Yesterday you, the Royals Review critical spirit, voted Nori Aoki getting hit in the nuts as the hands-down winner for funniest Royals moment of 2014. I agree. If you didn't have a belly-laugh at that, you do not have a soul.
We continue our list of voting for nominees for the SB Nation Awards with the most regrettable moment of 2014.
It was a different kind of year to have regret as a Royals fan. In the past, our regrets have been more of the "I regret ever becoming a Royals fan" variety. The game-to-game foolishness didn't really seem to have high enough stakes to regret a single moment.
However in 2014, EVERYTHING MATTERED! It was finally OUR TIME, and ever stupid decision, bone-head play, or general malarkey was magnified. I present to you your choices for THE most regrettable Royals moment of 2014.
Pitching Scott Downs to Jonny Gomes against Boston
I will always remember this game because I was sitting in a hospital with my wife waiting for the birth of my third son when OH MY GOD NED YOST YOU ARE AN IDIOT! Pure anger and rage followed minutes later by pure happiness. So my third son will always have that hanging over his head.
For those of you that don't recall, on July 18, the Royals were 48-46, hovering around .500 and hoping to be close enough to contention to make a move at the July deadline. They were in Boston to play the floundering Red Sox following the All-Star break and jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the sixth. James Shields had labored, and after giving up a two-run home run and a ground-rule double, Ned Yost finally pulled him after 112 pitches. The scheduled hitter was light-hitting left-hander Jackie Bradley Jr., so Ned brought in recently acquired lefty specialist Scott Downs.
Except Ned Yost forgot that you are TOTALLY ALLOWED TO SUBSTITUTE THE SCHEDULED HITTER. In stepped lefty-masher Jonny Gomes to face Downs, and with Downs required to face at least one hitter, the die was cast. Gomes promptly hit a two-run home run to give the Red Sox the lead for good, and the Royals slim playoff hopes seemed to be slipping away. Ned later explained he had "outsmarted himself" which pretty much summed up his 2014 managerial style in one phrase.
Pitching Aaron Crow to Daniel Nava against Boston
I don't know if it is their three rings in the last eleven seasons, or the aroma of New England clam chowder, but whenever Ned Yost is around the Boston Red Sox, his brain seems to turn as mushy as Boston baked beans.
In mid-September, the Royals definitely found themselves in a pennant race, and were just one game out of first place. They had dropped the first two of three against last place Boston, needing a win on Sunday to split the series. With the Royals leading 4-3 in the sixth, Jason Vargas was pulled with one out after allowing two singles. The Royals had a deep bullpen with plenty of relief options to choose from, but Ned Yost chose the worst possible option - Aaron Crow.
Although Crow had been a former All-Star, he had struggled mightily in 2014, unable to throw strikes, and worse yet, unable to strike anyone out. Predictably, Crow walked Yoenis Cespedes to load the bases, then surprised everyone by striking out the struggling Allen Craig.
Up stepped Daniel Nava, who had also struggled much of the year, but could do one thing well - HIT RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS. Aaron Crow is a right-handed pitcher. The formula was quite simple - pull Aaron Crow for a left-hander. Ned Yost did not do this you see, because Aaron Crow is "his sixth inning guy." So this happened....
Pitching Yordano Ventura in the Wild Card game
Sometimes in the post-season crazy things happen and players are put into unfamiliar situations because the stakes are so high and every game matters. Starting pitchers may be pressed into relief duty as we saw in Game 7 of the World Series with Madison Bumgarner. Ned decided to take that principle to its illogical extreme in the Wild Card, with near-disastrous results.
The Royals lead the Athletics 3-2 in the sixth inning, but with James Shields laboring, Ned Yost pulled his ace after a single and walk. The Royals had an effective and well-rested bullpen, as well as former starting pitcher Danny Duffy available in relief. Instead, they turned to rookie starting pitcher Yordano Ventura, who had just thrown 73 pitches in a start two days prior to end the regular season. Yordano Ventura, who stands at about 5'10'' and weighs about 175 sopping wet who throws in the high 90s, was asked to be the workhorse and go on short rest despite all the plentiful options.
Ventura promptly gave up a three-run home run to Brandon Moss, the second home run of the game for the slugger. After a single, wild pitch, and a fly ball later, Ned decided to end the Ventura experiment. The Royals would have to overcome a four-run deficit to win the ballgame, but it didn't have to be so difficult if Ned Yost could get out of his own way.
Alcides Escobar bunting in Game 7 of the World Series
"Small ball is the new Moneyball" was a popular refrain during the Royals post-season run, but the fact is the Royals had succeeded largely due to a greater home run and walk rate in October than they had enjoyed during the regular season. Nonetheless, when the club found it hard to score runs at times, they would employ the bunt to move runners along. In Game Seven of the Fall Classic, the Royals jumped on starter Tim Hudson for a pair of early runs. But when starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner entered the game in the fifth inning, the Royals felt like their scoring chances were dwindling.
So when second baseman Omar Infante led off the inning with a single, the wheels went into motion. On a 2-0 count, Alcides Escobar lay down a bunt (he later said it was on his own), despite the fact it was a hitters count and Escobar was one of the few right-handed hitters in the lineup against a tough lefty like Bumgarner.
Aaron Reese at Kings of Kauffman has pretty good evidence on why this was such a bad decision. Infante advanced to second, and was stranded there as Nori Aoki lined out to left and Lorenzo Cain struck out to end the threat. Bumgarner would retire the next eleven hitters until Alex Gordon's single which leads us to...
Not sending Alex Gordon on the outfield error in Game 7 of the World Series
So much has been written about this, and I have reviewed the tape more times than the Zapruder film. So here it is again.