As many have pointed out, no matter who wins the World Series this season, someone's fan base is going to explode. The last time each of the remaining playoff teams have won the World Series:
• Chicago Cubs: 1908
• Kansas City: 1985
• NY Mets: 1986
• Toronto: 1993
But even in that context, the fact that the Royals and the Blue Jays are playing each other for the right to go to the World Series is sort of staggering. As recently as 13 months ago, these were the two most downtrodden fan bases in the American League. (Some of their fans might argue they still are.) After the Pirates won a National League Wild Card spot in 2013, the Royals and Blue Jays were the two MLB teams with the longest playoff drought, 28 years for Kansas City and 20 years for Toronto. The Royals snapped that last year, and the Jays snapped theirs this year. But the last 20 years have featured almost nothing but pain, on both sides. And here they are.
That the Royals were a winning-run-at-the-plate away from winning the World Series last season should not distract from the total madness of them being back here again. These are the Royals. K.C. has a chance at two World Series in a row. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays, a team that hadn't been in the playoffs since before the year they canceled the World Series, can get back again, causing a nation of baseball writers to adjust their international plans on their cellphones. These are the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the American League, facing off in the AL Championship Series. But it's still madness that they are both here.
• Game 1: Friday, Oct. 16, 7:30 p.m. ET, Kauffman Stadium, FOX (Marco Estrada vs. Edinson Volquez)
• Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 17, 3:30 p.m. ET, Kauffman Stadium, FS1 (David Price vs. Yordano Ventura)
• Game 3: Monday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m. ET, Rogers Centre, FS1 (Johnny Cueto vs. Marcus Stroman)
• Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 20, TBD, Rogers Centre, FS1 (TBD vs. R.A. Dickey)
• Game 5 (If necessary): Wednesday, Oct. 21, TBD, Rogers Centre, FS1 (TBD vs. TBD)
• Game 6 (If necessary): Friday, Oct. 23, TBD, Kauffman Stadium, FS1 (TBD vs. TBD)
• Game 7 (If necessary): Saturday, Oct. 24, TBD, Kauffman Stadium, FS1 (TBD vs. TBD)
SS Alcides Escobar
2B Ben Zobrist
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Kendrys Morales
3B Mike Moustakas
C Salvador Perez
LF Alex Gordon
RF Alex Rios
LF Ben Revere
3B Josh Donaldson
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
1B Chris Colabello
SS Troy Tulowitzki
C Russell Martin
CF Kevin Pillar
2B Ryan Goins
Three questions for Kansas City
Are there going to be fights? As much fun as it is watching bullpens empty and grown men glare at each other without actually fighting, you always hope for a competitive postseason series not to be sullied with beanballs and "respecting the game" and all that junk. But if there's going to be a scuffle in either of these League Championship Series, it'll be here. Not only are the Royals sort of famous this year for winging baseballs at whomever might be standing near, and not only is Jose Bautista a walking advertisement for baseball frontier justice, these two teams have a history even this year.
You can probably count on some stares and lemme-at-'ems this series. Let's just hope Cueto doesn't kick anyone.
Has Cueto finally turned the corner? Since the Royals traded for Cueto at the Trade Deadline, the pitcher has been a bit of a disappointment. He hasn't exactly been the ace they had envisioned, to the point that he wasn't even cued up to start Game 1 of the AL Division Series. But you can forget all that now, because he was so dominant in the decisive Game 5 -- becoming the first pitcher to set down 19 in a row in a postseason game since Don Larsen -- that now the Royals would pitch him every game if they could. As is, he's set up to pitch Game 3 and a potential Game 7. If he truly is the top-shelf guy he was most of the year in Cincinnati, he's the best starting pitcher in this series.
Can they power up if need be? For all the talk of the Royals' contact-and-speed game, some of their biggest moments of last year's playoffs came via the long ball. They actually set a record last season with four postseason extra-inning homers. And their ALDS win over the Astros was in large part thanks to Morales' three homers. They can try to manufacture runs all they want, but if they're going to keep up with the Jays, they're going to have to hit the ball out of the yard. It'd be handy if Morales could keep that up.
Three questions for Toronto
Can they hit enough homers in Kansas City? The Blue Jays are perfectly suited for their home ballpark, and if they make the World Series, it's going to be a blast watching all those balls leave the yard. (Especially if the Cubs represent the National League.) But homers are harder to come by in Kansas City, and the Blue Jays might not be able to count on the long ball as much. In a flipside to the Royals question above: Can they manufacture a run if they need to? Do they have the sort of team that can pull that off?
Can the closer keep forgetting he's 20? Roberto Osuna, a major question mark going into the ALDS considering his age and the fact that he was fading down the stretch, was fantastic against Texas. So now he quite possibly will be the guy trying to get the Blue Jays into their first World Series since before he was born. No pressure.
Can the crowd keep its cool? It's not really fair to blame Toronto specifically for the beer-throwing and craziness that went on during Game 5. Lots of fan bases go crazy like that after what they perceive to be terrible calls. But there's no question that in Toronto, they're particularly crazed right now. The Jays fan base has two decades of pent-up excitement its unleashing on an unsuspecting populace this month, and if you thought that ALDS show was intense, wait until the World Series is on the line. We thought Pittsburgh was wild in 2013, and Kansas City was wild last year. But this could be another stratosphere.
It feels sort of strange that Kansas City has the home-field advantage in this series. The Blue Jays have been the AL favorite for two months now, and after that ALDS Game 5, it feels like every game all year has been played at Rogers Centre. But barring something shocking, this series will likely end in Kansas City. It won't make much of a difference, though. Toronto's pitching is coming along at just the right time, and those bats are overwhelming. I'm afraid to pick against the Jays. I can't imagine what Bautista would do to me.
Blue Jays in six.