They both lived to survive the wild-card games. They both think they’re America’s underdogs. And they’ve both employed Jeremy Affeldt at one time or another.
They’re about to meet in the 110th World Series. But boy, have these two teams taken dissimilar routes to get to the same place. So here are five big differences between the two World Series juggernauts:
1. What an experience
This is the Giants’ third World Series since 2010. It’s the Royals’ third World Series since, well, the invention of the Royals -- and, as you might have read somewhere, their first since the Reagan administration.
The Giants will bring 16 players to this extravaganza who have already played in a World Series. In fact, eight of those 16 have been a part of all three of the World Series runs just by this core group. And Buster Posey has won more World Series games than the Royals’ entire franchise has won it its history (eight games to six). Just sayin’.
The Royals, on the other hand, are likely to have only two players on their roster who have played in a World Series -- neither of them on the winning side. One is Omar Infante, whose World Series experience as an everyday player consists of getting swept in the World Series by the Giants, in 2012. The other is James Shields, who was the winning pitcher in the only game the Rays won in the 2008 World Series against the Phillies.
And if Raul Ibanez ends up on the K.C. roster, you can make that three. He had a big World Series (.304/.333/.609) for the 2009 Phillies, but he didn’t play on the winning side, either.
Not that any of that necessarily means anything, since these Royals are currently on such a ridiculous roll, most of them have never played on a team that has lost a single postseason game. But they definitely lose the experience war.
2. Seasons in the mirror
Considering they’re both wild-card teams, could these two teams’ seasons possibly have had less in common?
The Giants went 43-21 in their first 64 games. That was the second-best record in baseball. After that, they were eight games under .500 over their last 98 games, which ought to take care of all those myths about how hot you have to be in September to reach a World Series in October.
The Royals had a losing record (49-50) as late as July 22. Then they flip-flopped, too: They went 40-23 over their last 63 games (the third-best record in baseball). So maybe it helps to start cooking down the stretch after all.
Over in the standings, the Giants blew a 10-game lead in their division to the Los Angeles Dodgers. But that didn’t stop them from playing deeper into October than the Dodgers did.
The Royals, meanwhile, became the first team in history to trail by seven games or more twice in the same season and then chew up both of those deficits to take over first place. That didn’t stop them from still finding a way to finish behind the Tigers in their division. But as you may have noticed, the Tigers then won no games in October, and the Royals have lost no games in October. So there’s that.
3. Manage this
Ned Yost and Bruce Bochy. Not even sure we need to go on. But what the heck. Yost might be the most second-guessed manager in the history of World Series managers. Bochy might be the least second-guessed manager in the history of World Series managers.
Best we can tell, every living American with a Twitter account thinks every move Yost makes is wrong, even when it turns out right. Bochy, on the other hand, has developed a reputation as some sort of all-knowing, all-seeing Jedi tactician with a crystal ball that enables him to see how everything he does will turn out before he does it.
Bochy feels bound by no traditional tenets on bullpen usage, bunts or lineup makeup. Yost sometimes seems to feel tethered to all of them.
Bochy’s team laid down the fewest sacrifice bunts in the National League this year (45). But it’s not true that the Royals attempted that many just in the wild-card game. In fact, the two teams are tied in successful postseason sac bunts, with seven each. So regard this as proof that perception isn’t always reality -- especially in the case of Ned Yost.
4. Regime change
Royals GM Dayton Moore has spent eight years building his team in a steady, methodical crescendo -- and gotten pretty much no credit for it (unless you count a bunch of top prospects lists) until about two weeks ago.
But Giants GM Brian Sabean has been in his job longer than any general manager in baseball. This would be season No. 18 -- and counting. And this makes four World Series appearances, seven trips to the postseason and 13 winning seasons for Sabean, whose .533 lifetime winning percentage ranks 10th all-time among all GMs since 1950 who spent at least 10 years in the job.
So naturally, Sabean’s regime has been arguably the most stable in the whole sport. Meanwhile, it feels as if Moore has been swirling inside a should-Dayton-Moore-keep-his-job debate for years now.
Even their coaching staffs have epitomized the dramatic distinctions between these two regimes. The Royals have run through six hitting coaches just in the last 24 months, five in the last 17 months and two this year. The Giants, on the other hand, have had a pitching coach (Dave Righetti) and bench coach (Ron Wotus) who have been around so long (15 and 17 years respectively), they’ve held their jobs under three different managers.
So stability is vital, unless it isn’t. Remember that, kids.
5. Youth movements
The Royals and Giants do have one thing in common: They’ll each start at least five position players in this World Series who came up through their organizations. But that’ll do it for those similarities.
Those home-grown Royals -- Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler -- were among the most ballyhooed prospects in baseball, practically from the moment they signed. Four of them (all but Perez) were first-round picks. And three (Hosmer, Moustakas and Gordon) were top-three picks in the country.
But of the six home-grown Giants in the October lineup, only Buster Posey and Joe Panik were first-rounders. Brandon Crawford went in the fourth round, Brandon Belt in the eighth, Travis Ishikawa in the 21st. Pablo Sandoval was an international free-agent signings.
So given their draft positions, those Royals players spent year after year trying to play baseball under the weight of expectations which the outside world kept concluding they hadn’t lived up to, while many of those Giants arrived in the big leagues with little or no sense of expectation and never had to deal with any of that.
In the end, though, they find themselves playing each other in the same World Series -- a place, thankfully, where none of that matters. For the next seven games, the history of these teams couldn’t be more ancient or irrelevant. And the divergent roads they traveled somehow led them to the same destination on the baseball map.
Funny how life -- and baseball -- so often work that way, isn’t it?