The Royals have become a bit of a lightning rod for criticism ever since they began appearing in confrontations with other teams last year. Much of the criticism of the Royals on that front was overblown, but at least it was rooted in factual basis. Most fans would agree that teams should not be getting into bench-clearing incidents on a regular basis, even if in some cases, they were provoked.
It has been less than a week into the 2016 regular season, and already the Royals have become an outlet for ire among media members. This year, the outrage seems to be of the manufactured sort, spun from thin air or drawn from poorly-drawn inferences. The first controversy came stemmed from a report by Mets beat writer Marc Carig of Newsday, who cited "industry sources" that the word on the street was the Royals were planning retaliation against the Mets for Noah Syndergaard's brushback pitch in last year's World Series.
That led to an open condemnation by Fox Sports writer Dieter Kurtenbach, who took the "rumor" as certainty and argued that this kind of vigilantism the Royals were planning was part of why baseball was dying, conflating arguments on bat-flips and the demographics of the game in a bizarre tangent that would not pass muster in most college composition classes. The Royals were the bad guys for something that had not even happened yet. It did not matter that the Royals denied they were up to anything, and of course, when nothing happened, Kurtenbach argued it was because their cover had been blown! But at least he was able to get some clicks by making them the bad guys based on a rumor from baseball's gossip mill.
Next, Royals fans were accused of not being able to get over the Syndergaard pitch by NBC Sports writer Craig Calcaterra. How did he know? Was it a whining screed by a fan on the local news? Inappropriate behavior towards Syndergaard by an unruly fan. No, it was worse. It was a joke made on a continuing legal education pamphlet by a Kansas City lawyer's association.
What a disgrace. I mean, seriously, $135 for members? What is the membership fee for?
Calcaterra again hit the Royals after Tuesday's game when he accused them of "casual sexism" for playing Lenny Kravitz's "American Woman" as Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, known for his flowing blonde locks of hair, took the mound. Craig writes:
There is no way, in 2016, that equating women with weakness or using "woman" as an insult, which was clearly the case in Kansas City, is acceptable. The idea that a guy with long hair is a "woman" and that such a thing is bad was comically played out and exposed as retrograde idiocy as long ago as the late 60s. That it’s still a go-to insult now is inexcusable.
I am familiar with Craig a bit, and like him and I don't disagree that the insults like "you throw like a girl", or Blue Jays manager John Gibbons comments about "wearing dresses" should probably be a thing of the past, especially now that women are playing (and excelling) in youth and college baseball. But to suggest that the Royals were "clearly" trying to insult Syndergaard in this way is a pretty huge inference to draw.
For anyone that has been to a fair amount of games at Kauffman Stadium, it is clear "American Woman" is on heavy rotation in their antiquated set list (which should be the real outrage!) If the Royals truly meant to insult Syndergaard, there were a good number of other songs that would have struck a nerve more directly, from Pavement's "Cut Your Hair" to Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" to George Thorogood's "Get a Haircut."
But really, we're talking about one of the more conservative stadium operations in the league. I mean look at their bracket for the new "Sixth Inning Song Contest". They think Pat Boone is a little bit too racy for young ears. I really doubt they are going to say "hey, let's stick to to Noah Syndergaard by calling him a girl!" For their part, the Royals have denied the playing of the song was meant to insult Syndergaard or women, which Calcaterra, like Kurtenbach on the denial of retaliation, dismisses.
In a way, this kind of attention is a bit flattering. If the Royals were irrelevant as they once were, they would not generating much heat or pageviews for media outlets. But enough is enough. There are plenty of real things in baseball (and the world) to be legitimately angry about. Accusing the team of manufactured controversies is a waste of time. Leave the manufactured outrage where it belongs - in politics!