Who Will Reign Supreme?

The time has come.  After a particularly eventful MLB playoff series that has seen favorites fall and the rise of the underdogs, the 2014 World Series will showcase two wild card teams for the first time in over a decade.  The Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants meet for Game 1 tonight in a battle of similarities and differences that will crown a new champion in Major League Baseball.

For the Kansas City Royals, the simple fact that they are in the World Series is pretty astounding.  But even better is the journey they have taken to get here.  It has been 29 years since the Royals were last in the playoffs and now they are in the World Series.  That said, the story of how they got from the wild card game to vying for the world championship of baseball is, in a word, crazy.  The Royals have not lost a game in the postseason to this point, with a 9-0 record.  In doing so, they broke a 39-year-old record held by the Big Red Machine (the 1975 Cincinnati Reds) for the longest unbeaten streak to start an MLB playoff contest.  That in itself is a gargantuan achievement, considering that the 1975 Reds are always in the conversation for the greatest baseball team of all time.

The Royals have conquered two division champions, the Detroit Tigers and the Baltimore Orioles, neither of which are an easy team to beat.  So we have a case of a ragtag team that has surprised everyone with their dominance and drive for success, a team that scratched and clawed its way to an 89-73 record.  So it is fitting that their World Series opponent is another team that, despite their slightly underwhelming regular season performance, is a giant of a ball club (no pun intended).

The San Francisco Giants are among the most successful baseball teams of the last decade, as far as championships go.  They have won two World Series titles in the last four years and are trying to make it three out of five.  It even makes sense that they are in this battle of wild card teams because the last time it happened in 2002, the Giants were involved, though they lost to the Anaheim Angels in seven games.  The Giants, however, did not do particularly well in the regular season this year, finishing with a record of 88-74, the first time in baseball’s modern era that the Giants have reached the postseason with less than 90 wins.  They also missed the playoffs entirely last year after winning the World Series the previous season.  But the regular season means nothing in the postseason, and the Giants have proven that by making it to the World Series.  They have just about everything a team would need for a first-rate ball club: dominant pitching, accurate hitting, great fielding and a manager, Bruce Bochy, who knows what it takes to be the best in the league.  What remains to be seen however, is whether they have the drive that has come to define and glorify their opponent.

It is hard not to see the similarities between these two teams.  Both are wild card teams, both have a seemingly perfect balance of talent in all aspects of the game and both have something to prove.  But the differences are just as apparent.  The Royals have not been here in nearly three decades while the Giants won the championship just two years ago.  The Royals play in a small market while the Giants play in one of the biggest markets in the country.  Regardless, these similarities and differences mean nothing come game time, so it will come down to who wants it more.

The desire of a team is what distinguishes a true champion.  And while the Giants definitely have the swagger needed to hoist the trophy, I believe that the Royals have a better chance of winning.  They have pushed harder than most teams to get here and they have left a path of total destruction in their wake with no signs of letting up.  I am predicting that the Royals will win the World Series because of the dominance they have shown so far in the postseason and their apparent unwillingness to put a stop to winning.  It will not be easy, especially considering that their opponent has been here before, but they can beat the Giants because of their desire to win.  Lightning doesn’t strike twice, but history does have a tendency to repeat itself.  The last time the Royals were in the World Series in 1985, they won.  I think it’s about time for the past to rewrite itself into the present.

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