KC Royals: Kansas City’s biggest mistakes of 2019

KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals,
KC Royals, /

Alex Gordon, a sure future member of the KC Royals’ Hall of Fame, had long wanted to pitch in a live game. He got his chance in late August. But was it really a good idea?

Some baseball moves are mistakes not because they significantly affect a player, game or season. Context, rather than immediate impact, can turn a seemingly innocent move into a subtle (or not so subtle) mistake. Such was the case with a move made by KC Royals’ manager Ned Yost during a late-season 19-4 loss to Oakland.

With the Royals trailing 15-3 after six innings, Yost chose Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon to pitch the seventh. That Yost would summon a position player for mound duty in such a lopsided game wasn’t surprising; it was surprising that he picked Gordon instead of a bench player. Indeed, Yost had Humberto Arteaga, a seldom-used Royals’ utility infielder, to relieve Gordon in the eighth, and utility man Chris Owings pitched almost two innings of a 16-1 loss to Texas earlier in the season.

Yost, however, and as reported by mlb.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, was apparently helping Gordon fulfill a wish to pitch he’d long harbored, and accepting Gordon’s offer of help.

Once on the mound, Gordon worked rapidly but awkwardly. Fans seemed to welcome the distraction from the beat down the novelty of his pitching provided; Gordon made a few good pitches, but his effort added to the unsightly mess that the game had become for the Royals as he surrendered hits to half the 10 batters he faced, including a home run to Matt Chapman, and gave up three runs in his 1.1 innings of work.

Pitching Alex Gordon didn’t cause the Royals to lose and had no real impact on the outcome. It was a mistake of another kind, one that emphasized the loss of not only the game but also the season. And although the KC pen was tired and depleted–seven Royals’ hurlers pitched the afternoon before in a 10-inning win at Cleveland–others were available. So, too, were bench players like Arteaga; it is a harsh reality of the game that such players are typically pressed into pitching duty before regulars like Gordon, simply to minimize the risk of injury to the latter.

Yost’s heart may have been in the right place, but his veteran baseball mind may not have been. Although Gordon may have wanted to pitch, the manager’s decision to let him could have led to serious injury to one of the best outfield arms in the game. Gordon is considering retirement–an injury caused by an unnecessary mound appearance could have rendered such a decision moot.

Hopefully, any desire Gordon had to pitch in the big leagues has been satisfied. The decision to let him do so didn’t figure in the game or season, but it was a mistake nonetheless. It didn’t look good and could have caused a result far worse than the loss.