Sure, Alex Gordon Would Probably Have Been Thrown Out At Home — They Should Have Sent Him Anyway
First, let's start with the disclaimer that I recognize saying anyone "should have" done anything from the comfort of my computer screen is obnoxious. Hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to criticize when we'll never know how my choice would have played out in real time.
That being said, the Royals should have waved Alex Gordon around third to try and tie the game off an epic inside-the-park-home run (aided by two errors). Even if the Royals players themselves don't agree.
You've seen the hit by now -- only the second World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner gave up in five innings of relief work, two days after pitching a shut-out -- and the ensuing madness of the misplayed ball in the outfield by both Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez, but here it is for the record:
The decision to hold up Gordon at third will go down as one of the greatest what-ifs in baseball history. Some people think it would have been suicide:
Yes, Gordon would have been out by 15 feet had he gone home. So please, drop that narrative. pic.twitter.com/0g02CuIC9z
— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) October 30, 2014
While others think it would have been a worthy gamble:
You send Gordon, and it's one of the 5 greatest baseball moments ever, regardless of whether he scores.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 30, 2014
If we're being honest, that doesn't look like a great bet for Gordon. Brandon Crawford's an excellent shortstop with a good arm, Gordon is 220 pounds, and a throw from shallow left only needs about two seconds to get to the plate.
But sending Gordon around would have been a good call, if not the right one, for a few reasons:
1) As everyone knows, that play at the plate would have been awesome. Even if he's thrown out, a Game 7 in the World Series coming down a collision at home plate is probably the most epic thing ever. The moment Perez bobbled that ball, you know everyone in the world was thinking the same thing: "GO FOR IT."
But the Royals weren't in the business of doing "awesome" things just for awesomeness sake -- they wanted to win the game. So let's be more practical.
2) That was only the sixth hit Bumgarner had given up in the last 14 innings. He completely blanked the Royals in Game 7 despite pitching on two days rest. He was nearly untouchable. The fact that Gordon got on base at all was a minor miracle, and it came with two outs in the ninth. The likelihood of the next guys up getting Gordon home was small.
3) Speaking of which, the next two batters were Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas. Perez is a league-average hitter, and Moustakas batted .212 this season (and .217 in the World Series). If anyone was going to get another hit off of Bumgarner, it probably wouldn't be these guys. Perez validated that assumption by popping out in foul territory to end the game.
4) The Giants in the field were clearly shook on that play. While Bumgarner was the picture of stoicism, his teammates in the field almost blew it with two consecutive miscues despite playing at "no-doubles" depth. The Giants were stellar on defense all series, but perhaps the pressure was getting to them in the bottom of the ninth in Kansas City. Bumgarner was dominating -- let the other guys beat you instead. If Crawford's throw is even slightly off line, that could have been the difference between a run and an out.
Yes, Gordon would most likely have been out. Yes, Perez could have hit a Series-winning home run and made Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele look like a genius. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't have gone for it. Considering the circumstances -- facing a legendary pitching performance, backed up by a defense that appeared to be wilting under pressure, and with no bat of substance on-deck or in the hole -- sending Gordon seems like it would have been the right move.
Oh well. On the other hand, how pissed we would have been if Gordon had been waved around and been nailed by 20 feet? What a lame ending, we'd say. At least give Perez a chance to tie it, we'd write. So it goes.
Photo via FOX screencap
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