The Kansas City Royals are on this week's cover of Sports Illustrated.
The Kansas City Royals’ defeat in the World Series at the hands of the San Francisco Giants last October proved two things to the baseball world: Their dominant pitching and superb bullpen are a recipe for postseason success, and their view at the top of the American League standings this season is probably not a fluke.
The Royals have found success with a balanced team, leading the majors in batting average and ranking second in slugging and OPS and third in on-base percentage.
Kansas City is getting multiple contributions from several players, including first baseman Eric Hosmer. Hosmer, who graces the national cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, leads the team in home runs, hits, slugging, OPS and on-base percentage.
The Royals pitching staff isn’t shabby either, ranking sixth in team ERA, second in opponents' batting average and boasting a major-league leading 1.79 bullpen ERA.
This success is new to Royals' fans. Before last season, Kansas City hadn’t so much as sniffed the postseason since winning it all in 1985.
These aren't the soft Royals of years past. In a 12-day span last month, the Royals were involved in five bench-clearing incidents, resulting in nine ejections, multiple suspensions, fines and a warning to the rest of the league that they don't care what you think about them.
"They don't back down," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "If other teams were trying to get us so mad we couldn't be successful, the opposite happened. We actually got better after one of those incidents. I think teams started to see, 'You want to stir up the beehive? Go ahead. But you're going to get stung.'"
For more on the Royals, check out Tom Verducci's story in this week's Sports Illustrated (subscribe here).
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2015 Sports Illustrated Covers