“At least the Reds are trying”

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Mike Moustakas (8) sharing a World Series win commemoration with Hall of Famer George Brett. The Reds hope Moustakas helps them to a Series in the next four years.

It’s not that he’ll be the biggest off-season free agency signing, but Mike Moustakas landing four years and $64 million from the Reds made quite a bit of noise to open the week. On the surface, the Reds seem to be shifting into win-now gear, after remaking their starting rotation last year. Below it?

It may prove a mixed bag. May.

“The Cincinnati Reds finished twelfth in the National League in on-base percentage (OBP) in 2019, ahead of two teams in strong pitchers’ parks and the underpowered Miami Marlins,” writes Smart Baseball author Keith Law for ESPN. “So of course, the Reds just committed four years to a 31-year-old hitter without a position who has posted a .320 or better OBP twice in seven full seasons in the majors.”

Law thinks, therefore, that Moustakas might have fit “a lot of clubs” but not the Reds. They needed an upgrade at the plate, finishing twelfth, too, in 2019 runs scored despite their delicious home hitters’ park. And whenever Moustakas played in Great American Ballpark until now, he wasn’t exactly a game buster: he’s hit a buck ninety-eight with a .578 OPS in the big bat-embraceable park to date.

The Athletic‘s Jayson Stark demurs from Law: he thinks the Reds “love the bat, love the fit and love the edge this guy plays with. They’re not more talented than the Cardinals, Brewers or Cubs as currently constituted. But in the times we live in, we should all be applauding any team that is trying to win. It sure beats the alternative.”

As a Brewer in 2019, Moustakas posted a career-high .845 OPS, a career-second .329 OBP, and a career-second 270 total bases. He also hit the second-highest season home run total of his career (35) and was able to drive in the second-highest number of runs in any of his nine seasons. The Reds like power and reaching base about equally, but Moustakas gives them far more of the former.

Since it looks as though Eugenio Suarez has a vise grip on the Reds’ third base job the plan seems to be shifting Moustakas to second base. Not a terrible thought, since he’s played the position before and shaken out as about the league average in the 47 games he did play there. He won’t injure them around the keystone.

He’s had an odd journey to this deal. When he first hit free agency, nobody but his incumbent Royals seemed to want him—and he settled for a single-season $6.5 million deal with the team he helped win two pennants and a World Series. And they traded him to the Brewers in 2018 while they were at it. He looked good enough for the Brewers to want him back; last winter’s mostly dead market turned into a single season and $10.5 million.

But the Reds are also buying a player who earns respect in his clubhouses, takes a few burdens off his managers that way, and also fits with manager David Bell’s penchant for double switching when the games get hot and tight, and a two-position infielder is a fine fit for it.

Banking on Moustakas’s power (he doesn’t walk much, he can be double play prone, and he has little basepath speed despite a satchel full of basepath smarts), defensive steadiness, and personality—including his postseason experience (two World Series, three League Championship Series, and this year’s wild card game)—may show the Reds mean business for 2020. And since they say they’re willing to spend a little more, Moustakas won’t be the only card the play this winter.

“When a team spends to sign a good player to aid their chances to win, it merits acknowledgment, if not applause,” writes another Athletic scribe, Andy McCullough. “At least the Reds are trying. And at least Moustakas got paid.” Right there that could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Joe Keough, RIP: A Royal hit

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Joe Keough near the Royals dugout: “Those were some of the best times of my life.” (Kansas City Royals photo.)

Unless you’ve been a Royals fan since the day they were born, you wouldn’t recognise Joe Keough immediately. If you’re my age, you remember (maybe) that he was the kid brother (by twelve years) of longtime major league utility man Marty Keough. Or, that his nephew is ill-fated former Athletics pitcher Matt Keough.

But if you are a Royals fan since the day they were born, Joe Keough—who died at 73 on 9 September in Miami—is a name you should and probably do know. The Royals began life winning their first two regular season games, ever—both on walk-off hits. Keough nailed the first one . . . as a pinch hitter.

