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Eric Hosmer is a winner and a champion

And we can’t explain it.

World Baseball Classic - Pool F - Game 2 - Venezuela v United States Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

A trophy is hoisted and once again Eric Hosmer is there, smiling, celebrating, arms raised in triumphant victory. Team USA is champion of the World Baseball Classic for the first time and at the heart of it all is Eric Hosmer. Many pundits decried Hosmer’s presence in the lineup over Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt, a hitter who, by all objective measures is a better player than Hosmer. But Hosmer hit .500 in the series with a game-winning home run in Round Two against Venezuela, silencing many of his critics.

Eric Hosmer has now played 40 games over the last three years that are in the spotlight - the post-season, the All-Star Game, and the World Baseball Classic. His teams in those games are 29-11. Hosmer himself hasn’t been George Brett or anything, but he has been a very good hitter in those games, hitting .305/.364/.461. Eric Hosmer wins. That is what he does.

As his agent Scott Boras, pointed out:

“Anyone who truly knows Hoz knows he is a leader and one of the game’s true winning players. He makes instinctive decisions at the most critical moments while on the biggest stage. Hoz is known league wide as an extremely prepared player.”

We had our first beer league softball game last night. When I play, I don’t think about getting the game winning hit or smashing one over the wall. My only concern is “don’t screw up and embarrass yourself.” Sometimes I succeed!

I think being “clutch” and perhaps even a lot of winning comes down to just that. Execute and don’t screw it up. You don’t see first basemen on championship baseball teams hilariously colliding into their pitcher on a throw to home. You don’t see Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks missing wide-open receivers. You don’t see great basketball teams forget the game situation.

Of course, the funny thing is that if things were a bit different, Eric Hosmer could have been the goat. Last fall in Game One of the World Series, Hosmer booted a grounder from Wilmer Flores in the eighth inning to give the Mets the lead. It took Alex Gordon’s heroics in the ninth to rescue the game. Hosmer would commit another error in Game 5 that would lead to a run, a run that would have loomed larger had the Royals not won the game in extra innings to become World Champions. He hit just .190 in the series against the Mets. Had he been thrown out trying to advance on David Wright’s throw, and the Royals somehow lost the series, Hosmer might have been seen as committing an epic choke job.

But he was safe, and the rest was history. It is a fine line between hero and goat. A blooper in the ALDS against the Astros that shouldn’t be anything falls for a hit. A long fly ball against the Athletics that is sometimes caught at the wall turns into a triple that eventually turns into the game-tying run. A pitcher makes a mistake and leaves one up in the zone and Hosmer is ready to pounce with a long home run.

Eric Hosmer may leave Kansas City this fall, but he will leave a winner, the face of perhaps the most successful era of Royals history. I don’t know if he necessarily deserves all the credit for the winning, or that Paul Goldschmidt wouldn’t have done any better, or that clutch-hitting is even a thing, but there is no doubt that it happened. Hosmer wins. And we can’t explain it.