What does it take to make a career .256/.323/.335 hitter brim with confidence? Having one's team take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series on the road is a good reason to be feeling confident. That's where Jarrod Dyson, fourth outfielder and pinch running specialist with the Royals, currently sits. We would probably be sounding confident too if it was the Orioles in the same position, with any quotes from O's players reflecting that confidence being things worth celebrating.
There's confident, then there's Dyson. Asked by Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star whether Dyson thought that the ALCS would be returning to Baltimore, he replied, "No sir, I don't. And I don't think that they (the Orioles) think that either." I think that's what they call shots fired.
This is not hand-wringing about whether a comment is classy or not classy. There is a tendency in the wide world of sports media to lament the fact that athletes seldom say anything interesting - largely because they don't - and then any time an athlete breaks out of cookie-cutter quotes, to criticize them for speaking their mind.
It's a richer world for us all if a guy who is 0-for-2 in stolen bases in the series wants to pop off and say whatever. He's failed completely in his one job and his team has won in spite of that. Good for him.
The question is whether making a comment like that is wise. The Orioles may be down 0-2 in the series, but they are not getting blown out of the stadium in these games. Both have been tied going into the ninth inning. Kansas City has gotten big hits, but so has Baltimore. The O's have missed some chances and made others. A whole lot of the outcome of both of the losses has hinged on a couple of broken bat dunkers that happened to fall in. Three runs scored on such a play in the first game, with two runs coming in Game 2 on the blooper that was just out of the reach of J.J. Hardy.
Calling it luck is not painting a complete picture. It takes skill for a player to even make contact with a pitch, more skill to make contact and put the ball in play. Alex Gordon, who hit Game 1's key broken bat ball, and Eric Hosmer, who hit the one in Game 2, showed that skill by putting the ball in play. Hitting those balls where they did in the way they did is, if not luck, certainly being on the receiving end of a very good circumstance. In general, if your bat breaks, you lost.
They lost those individual battles but still got good outcomes, which seems to be something of a theme for the Royals in this postseason. There's an element of design there. Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis was not positioned and did not have the speed to make a play on the Gordon dunker; a similarly-struck ball off the bat of Markakis in Game 2 was caught by Lorenzo Cain, who's everywhere in the outfield at once. But Gordon didn't come to the plate, or swing, thinking, "I'm going to dump in a broken bat hit down the right field line."
That's what he got, though. A day later, Hosmer dumped one just out of the reach of Hardy. From such margins have the Royals helped to stake themselves to a 2-0 series lead, prompting fourth outfielder Dyson, thus far unsuccessful in his assigned task in the series, to offer the opinion that he doesn't think the Orioles expect to return to Baltimore for the series.
Now, Dyson could well be right about the ALCS not making it back to Baltimore. It's going to be a tough task to go on the road and win at least two out of the next three games. As far as the Orioles believing it's over, well, if Dyson really thinks that, he's a fool. You don't get into the ALCS after a 96-win cakewalk through the American League East if you fold up the first time the deck seems to be stacked against you.
The Orioles are good enough to have gotten here, and they're good enough to move on, too. We know that they know it, although Dyson doesn't seem to. Someone has probably taped a copy of the paper with that quote up in the O's locker room in Kansas City. Adam Jones isn't going to stand for somebody thinking he expects to lose.
Asked about the comments on Sunday's workout day, Jones told reporters, "He doesn't speak for this clubhouse," and he characterized his confidence level in the Orioles, on a 1-10 scale, as being a 15. That's Jones for you.
Probably it doesn't mean a whole lot of anything. If the Orioles get swept or lose two out of the next three games, or if the Orioles go on to win the series, they're not going to lose or win because Dyson doubted their determination, although at least one writer might get seized by the spirit of the Holy Narrative and claim such.
If the Orioles play as good as they're capable of playing, they will win. If not, and the Royals keep playing as good as they're capable of playing, the Royals will keep winning instead. We've seen the best of the Royals. That's why they're up 2-0. We have yet to see the best of the Orioles. That's the difference in this series.
Not that they needed any extra motivation, but they've got some anyway. As a general rule, you probably should not poke an angry bear.
Here's some free advice for Dyson. Next time, try this: "We've got to keep playing hard, because they're not going to stop playing hard. If we do the best we can do, this series won't be heading back to Baltimore." That's showing confidence while respecting your opponent. And maybe also try successfully stealing a base in the series before talking trash about your opponent.