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Playoff Expectations

This post is mostly inspired by the surprise run to the playoffs the Chiefs made this season and then their spectacular flameout in yesterday’s playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. It is not entirely surprising that they lost because the Ravens are definitely the better team, but at the same time it was disappointing for Chiefs fans. Starting yesterday, many people were saying things about how nobody even expected the Chiefs to get this far and how anything after the regular season was a bonus. I disagree with that. While the Chiefs were very bad for the last three seasons, they are a mere four years removed from a playoff appearance following the 2006 season, so it’s not like this city is absolutely unequivocally starved for playoff football.

I’m a Chiefs fan, and yesterday’s game sucked. It was a huge disappointment to me. Yes I’m happy with the season and it’s great that we were able to enjoy a division winner for the first time in seven years, but once they made it to the playoffs I wasn’t thinking how nice it was that they were able to get to ten wins. I was thinking about how nice it would be if they could go on a run and get to the Super Bowl. The reason I bring this up on a Royals blog is because I sort of wonder how the city would react if the Royals were in a similar situation. I think 2012 might be the year like the Chiefs’ 2010 season where people expect them to be much approved, they’ll be young, but not quite ready for primetime. So, my question to you (and one that I’ll give my answer for in a minute) is would you just be happy with a playoff appearance even if it means that the Royals get swept by, say, the Rangers?

My initial answer to that question is that I would be thrilled and that I wouldn’t care if they lost 15-0 in each game. For starters, reaching the playoffs in baseball is more difficult than in football. 37.5% of the teams in one conference reach the playoffs in the NFL while just 28.6% of teams reach the playoffs in the American League (25% in the National League). That fact alone makes reaching the playoffs a more prestigious act in baseball than in football. As a corollary to fewer teams making the playoffs, the teams who do make it are stronger* which means that the competition is greater and, in my mind, means there’s less shame in losing.

*I’ve talked about the 1994 strike and how terrible it was for baseball and the Royals and baseball fans and all that. As I think back to that year, I really wanted to see what would have happened in the American League West which was led at the time of the strike by the Rangers with a record of 52-62. The uproar we see about the Seahawks would have been ten times as loud if the Rangers had wont he division with something like a 75-87 record. It would have been quite interesting.

The other reason that the playoffs would be nothing more than icing on the cake for me in 2012 would be that it will have been 27 years since the Royals made the playoffs. To give away my age here, I was around for the 1985 World Series, but my age was still being expressed in months and those months were still in single digits. So while I am able to say that it was within my lifetime, I’ve never experienced the playoffs. Just to get there would be nothing short of amazing for me as a fan.

So that was my initial thought. Then I really thought a little longer about it and came to the conclusion that I would be crushed if they didn’t win the whole thing. I’d probably get over it quicker than I would have the 1977 playoff loss to the Yankees, but it would be a terrible few hours for me before I was able to look back rationally on the entire season. Can you imagine the Royals coming out of the gates strong in 2012 and actually keeping it up throughout the season and winning something like 94 games and taking the division? How amazing would that be?

Let’s stick with the hypothetical situation of playing the Rangers in the division series and in the days leading up to the series looking at how the Royals match up with them. Maybe they have a little less playoff experience, but they’re young, athletic, powerful and too dumb to know they shouldn’t be there and more rhetoric that you hear from the experts prior to a young team in the playoffs. Then comparisons get made to the 2008 Rays and how they were a year early and tore through the playoffs before losing in the World Series. It’d be very difficult for me to watch those playoffs and think, ‘Whatever happens, I’m just happy to be here.’

I’m pretty much already over the Chiefs loss. Maybe it helped the healing process that it was an absolute dismantling and that it wasn’t one play or one there that made the loss happen. If it was the Royals, it’d probably take me a little longer as I’m definitely a Royals fan over a Chiefs fan if forced to choose. I imagine that I would be in a bad mood for a few days, then root against whatever team beats the Royals unless it’s the Yankees and by the time the World Series came around I’d have recovered and been able to look back on an amazing season. It would sure be nice to have to make that emotional recovery.

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  1. RoyalsIn2011
    January 17, 2011 at 1:37 am

    I would expect a Royals in 2012 playoff experience to look similar to the Reds 2010 experience sans the no-no.

    Let’s see how the Reds bounce back this year.

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