This Tuesday, the Royals will begin the first World Series in 29 years ago against the National League champions, the San Francisco Giants. That's right, this is still real, not a dream. MLB Network will be covering the World Series with former infielder Mark DeRosa, and he was gracious enough to talk to us about the upcoming Fall Classic.
Royals Review: The Royals seem to be playing very loose, with a great air of confidence. You’ve played in quite a few post-season games, what kind of impact does having that kind of confidence make, and is there a worry they could be over-confident?
Mark DeRosa: Nah, there’s no chance of overconfidence. I think they (a) have too much respect for the game and (b) have too much respect for the San Francisco Giants who are now playing in their third World Series in the last five years. I think these are two very, very similar-style teams.
I think what’s great about this match-up, although you’re seeing not necessarily the most talented teams, you're getting two - in every essence of the word - true teams. They do everything right - all the little things right. Each has all the ingredients to be World Championship title-holders in my opinion, they really do bring everything to the table. Each of them have that dominant number one starter, each of them has great bullpens, they play great defense, they can steal bases. I really do look for this series to go multiple games, at least six games.
Royals Review: The Royals seem to have put small ball back in vogue with their base-stealing and bunting, with great defense and pitching. Do you think this is a formula other teams will try to replicate or is this unique to Kansas City due to their ballpark and personnel?
Mark DeRosa: I think a lot plays into it. I think at the end of the day you trust everyone’s opinion in the organization. There's a place for the sabermetric community and there’s a place for the old school guys to be able to judge talent. I think this match-up reflects a great job done by two General Managers in Brian Sabean and Dayton Moore. They look at the character of the players moreso than looking to fix up a team in a specific way. I think Dayton Moore did we he felt he needed to do to get James Shields, by giving up Wil Myers. Not only did he land Shields, but he also got Wade Davis. I don’t think they ever expected Wade Davis to turn into the greatest reliever in baseball, but those are the things that have to happen for you to get to this point.
I look at the Giants, who find a way to nurture that pipeline they have going out there. The people there love their players and they take care of guys like Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence. They do a great job of recognizing what works for them and how they want to play the game.
I don’t necessarily think that this will be the new "en vogue" way to go about it, I just look at it as these two teams got hot at the right time and are playing as good as they’ve played all year. I don’t think they ever had a stretch, even when they won ten in a row and ran into first place for a few days, I don’t think they necessarily played as good as they are right now in all facets of the game. With the Giants I just look at a team that trusts people. They trust their manager, they’ve trusted in the guys on that team because they’ve walked this road before.
Royals Review: You mentioned Dayton Moore – you’ve known Dayton Moore since you were a player at Penn and he personally drafted you while with the Braves. Dayton Moore seems to have an unusually close relationship with his players – Alex Gordon mentioned he wouldn’t even be in Kansas City were it not for Dayton Moore. Could you talk about the Dayton Moore you know and how he personally gets to know players?
Mark DeRosa: Its huge. I had some general managers in my career I never spoke to, I had some I spoke to frequently. I don’t think any one way is right or wrong. Dayton is a guy that followed me around in my college days at Penn. He’s a great man. He’s tough not to like and root for. You could just tell by the way he talks he’s passionate about the game. He loves the players, he loves the team, and the game played the right way. I noticed that as a young kid just being around him.
The Braves drafted me in 1996 and he was the guy that came to my house and tried to get me to sign and so we struck up a relationship. Even recently when I saw him, he was asking about my parents, remembering their names. We kept up even though I didn’t stay with the Braves, we kept a talking relationship, a friendly relationship throughout the course of my career. Not only did I feel he was proud of what I ended up becoming, carving out a pretty decent career, I equally in turn have watched him rise to the pedestal he’s on now and couldn’t be prouder for a guy with high character. This guy cares.
I actually talked to Dayton after they won the Wild Card game and Alex Gordon gave an interview on the field after that game. He said the guy that deserves the most credit is Dayton Moore. To hear a player say that about the General Manager, I felt spoke volumes about what the players think about him and how he’s perceived. Its spot-on.
Royals Review: Going back to those Braves when you first came up, Ned Yost was a coach there at the same time. Could you tell us a bit about his clubhouse demeanor and how he gets along with players, and the influence Bobby Cox might have had on him?
Mark DeRosa: Obviously anyone that gets to walk in the shadows of Bobby Cox gets to see how he approaches things day-to-day. Number one, he cared about you as a person first, a player second. His door was always open. He was a great communicator. He pulled for you. You knew as a player - whether you’d be the 25th man or Greg Maddux - that he was pulling for you. He was giving you everything in his power to put you into position for success to happen. Those are the things I think of Bobby, and those are the things I bet Ned has taken with him. There are more outgoing guys than Ned Yost, but you know he’s got the open door policy, you know he likes to kid around with his players and can be serious when he needs to be. So I’m sure they absolutely enjoy the daily interaction with him. I’ve gotta believe that he’s taken a lot from Bobby Cox with him.
I’m proud when I watched him succeed, because here’s a General Manager and manager that from day one of spring training, even back to last year, they stuck with these guys. They stuck with Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, even when they weren't living up to what everyone expected. They grinded with their draft picks and they trusted their vision and you never heard Ned say anything negative. It was always "we’re going to get hot, we’re gonna get the offense going, we’re going to figure this out." I feel like these guys have really justified what they were selling the last two years. I think that’s the beauty of what’s happening here, the fact that these players have looked inside themselves. Not that we owe anything to Dayton or Ned, that’s not the case, its more of a validation for their belief in their players.
Royals Review: The Giants are making their third World Series appearance in the last five years. Manager Bruce Bochy has a pair of championship rings, while the Royals are in the playoffs for the first time in 29 years, how big a factor is experience?
Mark DeRosa: It allows you to slow the moment down. But I also believe that Kansas City has played post-season games by this point. The sheer drama of being in the World Series will take their breath away for a split-second, but I think once the game starts, it will go right back to the high-octane, high-energy, post-season games they’ve been playing - for not only the last eight games, probably the last 40 games for Kansas City – for both teams actually.
Experience will play a huge part for being able to relax and enjoy the moment a little bit better, but I think Kansas City is fine once the game begins. You know the problem with the World Series is not so much when the game starts, but its all the other stuff, whether it be the ticket requests, or making sure everyone is taken care of, all that stuff that I’m sure the Giants players have figured out.
Royals Review: So do you think the five day layoff will have an impact?
Mark DeRosa: I think you can’t allow it to have an impact. There’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to accept it for what it is. I’m sure Kansas City would love to be playing tonight, no doubt about that. When you’re hot you want to stay hot. I also believe that it wasn’t like the San Francisco series went 6-7 games, they just went one more game than the Royals did. They’re pretty much on par minus a day.
Royals Review: Any predictions on how this Series will play out?
Mark DeRosa: I don’t know why I grind over it, because everytime I do I get it wrong. It’ll be a good series. I really believed in my heart when the whole post-season started that Baltimore resembled the 2013 Red Sox. Everything they did just kind of fell in place with the mojo and then Kansas City certainly shut that down in a hurry. So are they the team of destiny or are the Giants? I think the series goes at least six games.
Many thanks to Mark DeRosa for his time. You can check out his coverage of the World Series on MLB Network all this week and next.