Royals’ manager Ned Yost typically arises around 5 a.m., unless, that is, he was restless and vacuuming at 3, as he did once during the playoffs.
But on the morning after the all-consuming thrill ride abruptly ended, no doubt mirroring much the same feeling as his players, he didn’t want to get out of bed.
He just wanted to lie there, really.
Not to mope, but to keep processing and decompressing from the Royals’ narrow, harrowing 3-2 loss in game seven of the World Series that ended a stupefying playoff run that Yost called “magical.”
As happy as he was to be surrounded by family, he only halfheartedly took part in breakfast when he did get up.
“I just want to kind of just get in a closet and shut the door and be quiet for a little while,” he said. “And reflect on all of this.”
In the immediate aftermath, Yost said he felt no true sense of regret over anything along the way.
Later, though, he felt compelled to confess one thing he wished he’d done differently.
After San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner had smothered the Royals in game five Sunday at AT&T Park, Yost was passing near the Giants’ dugout on his way to the interview room.
He called over to Bumgarner, the World Series’ most valuable player.
“ ‘Congratulations, you were just unbelievably good,’ ” Yost recalled saying. “And I told him, ‘You know what? I’m sure glad I don’t have to see you again.’ ”
Yost paused and laughed as he considered the five innings of relief Bumgarner provided Wednesday.
“Dang if that didn’t come back to bite me,” Yost said. “But who’d have dreamed this kid, after throwing 120 pitches, would come out and throw five innings of relief (three days later) in game seven?
“I mean, who’d have believed it?”
The same could be said of the Royals navigating their way to game seven of the World Series in their first playoff appearance since 1985, a postseason berth that was in doubt until the final days of the season and hinged on a rally from four runs down in the eighth inning of the American League Wild Card Game against Oakland.
Despite the likely departures of James Shields and Billy Butler because of the economics of the game, the breakthrough with a nucleus of young players seems to portend more exciting times to come.
Not that Yost is ready to speculate on the roster or what improvements the Royals have to make.
“I’m brain-fried,” he said.
But not so much that he couldn’t offer perspective on the transformation of a team.
First, it was evident in the group dynamic of players who had struggled to perform in front of larger crowds.
“You try to always diffuse that, but a lot of times it was true,” Yost said. “We would get to points where we would play a big series and crowds over 30,000, and we didn’t really play well. We were pressing. We were trying too hard to do good.
“And for some reason, the minute that the playoffs started, that ended (and a switch flipped). That’s what it was, and how that happened, or why that happened, I don’t know.
“But it happened. And all of a sudden they went from trying too hard to believing that they belonged there … in front of the country.
“When you think that the opposite had been true, when they would press a little in front of 30,000 fans, now they’re playing in front of millions and millions of people and they were totally comfortable in that environment. And that was fantastic to watch.”
Then look at some of the microdynamics, particularly when it came to Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain.
“If we didn’t get into the playoffs, Moose would have went home having a horrible year. Hos would have went home having a subpar year. Cain would have went home having an OK year,” Yost said. “All three of them went home having great years, I mean phenomenal years, with what they did in the playoffs.
“So it’s only going to benefit them come next spring.”
As for this fall, this group all at once resuscitated a franchise, revived a city’s sense of hope and seemed to capture the imagination of a nation as a colorful underdog entwined with a city.
“We talk about the energy that we feel on the field, from our fans,” Yost said after some 12,000-15,000 fans showed up at Kauffman Stadium for a tribute Thursday morning. “(But), look, you feel it through the TV, too, sitting in California. You feel it sitting in Georgia. The energy that our fans brought forth throughout the whole country.
“It was amazing to watch, and a lot of people I talked to would say, ‘That was a great game, but what about those fans? That has to be wild, that has to be crazy.’ And it’s like yeah, it’s the best part of it. …
“That’s the one thing we’ll take with us forever, how special it was with our fans during this time.”
It would have been more special, of course, if the Royals had prevailed in game seven.
They had one thrilling last chance to tie it with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Alex Gordon scurried to third on a single and two-base error.
Could Gordon have scored on the play if third-base coach Mike Jirschele hadn’t held him up?
Maybe … if yet another thing went wrong on the relay.
But Yost knows from his own experience as a third-base coach that there are differences between gambling, hoping and a calculated chance.
“And to just blindly hope with luck that we can score a run doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
So a Royals’ season that would have made no sense to expect ended with Salvador Perez popping up in foul ground, then a stadium momentarily muted before it burst into chilling chants of “Let’s Go, Royals!”
It ended with Yost going to the San Francisco clubhouse to congratulate counterpart Bruce Bochy … in yet another decision that Yost seemed to learn in a postseason that reflected an intriguing evolution of his own.
“After we won the Baltimore series, Buck (Showalter) came over and congratulated me,” Yost said. “And it never occurred to me that managers had that much class to do that, right?
“So I just wanted to make sure that I went over there to tell Bruce how much I enjoyed managing against him and congratulations on another great run.”
So now Yost heads home to his farm in Georgia to hook up his tractor to a bush-hog and clean up 90 acres of road and tighten deer stands.
He’ll start decompressing, fully appreciating the season as he ponders what may come of it.
And soon he’ll no doubt be eager to get up and get going a lot sooner than he was Thursday.
“When you come up short like we did this year, it even intensifies your hunger to get back,” said Yost, who had participated in many postseasons as a coach with the Braves and a player with Milwaukee. “Until you experience it, it’s hard to understand what it’s about.
“Once you do experience it and fall short, you come back twice as hungry next year to get that final one run that you need to win that world championship.”