In the wake of the Giants' thrilling 3-2 win over the Royals to win their third World Series in five seasons on Wednesday night, the overarching consensus has been this: We miss the Royals.
What a fun run the Royals just took us all on. For the last month, for all the games going on, Kansas City was playing must-watch baseball every night. It was a high-wire act each game. Who would steal a crazy base and get all swagger about it? What non-home run hitter would launch one deep into the night out of nowhere? And perhaps most enjoyable: What sabermetrically unfriendly move would Ned Yost pull out of his hat and have work out perfectly? This was the October when "Yosting" became a gerund: To do something seemingly illogical and have it turned out like the smartest move in the world. The Giants won the World Series, but when we think of this postseason, the Royals are the ones we'll remember.
This is not necessarily that unusual. The Royals join a long list of teams who made it to the World Series, fell short but will still live on in history as the true stories of the season. There are occasionally those teams that come this close but can't finish it off … but are almost more charming and immortal, in the long run, because they didn't make it all the way. These were special teams that lost to less-special teams in the World Series. These are the most lovable, beloved teams to lose in the World Series. (I'm limiting this to the last 32 years because that's as far back as I can remember.)
1982 Milwaukee Brewers
Manager Harvey Kuenn took over after the season had already begun, and the Brewers commenced smashing homers everywhere, leading the Majors in homers with a team that quickly became known as "Harvey's Wallbangers." This team featured three Hall of Famers (Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Rollie Fingers), one guy who probably should be in the Hall of Fame (Ted Simmons) and three hitters who bashed more than 30 homers in a season when only 13 other players in baseball did it (Gorman Thomas, Ben Oglivie and Cecil Cooper).
They had a 3-2 lead in the Series before the Cardinals won the final two at home, ruining the Brewers' best chance at a World Series title. They haven't returned to the Fall Classic since.
1985 St. Louis Cardinals
When you're thinking of those speed demon Whiteyball Astroturf Cardinals, you're not thinking of the 1982 championship team. You're thinking of this one, which had five players steal more than 31 bases, including Vince Coleman, an April callup who electrified a team that was predicted to finish last in the NL East (largely because of Bruce Sutter leaving as a free agent) by stealing 110 bases. No Cardinal hit more than Jack Clark's 22 homers -- Tom Herr had 110 RBIs with just eight homers -- and Willie McGee batted .353. This was the best, most likable Cardinals team of the '80s, which is the primary reason you still know Don Denkinger's name, 29 years later.
1993 Philadelphia Phillies
This might have been the grimiest collection of long-haired greasy idiots in baseball history, and they were glorious. This was the all-time "wait, that guy is a professional athlete?" team. Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Mitch Williams … you can just see the perm mullet in your mind, can't you?
These guys were larger-than-life lunatics, which made their walkoff loss to the Blue Jays in the World Series almost fitting: If they were gonna lose, they were gonna lose big. As manager Jim Fregosi put it before his death last year: "I think our club would've been in a lot of trouble with social media." Here's Kruk on Letterman that year.
1997 Cleveland Indians
This was the culmination of years of planning by general manager John Hart and his otherworldly farm system. The amount of homegrown talent on display here is sort of staggering: Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Sandy Alomar, Omar Vizquel, David Justice, Brian Giles. (Plus, it was right after Albert Belle left, which made the team even more likable). This is as close as the city of Cleveland has come to a championship in 50 years, and it was snuffed out by the Florida Marlins, who always seem to be doing that sort of thing.
2008 Tampa Bay Rays
We've gotten sort of used to the Rays having good teams these days, but it's important to remember that before they came out of nowhere and won 97 games in 2008, the best record the franchise had ever posted was 70-91 in 2004. That all changed in 2008, with a solid lineup and reliable pitching staff that smoked the rest of the AL East and stunned all of baseball.
The entire starting lineup was younger than 30 -- including Evan Longoria, who looked like a young Jeter at 22 -- and they played the game with excitement and gusto. At least they lost to an equally likable team, those 2008 Phillies finally breaking through.
2014 Kansas City Royals
There are some other teams you can make an argument for here - 1991 Braves, 2005 Astros, 2006 Tigers, 2011 Rangers - but I bet none of those have the lasting power of these Royals. Even if they make it back next season, which is unlikely but possible, it won't be the same. I sort of miss them already.