Anyone remember “Choose Your Own Adventure” books?
For those unfamiliar, they were a series of kids books from the 80s and 90s where you got to pick how the story unfolded. At the end of each page, there would be a question and a couple of choices. Depending on which choice you made, you flipped to a different page to see what happened in the story.
Let’s try an example:
Page 1: You spent a lovely evening watching a meaningless Thursday Night Football game between the Jags and Dolphins, only to realize the Royals had a game tonight.
Do you read the recap?
No: It’s probably for the best. This is a substitute teacher recap and I wanted to try out the idea on a game no one cared about. You should probably read the Alex Gordon coverage instead.
Yes: Well, keep reading. Can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Because we don’t have some funky formatting in Chorus where you can link around to different parts of the recap, whatever actually happened will be the last answer.
Got it? Let’s go!
Page 2: You’re Detroit GM Al Avila and it’s 2017. You made the playoffs from 2011-2014 but took a major step back and watched another AL Central team, the Kansas City Royals, win the World Series in 2015. Your former owner, pizza magnate Mike Ilitch, died earlier in the season and his overspending was the only thing that kept the party going on as long as it did. It’s time to rebuild. Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, and J.D. Martinez are gone. Michael Fulmer won Rookie of the Year last year and is getting a lot of offers on the trade market. But he’s so young and has so much upside.
Do you trade him or keep him?
Trade him: You have to choose between receiving Javier Baez from the Cubs or Alex Bregman from the Astros. But you think it’s better to have a high end young hitter than a pitcher because the latter is more volatile and likely to get hurt.
Keep him: Pitching is the currency of base— wait, that was another GM. But he’s young and has upside! Unfortunately, he regresses in 2018 and has Tommy John surgery in 2019. Coming into his final game of the 2020 season, his ERA is 8.17. Spoiler: It goes up.
Page 3: You’re Brad Fullmer. It’s the first inning and you’re already in trouble. Those pesky Royals have used their slappy hitting and speed to put runners at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. You’ve only thrown 6(!) pitches and you’ve got a 1-1 count on Salvador Perez. Your first two pitches went inside: the slider was fouled off and the fastball taken for a ball.
Where do you throw your next pitch, a sinker?
Go inside again: It hangs. Molten hot Salvy crushes it almost 400 feet. Now you’re down 3-0.
Throw it outside: It hangs. Molten hot Salvy crushes it almost 400 feet. Now you’re down 3-0.
Sometimes, it just doesn’t matter what choices you make in life.
Page 4: You’re Royals starting pitcher, rookie Chris Bubic. You’re had some hard luck on the season with a record of 1-6 despite a 3.97 ERA. Walks have been creeping up the last few games so you want to try and keep them in check today, especially since you’re been spotted a 3-0 lead. Victor Reyes led off the 3rd inning with a single on a good chase pitch out of the zone. You’re down 1-0 to Willi Castro after showing him your fastball.
What do you throw?
Fastball again: It gets away from you and you find yourself down 2-0. You eventually lose him and have 2 on and nobody out to start the inning with Miggy up next. Gulp.
Changeup: You try to fool him. Only, the change doesn’t move. It just stays middle middle at 80 mph. Goodbye, baseball. The lead is now 3-2 Royals.
Page 5: You’re Tigers interim manager Lloyd McClendon. This is your third stop as manager, albeit an unexpected one. Ron Gardenhire stepped down a few days ago and here you are. The Royals have tacked on another run and are threatening with runners at 1st and 3rd and only 1 out. Fullmer is only at 42 pitches but he just doesn’t have it tonight.
Do you let him try to finish out the inning? Or go to the pen?
Finish the inning: It’s best if he gets in some practice in some rough spots. He’s still working his way back from surgery and, what the hell, you’re tanking anyway.
Go to the pen: Tyler Alexander comes in, and, with a bit of luck, gets Ryan O’Hearn to line into a double play and end the threat.
Page 6: You’re Brandon Dixon. In the 4th inning, former Royal Jorge Bonifacio comes into the game in LF and you get moved to 1B due to an injury to Jeimer Candelario. Immediately, all 3 outs are ground outs that you have a hand in, including one unassisted.
