So the other day, Frank White was talking about his upcoming return to the Kauffman Stadium field when he mentions that he sometimes turns down the volume on Royals games to do his own analysis right there at home.
I do hope you read the column, because I learned some things about Frank and his side of a very complicated relationship with the Royals. But in some ways, the most interesting part of what we talked about was this sort of private broadcast he now does at home instead of in the booth.
A fan’s taste in broadcasters is a lot like a person’s taste in fashion. We all have our own likes and dislikes. But when the Royals went from Frank to Rex Hudler for color commentary, those are opposite ends of the spectrum, and there are strong feelings all around.
But, regardless, Frank is missed by many, which made one part of our conversation particularly interesting. He was talking about analyzing replays, his favorite part of that old job, finding things others may have missed.
“You know,” he said, “Escobar created his own problem on that play with Lawrie.”
So, that’s interesting. Brett Lawrie’s slide into Alcides Escobar in April is, perhaps, the most memorable play of this Royals season. It is almost certainly the most talked about, and a central moment in all of the drama that has largely defined this season. And I don’t think I’ve heard anyone make this point. I know I never thought about it.
Frank won eight Gold Gloves in the middle infield. He knows what he’s talking about here. So I asked him to expand, but first, let’s watch the play again:
Basically, Frank’s point revolves around Escobar putting his left foot on the bag and stretching forward. But enough from me. Here’s Frank:
“I think sometimes, as middle infielders, we can create our own problems by how we set up on the base. Escobar being a shortstop, he was caught up on the second base side. And then it becomes footwork. So, if you’re a base runner coming into second base to break up the double play, you look for the left foot to be on the bag.”
The left foot being on the bag is a sign, in other words, that the infielder thinks there’s a play at first base. Here’s Frank again:
“But if the fielder switches to his right foot, taking a position like he’s a first baseman, now you know you’re just trying to get one out. So now they’re going into the base to be safe. But what Escobar did, when he had his left foot on the base, he stretches with his right foot, and when his right foot hit the ground it just locked himself in. He couldn’t move.”
We’re talking about middle infielders here, so obviously we’re assuming right-handed throwers. The general idea is that if your right foot is on the bag, and you stretch with your left, it’s easier to get off the bag and out of the way of danger.
“But if you put the left foot on the bag, and you stretch to the throw, when your right foot hits you’re locked into that spot,” Frank says. “You can’t go forward, you can’t go backward. All you can do is fall over on your back if you want to. That’s about it. So, basically, sometimes, because of the footwork we use in the middle sometimes you can get yourself in a pickle if you use the wrong approach.”
In Escobar’s defense, it was an awkward play from the jump. The Royals were in a shift, and shortstops aren’t used to coming from that other side of the bag. Also, the ball hit off the pitcher’s foot, taking a big hop to Mike Moustakas, which throws off the timing. If Escobar was able to run through the bag, he might have avoided contact. As it happened, he was set up on the bag, with the wrong foot, and became a stationary target.
It’s an interesting thought, no?
To be clear, Frank isn’t saying that Escobar did anything wrong. Didn’t break any rules. Didn’t purposefully put himself in a bad spot. Just that the contact is something that middle infielders work to avoid.
Before we got off the phone, I told Frank I’d never heard anyone make this point.
“That’s why I loved doing what I was doing,” he said, and he laughed.