As the Kansas City Royals played their first playoff game in Kansas City, or at all, in 29 years, they looked to lose said game to the Oakland Athletics. Of course, they didn't do so. They won in a crazyballs manner, coming from four runs down in the eighth inning to force extra innings and walk off in the 12th. The A's were, understandably, very upset.
This would prove to be the start of many trends: the trend of winning playoff games, the trend of coming from behind to win said playoff games, the trend of excellence in extra innings, and the trend of just plain infuriating their opponent. This type of picture became commonplace:
Just a few short days after crushing the souls of a franchise whose souls have been pretty well-crushed already, the Royals turned on berserk mode and rattled off three straight victories versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, forcing a battered Mike Scoscia to remove his starting pitcher in the first inning of game three. The first one. In a real-life playoff game.
After that, the Royals upped their tally and proceeded to dismantle the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series, zooming to four straight wins and catapulting to the World Series. No more AL teams existed to pummel, and the Royals finally ran into a wall against the exemplary San Francisco Giants.
Last year, the Royals ventured to the bad side of many a fan through their varying scuffles, brawls, and kerfuffles with multiple teams. Then, we almost voted Omar Infante as a starter in the All-Star Game, which needs no further explanation to its ridiculousness.
Come October, the Royals faced that year's Royals, the Houston Astros, who they duped into thinking they were going to win before storming back at the 11th hour. Again, the Royals were down by four in the eighth inning of an elimination, again the Royals fought back. The Royals sent the Astros home after a brilliant performance by Johnny Cueto in Game Five.
The Royals then played the Toronto Blue Jays, a fantastic six-game series fought tooth and nail the entire time.
And finally, well, we all remember the Royals Devil Magic that was utilized against the New York Mets in the World Series. Hosmer's mad dash. Colon's timely hit. Cespedes' lack of ability to play defense. The Royals took the crown in the Mets' own home.
Over the past two years, the Royals have defeated the Athletics, Angels, Orioles, Astros, Blue Jays, and Mets in a playoff series. They thoroughly trounced a division that includes the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and Minnesota Twins.
In the fading hours of September 2014, as the Royals finished the game of their lifetimes, the Royals were the underdogs, the feel-good story. But being a feel-good story means that people want to root for you, that your appeal goes beyond your initial fanbase.
The problem with feel-good stories is that they are fleeting. Every year, there is a feel-good story. If you don't succeed as a feel-good story, maybe you get that chance the next year. But when you go to two consecutive World Series, and you stomp on six different teams in the playoffs and another four routinely in the regular season to do so...the feel-good story fades. Quickly.
Unfortunately, everything is in place for the Royals to actually go from being the 'good guys' to the 'bad guys,' perhaps as soon as this year, especially with sustained playoff success. The nice kid in class who always wants to answer questions is cute at first, but if he routinely persists then that cuteness evaporates. That's the Royals right now.
In the Great Pantheon of Teams to Hate, the Royals aren't even near the top. The St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, New England Patriots, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Red Wings, San Francisco Giants, Manchester United, and the like all have a way larger history there. But remember how fast the Boston Red Sox went from magical underdogs in the 2004 ALCS to completely insufferable within five years?
The Royals are getting there. They've got the championship, they've got the swagger that is sometimes annoying, and they defeat teams in the most infuriating way possible. When Josh Donaldson murders a baseball to beat you, you just sort of shrug. But the Royals win with bloops, singles, steals, defense--that hard hit ball that you totally thought was a hit? Forget about it, because Alex Gordon, or whomever--and do it repeatedly, slamming the door with a video-game style bullpen anchored by arguably the best reliever in the history of baseball.
Maybe it'll never happen, the 'Royals as Bad Guys' thing. But you know that quote from The Dark Knight? "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain?" There will become a time in which the average fan just isn't interested in watching the Royals frustrate teams to death in the playoffs. That time probably isn't now--but with sustained success, it could be. The Royals have built a lot of goodwill from their years in the desert. Unfortunately, everything fades with time.