Kansas City Royals v St. Louis Cardinals

Nearly thirty years ago, two rivals met in the World Series. One team, a MLB mainstay. One of the signature franchises of the sport. A team with rich history and a litany of significant contributors to the rich fabric of the game.

The other, an expansion success story. A team build from the ground up that turned itself into an instant competitor. A team full of contemporary stars, fresh off a dramatic come-from-behind series win in the league championship series.

Two teams separated by just a couple hundred miles of highway, two teams which share a home state. It was all very dramatic.

The drama continued as the plucky upstarts from the western edges of Missouri took that fateful 1985 World Series, thanks in no small part to a famously blown call by Don Denkinger. The Kansas City Royals won their first-ever World Series title over their cross-state rivals from St. Louis. Sadly, the Royals were never heard from again.

After that series, the two franchises sort of went in “different directions.” The Royals put up some strong seasons with their World Series core in place but have just one winning season since the strike. The Cardinals, well, they have a slightly better track record.

The Cardinals have ten postseason appearances since the strike of 1995, with two World Series wins and a third WS appearance to their credit. The developed one of the best players of his generation in Albert Pujols and are currently the envy of at least 25 other clubs as the model franchise in baseball.

They are what the Royals are not. The Royals boasted one of the finest and deepest farm systems in baseball a few years ago yet have been unable to develop even league-average players beyond Alex Gordon (and Salvador Perez.) The Cardinals turn seemingly random guys like Matt Carpenter into .390 OBP machines. The Cardinals have developed pitching for days and days, filling their rotation with homegrown talent.

The Cardinals also feature the financial heft to sign or extend top talent when it comes their way. Matt Holliday was acquired via trade and is proving himself to be one of the most underappreciated stars in baseball. The Cards can also pick and choose among the premium veteran free agents, grabbing players like Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran who cannot help but be drawn to the winning culture of the Cardinals.

The Royals are the Royals. They sign Jeremy Guthrie when nobody else will and trade for Ervin Santana of their own volition. They chase their own tail and act as if it is all part of the plan.

Last night was the perfect distillation of the gulf between these two teams. Tuning in with the Royals ahead 3-1 late in the game, it seemed all but inevitable that the Cardinals would comeback and win the game. Which they did, 5-3.

The Cardinals got a homer from Carlos Beltran and then a parade of singles off Royals relief pitching (which is generally pretty good) to complete their comeback. It seemed inevitable, although it was anything but.

The start contrast between the two clubs was tough to miss, however. The Cardinals talent juggernaut versus the broken dreams and broken hearts of the Royals. Broken hearts might overstate the matter some, as Royals fans seem more eternal aggrieved by the unwavering arrogance of their current braintrust.

Royals fans can no longer trust the process, as they were famously encouraged to do years ago. Cardinals fans don’t need to trust the process, the results are there before them, year after year after year after year after year after year…

And the rest

Bad/sad as the Royals might be, at least they aren’t the Marlins! [Sports on Earth]

Mariners fans can commiserate with the Royals on some levels. Here’s their manage expanding on his sabrshaming comments from earlier this week. [Seattle Times]

Jonathan Papelbon, really good! [Providence Journal]

Jean Segura, also really good (right now.)

Those BP caps teams wore this past week, not really good. [Uni Watch]

Full breakdown of all the recent uniform shenanigans [Sports Logos.net]

Speaking of shenanigans, the International draft is going to end in much more than tears. Many current players voice their displeasure in a petition to the league. [Baseball America]

Marco Scutaro on hitting [Baseball Prospectus]

Jon Morosi and Brett Lawrie keep their passion dance going.