same time, how do you not love the Royals story? What a great storyline, what great personalities and what a great style of play that they have. …
“These are two wonderful stories, and anybody who doesn’t like them is probably a little jealous.”
No matter how long it’s been, the spirit of 1985 would be lurking if the teams meet.
Which is why it’s great for Kansas City that this didn’t happen last year, when the Cardinals were knocked out of the playoffs by the Giants.
The sequel narrative would have trumped, or at least stifled, the fascinating story of the Royals’ resurgence after so many years of irrelevance.
But that’s well-established now, and the time is ripe for the next Show-Me showcase — one that might offer the public service of helping St. Louis purge the spirit of Don Denkinger.
His blunder in game six somehow still overshadows the parade of Cardinals gaffes afterward that, in fact, cost them that game, and it inexplicably manages to be invoked for St. Louis’ 11-0 meltdown in game seven.
The Cardinals were free to catch, pitch and bat after his call, which they could have made a footnote instead of a crutch and a cause.
Asked if he had the sense Cardinals fans would want a shot at the Royals because of 1985, Mozeliak said he didn’t want to speak for them but added, “There’s no doubt a bad taste in their mouths from that series, and we all know why. Candidly, if you were to replay that today (with replay rules in effect), it could change history.
“It is something that is probably a thorn in their side, but Cardinals fans have (enjoyed) a lot of success since then.”
This, too, also might linger over the series:
The Cardinals’ remarkable history includes playing 137 postseason games to Kansas City’s zero between 1985 and 2014.
But if the Royals were to win this World Series, they’d have won as many championships (two) since 1982 as the Cardinals.
If Nixon fully gets his way, he would also hope a World Series between them could be known as the “Show-Me Series,” something he’s been touting since at least last October on Twitter.
Met with a flat response as he floated the idea anew, Nixon laughed and acknowledged it’s not getting much traction.
The rebranding idea apparently is to conjure different images than traffic and billboards and the construction.
If the right cause should arise by any name, no word on whether Nixon has the clout to expedite the work between downtown Kansas City and the Truman Sports Complex or, say, around mile marker 77.
At least for now, though, all lanes are open to the prospective matchup … whether the road itself is or not.