KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When you’re a third-base coach in the big leagues, you automatically sign up for instant criticism.
Royals third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez understands that. And he’s OK with the heat he’s taking for his mistake in Cleveland on Tuesday night when he gave the stop sign to speedy David Lough, who represented the tying run, after Alcides Escobar singled to right in the ninth.
Lough, who appeared ready to score somewhat easily, wound up getting caught instead in a rundown for the second out. The Royals then went on to lose, 4-3, and fell back under .500.
Social media and Twitter lit up Rodriguez instantly.
“It comes with the position,” Rodriguez said. “I can tell you I haven’t talked to any reporter all year about coaching third, until now. But hey, that’s all part of it. You make a mistake and you own up to it. I’m not going to hide.”
“I’m going to be accountable for what I did. I’ll learn from it and move on.”
Rodriguez, in his third full season coaching third, has rarely made mistakes in that time. In fact, neither Rodriguez nor the Royals’ coaches could remember any other blatant mistake he’s made this season.
“I don’t remember another one,” he said. “That’s the one being talked about and as well it should be. I made a mistake.”
And it was the type of mistake — with the game on the line — that can haunt a third-base coach for a long time.
“I’ve replayed everything in my mind from that play,” Rodriguez said. “I went back the next day and stood back on the field in the same spot I was and visualized everything again, and analyzed it again. It’s a learning process.
“To this day I’m thinking about it and I’ve learned from it. I think back to the aggressiveness I’ve shown all year, even on the turf in Tampa, and there was no reason not to stay aggressive there.”
The Royals had entered the ninth inning trailing 4-3, but put two runners on first and second when Lough and Mike Moustakas singled. Chris Getz failed to get a bunt down and struck out, but Escobar drilled a liner toward the right-field line, away from right-handed right fielder Drew Stubbs.
Stubbs had to go to his left, stop, pivot and throw against his body toward home. His throw was off-line by about 10 feet.
“He (Stubbs) has a good arm and he was playing shallow,” Rodriguez said, “but with what was going on in the game and with our offensive output, David Lough should have been sent.
“Theoretically, what you look for is if an outfielder has to go to his side. I’m well aware of that. Yes, the ball one-hopped to him but still, the situation called for him to be sent — roll the dice, take a risk, whatever you want to call it.
“There are a lot of factors involved but the game and the scoreboard tell you when you should and shouldn’t send a guy. I was aggressive all year and I wasn’t that time. In hindsight, yes, of course, I should have sent him.”
Lough appeared to get a decent read on whether Escobar’s liner would fall or not, and Lough seemed to get an excellent break.
“David did everything right,” Rodriguez said. “He read it right.”
Lough, though, also admitted after the game that he should have been looking up sooner as he rounded third to get the go or stop sign from Rodriguez. He noticed the stop sign too late, and was caught in no-man’s land.
“He should have (looked up) but he was intent on scoring the tying run,” Rodriguez said. “In his mind, his thought process was ‘I’m going to score on a base hit no matter what.’ And that’s really what you want from a runner at second base. I think that’s why he did what he did. But he did his job, had a good lead, good secondary lead and got a good read and jump.
“I value his intent and it’s a good one. I’m the one who made the mistake.”
And, though no fan wants to hear it, it probably won’t be the last mistake Rodriguez ever makes.
“Looking back at it on replay, it looks easy,” Rodriguez said. “But hey, that’s life as a third-base coach. You have to live with it. You have to be thick-skinned about it and move on.
“I like to say I coach third base to help a team win. I’m sure I’m not the only third-base coach who has ever made a wrong call or had this happen to, and I won’t be the last. I try to do the best I can.
“I know the outcome and I have to deal with it. It’s June. I’ll put it in the mental file and learn from it and move on. “ You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org