If you’re not paying attention then you might think its the Dodgers and Giants going at it for a shot at the World Series (and still could in the NL!). But playing in this year’s American League Championship Series, those uniforms will actually belong to that of the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles.
That’s right- Kansas City and Baltimore for the pennant! A lot of the young heads are probably reading this and thinking it’s a match up of two perennial underdogs. But for the geezers old enough to know better, KC and the O’s have rich and deep histories in the ALCS.
Major League Baseball started playing the League Championship Series in 1969 as a way to decide who would represent each league in the World Series. Of the first 17 contests, Baltimore or Kansas City were participants in 13 of them. The Orioles were no less than a dominate force to be reckoned with during the early 70’s- whoopin ass all over the American League. In 1970, they had arguably one of the greatest pitching staffs of all-time for a team that won 108 games and beat the Cincinnati Reads in the Series. Then the next year, 1971, the starting rotation actually had FOUR 20-game winners on it! (pictured: Mike Cueller, Dave McNally, Pat Dobson, and Jim Palmer)
The 1983 team that won the Series, led by a couple of young guys you may have heard of: shortstop Cal Ripken (who won the MVP that season) and first baseman Eddie Murray, was the last time the O’s represented Baltimore in the Fall Classic.
From the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s the Royals were contenders. Over a ten year stretch, they played in 6 ALCSs. Famously, they played the “Bronx Zoo” Yankees teams in just about every post season of the late 70’s. Eventually they would sweep New York in 1980 for their first ever AL pennant. KC finally won their first and only title in franchise history when they beat their in-state rival St. Louis Cardinals in the “Show-Me” Series of 1985.
But shortly after 1985 the baseball scene in Kansas City and Baltimore became very different from the successful teams they had long been accustomed to. The years that followed only made the days of Earl Weaver’s pitching, defense, and the 3-run homer philosophy or George Brett bringing a World Series crown to Kauffman Stadium a distant memory. For all their success during the glory days of disco music, butterfly collars, televisions with UHF channels, when Michael Jackson as a black guy, and big hairy muffs in porn- these two clubs went back to the ALCS a combined TWICE in the last 27 times the championship has been played (’94 Strike). In that time, Kansas City has become better known as the place to get delicious slow smoked BBQ, where 49er quarterbacks go to retire or (as gay as it sounds) KC is also now regarded as the United States’ foremost “soccer town.”
Since the last time the O’s were in the World Series, the city of Baltimore has lost their (and taken another city’s) NFL franchise- all the while evidently developing a need to put up miles and miles of barbed wire all around town…
The stage for the 2014 ALCS isn’t set for two clubs with history and tradition though. You can imagine Buck Showalter telling the press that, “Jim Palmer, Frank Robison, and Cal Ripken Jr. are not walking through that door.” Instead it’s about two teams that are both scorching hot at the right time of the season. And it looks like the only thing that can stop either team is that they don’t play until Friday.
The days off could have more of an impact on the younger Royals squad. Their run up to this point in the postseason has been nothing short of miraculous- winning 3 straight extra-inning playoff games before blowing the doors off of an Angels team that had the best record in baseball. They completed the sweep in style and in front of their home crowd but now have to wait nearly a week before taking the field again. One thing to watch for is how the momentum/energy/mojo of such a young and inexperienced team can change when they are forced to sit this many days.
Baltimore’s run might even be even more impressive than Kansas City’s. The Orioles send out a rotation of starting pitchers that 8 out 10 baseball fans probably recognize even if they walked into the room right now. And all they just did was beat the last three AL Cy Young winners for a clean sweep (to be fair, Verlander was a no decision). And oh, that mighty Detroit lineup that led the league in hits, batting avg., RBI, and OPS; ranked 2nd in runs scored and slugging %, you ask? The Baltimore hitters just outscored them, 21 runs to 10. Not sure if that says more about the Orioles hitters or pitchers but remember, these guys can mash. It was actually Baltimore that hit more home runs than any team in MLB this year.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
KANSAS CITY vs BALTIMORE
(0 – 0)
Game 1: Friday – 8:00 PM EST on TBS
Game 2: Saturday – 4:00 PM EST on TBS
Game 3: Monday in Kansas City on TBS
Game 4: Tuesday in Kansas City on TBS
Game 5: Wednesday Kansas City on TBS*
Game 6: Friday in Baltimore on TBS*
Game 7: Saturday Baltimore on TBS*