As a coach with the Atlanta Braves, Ned Yost participated in three All-Star Games that still resound as special to him.
Not that the prospect of managing the Midsummer Classic next month in Cincinnati is daunting or anything.
“Oh, I’m scared to death,” Yost said, his eyes and tone radiating playful sarcasm, before the Royals beat Milwaukee 10-2 on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium to enable Yost to tie Whitey Herzog for the most wins in franchise history with 410.
No, he quickly added, it’s going to be a blast.
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And the coolest part of it will be the way perceptions will change in the context of becoming a team — much the same way Yost came through All-Star Games to view Barry Bonds as fun despite the fact he “couldn’t stand Barry on the field.”
“A lot of those guys you really don’t like, or you really don’t know, you know? But you get ’em inside that locker room and close the door, and they’re the American League All-Star team,” he said. “They become a team. And it’s just like what goes on in our locker room.”
More than usual in this case.
After all, along with Yost’s coaching staff, the Royals as of the most recent balloting results released Monday stand to have an unprecedented eight starters in the All-Star lineup on July 14.
The development all at once is fascinating, amusing and a travesty.
But most emphatically it’s a reflection of a revitalized and resourceful fan base availing itself to the system. And, heck, who’s to say that fan base just is here?
Ballots are cast through the Internet, and Royals general manager Dayton Moore saw prolific international interest in the wake of the Royals’ astounding run to game seven of the World Series in the organization’s first postseason appearance since 1985.
At least as he sees it, this isn’t just the Royals against the world.
“It’s fans throughout the world,” said Moore, citing images he received of fans bearing Royals gear from all over the globe and the credibility the team earned because of the way it “plays the game, the respect they have for the fans and the respect they have for the game.”
This phenomenon is an easy thing to mock or be skeptical about, of course, especially with this week’s development:
The dividing line between rational and irrational, plausible and absurd is that there is no case for Omar Infante to be the starting second baseman.
From where we sit, that’s more evidence that this should be treated as a mere exhibition instead of a game that determines home-field advantage in the World Series.
“If it doesn’t count, just play it in spring training like all those games …,” he said. “It should count. It should stand for something.”
The Infante development also may have informed Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to make a brief statement on Wednesday at Fenway Park.
“We’ll see how it all turns out …,” he told reporters there. “We are responsive and open to change (in the future) if we get a result that is not consistent with the goals of the system that is in place.”
The only thing clear about the vague notion of “goals of the system that is in place” is that it’s all about the fans, though.
“The fans are why we do this, and the fans in this case have the final say,” Moore said. “And you respect the process. It’s a democracy, right?”
So until someone proves, or even alleges, that Royals fans have engaged in some kind of hacking scheme instead of just going to extremes within the system, any anger or resentment at Royals fans is misdirected.
And the Royals themselves have handled this beautifully.
First, they’ve had a sense of humor.
Yost joked Tuesday night that he pinch-hit reserve outfielder Jarrod Dyson because he needed All-Star votes, and he essentially could only laugh it off Wednesday when asked where he might bat lone interloper Mike Trout in the current lineup.
They’ve also had a sense of humility, as perhaps best displayed by Infante in an interview with The Star’s Andy McCullough in Milwaukee earlier this week.
A sheepish Infante called Houston second baseman Jose Altuve his favorite player to watch and added, “If I go, I’ll go. I don’t complain about that. If I don’t go, that’s good, because I don’t have a good enough season to go to the All-Star Game.”
Moreover, Yost’s recent mantra is spot-on. He repeated it in a slightly tweaked form Wednesday.
“Vote, vote, vote, and not only Royals fans: Indians fans, Houston fans, Angels fans — vote!” Yost said. “That’s what it’s there for. Get out and vote …
“Instead of complaining about it, go vote. I’m not in charge of voting. I’m going to do what we do here. I’m going to take the team that they give me, and we’re going to go out and do the very best we can with it.”
Whatever elements of a charade this has to it, that’s another crucial point here: In part because the Royals were beneficiaries of home-field advantage in the World Series last season, Yost is extremely conscious of the stakes.
“We know how important it is,” he said.
Now Yost and a team that will be a lot like the one in his own clubhouse will have considerable say in trying to secure that again — in their own self-interest as much as anything else.