SAN FRANCISCO -- Ned Yost doesn't care what you think. Got that?
He doesn't care if you think his team is winning this World Series because he's the second coming of John McGraw. He doesn't care if you think his team is winning this World Series in spite of his never-ending bumbleheadedness.
He. Doesn't. Care. Are we clear on that?
"I don't really pay attention to when people say I'm stupid," the perpetually embattled manager of those Kansas City Royals said this week. "And I don't really pay attention to when people say I'm smart -- because I'm neither. I'm not a dope, but I'm not the smartest guy on the face of the earth either. So I just let all that go. I don't pay any attention to it. I don't read about it. I just want our team to win."
Well, his team won another postseason baseball game Friday night. Another one-run postseason baseball game at that. And the scoreboard seemed to think Ned Yost managed just fine, because the scoreboard kept insisting the final score was Royals 3, Giants 2.
But out there in Twitter Nation, where managerial genius truly resides, there seemed to be a slightly different take on Yost's work in Game 3 of this World Series -- even though his Royals became the first AL team to win a World Series game in AT&T Park in 12 years and seven games, and even though they now lead this Series 2-1.
So what were the manager's alleged crimes against baseball? Hey, we don't have that kind of time. So here would be just a few, revolving around the final 12 outs of this game and how he chose to go about recording them:
• Yost let his starting pitcher (Jeremy Guthrie) bat in the top of the sixth, leading off an inning, then hooked him two hitters into the bottom of the sixth.
• An inning later, he allowed a relief pitcher who had never had a professional plate appearance (Kelvin Herrera) to bat, with two outs and a runner on first -- and then was quick to take him out in the next half-inning, too, two batters into the bottom of the seventh.
• And, finally, rather than bring in left-hander Brandon Finnegan at the start of the seventh inning, especially when there were left-handed hitters due up in the second, third and fourth spots in the Giants' order, Yost let Herrera start the inning, walk the leadoff man, strike out the first left-handed bat (Brandon Belt) in that procession and only then wave for Finnegan.
So there you go. It was complicated. It was confusing. And you know what else?
Somehow or other, whether the outside world approved or not, it worked. So maybe that's all that mattered. How about that for a theory?
And the what-ifs? They don't matter. Not to the manager, they don't. You can't even imagine how little they matter to Ned Yost. In fact, we can now demonstrate how little.
When a media inquisitor tried to ask him one of those what-if-you'd-lost postgame questions he enjoys so heartily, here's how Yost responded:
"I didn't lose the game," he said, pithily. "So I don't think about that stuff."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was a wrap on that particular topic.
But for those of us who get our kicks from trying to follow what a manager is thinking when he manages a World Series game a whole lot different than we would, we're going to let Ned Yost explain what was going on out there, in his very own words.
First, though, let's set the scene. By the time the bottom of the sixth rolled around, his team held a 3-0 lead.
Alcides Escobar had scored the first two of those runs, thanks to a double on the first pitch of the game and a sixth-inning single. And Eric Hosmer had singled in the third run, after an epic, 11-pitch, two-out at-bat in the sixth against Javier Lopez, a side-wheeling left-hander who has fed his family by chewing up left-handed hitters for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past 12 years.
Asked where an at-bat like that, to drive in what turned out to be the winning run in a World Series game played on his 25th birthday, would rank on his personal list, Hosmer replied: "It's going to rank as a good birthday present. I'll tell you that." And since it was also his first World Series hit, "it's probably the coolest at-bat I've had as a professional baseball player," he said.
But at the time he got that hit, he had no idea just how huge it would be. It gave the Royals a three-run lead. But just two hitters into the bottom of the sixth, Michael Morse pounded a pinch-hit double off Guthrie to turn that into a two-run lead. And that's when Yost's managerial gears began churning.
Out he went to the mound. There went Guthrie. And here came Herrera, two days after throwing 32 pitches in Game 2, because "my mindset was, 'I'm not getting beaten in the sixth inning, with the bullpen I've got,'" Yost said.
"I just wasn't going to take any chances," the manager went on. "It's a big game. It's a pivotal game, in my mind. I was going to go with my bullpen, with Kelvin in the sixth, and mix-and-match in the seventh."
