What a difference a year makes. Last year’s super-hero ball club, the Clark Kents turned into Supermen, the Kansas City Royals, are quickly becoming the super-villains. The Lex Luthors. One might expect the Blue Jays to have a heated rivalry with the Red Sox (with the Farrell thing on top of being division rivals) , or the Yankees but the Royals?!
After this weekend’s games and chatter, on field and online, it seems clear that last year’s AL champions are Public Enemy #1 at Rogers Centre… unless umpire Jim Wolf owns that distinction.
For those who might have been enjoying the long weekend out of town and missed Sunday’s game, tempers flared even hotter than the August sky and benches cleared after a series of hit batters and brush backs. KC starter Edison Volquez plunked Josh Donaldson in the first inning, prompting a quick warning from umpire Jim Wolf. After Donaldson was thrown at again, with no response from Wolf, Troy Tulowitzki got drilled in the 7th by Ryan Madson. Still no discipline despite the umpire’s warning. Madson throwing inside at Donaldson yet again was more or less the final straw, causing Josh to lose his temper, John Gibbons to run out and promptly get ejected, soon to be joined in the clubhouse by pitcher Aaron Sanchez who was tossed before the ball he hit Royals hothead Alcides Escobar in the bottom of the inning with touched the dirt.
Benches cleared and while no punches were thrown thankfully, a veritable, verbal series of jabs ran back-and-forth afterwards online and on air. Volquez called Donaldson a “crybaby” and criticized his “pimping” of home runs (something few KC players could be accused of, given their lack of power!); while manager Ned Yost of the Royals had the audacity to praise the “phenomenal” job of umpiring by Wolf.
In response, Jose Bautista tweeted that he “lost a lot of respect” for Yost, prompting Yordano Ventura to call Joey Bats a “nobody” in a tweet he eventually deleted.
Bautista articulately added later on that his comments said “nothing against his managerial capabilities… he’s doing pretty good at that, obviously their record reflects it” but questioned the job of umpiring. “Why put a warning on if somebody is going to get hit with a fastball…and not be taken out of the game?”
A very good question MLB should be asking.
It’s not the first time the Royals have made enemies throwing at batters this year. Benches cleared against Oakland earlier in the season after Ventura plunked an Athletic and days later both Volquez and Ventura got suspended after a brawl with the White Sox, the latter being suspended seven games as baseball deemed him the instigator. So Royals riling up opponents by being head-hunters is hardly anything new. What is is for the umpire to seemingly condone it.
No one in the Jays organization has said it but I will- having Jim Wolf umpire while his brother Randy is an active pitcher is a bad idea. Perhaps Wolf the ump simply thought there was no intent on the pitches brushing back Blue Jays and plunking Tulo. Or forgot that he had warned both benches innings earlier. But am I the only one who has considered that if Jim’s brother, Randy , was on the Blue Jays bench that he wouldn’t have had the chance to call the game. The fact that Randy is instead toiling in Buffalo (quite well, with a 7-1 record and 2.48 ERA) while Toronto has had a revolving door of pitchers up and down may have been the farthest thing from Jim’s mind. But it sure isn’t a stretch to think that at least on a subconscious level, older bro’ Jim might be a bit angry at the jays for not promoting his little brother Randy and is letting it influence his calling the game.
A wise man once said “justice must not only be done but must be seen as being done.” Jim Wolf tossing a Jays pitcher for hitting a KC player after two Toronto players got hit by pitchers with a notorious history of throwing at players doesn’t seem just.
Nevertheless, the whole incident might be “just” the great bonding event that the team needed. Thanks Kansas City, thanks Jim Wolf. You might have been what our Clark Kents of the ball diamond needed to find the nearest phone booth…
Tuesday addendum: the league announced suspensions for Aaron Sanchez and John Gibbons today yet somehow turn a blind eye to the KC head-hunters. That’s unfair on a hundred levels… but may help cement team unity and determination even better than a trade for an All Star. So, in a roundabout way, thanks MLb!