Last night, yet again, Yordano Ventura and the Royals touched off a bench-clearing incident when the young pitcher hit Jose Abreu and later yelled an expletive at Adam Eaton for seemingly no reason as he ran to first base:
Ventura is a brilliantly talented 24 year old right handed pitcher for the Royals, who throws almost 100 miles per hour, and who might be the single most dangerous player in Major League Baseball right now.
I don't mean "dangerous" in the Fonzy sense, where all the girls ignore nice guys like you and me because he wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle. I mean that Yordano Ventura is going to get someone seriously hurt, either when he drills them in the temple with one of his fastballs, or someone gets stepped on or tackled wrong in a brawl he causes, or an opposing pitcher hits one of his teammates in retaliation.
Ventura is out of control right now. In his second start of the year, he got in Mike Trout's face for reasons that still aren't clear. Trout certainly didn't understand it, telling reporters "I don't think I did anything wrong. When I touched the plate, I told [Matt] Joyce, ‘Let's go,' and then [Ventura] got in my face. I'm just trying to play my game. I'm not trying to get into any fights or anything." Benches cleared and Salvador Perez defused the situation by pulling Ventura away.
In his next start, he hit Brett Lawrie with a 99 mile per hour fastball for a hard slide the night before, touching off another bench clearing incident.
I don't know what Yordano Ventura's problem is. Some apologists, especially in the Kansas City area, are going to say that he's misunderstood and hyper-competitive. Some critics are going to say that he's immature and ignorant. I don't think either of these are remotely accurate in describing what Ventura is doing on the mound right now.
This isn't 'being competitive'
It takes a hell of a lot of maliciousness to fire 100 mile per hour missiles at other human beings with the intent to hurt them. It takes a phenomenal amount of self-absorption to not appreciate what the consequences of those actions will be. And it takes a startling lack of remorse to do the same thing over, and over, and over again. We have a word for people like that. Ventura's acting like a sociopath out there, selfishly threatening the health and careers of others because his anger and pride cause him to lash out.
Worse, his behavior is contagious. The next day against the Athletics, Kelvin Herrera was ejected for throwing behind Lawrie's head and threatened to hit him there next time. Other pitchers have targeted Royals batters for retaliation. Everyone is on edge and tempers are hot. In the brawl against the White Sox last night, five players were ejected, including Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, Edinson Volquez, and Lorenzo Cain. Cain was nearly trampled and had his jersey pulled off. In stark contrast to most baseball "brawls," where guys stand around and posture, players were throwing punches last night (though thankfully seemingly none connected).
Major League Baseball needs to step in right now and put a stop to this.
Ventura, especially, needs a serious time out. Make him sit for 10 games, at least. Make him pay for his actions and make his team pay for allowing his anger to go unchecked. Make the Royals play a man down for 1/16th of the season, and I think they'll start to see the importance of keeping their anger in check. Meanwhile, put the call out to everyone else to stand down. That deliberate beanballs and instigating violence will be met with a strong response by the league. Bud Selig is gone, and it's time for the new sheriff to clean up at least this one aspect of the game. And do it soon, before someone really gets hurt.