Five days before opening the season in Kansas City, the Royals vociferously objected to a report that suggested they would seek revenge against the New York Mets for an incident that took place during Game 3 of the 2015 World Series.
A story published Tuesday by the newspaper Newsday cited anonymous “industry sources,” saying the Royals had been “quietly signaling their intent to seek retribution against the Mets” during opening night on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The sources indicated the Royals were still upset by Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, who opened Game 3 in New York by throwing a fastball up and in on leadoff man Alcides Escobar.
The report caused a social-media furor and elicited a combination of shrugs and laughs inside the Royals clubhouse. It also sparked a sharp response from manager Ned Yost, who strongly disputed that notion.
“We haven’t even thought about it,” Yost said. “Our retribution was winning the World Series.”
The sentiment was echoed in the clubhouse as players prepared for a night spring-training game against the San Francisco Giants at Surprise Stadium. Third baseman Mike Moustakas jokingly chastised a reporter for sharing the story on Twitter. Some just shook their head.
“We won the World Series,” one said.
The response, of course, was different five months ago, when the Snydergaard incident rankled Royals players and drew sharp rebukes in the aftermath.
“If you want to throw in, you can throw down to my leg down, to my rib,” Escobar said then. “That’s bad, that’s bad right there.”
Syndergaard did not back down. In the moments after the Mets’ 9-3 victory, their only win of the series, he re-emphasized his message.
“If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away,” he said. “I’ve got no problem with that.”
On Tuesday, the Royals said the incident was old news.
“We’ve moved on,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “No reason to even talk about it. We’re not thinking about it. If something happens, they might think that. But no, no retaliation. I think our retaliation was winning the World Series. That was pretty much it.
“No one was happy about it. I mean, who would be? But it is what it is. We’ve forgotten about it and it’s over.”
On Sunday night, the Royals will raise a World Series championship flag with the Mets in the visitors’ dugout. On Tuesday, they will pass out championship rings during the second game of a two-game set. The championship celebration will stretch over the course of three days.
The World Series rematch is unprecedented, of course, a combination of coincidence and the advent of year-round interleague play. In baseball history, World Series foes have never faced each other on opening day. To add to the intrigue, opening day will feature a rematch of the series’ final game, with Royals starter Edinson Volquez facing off against Mets ace Matt Harvey. Syndergaard will face Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy in the second game.
On Tuesday afternoon, Volquez stood on a chair by his locker, cleaning out a top shelf. He offered a laugh upon hearing about the report, saying he had not heard about any retribution. He assured that he had no payback in mind. He went as far as to say that he had little issue with Syndergaard’s brushback pitch.
“It’s too early; it’s gonna be too early the first game to get in trouble,” Volquez said. “You know, if they mess with one of us guys here, you’re going to find a lot of people to care of it. But there’s nothing wrong with what he did last year. I think he was trying to pitch inside and the ball just got away from him.”
On the other side of the locker room, former Mets pitcher Dillon Gee said he was surprised by the report. Gee spent parts of the last four seasons in the Mets starting rotation before finishing last year in the minors. He is expected to make the Royals’ opening day roster as a long man in the bullpen.
“I don’t really know where that came from,” Gee said. “Because I’ve been here all spring, and I don’t think I’ve really heard anybody even bring up the Mets.”
As the news filtered through the room, the strongest critique of its content came from Yost, who appeared astonished the story had come to life.
“Some buffoon writes something and you guys are gonna jump like little monkeys in a cage for a peanut,” Yost said.
Earlier in the day, a Royals official said the club did have one thing planned for the Mets’ trip to Kauffman Stadium. The team planned to show a 30-second tribute video, honoring their National League championship.
“We’ve got the utmost respect for the Mets and what they accomplished last year,” Yost said. “That’s old. That’s way, way down the river by now. We’re not even thinking about that.”