KANSAS CITY -- One question will never be answered.
At the end of Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, after a glorious run that started with two remarkable comebacks just to advance beyond the American League Wild Card Game, this one question is all that Madison Bumgarner left the Royals.
It will linger for the ages, forever tying a third-base coach in his first season in the Major Leagues to one of the greatest pitching feats of all time, and the answer will lie in the imagination of the beholder every time.
Probably not. But if you're a Kansas City fan, you'll wonder forever what would have happened if Gordon had been given a green light.
And that's what you're supposed to do, just as Jirschele did exactly what he was supposed to do.
There were two outs in the ninth, with Bumgarner locked into a run of mastery that topped even what Walter Johnson did to win the 1924 World Series for the Senators. The only reason that the Royals even had a chance to score was that center fielder Gregor Blanco let Gordon's single skip by him, and left fielder Juan Perez dropped the ball once he'd retrieved it on the warning track.
So why not force shortstop Brandon Crawford to make the ultimate pressurized throw to the plate?
"Believe me, I wanted to send him," Jirschele said in the quiet Kansas City clubhouse after the Giants' 3-2 Series-clinching victory. "I couldn't do it. I just wouldn't. I didn't want to go the whole offseason with Alex getting thrown out halfway to home plate."
Jirschele, the Royals' Triple-A manager the last 11 seasons, easily could have gotten caught up in the moment and tried to force the action. Instead, he trusted the hitter in the on-deck circle, Salvador Perez, only to watch in dismay as Perez hit a foul pop to third baseman Pablo Sandoval on a 2-2 pitch from Bumgarner, his 68th of the night.
"I was just hoping when he fouled it off, it was going out of play," Jirschele said. "Then I saw Sandoval come over and make the play. I probably should have tripped him."
A baseball lifer, Jirschele would no more have interfered with a fielder making a play in the World Series than he would have forced himself into the storyline of a great game by taking a foolish risk. The reality is that he made the right decision, as Gordon had just gotten to third base when Crawford took a throw from Perez.
Not only did Jirschele know that Kansas City had an All-Star stepping to the plate in Perez, he had been impressed in the second inning when Crawford threw a fastball to the plate from behind second base. Billy Butler scored from first on a double to right-center by Gordon, but Crawford's throw almost cut him down.
"When [Gordon] got to third and I saw [Crawford] secure the ball, I knew there was no chance to score him there," Jirschele said. "Crawford's got an above-average arm. He's accurate. You saw earlier in the game, [the play on] Billy, I thought that play was a lot closer than it was going to be. He made a nice throw on that one. I'm not just going to try to go ahead and score because I thought Bumgarner was [in a groove]. Salvy is coming up in that situation, and he's got a chance to get a base hit."
Manager Ned Yost and everyone in the dugout got very excited when Perez had trouble getting a grip on the ball. Crazy things happen all the time in baseball, and maybe this was one of them. But the guy who had to make the ultimate decision decided not to force the issue.
"We had a chance to win there at the end with Sal, it just didn't work out," said Butler, who had hit a foul pop for the second out of the ninth inning. "Jirsch is a tremendous third-base coach. If he says he shouldn't go, then he shouldn't. That's just the way it is. We came up short. It hurts that it's only one run."
Gordon was wide-eyed on the play, which started when he lined a Bumgarner cutter in front of Blanco. The excitement of the moment might have gotten to the veteran center fielder, who charged too hard, and Gordon put his head down and ran as hard as he could when the ball headed to the wall.
Gordon rounded second and rolled to third, looking over his shoulder for an instant before he saw Jirschele with his arms extended, then pointing to third base.
"It got by him, [and] I got a smile on my face, running the bases, thinking, 'Hopefully I'll score,' but he got to it quickly," Gordon said. "I don't have [Jarrod] Dyson's speed, so I couldn't make it all the way home."
Gordon agrees with Jirschele's decision, saying that he probably would have been out had he challenged Crawford and catcher Buster Posey.
"It was a good hold," Gordon said. "They would have gotten me with plenty of time. Close, but just came up a little short."
With the Giants celebrating their third championship in five seasons after Sandoval's catch of Perez's foul pop, the Royals didn't get to blare their victory march, Archie Eversole's "We Ready," over the Kauffman Stadium speakers. But there was music, and it wasn't lost on the players as they headed to their clubhouse.
Even though the game was over, the fans wouldn't quit, chanting "Let's Go Royals" even as the Giants mobbed Bumgarner.
It was quite a ride for the AL Wild Card-winning Royals, who took out the A's, Angels and Orioles on the way to trading victories with the Giants in the World Series. In the end, the difference is that one team had Bumgarner and the other didn't, not that a third-base coach didn't bet the season on one throw of the dice.
"It was a great season," Gordon said. "I'm proud of these guys. We're not hanging our heads. Obviously, we all wanted to win, but to be in this situation with some of these young guys and what they've done throughout this season, throughout this postseason, I was proud to be a part of this team."
Phil Rogers is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.