It would be insanely naive not to concede that the Mets are the sickest, sexiest squad in baseball right now. And why not, unless you’re a bigot or a narrow-minded hillbilly who hates everything about the Big Apple, including its many sports teams?
The Mets are a hot ticket that all the experts said were at least a year away from contention, let alone a berth in the World Series. This is a team with a million story lines. There’s Bartolo Colón, a 42-year-old blimp who adds a veteran presence to New York’s three young guns on the mound. An emotional, talented Wilmer Flores has played extremely well in the absence of injured fellow shortstop Ruben Tejada. Daniel Murphy and his potent bat have done an excellent impersonation of a supernatural sports hero from an unknown planet. And “somos familia” has been a catchy phrase for a bullpen closer named Jeurys, otherwise known as El Caballo.
All this Mets Mania is awesome, until you consider that their opponent in the Fall Classic is the Kansas City Royals, a motivated group seeking deserved recognition after a seventh game loss in this tournament only a year ago. The Royals aren’t some team that recently emerged from outer space. They’re damn good and they know it. These guys have so much confidence, there was zero panic when they regrouped against the feisty Houston Astros for the divisional crown, even when facing elimination and chasing five runs in the eighth inning. The Toronto Blue Jays and sluggers José Bautista, Edwin Encarnación, and Troy Tulowitzki were also sent home after six games against the Royals, despite the fact that former Cy Young Award winner David Price was the starting pitcher in two of those contests.
There’s something else about the Kansas City Royals that might capture your attention: almost half of the Royals’ playoff roster are Latinos, including five players who are a fixture in the starting lineup. Venezuela’s Alcides Escobar and Sal Pérez are regulars at shortstop and behind the plate respectively. Cuban-American Eric Hosmer is the slick-gloved first baseman, while Puerto Rican Alex Rios patrols right field and Havana’s Kendrys Morales is the designated hitter. The pitching staff features Johnny Cueto, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, and Kelvin Herrera, all Dominicans, plus Venezuelan lefty Franklin Morales. In addition, Puerto Rico’s Christian Colon and speedy Brazilian Paulo Orlando are weapons off the bench.
Escobar bats lead off and was the MVP of the ALCS, hitting a scorching .476 over six games against Toronto. He sets the table for fellow 2015 All-Star game participants Lorenzo Cain, Hosmer, and Pérez, with each player now peaking at just the right time. In the middle is the switch-hitting Morales, who should be named Comeback Player of the Year in a landslide. No team in baseball can clobber the fastball with more authority than Kansas City, but its hitters are intelligent and constantly make adjustments. They can work the count, play small ball, and fly on the base paths. The lineup is relentless from one to nine, like a pack of pit bulls in attack mode.
In the spotlight, however, will be the Royals’ starting rotation. Will former esteemed pitchers such as Cueto and Ventura return to top form, and can they hold down a powerful Mets lineup that features Murphy, Lucas Duda, David Wright and the always-flashy Yoenis “La Potencia” Céspedes? We already know that if it comes down to the pen, both sides are lights out. It doesn’t get any better than the flame-throwing Escobar and Wade Davis vs. Tyler Clippard and Familia.
I think this will be a World Series for the ages, packed with high drama at every turn. These teams are so evenly matched, my crystal ball refuses to forecast a winner. I only have one suggestion: Consider the Latino star power of the Kansas City Royals, and then go with your heart.