When Newsday reported yesterday that the Royals were still harboring a grudge over Noah Syndergaard’s first-pitch fastball in Game 3 of last year’s World Series, it struck an awkward tone. The teams meet on opening day, and rumors that the Mets have something in store for their opponents (Syndergaard is scheduled to start the second game of the series) raised more questions than it answered.
It’s not that teams and players don’t have long memories, or that they aren’t willing to wait weeks, months and, in some situations, years for retribution. (In his final season as a pitcher—indeed, in his final game—Bob Gibson was unable to retaliate against Pete LaCock for the perceived slight of having hit a grand slam against him. So he waited 15 years until they met in an old-timers’ game, then drilled him in the back.)
The thing about the Royals allegedly being angry, though, is that Syndergaard didn’t do anything wrong.
As a power pitcher, it is his right to establish tone, and the inside fastball is a valid weapon in any pitcher’s arsenal. With his first pitch of the game, the right-hander threw head-high at 98 mph to Alcides Escobar, one of Kansas City’s hottest hitters and a first-pitch swinger.
Thing is, the pitch didn’t come close to hitting Escobar. It didn’t even cross the line of the batter’s box. When catcher Travis d’Arnaud reached up to catch it, his glove shot straight into the sky, not toward the hitter.
And it worked. Escobar, shaken, struck out.
There’s no reason for the Royals to like this kind of tactic, but neither can they decry it as worthy of retaliation. (It’s their option to feed Syndergaard some of the same, but if that was the endgame there was little reason not to do it at the time.)
So why, one might ask, would the Royals still be holding on to it all these months later? The answer, at least according to K.C. manager Ned Yost, is, they’re not.
“Our retribution,” he said in the Kansas City Star, “was winning the World Series.”
Similar sentiments were echoed around the clubhouse.
Edinson Volquez: “There’s nothing wrong with what he did last year.”
Former Met Dillon Gee: “I’ve been here all spring, and I don’t think I’ve really heard anybody even bring up the Mets.”
The best reason to believe the Royals is because the report that sparked the controversy was so unbelievable in the first place. Newsday’s Marc Carig cited “multiple industry sources” as the basis of his report, whatever that means, but on its face the story was little more than shit stirring on a slow news day.
In this regard, Yost is already on his game, offering more pointed insight than any journalist could offer.
“Some buffoon writes something,” he said, “and you guys are gonna jump like little monkeys in a cage for a peanut.”