Party Like Its 1985: Royals wipe away 29 years of playoff drought

Brian Graham

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“We Ready” played over the locker room speakers on the south side of Chicago.

Yes, Kansas City – the players and fans alike – are ready for postseason baseball.

THE ROYALS ARE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS for the first time in 29 years, ending the longest playoff drought in North America.

And, channeling my inner Rex, it’s a beautiful thing!

It’s been 10,561 days since and 4,968 games since Darrel Motley caught the final out in right field in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series and the iconic George Brett-Brett Saberhagen embrace – I was four years old. I told myself that they would make it again some day, but I never really believed it.

Seeing is believing.

Prior to Salvador Perez catching the final out – which was fitting since he has caught more innings than any other catcher in baseball this season – of the most important save (and number 46 of the season) of Greg Holland’s career in the 3-1 win and the celebration ensued in front of more than a 1,000 strong Royals faithful at the park formerly known as New Comiskey, I didn’t know what it would feel like.

At first, I was kind of frozen in time.

Then I was like, dying…

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Then, the champagne came out at my house.

And, all over Kansas City, it was #partylikeits1985.

And, in the locker room, where Moose, Scott Downs and the guys were downing beer with ease, they partied the greatest moment of their professional lives. Guts was fired up. They had all done what most of us assumed they wouldn’t pull off because their offense just wasn’t good enough. In fact, the Royals are the first PLAYOFF team dead last in homeruns and walks.

The orchestrator of it all, GM Dayton Moore almost cried. Ned Yost proved us all wrong and did not meltdown during the stretch like he did in Milwaukee. He tried his best not to play Billy Butler. But, he realized his mistake and penciled Butler in there. He fought off his stubbornness and started going to the Herrera and Davis well in situations he hadn’t done in the past. I think he had learned from his mistakes, but it almost even seemed like he had heard some of his critics.

We have not been kind to the duo, who had a “process” for getting the Royals to the playoffs. In the last two years – the first time the Royals had consecutive winning seasons since 1993-94 – we have wrote many pieces displaying our displeasure with both (http://kcsportsnation.com/2014/09/ned-royally-stupid/, http://kcsportsnation.com/2013/09/because-its-ned-2/, http://kcsportsnation.com/2014/05/david-glass-dayton-moore-ned-yost-plan-plan/) and mocked their “process” on Aug 2 after the trade deadline (http://kcsportsnation.com/2014/08/david-glass-dayton-moore-plan-plan-part-2/) and as recently as Sept. 15, we called for Ned’s firing.

Because, Ned is still going to be a thing because Ned is gonna Ned, but, he may be the American League Manager of the Year, so my hatred aside, maybe we should give him a little credit? (Granted, Frank Haith and Todd Haley won equivalent awards, so…)

“I’ve done this before, man,” Yost said. “Ever since the minute I got here, I’ve longed to see that right there, to see those guys celebrate. It’s an opportunity to go to the playoffs, and I’ve watched them develop into a playoff-caliber team and a team that I think is going to do OK. We’re excited about it. They didn’t go to bed saying it’s been 28 [seasons] since we’ve been in the playoffs. They just said, ‘Let’s go to the playoffs.’ They are a group that has won championships together in the minor leagues and they wanted to come up here and win a championship together in the big leagues.”

And no, Ned, when I don’t go to the Wild Card game on Tuesday, it won’t make me a lesser fan, no matter what Ned says.

Then there’s George Brett, the Vice President of Baseball Operations, the Royals all-time great. He celebrated from the luxury box and took it down to the locker room with the players. He had some things to say: “I get tired of people criticizing the players on this team because they hadn’t won a World Series since 1985. Ninety-five percent of these f—ing guys weren’t even born in ’85. It’s not their fault. These guys played their ass off all year. Eight games out, seven games out, took the lead, blew it, seven games down again, came back, got the lead again and battled and stayed with a team [the Tigers] that’s supposed to win the division by a lot. And they’re in a dogfight right now, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be proud of every one of these guys.”

And, what about the players? This has to be really awesome for Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, the two that were here for two rebuilding projects.

“I think it feels better than expected, because you kind of tame your expectations, because you’ve got to go out there and get it done first,” said Butler, who was seven months away from being born when the Royals won it all back in 1985. “You don’t ever want to be able to say you’ve got it until you’ve got it. We have a spot and couldn’t be more proud.

“I’ve done this before once down in Double-A,” Gordon, who was one year old in 1985, said. “It definitely wasn’t as fun.”

But, there’s still work to be done. Behind Jeremy Guthrie’s seven shutout innings and a three-run first inning last night, the Royals moved within one game of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, with two games remaining.

“Winning a wild card spot is nice, but winning the division has always been our goal,” Yost said.

If they can’t catch win the division or catch them forcing a “Game 163” tie-breaker on Monday in Detroit, the Royals are one win or Oakland loss away from locking up a home (don’t get me started on this, it should be a three-game series) Wild Card game with, probably, Oakland, but the Mariners are also still alive.

“Where we’re at right now is a good place,” said pitcher Danny Duffy, who with a win today can give the entire Royals starting rotation at least 10 wins, which will be only the third time in franchise history the Royals have had five guys with 10 or more wins. “It’s a very secure spot in the postseason, but there’s more to be had. So, what we’re trying to do is get the most out of these last two [games]. There’s more celebrations to be had. We’ve got to keep working towards that.”

“We’ll enjoy this now, we’ll get back on the saddle and we’ll let the chips fall where they fall,” Butler added. “There’s a lot of different scenarios. We’re just happy that we’re in, and we’ll take it from there. Right now, we’d be hosting a playoff game for the great fans in K.C.”

How have the Royals, a group full of good players and young talent without a superstar, gotten here?

Thinking “We Ready” playing, it very well could have been “We Started at the Bottom, now we Here” because that’s where the Royals were – rock bottom – back in 2006 when Dayton Moore was brought in from Atlanta to be the GM. It gave Royals fans hope, but many, with the Wal Mart mentality of David Glass, thought he still wouldn’t win here. A year before the Royals had just lost 106 games – the most in franchise history – in a stretch of four 100-loss seasons in five years.

His “process” has taken longer than even he expected. I think he would admit that if you asked him. But, he did have a plan, and it started to be realized back in December 2012 when Moore showed the fans it was “winning time” with the blockbuster James Shields trade. But, it started to come together before that. Upon Moore’s arrival, the Royals beefed up scouting and put a big emphasis on Latin America, where they found gems like Yordano Ventura, Kelvin Herrera and Salvador Perez and the draft, where they got the best closer in baseball Greg Holland, young stud Danny Duffy, and albeit they’ve been disappointing, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and what was shortly after Moore’s arrival, the best minor league system in baseball. They also made other moves, too, trading Greinke, one year removed from his Cy Young, to the Brewers for four guys, including current Royals Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.

Now, there is only one thing left to do:

#takethecrown #BlueOctober #partylikeits1985

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