Kansas City Losing at Baseball and Poker!
On September 26, 2014, the Kansas City Royals clinched their first playoff berth since winning the World Series in 1985. They beat the Oakland Athletics in a crazy extra inning wild card game then proceeded to sweep the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the American League Division Series and the Baltimore Orioles for the American League Championship Series. The Royals were the first team in Major League Baseball history to win their first eight postseason games in a row. They eventually lost the World Series to the San Francisco Giants in seven games stranding the tying run 90 feet away from home plate in game seven. It was the most improbable of comebacks that set an expectation for Royals' fans everywhere. An expectation filled the following year as the "Comeback Kids" won the World Series, beating the New York Mets in five games and bringing Championship baseball back to Kansas City after thirty years.
Now two years later, every Yals' fan wishes they were playing with the same cards they were in 2014. That "keep the line moving" deal hasn't happened. The Royals have been in a "Broomcorn's Uncle" slump all season yet still managed to be only two games back of the Central Division leading Cleveland Indians through July 28. They did it running hot - winning nine-games in a row. The Royals' faithful didn't know if Manger Ned Yost was dealing from the bottom of the deck or just playing lucky, but it was looking like the days of 2014 were back and every Gold Crown wearing fan expected the Royals' bullpen to throw all aces and their offense to explode with straights and flushes.
It didn't happen. The Kansas City faithful sat silent as their team either folded or lost every other hand they played, losing 19 of 29 games and dropping to 10 games back of the Indians and 3.5 games back of the Minnesota Twins for the final Wildcard spot. While fans were screaming "miss deal," Yost announced his team was "all in" to make a run at the playoffs! "All-In!" The Poker King defines the term "All-In" as, "A player that has put the last of their chips into the pot. When a player is "All-In" they cannot perform another action because they don't have any chips left." Yost has lots of chips left. Why is he calling "All-In?"
Betting blind is not playing "All-In!" Yost continues to leave designated hitter Brandon Moss (Avg .201, 17 HR, .712) and left fielder Alex Gordon (Avg .199, 4 HR, .570 OPS) in the lineup while Jorge Bonifacio sits on the bench with a .257 AVG, 16 HR, and .762 OPS! He runs through the bullpen inning by inning with similar reckless abandon. The "know when to hold them, know when to fold them" Yost of years past has turned rogue and seems to play every hand. This Royals' management pattern of playing the same cards in the same way game after game hoping for a different result has to end. The Royals not only lost five straight during that stretch, they were getting shut out in the process.
Kansas City set a new team record of 45 innings without a run scored just three innings short of the all time Major League record of 48 innings held by the 1906 Philadelphia Athletics and the 1968 Chicago Cubs. Since the Designated Hitter rule came into effect in 1973, no American League team has been shutout four games in a row until the Kansas City Royals! No team has been shut out in five straight games since 1913. Thankfully Whit Merrifield made sure KC wouldn't be dealt that hand when he homered to left propelling the Royals to their first win in five games beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6 to 2. Unfortunately they lost again to the Rays the following night with Tampa Bay winning their first series in Kansas City since 2009.
Despite the Royals finding their bats with 3 home runs against the Rays, Moss and Gordon collectively went 0-4 combined. So what is Yost waiting for? As far as batting is concerned Moss and Gordon have been holding on to a pair of deuces waiting on a face card for the entire season. If Kansas City's Bullpen was pitching lights out they could be winning with three run games. But their Bullpen is giving up an average six runs a game, so the Royals are going to have to put up some bigger numbers offensively. "All-In?" You're not going to get it done with a hot bat sitting on the bench and cold bats playing on a draw card!
I admire Yost's sense of loyalty for his veteran players, but this is it for this Royals team. When this season ends on October 1st, unless General Manager Dayton Moore does some fancy dealing, the Royals are going to lose Eric Hosmer (1B), Alcides Escobar (SS), Mike Moustakas (3B), Melky Cabrera (LF), Lorenzo Cain (CF), Jason Vargas (SP), Trevor Cahill (SP), and Peter Moylan (RP) to free agency. That's the heart of Kansas City's lineup, plus two starting pitchers and a key reliever. Then the Royals will truly know what the term "All-In" really means! Hopefully Yost and Moore will make the deck and play their hands a little differently for the next thirty games, otherwise the odds are this season will end without a playoff and the Royals will have played their best cards poorly for the last time.