He became an Original Royal in the first place because the A’s made him available for the American League’s second expansion draft after 1968. He’d gotten a second-half call-up to the A’s and debuted in Yankee Stadium 7 August, in a game featuring one Hall of Famer approaching the end (Mickey Mantle) and another Hall of Famer (Reggie Jackson) who’d only just begun to wreak havoc.

Keough was sent up to pinch hit for A’s reliever Jack Aker against the Yankees’ respected veteran reliever Lindy McDaniel to lead off the top of the eighth. There are worse times to take your first trip to the plate in a major league game, but Keough made the most of it and headlines for it. He yanked one into the right field seats to tie the game at three. Sweetening it was the game going to extras and Jackson’s RBI single in the top of the twelfth holding up for a 4-3 A’s win.

A kid with a .590 OPS wasn’t exactly what the A’s seemed to have in mind, alas, so they exposed Keough to the expansion draft and he became a Royal. He made the Opening Day roster as the Royals began in Municipal Stadium, the former playpen of the A’s before their move to Oakland.

The Royals faced the Twins to begin their new life. Keough spent most of the game watching on the bench, until a three-all tie went to the bottom of the twelfth.”I came out of spring training wanting to start very badly,” he told an interviewer in 2011. “Our manager that year . . . decided not to start me and I was a little upset about that.”

On the mound for the Twins was Joe Grzenda, in relief of former longtime Dodgers relief bellwether Ron Perranoski, after former World Series hero Moe Drabowsky (he of the eleven strikeouts in relief in Game One, ’66 Series) retired the Twins in order in the top.

Former Angel Ed Kirkpatrick led off with a line out to Twins center field fixture Ted Uhlaender but former Red Sox Joe Foy singled and took second on a passed ball while Grzenda worked to Chuck Harrison. The Twins then elected to put Harrison aboard to set up a double play prospect with Bob Oliver, a rookie power hitter, coming up to the plate.

But Grzenda wild pitched Foy and Harrison to third and second, then the Twins elected to re-establish the double play possibility and put Oliver aboard with Royals catcher Ellie Rodriguez, generally a defense-first player with little power at the plate, due to hit next.

Enter Royals manager Joe Gordon—you guessed it. The same Joe Gordon who once shone at second base for the Yankees. The same Joe Gordon whom, managing the Indians in 1960, would be swapped, essentially, for Tigers manager Jimmy Dykes. The same season during which the Indians began life without slugging right fielder Rocky Colavito, whom their capricious general manager Frank Lane dealt to the Tigers for aging outfielder Harvey Kuenn before the season.

Gordon now decided he had a better shot if he inserted Keough, whose rookie 1968 produced a .590 OPS, to pinch hit for Rodriguez, whose cup of coffee with the 1968 Yankees delivered an OPS .085 points lower. And Gordon was right. Keough pulled a line single to right to send Foy home and win it, 4-3. “It was a very cold, cold day,” Keough told Fox4KC last year. “I got a good pitch to hit and I hit it.”

Maybe Keough put a little mojo into the Royals. Because they won the second game of their existence the next day in extra innings, too. This time, it took seventeen innings. And this time, the game-winning RBI single came through the courtesy of future Yankee fixture, World Series-winning Reds manager, and record 116 game-winning Mariners manager Lou Piniella.

The bad news is that’s about as far as the embryonic Royals’ mojo went, even if Piniella became American League’s Rookie of the Year. They finished 28 games out of first in the newly established American League West. The only reason it wasn’t bad enough for a cellar finish is because the White Sox (29 games out) and the Royals’ fellow expansion team, the Ball Four Seattle Pilots (33 out), happened to be much worse.

An outfielder whose habits included climbing the steep Municipal Stadium steps every day with a few teammates during homestands to help stay in shape (“It was a great workout for us”), Keough managed to keep his mojo working long enough to make the Royals’ everyday lineup in 1970 as their leadoff hitter.

