Judging the Royals

If you’re going to play rough, don’t be surprised if people retaliate

Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) ends up on top of Oakland Athletics' Brett Lawrie (15) after forcing him out at second in seventh inning before Escobar exited the game during Friday's baseball game on April 17, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) ends up on top of Oakland Athletics' Brett Lawrie (15) after forcing him out at second in seventh inning before Escobar exited the game during Friday's baseball game on April 17, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Star

I hoped I was done writing about Brett Lawrie and then Lawrie said this to MLB.com:

“That was probably the worst series of baseball that I’ve ever played,” Lawrie said. “I don’t think you can even call it baseball, because it wasn’t. I’ve never been a part of anything like that in three days in my entire life. It wasn’t baseball. It didn’t feel like baseball.

“And the way their fans approached everything, I hated it. The way their fans were antagonizing everything, you know, I got a first-pitch missed curveball up in my head and everyone leaps up in their seat like Bruce Buffer is about to come out. That’s not how we’re doing things.

“Shame on their fans for antagonizing everything that went on there, because that had a lot to do with it. Shame on the players and their team that went with it.”

Hold on a minute.

Lawrie seems to forget that he started things with a hard, unnecessary takeout slide of Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar. Going into that first game against the Athletics, the Royals and their fans were already upset by the number of Royals batters who had been hit by pitches; one of them breaking a bone in Alex Rios’ hand. Still, Kansas City fans had nothing against Lawrie until his cheap-shot slide hurt Escobar.

After he injured Escobar, Lawrie claimed it was unintentional and said that he was just trying to break up a double play, but a double play was not a possibility and anyone with a feel for the game would have known that.

With Lawrie on first base, Josh Reddick hit a ball back up the middle, the ball caromed off pitcher Kelvin Herrera’s foot and was picked up by third baseman Mike Moustakas. At that point a base runner should know there’s no chance of a double play; everything’s taking too long.

If Lawrie needed another clue, maybe the sight of Escobar stretched out like a first baseman would indicate he was not going to even attempt to turn two. But Lawrie still slid late, targeted Escobar not the bag, came in spikes up and after Lawrie slammed into his leg, Escobar had to be helped off the field.

The next day Yordano Ventura evened things up by drilling Lawrie with a 99-mph fastball, and after that everyone seemed to think things were over. But once again the Oakland A’s started things Sunday when Scott Kazmir hit Lorenzo Cain with a 92-mph fastball. You can debate Kazmir’s intentions, but when a pitcher throws 103 pitches and only 20 of them aren’t in the strike zone, you might get a little suspicious when a guy who’s exhibiting excellent control claims a pitch got away from him — the Royals certainly were.

It’s hard to defend Kelvin Herrera retaliating by throwing behind Lawrie and then pointing at his head, but if Lawrie wanted to do something about it, he had his opportunity.

When I was working on the book “Throwback” with Jason Kendall, he wasn’t shy about expressing his opinions. Kendall believed that if a hitter had a problem with what a pitcher did, the hitter could go to the mound and do something about it. And if the hitter didn’t want to confront the pitcher, he should shut up and take his base.

An annoying number of people — or maybe that should be a number of annoying people — choose a third alternative: they huff and puff, point fingers and wait for their teammates to come out of the dugout and hold them back.

When I asked him what he thought of Lawrie’s reaction to Herrera’s pitch, Kendall said: “He had his chance and he let Greg Gibson hold him back.”

Lawrie is 6 feet tall and weighs 210 pounds; if he really wanted to go after Herrera, a middle-aged umpire with a loose grip on his jersey wouldn’t stop him. Instead Lawrie let himself be directed back to the dugout and then apparently decided to beat up a water cooler.

When Kendall was still playing he did everything he could to break up double plays; but he also accepted the fact that if he got to the pivot man and took him out with a hard, legal slide, the other team might decide to retaliate.

Over the course of his career Kendall was hit by pitches 254 times. He charged the mound a couple of times, but it was over what the pitcher said, not because the pitcher threw at him; Jason figured if you played the game hard, getting thrown at was part of the deal.

Yesterday, I compared Lawrie’s takeout slide to the flying body blocks ex-Royal Hal McRae used to dish out and concluded that McRae’s takeout slides were much more aggressive. But here’s the difference: maybe I missed something, but when opposing pitchers threw at him and the other team’s fans booed him, I don’t remember Hal McRae whining about it.

If you’re going to play rough, don’t be surprised if people retaliate.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.

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