Being a baseball fan is complicated by the fact that the industry puts not very smart people in positions of authority.
Royals manager Ned Yost is getting killed for his refusal to pinch-hit for shortstop Alcides Escobar, who has looked helpless at the plate. Yost thinks he's preparing Escobar for the future by letting him hit in critical situations late in games. The problem with Yost's argument is that it's easily refuted by people who have 20 IQ points on him.
Master-class Royals blogger Rany Jazayerli takes apart Yost's logic in a 2,600-word post. Jazayerli, a dermatologist by day, presents four counterarguments to Yost's insistence that Escobar finish every game he starts. Jazayerli notes, for instance, that no one worries about rookie reliever Aaron Crow's development when he's replaced by Joakim Soria.
Crow, at least, is pitching great. Imagine a young reliever who was pitching terribly -- could you imagine any manager leaving that reliever in to protect a one-run lead in the ninth? That would be madness. So how is it okay to leave a young struggling hitter in to bat with his team losing in the ninth? With pitchers, we expect them to have success in low-pressure situations before putting more things on their plate. Why wouldn't we do this with hitters?
Jazayerli also cites examples of middle infielders, including Royals legend Frank White, who flourished after being pulled from games early in their careers.
The fascinating thing about the debate is that there really isn't one. Jazayerli is a demonstrably smarter individual than Ned Yost. But skin doctors don't get to manage baseball teams -- "baseball men" do.
What is a baseball man? It's somebody whose education topped out at junior college. It's somebody who was good enough at the sport to appear in 219 major-league games but not good enough to make the kind of money that lasts a lifetime. It's somebody who rocked a mustache in the 1980s. It's Ned Yost.
There are good reasons that only baseball men get to manage baseball teams. A big part of the job consists of providing leadership to a group of culturally diverse young men, any number of whom might be giant meatheads. The critical-thinking skills that allow someone like Jazayerli to expose the folly of Yost's on-field moves would be less helpful when a fight breaks out on the team bus.
The problem with Yost, though, is that he doesn't want to accept that baseball can be properly analyzed and interpreted by people who have never played the game at a high level. Bloggers and radio hosts were suggesting that Alex Gordon hit in the leadoff spot well in advance of Yost coming to the same conclusion.
On Wednesday, Yost let his shortstop hit in the ninth inning of a one-run game. Escobar watched strike three. After the loss, Yost defended the move by recalling the way he handled a different shortstop who was struggling at the plate. "So, I got a little bit of an idea of what I'm doing here," he told reporters.
But is it too much to ask for a manager who knows a lot about what he's doing?