In the wake of Yordano Ventura’s deliberate beaning of Manny Machado last night, Jeff Passan reports that the Royals have been trying to trade Yordano Ventura. It’s not because of his performance, though that’s been bad. It’s because he’s a punk, an immature, two-bit cheap-shot artist who likes to headhunt with 99 mile per hour missiles. They are tired of a player they view as a headcase and a bad guy. Passan writes:
“The people around Ventura rolled their eyes, tired of the bluster, done with the immaturity, hopeful he was playing fugazi instead of the on-field arsonist they’d seen too many times for their liking. Among his teammates and in the Royals’ front office alike, they’ve long waited for Ventura to grow up, only to end up amazed at how he manages to plumb beneath even his own low standards.”
Even Ventura’s catcher did nothing to stop Machado from getting in a couple of shots at his pitcher.
Tellingly, so far no other team has bit on such a juicy piece of trade bait, especially as Ventura’s control languishes. Perhaps that’s because of his attitude. Perhaps it’s his performance. Or perhaps it’s both of those, combined with a contract that guarantees him another $21 million. Whatever it is, Ventura’s even less likely to entice suitors now, in spite of his amazing velocity.
Ventura is an outlier in Major League Baseball, certainly, but he’s also a product of beanball culture. Beanball culture insists that pitchers throw at hitters for a variety of slights, both real and imagined. And it doesn’t even matter whether the hitter on the receiving end was the offending party. It is indiscriminate and it is dangerous. Machado escaped without serious injury, but errant pitches have broken fingers, toes, wrists, faces, and skulls in the past. Pitches get away, no matter where a guy is trying to throw it. There’s no reason to invite more risk for a potentially devastating injury into the game.
Beanball culture also contagious. As I wrote last year, Ventura’s actions have sparked retaliations and counter retaliations. It’s a cycle that keeps playing itself out. And it ingrains the practice in the culture of the game both at the professional and the amateur levels.
Even ballplayers themselves are tired of it. Here’s Adrian Gonzalez in Buster Olney’s piece today:
"Throwing a baseball at a batter on purpose is the opposite of whatever tough is."
Here’s Josh Donaldson, after he got hit by Phil Hughes:
“Major League Baseball has to do something about this. They say they’re trying to protect players. They make a rule that says you can’t slide hard into second base. They make a rule to protect the catchers on slides into home. But when you throw a ball at somebody, nothing’s done about it.”
Here’s Bryce Harper after teammate Jonathan Papelbon threw at Manny Machado last year:
I mean, it’s pretty tired. It’s one of those situations where it happens and, I don’t know, I’ll probably get drilled tomorrow.”
And here’s Machado himself after that incident:
“[Someone] with more than 10 years in the game and he’s going to go out there and throw at somebody’s head. “It’s something that’s uncalled for. It’s bullshit.”
Proponents of beanball culture call it “Old School” as though that’s inherently a virtue. They complain about the game becoming less tough than it was in some idealized past (the era of that past invariably being whenever the fan was around 10 years old or so). And, of course, these proponents of beanball culture have never taken a 99 mile per hour fastball to the ribs.
But beanball culture has other effects. Look at what’s about to happen to Manny Machado and the Orioles, for instance. Machado was deliberately attacked, and charged the mound. Certainly, that was wrong, and Machado deserves the punishment MLB hands down, but it’s a wrong that wouldn’t have happened without the inciting incident. Ventura bears a great deal of responsibility for the ass kicking he received. For responding to the attack, Machado is going to miss a week.
Now, I don’t know why you watch baseball. I watch baseball to see great players play the best sport in the world at the highest level. And among those great players, Manny Machado is without question one of the greatest. So we will get a week or so without him, where he can’t help his team as they try to stay out ahead of the Red Sox and Blue Jays. As a direct result of Ventura’s hot-headedness and of beanball culture, we’re going to miss out on watching one of the greatest players in the game for a week. Frankly, that’s bullshit.
We’ll probably miss Yordano Ventura for a start, though given the way he’s pitching, it sounds like both Royals fans and the team itself, would be more than happy to let him cool his heels. Maybe it gives them more time to divorce themselves from a pitcher who has clearly worn out his welcome in Kansas City.