Mazurek: Experience wins championships
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, November 4, 2015
I have been told the Royals won the World Series. I cannot say I’m surprised. The Royals had a deeper lineup than the Mets (seriously, the Mets needed to put Daniel Murphy on a milk carton), better relief pitching and the real Johnny Cueto actually stood up.
However, the most important aspect in the Royals’ championship was their experience. They had been there before. In fact, they took the Giants to seven games last World Series and fell short on an other-worldly performance from Madison Bumgarner.
In other words, the Royals wanted it more. They had been so close just a year before and they sure weren’t going to let another World Series slip out of their grasp.
This drive, this experience was what give the Royals the clutch hitting they needed. The boys from Kansas outscored the Mets 15-1 after the sixth inning in the series. 15-1. That is an unbelievable statistic. And it is that same experience that helped them finish on top in two extra-inning games including Game 1 and its power outages (spooooky).
I could spend the rest of this column praising the Royals, but I won’t. They’re no 1908 Cubs after all. I do, however, want to touch on the experience factor and how important it is to championship winning teams.
Recently, it appears that one of the biggest criteria for a championship team is if they’ve made a deep playoff run the year before, and this year’s Royals team is the perfect example.
Now, this may seem self-fulfilling, as it can be boiled down to ‘you have to be good to be good.’ As mentioned above though, going into the playoffs helps build chemistry, experience for younger players in close games and most importantly, losing deep in the playoffs gives a team the drive for next season.
This isn’t the case just for baseball. For example, Michael Jordan’s Bulls lost in the Eastern Conference Finals of the 1990 NBA playoffs. To make matters worse, it was the third year in a row they were ousted by the Pistons. Six championships later, it is safe to say the Bulls had the drive necessary to be a dominant team.
Similarly, before the Blackhawks first recent Stanley Cup (can you tell I like Chicago sports yet?), they lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Detroit Red Wings. That loss, however, gave the Blackhawks core group (Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith etc.) the work ethic that has defined the organization ever since.
Staying in the NHL, the 2013 Los Angeles Kings lost a tough Western Conference Finals to the aforementioned Blackhawks but came back the next year to win the Stanley Cup, knocking off Chicago in the process.
Now, I grant that this process is not a hard and fast rule. For instance, the Cleveland Cavaliers would have been in the NBA championships last season (looking at you Kelly Olynyk) despite not making the playoffs the year before. But that’s what happens when you get Lebron James in free agency.
Similarly, certain NFL teams like the Patriots are always contenders because of Tom Brady, but even the Pats lost to the Broncos in the AFC title game in 2014 before winning it all the next season.
Generally though, for sports in which one player cannot dominate the game like hockey or baseball, teams that go deep in the playoffs the year before are more likely to be championship winners in the years to come.
Even Vegas agrees with me. Currently, the odds-on favorite to win next year’s World Series is the Chicago Cubs, who went to the NLCS.
So kudos to the Royals and may the best loser win next year.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.