Thanksgiving is most closely associated with football not baseball. The cool weather, football on television, and pick up games before the Thanksgiving meal. Baseball is over and Spring Training is months away. Thanksgiving is the best holiday, in my opinion. It is simple, come together with family and friends, enjoy each other’s company, and appreciate all the good in your life while stuffing yourself until you can barely move. The irony is obvious.
My family’s Thanksgiving menu usually looks like this: turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, rice, dinner rolls, pudding, cookies, brownies, pies including apple, pumpkin, and rhubarb, followed by a nap. My brain wanders after the sudden halt of baseball. Lost in my thoughts, I wondered, could I create the ultimate Thanksgiving team out of players with food names? The players would return for one game in their prime. The only catch is their names must be on the menu.
This Thanksgiving game will take place in Philadelphia on November 23, 1899 against the Phillies. The Phillies complete their best season playing in the Baker Bowl, finishing 94-58, third in the National League, 9 games behind the Brooklyn Superbas. Our menu team will assume the identity of the Boston Beaneaters, there is no greater food inspired team name.
Every baseball field is beautiful. The Baker Bowl has been lost to history, but there is never a bad place to play baseball. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
Phillies owner John Rogers wants to capitalize on the teams’ success and put a few extra dollars in his pockets. Manager Bill Shettsline is looking for one more victory in his sophomore campaign with the Phillies. Shettsline submitted the following line up.
Philadelphia Phillies Starting Lineup
2B: Nap Lajoie (Hall of Fame)
RF: Elmer Flick (Hall of Fame)
LF: Ed Delahanty (Hall of Fame)
1B: Duff Cooley
CF: Roy Thomas
C: Ed McFarland
3B: Billy Lauder
SS: Monte Cross
SP: Wiley Piatt
Philadelphia Phillies Bench
1B: Billy Goeckel
3B: Red Owens
RF: Pearce Chiles
Partnering against the Phillies this Thanksgiving is future San Diego Padres owner Ray Kroc. Kroc and General Manager Billy Beane lured Philadelphia Athletics Manager Connie Mack to Boston. Mack submitted this line up:
Boston Beaneaters Starting Lineup
RF: Billy Hamilton (Hall of Fame)
CF: Ty Cobb (Hall of Fame)
1B: Hank Greenberg (Hall of Fame)
LF: Jim Rice (Hall of Fame)
3B: Pie Traynor (Hall of Fame)
SS: Barry Larkin (Hall of Fame)
C: Spud Davis
2B: Cookie Rojas
SP: Rube Waddell (Hall of Fame)
Boston Beaneaters Bench
C: Mike Napoli
1B: Stuffy McInnis
2B: Pumpsie Green
SS: Luke Appling (Hall of Fame)
RF: Sam Rice (Hall of Fame)
LF: Zack Wheat (Hall of Fame)
CF: Turkey Stearnes (Hall of Fame)
P: Smokey Joe Williams (Hall of Fame), Catfish Hunter (Hall of Fame), Bob Lemon (Hall of Fame), Rube Marquard (Hall of Fame), Rube Foster, Pud Galvin (Hall of Fame), Rollie Fingers (Hall of Fame), Jeurys Familia, Brownie Foreman
Baseball is unpredictable. The Beaneaters and their delicious lineup appear to have the edge over the Phillies. However, even the best teams lose. Simulating the game would never perfectly create such a game. Instead take a moment to appreciate the long history of baseball, the men who have played, their strange names, and be thankful for everything good in your life, especially baseball.
Baseball never stops. It would be easy to fill your day with everything baseball; the games, injuries, trade rumors, player transactions. The amount of information coming out of baseball every day is difficult to fully ingest. Returning from a three week vacation with no internet or cell reception requires you to play catch up. I am not complaining about venturing into the woods and mountains of the western United States and Canada, only it makes keeping track of baseball impossible.
Living off the informational grid for a few weeks is refreshing. As much as I wanted to know the daily scores, it was nice not hearing my phone pinging with emails and notifications about things that ultimately do not matter. Baseball also fades into the background, after all it is just a game.
