Are the Royals players getting too friendly with their opponents? Apparently the skipper thought so.
By JEFFREY FLANAGANFS Kansas City
Royals infielders getting a little too friendly and chatty with opposing base runners?
Kansas City announcers Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler think so. Both Lefebvre and Hudler have mentioned on the air several times this season that they're puzzled why Royals infielders find it necessary to smile and joke with opponents, especially after those opponents have just delivered huge hits late in games.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore, though, said he doesn't necessarily see a huge issue unfolding.
Moore agreed that it's a matter best resolved in the clubhouse and by Royals manager Yost, who apparently has. Royals vice president of communications and broadcasting Mike Swanson said that Yost held a clubhouse meeting after the Angels series and that he "believed we've seen the last of (fraternizing on the bases)."
"Look, we certainly want our players to play in the spirit of competitiveness," Moore said.
Lefebvre reiterated his pet peeve again last Monday night after Angels designated hitter Kendrys Morales delivered a three-run single in the eighth inning to seal a 6-3 win over the Royals. Moments later, Morales advanced to second, where Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman Yuni Betancourt suddenly began smiling and exchanging in conversation with him.
That sight prompted Lefebvre to say: "I don't want to get on my soapbox again, but if I'm a pitcher, I think it would really burn me to see my middle infielders laughing and joking with a guy who just hit a three-run double off me as he stands on second base. I don't get it.
"And I'm not saying the Royals are the only team that does it. You see it a lot more these days. If I'm a pitcher, I wouldn't want to see my guys doing it. I mean, what could be so urgent that you'd have to talk to the guy on the other team who just hit a potentially game-winning hit?
"Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm getting old."
Hudler then chimed in, "You're not old. Age has nothing to do with it. It's something I see as well. But it's a culture that's not going to change unless some of the veteran guys see to it. Or management says something about it."
But just two days later, a similar scenario played out when Angel third baseman Alberto Callaspo doubled, and again Escobar and Betancourt huddled to chat with Callaspo.
In the same game, Callaspo wound up at third base, where Mike Moustakas patted him on his knee with his glove and quickly returned to his position.
"Now, to me, that's the way you do it," Hudler said. "It might be one third baseman acknowledging another. A quick word, a quick pat on the knee, and then you get on with it. And no one notices."
Moore isn't as quick to agree.
"I'm not going to judge what those players are doing," Moore told me by phone. "We don't know what they were saying unless you were standing two feet from them.
"I know this: Broadcasters fraternize all the time. They get together from opposite teams all the time and they share information about each of their clubs, information they might get while they're riding the team plane. Is that fraternizing? I've been on both sides of that deal."
Hudler, though, had noticed the Royals middle infielders getting too chatty with opponents earlier this season as well.
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.
"Escobar is as guilty as any of them. But I don’t think he knows. It’s up to the veterans on the Royals or even Ned (Yost) to cut some of that stuff out."
Former Royals closer and Fox Sports Kansas City broadcaster Jeff Montgomery agreed with Hudler that today's players may need to be instructed on the matter.
"I know as a pitcher, I would be upset if I had just given up a double and I saw my teammates joking and smiling with the guy who hit it," Montgomery told me. "But it's much more common today to see that sort of fraternizing going on. I just think that the infielders need to be told by the veteran players what's cool and what's not.
"I didn't see as much of that when I was playing but the game has really changed in that regard in the last decade or two. If you think back, take a guy like Mark Gubicza. Let's say he'd just given up a triple in the ninth inning and he has just thrown his 118th pitch, and now he's got to come out of the game. He's given it his all and let's say he turns and sees his third baseman chatting it up and joking with the guy who hit the triple.
"Well, I guarantee you that if Mark Gubicza saw that, he wouldn't be walking quietly off the mound to the dugout. He'd be charging his own third baseman and he would tackle him. But like I said, today's game is different."
Actually, there is a Major League rule that addresses such situations. In section 3, part 9, the rule states: "Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform."
"I've never seen that enforced at the big-league level," Montgomery said. "I have, early in the my career, seen it enforced in the minor leagues. But at the big-league level, when I was playing, we'd have the Kangaroo Court where players would get fined by the veterans in the clubhouse for those types of infractions. That's how we governed it. I don't even know if Kangaroo Courts exist anymore. Maybe that's the answer."
Moore, though, disputes the notion that the "old game" was any more self-governed by clubhouse rules than today's game.
"Look, there were a lot of issues going on and off the field during those eras, too," Moore said. "The game wasn't perfect back then."