He owned a .398 on-base percentage by late June. Then came the second game of a doubleheader against the Angels at home. The good news: the Royals turned a close enough game into a 13-1 blowout. The bad news: Keough’s mojo broke along with his leg three innings earlier.

Somehow a mini-legend has arisen over the decades since that Keough was injured trying to score a run the Royals didn’t really need by the time he scored it. Legends may be stubborn but those pesky facts are more so. Keough was on second in the bottom of the fifth, with the Royals having just taken a 2-1 lead, when their center field star Amos Otis rippled a single to right.

Keough gunned it home and collided with Angels catcher Tom Egan on the play, scoring the third Royals run but fracturing his leg and dislocating his ankle in the collision. The run put the Royals up by two; they’d score six in the eighth to finish what became the blowout. But Keough’s scoring injury killed his season and, for all intent and purpose, his career, just when it began solidifying.

He winced when reminded of the play during that Fox4KC interview. “Those are things you don’t want to remember,” he began, allowing himself a chuckle of regret, “but yes I do remember breaking my leg. It was a lot of pain. It changed my life, but it changed in a lot of different ways that’s good.”

Keough would play three more none-too-impressive major league seasons before calling it a career before the 1974 season. A northern California native, he raised four children and made a post baseball life out of Texas in marketing and real estate development for such companies as Fotomat, 7-Eleven, Burger King, PayLess Shoe Source, and EyeMasters, while enjoying golfing and cooking and his five grandchildren.

Fan friendly and rarely missing from events involving the ’69 Royals for decades to follow, Keough aged gracefully in retirement, looking more like a slim, composed, kindly small town storekeeper than a former ballplayer who ran the steepest stadium stairs to stay in game shape and never forgot his years on the Royals’ earliest teams.

“Those were some of the best times of my life,” he said with a smile.

No tank you very much

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So far, the 2017 Astros are one of a couple of  exceptions to the rule thus far that tanking is not a world championship guarantor.

When February got underway in earnest, I asked what you’d say if you knew each major league baseball team, rich and poor alike, is guaranteed about $60 million into its kitty before the regular season even begins. And without having to do a blessed thing to earn it other than existing in the first place.

Not to mention that each major league team would pull down about an average additional $100 million during a season through sources that only include the gate.

At that time the Major League Baseball Players Association thought aloud about pushing for imposing a tax on teams that seemed not to care less about putting even a mildly entertaining product on the field, a product showing the teams had even the mildest concern about trying to win. The MLBPA pondered such a tax costing tankers prime draft pick positions if they continued losing, or at least not trying to win all that much, beyond particular thresholds over certain periods.

Everybody with me? So far, so good. Because the redoubtable Thomas Boswell, the Washington Post‘s longtime baseball sage, has things to say about it. When tanking teams call their tanking “strategy,” Boswell calls it fan abuse:

The idea of trying to lose 100 to 115 games, while claiming it’s a long-term plan for glory, always has been a long-shot notion, seldom born out in actual baseball experience. Of the current 30 teams, 20 have never in the past 50 years lost more than 200 games in consecutive seasons, at least not after you exclude their early expansion-team days. Yet those 20 teams have won 33 of the past 50 World Series, exactly the ratio you’d expect if there was no difference between having a Horror Era and never being truly awful at all.

In other words, the back-to-back 2016 and 2017 World Series winners, the Cubs and the Astros, were outliers when they went into the tank to rebuild from the guts up, over three or four seasons previous, rather than retool on the fly and continue trying honest competition along the way.

Reality check: Unless you’re certain comic-opera teams of legend, or the Washington Generals, losing isn’t entertaining. Boswell notes six teams at this writing on pace to lose 98 games or more this season. In ascending order: the Mariners (98), the Marlins (101), the Blue Jays (101), the Royals (103), the Tigers (111), and the Orioles (111).

They’re about as entertaining as root canal work, southern California traffic jams, and today’s politics of demeaning. Actually, I’ll walk that back a little bit. Southern California traffic jams have occasional amusements.

