The Royals have had a rough season, and have flown under the national radar except for when they make the news for getting into dust-ups with Tim Anderson and the Chicago White Sox. Just weeks after a bench-clearing confrontation where Brad Keller hit Anderson in response to a bat flip, the Royals had another incident on Wednesday evening. In the second inning, Glenn Sparkman hit Tim Anderson in the head with an 86-mph changeup.
Sad. pic.twitter.com/rF4bCDJKem— Sox On 35th (@SoxOn35th) May 30, 2019
He was promptly ejected without warning, causing Martín Maldonado to protest vigorously to umpire Mark Carlson in his defense. As Maldonado relayed to Alec Lewis of The Athletic:
“He told me that it was bad timing,” Maldonado said. “I said, ‘You can’t throw my pitcher out with bad timing.’ At least give him a warning. He said, ‘I can’t give you a warning when he’s trying to hit the head.’ He wasn’t trying to hit the head. We were cool after he understood my points. I also understood his points. He said, ‘The reason we had to throw him out is because it was close to the face, the head.’ He also was expecting them to retaliate against us.”
So it seems that Sparkman was ejected even if there was doubt in Carlson’s mind that it was intentional because it was “bad timing.”
And while I hate to say it, Carlson was right.
Perhaps the pitch was unintentional, after all it was a change up and Sparkman is not known for having particularly good command. On the other hand, it came an inning after Hunter Dozier was very nearly nailed in the head himself from pitcher Reynaldo Lopez (something that has not drawn any admonition from any national media at all, weird huh?).
Neo Dozier pic.twitter.com/lvt0ntVoGn— Cody Tapp (@codybtapp) May 30, 2019
Yea, that seems like that could have done a lot more damage. But no warnings I guess?
We can debate whether this or Sparkman’s pitch were intentional - and the national media has lambasted the Royals, assuming it was intentional - but the fact we did have this history, that everyone knows Ned Yost has “the ass”, and that the Royals frankly have a bit of a reputation for plunking batters is going to take away the benefit of the doubt for them.
Yost adamantly defended his pitcher in post-game commemnts.
“I’ve got to choose my words carefully,” Yost said. “As far as we’re concerned, coming into this series, we had no animosity toward that young man. None. And to think we’re going to hit him on purpose is ludicrous. And two, it was a changeup.
“[The April incident] was forgotten. He’d done his part, we’d done our part, it was over. Nothing. There was no ill-feeling or ill-will. It would be totally ignorant for us to hit him. We don’t play like that. We’re not like that.
But they are like that! It is hard to give those comments any credibility after after Royals players pretty much admitted Keller hit Anderson on purpose after Yost’s defense that it simply “got away from him.”
Hunter Dozier on the Tim Anderson hit by pitch: "Keller did the right thing. He aimed for the lower body. Hit him. It should just be like 'OK, go to first and move on.' It shouldn't have been as big of a situation as it was in my opinion, but I could be wrong. I don't know."— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) April 17, 2019
Or after Yost told a story of calling for a player to be hit before and having his pitcher feign ignorance.
Story Time with Ned Yost— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) April 23, 2019
The time he ordered a plunking of Albert Pujols.#Royals | #AlwaysRoyal pic.twitter.com/rxagiv1Rsv
Look, it is quite possible that Sparkman just lost control and hit Anderson unintentionally, or at the very least meant to buzz Anderson inside and couldn’t control his stuff. It is also quite possible that the Royals were rankled by Reynaldo Lopez nearly hitting their best hitter in the face and wanted to send a message they wouldn’t stand for that (which, quite honestly is a bit juvenile and harmful to the game).
But either way, Carlson was right, the Royals have lost the benefit of the doubt and had Sparkman not been ejected, the White Sox would have taken matters into their own hands. And who knows, maybe Whit Merrifield ends up getting hit in the face in retaliation and his career is never the same? Better to de-escalate things while you still can (although warnings after Dozier got buzzed would have been a lot more appropriate).
We will see if Sparkman gets a suspension for this - the case seems murky enough that he may avoid punishment altogether. But the Royals need to put this beef behind them, if they haven’t already. Maybe they’re showing other teams they are a club that won’t back down, but it is not earning them respect (winning earns respect!). And it is costing them if every time they hit a batter people have to wonder “was that on purpose”?