SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There will be attempts to imitate the 2015 Kansas City Royals. When you win the World Series, imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery.You've seen some of it already -- some teams taking what looked like the counterintuitive route, trying to build a team from the
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There will be attempts to imitate the 2015 Kansas City Royals. When you win the World Series, imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery.
You've seen some of it already -- some teams taking what looked like the counterintuitive route, trying to build a team from the back of the bullpen. With the Royals returning the strikeout to stigma status for hitters, you may even see more hitters taking the shortened two-strike approach that once was common.
But no less an authority than Royals manager Ned Yost says that you won't see any perfect duplication of Kansas City. For Yost, the difference will not be hitting or pitching or fielding. It will be team chemistry.
The Royals, Yost believes, are unmatched in that category.
"It took us 30 years to put the right 25 guys together, the right guys that all have that same chemistry, that same makeup, that same work ethic, that all have different skill sets that work together to win a world championship," Yost said. "I've never had 25 guys who go out and do what they do. Trust each other. I've never had 25 guys who trust each other like these guys do."
Yost talks about a Spring Training in which the Royals put down roughly 40 sacrifice bunt attempts, while he put the bunt sign on just four times.
"What that's saying is that these guys trust that if they can get them over, the next guy can get them in," Yost said. "And they trust the bullpen to keep us in games. It's the chemistry they have with each other. You saw it last year; if you mess with one guy, you're messing with the entire team. They look out for each other.
"Nobody complains about their roles. You've got a group of guys who are ready for any situation, and they're all in. That's it. They don't worry about their stats. The only thing they worry about is finding ways to win baseball games.
"Every manager in baseball is trying to develop those traits for their team right now. But it's hard, because it's hard to find 25 guys who aren't selfish. Or even 20 guys who aren't selfish. But for us, we've got 25. Teams like this don't come around very often. Forget about the wins and losses. Just look at who they are and the group that they are. They don't come around very often."
The Royals have an edge -- both in talent and in chemistry -- that is provided in part by a core group of players that came up together through the Kansas City organization. They had what was essentially a head start on the team concept.
"It helps when you have a big core that comes up together," Yost said. "But it also helps when you've got a tremendous GM [Dayton Moore] who understands the importance of chemistry. Then you've got a group of scouts that understand the importance of chemistry and that do their homework. When we bring somebody in here, we do extensive background checks on them. Will they fit in this environment? And there have been guys who have come down the road, 'No, we ain't going there. He's a good player, but he might not fit in this environment.'"
Yost has witnessed a lot of success in baseball. He played on a World Series team in Milwaukee. Coaching for Bobby Cox in Atlanta for 12 years, the Braves won 11 division titles and one season ended in a strike. Then there were the two American League pennants and one World Series championship as a manager in Kansas City.
Apart from having obvious talent, what was the common thread that tied together all that success?
"It's always been chemistry, team chemistry on those clubs," Yost said. "When I went to the World Series with Milwaukee as a player, the chemistry was phenomenal. You know, there are a lot of similarities between the Atlanta club and our club. We had a group of kids come up, played together, struggled together and then, boom.
"You've got to have talent. Don't get me wrong. You can have the best chemistry in the world, and if you don't have talent you won't win. But that [chemistry] is a big part of getting you over that hump from just being competitive to becoming champions."
From that perspective, imitating the Royals is going to have to be limited to more power arms in the bullpens and cutting down on strikeouts. Kansas City's intangible chemistry may not be suitable for cloning.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.