Among other things the tankers are competing for that ever-popular number one draft pick. “[W]e’re watching a bull market in stupidity,” Boswell writes, perhaps unintentionally offering the emphasis on bull. “And cupidity, too, since all those teams think that they can still make a safe cynical profit, thanks to revenue sharing, no matter how bad they are.”

Since the draft began in 1965, there’ve been 55 number one overall picks. Four became Rookies of the Year, seventeen became All-Stars even once, and three became Hall of Famers. Historically, the draft more often becomes a case of good things coming to those who wait, on both sides of the draft tables.

In today’s terms it only begins with the game’s greatest player. Mike Trout waited until round 25 before the Angels chose him in 2009, and it took him two years to become listed by anyone as a number one prospect. And they’re already trying to figure out the language on his Hall of Fame plaque even though he has one more season to become minimally eligible.

His aging but no-questions-asked Hall of Fame teammate Albert Pujols waited until round thirteen before the Cardinals pounced in 1999. Guess who else went from the thirteenth round of the draft (in 1989) to the Hall of Fame? Does Jim Thome ring as many bells for you as he rung pitchers’ bells?

Those aren’t the only Hall of Famers incumbent or to-be who went well enough below the first round: Wade Boggs (1976)—seventh round. Goose Gossage (1970)—ninth. Andre Dawson (1975)—eleventh. Nolan Ryan (1965)—twelfth round. Ryne Sandberg (1978)—twentieth. John Smoltz (1985)—22nd.

Not to mention a passel of All-Stars who made distinguished careers even if they fell shy of being outright Hall of Famers, including but not limited to: Sal Bando (sixth, 1965), Tim Hudson (sixth, 1997), Jamie Moyer (sixth, 1984), Willie Randolph (seventh, 1972), Jim Edmonds (seventh, 1988), Eric Davis (eighth, 1980), Fred McGriff (ninth, 1981), Jack Clark (thirteenth, 1973), Dave Parker (fourteenth, 1970), Jake Peavy (fifteenth, 1999), Orel Hershiser (seventeenth, 1979), Kenny Lofton (seventeenth, 1988), Don Mattingly (nineteenth, 1979), Andy Pettitte (22nd, 1990), Roy Oswalt (23rd, 1996), and Mark Buehrle (38th, 1998).

And don’t get me started on the number one overall draft picks who barely (if at all) made the Show or didn’t quite survive for assorted reasons. Steve Chilcott (injured severely in the minors), David Clyde (rushed to the Show for two box office-minded starts, then mal-developed and injured), Al Chambers (couldn’t hit with a garage door, couldn’t field with a vacuum cleaner), Brien Taylor (injured defending his brother in a fight), call your offices.

While you ponder all that, ponder something else Boswell points out: A complete team dismantling and rebuilding is only justifable now and then, when it “may be the best of the available rotten options.” But even that runs a risk any team looking to put an honest product on the field should duck: “Rebuild in a few seasons — well, maybe . . . if you’re very lucky. But more likely, you’ll just stink for years and pick the public’s pocket.”

Once upon a time the Red Sox were as long-suffering as the season was long. The cause wasn’t any curse (of the Bambino or otherwise) but boneheaded (and, once upon a time, bigoted) organisational management. But even they’ve had only one season since 1934 in which they lost more than even 93 games.

Even the Cubs—the just-as-long-suffering Cubs, once upon a time—have only three 100+ loss seasons in their history. The third one happened in 2012. Three years later, they were division winners; a year after that, they won a World Series; they’ve since remained pennant competitive if not without a few hiccups that haven’t come within the same solar system as their formerly star-crossed past.

The incumbent Reds franchise has only one 100-loss season to show since they joined the National League—in 1882. Between them, Boswell reminds you, the Dodgers and the Angels have 121 seasons in or near Los Angeles . . . and only two squads between them (the 1968 and 1980 Angels) that ever lost more than 95 in a season. The Yankees haven’t had a 100-loss season since the year the Titanic sunk. The Cardinals haven’t lost more than 95 in a season since Grand Central Station’s first rebuild—a year after the iceberg.

