Photo: Philip Johnson
Philip Johnson
Class of 2008
Concentrations:  Finance, Supply Chain Management, JD

Well, I’m sure that I could sit here and wow you with all of my fun stories about the MBA program, but instead I’m going to write about something bold, confident and exciting – The Kansas City Royals will win the pennant this year.

As a displaced Kansas Citian living in Mid-Michigan, it’s a little tough to find another passionate Royals fan, especially with the Tigers in the same division and just up the road. That said, it does make it all that much sweeter when The Royals beat the Tigers, which they will do many, many times this year.

Written on October 16, 2008:

The Royals capped off an unbelievable Cinderella season tonight by beating the Detroit Tigers four games to one in the best of seven series to decide the American League Pennant. Behind League MVP Candidate 3B Alex Gordon and 100-RBI man Billy Butler the young Royals offense exploded for six runs off of Justin Verlander in the fifth inning on their way to a 7-3 victory. Coupled with a strong performance from starter Zack Greinke, The Royals, the AL wild-card team, capped their first pennant run since 1985 in dramatic fashion. Let’s take a look back and see how this incredible run started.

The Royals, picked by most prognosticators to finish last in the AL Central at the beginning of the season, began the year hot, taking two out of three from Detroit in the Tigers’ first homestand. The team captured this momentum under first-year manager Trey Hillman and vaulted to a 17-12 record after the first month. The Royals first month was highlighted by All-Star caliber pitching performances from both Zack Greinke and Gil Meche, much maligned after cashing in with a five year, $55 million deal two offseasons ago. The month of April included sweeps over both the Twins and Oakland on the way to a strong start of the season.

The offense really began to come alive with the emergence of Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, moved to the numbers three and four spots in the order, respectively, in early May. Coupled with Mark Teahen’s move to the leadoff spot and Alberto Callaspo’s emergence as a great contact-hitting #2 after Mark Grudzielanek’s knee injury, the lineup became increasingly potent over the remainder of the season. However, The Royals lack of a solid number four and number five pitchers nearly doomed the team as they struggled to a 14-16 record in spite of strong starting efforts again from Greinke and Meche.

Mired in third place and grasping for assistance in the rotation, The Royals turned to former #1 overall pick Luke Hochevar for a critical start in Chicago against the White Sox on June 5. Hochevar responded with a stellar, two-hit complete game shutout helping The Royals to a sweep during the series and setting off a torrid month of June that saw the team win 21 of its 28 games during the month, pushing them past the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers into first place within the Division. For the first time all season the media and personnel from other teams began to notice that The Royals, behind their young tandem of Gordon and Butler and impressive starting pitching were legitimate condenters.

July saw another hot month with four Royals, Greinke, Meche, Gordon and Butler, being selected for the All-Star game. The team went 16-10 but actually lost first place to the streaking Detroit Tigers. Cleveland, however, had a poor month and fell off of the pace, seven-and-a-half games behind The Royals and eight games behind the Tigers. This race began to look more and more like a no-holds-barred fight between the red-hot Royals and the resurgent Tigers. Youthful exuberance versus veteran determination heading into the dog days of summer.

The Royals were fortunate to start off August with a long homestand against the woeful White Sox, Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. The softest month on The Royals schedule started off quite well for the team as they took seven of nine games on the homestand. Gordon had a truly remarkable month, hitting for a line of .406/.481/.612 and solidifying himself as a legitimate MVP candidate. Not to be outdone, Butler finished the month tied for the American League lead with 98 RBIs. The duo had shown themselves capable of putting up big numbers all year and were undoubtedly the core of a surprising Kansas City team in only their second years in Major League Baseball. The newly revamped rotation of Meche, Greinke, Brian Bannister and Hochevar received a welcome addition at the trade deadline as The Royals traded for John Smoltz, from General Manager Dayton Moore’s old team, the Atlanta Braves. Smoltz provided an immediate anchor for the last spot in the rotation and had a very solid August in helping The Royals to an 18-9 record.

September arrived with The Royals 1/2 game ahead of the Tigers in a grueling race for the AL Central pennant. Each team had left other contenders in their wake and with a solid performance the runner-up was almost assured of a position as the AL Wild-card team. The Royals again had an outstanding month, pacing the Tigers with a respectable 17-8 record, but Detroit was not to be outdone, completing a nearly flawless September by sweeping The Royals at home in their second-to-last homestand on their way to a 21-5 record for the month and winning the American League Central outright. The Royals had to settle for a Wild Card spot and a date with The Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.

New York had played an incredibly solid year behind their own young rotation of pitchers and a strong group of veteran position players. There were worries that the young Royals may not be ready to play on the big stage of New York City. Those worries were put to rest immediately as The Royals went off for seven runs in the first inning of game one against the Bronx Bombers. New York never recovered and Kansas City took the series in three games, setting up the nearly inevitable matchup with Detroit.

In the American League Championship Series Detroit grabbed an early 1-0 lead behind the impressive pitching of ace Justin Verlander. Verlander held The Royals scoreless through seven innings on a cold autumn night in Detroit while the Tigers offense provided just enough for their pitching in a 2-1 ballgame. The Royals proceeded to take the next to games behind Meche and Bannister in forgettable 6-3 and 5-1 fashion, setting up a pivotal game four in Kansas City. The Royals turned to veteran John Smoltz to start the game, and Smoltz did not disappoint initially. Smoltz worked the first three innings in impeccable fashion before injuring his shoulder on a collision at first following a bunt attempt by Tiger Curtis Granderson. Smoltz was replaced by phenom Luke Hochevar, who was removed from the rotation for the playoffs. Hochevar entered the game and stranded Granderson before giving up only one hit in the remaining five innings of the game. Alex Gordon once again provided all of the firepower needed with a solo home run in the seventh inning, ruining what was otherwise a stellar outing from Dontrelle Willis and setting up what turned out to be a deciding game five of the series.

Game five paired the two frontrunners for the American League Cy Young award: Justin Verlander, who went 22-6 while sporting a 2.83 ERA for the Tigers, and Zack Greinke, who went 21-4 with a 2.86 ERA for The Royals. The matchup was billed as a battle not only for the pennant but also for the coveted award between the two young hurlers. Greinke, who had battled back from clinical depression only a few short years ago against Bonderman, who had been tremendous in his years in Detroit. The tandem did not disappoint for the first five innings, as Greinke and Bonderman each allowed only a single baserunner. It was in the bottom of the sixth in Kansas City when the most unlikely of sources, light-hitting Tony Pena, Jr., and Royals catcher John Buck, who batted a woeful .234 during the regular season. Pena led off with an infield single and Buck followed with a towering homerun into the fountains in left field. The top of the order then did what they had done all year, with Teahen starting off with a double, an RBI single from Callaspo and an intentional walk to Gordon, bringing Billy Butler to the plate while setting up a double play. The gamble did not pay off as Butler turned around a 98-mph Verlander fastball and deposited it into the seats in left field. The Tigers did manage a comeback in the eighth inning off of Joel Peralta, but it proved to be too little too late as Joakim Soria entered into the game for a five-out save, putting Kansas City into the World Series for the first time since 1985.

Now, I didn’t write this because I don’t have other things to do, but I wrote it to show that as a Broad MBA student we do have lives outside of the classroom. We all have our passions beyond school or the workplace and at Broad you not only have time to develop the competencies that will help you at your job, but also to develop into a well-rounded individual, with your own passions and dreams to follow. Best of luck in doing so!