Nice work Royals, Orioles
A couple of times before the Reds season ended, including once by Marty Brennaman, I was asked which teams I predicted would reach the World Series.
I replied — Angels vs. Nationals
Well — one team is out and the other is on the verge of being out. It’s amazing how the playoffs have been turned upside down by the underdogs.
On the American League side, it’s awesome that no matter who wins the ALCS between the Royals and Orioles, there is going to be a World Series participant that hasn’t been there since the 1980s. Kansas City’s previous appearance was 1985 while Baltimore’s was in 1983. Considering the Yankees and Red Sox seemed to have a deathgrip on the AL pennant for the past two decades, it’s a refreshing change.
It also shows that having high payrolls don’t mean you can’t be competitive. Heading into the season, the Orioles were 14th in payroll while the Royals were 18th.
Having witnessed the Royals Wild Card Game win over the A’s, it might have been the most exciting/thrilling game I’ve ever covered in 14 seasons. Kauffman Stadium was definitely the loudest outdoor baseball park I’ve ever experienced. What’s amazing about the Royals was when they were down 7-3 in the sixth — all the cheers had turned to boos for manager Ned Yost, who called for a bazillion bunts and made a very questionable pitching change that backfired. Then they came back — twice — and the place was even more electric. Just an awesome night of a baseball that got the postseason off to a great start.
The Royals seem to have “it” right now — the talent, the excitement, momentum and perhaps that overused term of destiny on their side. The Orioles certainly have a strong roster and I would definitely give Buck Showalter the edge over Yost. We saw rather recently how that club beat up the Reds and even without Davis and Machado, it’s a very strong lineup.
*As for something on the Reds, I plan to take a closer look soon at Johnny Cueto, who could be baseball’s best relative bargain next season as he is a year away from free agency after the 2015 season. His club option for 2015 is $10 million, which the Reds would be nuts not to exercise. Now the questions the club faces: Do they try to give him an extension this winter? Should they trade him and his bargain contract this winter to help retool the offense? Do nothing now and trade him during the season if they fall out of contention? Or let him pitch all of next season — especially if they’re contending — and roll the dice that if they can’t re-sign him as a free agent, they would at least get the Draft pick compensation?
And when the Reds are done answering the Cueto question — they can ask three more to themselves about Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon. Tough tasks indeed. While everyone — including me — is saying that it would be tough to keep all of them — especially Cueto and Latos — I’ll never fully count the Reds ownership out in taking the really big plunge. They’ve shown a willingness to spend and be creative with the contract structuring.
*One non-baseball note: Kudos to the Patriots for their classy act in last night’s game vs. the Bengals. New England cheerleaders wore Devon Still’s No. 75 jersey and the team played a tribute to his daughter, four-year Leah, who has been fighting cancer. Patriots owner Robert Kraft also donated $25,000. It’s just a really neat thing to see how the community inside and outside of Cincinnati has rallied for Still and his daughter.