Last Sunday night was pretty exciting at our house, because the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in Game 5. They came from behind for the umpteenth time in post-season play, starting with Eric Hosmer’s foolishly hopeful dash from third to home. And, as they say, the rest is now history.
I started thinking about everything that had led to that moment, when a team that had been a joke for almost 30 years finally found redemption. It seems like the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Hyperbole? Probably. But think about it.
Start with Zach Greinke. The Royals signed him in 2002 when he was but a pup. He pitched his first game in 2004, and he won the Cy Young Award in 2009. Sometime between 2004 and 2009, Greinke had some anxiety issues that caused him to want to quit playing baseball altogether. The Royals said, “No. Take some time and get better.” The team continued to pay him, and said, “Come back when you’re ready.” And then, in 2010, he asked to be traded. He wanted to play for a winning team, he said. I was aghast at his sense of entitlement and lack of loyalty. The Royals had saved his career, and he wanted out. He was traded to Milwaukee and now plays for the Dodgers. I haven’t seen either team in the World Series lately.
Now think about James Shields. “Big Game James” was the Royals’ go-to pitcher last year when they made it to, but not past, the World Series. He was an okay pitcher, but he did little in the post-season, and he became a free agent after the Series. Everything I read said that Shields was a clubhouse leader and a stabilizing influence on the younger, more inexperienced pitchers. Though hardly an ace, he contributed a great deal to the 2014 Royals. And yet, he wanted more money than the team offered. So he went the way of free agency, to the San Diego Padres, where he won 13 and lost 7, and they won 74 and lost 88. But “Big Bucks James” got his money.
Remember Game 3, when Noah Syndergaard, the Mets pitcher, threw at Alcides Escobar’s head? Escobar had been hitting everybody else’s first pitches all over the field, and later, Syndergaard said something like, “I wanted him to know that it’s not his home plate. It’s my home plate.” What a guy. I wrote earlier that I’m not a fan of people’s throwing at anybody at all, but to throw at someone’s head is simply unacceptable.
It would be very easy to look at those things – the “it’s all about me” things, greed, poor sportsmanship – and hold onto grudges or become bitter. Those kinds of attitudes take away from the joy of the game, which both the Royals and their fans had all season long.
But here’s the interesting part, the part to remember, the part that reminds us to just “let it go.” When the Royals traded Greinke, they got Lorenzo Cain, last year’s ALCS Most Valuable Player, and Alcides Escobar, this year’s ALCS Most Valuable Player. Part of the deal that brought Shields to Kansas City also included Wade Davis, the best closer in baseball this year. And Noah Syndergaard? He won his game, but so what? The Mets lost the series, and he looked bad. Best of all, the Royals did nothing to retaliate, taking and holding the high ground. And when the Royals won, Kansas City showed the world what winners look like: no flipped cars, no looted stores, no riots in the street – just cheering jubilation among 800,000 best friends.
Sometimes, life is just like that. Something bad happens, and we wonder what comes next. People are greedy and seem to get exactly what they want, while the rest of us just try to get through the day. We are betrayed by someone we trust.
And yet, with enough time, enough patience, enough hope, things can look a little better. I think the lesson here is that living life with patience and hope is, in itself, the triumph of good over evil – even in baseball.
Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.