Judging the Royals

Are the Blue Jays hitters whiners, or are the Royals pitchers headhunters?

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez was given a warning by home plate umpire Jim Wolf after nearly hitting Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson back with a pitch during the third inning of Sunday’s game.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez was given a warning by home plate umpire Jim Wolf after nearly hitting Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson back with a pitch during the third inning of Sunday’s game. The Associated Press

Here it is Tuesday morning and we’re still talking about the Royals-Blue Jays game that took place on Sunday. Thank God; I now have something to write about after an off-day. That Sunday game — with a several pitches thrown at or near batters — has generated a lot of comments, so I thought I’d take today to address some of them. Let’s start with a comment that allows me to explain my position:

Phil Brunson: Pitchers have to throw inside, but some of those pitches were around the head. In today’s game that area is going to draw the ire of the opposing hitters (no more Don Drysdale-type knockdowns). Also Ned Yost teams have always played with an edge that rubs other teams. I’d suggest throwing inside, but keep the ball down.

If you’re tired of hearing me talk about Jason Kendall — we wrote a book together — skip this comment. I’ve spent a lot of time around Jason and he’s certainly changed the way I view the game. For instance:

I once saw a pitcher come up and in on Jason; the pitcher wanted to get Jason out by pitching away, but Jason kept diving to the outside corner. The up-and-in fastball was designed to dump Kendall on his backside and open up the outside corner. For a moment I thought Kendall got hit in the face. But Jason jumped right back up, did not complain to the umpire or say anything to the pitcher, and once again dove to that outside corner. Despite almost taking a fastball to the lips, Kendall was not going to change his approach. Kendall accepted that if was going to wear an elbow pad and dive, pitchers we’re going to throw up and in to stop him from doing that — getting hit by a pitch was just part of the game.

Over his career Kendall kept diving and wound up getting hit by 254 pitches. He charged the mound twice and both times the pitchers said something to him after they drilled him. Kendall was willing to get hit by 254 pitches without complaint, but if he felt you had disrespected him, he was going to the mound. That incident with Kendall didn’t happen all that long ago, but even so a lot has changed: Jason is very old-school, but a lot of the new guys want to wear an elbow pad, dive to the outside corner, but resent anyone pitching inside to prevent that.

After the first three games against the Blue Jays, on Sunday it looked like Royals pitchers had had enough — they were going to pitch inside.

Fred Quatrocky: If MLB adopted NHL rules, the posturing would stop. If a player wants to go to the mound, let them go at it until the umpires break it up. Any other player gets suspended. No one can leave the bench or dugout.

Me: Most ballplayers do not really want to fight; there’s too much money to be made and nobody wants to get hurt. That’s why you see two or three guys who are actually upset being held back and a whole bunch of other guys milling around doing nothing.

Hans Roach: Pitching inside is okay, throwing under the batter’s chin is not okay.

Me: Don Drysdale might disagree with you. Pitchers have been throwing under a batter’s chin for so long it even has a name: chin music. You don’t see it as much these days for the reasons mentioned above — nobody wants to get hurt or suspended; both can cost you money.

Scott Phillips: Lee - excellent insight, as always.

Me: Thanks, not everyone agrees with you.

Blair Richards: Lee, you’re not a Judge, you’re a homer. You’ll never get out of Kansas City with your lack of objectiveness. But by reading this article I realize you’ve already over achieved. Lol

Me: At the beginning of yesterday’s column I said I thought Edinson Volquez threw at Josh Donaldson on purpose and later in the same article said that Volquez was setting a bad example for Yordano Ventura. This season alone I’ve criticized Omar Infante for failing to cover bases, Lorenzo Cain for missing the cutoff man, Jarrod Dyson for failing to run balls out, Salvador Perez for his game calling, Alcides Escobar for swinging at the first pitch of a game when the situation didn’t call for it, Alex Rios for continued communication problems in the outfield, and Ned Yost for sticking with a pitcher too long.

If I’m a homer I clearly suck at it.

And I don’t want to get out of Kansas City; I could end up somewhere worse. (Here’s where I could drop in a joke about Toronto, but the truth is I’ve been there and liked it a lot.)

Blair Richards: If Volques is such a nice guy why is he making fun of Donaldson by pretending he’s a crybaby on national and international tv

Me: It’s actually “Volquez” and he is a nice guy who needs to control his temper. And Donaldson did whine a lot.

Blair Richardson: Methinks the jays are a better team than the royals after all the trades and don’t need their 40 year old knuckle baller trying to retaliate . Lol

Me: You might be right; the Blue Jays are a very good team that just got better. But as of this morning the Jays are three games over .500 and the Royals are 20.

