Small-market Royals have a big-league chip, but now they’re bigger targets

Good news, American League. The Royals were rained out Saturday, so no one else could get plunked.

OK, surely we jest — but judging by this week’s WWE-style action out of the defending AL champion Kansas City Royals, perhaps Vince McMahon should order them a wrestling title belt. Even White Sox ace Chris Sale wanted to break into their clubhouse for a throwdown.

We’ve detailed this season’s shenanigans so far for the Royal pains of baseball, already with three bench-clearing brawls — including benches clearing in three straight games of a series with the Oakland A’s. Separately and most recently was a knock-down, drag-out affair with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. Previously, Royals ace Yordano Ventura also spouted off at reigning AL MVP Mike Trout.

And Saturday, Major League Baseball announced punishments for the Royals’ latest brouhaha against the White Sox. The suspensions:

So what gives, KC? 

On Saturday’s MLB pregame show on FOX Sports 1, analysts Frank Thomas and C.J. Nitkowski tried to answer the question: Are the Royals getting out of hand?

Nitkowski offered at least one possible explanation — but not an excuse — for why the Royals pitchers may seem overly sensitive: Their batters have been hit by 17 pitches already this season, tied for the AL lead with Texas.

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But Frank Thomas (in the video above) explained their behavior could ultimately do more harm than good. "Every team now will be — the level of play will be elevated just because when (Ventura is) on the mound, they’ll want to beat him really badly.”

Hall of Famer Thomas also shared his advice for how to get through to Ventura, who has been ejected in two straight starts. “I think right now you need a veteran to grab the young man, grab him around the neck and say, ‘Hey, calm down a little bit,’ because you do not want to pitch with a target around your back the entire season."

In a separate JABO video, Rob Neyer agrees that "things have gotten out of hand,” citing the team’s nine ejections already in 2015 — easily the most in the majors, not even one month into the season. But with the Royals owning the AL’s best record, Neyer wonders if the players even want to dial anything down.

"I suspect if you asked just about any Royal, he’ll tell you they’re winning at least in part because they’re not taking any crap," he says. "They’re not taking anything that even seems like crap.”

But with players at risk getting hurt, Neyer’s message to the team: "We get it, guys. You’re tough."

Ventura became a focal point of a segment on Saturday night on "FOX Sports Live" as well. The show panel of Charissa Thompson, Dontrelle Willis, J.T. "The Brick" and Petros Papadakis wondered about any collateral damage, with Willis concerned about the Royals’ ace dividing the team if his hotheaded antics continue.