Upon returning to the world of internet access and cell service I bombarded myself with the news I missed. The All Star Game and the Home Run Derby. I wanted to know who won the Derby. I missed the “controversy” surrounding Bryce Harper hitting too quickly; I was not sorry to miss that part of the Derby.
Hiking a trail up a mountain to get away from the tourists gives you these types of views of Peyto Lake in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
Injuries were another thing I missed while in the woods. The first text I received after asking my friends what I missed was the Mets were in first…for the draft. The obvious next question regarding the Amazin’s was had they called up Tim Tebow, because the Mets do weird things. Nope, broke his hand. I also found out about Aaron Judge’s broken wrist. The most surprising news was Noah Syndergaard contracting Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Easily the most Mets reason ever for a trip to the disabled list. There were other injuries I missed but these were the primary ones I heard about upon my return to the world of information; sorrow from my friends who are Yankee fans and collective laughter about the Mets.
The major news I missed was the run up to the trade deadline. Plenty of trade rumors but coming home, turning on a game and seeing Mike Moustakas in a Brewers uniform was strange, especially as this was how I learned he was traded. The big news of Manny Machado going to the Dodgers was everywhere, but Jeurys Familia to the Athletics? Interesting. The Mets trading Asdrubal Cabrera to Phillies or the Rangers trading Cole Hamels to Cubs. Sure. Even Brad Hand going from the Padres to the Indians and Zach Britton from the Orioles to the Yankees were strange. Adjusting to players in new uniforms takes time. It is even more jarring when you learn they change teams by seeing them in a new uniform.
Baseball never stops, it keeps moving regardless of what is happening in your world. It is difficult to keep up with the daily transactions, games, and news. It is impossible when you miss three weeks. Playing catch up with baseball is a Sisyphean task. The more you know about the game, the less you know. A midseason break makes it difficult to stay up to date on the major stories in the game. My vacation was a reminder that getting away from the chaos of daily life does not mean the rest of the world stops. You can only hope you have people willing to fill you in on what you missed when you return to the real world.
The Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in five games to win the 2015 World Series. Half of The Winning Run staff (Bernie and myself) were correct in our predictions for which team would win. However, while we expected the Royals to win, we did not expect the Mets to lose so quickly. The Mets seemed to run out of steam in the World Series. Their bats went cold, the back half of the bullpen became wobbly Jell-O, and the team seemed to forget how to play fundamentally sound baseball. This doomed the boys from Flushing.
The Mets and Royals both played like a team. No single player led them to victory or defeat; rather the teams, as a whole, decided their fates. The Mets held the lead in all five games; in four of the five games the Mets held the lead at least through the end of the 7th inning. New York got quality pitching out of their starters. The issues arose when the starters were left in for too long (Game 5, Matt Harvey) or when the bullpen had to hold a close lead late in the game. Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia blew three saves. Blaming an error here or a poor decision there for the Mets defeat would be easy. However, the Royals victory was as much a team effort as the Mets defeat was a team effort and the numbers show it.
The Royals had the advantage on offense. Kansas City had 197 AB, 47 Hits, 10 Doubles, 1 Triple, 2 HR, 25 RBI, and 27 R in the World Series. The Royals drew 17 BB against 37 SO. Kansas City had a .239 BA, .295 OBP .330 SLG, .625 OPS, and were 7 for 7 in Stolen Bases.
The Mets had 181 AB, 35 Hits, 1 Double, 0 Triples, 6 HR, 18 RBI, and 19 R in the World Series. New York drew 14 BB against 46 SO. The Mets had a .193 BA, .254 OBP, .298 SLG, .552 OPS, and were 1 for 3 in Stolen Bases.
The Royals and Mets both sent 16 different players to the plate during the World Series. Kansas City had 16 more At Bats and collected 12 more hits. The Mets displayed their power by hitting 4 more HR. While the Royals did not hit many balls out of the park, they collected 9 more Doubles and the only Triple in the World Series. Kansas City collected 7 more RBI with 3 more BB and 9 fewer SO. Putting the ball in play more consistently resulted in the Royals having a .046 higher BA, a .041 higher OBP, a .032 higher SLG, and a .073 higher OPS. Additionally, the Royals attempted 4 more Stolen Bases than the Mets and collected 6 more Stolen Bases. The Royals were constantly pressuring the Mets.
