The Indefatigable Kansas City Royals

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NEW YORK — It takes 11 playoff victories to win a World Series crown. Three in the division series, four in the league championship series and four more in the World Series. Simply getting into the playoffs is hard enough — even with expanded playoffs this isn’t basketball or hockey; only a third of the teams make it and fewer than a third get a guarantee of more than one game — and winning those 11 games is obviously baseball’s biggest challenge.

So what can we say about a team that gave themselves an added degree of difficulty in winning it all? A team which spotted the opposition a lead in eight of those 11 games they eventually came back and won?

Early in the postseason people settled on the word “relentless” to describe the Royals and their style of play. It quickly became a cliche and, not too long after that, became something of a joke. Walking around Kauffman Stadium and Citi Field in the past week a reporter might say “how ya feelin’?” to one of his friends and his friend would reply back, “relentless!” The word became so overused to describe the Royals that it lost its meaning.

To the extent the world retains its definition, it’s a world that you might use to describe a machine. The Terminator, maybe. Something that never tires, can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned absolutely would not stop, ever, until you were beaten. A word that talks about someone who is on the offensive and will not let up in its attack. But these Royals weren’t that as such. There were lots of moments when they were on the ropes themselves, actually, most notably tonight when Matt Harvey dominated them for eight innings.

Even in the ninth, after one run was in and the Royals were threatening, there was a chance for the Mets to win the game. All it would’ve taken was a straight throw from Lucas Duda on Hosmer’s dash home. There’s no excuse for Duda’s bad throw and, unlike the folks in the Fox booth, To claim that Hosmer either knew Duda would throw the ball offline or somehow forced Duda to do so is simply wrong. Afterward Hosmer himself said Duda’s arm didn’t even enter into it. He just saw David Wright take a bit of time to throw the ball to Duda on the force out and broke. Hosmer was impulsive, fast and lucky and Duda was surprised and screwed up. It was the classic situation in which a bad decision resulted in a good outcome. It was just a play that happened as opposed to one that was designed.

But it did happen and it was put in motion by a Royals player who, however out he should’ve been, didn’t seem to think he’d be out. That is, at least to the extent he thought much about it at all. It came from a player who certainly didn’t believe his team was beaten.

We never quit. Never put our head down. Never think about, ‘OK game is over.’

That was World Series MVP Salvador Perez describing this club after the game. I don’t think he is describing a team that is “relentless.” That term implies a particular certainty of success and perhaps even dominance these Royals didn’t really have about them. These Royals could’ve been defeated many times and weren’t. Maybe if you’re simply unbowed you’re relentless, but if you’re bloodied and unbowed, I think you’re more properly referred to as indefatigable.

The 2015 Kansas City Royals were doubted when the season began. They were untested for most of the regular season. But when the playoffs came, things got tough. Those eight deficits should never have translated to eight wins. Edinson Volquez, suffering the loss of his father, should never have been able to endure that, fly to the Dominican Republic and back in such a short time frame yet come out throwing high-90s heat like he did in Game 5. The Royals never should have been able to disrupt Matt Harvey’s storybook ending to this game which seemed all but written.

Baseball players will never admit that there were times when they just packed it in because they felt things were hopeless, but baseball players often do pack it in or, at the very least, become discouraged in the face of long odds or near certain defeat. And, up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series, these Royals could’ve done that on this night, knowing that a split in Kansas City on Tuesday and Wednesday was something that was totally attainable and possibly even likely.

But they didn’t pack it in. They never stopped, often even when they should’ve, like how Eric Hosmer probably should’ve stopped at third base in the ninth inning. They took some clean shots to the nose early in several games but never once got shaky and never once gave anyone reason to doubt their ability to come back.

That’s perseverance. That’s tirelessness. That’s indefatigability. That’s what made the 2015 Royals World Series Champions.