What do you do at the end of the inning?
Run to the nearest cardboard cutout and scream “I led the Tigers last year with (double take) 15 home runs and no one outside of Detroit knows that!”
I’m pretty sure that’s not what happened so we’ll just move on. It’s just that nothing happened for a couple of innings and I ran across that little bit of trivia.
Page 7: You’re Miguel Cabrera. People have talked about how you’re slowing down now at 37 but your power is still there when you get mistake pitches. Willi’s at first and this Bubic kid knows he only has a batter or two left so he’s going to give you his all. He started out the game around 93 mph, but he’s running out of gas so he’s at 89 now. The first three pitches were balls and pitch 4 was a pitcher’s pitch to put the count at 3-1. All of them have been fastballs.
What do you guess/do for the next pitch?
Expect fastball and take: Nope. It’s a change and you’re completely fooled. Still only 3-2 count.
Expect fastball and swing: Fouled off. Still only 3-2 count.
Expect offspeed and take: That was an ugly changeup in the middle. Probably could have hit that a mile but... Still only a 3-2 count.
Bubic goes back to his fastball and it’s an 89 mph meatball. 450’ mammoth shot to straightaway center. Tie game.
Page 8: You’re Adalberto Mondesi. Back on September 3rd, those Pop Tart eating, mom’s basement dwelling, HO-scale misanthropes over at Royals Review had the gall to ask “What should the Royals do with Adalberto Mondesi?” Sure, on that day, you had a .179/.209/.231 triple slash. That’s good for a .470 OPS. No, not .470 SLG. .470 OPS. Woof. Well, in the 18 games since, you’ve triple slashed .282/.329/.521. Eat it, Max!
In the 6th, Maikel Franco led off with a homer. Hunter Dozier walked and was doubled in by PH DH (yes) Jorge Soler. The Royals loaded the bases, but Whit Merrifield lined out. Now it’s Mondesi time.
What do you do?
Strike Out: Nope! 3 out of the 4 times this year, I’ve struck out with the bases loaded. Not happening here!
Hit: Line one over the shortstop and plate a pair. Take that, nerds!
Page 9: You’re Josh Staumont, owner of baseball’s best man bun. Oh, and triple digit heat. You’re called upon to pitch the 8th.
What is the best thing you can do to help the Royals win?
Strikeout the Side: Austin Romaine, Isaac Paredes, and Daz Cameron all go down swinging. One of these is not even the real name of a Tiger. But you didn’t notice because you stopped paying attention to this 8-4-battle-for-last-place innings ago. That is, if you were even paying attention at all.
Engage Tank Mode: Do you want to win the battle or the war? We need more talent and that means better draft picks. The rest of the team isn’t getting it done so it’s up to you. You serve up meatballs to Mssr. Lettuce, Paredes, and Cameron but only one gets a hit.
Curses! Nick Heath and his winning smile grabbed the last two. Let’s see how many more he can get. Victor Reyes? Nope! Single to CF. Castro? Another! Miggy? Yup! Maybe that’ll wipe the grin off his fac— man, that’s such a nice smile. I just can’t stay mad at him.
Suddenly, it’s an 8-6 game but Matheny has had enough of this. I tried my best, but it didn’t get it done. Newberry comes in and gives up another single but then strikes out Niko Goodrum to end the threat.
Page 10: Newberry gets the Tigers 1-2-3 in the 9th to get his first MLB save. The Royals hold on to win 8-7 and move their record to 24-33, 1 game ahead of the 22-33 Tigers. Jesse Hahn, who threw 1.1 scoreless innings somewhere in the middle of the game, gets his first MLB win since 2017.
You’re Alex Gordon and you just announced your retirement today. You know you’re going to the Royals Hall of Fame and they’re going to build a big
tackyawesome statue of your home run from the 2015 World Series. But what you care most about now is your growling stomach.
Which voice on your shoulder are you going to listen to about the post-game grub?
Devil Alex: You already said you were getting the kids pizza next week. Why not now?!?
Angel Alex: Raw nuts and protein shake, like always (probably). The pizza will be there soon enough.