The fictitious New York Knights of The Natural once employed a carnival hypnotist whose sole qualification seemed to be telling the hapless players, hypnotically, “Losing . . . is a disease.” In baseball, it doesn’t have to be terminal, no matter what today’s tankers do or don’t think. Though it seems that way in a place like Baltimore, where the Orioles went unconscionably from an organisation with one of the game’s most admirable cultures to one with one of the game’s most abhorrent.

As Boswell reminds us, the Orioles lost 202 in 1987-88 and went into complete rebuild; practically the only surviving incumbent proved to be Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. They’ve only won 90 or more games in any season three times since that teardown and had a fourteen-season streak of losing seasons. The franchise that was once the truly hapless St. Louis Browns only ever had a losing-season streak as high as twelve in their St. Louis decades.

The Oriole brand, Boswell knows, became so badly battered that it was no wonder major league baseball finally returned to Washington: “[T]here was nothing for MLB’s other 29 owners to protect by keeping a team off Baltimore’s doorstep.”

“Now it is all different,” wrote one-time New York Post sportswriter and recent editor of Ball Four, Leonard Shecter, after the crazy Mets were crazy enough to win a division, pennant, and World Series in their mere eighth season of play. “Casey Stengel is gone. The players, who try no harder than the old Mets, succeed more often and as a result are indistinguishable from baseball players all over. There is stuffiness in the front office. There is great concern about unimportant things . . . And, worst of all, when the Mets lose, there is nothing funny about it at all.”

Beware the tanking teams saying they’re just looking to the future. They’re nowhere near as entertaining in defeat as the 1962 Mets, the last era of the Browns (when Bill Veeck owned the team), or the 1930s Dodgers.

Ask any Mariners, Marlins, Blue Jays, Royals (never mind the rude interruption of their 2015 World Series conquest), Tigers, or Orioles fans. They’ll tell you. Losing is about as funny as a screen door on a submarine.

A changeup is gonna come . . .

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Tim Anderson takes a spin after having his helmet knocked off his head Wednesday.

“Revenge,” Don Vito Corleone advised his in-training son Michael, “is a dish that tastes best when served cold.” Tim Anderson isn’t in training to take over an organised crime family, but he did provide evidence to support the concept Wednesday.

Knock Anderson’s helmet off his head in the bottom of the second? Might not clear both dugouts and bullpens, but he’ll knock what proves the game winning run home for your trouble anyway. And leave you looking like fools without so much as a hint of a bat flip.

For the moment, forget what the pitch actually was that Royals starter Glenn Sparkman threw up and in that hit the bill of Anderson’s batting helmet and blew it clean off the White Sox shortstop’s head. Even a changeup traveling at 86 miles per hour looks frightening when its trajectory takes dead aim at a human face.

Home plate umpire Mark Carlson took all of about two seconds to pounce out in front of the plate as Anderson spun after the helmet took its flying leap and ejected Sparkman no questions asked. If that outraged the Royals’ broadcast crew (Whaaaaaat? one of them asked) and anyone else watching, keep in mind that last month Anderson took one in the rump roast from a Royal arm the next time up after hitting one out and performing one of his signature bat flips.

Royals catcher Martin Maldonado pounced out likewise to protest the ejection, prompting his manager Ned Yost to hustle out there to keep him from an early night off. “As far as we’re concerned,” Yost pleaded to reporters after the game, “coming into this series we had no animosity toward that young man. None. To think that we’re going to hit him is ludicrous . . . We’re not like that.”

Apparently, Yost forgot that his pitcher Brad Keller drilled Anderson to clear the benches 17 April. He may or may not have been aware that Carlson and his fellow umps came into the game well aware of that incident. Hence Carlson taking no chances. And, perhaps, hence why the White Sox, though obviously alarmed over what just happened to their man, didn’t even think about pouring out of their dugout, after Anderson righted himself from his unexpected spinout.

