It feels cliched, but I’m going to come right out and say it — being labeled as a “team of destiny” is a pretty cool thing. You don’t need to be a powerhouse, or to have a team stacked with all-stars — you just have to have that little bit of October magic to get you through a handful of playoff series, and the prize at the end of the rainbow is yours. Have you figured out which team I’m talking about in this year’s fall classic yet? The easy answer might be to say it’s the Royals rather than the Giants, but in the first all-wildcard World Series matchup since 2002 (in which the Angels beat the Giants in seven games), both Kansas City’s beloved perennial losers and the team in the city by the bay can lay some claim to that special title as the team that fate favors to take it all home.
Let’s start with the Royals though. This is a team that’s difficult not to love, and I say this as a fan of one of the teams they beat along the way this postseason — the Angels. This is a team that hasn’t even made the playoffs since 1985 when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series. Many of their current fans had yet to be born or were still in diapers. To make things worse, Kansas City has not had a single professional sports championship team since those victorious 1985 Royals. The so-called “scrappiness” of the team also makes them easy to root for — aggressive base-running and a top-shelf defense make you never doubt that these monarchs of the Midwest are out of a game. Their late-inning wildcard game comeback just made it easy to feel happy for Kansas City and their fans who had waited so long — so long as they don’t turn into overconfident Boston-esque fans after finally winning, I’ll continue to be happy for them.
But hold on a sec. Before you go and start fawning over how amazing the Royals are, don’t forget to look at San Francisco’s favorite orange and black sons. Though the Giants have had recent World Series success, winning the title in 2012 and 2010, the team had to sneak into the postseason as the second National League wild card this year. This isn’t the dominant Giants team of years past — this is a team that found a struggling Tim Lincecum in the bullpen, and squeaked out 88 wins.
So why are they a team of destiny? Giants fans in recent years have adopted an “even years” mantra for their World Series wins (this doesn’t entirely check out — I’d like to kindly remind you of 2002 again). No matter the type of team they have, every two years something just seems to come together and work. This year’s team has a similar scrappy style led by pitching and rookies, and of course, Hunter Pence’s Twitter account and rambunctious personality. If that wasn’t enough, in one of the most easily spotted “how can you not be romantic about baseball?” moments in years, Travis Ishikawa, the veteran outfielder the Giants brought back partway through the season, hit a walk-off three-run homer against the Cardinals to give the Giants their third-consecutive even-year National League pennant. Later that night, the MLB Instagram interspersed a clip of Ishikawa’s pennant-winning blast with the historic call of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” that won the then-New York Giants the pennant in 1951. How could you not get chills hearing Russ Hodges’ classic call, yelping, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant and they’re goin’ crazy, they’re goin’ crazy!”
As of press time, the Giants have taken a 3-2 lead heading into the sixth game of the series in Kansas City. I still can’t sleep on either team though. That eerie baseball destiny mystique is still very much fixed in clouds above both of these teams — the Giants’ game-four comeback and the Royals’ bullpen dominance in game three show there’s still plenty of magic left in both of these teams. Which one breaks through these clouds is anyone’s guess — but they’ll both tell you they knew it’d be them the entire time.
Go Giants. Go Royals. Go baseball.