The Royals drew their fair share of controversy last year, some of it deserved after several dust-ups with the Angels, Athletics, White Sox, and Blue Jays. In the post-season, the team behaved, however their post-season run was not completely without incident, after Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard angered them with a brush-back pitch on the first pitch of Game Three designed to send a message. Despite this "message", the Royals did not retaliate, instead keeping their focus on the championship, which they were able to claim.
The Royals and Mets are set to re-match this Sunday, where the Royal will raise their championship flag. The team will likely be in a joyous mood, and by all accounts, they have put any unpleasantness with the Mets behind them. However, that has not kept rumors from popping up that the Royals may try to retaliate this weekend. Marc Carig of Newsday cites "multiple industry sources" that say the Royals will try to get back at the Mets for Syndergaard's brushback.
Carig is by all accounts a reputable reporter for a mainstream paper, and I'm sure he's not making anything up out of whole-cloth. But let's consider where he might be getting his information from. Carig is a beat writer - for the New York Mets. He has been in Port St. Lucie, Florida, 2,312 miles from where the Royals are training in Surprise, Arizona.
Now its possible Yordano Ventura made trouble again with his cell phone by texting Carig that he planned some retaliation, but it is not likely. Nor is it likely that anyone with the Royals told Carig they planned retaliation. Carig instead cites "industry sources." People in baseball. People spreading rumors.
Now if Carig wants to report that, fine, it will get some clicks and sell some papers in New York, and he's not the first reporter to run with a rumor from anonymous sources. But we have to treat it for what it is right now, and that is unsubstantiated gossip.
For what its worth, the Royals have said nothing publicly to suggest they are up to anything.
I asked Volquez about retribution for Syndergaard's pitch to Escobar in the World Series. "I'm too old for that," he said. #Royals— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier610) March 29, 2016
From #Royals Alex Gordon: "We’re not even thinking about it.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) March 29, 2016
Our retaliation was winning the World Series. After that, we moved on."
More from Dillon Gee on retaliation theory: "I’ve been here all spring and I don’t think anyone has even brought up the Mets." #Royals— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) March 29, 2016
Former Mets pitcher Dillon Gee: "That's the New York media for you." #Royals— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) March 29, 2016
A #Royals official told me the only retribution planned for the Mets on Opening Night is a 30-second tribute video. Those nasty Royals.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) March 29, 2016
Ned Yost on Royals-reliation-gate: "Some buffoon writes something and you guys are gonna jump like little monkeys in a cage for peanut."— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) March 29, 2016
Dieter Kurtenbach at Fox Sports however, decided to take the rumors as gospel with this wretched piece decrying the Royals for their "vigilantism." Kurtenbach is not some East Coast elite or rabid Mets fan. He is a Chicago native, who actually studied journalism at the University of Missouri, so he should be fairly familiar with the Royals, or at least the fanbase.
He begins his piece by writing, without the slightest hint of irony:
Baseball sure loves a manufactured controversy, especially if the terms "respect," "class," or "the right way" are involved.
You don't say?
Kurtenbach then goes on to write that it is the Royals who have a history of trying to uphold the unwritten rules of baseball. The Royals that Brett Lawrie accused of "bush league stuff." The Royals that got into a brawl with the White Sox because Adam Eaton took issue to being quick-pitched. The Royals that got into a bench-clearing incident with the Jays after a Toronto pitcher hit a Royals batter. The Royals that gesticulate with hand motions upon getting base hits. The Royals get into a lot of confrontations sure, but they aren't exactly the guardians of the unwritten rules of the game.
Kurtenbach then praises the Syndergaard brushback thrown "over leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar's head" for getting his team going. Which is interesting, because when Kelvin Herrera threw a pitch past Brett Lawrie's head, it got a multiple-game suspension, and was evidence the Royals were vigilantes.
Dieter then reveals he is a time-traveler, and has seen the future, for he knows what the Royals will do next.
Don't let the fact that it's been five months since the original incident, or that the Royals had three games to respond to this aggression during the World Series, confuse you — the Royals are going to make sure Syndergaard (or, more specifically, some unknowing Mets position player) gets his comeuppance.
Carig won't even go so far as to say the Royals absolutely will retaliate or what the retaliation will be, only that is what he has heard from "sources", but Kurtenbach knows! The Royals will do evil, fiendish things, and they must be scolded for it!
What comes next is a mish-mash of ideas that somehow conflates the Royals with the demise of baseball and some argument about tribalism. Try to parse this sentence if you can.
Baseball's fade from national relevance has happened for many reasons — many outside of MLB's control — but one of the reasons baseball has become a tribal sport with little whole-league appeal is the league's widespread vigilantism.
It is like Kurtenbach had an article written on a different topic altogether, and shoe-horned the Royals in to get some clicks. Baseball is, of course, more popular than ever, at least measured by things like attendance, revenues, and local TV ratings. Kurtenbach is right that baseball is no longer the national sport it once was, but to suggest this is due to vigilantism and tribalism is....utterly ridiculous.
Baseball's slide from national attention probably began in the 1990s, if not long before, due to the rise of professional football, although it still remains the second-most popular sport in America. If there was vigilantism going on then to cause the slide, I don't recall hearing about much about it.
To suggest tribalism is somehow turning baseball into a regional, rather than national sport and this is turning younger generations off, shows a complete ignorance of other sports. Has Dietrich ever tuned in to a Saturday afternoon in the fall and seen Auburn vs. Alabama? Florida vs. Georgia? Ohio State vs. Michigan? Is college football not on the national stage? What about professional football? Bears vs. Packers? Cowboys vs. Giants? Ravens vs. Steelers? Tribalism IS sports. As I asked in the review of Chip Scarinzi's book "Diehards"
Do sports provide us an outlet to resolve cultural and political differences that might otherwise be resolved by violence?
Tribalism in sports may or may not be a good thing, but there seems to be little doubt that it is a popular aspect of sports, not one to lead to its demise.
Anyway, this is all a digression from the Kurtenbach's next point where he plays armchair psychologist. On events that have not happened yet.
The Royals have no reason to be angry at anyone, but they're out for blood in the first game of the season. Why? Probably because they think their benches-clearing brawls in April 2015 galvanized the team and set them on a course toward glory. They can't let anyone think they can get one over on them. That's some next-level bloviation.
Again, the Royals have not done anything yet. They haven't even said anything yet. Or "bloviated", as Dieter would put it.
Kurtenbach tries again to somehow tie this to baseball's low numbers with young people, suggesting that somehow silly controversies like Adam LaRoche's kid turn off millennials and make baseball less popular. Because we know manufactured outrage has hurt the NFL.
If there is a critique in this column, it should be a mirror to the state of journalism. A rumor with anonymous sources gets printed, another columnist treats it as fact, writes a word salad with half-baked ideas tossed on the top, and enjoys the clicks and notoriety from his hot take. Manufactured outrage is the fuel that keeps machines like ESPN going, and it is not hard for a young writer wanting to make a name for himself to see that path.
Near the end, Kurtenbach adds this:
Millenials don't have the attention spans or inclination to feign objection to a manufactured insult...
If that's true, then they should definitely take a pass on the manufactured insult produced by his column.