Magazine article USA TODAY

Offseason Baseball Banter Focuses on Fall Classic's Faux Pas: Did a Mere Two Pitches Decide the World Series?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Offseason Baseball Banter Focuses on Fall Classic's Faux Pas: Did a Mere Two Pitches Decide the World Series?

Article excerpt

Baseball banter this offseason, instead of revolving around the latest free agent signings and managerial hirings and firings, will be centered (or at least it should be) on one pivotal question: why do today's players absolutely refuse to run their hardest?--and we're not referring to the occasional malingerer ... you know, that lazy loser on a last-place team who does not run out a grounder to second when his team is 20 games out of first and the temperature is soaring into the mid 90s during the dog days of August. What we're referring to is the everyday abuse of the game's most basic tenet, one taught to first-year Little Leaguers on the first day of spring practice--run hard!

Imagine it's Game 7 of the World Series: two out in the bottom of the ninth inning; your team down by a run; and you hit a sinking liner to centerfield. If that's not the occasion to bust it right out of the batter's box, what is? If not then, when? Yet, there goes the Kansas City Royals' Alex Gordon at less than full throttle toward first base. San Francisco Giants centerfielder Gregor Blanco misplays the ball and it gets by him. Leftfielder Juan Perez is slow to back up Blanco, and the ball rolls all the way to the wall. Perez then bobbles the suddenly slick horsehide, and frantically scampers a few more feet along the warning track to retrieve it. He heaves his throw to the cutoff man, shortstop Brandon Crawford, who turns to throw home for a play at the plate, for surely, by this time, Gordon is rounding third with the tying run in what will go down in the history books and the collective memory of fans as one of the most dramatic and momentous plays in Fall Classic history, especially if the Royals somehow manage to win the game.

Crawford, though, never had to peg the ball to the plate where catcher Buster Posey stood ready to take the relay, as Gordon was only chugging into third, having been held (justifiably) by third base coach Mike Jirschele. Unbelievable, you might think, but you'd be wrong. It's so believable as to be predictable.

Again, let's review. The small-market, low-salaried Royals had shocked the baseball world by making the playoffs for the first time in 29 years. Their last postseason appearance had been in 1985, when they won the franchise's lone world's championship. The 2014 version was young, hungry, and aggressive, a team loaded with athleticism. They had blown through the wild card round, Division Series, and American League Championship Series in 8-0 fashion, electrifying friend and foe alike along the way.

When Gordon stepped up to the plate, however, the Royals were desperate. Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, on two days rest, had not given up a run in 4 2/3 innings of relief work. He already had won two games in the Series, hurling a shutout and yielding just one run in seven innings in his other start. …

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