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:
Manager Ned Yost, who to that point had done a great job being a rational human being about the whole situation, got himself ejected complaining about Lorenzo Cain getting plunked by Kazmir. Why, Ned? Do you honestly think Kaz did that on purpose? Do you not think the umpire, who didn't even give a second thought to the notion that the HBP was on purpose, has enough judgment to call this one?
Well, it worked, Royals. You got what you wanted. We were having a perfectly enjoyable baseball game, and you ruined it. Kelvin Herrera took the fun out of the game and turned it into something darker. The Royals took a chance to create peace and turned it into a chance to breed more hate. Alcides Escobar had the option of forgiving and forgetting and being a positive role model in this anger-fueled world, and instead he decided to hold a childish grudge and become yet another macho stereotype of a professional athlete. Somewhere in Kansas City, a young child saw what happened today and cheered, ecstatic that the pitcher he looks up to tried to stick it to that nasty opponent. And that just breaks my heart.
The Royals went on to win the game. Whatever, you can have it fellas. If this is the way baseball is played in Kansas City, then count me out. The A's and Royals were not playing the same sport out there, and I don't ever want my team doing what the children in blue were doing. Shame on Kelvin Herrera, and shame on the Kansas City Royals.
Seeing this crap makes me literally sick to my stomach. Alex points out something that a lot of writers and pundits are forgetting about and that is how sports players are role models to thousands of young kids who are very impressionable. You're giving them the idea that retaliation is a good thing, that they should try to "get even." Whatever happened to "two wrongs don't make a right," or turning the other cheek?
It's hard to believe that three such incidents are all independent anomalies, and I'm not buying it. Especially considering the recent brawl between the Royals and the White Sox. Adam Eaton hit a come-backer to Ventura, who fielded it and walked over to first while chirping Eaton before tossing it over to get the out. Adam Eaton said something about Ventura quick-pitching him, but then Ventura had to respond by saying "[fun] you." Seriously?
Welp, this just caused a benches-clearing brawl in Chicago: http://t.co/8XQePrDbM7 https://t.co/RHDwZKolef— SB Nation (@SBNation) April 24, 2015
You don't have to be a lip-reader to interpret that. Show some freaking class Ventura, you spineless hothead. I don't like to come at individual players. I'll criticize players if they make a dumb play, I'll get on them about slumps or errors, but I rarely criticize players on anything other than things purely relating to their performance. But Ventura, in my opinion, is a gutless coward who has absolutely no control over his emotions. He's got loads of talent and will probably go on to have a very successful career as one the better pitchers in the league, but I have zero respect for him and there's no place in the game for guys like him. Unfortunately, that's not how life works and we have to deal with people like Ventura and Herrera.
Ill feelings apparently stemmed from Chris Sale's reaction to Alexei Ramirez making a phenomenal play to turn two. What's wrong with that? Sale can't be stoked that his teammate made a great play and got himself out of the inning? Passion is part of what makes sports so great, and I love players who wear their hearts on their sleeve. Sale was showing passion, that's fine. What isn't fine is the type of passion that Ventura exhibits, which is really just an "in-your-face, I'm hot stuff" sort of attitude.
After Ventura and Eaton had words, the benches cleared and punches were thrown. Jeff Samardzija tried to get to Lorenzo Cain and ended up laying out third base coach Mike Jirschele. I like Samardzija, mostly because of his flow, but he deserves the suspension for sure. Chris Sale deserves a suspension, as he apparently tried to get into the Royals' locker room after the game, but I'm surprised to see him get as many games as Samardzija. I almost respect that move, which I know is kind of setting a double standard. But it's kind of a power move by Sale, who's probably as fed up with the Royals as the rest of the league.
Adam Eaton showed his class after game, saying "Boys will be boys and I think that was a situation where we had some excitement." Think of how many times Adam Eaton or Mike Trout have gotten into fights with other players. There's a common denominator here named Yordano Ventura and the Kansas City Royals.
