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7 questions heading into the World Series

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The World Series may not be what it used to be, but don’t tell that to the fans of the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals. Because of the spread of baseball around the world, the winner is no longer called “World Champion,” but Champions of Baseball will be perfectly fine with either team.

On Tuesday night, the Mets and Royals open the World Series in Kansas City. The winner will still raise the Commissioner’s Trophy, which looks the same as it did when the World Champion title was in vogue. It is also just as prestigious.

While many thought Kansas City had a great shot to win the American League Pennant for the second straight season, hardly anyone saw the quick rise of the Mets in the National League. Those close to the Mets, or those within the scouting profession, knew of the potential among their young pitchers, but that potential was exceeded beyond expectation.

The Royals are a good hitting team hoping to overcome the Mets’ pitching. Kansas City does not hit many home runs, but score in many other ways. It may take the full 7 games to determine the winner. With that in mind, here are 7 questions leading up to the start of the Fall Classic.

  1. Is New York pitcher Matt Harvey’s surgically repaired right elbow up for one or two more starts? He will start Game 1 on Tuesday. The elbow seems fine, but Harvey’s tricep was swollen after his start in the National League Championship Series. Look for him to make only one start.
  2. Are the Mets’ young pitchers really that good? Unfortunately for the Royals, yes they are. The 4-man rotation of Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz throw hard and average 5 to 7 strikeouts per walk. Closer Jeurys Familia had 43 regular season saves and is unscored upon in 9 post-season innings. Pitching is a HUGE advantage for New York.
  3. Will the long layoff affect the Mets? New York has been unconscious in the post season. Everyone expected their pitching to be strong, but some of the hitting, especially from second baseman Daniel Murphy, has been other world-like. With 6 days in between games, timing can sometimes be lost.
  4. Will Johnny Cueto finally pitch like he did with the Reds? Cueto was an ace in Cincinnati, but since his mid-season trade to Kansas City, he has shown only brief flashes of brilliance. He went 4-7 for Kansas City and had a reasonable start against Houston in the Division Series, but was blasted for 8 runs in two innings against Toronto. Maybe pitching to a familiar National League team like the Mets will help him.
  5. Does either team enjoy a true home field advantage? Not according to statistics. Both teams have winning road records. The Mets were 49-32 at home and 41-40 away from Citi Field. The Royals were 51-30 at Kauffman Stadium and 44-37 away. Earlier in the season, the Mets were a disaster on the road, but picked it up in the second half. In the post season, the Mets are 4-1 on the road while the Royals are 3-3.
  6. Does the Designated Hitter give Kansas City the upper hand? With potentially 4 home games, it could. Kendrys Morales is a vital cog in the Kansas City offense. That offense may be dramatically affected in New York, where the DH is not used. With Morales on the bench, the Mets will have a big advantage in the third, fourth and fifth games.
  7. Who are some players that might make a difference? Any Met pitcher can create a headline, but all eyes are on Murphy. New York is in good shape if he continues at his torrid post season pace. Veteran David Wright can get a big hit when needed. Yoenis Cespedes ignited the Met offense when he came over from Detroit.

For the Royals, the speed of Lorenzo Cain creates runs on offense and saves runs on defense in center field. Shortstop Alcides Escobar is having a huge post season. Any team with Ben Zobrist on the roster is a better team. If we are talking about Cueto or fellow starter Edinson Volquez in a positive way 10 days from now, the Royals should be celebrating.

Prediction: Mets’ pitching is just too much and they take the World Series in 6 games.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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