The Kansas City Royals are up two games to none on the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS. As one of the rabid fans of this Royals club, I like to think that the fans have had a big impact on the playoff run up to this point. Some of this impact is obvious and reported on, while other impacts have been hidden.
If you want to see the physical on field impact that the Royals fans have had on this series, look no further than the Jays right fielder Jose Bautista. The battle of Bautista versus Royals fans has been ongoing since the Royals took on the Jays in Toronto back in August. Bautista was in the middle of many multiple bench clearings and stare downs as the Jays and Royals had one of the most hostile series of the year. He even took to Twitter to proclaim he no longer respected Royals manager Ned Yost. While Bautista has become one of the most arrogant and unlikeable players in the game with his on field antics and off the field Twitter rants; he is especially despised by Royals fans. We will have our team’s backs, and we’ve shown that so far in this series.
After striking out early in game one, Bautista was visibly whining and pouting in the Jays dugout. The fans of KC jumped on this, as videos and memes of Bautista in the dugout went viral. Inside the stadium fans booed him with a furry that only the likes of Robinson Cano and Brett Lawrie have heard. They cheered when he took strikes and booed his whole trip to first base when he walked. After catching a fly ball for the third out late in the game, Bautista faked like he was going to throw the ball to the crowd proving that the crowd had gotten inside his head. The Royals went on to win that game 5-0.
In the second game fans had an even bigger impact on Bautista and the Jays as they blew a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning. Bautista had another bad day at the plate, again whining and pouting after being rung up by the home plate umpire. After that at bat to finish the sixth inning, Bautista taunted Royals fans behind the dugout and in the outfield but showing 3-0 with his hands. It was just a few pitches later that Ben Zobrist hit a high pop fly into shallow right field. Bautista came in as second basemen Ryan Goins went out to attempt the catch. Bautista slowed first as Goins called him off, then at the last second Goins backed away allowing the ball to fall to the ground. Goins said after the game he heard someone yell “I got it”. He didn’t hear someone, he heard 40,000 people inside the K saying it as the noise was a factor. The Royals went on to score five runs that inning, Bautista made no further gestures to the crowd. After the game Goins took responsibility for the play as Bautista threw his teammate under the bus saying the video will show what happened.
Luckily for Bautista and his teammates, they get away from KC for a few days as the series heads to Toronto for the next three games. But that will only protect the Jays from the physical help of Royals fans. No amount of distance will protect them from Royals superstition. Now that you’re done rolling your eyes, hear me out. We are all superstitious when it comes to sports. We all have that favorite shirt, spot on the couch or pre-game ritual. Even Yost has superstitions as he bats Alcides Escobar lead off for no reason other than “we win when he leads off”. Nobody, not even Yost, believes that the sole reason for the Royals winning games is because Escobar bats leadoff. But at the same time, if it works, who am I to argue with the logic?
The same goes for fans. Case in point, the lucky nachos of section 405. Now this goes back to ALDS game five against the Astros. With the Royals trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning when a Royals fan tripped and dropped a plate of nachos onto the stairs in section 405. It was only seconds later that Eric Hosmer roped a single scoring Lorenzo Cain. Someone in the crowd said “don’t touch the nachos, they must be lucky”. Johnny Cueto retired every batter he faced after the nachos were spilled and the Royals scored six more runs. The fans protected the nachos, asking fans to step around them, even taking the broom from the employee paid to clean them up. The nachos were cleaned up in the eighth inning but that didn’t stop the fans in section 405 as they chipped in and bought a new plate of nachos, sitting them in the same spot as a sacrifice to the baseball gods.
Did those nachos have any effect on Hosmer hitting that ball or Cueto pitching his best game of the season; no. Does the fact that my mom has worn the same Royals jersey the day of games since the playoffs started affect how the team plays; no it doesn’t. My wife loves telling me that where I sit, what my kids wear, or what I’m eating has no effect on the outcome of games. As with most things in life, my wife is right. But while she makes logical sense, it’s also hard to argue with results. I’ve always said when it comes to superstitions, what does it hurt? When the Royals come home again we will be the tenth man on the field and do our best to throw the visiting team off their game. But we will also be doing our best to follow Yost lead and do what works, even if it doesn’t make any sense. So protect those nachos, wear that lucky shirt and create whatever seating chart you need. While there is no proof that the crazy things we do help, there is also no proof that it doesn’t!