MLB

Royals vs. Mets: Which Team Was the Bigger Underdog?

World Series - Kansas City Royals v New York Mets - Game Five
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Once the 2015 World Series ended, we couldn’t help but feel we had just seen a battle of two big underdogs. As far as the New York Mets are concerned, picking them to go the distance was as unpopular in Vegas as in the sports media. The Kansas City Royals, who went to Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, found themselves as also-rans among bookmakers and national media writers alike. In fact, it’s hard to tell which of these teams was the bigger underdog of 2015.

Even after the team’s electrifying run in 2014, few writers were willing to commit to the Royals this season. Only a few members of the top sports sites picked them to win the AL Central. Of the negligible few more who felt confident enough to grant them wild-card pick, none had them in the Fall Classic. Don’t think the players didn’t notice.

Kelvin Herrera had one of the best post-win gloat tweets of the bunch after the World Series, with the media clearly in mind. “Remember when people called us a fluke? That was cute,” Herrera wrote, adding a trio of laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying emojis.

Wire-to-wire domination of the American League failed to boost K.C. stock any further, even after Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto joined the party. The day before the playoffs began, ESPN listed its postseason predictions from 23 MLB experts. Only one (Jerry Crasnick) had the Royals winning the World Series, while four others had them taking the pennant. The sexy pick at that time (12 of 23) was the Toronto Blue Jays, despite the fact that the offense-first formula rarely works in the postseason.

One month and 11 wins later, the Royals have the right to feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of Major League Baseball. Yet the New York Mets truly came out of nowhere in making the club’s magical 2015 run.

League Championship Series - New York Mets v Chicago Cubs - Game Four
Jon Durr/Getty Images

The Mets were a messy bunch in Spring Training, a team expected to dominate on the mound and pray to get some offense in the other half of the game. Things played out basically as expected until the trade that brought Yoenis Cespedes created a huge spark for the club. After that point, the Mets were mashing with the best of them.

David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud, and Michael Cuddyer returned from injuries to help kick the offense up to 11 around the same time. (Curtis Granderson was there throughout the year.) Then Steven Matz returned and the Mets looked like bullies of the National League heading into the postseason. Eventually, the club ran out gas as the Daniel Murphy miracle run ended and Cespedes became a liability on both sides of the game. But it took until the World Series for that to happen.

Want to talk about low expectations? Of the national media writers making their playoff picks at the start of the season, only Jon Heyman (a writer baseball gamblers ought to follow on Twitter) and David Brown of CBS Sports had the Mets even as wild cards. You see, there was once a feared team known as the Washington Nationals, and all were supposed to bow before this mighty force.

Even after the Mets looked hot, only the club’s ESPN beat writer, Adam Rubin, picked them to win the World Series at the start of the playoffs. Like the Cubs and Astros, some savvy moves by the front office helped New York catapult into the Fall Classic ahead of schedule. Despite everything the Royals faced and the way Vegas gave both clubs 30-1 odds to win the Series in Spring Training, the Mets were the bigger Cinderella story. The organization and its fans can certainly take pride in that.

Check out 2015 MLB postseason coverage from Sports Cheat Sheet.

Follow Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY