-- SAN FRANCISCO -- And so we arrive at the portion of the World Series for which we change the rules. Just for fun. Whether Billy Butler likes it or not.
It's such a bizarre, yet fascinating, part of every World Series. You can't help but wonder every October why the rest of the sporting world hasn't caught onto the brilliance of this concept.
Why hasn't the NBA gotten around to banning the 3-point shot during Games 3, 4 and 5 of the NBA Finals? Why hasn't the NFL seen the wisdom of playing 11-on-11 in the first half of the Super Bowl and 12-on-12 in the second half? These are mysteries "Outside the Lines" needs to explore sometime.
But for now, if those other sports don't get it, that's their problem. This no-DH thing the 2014 World Series is about to embark upon? That's Billy Butler's problem. And the Kansas City Royals' problem. And Ned Yost's problem.
So, starting Friday, when the San Francisco Giants point Tim Hudson toward the mound to duel Jeremy Guthrie in Game 3 of this World Series, we'll get three fun-filled games of double-switching, messy lineup cards and long, close-up camera shots of Butler spitting sunflower seeds in the dugout, waiting for his magical pinch-hit moment to arrive.
If we were writing about this issue for, say, PhilosophyToday.com instead of ESPN.com, we might devote this entire piece to the simple question: Why?
But because it's more productive to try to figure out if losing the DH will hurt the Royals in any appreciable way, we'll ask a more relevant question: How?
You could make this case either way, even though the Royals are pretty well dug in on a way we'd sum up as, basically, "We'll be fine. Now let's order up some Cha Cha Bowls." But before we get to why they think that, let's tackle the other way of looking at this, otherwise known as:
Uh oh. Maybe they won't be so fine.
And the reason to suspect they might not be so fine is that life under National League rules hasn't gone so fine for the Royals' band of American League brothers in recent years. Ready for the numbers? Here we go:
• Over the past eight World Series, 22 games have been played under NL rules. American League teams have won seven of them.
• Over the past six World Series, 17 games have been played under NL rules. American League teams have won five of them.
• Over the past five World Series that did not include the Yankees or Red Sox, 14 games have been played under NL rules. American League teams have won one of them. And the 2011 Rangers had to rally for two runs in the ninth in Game 2 against the Cardinals to win that one.
• The Giants have hosted three previous World Series at AT&T Park. In those three World Series, the Tigers, Rangers and Angels played a total of seven games under NL rules -- and won one of them. (The Angels did those honors in the very first of those games in 2002.)
• And, finally, over the 17 games in NL parks over the past six World Series, American League teams have scored more than four runs in only three of them (one of which they lost anyway).
So if you were Yost and the Royals and you were trying to digest all those ominous facts on the eve of Game 3 in AT&T Park, would you think there was nothing much to worry about?
Well, no, of course you wouldn't, because you're playing in the World Series. And because your team did go 8-2 this season in interleague games played in NL parks. So naturally, Yost said Thursday he thinks his team is better built to play games under those other rules than your average AL team. And he had so many reasons he thinks so, it took him a good minute and a half to list them all.
"Our versatility," the manager began. "Our athleticism. Our speed definitely helps. And our bullpen."
So that's four reasons. But don't touch that remote. Here come more.
Yost reminded us that he "managed in the National League for six years, so I'm comfortable doing it." He also has a hitting coach (Dale Sveum) who managed in the National League and a coaching staff that is "not afraid of the National League game," he said. So clearly, there's nothing to fear about the double-switch except fear itself.
And, finally, Yost was so upbeat, he was even able to find a ray of sunshine in having to play under rules that force his DH and No. 5 hitter, Butler, to spend much of the night keeping him company in the dugout.
"I mean, you lose a quality hitter like Billy Butler," Yost said. "But ... like I explained to Billy -- and Billy understands completely -- hey, you can win a ballgame off the bench in the seventh inning just as well as you can getting four at-bats. So it's a crucial, crucial spot to be your No. 1 pinch hitter, your high-leverage pinch hitter, in a game like this. So he's ready for it."
That sounds exactly like what you'd expect a manager to say about an unfortunate quandary like this -- except in Butler's case, it's actually accurate. He's been an excellent pinch hitter for a long time, and the numbers prove it.
In eight pinch-hit plate appearances this year, Butler went 4-for-6 with a walk, double, homer and a hit-by-pitch. That's a .667 average, .750 on-base percentage and 1.333 slugging percentage.
In his five pinch-hit plate appearances this year in NL parks, he went 2-for-4 with a walk. That's a .600 on-base percentage.
And over 44 career pinch-hit plate appearances, Butler has a .306/.432/.556 slash line, going 11-for-36 with seven walks, two pinch homers and only eight strikeouts.
So if this is what he's going to be stuck doing over the next three games, he's remarkably charged up about it.
"As a DH, you basically pinch hit four times every day," he said. "So it's almost the same thing. It's just longer in between at-bats."
For those wondering if there's a chance he might start at first against the left-handed Madison Bumgarner in Game 5, one source indicated that's something the Royals "haven't even talked about." Instead, Butler said Yost told him he'll be saved for a big spot every night, with runners in scoring position or "late in the game if we're down a run." So if that's the case, "I'll start preparing from the first pitch on," he said.
But it's a funny thing. When someone asked Butler if he agreed that the Royals are a team built to play a "National League-style game," that's where he jumped off the company-line party boat.
"I feel like we're suited for an AL style," he retorted, "because we're playing in the AL, because we won the American League. I feel like we can adapt to play any style we want, and we have to play National League style here. But I feel like I'm definitely, if not the most accomplished hitter on our team, then one of them. So I feel like we'd be better off in the American League style."
Boy, well said. Except that's not an option, is it? Not in a sport that plays one set of rules Tuesday and Wednesday and a whole different set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But there's nothing the Kansas City Royals can do to change that now, and there's nothing their DH can do to change it.
"There's no other sport like it," said Butler, at his philosophical finest. "It's just incredible. Just goes to show you this is definitely a unique game."
And how right he is. But never does it get more unique than it does during in the middle three games of the championship round of its sport. One of these centuries, maybe someone ought to get around to doing something about that. What do you think?