We all know that Yordano Ventura has an edge to him. A player who models himself after Pedro Martinez, Ventura seems to need that testiness in order to succeed. Despite his diminutive size, or perhaps because of it, Ventura has not been afraid to stand up for himself and the Kansas City Royals as a whole. Just look at how he went after Mike Trout during the Angels game, or his reaction to Brett Lawrie after hitting him with a pitch.
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That competitive fire and refusal to back down are a part of why Ventura has rapidly become a fan favorite in Kansas City. As someone who was looked at to step in and fill the role of the Royals staff ace, he has that competitive spirit that one looks for in such a spot. Yet, for Ventura, that fire has been both a blessing and a curse.
Last year, during Game Six of the World Series, we saw where that fire is beneficial to Yordano Ventura. He stepped on the mound that night, and simply stated that the Kansas City Royals would not lose the series on his watch. Dedicating his performance to the late Oscar Taveras, Ventura pitched seven shutout innings, forcing Game Seven.
And then, there are the incidents in his last two starts. After Brett Lawrie took out Alcides Escobar on what was a dirty slide, Ventura drilled him in the elbow, resulting in an ejection as he hit Lawrie following a home run from Josh Reddick. Then, last night, Ventura touched off a legitimate brawl by yelling an obscenity at Adam Eaton after a comebacker to the mound. Unlike the typical baseball “brawl” of players milling about, this was an actual fight, with punches thrown, fists flying and players being dog piled upon. When it was all said and done, five players were ejected, including Ventura, Lorenzo Cain and Edinson Volquez. Yes, Eaton and Samardzija may have touched off the fracas by saying something first, but they are not the ones being watched intently by the umpiring crew.
For as much as this fire, and the refusal to back down is fueling the Kansas City Royals, there is a time and a place for it. With Kelvin Herrera having been suspended for five games, and Ventura having just been fined for hitting Lawrie, this was perhaps the worst timing for such an incident. Now, the Royals are likely going to have Ventura suspended for at least one start, as well as possible suspensions for Volquez and Cain. And for what purpose did this serve?
At this point, teams have to know that the Kansas City Royals will be standing up for themselves. That has already been proven during their series with the A’s. Now, the Royals, who have had nine ejections this season, literally three times the amount of the second place Padres, are going to be under the microscope for the foreseeable future.
It is perfectly acceptable for Yordano Ventura and the Royals to play with this fire and with such an edge. However, there is a time and a place for it. Teams are learning that, by chirping at Ventura, they can get under his skin and cause him to lose focus. That is not what an ace does; an ace channels that fire into pure dominance, like Ventura’s idol Pedro did after being charged by Gerald Williams in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He then proceeded to strike out 17 batters in a one hit shutout.
Once Yordano Ventura can walk that line, the edge he plays with will be a true blessing. Until then, it could end up as a curse that could hurt the Kansas City Royals going forward.