The Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants have both thrown their best punches in the first two games of the World Series. Each one has landed cleanly and flush. In Game 1, Madison Bumgarner kept the Royals batters off balance and in check. Kansas City had no answer for him. In Game 2, the Royals bats came alive and the bullpen shut the door. The Giants kept battling but it was to no avail. The first two game of this World Series have shown what each team is capable of when locked in. This World Series has the potential to be a brawl. I do not mean benches clearing and fights breaking out. I mean where every player is pushed to their limit, where both managers are locked in a chess match where they are one move away from both triumph and defeat.
There should not be any real brawls on the field, even if Hunter Strickland gets back on the mound. I fully believe his frustrations simply boiled over and he let his emotions get the better of him. His actions show the stress and pressure these players are under. This is the biggest stage in their profession and they may only get one shot at winning a championship. Every pitch, every swing, every movement means something and their importance continues to ratchet up to greater and greater levels over the last two months. The Royals and Giants both raced into the playoffs, they did not just waltz into them. They both had to fight through the one game Wild Card playoff game, and then went through the best team in their leagues to advance through the Divisional and Championship rounds just to reach the World Series. Eventually all the stress and pressure is too much.
Every player and every team prepare all winter and spring, and fights throughout the summer for the chance to find success in October. Simply making the World Series is not enough. The hunger only builds as the leaves begin to change and the cool, crisp autumn breeze replaces the sweltering summer heat. The Giants are not content with their season, neither are the Royals. The Giants have won the World Series twice in the last four seasons; they are trying to make it three Championships in five seasons. Not all the players have been on the team for this stretch. Tim Hudson is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and he will make his World Series debut in Game 3. Joe Panik is at the beginning of his career and he has only played in two World Series games. Buster Posey has been there through it all. The Giants remain hungry, all for individual reasons, which collectively make the team hungry.
The Royals are not just happy to be a part of the World Series; they are there to win it. 29 years have passed since 1985 and their last World Series title. None of the players from the 1985 team remains; this is a new group. They wear the same team name on their chest and play for the same fans, though many of them have never seen a winning Royals team. Lorenzo Cain, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, and on and on are the Royals now. These players do not care that it has been 29 years since the Royals last won the World Series. They do not care for one simple reason. If they cared how long it had been since the franchise had won, they would never be successful. They care about winning now. Not making up for lost time, but for giving this opportunity everything they have.
Baseball is a funny sport. The best players are not always the one left standing holding the championship trophy. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout do not always get to take the last at bat. Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez do not always get to pitch with the game on the line. Baseball is a team sport, where the team can only be as good as the last guy on the bench. Super stars can propel a team towards success, but team success only happens when it is made up of players who can and are willing to put it all on the line.
Baseball is a fight, it is a brawl. The opponent knows the Pirates are going to throw Andrew McCutchen at them, or the Cardinals will throw Yadier Molina at them. These power punches take their toll on the opposition. The opposition throws counter punches back. The Tigers throw Victor Martinez or the Dodgers throw Zack Greinke. Teams throw crazy combinations and land blow after blow. They knock each other down and then get back up. The Giants and the Royals have knocked each other down with hooks to the body. Both have gone down and gotten back up to a standing eight count. These teams are in for a fight and are not afraid to leave themselves vulnerable if they think they can land the knockout blow. This October is going to be a brawl. So far it is shaping up to be a fight of the year contender. Let us hope it continues to live up to the great start it has given up.