A Look at Some New Powerhouse Teams
As a Phillies fan, I have very little to be excited about in this upcoming World Series. The very small level of satisfaction that I could get out of this is if (I’m almost sorry to say it) the Mets lose, badly. Even more, the majority of good things to happen for my team came from trading away the best of our established players for a crop of young prospects, with the exception of Cole Hamels’ no hitter against the Cubs on July 25th. Now enough of about my favorite team, let’s look at the teams that changed their reputations this season:
Last year, the Kansas City Royals shocked the world and turned their Wild Card momentum into a trip through the playoffs and a dramatic 7-Game World Series versus the San Francisco Giants. This was their first trip to the playoffs since they won the 1985 World Series, 29 seasons prior. With the Royals now a feared team, preparing for the Mets in this year’s Fall Classic, it is time to focus on this year’s breakout teams.
The Blue Jays nearly became this year’s Royals, pushing the ALCS to 6 intense games. They did lose, in large part to the speedy Alcides Escobar, and his skillful baserunning. Toronto was a team that had not reached the playoffs since Joe Carter’s walk-off home run lifted them over the Phillies in the 1993 World Series.
The team carried a record hovering around .500 at the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31st, but that did not stop them from making the two highest-profile trades of the season, acquiring the Colorado Rockies All-Star Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and former Cy-Young award winner David Price from the Detroit Tigers. The momentum from these trades vaulted the Blue Jays to a 93-69 record, good for first place in the historically competitive American League East Division, and a trip to the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. Their entire lineup, featuring sluggers Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Edwin Encarnacion will be back next year, so expect more of the same from the 2016 Blue Jays.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 9 months, here’s some news: the Cubs are (finally) good! The notoriously cursed franchise had not seen the playoffs since 2008 (not to mention the 108 years it has been since they’ve won a World Series), and ever since Theo Epstein was hired on as the President of Baseball Operations back in October of 2011, Cubs fans have been awaiting the fruits of his labor. Now four seasons into his tenure, the Cubs are sporting a 97-65 record. Although their record was good for only third place in their division, it was also the third best record in all of baseball this year. With the new wild card format, there was room for the Cubs in the playoffs, and they pushed their way to the NLCS, where they were eventually swept by the NL Champion Mets.
Though they are yet to break the curse, an exciting young core featuring names like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Jake Arrieta, Hector Rondon, and a slew of prospects on the rise give Cubs fans much to look forward to.
It would not be picking on the Astros to say they have been losers lately. For three consecutive seasons from 2011-2013, the Astros recorded 100 losses, and still lost 92 games last season. This year, they loaded up the team with free-swinging sluggers, and spent the majority of the season in first place of the AL West division.
They gave the AL-Champion Royals a run for their money, pushing the American League Division Series to the full 5 games. Johnny Cueto was ready for them though, and their season went no further. Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and the power of Evan Gattis give Astros fans plenty of reasons for optimism moving forward.
On to the Mutts – or rather the Mets (excuse the Philly fan in me). I can imagine the cringe a Mets fan makes whenever they think back to their last playoff game, when Carlos Beltran infamously struck out looking to end the season. Luckily for the Mets, 2006 was a long time ago, and their young, powerful pitching staff has lead them to this year’s Fall Classic versus the Kansas City Royals. Clubhouse leader David Wright, midseason acquisition Yoenis Cespedes, and the aforementioned pitching staff deserve much of the credit for the team’s success.
Although much of their success is due to excellence on the field, part of their story comes from the Washington Nationals’ lack of excellence. The Washington Nationals were widely predicted to win the NL East division, and thought to be World Series-bound, but things don’t always play out the way we expect them to.
Good luck to the Royals and (sigh) good luck to the Mets, this year’s match up ought to be a good one.