"The best pitch in baseball is the second brush back pitch. It lets the batter know the first one wasn't a mistake." - Paul Splittorff, Fox Sports
That is a great line, indirectly credited to former Royals ace Steve Busby, and certainly describes what happened between Royals' reliever Ramon Ramirez and Rockies' catcher Yorvit Torrealba in the top of the ninth inning.
I don't know what the cause of all the resentment between the two is, but the anger was clearly visible on the face of Ramirez as he threw not once, but twice, behind Torrealba. Was it really, as has been reported, the result of some comments made by the Rockies' receiver last year about Ramirez's poor performance?
Whatever the cause, you can make a case that Ramirez took care of some personal business at his team's possible expense—after all, this was the top of the ninth inning.
I wonder if Ramirez does this if the score is 5-3 instead of a more comfortable 7-3? What would have been the consequences if the next hitter had homered instead of grounding into a double play?
All that aside—and if you are one of those 'class, sportsmanship rules all' kind of guys, you won't like this paragraph—I liked it. For too long, the Royals have been faceless punching bags: taking abuse, getting hit and doing nothing in response.
Remember A.J. Pierzynski running his mouth at Zack Greinke earlier this year in Chicago? You think if George Brett was playing first instead of Mark Teahen that night that Pierzynski would have kept talking?
Sure, what Ramirez did last night was personal and not for his team, but at least he did something. Having a team full of great guys is all fine and good when they are signing autographs down at Dick's Sporting Goods, but having some edge (maybe even a little 'not-sure-what-this-guy-might-do-next' kind of edge) on the field is more likely to help than hurt.
Of course, the leader of this sort of "edge" is Jose Guillen. With his team in a stretch of winning games, Jose came out the other day and described the team's overall play as "horses***." Perhaps it could have been communicated more tactfully or without the cameras on him, but Guillen was, in my opinion, attempting to make the point to a young team that winning games and playing good baseball are not the same thing. How many games will the Royals (or any team) win when they play defense and run the bases as they did during Sunday's 11-10 win?
One, and Sunday was it.
I like Jose Guillen, mainly because of the bat, but also because of that almost-angry edge he brings to the ballpark. (It is entirely possible, by the way, that Jose brings that edge to a backyard cookout, too, but that's not my problem.) While Ramirez's timing and reasons can be faulted last night, the idea that he was going to stand up and do something strikes a chord with me also.
People tend to forget that the Royals of the glory years had plenty of edge. You want to turn the double play with Hal McRae coming into second? You think Graig Nettles thought George Brett was a nice guy when Brett stood up at third base and punched him...during a game? Anyone think Willie Wilson was a "great guy" back in the day? Does anyone NOT want him leading off today?
Having guys with an edge leads to some poor judgment sometimes (i.e. last night) and some uncomfortable comments at times that may rub some of your teammates the wrong way.
Having an edge, however, is an integral part of creating the kind of chemistry in the clubhouse that leads to a team that does not hope to win, but instead expects to win.