Ned Yost and the Royals weren't supposed to be here. The Royals weren't supposed to be here because Yost was there. So as the Royals advance three series and 13 games into October, Yost's decision-making has been under the microscope.
Bruce Bochy, like Buck Showalter before him, are dragged into it as measuring sticks. They're supposed to be able to strategize circles around Yost, so when the Royals beat them, the first question is, "How did that happen?"
As you might expect, Bochy and Yost aren't fans of this development:
"It's brutal," Bochy tells USA TODAY Sports. "Just freakin' brutal.
"It's probably the biggest change in the game now because managers are so scrutinized in in postseason. You just have so much media, so much social media, and everybody has got their opinion on everything. You try not to get caught up in it, but you're at a point where it's so frustrating." [...]
"What surprises me," Yost tells USA TODAY Sports, "is that I can't believe all these people don't put in their resume for all of these managerial openings. Why don't they do that?"
Although Yost's self-defense is sillier than it needs to be, it is odd to hear most games this postseason reviewed first in terms of decision-making, rather than on-field successes and failures. Take Rany Jazayerli's recap of Game 4, in which he went through every situation and couldn't really find anything Yost did to decide the game. Instead, it came down to Alcides Escobar going home instead of trying to turn two, and Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt defying the numbers to beat Brandon Finnegan with run-scoring singles.
There are diminishing returns to poking and prodding at every single decision during those types of games, ones where players and breaks obviously have far more to do with the outcome. During Game 5 on Sunday night, Yost made a really weird double-switch that didn't make sense on any level ... and now a regular Yost critic like Rob Neyer is tired of talking about it, because Madison Bumgarner was dealing, anyway.
Fatigue isn't an improvement, but maybe "let's stop talking about it" is merely a placeholder for what will ultimately be a sense of proportion. Yost made an awful first impression, putting the Royals in a huge hole against Oakland in the wild card game by adhering too strictly to reliever inning assignments. Since then, he's been ... good, or at least good enough. And he hasn't make that wild card game mistake, either.
Ned Yost references the Yordano Ventura decision in the Wild Card game, not necessarily as a regret, but something he got better from.— Sam Mellinger (@mellinger) October 26, 2014
That's about all you can hope for, and maybe that's one byproduct of following a team that has lost 187 games over the last two years.
Robin Ventura got burned a few times when ignoring the fourth-time-through penalty for starters, and egregiously so during a John Danks start against the Angels. A week later, he pulled Sale with two outs in the eighth, sparing him the fourth-time fate and bringing in his best reliever (Jake Petricka) in an optimal situation (righty-righty). The result: one of the most brutal blown saves of the season.
With fingers pointed at Ventura after the game, he had the right answer:
"He started getting up there in pitches the fourth time through. You've seen this before," said Ventura of Sale. "We had Jake who has been great with righties and the way he's been pitching lately. You get him in there and you figure you are going to have a chance to get out of it. We just couldn't hold it."
See a team lose enough games with the manager standing by helplessly, and maybe you're used to focusing on players' abilities first. That's probably where it should be, unless or until the manager has underqualified players in situations that could have been avoided.
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Some awful news spread at the start of Game 5 -- Cardinals rookie Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Taveras was just 22, and entered the season as a top-three prospect in all of baseball.
- On one of the biggest nights of his life, Juan Perez tried to cope with a tragic loss - Giants Extra
- Juan Perez delivers key hit after learning his good friend Oscar Taveras died - Yahoo Sports
Giants outfielder Juan Perez was a close friend of Taveras, and he found out about the death during the game:
Juan Perez didn't believe it, didn't believe his friend was dead, so he ran back to the San Francisco Giants clubhouse and swiped his phone on. He saw the text messages, at least 20, more coming in, all with the horrible news that Oscar Taveras, fellow ballplayer, fellow Dominican, was gone. Then he saw a text with the picture that confirmed it: Taveras at the morgue, on a table, blood everywhere, a horrible image Perez couldn't shake.
He started to cry. Giants closer Santiago Casilla told Perez to shut his phone off, to stop looking at the photo. And Joaquin Arias implored him: "Stay strong. Stay strong." The Giants might need him. And Gregor Blanco said: "I know it's not easy. Let's just try to do it."
Perez entered the game as a pinch runner, made a big play in the outfield and delivered the game-cinching two-run double off Wade Davis.
In his Sunday notes column, Boston Globe baseball columnist Nick Cafardo says the Blue Jays will make Mark Buehrle available, inevitably triggering more "Bring Back Buehrle!" cries from White Sox fans than usual.