A number of suspensions and fines were handed out today by Major League Baseball: seven games for Yordano Ventura; five games each for Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, and Edinson Volquez; and two games each for Lorenzo Cain and Kelvin Herrera. I was going to write a piece on the Kansas City Royals last night, but I'm glad I held off and got see the punishments first. This article isn't an attack on the Royals, their fans, or the majority of their players, as I've seen many react in a reasonable manner to the team's actions.
What we've seen in the young season so far from the Royals has been, quite frankly, sickening. There's been unnecessary aggression, needless chirping, and unjustified actions by both players and fans. I don't often like to single out individuals, but Yordano Ventura is one who has quickly made himself a villain and has been joined by the young Kelvin Herrera.
Let me just take it back and review what's been going down in 2015, however, before I jump into my harangue. Ventura's gotten four starts and been on the mound for three incidents. One swallow does not a summer make, but there's a trend here. Ventura's second start came against the LA Angels and ended in a benches-clearing incident in the bottom of the sixth that was directly caused by his actions. The game, which the Royals would win 9-2, was already a blowout in the sixth with the Royals up 7-1. Mike Trout stepped up to the plate with one out and no one on base. Ventura buzzed him with a heater high and inside. Let's give Ventura the benefit of the doubt here and assume that one just got away from him. Looking back at it given recent circumstances, could you make the argument that Ventura was trying to show up a guy who is widely perceived as baseball's brightest and best? Sure could, in my opinion, but let's assume otherwise. Trout, for his part, took the 96-MPH fastball inches away from his face in stride and calmly stepped back into the box. Ventura's next pitch was slapped into center, coming pretty close to Ventura, who stared him down as he ran to first. Did Ventura honestly think Trout was trying to hit it back at him after the high heater? Some thought so. Matt Joyce, an outfielder for the Angles, said of Ventura's reaction to Trout's single, "I think he got mad at that. Like you can really control where you're gonna hit a 98 mile-an-hour fastball. Maybe Trout can. But most of us can't." Some have said that Ventura was just upset that Trout got himself on base. If you're going to stare down every player who gets a hit off of you, then you're going to have a lot of staring to do over your career.
Later in the inning, Trout slid into home, scoring on a hit by Albert Pujols. Ventura was backing up home and had words for Trout, who had looked confused when being stared down on his way to first and looked equally confused when Ventura began chirping him. Trout's reaction was sort of, "What's your problem?" The benches cleared, words were said, and I've got to give a lot of credit to the Royals' players for holding back Ventura and giving him a talking to, especially Salvador Perez. The catcher quickly got himself between Trout and Ventura, holding the latter back and telling him to keep his cool and to play his game. Mike Moustakas ran over to the Angels, making motions as if to say "Let's not make this a thing," and gave Trout a nice pat on the back. The Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after the game, "Mike Trout just plays the game. He doesn't show anybody up, he plays hard, and he focuses on his game." Ned Yost, the Royals' manager, sort of just laughed it off and said he didn't see it. I'm trying to include the reactions of all the players and how they acted because I've seen a lot of people on the internet come down on the Royals as an organization, something that simply isn't fair. Are there elements within the organization that deserve blame? Absolutely, but a lot the players on the Royals are good guys who I'm sure would rather not see this happen. They have to defend their teammate, sure, but I'd bet a lot of them would tell you privately they're upset with Ventura. The fact of the matter is, Ventura seemed salty that Trout had simply done his job, reached base, and scored.
Ventura's next start came against the A's. Brett Lawrie, a fiery player himself, slid hard into second and injured Alcides Escobar. In my own opinion, I think the slide was aggressive but without intention to injure. Lawrie had a good shot at reaching second safely, but we know that having the benefit of video replay. In the moment, it isn't hard to see where Lawrie might've thought himself out for sure and just wanted to break up the double play. Whatever the case, Lawrie stepped in against Ventura and it was pretty clear to everyone what was going to happen. Ventura nailed him with a pitch in the elbow, getting himself ejected. Lawrie reacted like a true professional, sucking it up and calmly starting towards first. He looked like he accepted that he was going to be hit, and that should have ended anything between the two teams. Just as a tangent, the whole unwritten rule that a player deserves to be hit for some sort of grievance is complete and utter crap. It's a disgusting tradition in baseball that is a lot like the stupid "Code" in hockey. Play the game. You're not in the UFC, you're not trying to go out there and physically hurt the other person. Even in the UFC, for that matter, fights are a competition. It's not like most fighter go out there hoping to injure their opponent any more than they need to in order to win the fight.
As Lawrie made his way to first, Ventura walked over and began jawing at him. Again, Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer came over to Lawrie and walked him to base. Why the [fun] did Ventura feel the need to go at him? You just hit the guy in the elbow with a heater. Don't you think that hurts enough and serves as "payback" for injuring Escobar, disregarding that it is highly unlikely Lawrie had any intention of hurting him? Absolutely spineless move by Ventura, who apparently can't keep his mouth shut and play the game like a professional. What is really disgusting, however, is hearing the cheers of some Royals' fans when Lawrie was hit. Brett Lawrie can be pretty hotheaded sometimes, but he showed that he can also be a true professional.
The next day, however, brought more drama. Something that should have been over with the previous day had to resurface because some players on the Royals just couldn't let it go. Kelvin Herrera threw two pitches clearly aimed at Lawrie. The first was way inside, the second was behind him. Herrera, who was rightfully ejected, pointed towards his head as if to tell Lawrie that the next time, he'd be headhunting. Yes, that's me and a lot of others drawing conclusions. But does it really look like anything else?
Just watch that. Again, all I can say is "disgusting." Kelvin Herrera looks like a cocky, hotheaded asshat. Herrera said he meant to say "Think about it." Think about what? That every time you come to the plate against the Royals you run the risk of being beaned? That if you hit a single off of them, their pitchers are going to come at you and give you grief for doing your job? Obviously, I don't want to ignore that Scott Kazmir beaned a Royal in the first inning. But that was in the first inning. Do you think Kazmir is dumb enough to run the risk of ejection in the first inning?
Alex Hall over at AthleticsNation said it perfectly, and I'm going to quote him here:
Meanwhile here's Volquez with the big whiff pic.twitter.com/wtQ7BEcR5f— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) April 24, 2015