Joyner: Take the beanball out of baseball

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

When Brett Lawrie of the Oakland Athletics stepped into the batter’s box in the top of the fourth inning on Saturday night, everybody at Kauffman Stadium knew what was about to happen. Josh Reddick had just pounded a three-run home run off Royals’ starting pitcher Yordano Ventura, and trailing 5-0, Ventura decided to end his evening early.

Ventura plunked Lawrie with a 99-mph fastball on the left elbow and was immediately ejected, without a previous warning from home plate umpire Jim Joyce. On Sunday Royals’ reliever Kelvin Herrera was ejected for throwing a 100-mph fastball behind Lawrie. A warning had already been issued in the first inning after A’s pitcher Scott Kazmir hit Lorenzo Cain on the foot.

This was retaliation for Lawrie taking a cheap shot on Royals’ shortstop Alcides Escobar the previous night, going spikes up into the outstretched knee of Escobar as he stretched for a force out at second base. The late slide resulted in Escobar missing starts in the next two games.

My question is why was anybody upset that Ventura was ejected? The tension was there from the previous night, home plate umpire Jim Joyce and the rest of his crew knew the stakes, and I would’ve bet my future kids’ college fund that Ventura would put the next one into Lawrie. Ventura was ejected without a warning and Royals fans everywhere were furious with the exception of me. Why would anybody think he wasn’t deserving of an early exit?

Yes, the Royals had already been hit by pitches 13 times in just 11 games. Yes, Alcides Escobar did not start a game for the first time in over a year because of a reckless slide in an unacceptable situation. Yes, Brett Lawrie making the lame apology via text message is bush league. But why can’t we just move on? Why couldn’t Ventura have put that 99 mph fastball on the outside corner for strike number one and move on?

I understand backing up your teammates. In high school a teammate of mine was hit by a fastball in the back of the head in the state playoffs. He was hospitalized and was taken off the field in an ambulance. Benches had already cleared twice after two previous altercations at home plate and this just added fuel to the fire.

I was the first person on the field to defend my teammates and call for the opposing pitcher to be ejected. I had to be held back by coaches and umpires. Defending your teammates can be important, but retaliating in the next inning with another person in a stretcher was not the answer. We had to move on.

My answer is not the classic cliché of, “kill them with kindness,” but I think it’s close to that. You have to be mentally tough. Branch Rickey, the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 when Jackie Robinson was the first man to integrate baseball, had a great mindset with his groundbreaking second basemen. Rickey was not looking for a black player who was afraid to fight back against the racism involved with making this change in baseball. Rickey wanted a player who was mentally tough enough to not fight back against the racism to prove to everybody in the world that baseball was a game for everybody. This is the attitude adjustment that baseball needs today.

Hitting players on purpose is ridiculous, no matter the reason. Instead of throwing a fastball at someone’s head, how about you blow that same pitch by the batter for a strikeout? What proves a better message: giving in to baseball’s idiotic unwritten rules, or being strong enough to let it go and move on?

I’m tired of people acting like it’s OK to intentionally hit batters. “That’s just baseball,” I hear people say. No that’s just childish. The only sport where it should be OK to try and hurt somebody is boxing or UFC.

I don’t think Lawrie should be let off easy after injuring one of the cornerstones of the Kansas City Royals. I also think Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera should be suspended and I’m as big of a Royals fan as you’ll ever meet. There is no place in today’s game for this anymore.

I don’t care if someone tells you that, “you mix your Wheaties with your mama’s toe jam,” or that, “you play ball like a girl.” Let’s retaliate like the Sandlot<em>Sandlot</em> kids taught us to do: go over and pulverize the other team at their fancy field and go celebrate at the carnival with some Red Man. kids taught us to do: go over and pulverize the other team at their fancy field and go celebrate at the carnival with some Red Man. Sandlot kids taught us to do: go over and pulverize the other team at their fancy field and go celebrate at the carnival with some Red Man.