There is a certain segment of sports fans, usually younger and Extremely Online, who won't even hear of the suggestion that sometimes it's better to hustle than accumulate style points near home plate after a well-struck ball. Even when the difference between admiring a home run that actually gets over the fence and admiring a ball that remains in play is pointed out.
But if ever there was a time to point to an example of the potential folly of the practice, it's now. George Springer, who is cementing himself as one of the best postseason players of all-time, drove a ball to deep right-center in the eighth inning of a 5-3 game last night. He obviously thought he'd gotten all of it and the scoreboard was about to be leveled up at 5-5.
The problem is: he didn't. The ball bounced off the wall, took a deflection, and was eventually returned to the infield. There's no reason Springer shouldn't have been on third base, 90 feet away with the tying run when Jose Altuve strode to the plate. But he was at second, which means he couldn't tag up and score on a fly ball to right field.
Houston would lose by one run. In the World Series, which is a pretty important part of the interminable baseball schedule.
Springer explained postgame that part of the problem was that he didn't want to run past Kyle Tucker, who was tagging at second.
“If I had gone to third, I’m out," he said. "I'm out for sure."
This isn't to bag on Springer. It's tough to make a decision in a moment. Perhaps by the time he started running hard, the opportunity to make it to third had passed. But there's no way you can watch this play and not believe he could have easily cruised 270 feet with a little effort out of the box.
Pointing that out doesn't make you a Luddite. A pesky thing about sports is that oftentimes they require maximum effort. The eighth inning of Game 1 of the Fall Classic is a hell of a time to make a mental error like that.
And that's what it was. A mental error. Springer wasn't showboating. He was just excited. He can make excuses all he wants but it's ultimately inexcusable to forget time and score in that situation.