This weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals will face the Kansas City Royals in a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium to resolve an age-old question–who is better at baseball, the 35-79 team or the team whose record isn’t abysmal?
This may feel like an obvious answer, but Cardinals/Royals is a rivalry which can bring out the best in a team with nothing else to play for. Both fan bases care more about the interleague rivalry than they’d like to let on, and perhaps more than they would like to admit to themselves. But St. Louis and Kansas City, despite not being that different in the larger sense, take great pride in being St. Louis and Kansas City.
I can’t explain why that is, exactly. I’ve spent far more time in the former than the latter but I think both cities have their own charms. Each city is capable of an inferiority complex of sorts with materially larger cities, such as Chicago or New York, but the two have more in common than in contrast. Each has vibrant cuisine and and cultural scenes and all of that good stuff that people use to quantify cities despite being entirely subjective in nature. Also, both cities won a World Series in the 1980s.
Yeah, I said it.
Maybe it’s a reflection on my not having been alive for the 1985 World Series, but I just think it’s time to let it go, man. Did first-base umpire Don Denkinger blow a call at first base in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series during the ninth inning? Absolutely. Anyone who tries to argue this point is lying to you and, most likely, to themselves. But the 1985 Royals, carried by third baseman George Brett and co-aces Brett Saberhagen and Charlie Leibrandt, are a valid champion. They got a generous call, but they took advantage of it. And even if Jorge Orta had been called out, the winning run was scored with one out, so, like, the Royals were probably going to score at least one run. And also, the Cardinals should’ve showed up for Game 7. Having experienced 1996 and 2012, I feel like I can relate to the good team that just doesn’t even make Game 7 interesting. Also, the Cardinals have won eleven of those things, including one just three years prior and two more since the 1985 I-70 Series.
The reason so many people still care about 1985, I assume, is that in St. Louis, we view baseball as our thing. Kansas City has a baseball team, sure, but they’re a barbecue town. They’re a town of fountains. They’re a Chiefs town. We have baseball, and any threat to our reign as the Midwestern Capital of Baseball cannot and will not stand. To lose the games would be upsetting–to lose with poor officiating lingering over the event is an affront to the state of the baseball universe as we know it. Or at least as we choose to view it.
Anyway, the Royals are bad now. Their #2, #6, and #8 players by Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement are no longer on the team, with Mike Moustakas, Kelvin Herrera, and Jon Jay now on, respectively, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Washington Nationals, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. I gotta level with you–I’ve never heard of their #3 player (go ahead and check to see if you have). Their #7 player, Danny Duffy, has been worth 1.0 bWAR. The same mark has been met by Tyler O’Neill, who has 60 plate appearances this season.
Anything can happen, but the Cardinals should dominate this series. In reality, they will probably win two of three games because that’s just kind of how baseball goes. Here are the projected pitching matchups. All times Central.
Friday (7:15 p.m): Austin Gomber (1-0, 4.10 ERA) vs. Burch Smith (1-3, 6.41 ERA)
Saturday (6:15 p.m): Jack Flaherty (5-6, 3.27 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (7-10, 4.70 ERA)
Sunday (1;15 p.m): Luke Weaver (6-10, 4.66 ERA) vs. Jakob Junis (6-11, 4.98 ERA)