Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It would be silly to say the Royals get no respect. Only a profoundly ill-informed fan or journalist would deny them that, what with them having won two consecutive pennants.
The last time the Mets did that was . . . never, actually.
But this also is true: The Royals are a tad light on star power entering Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night.
Not stars as in excellent players. Stars as in those the average Mets fan would recognize if the player rang the front doorbell dressed in a full Kansas City uniform, carrying a plate of barbecue and a George Brett bobblehead.
On Monday, the entire roster gathered for World Series media day at Kauffman Stadium and, let's just say the sign behind each player with his name on it came in handy for the many visiting media members from New York.
Eric Hosmer probably is the biggest name on the Royals, unless it is Johnny Cueto. Or someone else. Difficult to say. None of them is Brett, or a half-dozen other Royals from back in the day who you can name without thinking twice.
They certainly have fewer well-known players than the teams the Mets have vanquished to get here -- the Nationals, Dodgers and Cubs.
The weird thing is that the Royals had seven All-Stars this season, presumably because their ballot-stuffing fans know who they are and the rest of us do not.
They led the majors in highest average local TV rating. But they proved to be a modest -- to put it kindly -- national ratings draw during their American League Championship Series victory over Toronto.
Naturally, if these Royals played in the city where their Series opponents do, many of them would be more widely known. (Although, in fairness, few Mets are well known nationally.) But the Royals' relative anonymity does seem to suit them well.
Jonny Gomes hasn't played much for the Royals since arriving in a trade with the Braves, but he did get right to the point Monday when someone suggested the Series is a David vs. Goliath battle between small and big cities.
"Um, I don't know who would be David and who would be Goliath," he said. "These guys went to the World Series last year, so they might have to be Goliath."
Tough to argue with that.
The Royals do have some chips on their collective shoulder, such as when it comes to the Mets' more highly touted starting pitching rotation.
How about that pitching coach Dave Eiland (a former Yankees pitcher and Yankees coach)?
"Personally, I couldn't care less what anybody is saying because we're sitting here getting ready to play in the World Series," he said. "We've built this pitching staff from back [with the bullpen] to the front. It worked for us last year when people said it wouldn't and it's worked for us this year when people said it wouldn't.
"So I don't pay attention to what people say. People get paid to analyze and criticize. I get paid to prepare pitchers to get guys out."
There you have it.
One thing about these Royals that should be celebrated is their penchant for putting the ball in play in an era when too many at-bats end with the ball in the catcher's mitt and the fielders looking bored.
They will take on the Mets' young fastball aces having struck out the fewest times in the major leagues in the regular season -- 973. The Mets' previous opponent, the Cubs, led the majors with a mind-numbing 1,518.
The matchup between the Royals' contact hitters and the Mets' mid-to-high-90s throwers has purists giddy about the World Series' potential for inside-baseball intrigue.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it's not quite as attention-grabbing as home runs, a category in which the Royals ranked 24th with 139. The team they beat in the ALCS, the Blue Jays, led the majors with 232.
The Blue Jays are gone now, but the Royals live on. As usual. We might as well get to know them.