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2015 World Series: Who Should Blue Jays Fans Root For?

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By now reality has sunk it that despite the mystical bat-flipping heroics of the previous three months there is no more baseball to be played in Toronto this season. Although the Blue Jays advanced to the Championship Series for the first time since Haddaway asked a question that Meatloaf gave a convoluted answer to, Toronto was left standing by the wayside as the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets advanced to face off for the right to hold professional sports’ most fragile-looking trophy aloft.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

Now that the taste of defeat has been washed away from the palate, the question becomes: Given that only a seriously sour Sam would cheer for a natural disaster akin to Oakland 1989, what team should the Blue Jays’ faithful cheer for? Here are some factors that should make the decision a little easier:

PLAYOFF HISTORY

No matter which teams made the World Series out of the final four, a lengthy drought was going to end. Kansas City and New York both fell within the middle of that spectrum. These two teams accounted for back to back titles with the Royals winning in 1985 over their hated rivals down the I-95 in St. Louis, while the Mets won in 1986 on one of the most infamous errors in MLB lore. Both teams have only made one appearance since then as well.

Kansas City rode the Herrera-Davis-Holland back-end to the pennant last year, only to have the San Francisco Giants remind them that even years in this decade are theirs alone. The Mets have waited 15 years for another chance after Roger Clemens turned the Subway Series into a lumberjack competition, and won it. Both these fan bases deserve to celebrate a title, at least Royals fans prior to 2014 do.

The Mets have tried to spend their way to title shots before recent financial troubles forced them to scale back and attempt to build from within. Perhaps that’s why it feels like the Royals have suffered more in the past 30 seasons than the Metropolitans.

ADVANTAGE: KANSAS CITY

FORMER BLUE JAYS ON TEAM

Kansas City has done well utilizing their time spent locked in the cellar of the American League, stockpiling their team with the best talent available from the top of the draft pool. As such, a lot of the Royals talent is homegrown and as such is not going to come from outside organizations. Last offseason, the Royals found themselves with a hole in right field after the departure of Nori Aoki and they turned to a name familiar to Blue Jays fans. Familiar for the wrong reasons though.

Alex Rios was the Jays’ first round pick in 1999 and he was expected to provide a rock in the outfield. He was for the first few years, earning All-Star nods in 2006-07, as well as the title of Jays’ Player of the Year in the latter campaign. It speaks to how talented those mid 2000’s Blue Jays teams were. Rios signed a seven-year, $69.8M after that campaign and started to decline soon after. He tied Lyle Overbay in home runs in 2008, then was caught on video cursing a fan after a charity event.

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  • In August of 2009, soon-to-be ex-GM J.P. Ricciardi attempted to sneak Rios through waivers, where he was claimed by the Chicago White Sox. After playing out his massive contract with Chicago and Texas, he signed a one year deal worth $11M, and has delivered little to show for it: a .255 average, four HRs and now he gets replaced by Paolo Orlando in the 8th inning.

    The Mets were the Blue Jays’ trading partner in the R.A. Dickey deal, and are now reaping the rewards. Travis d’Arnaud, one of the pieces originally acquired for Roy Halladay, has blossomed into a power threat behind the plate, belting 12 home runs in only 67 games this year for the Mets. Durability has been an issue, as he missed a significant amount of time this year with a broken hand, but the Mets are set behind the plate for the next ten years.

    Noah Syndergaard has been as good as advertised in his rookie campaign, posting a 3.24 ERA in 24 starts with a K/9 rate of 10. The return for Dickey rewarded the bitter patience of the past two years with some sweet fruit. Even if you don’t count d’Arnaud and Syndergaard as Blue Jays, they do have a major league representative as well.

    Mid-season acquisition Kelly Johnson spent a year and a half manning second base for Toronto after arriving in a 2011 trade from Arizona for Aaron Hill and John McDonald. Johnson wasn’t spectacular, certainly not on Aaron Hill’s level, but he bashed 19 home runs in 175 games, and his total WAR of 2.8 wasn’t terrible. Alone, it’s not enough to get the nod over Rios, but with the kids behind him, there’s more than a tinge of Jay blue in this Mets’ roster.

    ADVANTAGE: NEW YORK

    ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR

    Watching the Royals play their brand of winning baseball is like watching a ninja take out a target. They don’t go for the big three-run bomb or the big punch out. They quietly work with ground outs and seeing-eye singles, slowly cutting away and inflicting subtle damage until the point comes when the target is suddenly bleeding in five different places and the ninja stands over them, bullpen at the ready to administer the ether. It is effective baseball. Kansas City will not waste at bats with wild swings, they will draw the walk, sacrifice to second and third, then hit the bloop single to score the run. It’s not spectacular, but with a pitching staff so skilled on the back-end, it doesn’t take much to assure victory for Kansas City.

