I guess somebody needs to say it: This isn't exactly the 1927 Yankees battling the 1975 Big Red Machine.
The Kansas City Royals won 89 games during the regular season and the San Francisco Giants won 88, the fourth-fewest combined wins in World Series history, behind only 1981, 1918 and 1973. But 1981 was a strike season and the 1918 season was shortened due to World War I. That leaves only the 1973 matchup between the 94-win A's and 82-win Mets with a lower win total. At least that matchup featured two teams that won division titles. Neither the Royals nor Giants won their division, making this the second all wild-card World Series showdown and the first between two teams with fewer than 90 wins (the Angels and Giants met in 2002 but those were 99- and 95-win teams).
You can even make the argument that the Royals and Giants made the playoffs simply because of geography. The Royals won just two more games than the Mariners, who had to play in the tougher division with the Angels and A's. The Giants had the fifth-best record in the National League and got to play in a division with the two worst teams in baseball. Do they win 88 games if they're in the NL Central? The Giants had the easiest strength of schedule in the majors.
So these aren't great teams. So this is arguably the worst World Series matchup ever, as far as quality of teams. Giants fans can disagree, but if this was a great team, why did the Giants put themselves in the dice roll of a wild-card game? Why couldn't they beat out the Dodgers for the division title? Royals fans can point out that their team has won eight postseason games in a row, but if the Royals are a great team, why did they put themselves in the dice roll of a wild-card game? Why couldn't they win two more games and beat out the Tigers for the division title?
In the regular season, the Royals were ninth in the AL in runs scored and fourth in runs allowed. The Giants were fifth in runs scored and sixth in runs allowed. There's a reason neither team won 90 games.
Now, that said: This should be a fun World Series between two evenly matched teams with intriguing reasons to root for each. The Royals, for so long the hapless Royals, are a likable bunch of young players, speed demons and defensive geniuses with that awesome bullpen that puts the fear into opposing teams and fans. You get the feeling that if you don't beat them in six innings you're not going to win. Everybody starts anew in the postseason and the Royals have played some of the most exciting baseball we've seen in years in going 8-0 in the playoffs. They overcame a 7-3 deficit to beat the A's in the wild-card game and then beat the 98-win Angels and 96-win Orioles. They deserve to be here.
The Giants, hoping to make their mark on history with their third World Series title in five years, are a likable group of veterans we've grown to appreciate in recent Octobers, from the pudgy free-swinging Pablo Sandoval to the stoic backstop Buster Posey to the spastic and joyful Hunter Pence. You get the feeling that if the game is close they'll find a way to beat you, whether it's due to an opponent's mistake or manager Bruce Bochy making the right move at the right time; after all, they're a remarkable 30-11 in the postseason since 2010. They beat the Pirates on the road in the wild-card game and then beat the 96-win Nationals and 90-win Cardinals. They deserve to be here.
In a year that clearly lacked one dominant team, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise we ended up with this unlikeliest of matchups. There are two takes on this. As Morris from Pittsburgh said in my chat Friday:
"Wow, awesome postseason so far. But am I the only one who didn't really want to see a 5 seed take on a 4 seed in the World Series? I realize anything can happen in a short series ... but I didn't want anything to happen."
Or as Perry from Monterey wrote in:
"So, if you want to find the 'best team,' why doesn't baseball do like the Premier League and have each team play each other team the same amount of times, and the team with the best record anointed the champion? Each team plays the other 29 teams six times, 3 at home, 3 on the road, and after 174 games, we have a champion? You didn't see the Giants crying like this after having the best record in BB in 2000 and 2003 and losing to the wild card team in the NLDS? Or Cards' fans complaining after [they] won the series with 83 wins or as a wild card?"
No matter your take on baseball's postseason format, we can all agree: Let's have a great World Series. It will be tough to match the excitement of the first two rounds that were full of extra-inning drama, one-run games (we're on pace to have the highest percentage of one-run games ever in a single postseason) and walk-off home runs. It's the showdown of the "just learned how to win" Royals versus the "knowing how to win since 2010" Giants.
Just give me six or seven games with more Lorenzo Cain diving catches and Travis Ishikawa home runs and Royals stolen bases and Madison Bumgarner sliders and Yordano Ventura fastballs and Buster Posey clutch hits. Do that and I'll forget that neither of these teams won 90 games.