Saying that the Royals got a big jump in the World Series this week is an understatement, and possibly off by three months. The 2-0 Series lead, fueled by the excitement of the fans in Kansas City, really began when the American League won the All-Star Game in July.
That clinched home-field advantage for whichever team won the league's pennant, as part of a new baseball tradition that some have criticized. Skeptics don't like that the Midsummer Classic, which is essentially an exhibition, influences the Fall Classic, which means everything. But a rule is a rule, and Royals manager Ned Yost, who managed the American League team to a 6-3 victory July 14 in Cincinnati, acknowledged on Thursday that October was on his mind back then.
"That was the only thing on my mind," he said on Thursday at Citi Field with Game 3 Friday night. "The absolute only thing on my mind was winning the All-Star Game. All my player selections, everything we did was built around winning that game so an American League team could have home-field advantage."
Sure enough, a review of quotes reveals that when he made a mildly surprising choice to include Red Sox utilityman Brock Holt, Yost had said that "versatility is important," adding that such a player could help win a game at any point. Holt didn't play a big role -- he pinch ran for MVP Mike Trout, stole a base and scored -- but the manager had made his point.
Before then-commissioner Bud Selig convinced owners and the players association to let the All-Star Game decide World Series home-field advantage -- after the debacle of a tied All-Star Game in 2002 -- it was arbitrary. Home field alternated between leagues from one year to the next. In the 12 years since Selig's rule change, the league that won the All-Star Game has won eight World Series.
"I felt it was big for us last year, with our fan base, even though we didn't win Game 7,'' said Yost, whose team fell 90 feet short of tying the deciding game with the Giants in 2014.
The Royals did appear energized by the noise at Kauffman Stadium this week, and they realize that the Mets will get a similar boost.
"You just know it's going to be exciting. You know it's going to be loud and you know their fans are going to be ready for them to come back home," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "It's the World Series, so you know they're excited to see their team play on this stage."
He doesn't recall much about Citi Field from the Royals' series here in 2013, other than the fact that the wind tends to swirl. In a way, the Royals will feel comfortable because the Mets' park has a spacious outfield like the one in Kansas City. "We've got to roam," centerfielder Lorenzo Cain said, adding that he does not think the Royals play any differently wherever they are.
But Yost is pleased with what happened in July, which reverberated this week. "Yeah," he said, "I think it's a big deal."