I felt it was time to talk about either my dog Joe or baseball, and Joe is just lying there, not even watching the game. Baseball it is. I love baseball, so apologies to those readers who don’t.
Here are some facts. There are one hundred and sixty-two regular season games in a major league baseball season. The Royals have appeared in the last two World Series. They won the last one. That requires playing and winning in a lot of those one hundred sixty-two games, winning a wild card game if necessary, winning a division playoff and winning a league championship. And all of that results in the opportunity to play in the World Series against a team that may be just as good or better. Sure, there’s luck involved. But there’s skill required, and tenacity. I think character has a lot to do with it.
What is “character” in a baseball team? Right at this moment, halfway through the baseball season, the Royals have generally not been playing well and they’re six games out from the division-leading Cleveland Indians. Cleveland lost tonight, and I’m enjoying that, but you usually don’t get to the World Series by hoping that other teams lose. If things turn around, and they reach the post-season, “character” is what everyone will be saying the Royals have. It would be great if we all recognized that getting to the World Series three years in a row is so much more difficult than most of us realize. It would be even better if we could recognize “character” when it’s transpiring, rather than after it happens. Character is what a team needs when it’s halfway through the season and six games out. Keep your eyes open. If this team has character, this is when it shows itself.
Saint Mary and I watch the Royals almost every night. I would include Joe the Dog, but he usually enjoys watching us while we watch the Royals, probably because I go into physical contortions and scream at the television. Saint Mary pats my knee and tells me to calm down, and Joe The Dog wags his tail.
I have nicknames for a lot of guys on the Royals team, some of which I can tell you, and others I can’t. Kelvin Herrera is “98 Degrees Kelvin,” because that’s all I could come up with. I call Yordano Ventura “Yolanda,” mostly because I don’t like him. The Royals are one of the best teams in baseball, but they’re the worst at nicknames. They just add a “y” to everything. “Salvy,” “Escy,” etc. Those are girl nicknames. Man nicknames have to have power, like “Boxcar” and “Freight Train,” “Lightning” and “NoseDive.” Everybody in a four-state area knows this and continues to call Mike Moustakas “Moose.” I mean, really, how hard was that? I call him Bullwinkle.
Edison Volquez is, by popular acclaim, known as “Steady Eddie.” That one’s all right, so I use it. When they call out Chien-Ming Wang from the bullpen, I always refer to him as “Pearl Harbor.” This irritates Saint Mary, who tells me that 1. Wang isn’t Japanese–he’s from Taiwan and 2. it’s offensive. To which I always respond that 1. I’m old and can’t remember his name and 2. Who said I’m referring to any particular nationality and 3. Perhaps I mean that a dastardly sneak attack is walking to the mound and 4. If he’s not Japanese, then how am I offending anyone? For the rest of the game I strategically retreat and refer to him as “Pearl.” I like the guy.
I refuse to call Salvador Perez “Salvy.” I call him ShutTheDoor Perez. I refer to Cheslor Cuthbert as Chester Drawers, mostly because I think it’s funny, whether anyone else does or not. I call Eric Hosmer “Hoz,” and so do a lot of other people. I agree with them on him. Mary gets angry when I call Whit Merrifield “Little Mary Whitfield.” That’s mostly because I can’t remember his other name. I do the same thing with Jimmy Chicken Nuggets. Yes, he has a real name, and no, it’s not Jimmy. It’ll come to me.
The Royals won tonight and Cleveland lost. We’re six games out at the halfway point. Tonight we saw Kendrys Morales hit a left-handed home run, then come back and hit another one, this time right-handed. We saw a tremendous infield save by Escobar in the fourth inning. We got to watch Danny Duffy complete almost nine innings on the mound, and successfully bunt for a hit, bringing in Chester Drawers for a run. Danny doesn’t often get to swing the bat, and the grin on his face toward the Royals dugout was worth the whole game. And oh yeah: we won. Here, hopefully, comes character.