The Royals knew they would not win trying to engage in a slugging contest with the Mets, thus Kansas City relied on their speed and ability to get on base. Putting pressure on the New York defense paid off, as the Mets committed six errors in the four World Series games they lost. These errors, from Daniel Murphy missing a ground ball to New York’s inability to turn a double play, gave Kansas City more opportunities to score. The boys from Flushing seemingly forgot how to play fundamentally sound baseball when it counted the most.
The 9th inning of Game 5 is the perfect example of the Mets not playing fundamentally sound baseball. Eric Hosmer is on third after a double and moving to third due to a ground out to the right side of the infield. Salvador Perez hits an easy chopper to David Wright at third. Before throwing to first to put out Perez, Wright briefly looks Eric Hosmer back to third. Instead of looking Hosmer back longer, Wright hurried his look back in order to throw out the slow running Perez. As soon as Wright began his throw to first, Hosmer broke for home. The Royals scouting report said Kansas City had a good chance to score a run with Wright throwing to Lucas Duda at first. David Wright has had to alter his throwing motion to a more side arm throw due to a shoulder injury, and he no longer has a strong arm to throw across the infield. Duda likewise does not have a good throwing arm, although not due to an arm injury. Wright’s weakened throw to first, Duda having to stretch for the ball then quickly adjust into a throwing position to deliver a good throw to Travis d’Arnaud at home meant the Royals had a good chance to score. Hosmer’s dash home would have been for nothing had Duda delivered a good throw. However, his throw was well off the mark, missing d’Arnaud completely and allowing Hosmer to score the tying run that eventually sent the game into extra innings. Putting pressure on the defense forcing them to make plays, or forcing pitchers to make more stressful pitches out of the stretch wears on a team. The Royals put the ball in play and used their speed to put more and more pressure on the Mets, until New York faltered, enabling Kansas City to take advantage.
The fight between the Royals and Mets pitchers favored the Royals. In total, the Royals used 11 pitchers over 52 innings. The starters pitched 31.1 innings and the bullpen pitched 20.2 innings for Kansas City. Royals’ pitchers gave up 35 Hits, 19 R, 17 ER, and 14 BB, with 46 SO. As a team, Kansas City pitchers had a 2.94 ERA and a 0.942 WHIP.
The Mets used 11 different pitchers over 51.1 innings. New York’s starters pitched 30 innings and the bullpen pitched 21.1 innings. Mets pitchers gave up 47 Hits, 27 R, 24 ER, and 17 BB, with 37 SO. New York pitchers collectively had a 4.21 ERA and a 1.247 WHIP.
The Mets and Royals used the same number of pitchers, 11, during the World Series. Kansas City pitchers had to pitch 0.2 fewer innings due to more victories at home and leading going into the 9th inning. The Royals starters pitched 1.1 more innings and the Kansas City bullpen pitched 0.2 fewer innings. The Mets gave up 12 more hits, 8 more Earned Runs, 7 more Runs, had 9 fewer strikeouts, and issued 3 more walks than Kansas City. The advantage of the Royals is most glaring in their 1.27 lower ERA less KC and 0.305 lower WHIP.
One of the critical turning points of the World Series came in Game 2 with Johnny Cueto’s complete game victory for the Royals. Aside from putting Kansas City up 2-0 against the Mets in a best of seven series, Cueto’s effort allowed the Royals bullpen to recover from the 14 inning marathon in Game 1. The Mets bullpen used five pitchers for 7 1/3 innings of relief in Game 1, while the Royals bullpen used six pitchers for 8 innings of relief. In Game 2, the Mets had to use four pitchers over three innings when Jacob deGrom was pulled after going five innings. Cueto’s complete game allowed the Royals to completely rest their bullpen in Game 2. This extra day of rest before the travel day to New York gave Kansas City an advantage heading into the rest of the series.
