Judging the Royals

Paulo Orlando has trouble on a fly ball; why assume the worst?

Kansas City Royals right fielder Paulo Orlando was unable to catch a ball that went for a run-scoring double for Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers in the eighth inning at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on Wednesday.
Kansas City Royals right fielder Paulo Orlando was unable to catch a ball that went for a run-scoring double for Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers in the eighth inning at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on Wednesday. Tribune News Service

In the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s game, the Royals had a 3-2 lead over the Chicago White Sox when Kelvin Herrera threw Tyler Flowers a 100-mph fastball. Unfortunately, it was pretty much right down the middle of the plate.

But since the pitch was traveling 100-mph, Flowers didn’t get around on the ball and he hit it to right field. Flowers is right-handed and opposite-field power is rare; nevertheless, Flowers hit the ball over Paulo Orlando’s head.

Orlando turned to his right and started racing back toward the right-field fence. As he reached the warning track, the ball drifted back toward the right field foul pole; now it was over Orlando’s left shoulder and he had to get his body turned to make the catch.

Orlando turned his body back to his left — trying to keep an eye on the ball — but that put him in an awkward backpedal. Paulo couldn’t get turned in time, the ball hit the warning track and bounced over the fence for a ground rule-double and that allowed the tying run to score.

Social media lit up immediately and here are some of those comments:

“The collapse is unreal.”

“They are falling apart.”

“Total Timmy Lupus move out there.”

“Aoki would have taken a better route.”

“And people want Orlando to play more defense. Lololololol.”

“Our defensive replacement can’t play defense.”

“Meltdown.”

“This team is just lost!”

“This season can’t get over soon enough.”

“One bad defensive play after another this inning.”

“Yosted.”

Apparently we’re “Forever Royal” until a Royal misses a fly ball.

Why assume the worst?

Back when Jason Kendall, Chris Getz and Matt Treanor were with the Royals, they lockered in a corner of the Royals clubhouse. I spent a fair amount of time in that corner because those guys knew a lot of baseball and I wanted to learn as much as possible.

I rarely travel with the team, so when they’re on the road I don’t get to talk with them. I’ve got a few cellphone numbers, but when I asked Rusty Kuntz if I could call him when the team was out of town he said sure — but he wouldn’t pick up. So for the most part if there’s a play that raises questions, I have to wait until the team gets back home to ask about them.

(For this next bit you need to know that Chris Getz had a slight ankle sprain and was wearing a brace. Got it?)

OK, so while the Royals were on the road, Chris had been on third base with one down when the ball was hit back to the mound; Chris broke for home. The pitcher grabbed the ball and threw Chris out at home plate. That night I wrote that Chris had made a base-running mistake: he had to wait for the ball to clear the mound before breaking for home plate.

When the team returned I asked Chris if I’d gotten that right and it turned out I hadn’t: a contact play was on. Chris was supposed to break for home on contact and in the big leagues, people are too fast and throw too well for a runner to wait for the ball to clear the pitcher’s mound; do that and the runner will be out at home plate for sure. The Royals rolled the dice, put on the contact play and lost.

I told Chris I would post a correction and explain what had actually happened.

Jason Kendall had been listening to our conversation and then asked me a question: Why didn’t I wait until I knew for sure what happened and then write about it? Chris Getz was a smart ballplayer; why would I assume he made a mistake?

Jason had a great point, but I wasn’t ready to acknowledge it. In the history of arguing — and I’ve been arguing with people my whole life — I don’t think anyone has ever said: “You’re right, now that I’ve thought about it I clearly don’t know what the heck I’m talking about.”

The world would be a better place if more people would admit that, but most of us just continue to hold our ground even though our ground is quicksand and we’re sinking fast. When I’m losing an argument, I usually race around like a rat in a corner, looking for an avenue of escape and then, if I can’t find one, finish things up by saying something moronic like: “Well, if you choose to believe two plus two equals four, I guess that’s your right.”

I then march off in a huff. (Marching off in a huff is the key to this maneuver — even though I have no idea what a huff is.)

But back to Jason’s point: Kendall had landed a haymaker and I started doing what I could to keep him off me — I started backing up and jabbing. Even though it had no bearing on what Jason had asked, I responded with: “Are you telling me Chris is a perfect player?”

At that point, Jason looked down and said: “Getzie, you’re putting the brace on the wrong foot.”

We all cracked up. Chris had gotten so engrossed in the argument (I’m pretty sure he wanted to find out whether he was a perfect player) that he hadn’t been paying attention to what he was doing. I think I won the argument on a Technical Knockout — but I learned a lesson: don’t immediately assume the worst.

Some advice from Rusty Kuntz

One night Alex Gordon missed what appeared to be an easy catch, but by now I’d learned to wait before assuming the worst about a play or a player. “Inaccurate information fast” isn’t much of a newspaper slogan.

The next day I asked Rusty if Alex had lost the ball in the lights and he said yes. Rusty also said when a big-league player does something unusual like that, there’s probably something else going on and before we rip the player maybe we should all wait to find out what that something else is.

And that brings us back where we started; after Paulo Orlando missed that catch, the TV broadcast showed the flags in the outfield — the wind was howling from left to right and that’s what pushed the ball away from Orlando. Paulo did not play the ball well, but there was also an explanation for why that happened.

So the moral of the story is you might want to wait until you have all the facts before criticizing someone. But if you’d still rather express your opinions before you know what you’re talking about, here’s what you should do:

Get a Twitter account.

P.S. Just in case you gave up on them in the eighth, the Royals won the game in extra innings.

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