Yesterday I wrote about how, inevitably, someone would over-conclude regarding the Kansas City Royals. That they would not just merely laud them for winning or talk about how improbable and fantastic it is, but that they’d stretch to turn an 89-win team into Some New Paradigm or claim that they were not just winners, but that they were somehow better than we all think. To turn a neat story into an instructive narrative.
Of course, I said they’d do that if the Royals won the World Series. Seems I was overestimating people’s restraint:
This was followed this morning by multiple columns from people about the Royals’ clear plan which suggest that this was all foreordained or, at the very least, that what they are doing now is the logical product of some overarching theory of the universe as opposed to a good run of baseball by a talented but by no means perfect team. What happens to these grand theories if the Royals don’t come back from a 7-3 deficit with six outs to go in the Wild Card Game? I guess they’re lost to history. Sad.
Baseball, apparently, can’t just happen on its own terms. It all has to be explained via extra-baseball terms. It all has to Mean Something. I wonder if what the Royals have done will still Mean Something if they get swept by the Giants. And if it doesn’t — if we aren’t still told to learn the lessons of these Kansas City Royals as if it were special wisdom — one has to ask how special all of this wisdom is now.
The Game: NLCS Game 5. San Francisco Giants lead St. Louis Cardinals 3-1
The Time: 8:07 PM Eastern
The Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
The Channel: Fox Sports 1
The Starters: Adam Wainwright vs. Madison Bumgarner
The Upshot: It’s do or die time for the Cardinals, as they’re a bad day against a great pitcher away from going home for the winter. Madison Bumgarner has allowed only two runs in 23 and two-thirds innings in the 2014 playoffs and stymied the Cardinals in Game 1, striking out seven. The bigger issue for the Cardinals, however, may be overcoming bad defense, which absolutely killed them in Game 4 and Mike Matheny’s decisions to leave pitchers in too long and not manage with any sort of playoff urgency.
Statistically speaking, most bunts don’t make tactical sense. Especially first inning bunts when you have no idea if the game is gonna be tough for scoring runs and the like. Really, on page 1 of the Sabermetric Handbook it says “Don’t Bunt in The First Inning You Moron!” At least I’m pretty sure it does.
But Ned Yost loves bunting like a fat kid loves cake and he and the Royals have been bunting to beat the band this postseason, and it has worked for them almost every time. It just worked for them again in the first inning of today’s ALCS Game 4.
Alcides Escobar reached on a single and than Nori Aoki was hit by a pitch. Runners on first and second, no outs — IN THE FIRST INNING — and Ned Yost calls on his number three hitter, Lorenzo Cain to bunt. In the first inning. Number three hitter, mind you. In the first inning, if I didn’t mention that. Cain bunts and the runners move up to second and third. In the first inning.
So of course, the next guy up, Eric Hosmer, hits into fielder’s choice to first. First baseman Steve Pearce decides to go home with it, the play is botched by Caleb Joseph and Escobar scores. As Escobar slides he kicks the ball away, allowing Aoki to come around and score too. The Royals take a 2-0 lead.
That bunt makes every baseball tactician not named Ned Yost cry blood. Yet neither of those two runs score if Ned Yost doesn’t call for that bunt. We may cry and wail about it. We may rent our garments and plead, beg and demand that Ned Yost stop bunting, especially in the first dang inning.
But Ned will look down and whisper: “No.”
So Jeremy Guthrie wore that shirt that, in about the mildest terms possible, dissed the Orioles. And then he apologized for it on Twitter. Which, apparently, wasn’t enough, because then he went and apologized for it in a press conference today.
Give me a break. Since when are we requiring apologies for slights so small they barely qualify on the slight radar?
As it is, here’s a study in contrasts in the reaction to all of this. Pick your sides. This:
When there’s black smoke, the Braves general manager situation is unresolved. When there’s white smoke, we have a new Braves GM. Right now, more black smoke:
Braves president John Schuerholz read a Yahoo Sports report that said interim general manager John Hart has turned down the Braves’ offer to take the job full-time, prompting the team to focus on assistant GM John Coppolella and Royals GM Dayton Moore as its primary targets for the position.
“At best the article was not accurate with either the facts or the assumptions,” Schuerholz said in an email to the AJC on Wednesday in response to a question about the report, which cited unnamed sources.
That report was from Jeff Passan at Yahoo. Passan added in a tweet later that former Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd was also in the running for the job.
I love Jeff, and I think he’s a great reporter, but the Braves fan in me hopes he’s wrong about the O’Dowd thing, just as much as I hope he’s right about the Hart thing.
Bring me John Coppolella and a front office that is not run based on the collective memory of 1991-2003, please.