Two full days of rest are invaluable when every pitch means so much. Ned Yost was not faced with the same bullpen concerns as Terry Collins. The Royals could afford to pull their starters, if necessary, in the following games unlike the Mets. New York did win Game 3, but being forced into their bullpen after Yordano Ventura went 3 1/3 innings at worst pulled the Royals back even with the Mets. Cueto’s complete game prevented the Royals from blowing out their bullpen in Game 3 enabling the bullpen to remain strong and keep the Mets from building large leads in Games 4 and 5. Keeping the Mets close enough until the bats came alive in the late innings enabled the Royals to win the World Series after coming back from behind in all four of the games they won.
The Royals winning the World Series in just five games may give the illusion that the Mets were over matched. However, the series was much closer than it might appear. Kansas City capitalized on their opportunities by manufacturing runs and forcing New York to make mistakes under pressure. The Mets were not defeated because of their inability to match up with the Royals; they lost because their fundamentals broke down at critical moments and were unable to build large leads or hold smaller leads in the late innings.
Both the Royals and the Mets played team baseball. Neither team was too reliant upon a single player or a hand full of players. The 2015 World Series was truly about who had the better 25-player roster. Kansas City’s bullpen had to pitch slightly fewer innings but had a crucial extra day of rest. The Kansas City offense was able to put the ball in play more to force the Mets defense to make a play. Generally, New York made the plays they needed to, however the Mets did eventually make mistakes and, with the Royals constantly getting on base, these mistakes cost New York runs and games. More than anything these slight differences between the Royals and Mets are why Kansas City is celebrating their first World Series championship in 30 years and why the Mets are left to wonder what they could have done differently.
Welcome to the Fall Classic. The World Series has arrived after an exciting run through the playoffs. The Kansas City Royals will face the New York Mets for the right to lift the Commissioner’s Trophy as the champion of Major League Baseball. The Kansas City Royals last won the World Series in 1985. The New York Mets last won the World Series in 1986. The championship drought for one of these teams is about to end after many, often painful, years.
So what has led us to this World Series? How have we navigated from the Wild Card games through the playoffs and finally to the World Series? The field has gone from 10 teams down to just 2 teams.
National League Wild Card
Chicago Cubs 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 0
The Pirates were once again a formidable team during the regular season, but they fell short in the Wild Card game. Behind their young bats and Jake Arrieta’s complete game shutout, the Cubs showed they were the superior team, at least for one day when it mattered the most.
American League Wild Card
Houston Astros 3, New York Yankees 0
The New York Yankees coasted into the Wild Card game, and not in a good way. They struggled down the stretch and benefitted from early season success to make it into the playoffs. Unfortunately, they met the Houston Astros who were hungry and playing much better baseball. Each passing inning, the energy inside Yankee Stadium seemed to wane just a little more until reality could no longer be denied. Dallas Keuchel and the Astros bullpen shut down the Yankees line up and Houston rode the power of Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez into the ALDS.
National League Divisional Series
New York Mets 3 games, Los Angeles Dodgers 2 games
The Mets and Dodgers alternated wins throughout the series. The turning point of the series was in Game 2 with the injury to Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. The Mets ultimately lost Game 2, but Tejada’s injury rallied the team together. Tejada’s injury from Chase Utley’s “slide” could have derailed the Mets. Instead, behind their young pitching staff and Daniel Murphy the Mets would not quit. The Mets faced Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in four of the five games and split those games. The Dodgers were beaten with their best pitchers on the mound by a team who refused to quit.
Chicago Cubs 3 games, St. Louis Cardinals 1 game
Game 1 showed how dominant the St. Louis Cardinals could be, and it brought back the memories of the Curse of the Billy Goat for Cubs fans. However, after Game 1, the Cubs took command of the series by winning the next three straight to eliminate the Cardinals. The Cubs did not run away with the series, winning the final three games by seven runs total, but St. Louis was never able to answer the Cubs offense. The Cardinals remained competitive but, after Game 1, it never felt like they had a chance.
