There are two primary reasons the nation’s baseball fans will be rooting for the Kansas City Royals, en masse, next week. First, the Royals are a feel-good story the game hasn’t seen since at least 2007, if not longer. Second, fan bases outside of San Francisco are getting a little tired of the Giants’ recent success. The same goes for the St. Louis Cardinals, though it’s moot point now.
Think about the surprise teams in the World Series over the past decade-plus since the New York Yankees failed to finish off a four-peat in 2001. When the Yankees lost to the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks in that seven-game Fall Classic, we all started believing the “little guys” could come through in the end and win big:
* In 2003, it was the then-Florida Marlins upsetting the Yankees.
* In 2004, the Boston Red Sox won their first title since 1918.
* In 2005, the Chicago White Sox won their first championship since 1917.
* In 2006, the Cardinals won their first title since 1982 in a season where they won only 82 regular-season games.
* In 2007, the Colorado Rockies had a magical run to their first World Series appearance.
* In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays conquered all in the American League to prove a small-payroll team could compete.
* In 2010, the Giants won their first championship since 1954.
The Royals fit into many of these categories, actually.
Kansas City is a small-payroll team that hasn’t been in the postseason for 29 seasons. They’re going to be facing a bigger-payroll team in the World Series. The Royals’ run to the Fall Classic has been magical. That sort of thing captures America’s ear.
It’s San Francisco…
The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. And they’ll be playing the Royals in the World Series this year. Outside of San Francisco, few fans want to see another big-payroll team dominate the postseason the way the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees have done at times in the last 15 seasons.
San Francisco also still has that stench of Barry Bonds on it, with the PED scandal he centered during his time with the Giants during the 2000s decade. Strangely, after distancing themselves from Bonds after he broke the all-time home run record in 2007, the Giants have had him back this year in a few public moments — most notably, during the pre-game ceremonies before Game Four of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday night against the Cardinals.
If the Giants didn’t have their recent success on their resume, they’d be just as likable as the Royals on a national level: a team that hasn’t won in a long time always inspires the fans. But in a strange twist, the 2014 Royals are a lot like those 2010 Giants. A matchup between those two teams — both playing in a World Series for the first time in decades — would have been intriguing (though obviously impossible). As it stands, only the Royals fit the profile.
Had it been St. Louis …
There is that piece of baseball history from the 1985 World Series connecting the two Missouri teams, of course. But with all the recent success by the Cardinals — 11 playoff appearances in 15 season, four NL pennants, two championships, etc. — the spotlight has certainly been on St. Louis since then.
The national interest still would’ve focused on the Royals, for much of the same reasons as noted above regarding San Francisco: casual and long-time fans alike prefer new blood in the show, if their own team can’t be there. And Kansas City is new blood, for sure. It would’ve been a “regional” freeway Series, had it come to pass. But the Royals are the national story now, and they will face the Giants. The Cardinals will have to watch on TV.