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Mets and Royals Are Going Against History

Mets versus Royals is probably not the most glamorous World Series matchup, especially considering all the storylines that we had entering the postseason. But the Mets went supernova and destroyed the Cubs’ hopes, while the Royals staved off the loud bats of Toronto by deploying an impressive offense of their own, and now we have a Fall Classic matchup that had never occurred before. Even as it may not be the ratings monster that MLB would have expected, there are still a ton of matchup and historical aspects of this pairing that will be fascinating to see in this World Series.

An earnest preview of this World Series, with its corresponding pick, will appear tomorrow just before we get started. However, today it is important to note all the coincidences surrounding these franchises and how they got here. We can begin by stating that regardless of who wins, a long title drought will be broken, which is always a positive thing for the sport. The Mets and Royals represented some of the most iconic glamour teams from the 80’s, even as both of them only won one championship.

The Royals overcame a 1-3 deficit in the 1985 Series to defeat the Cardinals, aided by the infamous Don Denkinger call and home field advantage. Just a year later, the Mets won one of the most famous World Series of all time, which included a comeback of their own, with Bill Buckner’s blunder serving as the defining moment. Even as both franchises needed quite a bit of luck to claim their last championship, they were probably a good testament for teams that came to define the decade.

Both franchises also had an ensuing chance to add a trophy, with the Mets falling to the Yankees in the 2000 Series, while the Royals fell in a 7-game series to the Giants just last season. The fact that the Royals have been able to win a second consecutive pennant after losing the World Series is a rarity on its own, as it is now only the 11th time it has happened since 1950. The results from the other 10 teams that regrouped have been all over the place:

1952-1953 Brooklyn Dodgers (lost twice to Yankees)
1957-1958 New York Yankees (lost to Braves, and then defeated Braves)
1960-1961 New York Yankees (lost to Pirates, defeated Reds)
1963-1964 New York Yankees (lost to Dodgers, lost to Cardinals)
1969-1970 Baltimore Orioles (lost to Mets, defeated Reds)
1976-1977 New York Yankees (lost to Reds, defeated Dodgers)
1977-1978 Los Angeles Dodgers (lost twice to Yankees)
1988-1989 Oakland Athletics (lost to Dodgers, defeated Giants)
1991-1992 Atlanta Braves (lost to Twins, lost to Blue Jays)
2010-2011 Texas Rangers (lost to Giants, lost to Cardinals)

As we can see, it has become increasingly difficult for teams to repeat as World Series participants as the league has expanded and parity has prevailed. The Royals are now the third team since 1990, and only the second in the Divisional Era, to win a trip back to the Fall Classic just a year after losing it, which is remarkable on its own. The past 10 teams facing this circumstance have gone a combined 5-5 in their attempt to get revenge. And, as always, it is clear that the Yankees have probably played too many World Series.

Speaking of the Yankees, their city counterparts are trying to overcome a troubling historical trend of their own. By blitzing through the Cubs and sweeping the NLCS in the minimum 4 games, the Mets have become only the 8th team since the Championship Series was moved to a best-of-7 format to advance to the World Series via the sweep. The results have not been kind to the previous seven.

1988 – Oakland A’s (lost WS in 5 to the Dodgers) – 6 day layoff
1990 – Oakland A’s (lost WS in 4 to the Reds) – 6 day layoff
1995 – Atlanta Braves (won WS in 4 vs. Indians) – 7 day layoff
2006 – Detroit Tigers (lost WS in 5 to the Cardinals) – 7 day layoff
2007 – Colorado Rockies (lost WS in 4 to the Red Sox) – 9 day layoff
2012 – Detroit Tigers (lost WS in 4 to the Giants) – 6 day layoff
2014 – Kansas City Royals (lost WS in 7 to the Giants) – 6 day layoff

This is the part where it seems as if momentum can play a big role when deciding the playoffs, as six of the seven teams that swept their respective Championship Series then lost the World Series, with 4 of them being swept, and only the 1995 Braves surviving the long layoff to win Game 1. The logic here may be that this stage represents a radical change from what teams have during the regular season and the start of the postseason. Any kind of wait above five days is even longer than what we see during the All-Star break, and it has proven to make players a bit flat as they resume baseball activities.

The Mets will certainly hope that this trend can be broken as they come into the World Series with a six-day wait on their shoulders. They have the benefit of having all of their roster well rested and ready to play what could be a long series that could extend into November, with the Royals only having a 4-day layoff from the end of their Championship Series.

The Royals also have to feel at least a bit confident considering that they will have home-field advantage. Even if it didn’t help them as much during last year’s Fall Classic, they at least had the chance to host Game 7 and come a swing away from a title. The AL’s win in the All-Star Game last July has given Kansas City the chance to host Game 1 again, an advantage that has helped 23 of the past 30 World Series champions.

Finally, there are a couple of extra quirks that make the 2015 World Series a unique proposition. As you may have heard somewhere, this will be the first pairing in history that doesn’t include at least one of the original sixteen MLB franchises, as the Mets and Royals were both expansion franchises created in the 60’s. As much as baseball cherishes its history, it is nice to add a touch of modernity to this Fall Classic.

Also, only 4 of the highest 10 payrolls from this season were able to advance to 2015’s postseason, and the World Series now pits two teams from the bottom half of MLB, which is another testament to baseball’s parity and the ideal that good drafting and player development still tend to trump big free agents and top-heavy rosters. With a $113 million payroll, the Royals finished 16th in baseball, while the cash-strapped Mets spent somewhere around $101 million to finish 21st. This means that Kansas City’s and New York’s combined payrolls managed to be less than what the Yankees and Dodgers spent in 2015, and now they are at the biggest stage.

As the World Series is ready to begin, it is important to understand the historical perspective of these franchises and their ardent fan bases, and all the negative trends one of them will overcome. It is a throwback to the past, and also a shout-out to the present and future of MLB, all of which look quite promising at this point.

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