Who should we actually be rooting for in the 2014 World Series?
By EVAN BUDROVICH
College Contributor Network
Now that the moment has finally arrived, who should we actually support...the even-year team of destiny, the San Francisco Giants, or the long-standing losers turned contenders, the Kansas City Royals?
While the Giants have acquired Voodoo magic when their seasonal playoff push comes around, the Royals defied the odds in breaking a 29-year drought from the postseason. Both teams have great qualities, but neither team can separate itself as America's darling.
Already battling the nasty woes of record-low television ratings in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Giants' return to the Fall Classic as the team that nobody really wants to watch. But, according to an unscientific poll from MLB.com, the results are mixed (an even 14-14) among the 28 fanbases that will not be participating in the World Series as to where their alliances might land.
What makes this World Series even more interesting is the fact that speed kills in this game, and both the Royals and Giants play fast, pitch hard and play solid defense. You certainly wouldn't call the 2014 Fall Classic a David vs. Goliath matchup either, mostly because neither team looked all that impressive during the regular season. Despite the fact the Royals are 8-0 in the postseason, the best mark in postseason history, I'm not sure they've galvanized the nation as America's team either.
What the Giants have in their favor, oddly enough, is a slew of misfits, old toys and previously broken-down records that have come together with great harmony. Led by America's next great baseball hero, catcher Buster Posey, the Giants have the (unassuming) star power that pops on the television screen. Hunter Pence, a "freak of nature" in every sense of the word, provides unique storylines to follow in his own right. But let's be honest, nothing beats the bad-ball hitting ability of Pablo Sandoval, someone who crashed the 2012 World Series with three gigantic home runs against the Detroit Tigers.
What the Royals can offer, besides an impressive bullpen, is a cast of speedsters that has been unleashed and is quite fun to rally around. Lorenzo Cain will certainly garner a major GIF during the Fall Classic for his ability to track down the baseball. Billy Butler, better known as "Country Breakfast" around the clubhouse, will be featured in national commercials that might rival the likes of Peyton Manning. And let's not forget Terrance Gore, an athlete who hit less than .220 in High-A ball this season and was brought on the roster for one reason alone, the Royals' new mantra: "That's what speed do."
In a World Series that might feature lackluster national attention that brings baseball back to the lockout-shortened days of 1994, the even quality of play may be this series' saving grace. Before Joe Buck and the gang trigger up the broadcast on FOX, baseball fans across the country must recognize what's about to play out on their television sets.
Just remember that in fact a mini rivalry for attention, not just the World Series trophy, is taking place right now between Kansas City and San Francisco. San Francisco radio stations 104.5 KFOG and 96.5 KOIT are pitching the idea of eliminating Lorde's famous song "Royals" from the airwaves until the World Series ends. And you'd have the raucous environments at both Kauffman Stadium, which sits right in the backyard of Arrowhead Stadium where sound records are being broken by the second, and the (hopefully) Halloween-themed AT&T Park will make up for the lackluster home run production.
While the most scintillating headline might be decided between the cuisine of Kansas City barbecue and San Francisco fresh fish, the sport of baseball needs a nation-wide following (or hatred for that matter) to take place among the 28 other fan bases. That doesn't mean the 2014 World Series is lacking any good baseball, it may just be lacking the enthusiastic following it needs to gain any real traction.
These first few games may feel more like battles from Williamsport because of the dominant bullpens that can shorten a game all the way down to six-inning affairs. Let's not forget, this is the first World Series ever in which neither team had a regular-season winning percentage above .550.
Both teams have cemented postseason records, the Royals for starting 8-0 in the playoffs (after a 29-year hiatus) and the Giants for playing the longest extra-inning playoff game (18 frames) on record. Shockingly enough, the Giants have scored more runs without a hit (12) than with one (10) this postseason, and the Royals still continue to go down without striking out. Sure, with a lack of power hitting these teams aren't the most glamorous to watch -- the Giants grabbed an all-time low 12.7 million viewers during their four-game sweep over the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series.
But while the rest of America may not be watching at such high attention, baseball executives will certainly be taking notes on how to best emulate both teams' models of small-ball, pitching and defense that has already won them so many games in October. Ironically enough, a sport so focused on shifting its critical thinking towards advanced metrics might actually rely upon the old-school fans, who love the fundamentals of the game, to instill nationwide-passion into the 2014 Fall Classic.
Evan Budrovich is a senior at the University of Southern California. He has a passion for the 49ers, Dodgers baseball and all things USC athletics. Follow him on Twitter: @evanbud