Phillies fans AP

Phillies fans: you’re not really enjoying yourselves, are you?

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Howard Bryant of ESPN.com makes a pretty decent observation: when your team becomes a superpower, your fandom changes. The magic is really only there at the beginning of a dynasty or near-dynasty. After that you’re not satisfied with anything short of a title and something is lost.

His Exhibit A: Phillies fans:

For all the fans yearning for their teams to be in the high-payroll, trade-deadline-aggressive, all-in-every-year category, the price of being a superpower can be, of all things, the loss of fun … The Phillies and their fans have entered, for them, a new territory in which winning has been transformed from hope to expectation. It can come at a heavy price for the sports fan, but one that many fans would love to pay. Or at least think they would.

I think the dynamic is right, though I think that Bryant overstates things for most people. When the Braves were in year 12 and 13 of their division title run I’ll admit that it was way, way less special for me than things were in 1991. How could it not be? I wanted the season to get underway, then I wanted the inevitable rise to first place to occur quickly, but then I wanted the playoffs to hurry up and start.  Smelling the roses of the regular season made me a bit impatient.

But it was still fun.  At least for me it was.  Of course, I’m probably less of a rah-rah guy than a lot of others. And it goes without saying that Braves fans are less of a rah-rah bunch than those of other teams.

Phillies fans may be the most rah-rah of them all.  So tell me, you guys: still having fun? Or is there a certain stress, the sort of which Bryant describes, inherent in your baseball lives these days?

No pressure.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.16.51 AM
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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.