Judging the Royals

This Royals vs. A's fight ain’t over

The Royals' Lorenzo Cain was hit by a pitch from Oakland  starting pitcher Scott Kazmir in the first inning during Sunday's baseball game at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals' Lorenzo Cain was hit by a pitch from Oakland starting pitcher Scott Kazmir in the first inning during Sunday's baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Star

Hi. Remember me? I’m the genius that said if baseball would just let the players police themselves they’d enforce the unwritten rules of the game and harmony would return to our national pastime.

And I was right … for an inning and two-thirds.

That’s when Kansas City center fielder Lorenzo Cain got hit with a pitch.

On the other hand, I’m also the guy who said that the game’s harmony had been restored unless some idiot on the Oakland A’s decided they needed to retaliate during Sunday’s game.

Enter Scott Kazmir.

Just in case you signed a really bad lease and have been living under a rock since last Thursday, let me get you up to speed.

During Friday night’s game, Oakland A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie hurt Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar with a takeout slide at second base. Escobar was stretched out to take a throw from teammate Mike Moustakas and was in a vulnerable position.

Lawrie slid hard and late and targeted Escobar, not the bag. Lawrie said he was just trying to break up a double play, but there was no possibility of Esky being able to turn two from the position he was in. The Royals thought the slide was over the top and unnecessary and decided to do something about it.

Saturday night Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura evened things up; he hit Lawrie in the arm with a 99-mph fastball — something everyone seemed to expect, even Lawrie.

Sunday morning the consensus opinion around the park was that order had been restored: Lawrie had been punished for his transgression and the feud was over.

But in the bottom of the first inning Kazmir, hit Cain with a 92-mph two-seam fastball, and that’s when MLB went all WWF.

Kazmir got a warning, but was not ejected.

That did not sit well with the players and coaches on the Kansas City bench.

The night before Ventura had been ejected without warning and the Royals were unhappy that Kazmir was still on the field. If Ventura was ejected, why wasn’t Kazmir?

So the Royals were barking from the bench and, according to Star beat reporter Andy McCullough’s game story, home plate umpire Greg Gibson ejected pitching coach Dave Eiland.

Apparently Eiland was yelling at Kazmir and the umpires thought he was yelling at them. Then Gibson warned manager Ned Yost not come out on the field, Yost did anyway and then Ned was ejected.

And the umpires were just getting warmed up. Before the game was over Kelvin Herrera, Alcides Escobar and bench coach Don Wakamatsu were also ejected.

After the game, all the players I talked with said they thought business had been taken care of Saturday night and things would be back to normal on Sunday.

They also said that Kazmir hitting Cain was the match that lit the fire. If you asked the Kansas City players and coaches if they thought Kazmir hit Cain intentionally, you might have heard one of three reactions:

1.) No, it was not intentional: you don’t try to hit someone in the foot with a cutter.

2.) Yes, it was intentional: pitching inside is a tactic and too many pitchers don’t seem to care if Royals hitters get drilled as a result. (A little added information: throwing a pitch at a hitter’s feet is also a tactic. The idea is to make the hitter uncomfortable by making him move his feet; if the hitter body slams himself while trying to get his feet out of the way, so much the better.)

3.) It doesn’t matter if it was intentional or not; too many Kansas City players are getting hit with pitches and the Royals are going to let the rest of the league know that if one of their guys gets drilled, there will be repercussions.

I’ve got some sympathy for that third point of view: if someone poked you in the eye and said it was an accident and says he's sorry, you might accept his apology.

But if he then poked you in the eye 13 more times and kept saying it was unintentional, at some point you might say if you poke me in the eye one more time we’re going to have a problem.

On Sunday afternoon the Royals got poked in the eye one more time and the Oakland A’s had a problem.

After Sunday’s game, the Oakland A’s left town hurling insults and muttering obscenities and the Kansas City Royals didn’t seem to give a damn. You might want to stay up late Friday, June 26 and watch the rematch in Oakland when the Royals start a three-game series with the Athletics.

This fight ain’t over.

But Herrera crossed a line

Unless there’s something going on that I don’t know about—and there almost always is—it was hard to understand why Kelvin Herrera felt the need to throw a fastball behind Brett Lawrie in the eighth inning. The A’s third baseman had already been drilled once so it seemed unnecessary to throw at him again.

And that 100-MPH fastball was up around the head.

There’s a line you’re not supposed to cross and it’s located at the shoulders. If you hit a batter below the shoulders it will hurt, but if it’s done in the right way it won’t cause permanent injury. Throw above the shoulders and you’re talking about ending someone career or causing serious damage.

Herrera was ejected and as he left the field he pointed at his head while looking at Lawrie. Kelvin claimed he had a bad grip on the ball and pointed at his head to tell Lawrie to "think about it", but Lawrie interpreted the gesture to mean, "Next time I face you I’m gonna hit you in the head."

According to the unwritten rules of the game most of the stuff the Royals did in retaliation is justifiable; threatening to hit a player in the head isn’t.

If you get ejected twice do the fines double?

Don Wakamatsu was ejected twice and I didn’t even think that was possible; his first ejection came when Herrera was ejected for throwing at Lawrie (after a warning if a pitcher gets ejected the manager’s ejection is automatic) and Don’s second ejection came when he went out to argue about the first one and the umpires forgot he was already out of the game.

Cody Ross comes in spikes up

In the sixth inning Cody Ross tried to break up a double play and came in "spikes up." If a player has his spikes pointed down he’s not trying to hurt anybody, spikes up is a different matter. After the game opinions were mixed on whether Ross came in spikes up intentionally—but if he gets drilled in the next series you might know why.