Ned Yost bans fraternizing on the basepaths because it angers Rex Hudler

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Maybe there’s more to this story than meets the eye, but what’s meeting the eye here seems pretty dumb: Royals announcer Rex Hudler has made it his personal mission to stop Royals players from being friendly with opposing players during games, so Ned Yost has put a stop to it.

I’m sure cause and effect will be denied by Yost if he’s asked, but the story about all of this from Jeffrey Flanagan of Fox Sports Kansas City lays it out thusly:

  • Royals infielders have been friendly with opposing baserunners, even after some big hits by the opposition.
  • Royals announcers Rex Hudler and Ryan Lefebvre have gone on-and-on about it on the air and on recent radio spots, saying it’s disrespectful and not old school and whatnot, and that Ned Yost should do something about it.
  • Ned Yost held a closed door meeting and has instructed his players to no longer fraternize with the opposition.

This despite the fact that Royals GM Dayton Moore said when asked about it all that he doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

This all seems so silly. Players on every team chat up players on the opposing teams. It’s a state of affairs that has existed for a long time. Probably longer than most of the old timers who claim that it was unheard of back in their day will admit.  Why this is bothersome to anyone now is a mystery.

What’s worse, though, is this bit from Hudler:

Hudler commented on Kansas City radio station WHB: “You can stand 10 feet away from a player and smooth out the dirt and still talk to a player without giving the appearance that you’re in his back pocket. When you’re in uniform out there, respect the game of baseball and respect your teammates. And stay out of the back pockets of opponents when people are watching. It makes me want to vomit.”

So it’s not that Hudler is opposed to players talking to one another. He’s just opposed to them looking like they are because “people are watching.” So who is it, exactly, that Hudler thinks the players should be deceiving?

Whatever the case, here’s a great tip to any major league organization: don’t let your broadcasters dictate team policy. You’re unlikely to get good results.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.