Blair Richardson: When Donaldson got hit the umpire thought he was hit on purpose. And so did Donaldson . There is a difference between throwing inside and purposely throwing at a batter

Me: As I’ve already stated two times — and this is the third — I also thought Volquez hit Donaldson on purpose. After the game Edinson said Josh had been “pimping” home runs (baseball slang for showing off), which is kind of ironic because some teams think Yordano Ventura plays with too much “bling” (which is also baseball slang for showing off). When Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez have to a nine-part handshake that includes everything but an appearance by one of the Radio City Rockettes, they’re just having fun — when someone on another team does the same thing, they’re pimping.

Showing off is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

Jim Bob: Damn good points here. Jays maybe got a little butt hurt over nothing

Me: Thank you; here’s another point of view.

Darren Kolsen: What a load of garbage. Starting with the title. Batter’s were in the box. Pitcher doesn’t like it so he aims for the head. A lot different than just pitching inside.

Me: If you put on an elbow pad and crowd the plate pitchers are going to pitch inside. I’d dispute that anyone aimed at anyone’s head; when you do that you actually throw behind the batter’s head and let him back into it. And if you do that even your own teammates will be mad; nobody likes a headhunter. Throwing under the chin is an entirely different thing.

Pitching under the chin — which is what the Royals were doing — is a tactic that’s been going on forever. And look who they did it to: the guy who had been killing them for three games, Josh Donaldson. And by the way, it worked; after the Royals came up and in on him, Donaldson struck out three times in a row.

Jonathan Tucker: You don’t aim for the head with a change up … that’s a load of garbage. Batters were in the box, they just happen to be a little closer to home plate than most. When you do that, you get hit. Just ask Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas — both of whom have been hit more than any Jays player and are left-handers that crowd the plate. Do they flip their bat and elbow pad after getting hit? Methinks not…

Me: As I said earlier: if you’re going to crowd the plate, accept the consequences.

Jeff Plotkin: Sure, Donaldson could have charged the mound. And in doing so he could have easily put Volquez on the shelf for a month or two, or ended his season or even his career. Is that really what you want? He was hit once intentionally, then saw another pitch coming at his head, so he had a right to be mad. I doubt the Blue Jays stand closer to the plate than other teams do (including the Royals). That was just a lame excuse for Volquez trying to play Baseball Etiquette Police.

Me: I’ve seen Edinson Volquez throw a punch; Donaldson wouldn’t have been in much danger. Lots of hitters stand on top of the plate, lots of pitchers throw inside; what’s in dispute is how a hitter reacts to it. Some accept it as a consequence of their approach, some start complaining. That’s why the Royals were down on Donaldson; he wanted to crowd the plate and then have the umpire protect him from the consequences of doing so.

Jonathan Tucker: Donaldson charges the mound and he might find a 6’3 245+lb Hispanic catcher defending his fellow Hispanic pitcher. Now, what were you talking about … oh yeah, being “on the shelf for a month or two”.

Me: Not only have I seen Edinson Volquez throw a punch, I’ve seen Salvador Perez run — Donaldson would have beat him to the mound easily.

Robin Kelly: Look at Tulowitzki’s right foot and you will see it outside the box almost touching the plate.

Me: If we’re talking about the at-bat where he got hit by the pitch, his left foot was touching the inside line of the batter’s box and his right foot was well within the box — both completely legal.

Mike Joshi: Quit trolling the Star. Stick to your Canadian media.

Me: Please keep trolling the Star, I need the page hits.

Andy Bastings: No Jays were complaining about getting hit, they were complaining about the warning with no subsequent ejections for the Royals. Do you really think a Jays pitcher would retaliate by hitting Whatsisname Escobar in the foot? C’mon, apparently no one in KC understands how baseball works.

Me: Apparently someone in Kansas City understands how baseball works; the Royals are in first place and have the best record in the American League. And a warning does not mean the umpire has to throw out anyone who comes inside or even hits a batter; the umpire can use discretion and toss someone who he believes intentionally threw at a batter.

I thought Edinson Volquez intentionally threw at Josh Donaldson in the first inning and Jim Wolf issued a warning. The next guy who Wolf thought was intentionally trying to hit someone was Aaron Sanchez — and after he almost hit Alcides Escobar in the elbow, he succeeded in hitting him in the knee, not the foot.

Jim and Judy Hayes: Wonderful article. You got it right.

Me: Let me take a wild guess — you’re not from Canada?

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

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