Royals' Ridiculous Victory Sets Baseball Back 29 Years
During his heyday in the 1970s, Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Manny Sanguillén uttered one of baseball's truisms.
He was as free-swinging a batter as could be imagined. Sort of a pre-Valdimir Guerrero, who once swung at a pitch that bounded in the dirt at home plate and smashed it for an oppo homer.
Referring to the fact that MLB scouts back then didn't come to the Dominican Republic to find patient hitters, Sanguillén put it in plain terms:
You can't walk off the island.
Who knew, in the age of sabremetrics, that this philosophy was still around? In fact, who knew that the Kansas City Royals apparently never heard of sabremetrics?
To hear the hypester chorus, Salvador Pérez may be the next coming of Yadier Molina, but when he's batting, the Venezuelan looks like the ghost of Dominicans past. But after completing one of the dumbest at-bats of 2014 in the bottom of the eighth with the tying run on third and one out, the Royals receiver redeemed himself with a swing that was just as stupid, but it was the one confirming that blind squirrels do find acorns every once in a while:
This is how the Royals put the wild in wild card games, with help at every turn from the Oakland Athletics.
- Pérez, the hero-by-default, flailed at slider-happy Luke Gregorson's favorite pitch three times, none of which were within a cab ride from the outside corner. How does a catcher not know the scouting report on the opposition, much less realize who the opposition is? How does he not see the first two pitches and not recognize the third.
- Stats abound confirming sacrifice bunts are wastes of outs for all but NL pitchers and Mario Mendoza. But quirky Kansas City manager Ned Yost can't seem to get enough of them.
- Yeah, they lost that game to Detroit, 3-2, a vital result in the AL Central race that featured a Pérez baserunning blunder. Par for their course by an overwhelming margin. Except for last night.
- Then there was the sixth inning. It's become the pivotal frame these days. Relief specialists are slotted for Innings 7-8-9, so the sixth is where the strategy happens. Apparently, Yost felt he had another Randy Johnson in starter Yordano Ventura. The 23-year-old may be a flamethrower, but he's no Randy Johnson. Just ask Brandon Moss and the two runners on base.
- Yo, Nedley, they call Shields Big Game James for a reason. Yes, Moss homered and lined out hard against the Royals ace in is first two ABs, but Shields makes in-game adjustments as well as anyone.
- Meanwhile, A's starter Jon Lester had run his course. Most MLB trainers and kinesiologists will say that 120 pitches is the red line limit, and the lefty was at 111 when he exited, in trouble. A 7-3 Oakland lead had become 7-6 by the end of the eighth. Manager Bob Melvin has an excellent relief corps. He went there 'way too late.
- Derek Norris would be well-advised to do what Little Leagues are told and watch the ball into his glove. That way, it won't pop out on a pitchout that had Christian Colón nailed at second. It was one of seven steals. Five of those runners scored. Colón's was the winner in the 12th.
So, on a night when Royals pitchers throw fastballs to fastball hitters, Royals hitters worship Manny Sanguillén, the Royals manager gives away outs and lives to tell the tale, the Athletics' manager goes against Moneyball mantra and eschews his bullpen specialists, and for all of Billy Beane's data-crunching, he doesn't have a second catcher with solid defensive skills on the roster, these two teams got the game they deserved.
And for all of that, the Angels say thank you.