Judging the Royals

Royals spot starter Yohan Pino pitches five-and-a-third innings

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yohan Pino (63) wipes his forehead after giving up an RBI single to Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts in the five run second inning during Friday's baseball game on June 19, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yohan Pino (63) wipes his forehead after giving up an RBI single to Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts in the five run second inning during Friday's baseball game on June 19, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Now there’s an exciting headline; I wrote it and even think it’s boring, but it’s in the headline for a reason. On Friday night Yohan Pino pitched five and a third innings against the Boston Red Sox, and it’s the most important thing Pino did. Yohan gave up six runs total and by the time the five-run second inning was over, the game was pretty much out of hand.

By continuing to pitch Pino allowed Ned Yost and the Royals to get through the game while using only three pitchers: Pino, Brandon Finnegan and Luke Hochevar. That means most of the Royals bullpen is still available for Saturday and Sunday’s game.

Ned has told me that when a starting pitcher gets blown up early, fans will start yelling at him: "Can’t you see what’s happening?"

Yeah, he can see. But if a manager panics and pulls a starting pitcher too soon, he can destroy his bullpen for the next day or two—one loss becomes two or three. Sometimes a starting pitcher doesn’t have it and when that happens the starting pitcher may have to wear it: stay out there and throw pitches so his team has a chance to win the next day and the day after that.

Friday night Yohan Pino wore it and that’s worth a headline.

What a manager does

When outsiders think of baseball managers we tend to judge them on the things that are obvious: game management—the Xs and Os—and dealing with the media. But managing a big league baseball team is like an iceberg; there’s a whole lot going on underneath the surface. A manager has to handle a clubhouse, deal with a coaching staff, negotiate with the front office, organize spring training and a hundred other things that aren’t obvious to those of us who never managed.

Some years back I had a buddy on another team who didn’t think his manager was very good—until his manager got replaced.

The first manager was not that good on the Xs and Os, but he ran a happy, relaxed clubhouse; players liked him and played hard for him. The guy who replaced him was better at game management, but was so uptight he spread that to his team. Players were now uptight as well and worried about what the manager would do next—and as you might have guessed the team got better results under the first guy.

Manager Ned Yost just became the Kansas City Royals career leader in victories and despite some people complaining about his game management Ned has survived long enough to set the record. We can all have opinions, but fans—and those of us in the media—really don’t know everything a manager does or how well he does it.

And it appears Ned Yost is doing something right.

Game notes

  • Friday night Brandon Finnegan failed to cover first base and you just can’t have that in the big leagues. Outs are hard to come by and giving the other team four in an inning is eventually going to bite you in the backside.
  • Like managers, we tend to judge pitchers on the things that are obvious—ERA, WHIP, Batting Average Against—but like managers, pitchers do a whole lot of stuff we don’t think about. Does a pitcher hold runners well? How is he out of the slide step? Is his pickoff move worth a damn? Fielding his position is another one of things we don’t think too much about until we see a pitcher mess it up—and Friday night Brandon Finnegan messed it up.
  • In the fourth inning Blake Swihart tried to steal second base and beat the throw, but came off the bag when he did a pop-up slide. Alcides Escobar kept the tag on him and when an infielder does that it tells you he probably knows the runner beat the throw; if they think the throw beat the runner infielders will hold the ball up and show it to the umpire.
  • But back to that pop-up slide: why do a pop-up slide there? Where was Swihart planning to go next? By doing a pop-up slide Swihart gave Escobar a chance to keep the tag on him—and maybe give a little shove while doing so—and get an out when Swihart came off the bag. Knowing which slide is appropriate for which situation is part of being a complete ballplayer.
  • OK, so the Royals hit poorly in St. Louis when they played a team with the best ERA in baseball, came to life against the Milwaukee Brewers—a team 28th in team ERA—and didn’t do much against Eduardo Rodriguez, a rookie who’s been very good in three of his four starts. I’m sensing a pattern here.

Pablo Sandoval and baseball etiquette

Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval recently got in trouble for using his cell phone during a game: he clicked "like" on a woman’s photographs after they appeared in his Instagram account. This is the same team that had a problem with pitchers going up to the clubhouse and having chicken dinners while their teammates played—and in the baseball world, this is not considered cool.

Players not in the game are expected to stay in the dugout and root for their teammates. It’s OK to go up to the clubhouse, but any visit should be short. It’s bad baseball etiquette to go sit in the air conditioning while your teammates are out on the field sweating their butts off. It’s also bad baseball etiquette to be more interested in liking photos than watching the game.

Fans can learn a lot just by looking at the dugout: who’s talking to who? (My computer says that should be who’s taking to whom, but I ain’t buying it.) Who’s up on the rail? Who’s lounging back on the bench? And if a fan notices a player is gone from the dugout for an extended period of time, he might have also noticed some bad baseball etiquette.

And getting on your Instagram sccount during a game is definitely bad baseball etiquette.

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