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    That said, the Royals have played with a swagger unseen in the Midwest before. The Royals know they can win now, and have been exuding that cocksure attitude whenever it can. It was on display in game six as firestarter Yordano Ventura glared at not only strikeout victim Troy Tulowitzki, but first base coach Tim Leiper? Ventura has gotten into staredowns with Jose Bautista and Mike Trout this season alone. It’s almost a certainty Yoenis Cespedes will feel the lasers on himself at some point from Ventura.

    New York on the other hand plays like a band of pirates, cannons perpetually at the ready to take whatever shots they can. The squadron of young pitchers is capable of blowing teams away with high heat and mind bending curves, as the Chicago Cubs found out in the NLCS. With such faith in the quality starts the starting pitching is able to deliver, the Mets are willing to sit back and make opposing pitching come to them. Hitters like Cespedes, Michael Conforto and postseason darling Daniel Murphy can afford to wait for their pitch and then crush it the second it comes near them for doubles and home runs. It may not be winning baseball, but as Greg Maddux once said, “Chicks dig the long ball.” Fans do too.

    ADVANTAGE: NEW YORK

    NICKNAMES

    Yes, nicknames are important to the enjoyment of games. Blue Jays fans are now unable to chant for rain to be brought, for parrots to be walked on wings, for goggles to be donned and for Superman to cape up. The bats are silent up north, so who has the monikers to bring such gleeful imagery out in commentary with friends and bar patrons?

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  • Given Canada’s affinity for nature, Kansas City seems to fit with an animal theme running in their nicknames. They have a Moose (Mike Moustakas), a Mad Dog (Ryan Madson) and a Zorilla (Ben Zobrist), which I can only assume is a cross between a zebra and a gorilla, which is just an impressive bioengineering feat. After that though, there are no pickings to be had. “Sal” does not count as a nickname. It’s a shame. No one thought to come up with Terrance “Bull” Gore? Eric “Big Hoss” Hosmer? Even if animals were out, Johnny “Judge Dread” Cueto has the potential to be one of the best pseudonyms in sports. This Royals nickname team is really missing “Country Breakfast” Billy Butler.

    The Mets on the other hand are building their own Justice League. They have the previously mentioned Thor (Syndergaard), but they’ve united him with the Dark Knight (Matt Harvey), Captain America (David Wright), Steven “Iron” Matz and the most revered hero of the ’90s, the Dude (Lucas Duda). Add in La Potencia (Cespedes, “Potencia” means “Power” in Spanish) and the Grandy Man (Curtis Granderson) and New York is rolling deep on the nickname train.

    ADVANTAGE: NEW YORK

    BEST STORY

    In contrast to their run last season as the lovable losers who were riding a wild card tidal wave through the postseason, the 2015 Royals come in baring the weight of expectations. They didn’t sneak up on anyone this year. In fact they were the bully in AL Central playground, knocking Detroit down so many pegs the Tigers started giving away their toys to the neighbor kids.

    Toronto Blue Jays
    Toronto Blue Jays /

    Toronto Blue Jays

    They built an early cushion, going 15-7 in April and officially sealing the deal with a 19-9 August, during which the war of words between the Royals and Blue Jays were exchanged over bean balls and chin music. The Royals stared both challengers to their throne as American League upstarts and swatted both Houston and Toronto away in the playoffs to get back to the final stage with a chance to finish what they started last year.

    New York was expected to serve as cannon fodder for the crowned kings in Washington, and for the first half of the season, it looked like the Mets were going to follow the script. The team was good, at least their pitching and defense was good, but their offense was non-existent. Through the end of July the Mets were 29th in MLB in offense with 3.56 runs per game (just ahead of Philadelphia). There was talk of trade breaking up the happy clubhouse, to the point where Wilmer Flores shed tears onto the Citi Field dirt upon learning he was on his way to Milwaukee.

    However, they were spared losing any members and a when a power surge arrived from Detroit, the team took off. Their offense gained almost a full run per game with Cespedes arriving to the team, and New York ripped off three different win streaks of seven games or more, en route to burying the Nationals and clinching their first playoff trip in nine years. With their young starters rested, they won an arms race with Los Angeles and overpowered the Cubs’ stars-to-be. Now a new generation of Amazin’ Mets attempts to echo the ghosts of 1969 and claim another unlikely title. Another underdog story.

    ADVANTAGE: NEW YORK

    In the end, it’s fitting. Kansas City was so effective in the first half of the season that they created their own monsters when Detroit went into fire sale mode. One foe was slain when they eliminated David Price and the Blue Jays. Can they do the same thing against Cespedes and a Mets team that comes into the same situation the Royals were in last year? It will be fun to find out if they can.

    Next: Blue Jays Fans Send Message To Ownership

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