In the aftermath of the Kansas City Royals battling with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, I wrote a piece calling them the most despised team in baseball. That wasn't just my opinion and that's not the same thing as saying that I personally despise the Royals. It was a reflection of their actions over the previous week and the consensus on Twitter, from both fans and writers: The Royals had become Public Enemy No. 1. I watched the coverage on Thursday after the game and more the following day. I read various columns and listened to MLB Network Radio on Friday. There were few defenders of the Royals, with most people suggesting the Royals' energy and passion were OK up to a certain level but they clearly needed to rein things in.
The message in there: There is a right way to play the game and the Royals had carried things too far.
Of course, the codes of baseball are often confusing. What, exactly, is the "right way"? What, exactly, is disrespecting the game? Where is the line between defending a teammate and throwing at an opposing hitter? With all this hoopla surrounding the Royals, I thought of the greatest Royal of all time, George Brett. I'm guessing everybody would say Brett played the game the right way.
I want to point out to a couple famous Brett highlights. This first one is from Game 5 of the 1977 American League Championship Series against the Yankees (when the ALCS was best-of-five). That's Brett sliding into third base after a triple in the first inning, getting tangled up with Graig Nettles and then throwing a haymaker that would make Manny Pacquiao proud, leading to a bench-clearing brawl. Mind you, THIS WAS IN THE FIRST INNING OF A DO-OR-DIE PLAYOFF GAME. Imagine if that happened today and he got ejected and the Royals lost the game or he got ejected and suspended for a couple World Series games. This second one is from the 1980 ALCS, when Brett hit a memorable home run off Goose Gossage. Notice the slow home run trot that would make David Ortiz blush. Wasn't Brett showing up Gossage there? In today's game, would Brett's trot be viewed as disrespecting the game?
While the Royals are being criticized for their passion, there has long been this element of baseball. These are competitive men and sometimes the emotions of the game rise. Most of the time, the players control those emotions. Brett didn't always, however, and maybe that competitive zeal helped him become a Hall of Famer. Maybe the Royals are using a similar wave of energy to play winning baseball.
After Thursday's column, I saw a Facebook post from a reader writing, "Most disliked team in baseball! Who are you to make that claim? ... You're a lot like Fox 'News' ... big on opinions, weak on facts. And I'm not even a Royals fan. I wish my team, the Mariners, had 1/4 the passion of the Royals. I love the way they're looking out for each other."
With that in mind, I threw this question out there for what we'll call the Twitter question of the week: Would you want your team to play with the same passion as the Royals? Some responses:
@dschoenfield passion or recklessness? There's a difference— therealrickydeclercq (@RLDeClercq) April 24, 2015
@dschoenfield come from mixed family (dad likes Royals mom likes Cards). I would like Cards to be as passionate and fun as Royals.— G-Chrome Presley (@amp12081994) April 24, 2015
@dschoenfield your question assumes that they're playing with "passion". I wouldn't characterize it as such.— MacDaddy (@MitchGibbs11) April 24, 2015
@dschoenfield Tough to sustain for a whole season.— Ed Miller (@edmiller19) April 24, 2015
@dschoenfield No I'll take classy over what I saw the other night.— Shaugn Watson (@TheWat1734) April 24, 2015
@dschoenfield passion is manifested in different ways. if you mean, would you want yr tm to get into as many fights as the royals, id say no— Matty (@TheDodgersLiker) April 24, 2015
@dschoenfield you mean the team that almost won the World Series?! Yes. All day, everyday.— Nayr Notnats (@Stanto68) April 24, 2015