“[T]o think that we’re gonna hit him on purpose is ludicrous, one,” Yost continued. “Two, it was a changeup. It was forgotten. He’d done his part, we’d done our part. It was done. It was over. It was nothing. There was no ill feeling, no ill will, no nothing. It would be totally ignorant on our part to hit him again, for what? We don’t play that game. We’re not like that. It was done, it was forgotten. He got under a changeup and hit him in the helmet. You saw what happened from there.”

It may also be totally ignorant to deny the optics of a pitch sailing up into a batter’s face the first time he hits in the next set during which you face him after he took one in the tail the last time around.

“It could have went either way,” said Anderson himself of the pitch that knocked the helmet off his block. “A ton of things could have happened. Good thing it didn’t do any damage. I was able to stay in the game and keep my composure.”

It ended up damaging the Royals more than anyone else in the yard, and not just because their starting pitcher got himself an early night off for his trouble. After Royals second baseman Nicky Lopez tied the game at seven with a two-run single in the top of the eighth, Anderson stepped in against Royals reliever Ian Kennedy—who’d surrendered Anderson’s first major league double back in the days when Kennedy was still a starting pitcher.

With White Sox catcher James McCann aboard on a one-out double, Anderson looked at a cutter for a strike, then pulled a Kennedy knuckle curve down the third base line, right under a diving Hunter Dozier, for the RBI double that ultimately meant the game when the Royals mustered nothing more than a one-out single against Alex Colome in the top of the ninth.

The two teams hook up again come July. Don’t think for one moment that eyes won’t be upon every trip to the plate Anderson makes against Royals pitching. And this may not quite be the most ridiculous feud in baseball this year. That honour may yet end up going to Pirates broadcaster John Wehner, who thinks about as highly of Reds bombardier Derek Dietrich as a cobra thinks of a mongoose.

Dietrich has come from the Marlins’ scrap heap to become a prize Cincinnati find and a particular Pittsburgh headache, hitting seven home runs in nine games between the two teams, including three on Tuesday night alone. Wehner is not amused, not just because Dietrich has made the Pirates a particularly favourite victim but because Dietrich, like Anderson is not shy about savouring every blast he delivers.

Wehner obviously doesn’t want the kid to have fun. Especially not after Tuesday, especially not after Dietrich hit three two-run bombs in Great American Ballpark, helping his Reds to an 11-6 win. And Wehner takes it even more personally than Pirate pitchers who surrender the launches do.

Wehner can’t start a bench clearing brawl as did Chris Archer on 7 April, after Dietrich hit the first of a pair that sailed into the Allegheny River, Archer greeted the outfielder his next time up with a ball behind his bottom, and five players were ejected before order was restored. But Wehner can and does lament that Dietrich’s grandfather, one-time Pirates coach Steve Demeter, is “rolling in his grave every time this guy hits a home run. He’s embarrassed of his grandson.

“It’s just being arrogant,” Wehner continued, on a radio program. “I don’t get it. I don’t get why you do that. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” He didn’t get the memo, either, that throwing at a batter for no reason better than that your ego was turned into a splash hit makes even less sense than a batter feeling it when he can and does hit one for that kind of distance.

“I think everyone should play the way they play,” Dietrich says. “I’ve got no problems with it . . . I’m just coming to play ball and hit the ball hard. We’re having fun and trying to win. This is baseball.” Having fun and trying to win. The horror.

Do you remember what Dietrich did in that 7 April game the next time he batted after his can felt the breeze from Archer? He hit another home run. Into the Allegheny River. Again. The only thing more foolish than awakening any sleeping giant is thinking you have to awaken him when he’s already wide awake.

Depends on whose kids play, I guess

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Tim Anderson, a milli-second from making breakfast out of Brad Keller’s full-count grapefruit . . .

It’s beginning to look a little more like letting the kids play, which baseball wishes to push as its watchword, is going to have more exceptions as the season ambles forward. And, it isn’t just from those players still wedded till death do they part to the Sacred Unwritten Rules.

Apparently, baseball’s most notorious umpire wants to have his say about it, too. Apparently, too, there are teams who don’t mind their own kids playing but are ready to rumble if their opponents play.

