For Pete's Sake

Why didn’t the Royals send Alex Gordon in 2014 World Series? Blame the scouts

Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon made a long, lonely walk from third base to the dugout after he was left stranded on third as the possible tying run in the Royals’ 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon made a long, lonely walk from third base to the dugout after he was left stranded on third as the possible tying run in the Royals’ 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. skeyser@kcstar.com

You know the story, and you may be sick of hearing it by now.

But it’s a good time to look back on The Hold, because on Wednesday night the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs will play in Game 7 of the World Series, the first time the Fall Classic has gone the distance since that classic two years ago at Kauffman Stadium.

In Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner came on in relief in the fifth inning, with just two days of rest after he shut out the Royals in Game 5.

Bumgarner had retired 12 straight as the Giants took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Eric Hosmer then struck out and Billy Butler popped out. Alex Gordon stepped to the plate, representing the Royals’ last hope.

“C’mon Gordy!” Yost yelled from the dugout.

Gordon fouled off the first pitch he saw from Bumgarner, then looped a single to left center in front of a hard-charging Gregor Blanco and the ball skipped past Blanco. Juan Perez had not been backing up the play and ran to get the ball, which rolled to the wall. Perez fumbled the ball and it skipped away from him.

After a slow start from the batter’s box, Gordon hit the gas and made it all the way to third base, setting the stage for the most talked-about play in Royals history.

Gordon had reached third when the cutoff man — shortstop Crawford — received the throw.

Salvador Perez followed and popped out to end the game and the World Series. Sports fans everywhere debated whether third-base coach Mike Jirschele should have sent Gordon home to try and score the tying run.

A lot of scorn was heaped on Jirschele, but Royals advanced scout Alec Zumwalt was on a “The Ringer” podcast last month and discussed why the Royals had to hold Gordon.

“The call was absolutely 100 percent correct, holding Gordon at third,” Zumwalt said. “Brandon Crawford doesn’t get enough credit for how good of a shortstop he is. And if he had caught that ball and turned around and threw like I had seen him throw and like other people our organization who have seen him throw, I might have passed out right there.

“Winning run? OK, we can take the chance on the winning run. But the tying run with Salvy coming up — and Salvy’s clutch wild-card hit on a pitch that was not even in the strike zone — against Madison Bumgarner, I’ll take those chances. I would do it again. I would do it 100 times in a row before I would ever thought to test Brandon Crawford’s throw to home plate.”

Zumwalt said that in spring training in 2015, he could help laughing as Jirschele was asked time and again about the play.

“Our inside joke,” Zumwalt said, “was why don’t you just throw me under the bus, Jirsch, and say, ‘Well the advance guy...’ To this day, my wife still gets on me: ‘we should have sent him.’

“She hasn’t seen Brandon Crawford throw like I’ve seen him throw. In my opinion it’s a 70 arm and his accuracy is unbelievable. Then factor in the fact who’s catching the ball to make the tag (Buster Posey) on top of, it’s a very bad combination.

“What if Gordon falls down? He could just as easily have fallen down coming around third right there.”

With the help of the Rockhurst University baseball team, we recreated the end of the play. While Alex Gordon stopped at third in the real game, we told a Rockhurst baserunner to keep running through third base and a defender positioned in left fie

The advanced scouting report ahead of the World Series specifically mentioned that the Royals shouldn’t challenge Crawford.

“Me and Jirsch have joked,” Zumwalt said, “but there it is: do not test Brandon Crawford. Do not test him.”

Although he was part of last year’s World Series championship organization, Zumwalt still is in awe about that 2014 postseason.

“You’ve got to give the guys a lot of credit that they even got there, because did anybody have us picked to play the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the World Series? No, nobody.”

This is the chat and there is a lot of great stuff here:

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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