I meant to write something — not quite this — before the start of what seems like a wholly improbable World Series, though any cold, rational look at it will show that it’s anything but that. These are two teams built to win in their own ways, one through young, powerful pitchers and the other on speed and opportunism. It’s only a surprise because we endlessly associate everything with the words and colors on their shirts and hats.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. The laundry is what pulls everything together. It’s how we tell who’s who in the stadium, and those stadiums are usually coordinated to match. So it’s natural that we associate decades of losing and ineptitude with the uniforms of those who carried out those sullied legacies.
It’s the uniform that’s the reason for the card posted alongside this piece, mostly because I don’t have a lot of cards of the current members of these teams. As feverishly as my baseball card collecting came back around 2010, so too it went shortly after. So here’s Alex Gordon, back when he was a clean-shaven third baseman and thought to be a disappointment, not the lynchpin of a free-swinging group of relative youngsters.
But that lapse in buying disposable pieces of memorabilia meant to trigger the completist section of my brain has nothing to do with the World Series. It’s just an offshoot of it that calls back to when I’d try to assemble, for example, the complete 1993 Toronto Blue Jays or the 1991 Minnesota Twins. It’s nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, basically, an extension of rooting for those jerseys to begin with.
It’s also a place to go when I don’t totally feel like I have my bearings. Despite watching the National League Championship Series closely, I was watching to catch the progress of the Cubs from the doldrums up into baseball’s elite. They were stopped short by the Mets and their flame-throwing rotation. In the other league, the Royals look a lot like they did last year, which is why I was paying especially close attention to the Blue Jays, who won the A.L. East this year. And then they lost, too.
So last night, after some errands, I settled in to watch two teams I didn’t necessarily expect to still be playing. That comes from something short of indifference along with the residual effect of the names of the teams and the colors of the hats and those things that really shouldn’t have any bearing on the game’s outcome.
But I’m not totally out of the loop, and most of what I saw didn’t surprise me. Watching Yoenis Cespedes go from first to third and eventually score to give the Mets a lead seemed right up their alley. So was watching Lorenzo Cain steal second and eventually score in the bottom half of that same inning for Kansas City.
What made the entire exercise a little uncomfortable was watching Edinson Volquez pitch in his first World Series knowing that his father had died earlier that day, and then realizing that I knew that and likely everyone in the stadium knew that and he didn’t. His family had requested that he not be told the news, and the Royals and Fox honored that request. I don’t know how to feel about it and I don’t know if it’s right or not, but it threw a wrench into whatever nonsense I might have been planning to write about this World Series or how both teams used to be bad or whatever.
And that’s it. I went to bed last night with the Mets leading 4-3. About two hours and six innings later, the Royals went to bed with a 5-4, 14-inning win. Volquez gets to figure out how to get through his horrible loss after positioning his team to win. Tonight, the Mets will look for the split they wanted in the first place, and the Royals will play for their teammate the way they have when teammates Mike Moustakas and Chris Young faced similar losses this year.
There’s a lot of baseball left to be played and a lot of wondering what the price of that kind of competition demands. It works out so that I don’t feel so far behind anymore.