Come Wednesday baseball’s incumbent hottest hitter, Tim Anderson, learned the hard way about what happens when you’re one of the kids who wants to play but Joe West decides in the moment that he’s your daddy, and Daddy needs to send you to your room for objecting vociferously though not violently over being hit by a pitch your next time up after hitting one out.

Oh, yes, Tim. You came to play, and—with Eloy Jimenez on second and two out—Royals’ starter Brad Keller threw you a full count grapefruit. And just like any major league hitter who happens to be heated up well enough, you saw that grapefruit and knew it meant one thing—breakfast. And oh, did you feast on it. You drove it so far into the left field seats there should have been coffee served with it.

And, considering you’d just had such a yummy breakfast courtesy of a pitcher against whom you’d been (read carefully) 0-for-13 with five strikeouts and not a base on balls on the ledger otherwise, there shouldn’t be a jury on earth that would consider you out of line for striding moderately out of the batter’s box watching it fly, then throwing your bat toward your own dugout as if momentarily in the javelin event at the Olympics before running out the breakfast bomb.

Neither you nor Keller have any clue, probably, that Cy Young’s unrelated namesake is still the only American man to win Olympic gold in the javelin throw, or that Babe Didrikson was the first American woman to win Olympic gold in it. All you know, Tim, is that you’re not staring Keller down, you don’t look into his team’s dugout, you don’t do anything in any way to show the Royals up, unless the Royals suddenly believe firing your bat toward your own dugout shows them up.

You probably care, Tim, only that your next time up Keller throws the first pitch of the plate appearance into your can, and that he probably wishes it was a shot put, not a baseball. And it’s very possible that Keller cares deeply about the little fact that you’ve hit eight home runs off Royals pitching in your career, two more than you’ve hit against any other team.

So right after you got canned, you take a step or two toward the mound and Royals catcher Martin Maldonado—who has the job because Salvador Perez, the catcher who thinks you have no right to have fun until or unless you’ve won a World Series ring, is out for the season with an injury—slithers into your presumed path.

You talk to Maldonado while then giving Keller a well-earned glare. You’re not thinking about charging Keller, like a bull or anything else. You even give Maldonado two pats on the shoulder as you both stride up the first base line, and it looks as though it’s going to be no big deal. Looks aren’t everything, alas.

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. . . then, flinging his bat like a javelin toward (underline this, gang) his own dugout . . . 

Because Jose Abreu leads your teammates out of the dugout and the Royals come pouring out of theirs. It’s going to take about seven or eight minutes and a couple of scrums between a couple of coaches and managers, yours and theirs, to get the whole thing settled, even as—rather intriguingly—the mob ended up not around the mound or the plate but near first base.

And all the while, Tim, you’re doing something rather remarkable with a little help from your friends, much as Keller is. You’re both staying away from the rhubarb.

The Royals may be chirping like canaries toward you, and a few of your mates might be chirping likewise toward Keller, but you two aren’t even near the crowd. Even if your coach Joe McEwing has his arms around you from behind just in case, but you sure don’t look like you’re ready for a piece of anyone in Royals fatigues.

Your manager Rick Renteria may be barking at Royals manager Ned Yost to get his kids off the field unless they’re playing in its positions, and Yost may be barking back that there’s no way he’s going to let your boss or anyone bark at his boys. But you and Keller, with a little help from at least a couple of your friends, are actually behaving yourselves during this little danse d’absurdio.

Far as you know, Tim, Keller should be the only one who gets a ho-heave, and maybe your mates should get at least one chance to send the Royals a message in return. Maybe. You’re all about having fun while you play. You know that word “play.” Even if you’re not aware of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell’s wisdom: “The umpire doesn’t say, ‘Work ball’.” Even if you’ve never seen Bull Durham and heard Crash Davis remind his teammates, “This game’s fun, okay?”

Yet you may forget one small detail, Tim.  You may forget that Joe West, one of the base umpires for the game, doesn’t forget.

