As you know, I don’t venture into sports commentary very often, leaving that in the usually very capable hands of KC Star columnists Vahe Gregorian and Sam Mellinger.
But here we are today, with the Royals clearly at a point where their top-tier, World-Series-status is in jeopardy, and Gregorian and Mellinger are missing in action.
Gregorian hasn’t written about the Royals during the current six-game losing streak, and Mellinger last weighed in on the Royals Saturday with a column about Dayton Moore’s 10 years as general manager.
I’m sorely disappointed that neither Gregorian nor Mellinger wrote a column for today’s paper in the wake of 25-year-old pitcher Yordano Ventura’s incredible meltdown last night in Baltimore.
When Ventura plunked Orioles’ third-baseman Manny Machado with a 99-mile-an-hour fastball in Baltimore last night, he not only cast grave doubts on his future as a big-league pitcher but also spun the team into disarray. No longer are the Royals concerned about poor hitting, leaky defense and inferior starting pitching. The more provocative question is what to do about this temperamental, immature pitcher who seems strangely distant from the rest of the team and who has completely lost his head twice in the last two seasons.
If you were watching last night, there was a very telling moment after the brief melee subsided. After Ventura got back to the dugout, he was seated on the bench all by himself. At first, no one was within several yards of him. His teammates were standing up, either on the dugout steps or on top of them, looking out toward the field or toward the Baltimore dugout. While rah-rah TV commentator Rex Hudler was jabbering on about Ventura “doing what he felt he had to do,” the more insightful Ryan Lefebvre was pointing out that Ventura’s teammates were shunning him on the bench.
When the camera went back to the dugout a minute or so later, we could see Royals’ trainer Nick Kenney approach Ventura and give him a pat on the back. One of the coaches did likewise. But no players. The scene had all the appearances of a team that wanted nothing to do with a maverick, air-head pitcher.
As all this was unfolding, I went to the kansascity.com website to see what The Star’s reporters, editors and columnists were Tweeting. Mellinger was weighing in very critically, and appropriately. I didn’t write down any of his comments, but at one point he said something like Ventura was acting like “a petulant kid.” He also said something like…”We thought Ventura was beyond things like this…What a joke.”
Reading those Tweets, I fully expected to see a column online late last night, or at least in today’s print edition, castigating Ventura and examining the Royals’ new twin dilemmas.
In my experience, Mellinger is very good about responding to emails, and I sent him one this morning telling him I was shocked he hadn’t written a column for today. He wrote back, saying: “I’m not in Baltimore, so couldn’t get the conversations I needed for a column last night. Working on one now.”
Like tens of thousands of other Royals’ fans, I’ll be waiting to see what Sam has to say…In the meantime, I’ll give you my prescription:
There’s no room on this classy, determined team for a player with an attitude problem. And that’s exactly what this is — a bad attitude. I think Ventura is more concerned about himself and his personal success as a pitcher than he is about the welfare of the team and whether it gets back to the World Series.
In that regard, Ventura reminds me of former Royals’ pitcher Ervin Santana, who, like Ventura, had a lot of talent but also seemed strangely disconnected and indifferent. Since he signed with the Minnesota Twins before the 2015 season, he’s won eight games and lost 10, and the Twins have the second worst record in baseball. I think Ventura’s career is on the same trajectory as Santana’s.
Here’s my solution: Send him to Omaha for the rest of this season. Send him today. And let him stew and pitch in front of a few thousand minor-league fans — and unload him after the season. We won’t get much for him, now that he’s a certified head case, but we’ll a lot better off with his peculiar brand of poison out of the clubhouse.