Why The Royals got off easy

Note: Updated after it was announced Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez would not appeal his suspension, making him eligible to pitch against the Yankees beginning Saturday.

Major League Baseball suspended Blue Jays reliever Aaron Sanchez for three games on Tuesday, and a day later Sanchez declined to appeal. That was far more surprising than Sanchez’s kneecapping of Royals’ shortstop Alcides Escobar, which was the final inside pitch in a long day of fascinating acrimony Sunday.

It doesn’t take Marvin Miller to figure out what would have been the basis of Sanchez’s appeal, which could have gone something like this: Are you nuts?

MLB had this much in common with the game’s home-plate umpire, Jim Wolf: each had the wrong answer. If it were an SAT question, it couldn’t have been simpler: Team A’s starter hits the opponent’s best player and then throws high and tight to him the next time; Team A’s reliever hits opponent’s newest player in the hand and then comes inside on their best player again; Opponent’s reliever retaliates and grazes Team A’s shortstop, who looks bemused because he’s been hit harder by baserunners trying to break up a double play. Given that a warning was issued to both teams after the very first HBP, who gets ejected?

If your answer is Opponent’s reliever, you realize the warning issued by the home-plate umpire was as meaningful as DeAndre Jordan’s commitment to Mark Cuban. Or maybe you’re an expert in illogical applications.

Never mind that the Royals took the fight to Twitter after the game, with Edinson Volquez, the starter in question, calling Josh Donaldson, the American League MVP in the non-Mike Trout division, “a little baby,” and rare non-combatant Yordano Ventura calling Jose Bautista a “nothing.” (Ventura later issued a lengthy apology.)

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell this season whether the Royals are motivated to win the World Series or challenge Ronda Rousey. 

Volquez is a talented pitcher who’s had an erratic career, which is fitting because it mirrors his personality. There was nothing courageous about his actions or comments Sunday, given that he won’t have to bat anytime soon, and that even if he did, his mound opponent was R.A. Dickey. 

Dickey’s best offering is a knuckleball, which is not the weapon of choice for retaliation. Getting into a beanball battle armed with a knuckleballer is not like bringing a knife to a gunfight, but more like coming barehanded.

Royals manager Ned Yost said he thought Wolf did a “phenomenal job,” and why wouldn’t he? None of his pitchers was ejected, even if they heard Wolf’s warning and ignored it. Royals pitchers gave a whole new meaning to the expression “crying Wolf.”

Yost also complimented the Blue Jays’ hitters and said opposing pitchers “have to utilize the inside part of the plate to open up the outside part of the plate.”

He’s right, of course, but it would be a less of a problem if Royals pitchers didn’t assume “the inside part of the plate” included half the batter’s box. And Donaldson’s back. Even Bob Gibson must think the Royals are pushing boundaries too far.

The Royals were a cute story last year: 28 years out of the playoffs, small market-team gets in as a wild card and almost wins the World Series. A year later the Royals are coming off as arrogantly as if they were managed by Tony La Russa; this might be the first postseason featuring two teams from New York and two from Missouri in which the New York teams are the sentimental favorites.

The Blue Jays are the team no one in the AL wants to face in the playoffs — they’ve got the game’s best offense and added just enough pitching to be a dangerous October opponent (the Mets are the NL team no one wants to face because they have great young pitching and added just enough offense to be dangerous).

The Royals might do well to remember that underdog stories rarely have sequels. The Blue Jays became the team with the longest postseason drought when the Royals made it last year; they just might assume their status, too, this fall.

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