BY SEAN QUINTON
Why not us?
We hear it every year: Make the postseason and anything can happen. Just get in. All a team needs is a chance.
That’s what the Royals got when no other team in the American League wild-card race looked conscious in the month of September. After three slams of the snooze button, the postseason alarm finally sounded. There at the end of it all were the Royals. Yes, the freaking Kansas City Royals. A powder blue clad group that hadn’t so much as sniffed the postseason since 1985 – six years before I was even born. The baseball world as I knew it was turned upside down.
Now those Royals are heading to the World Series, after riding former Mariner Jason Vargas to a 2-1 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. But not only did they make the Series, they are riding an unprecedented wave of momentum, entering baseball’s final round having won eight straight playoff baseball games. All eight games were decided by three runs or fewer, five were decided by one run, and four even needed extra innings, but they did it.
All of the insanity was kicked off in a spectacularly insane way that only baseball in October can deliver. Down 7-3 in the eight inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics with Jon Lester on the mound, the Royals scored five runs in the final two innings, eventually winning in the 12th inning.
Utter madness. That’s what October is all about.
When it comes to postseason baseball, everything you thought you knew to be truth in the regular season crumbles to pieces, replacing logic and reason with the equivalent of a craps table in a windstorm.
But amid the chaos, the recipe is pretty simple, really. Make the playoffs anyway possible, and survive with pitching, defense, timely base running and a little luck.
Oh, by the way, those are all ingredients your Seattle Mariners now possess. There is nothing to say the Mariners couldn’t have rattled off a similarly baffling October run this year. I don’t think even the Royals could duplicate what we just witnessed over the last couple of weeks. But the point remains: if the Royals can, why can’t we?
This postseason should be a swift reminder that baseball is weird. It should also serve as fuel for further optimism and hope to battered Mariners fans that the future could be very bright.
The primary hurdle hasn’t changed. They must first find a way to reach the postseason for the first time in 14 years. The only way that happens is if management bolsters an offense that ranked in the bottom third of the league in both runs and batting average. You also can’t bank on a repeat performance from a pitching staff that put together a historic run in 2014, and will likely need to solidify the starting rotation with at least one more arm. Key ingredients are needed, no question, but the recipe to postseason success remains clear.
Right now, it’s the Royals’ moment. You can’t take anything away from how spectacularly cool this run is. Heck, they might just go ahead and run the table and sweep the playoffs. But if you’re like me, you’re also overwhelmingly jealous of those screaming fans at Kauffmann Stadium.
That could be you. That could be me!
Jealousy aside, let’s all take a mental note of what postseason baseball looks like and how confusing and fun it can be. The Royals are shooting the dice now, and that’s great. But like Kansas City, all Seattle needs is a seat at the table.
Sean Quinton, is a 23-year-old graduate of Washington State University and an aspiring sports writer working as an associate sports producer at The Seattle Times. Born and raised in Seattle, he has seen a lot as a Mariners fan – some good, mostly bad. “I love this team and hate it all at the same time,” he says, “but I will never stop caring.”
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