Ned Yost knows the Heisman pose.
He has applied the stiff arm often as the Royals stand on the cusp of their first postseason appearance since 1985 and as he fields questions about playoff personnel, like a pitching rotation.
“Not talking about the playoffs,” Yost said Thursday before the Royals played the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. “We’re not there yet. I don’t want to be talking about something until we get it. Then we’ll talk about it. I’ve purposely not tried to think about all that stuff.”
The Mariners’ victory over the Blue Jays earlier on Thursday, which meant no playoff clinching opportunity for the Royals later in the day against the White Sox, assured more talk-to-the-hand communication. But Royals front-office personnel, including vice president for communications and broadcasting Mike Swanson, has to think about postseason specifics constantly.
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The team has to prepare for several possibilities, a tie-breaker game 163 on Monday, which could happen if the Royals tie the Tigers for the Central Division lead, or the Mariners for the second wild-card spot.
Flights have to be scheduled, hotel rooms booked, not just for Monday but for wild-card game possibilities. That game will be played on Tuesday, maybe in Kansas City, maybe elsewhere.
All that’s been clinched in the American League are the East and West division champions, the Orioles and the Angels. They’ll open the best-of-five division series at home. The Royals have had to make arrangements for both cities.
“We have to work everything in hypotheticals,” Swanson said. “Baseball players don’t want to deal with hypotheticals but I have to live there for a while.”
Only a few Royals on the baseball and the business side have experience here. Yost was on the staff of the Braves teams that ripped through the National League in the 1990s. But only five Royals players have appeared in the postseason.
Swanson has been with teams with several years of postseason experience, including the Diamondbacks 2001 World Series champions. Those in administration with only Royals experience prepared for the 2012 All-Star Game, but the team had planned that event for two years.
“With this, we might have two days, maybe one,” Swanson said.
The Royals’ clubhouse was loud and loose before Thursday’s game. The Blue Jays-Mariners game beamed on television sets, a heavier-than-usual media throng interviewed players.
Even Yost was in a story-telling mood.
He was a teenager living near the Bay Area and used to attend Oakland A’s games.
One day, Yost was in the stadium early enough to see rookie sensation Vida Blue throw a side session. Afterwards, Yost stopped the fire-balling lefty for an autograph.
“All I had was a dollar bill, so and asked him to sign it,” Yost said. “That was cool. Until about the sixth inning. I was hungry as (heck) and all I had was this dollar bill. I bought a Colossal Dog with it.
“About 25 years later, I was doing a clinic with Vida Blue and told the kids about it. Vida was there. When it was over he said he had something for me, and he handed me a dollar bill with his autograph on it.”