In baseball there’s a line you don’t cross and it’s located at a hitter’s shoulders.
On Friday night in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series Noah Syndergaard crossed that line when he threw a 98-MPH fastball up around Alcides Escobar’s head. The pitch dumped Alcides on his backside and then Syndergaard pitched Esky away; Alcides went on to strike out.
Nobody asked me (when has that ever stopped me?), but I didn’t have much of a problem with Noah Syndergaard’s coming inside on Alcides Escobar. On the other hand that pitch missed me by about 400 feet.
Coming up and in on a hot hitter is a time-honored way of cooling that hitter down; put the hitter on his backside and then see if he’s still willing to lean out over the plate and hit the pitch away. Don’t let the hot hitter stand there feeling like a million bucks; come inside and remind him that you’re in charge.
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So up and in was not a problem; up above the shoulders was. A fastball in the ribs will bruise you, a fastball in the head might kill you.
More than once I’ve written that a Royals pitcher needed to make an opposition hitter "uncomfortable" by throwing inside. I believe I recently said the same thing about Daniel Murphy; he’s crowding the plate and some KC pitcher needs to put him on his backside.
In Game 2 Johnny Cueto did come inside on Murphy, but he did it with pitches below the shoulders and that’s what the Royals hitters are upset about; they feel that pitching up around the head is dangerous. If you want to send a message, do it with a pitch below the shoulders.
Anybody remember Brett Lawrie?
Kelvin Herrera sent a message to Lawrie when he threw at him and the pitch was at least shoulder high—if not higher. Kelvin complicated the situation by pointing at his head after he threw the pitch; easily interpreted as, "I was throwing at your head." (Although Kelvin said the gesture was meant to say, "Think about it.")
Whatever Kelvin's true intention; Lawrie complained about the same thing that the Royals are complaining about now.
You can come in, just come in below the shoulders.
Give Syndergaard some credit
Feel free to disagree and I’m absolutely positive some of you will; but at least Syndergaard stood behind what he did. He flipped Alcides Escobar, but didn’t try to claim it was an accident.
That’s what a lot of pitchers do; throw at a guy and then claim the ball got away from them.
Syndergaard basically said he was going to dump Escobar, did it and then upped the ante when he invited the Royals to come meet him at 60 feet, 6 inches. Noah Syndergaard is basically saying; yeah, I flipped your guy and if you have a problem with that, come to the mound.
The Royals did not respond.
Yordano Ventura did not come up and in on the Mets leadoff hitter, Curtis Granderson, which would have sent a message back to the Mets: you flip our guys and we’ll flip yours.
Ventura did not come up and in on Noah Syndergaard when he came to the plate. (And once again give Syndergaard some credit for flipping Escobar when he knew he had to face Ventura.)
Ventura did not drill Syndergaard in the ribs with a 95-MPH fastball; another response totally acceptable under the unwritten rules of the game.
Instead, Ventura probably did Syndergaard a favor when he threw an 0-2 84-MPH curveball to a guy who probably couldn’t handle a-mid nineties fastball. Syndergaard singled on the hung curve and that cost Ventura a run when Curtis Granderson homered.
Granderson did not get flipped in his first at bat and felt comfortable enough to stand on top of the dish and pull a Ventura fastball on the outer third of the plate for a home run down the right field line.
Like I said, I also didn’t have much problem with Syndergaard going up and in on Escobar and if the Royals respond (and frankly, I think they should) I won’t have much of a problem with that.
Just remember it’s very easy for me to say that the Royals ought to respond; if they do, I’ll be sitting in the auxiliary press box, beyond the left field foul pole. I won’t get hit by a pitch or have to throw a punch in a baseball scuffle—but I still think the Royals need to do something that sends a message to the Mets.
Just do it below the shoulders.