At the end of the 2006 season, the Kansas City Royals (you knew they’d be involved in this post somehow) were trying to complete an improbable sweep in Detroit, a sweep which would not only knock the Tigers out of first place, but just as importantly (since the Tigers and Twins were both going to the playoffs), would move the Royals a game ahead of the Devil Rays for the worst record in the majors.
The final game of the year went into extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th against Joe Nelson, with one out the Tigers got back to back singles from Ordonez and Guillen, with Guillen taking second base after an error. The Royals intentionally walked Ivan Rodriguez to pitch to Inge, who could have driven in the winning run without benefit of a hit. Instead, Inge struck out on a 2-2 count. Jimmy Gobble came in to retire Curtis Granderson, the Royals scored in the 12th, and held on to win.
Eight months later, the clear #1 player in the draft, David Price, was selected #1 overall - and because of the outcome of the game the previous October 1st, that #1 pick was the property of Tampa Bay.
As a Royals fan, what hurt the most was that I could see all of this happening in real time - I could watch David Price slipping out of my hands as Inge struck out. I had no doubt when the Royals held on for the win that the game would have a huge impact on the fortunes of the Royals. It didn’t occur to me that the game would have a far more immediate and undeniable impact on the fortunes of Tampa Bay.
The irony is that the Royals may yet be thankful that Nelson got out of that jam - while Price is a better prospect than Mike Moustakas, who the Royals selected with the #2 pick, Moustakas is certainly an elite prospect in his own right. It’s certainly not far-fetched that Moustakas will wind up with the better career in the long-run.
But neither Moustakas nor anyone else in the 2006 draft gets out of that bases-loaded two-out jam in the 8th tonight. No one but David Price blows away the Red Sox in the 9th. Without Price, the Rays might not be going to the World Series. Without Inge, the Rays might not have Price.