Royals’ pain

Kansas City fans would like nothing more than to cast Madison Bumgarner as the villain after the Royals’ excruciating Game 7 World Series loss to San Francisco.

The left-handed pitcher tortured the American League champions in unprecedented fashion, dominating Kansas City with three different performances that looked an awful lot alike. He became a living legend at the Royals’ expense, finishing the kind of personal playoff run baseball enthusiasts will be telling their grandkids about someday.

Bumgarner may not have single-handedly derailed the Royals’ magical postseason ride, but it sure seemed that way.

So, let’s at least take a moment to break this guy down and make Kansas City feel better about its new nemesis:

1) Bumgarner must be arrogant after being so dominant. This is San Francisco’s third championship in five seasons. Bumgarner has surrendered 1 – that’s right, 1 – World Series run in 36 career innings for a seemingly-impossible 0.25 ERA. Yet Bumgarner – who is only 25 years old, mind you – takes it all in stride. In his best ”golly/shucks” tone, Bumgarner sincerely sounds unimpressed by being untouchable. He’d rather deflect the attention by trumpeting a teammate, a coach, the manager, the franchise, the city – whatever.

2) OK, well he has to be overpaid. Actually, Bumgarner’s 2014 salary ranks 83rd in baseball. Not overall, but among starting pitchers. And it’s not like his playoff performances are a fluke; while Bumgarner may not be nearly as cyborg-ish in the regular season, he still sports a 3.06 career ERA and a .578 win percentage, with 190 or more strikeouts in four consecutive years. I don’t say this about professional athletes very often, but get this kid a raise already.

3) Well, he’s a young star, so he’s probably living it up off the field. Bumgarner, a native of Hickory, North Carolina, married his high school sweetheart at the age of 20. In the offseason, Bumgarner and his wife return to a 140-acre farm they own in North Carolina. The southpaw once gave the misses a cow for her birthday – no joke – and he actually grew up in a log cabin that his father built from scratch.

Umm, this isn’t working.

Truth be told, Bumgarner is much closer to a typical, loveable Royal than baseball royalty. His numbers may be aristocratic, but he has the personality of a proletariat: tough as nails on the field, down to earth off of it.

Bumgarner will always be public enemy No. 1 in the box score to Kansas City diehards. Just don’t get to know him too well in the wake of his latest title pillage. He’s much easier to detest from a distance.

HOMETOWN FLAVOR: Fort Dodge, St. Edmond and Pocahontas Area used relative proximity to their advantage at the state cross country meet on Saturday.

Dodger senior Alex Jackson placed fifth in Class 4A, which was the program’s best individual showing since Dan Taylor’s championship run in 2001. Jackson’s impressive climb up the state ladder – he was 78th as a sophomore and 30th as a junior – helped Tim Hanson’s FDSH boys to an 11th-place team finish in their first state appearance in nine years.

Mike Szalat’s Gael program, meanwhile, continues to churn out harriers who win. The SEHS boys were fifth on Saturday in their sixth consecutive state appearance. The girls also cracked the Top-10, placing three spots ahead of their ranking.

Head coach Mitch Hackbarth’s Indians were a state runner-up to Pekin of Packwood in 2013, and rated second behind the Panthers before Saturday’s meet. They finally cleared the Pekin hurdle, though, to capture the school’s first-ever cross country championship.

Readers better get used to the current crop of Pocahontas Area female athletes. Sophomores Elle Ruffridge, Grace Meyer and Faith Meyer join senior Rose Meyer on a list of varsity runners who also return to the basketball squad this winter. The Indians went 21-4 on the hardwood in 2013-14.

In other words, things are just starting to heat up for PAC.

There were a few legs shy of 1,000 runners and 173 schools represented at Lakeside Golf Course inside Kennedy Park on Saturday. The state cross country meet has been hosted by Fort Dodge for 23 consecutive years.

There’s nothing like seeing local and area kids go out on top in their own backyard. Congratulations to all state participants on a job well done.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net