Meanwhile here's Volquez with the big whiff pic.twitter.com/wtQ7BEcR5f— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) April 24, 2015
Also, this happened. Nice punch dude, you look like you're flailing at something you can't see. Where's the form? Seriously though, I hate this stuff. I really do. At first, I blamed Ventura, but thought maybe it was just a one-time thing. I thought everyone on the Royals reacted well and that Ned Yost remained reasonable and tried to keep his guys calm. The next second incident, I started thinking Ventura was an irrational hothead and that Yost either couldn't control his players or didn't care to. The third incident when Herrera threw at Lawrie was disgusting and there was clear intent to coerce and injure. Yost lost any respect I may have had for him that game, and Herrera showed the world that he's a spineless thug with threats and bravado. After the recent brawl, I've had it with KC. Let me just say, however, that it really is a small minority giving an awful name to the whole. I understand the feeling of needing to stick up for your teammates, especially for an organization who finally found relevancy. I wrote a while ago that I liked the Royals because they reminded me of the Rockies and gave me hope that one day we too could reclaim relevance that we had in our postseason runs. I also like a lot of players on the Royals, lest people think I am siding with the Angels, A's, and White Sox out of favoritism. I'll admit I irrationally like the A's and a lot of players on the White Sox, but I also love watching guys play on the Royals like Hosmer. He's a guy I have a lot of respect for, as I think he really is trying to calm his teammates down and get them back to what they're really good at it, which is playing the game.
For me, though, I felt I had to write something after seeing how a lot of people had been reacting on the internet. I've seen a ton of Royals fans say they're fed up with the antics, but there is a vocal minority who have been saying some pretty outlandish things. I've seen people write that it is a matter of race, that the brawls are good for baseball because they make it more "exciting," or that the players are just defending themselves because they are on a team that the league likes to pick on. Honestly, that's all a load of crap. This isn't an issue based on what team you like, what country you're born in, or whatever. It's a matter of a few hotheaded thugs acting like assholes on the field. I was so excited to see Ventura play after how great he was in the minors, but now I wish he never got called up. It makes me so angry and sick to see players carrying so much hatred and aggression. Play with a chip on your shoulder, but don't go after other players. I've lost any respect I have for Ned Yost as well. In postgame interviews he just seems like a buffoon. The Royals have had nine ejections this year, six more than the Padres who are in second. There's something wrong with that. I'm going to include some random things I saw from Royals fans here that pissed me off.
"Get with the times grandpa. This is great. Being the instigators makes us intimidating..."
"Blabedy blabedy huff puff F you your wrong wrong and we're right"
"Royals have been hit by 17 pitches, most in all MLB. That should say it all, but I guess not."
Stuff like this is just dumb. This isn't the freaking Hunger Games. There's no place in baseball, or any sport, for vengeful actions, spite, etc. No one is "out to get" the Royals. There's not some league-wide conspiracy to paint the team as villains. I didn't include anything about the perceived ethnicity issues, but let's not turn this into a race thing. It doesn't need to be and it shouldn't be.
Here are some of the more rationale comments I saw.
"The Royals are a great team and there is no need for distractions. They need to focus on only one thing going forward: Playing Baseball."
"Don’t blame the Royals for Ventura talking smack with Trout. He’s an individual who, it seems, is being talked to by the veterans on the team. I heard the White Sox announcers say that Volquez pulled him aside after his ejection. Don’t go calling the Royals assholes because one young hothead starts one minor thing."
These sentiments seem to be shared by most of the fans of the Royals and this is my attitude as well. As much as I dislike seeing the actions we've been seeing take place, I also dislike how people are coming down on the entire organization, city, and fanbase. I saw two people arguing about the A's incident start saying that Kansas City was a dump and that Oakland was better, so they must be correct. Let's all be adults here and place blame where it should be placed. I'm not saying at all that there aren't a number of people who should bear some of the blame for the four incidents, but actions and reactions by Ventura and Herrera are clearly a major cause of all the drama. Finally, Ned Yost saying "You know how many times my mom had to tell me things before I finally heard it?" about Ventura needing to mature is just plain stupid. You're the manager, get your player under control. He's a professional baseball player for crying out loud!
Anyway, there's my rant. I apologize that it is really disorganized, but it was more of a post from the heart than the head.