The postseason was going a little too well for Alex Rios.
Even with an eventful first three games at the plate, he had thrived in his first-ever October, hitting .310/.356/.429 while starting every game for the Royals (with Paulo Orlando finishing them). Considering he was one of baseball's least productive players during the regular season -- his power disappeared, and the scouting reports said to run on his defense as much as possible -- he seemed overdue for a correction.
Then, on Saturday night, he caught a shallow fly for the second out. Problem was, he thought it was the third out, and he ended up giving up a run on a sac fly:
Rios also went 0-for-3 athe plate, although one of those was a ripped line to shortstop off former White Sox teammate Addison Reed. Regardless, he's now 2-for-12 with no walks and a comical misplay.
Not that it matters. That's the dumb thing.
Rios wasn't beloved in Chicago for a number of reasons. He made a horrible first impression in 2009, disappeared with Adam Dunn in 2011, and then faded out with a salary dump in 2013.
But in between during the 2012 season, he did his damndest to make his first postseason with the White Sox. He hit .304/.334/.516. He hit 25 homers, stole 23 bases and played a pretty good right field. The total package made him the Sox' most valuable position player by far, and more than that, he was one of the few hitters to show up in September. He even had what was supposed to be a defining moment:
But the team crapped out around him, his best moment was forgotten, and he never quite shed the stereotype.
Fast forward two years later. He has his second-worst season of his career for the Royals, and they win 95 games for the best record in the American League. He has a flat World Series with occasionally laughable defense, and Kansas City is still one game away from their first title since 1985.
The White Sox couldn't win with Rios' best. The Royals are having little issue overcoming his worst. My kingdom for depth.
On the other side, Rios' World Series might be aspirational for Yoenis Cespedes. He's been exploited as an overextended center fielder, which mostly isn't his fault. But he's 3-for-18 against the Royals, and he erased the last hit by running into a double play to end Game 4, and he's very much to blame for that one.
"I thought it was going to touch the grass," Cespedes said through his translator in a brief interview after the game. "I started running. I didn’t think it would turn into a double play."
But given that it landed well beyond the grass and there was a runner in front of him, borrowing "I thought there were two outs" from Rios might've been the better reasoning.
The New York Daily News is giving Cespedes the tabloid treatment, using "Messpedes" and "nightmare" as it can. That's a far cry from where he was in September, when his offense was driving a resurgent Mets offense to such an extent that it generated a silly theoretical MVP discussion.
If you're wondering how this might affect his offseason, my guess is "not much." For one, I'm guessing the swings in production probably make more of an impact on the people writing about it than the people trying to put a dollar figure to it. And if the cold postseason stems from the HBP to the hand on Sept. 30, then there's even less of a reason to put stock in this slump:
Cespedes struck out twice in three plate appearances on Saturday, dropping his postseason line to .235/.245/.373, with six of his 12 hits coming in just two games. It's a stunning drop from the heights of August, and for all the talk about Cespedes' sore left shoulder, perhaps that's not the right injury to be focusing on. Back on September 30, Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus hit Cespedes on the left hand, causing the outfielder to drop to the ground in obvious pain.
Check out Cespedes' Statcast exit velocity since then -- October just looks nothing like the rest of the season.