With the Royals heading back to Toronto to contend with the Blue Jays for the ALCS, there is a feeling of returning to the scene of the crime. Earlier this season, the two teams were at odds and cleared the benches.
When Royals starter Edinson Volquez plunked Josh Donaldson and then nearly did it again later in the game, it set off tensions in both dugouts. Jose Bautista went so far as to say he had lost respect for Ned Yost, and Edinson Volquez did his best to soften the situation by calling Donaldson a “little baby.”
Nationally, many chalked this up to the Royals being the Royals, as they had been a party to previous altercations with the likes of the Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox. This was in addition to numerous small incidents such as Yordano Ventura and The Neckless Wonder, Mike Trout, chirping at each other earlier this season as well.
The Royals had become the “Bad Boys” of baseball according to many. A shocking turn-around considering the Cinderella status they carried with them just a few months before in the 2014 playoffs and the longtime Loveable Losers before that. They were “cute” then. Loveable. Likeable. Sometimes awkward but a nice story…..and now they were suppose to go away. When the new season came around, they had far different intentions.
There were no projections that picked the Royals to win the American League Central Division. There were few individuals outside of Kansas City who picked them to win the Central. (Jerry Crasnick and Alex Cora being exceptions) They had lost James Shields to free agency in the offseason and with him was leaving the end of a short and sweet era in Royals baseball history. No way Edinson Volquez would replace Shields production on the field, let alone in the clubhouse.
Thats how it was suppose to go.
When the Royals came out swinging in 2015, they were heavily criticized for their flamboyant ways of celebrating even small hits with hand gestures and celebration deemed too excessive by the always present spirit of baseball past, representing our hallowed sport on the basis of tradition and “playing the game the right way.”
To police these rules, teams did what any team would do when playing the game “how it is suppose to be played.” They hurled 95 mph fastballs at the Royals until they learned their lesson. By the end of April, the Royals had already been plunked a staggering total of 20 times, tied with Texas for the lead in all of MLB. Of course only a handful were apparently intentional. The “Bad Boys” themselves sat 20th in MLB in returning retribution having only hit six batters themselves.
The Royals were angry. Who WOULDN’T they be? They began throwing back in defiance. But that isn’t even really what this story is about….it was almost a completely different issue all together.
Part of the missing story in much that has gone on is the WHO that continues to surface in the majority of the Royals scuffles. Its easy to say they were in semi-major confrontations with the White Sox, Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics, but why them?
One interesting piece that ties them all together….the 2014 Oakland Athletics. The team the Royals sent packing during the Wild Card game in soul-crushing fashion.
With the Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson has been the player most at odds with Royals, and vice versa. (This up until recently when Jose Bautista has done a FANTASTIC job of doing his very best at making the KC area hate him equally as much…I personally LOVED his fake ball throw to the fans, but that is a different story) Donaldson is most famous for being the A’s third baseman on that fateful night who dove and missed Salvador Perez’s game winning hit down the line by fractions of an inch, ultimately sending the Royals to the ALDS.
Royals fans, we haven’t forgotten.
We continue to remind Donaldson, who told Perez that he “almost” had it.
With the Chicago White Sox, Jeff Samardzija was the primary instigator, though the spotlight was on the confrontation between Adam Eaton and Yordano Ventura. Samardzija also just so happened to be on the 2014 A’s squad in that Wild Card game, and was shown screaming derogatory things at the Royals from the A’s dugout that evening. He was up to the same antics when playing the Royals this season, only this time he was wearing a White Sox jersey. Camera angles caught him once again yelling at Christian Colon after he had made his way to first base – the same thing he did to Colon during the Wild Card Game. He was then the one of the players others struggled to hold back in the ensuing bench clearing scrum. You know what they say, you can take the trash out of…….well you get the point.
The other team the Royals have had a dugout clearing brawl with this season? The Oakland A’s themselves. This one kind of speaks for itself.
The point isn’t that the Royals are angels and have given zero reason for there to be tension, that is untrue. Ventura has/had acted childish on many occasions, and has created a few tensions himself. Volquez calling Josh Donaldson a baby was probably not the best move in the interest of being the bigger man. Beaning Brett Lawrie TWICE in the same game after he took out Alcides Escobar on a questionable call may have been overdoing it a bit. Jumping the rail and screaming at the top of your lungs after every home run might rub some folks the wrong way.
Bottom line, there are reasons. But EVERY team has reasons to hate them. Every team has someone that is easily disliked. The Royals were improperly labeled because of issues with one primary group of people….current and former A’s players who were still just a little but upset. It becomes easy to judge an entire situation just by what you see on the surface. The entire city of Toronto is not trash simply because a VERY minute handful of drunks decided to throw beer at a baseball game. If you WANT to hate any team, its easy to do so….pick out an incident and dwell on it. Every team has them. That’s what makes the playoffs so great!
The Kansas City Royals ARE a likeable team. They have given rise to a whole new fan base and along the way given them improbable wins we will most likely never see the likes of again. They have rewarded the lifer fans who never imagined they would see the new “Golden Age” of Royals baseball. They have never given up and they have never turned on each other or the fans. Not once. Not even a little.
The worst part about being nationally covered is seeing the irresponsible reporting going along with much of the coverage. The cutbacks, clips and articles portraying the Royals in a light that is unrecognizable to anyone who follows the team or would even bother doing a shred of research. They were in several incidents, and therefore, THEY must be the problem. Usually, that may be the case but not this time. These guys aren’t bad boys, they are just loyal.
This loyal group of guys seems about as loveable as it gets….unless you hate losing to them.