Baseball's Royals Keep Running Afoul Of Unwritten Rules

Baseball's Royals Keep Running Afoul Of Unwritten Rules

8:37am May 06, 2015

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The Kansas City Royals almost won the World Series last year. Really, they were the underdog darlings of baseball.


Harder to call them underdogs this year because they've been winning, although they are winning ugly. Royals batters have been struck by pitches 20 times this season, and they've only played 25 games.

GREENE: And that seems to have the Royals a little upset. Umpires have already ejected Royals players nine times. That is the most in baseball. And two recent series culminated in bench-clearing brawls. From member station KCUR, Frank Morris reports.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: This early in the baseball season, it can get a little chilly in the stands.

UNIDENTIFIED VENDOR: Hot chocolate here, hot chocolate.

MORRIS: But here at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the fans are hot, partly because their team keeps getting hit by pitches.



CHRIS STONE: We're tired of getting messed with, man. We don't take this stuff, man.

NICK WOBBE: We're not the same old Royals who used to come in, kick around, take three games, go home happy. We're winning now, you know? We're a good team, and you better respect us.

LLOYD DAVIDSON: It's almost like they've got a target on their backs.

MORRIS: Chris Stone, Nick Wobbe and Lloyd Davidson don't think the Royals are getting hit purely by accident. No one does.

JOE POSNANSKI: I think they're being tested, honestly.

MORRIS: Joe Posnanski, columnist for NBC Sports, says most people thought it was a fluke last year when the Royals took the American League Championship. But now the Royals are a real threat - and not just to other teams but to the mores of baseball.

POSNANSKI: There's an unwritten code in baseball, these unwritten rules of certain ways that you're supposed to act in the game.

MORRIS: Those rules played out in high drama recently, when Oakland's Brett Lawrie slid into and injured the Royals' shortstop. Next game, Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura nailed Lawrie's elbow with a 99 mile an hour fastball.



POSNANSKI: The Royals simply were not going to allow what Brett Lawrie did to go unpunished. And that's where the Royals are now. They want a clear message to everybody; don't tread on us.

AL FITZMORRIS: The pitcher's role, it's kind of like, you know, the sheriff in town.

MORRIS: Al Fitzmorris pitched for the Royals in the 1970s. And he says retaliation's part of the job.

FITZMORRIS: All you're trying to do is send a message. You hurt one of our guys, we're going to hurt one of your guys.

MORRIS: But it's supposed to be restrained, calibrated. And some Royals players get emotional.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: That was behind Lawrie, and they threw him out.

MORRIS: A blazing fastball thrown behind a player gets a Royals pitched ejected. On-field taunting sparks a huge fight. Jason Turbow, who wrote a book called "Baseball Codes," says it's the type of play suddenly synonymous with the Royals.

JASON TURBOW: They've exhibited kind of this unique recklessness - or at least the perception of a unique recklessness - part cocky swagger and part I don't give a damn about the opponent at all.

MORRIS: But rough play is as old as baseball.

JEFF LOGAN: I think the unwritten rules are changing.

MORRIS: Jeff Logan auctions baseball memorabilia. In his store room, heaped with old caps, balls and uniforms, he picks up an artifact from a much rowdier time.

LOGAN: Yeah, right here - here is one of the toughest players the Royals ever had. And here is a game-used jersey of Hal McRae. They changed the rules because of Hal McRae. They have the Hal McRae Rule.

MORRIS: McRae was famous for body-slamming second basemen to break up double plays. You can't do that anymore. Logan says the modern Royals aren't really offending baseball with aggressive play so much as they are with unseemly enthusiasm.

LOGAN: The Royals are cocky. And they do a lot of different antics on the field, coming out of the dugout and jumping around. I don't see that as a big deal. You know, but some of these people think it's a big deal.

MORRIS: They do. And they're reassessing the Royals. Meantime, the Royals hope that what they lose in affection they can gain in respect. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Kansas City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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