But hold on a minute. If that was his mindset, he could have gonged Guthrie for a pinch hitter after five shutout innings of two-hit, no-walk, no-strikeout baseball. Right? Nope, Yost said, because "Guthrie threw the ball extremely well through the first five innings."
And if you're familiar with Yost's work, and familiar with how he thinks, that assessment shouldn't be a surprise. But one interesting little twist to his decision to bring in Herrera at that point is that this was a game being played under NL rules.
So guess who was due up fourth in the following inning? Right. A pitcher who hadn't batted since he was 16 years old and still playing with kids in the Dominican Republic.
But Yost said he couldn't double-switch to avoid that because his No. 5 hitter, Mike Moustakas, had made the last out of the previous inning. So "there was no spot to double-switch," the manager said (correctly, by the way).
And sure enough, with two outs in the seventh inning of what was then a 3-2 game, Jarrod Dyson had to go and get a hit to extend the inning. And up marched Herrera.
He was carrying Escobar's bat, wearing Alex Gordon's batting gloves and had a Billy Butler batting helmet on his head, he reported. And while his spectacular offensive debut lasted a mere three pitches -- called strike, foul ball, swing and a miss -- Herrera couldn't have been more proud of it if he'd whomped a two-run homer into McCovey Cove.
Asked how he thought it went, he flashed a smile as wide as the Bay Bridge and said, "Pretty good. I touched the ball." But not good enough, he conceded, that he was ready to transition to being, say, a DH for a living.
"No," he said. "I'm a pitcher. Too fast. It's going too fast."
On one hand, sending Herrera up there didn't help the Royals pad their lead. On the other hand, at least his teammates were eminently amused by his exploits.
"I was just hoping he didn't pull an oblique," Hosmer said, laughing, "or get hit in the head."
And see? He did neither. But now back to our story, of the manager and the thinking that led to this unforgettable at-bat.
Ned Yost didn't have to send Herrera up there, you understand. He had Finnegan ready in the bullpen. And he had the chance to get a big insurance run. But the manager had already decided that because he'd already had so much success using Herrera for more than one inning this month, he was "going to just let him hit."
And just so you know, that would have been true, Yost said, even if Dyson had stolen second to put another runner in scoring position.
"I felt that sending Kelvin out for the seventh inning," Yost said, "was going to be more important than trying to add a tack-on run, with our bullpen."
Now the mathematicians would tell you that, if you studied all the statistical probabilities, it would have made more sense to try to score that run, especially given that Billy Butler was still available to pinch-hit. But Ned Yost doesn't care what the mathematicians think, either. Got that?
So, naturally, Herrera trotted out to pitch the bottom of the seventh and immediately walked the only right-handed hitter due up, Hunter Pence. But even with the left-handed-hitting Brandon Belt up next, Yost left Herrera in to face him.
"I've got all the confidence in the world in Herrera," the manager said. "His numbers will tell you why. ... [I] thought, 'OK, Pence is really, really tough.' I really thought about bringing Finnegan in in the seventh inning. But Kelvin's been so good at dominating that seventh inning ... [I] opted to do that. I knew, though, we would have Finnegan there in case any trouble developed because of the lefties coming down the line."
All right. Everybody following along? That was how Yost plotted it out. And his trusty bullpen made it work. Herrera struck out Belt. Then Finnegan arrived and got the final two outs of the seventh. And the eighth and ninth innings went how they usually go, with Wade Davis and Greg Holland spinning two more hitless innings. Sound familiar?
So off in the distance, 2.8 trillion amateur managers shook their heads and told their buddies how they would have done this. But the manager of the Kansas City Royals followed the script he'd written in his head. And all he knew was he got a humongous win out of it.
"I'm getting really good at protecting a one-run lead," Yost said, "because a lot of times, that's exactly what we have to deal with. But I have the necessary tools to be able to do that.
"It's not me doing it," the manager said. "It's the guys that we put out there that are doing it. We have the type of pitchers in our bullpen that can accomplish that."
And that, friends, is managing at its essence. If the players you put out there are good enough, and do what they're supposed to do, you'll get to shake hands a lot. And most of all, Ned Yost understands that part of the job.
Now maybe that isn't good enough or smart enough or Joe Maddon-esque enough for all the managers of the year who are hanging out in imaginary dugouts around Twitter Nation. But if it isn't, well, guess what:
Ned. Yost. Doesn't. Care. Got it?