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. . . then, getting drilled his next time up by the pitcher off whom he’d never hit one out until his previous time up.

Last year, you asked him about whether he or anyone else saw you get touched when Javier Baez of the Cubs slid rather hard into you trying to break up a double play in the making. And Country Joe sent you and your skipper to the showers. And you said, quote, “I don’t have much to say about him. Everybody knows he’s terrible. But I didn’t say much. He threw me out. It’s OK.”

Well, it turns out not to have been OK. Because once things settle down Wednesday, Country Joe rounds up the umpires and decides Keller, Renteria, Royals coach Dale Sveum, and . . . you should be sent to your rooms.

You get Keller. You get your skipper. You get Sveum. But you? The original victim? This is like a father learning the neighbourhood bully beat the hell out of his son for no reason and deciding his son needed to be spanked for it.

And you, the son, are diplomatic enough not to reference Daddy’s previous unwarranted punishment over the Baez slide debate, such as it was, when Mother asks what the hell you are doing in time out with a sore bottom for the rest of the day. (You may wish to wonder whether Mother reminded Daddy that, thanks to these punishments he’s now number three on the all-time umpires’ ejections survey thanks to passing Hank O’Day.)

And when the White Sox send someone from their media relations department to ask what Daddy and his fellow umps thought when Daddy laid down the law, all they say in reply is, “Because of the language that was used on the field, the umpires declined comment.”

Somewhere in the middle of the scrum, Tim, Country Joe Daddy actually put his hands on your manager trying to usher him the hell out of it. Now, if you wonder, Tim, where the hell West gets off with that kind of contact—when you and every other fool knows there’d be hell to pay if it had been your manager putting hands on Country Joe Daddy or any other umpire in like circumstances—you’re hardly alone, I’m sure.

Even diplomatic you, Tim, can’t be blamed if your spontaneous thought about that and your ultimate day’s punishment is, “You’ve gotta be joking.” What’s not a joke is that of course the Royals deny any intent on Keller’s part to teach you a lesson about play. Of course Keller himself says he wasn’t trying to put a hole into your left butt.

And of course you and me and everyone else watching that game knows it was about as not-trying as the day Hunter Strickland nailed Bryce Harper on the first pitch of an at-bat, over a pair of home runs almost three years old.

We also know the Royals are a little on the hypocritical side when it comes to these things. They have no problem with one of their own remembering the umpire doesn’t say, “Work ball.” (That one of their own last year, Alcides Escobar, is now in the minor league system of . . . the White Sox. Just sayin’.) They just don’t like it when one of the opposition remembers.

Go back out and have fun today, Tim. Your manager has your back, too. As he says, wisely, about home runs like yours and spontaneous celebrations like yours, “You want him not to do that? Get him out.” What a concept.

And as for you, Brad Keller, I have this: Instead of throwing at the guy who ate your grapefruit for breakfast the next time he faces you, get him out . . . and have a little celebration of your own.

Strike him out. Make your hand into a pistol and fire it (just like Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley used to do), or fan it. (Just like the late Joaquin Andujar used to do.) Or, make like you’re firing an old fashioned tommy gun. Or, drop to a knee and fire an imaginary bazooka toward him as he slinks back to the dugout. If hitters can have fun, why can’t pitchers?

Or, if the next time up the circumstance allows you to lure him into a double play grounder, make sure your infielders are ready to mime a juggling act. If hitters and pitchers can have fun, why can’t the fielders?

“Remember when you were a kid and you’d skip supper to play ball?” should-be Hall of Famer Dick Allen, near the end of his career, once reminded pressing young Hall of Famer-to-be Mike Schmidt. “You were having fun. Baseball’s supposed to be fun. Enjoy it. Be a kid again.”

Sound counsel for both Tim Anderson and Brad Keller, the latter of whom happens to be two years younger than the former, but who chose instead to behave like a scolding old get-off-my-lawn fart. And, for Joe West, who’s old enough to know better, still young enough to enjoy it, but may think he was born a scolding old get-off-my-lawn fart.