Royals' brand of baseball evident through the end
NEW YORK -- Eric Hosmer broke for home plate the instant Mets third baseman David Wright threw the baseball across the diamond. How appropriate that it would be Hosmer owning this moment.
The 26-year-old first baseman represents the best of these Kansas City Royals, their emergence and maturity and growth. His game is their game. It's defense and baserunning and putting the ball in play. It's keeping the pressure on, forcing the other guy to make plays, taking advantage of every opening.
So on this cool, crisp Sunday that would end with the Royals beating the New York Mets, 7-2, to win their first World Series in 30 years, Hosmer's dash for the plate signified so much.
It was for team owner David Glass, whose vision and patience set the Royals on this course. It was for general manager Dayton Moore, a brilliant baseball man who laid out a blueprint for Glass in 2006 and stuck to it relentlessly through some tough times.
The Royals are a bright and shining light for any organization that would like to understand the importance of great leadership at every level.
Hosmer ran toward home plate for manager Ned Yost, too, the guy who set the right tone and created the right environment as he shaped a generation of young players.
Finally, Hosmer ran for himself and for Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez and all the guys who grew up together in the Minor Leagues and won championships at both Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha.
Their arrival in the big leagues in 2011 signaled that great things were about to happen for Kansas City. It didn't happen overnight, and there's a lesson in that, too. They had to be allowed to succeed some and fail some and succeed some more.
"It's unbelievable," said Perez, who won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. "I always say we feel like a family here. We've got the same group, almost the same group when I played my first year in 2007 in Arizona, the Rookie League. It's amazing to now win a World Series and see the same guys with you."
One of the secrets of these Royals is that they carefully nurtured their players along, instructing them, teaching them and then watching their talent take over. There were other decisions along the way, as Moore added and subtracted pieces to get a roster that was dominant in certain areas -- bullpen, defense, offensive persistence.
When the Royals lost Game 7 of the 2014 World Series to the Giants, they showed up at Spring Training this season vowing to finish what they'd started. There was a seriousness about them and a focus to everything they did in 2015. They knew what they were about and what they were capable of doing.
And Hosmer represented all of it in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5 on Sunday night. The Mets rode a brilliant effort by Matt Harvey to a 2-0 lead into the ninth amid a roaring crowd of 44,859 at Citi Field.
A New York victory would have forced the World Series back to Kansas City for Game 6 and perhaps Game 7, and the Mets would have had two of baseball's best young starting pitchers -- Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard -- lined up.
If the Mets could just finish Game 5, they believed they had a great chance to steal the World Series despite beginning the day in a 3-1 hole. Only thing is, the Royals are a patient, relentless, astonishingly resilient team.
They would become the first team to win three World Series games in which they trailed in the eighth inning or later. They won seven postseason games after trailing by multiple runs.
Those things tell you that Kansas City has things that can't be measured or weighed or fully understood. There's a competitive fire, a refusal to ever give in. There's confidence, too.
The Royals have won so much in the past 15 months -- 159-99 since July 22, 2014 -- that they believe they can write whatever ending those choose to write. And that's what they did. In the ninth inning Sunday with the game on the line, Kansas City drew walks and banged out hits and ran the bases hard.
And then with Hosmer on third base and the Royals down by a run, Perez hit a soft grounder to Wright with one out. Hosmer broke for home when Wright threw the ball to first. Should Wright have held the ball? Should he have looked Hosmer back to third base for longer than he did?
Regardless, Hosmer sprinted toward home and beat a wild throw from first baseman Lucas Duda. Duda could have made a better throw, but this is what the Royals do. They push and push. They find weak spots. They force teams to make plays.
In Kansas City's biggest victory in 30 years, its offense was built around seven singles, four stolen bases, three doubles. After Hosmer's slide home with the tying run, it was 2-2, and the game would be settled by the bullpens.
These are games the Royals are built to win. As Game 5 stretched on through the ninth, 10th and 11th innings, the outcome seemed inevitable.
Finally, in the top of the 12th, Kansas City broke it open with five runs, and then Yost handed the ball to Wade Davis, baseball's most dominant closer, in the bottom of the 12th.
When it ended, the Royals celebrated wildly. Ten years earlier, it was easy to wonder if this franchise would ever be relevant again. But as Glass said, "I've been around baseball for most of my life. I never thought it was impossible."
Glass knew it wasn't about payroll size as much as hiring good people and putting them in position to succeed. It was about believing in them when it wasn't always a popular thing to do.
The Royals' owner has had a gnawing in his gut these past few weeks as his club got by the Astros and Blue Jays in the postseason. On Sunday, Glass' guys finished the deal.
In a happy clubhouse, the Royals reminded the world that they hadn't just done it. They'd done it the way they always intended to do it.