American League Divisional Series
Toronto Blue Jays 3 games, Texas Rangers 2 games
The Texas Rangers jumped out to a two game lead, putting the Toronto Blue Jays on the brink of elimination. The Blue Jays, the presumptive favorite heading into the series, would not go quietly. Forcing a decisive Game 5 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the Blue Jays held a slim 3-2 lead heading into the 7th inning. In a bizarre moment, Rougned Odor scampered home to score the tying run after Russell Martin’s return throw to Blue Jays’ pitcher Aaron Sanchez hit the bat of Rangers’ outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, while Choo was still in the box. The Blue Jays responded in the bottom half of the 7th inning with a four run outburst, which included the now infamous Jose Bautista home run bat flip. This completed the comeback and Toronto was on to the ALCS.
Kansas City Royals 3 games, Houston Astros 2 games
The Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros went back and forth in the first four games of their ALDS. Neither team able to break the other team down and truly dominate a game. All this changed in Game 5, when the Royals’ experience and the Astros inexperience showed through. The Royals’ hitters finally broke down Houston’s pitching and were able to turn around a 2-0 deficit in the 2nd inning and turn it into a 7-2 victory. Simply put, the Royals used some of the knowledge and nerves from their 2014 World Series run to finally put away those pesky, overachieving Astros.
National League Championship Series
New York Mets 4 games, Chicago Cubs 0 games
The Chicago Cubs did not lose the NLCS as much as the New York Mets won it. The Cubs never lead throughout the four game sweep. Daniel Murphy and the trio of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom were magical, even when they did not have their best stuff. Jeurys Familia and Bartolo Colon were there to pick up the slack when the young arms needed a little help reaching the finish line. The Cubs simply lost to a better team, no Curse needed.
American League Championship Series
Kansas City Royals 4 games, Toronto Blue Jays 2 games
Games 1 and 2 showed the Royals were the better team. However, the Game 3 slugfest proved that the Blue Jays were not going to go down easy. Kansas City had batting practice in Game 4, winning 14-2 in Toronto. Toronto forced Game 6 with a 7-1 victory in Game 5. Back in Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium, the Blue Jays and Royals proved they were an even match. The margin of victory was Lorenzo Cain’s speed and Wade Davis’ tenacity. Cain scored from first on a single by Eric Hosmer in the bottom of the 8th inning, in part due to Jose Bautista not throwing to his cutoff man. The Royals took the lead and called on Wade Davis for a little more. Davis got two outs on eight pitches to end the Blue Jays’ 8th inning, waited through a 45 minute rain delay, then pitched the inning of his life. Davis got the final out with a fast runner on second and third by getting Josh Donaldson to ground out to third.
New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals
The 2015 World Series has the New York Mets playing against the Kansas City Royals. The National League champion New York Mets won the National League East division by 7 games, with a record of 90-72. Once in the playoffs, the Mets beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. The American League champion Kansas City Royals won the American League Central division by 12 games, with a record of 95-67. The Royals beat the Houston Astros in the ALDS and the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS.
World Series Predictions Sure to Go Wrong
Before the beginning of every season The Winning Run predicts how each team will finish, which teams will make the playoffs, and who will win the World Series. Each year we are horribly wrong about almost everything. It is with this understanding that we give our predictions about the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets.
*A note about our predictions for MVP, we did not allow Daniel Murphy to be selected because everyone would pick him. Therefore, we each have our secondary MVP prediction listed and collectively we have predicted Daniel Murphy for MVP.
The Winning Run’s official 2015 World Series predictions:
Champion: Mets in 6 games.
MVP: Jacob deGrom
Champion: Mets in 5 games.
MVP: Lucas Duda (actually Daniel Murphy in disguise)
Champion: Royals in 6 games
MVP: Alcides Escobar
Champion: Royals in 7 games.
MVP: Eric Hosmer
Collectively, beyond Daniel Murphy for World Series MVP, we do not agree on much. We are split on which team will win. We believe the series will go six games. We predict that a baseball player for either the Mets or the Royals will win the MVP (this is the only prediction we feel we definitely got right). Our predictions are most likely wrong, as is our tradition, but we might get lucky this time. The 2014 World Series was fantastic, and the Royals are back for another try with a fairly young but experienced team. The Mets are playing beyond their years with a playoff pitching staff that has not been seen since the Atlanta Braves in the 1990’s. Regardless, whether we are right or wrong, we hope the 2015 World Series will be just as exciting as the 2014 edition of the Fall Classic.