There are moments that will be forgotten from the 2015 World Series.
It will be forgotten that with two outs, Juan Lagares grinded out an excellent nine-pitch single in the eighth inning of Game 1 and came around to score the go-ahead run.
It will be forgotten that Michael Conforto cranked a pair of home runs in Game 4 or that a 42-year-old Bartolo Colon came out of the bullpen in that same game and won a grueling 10-pitch at bat against Salvador Perez to bail the Mets out of a bases-loaded jam.
It will be forgotten that Eric Hosmer had just as awful a defensive series as Daniel Murphy did. His error in the eighth inning of Game 1 allowed the Mets to take the lead and a similar error in Game 5 allowed the Mets to tack on a critical second run in the sixth inning.
Moments like these will be forgotten because of the furious comebacks that the Royals pulled off throughout the series.
The moment we won’t forget for a long time is Matt Harvey pleading his case to Terry Collins to leave him in the game and the subsequent decision made by Collins to let his starting pitcher start the ninth inning. We’ll all remember that because of what transpired in the aftermath of that moment.
If Harvey retires the side in order in the ninth or Jeurys Familia bails him out, then maybe we forget about the pitching change Collins did or didn’t make. If the Mets blow the game open against Edinson Volquez in the sixth inning, then it’s Yost, not Collins, getting crushed for leaving his starting pitcher in for too long. It turns out that the managerial decisions that go down in history are the ones followed by the big hit in extra innings or the ball that rolls under the glove or the throw that gets airmailed to the backstop.
No one is going to write columns about Yost leaving Volquez in the sixth inning of a one-run game for too long, even though at the time it became increasingly apparent that his starting pitcher had no business being on the mound. Volquez’s command had wavered during the past inning or two and Kelvin Herrera was hot up in the bullpen. Yost should probably have pulled Volquez before he had even gotten himself into a bases-loaded jam. Then he let him face Cespedes. Then he let him face Duda. Then he let him face d’Arnaud. The Royals were lucky to only be down 2-0. But no one will remember that.
Just like how no one will remember that a day after Yost aggressively (and appropriately) got Kendrys Morales in to pinch-hit in the fifth inning of Game Four, he nearly didn’t get his best bench bat into the game. The furious comeback against Harvey and Familia is the only reason Morales even got the chance to hit in extra innings.
Yost had a clear opportunity to get Morales into the game in the seventh inning, with a runner on first, two outs, and Alex Rios up. He double-switched Rios out of the game immediately after his starting right fielder grounded out to third (Paulo Orlando replaced Rios and led off the next inning). If he was going to pull Rios from the game anyway, why not let the far superior hitter represent the tying run? He clearly wasn’t saving him for a higher-leverage situation. (You could easily make the case Morales should have hit instead of Salvador Perez with the tying run at third and one out in the ninth.)
The theme of forgotten moments extends to Collins too, as hard as that might be to believe. As much as he’ll get roasted for not bringing Familia in quick enough, he would be catching even more flak had Yoenis Cespedes hit the ball on the ground during that that critical sixth inning. His decision to leave Cespedes in the game after fouling Volquez’s 0-1 offering off his kneecap and hobbling off the field moments later is overshadowed by the fateful ninth inning, but it also could have been a much bigger deal.
Cespedes is no doubt a competitor, a gamer, a professional baseball player—whatever clichéd term you want to attach to him. We know he’s not scared of anything. Not even death. We know he’s been playing banged up. Which is why, he, perhaps more than anyone, should have been asked to show he had two functioning legs before being left in to finish out such a key at bat. If he had been asked to, say, run down to first before stepping back in the box, the Mets might have watched him do something like this.
Bringing Lagares or Kelly Johnson in cold and already in a 0-2 hole is a lot to ask for; the result likely wouldn’t have been any better. But they also would have been able to run out a ground ball, a task Cespedes clearly wasn’t in any position to do. A ground ball fielded by a Royals infielder would have been an automatic double play. Leaving Cespedes in was questionable at best and irresponsible at worst. In a way, Collins and the Mets were lucky that he popped out with the bases loaded. It was a tactical decision that—like Yost’s—would have been picked apart even further had things played out differently.
So yes, Ned Yost outmanaged Terry Collins in Game 5, just as he did the entire series. But the Mets also tallied just four hits in the 12-inning affair (and only three through the first nine innings) and committed the type of defensive gaffes that have haunted them throughout the entire series. That’s the bigger reason the Royals spent Sunday night celebrating their first World Series championship since 1985.