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2015 World Series Game 4 preview: Hypocrisy, thy name is Royals

Game 4 begins at 5:07 p.m. PT, and is televised on FOX.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The World Series is officially interesting again. The Mets showed signs of life as they slugged their way to a Game 3 victory to cut their series deficit to 2-1. They have a chance to tie things on Saturday.

But the part of the game that is getting the most attention is the very first pitch. Noah Syndergaard, tired of seeing Alcides Escobar lighting up every first pitch he sees, sent one high-and-tight to the leadoff man to shake things up a bit. Here it is, along with Escobar's reaction:

wait wut

Royals are you seriously

And to sum up the general response from everyone outside of Kansas City: Hey fellas, are you aware that Kelvin Herrera is on your team?

Y'know, this Kelvin Herrera:

Kelvin Herrera headhunter

That's from earlier this season, when Herrera threw at the upper body of Brett Lawrie, close enough to be deemed headhunting by MLB's official definition. That's your teammate, Royals, and that's all of you not raising any concerns when he threw in the vicinity of someone's head.

In fact, I got inboxes full of hate mail just for calling Herrera out, with plenty of physical threats toward me. And now suddenly the Royals (and the same fans who ripped me) are calling foul for the exact thing I was complaining about, just because they're on the other side this time. We have a word for that, and it's "hypocrite."

Listen, I'm not going to fully condone what Syndergaard did. If I don't like headhunting as a strategy for retaliation, then I can't well like it as an intimidation tactic. Obviously, in my heavily biased view, these two pitches were not the same thing. Herrera's was thrown out of (inappropriately placed) anger with no purpose but to either hit the batter or get close, so much so that it went behind Lawrie (that's the "I'm not playing baseball anymore, just trying to hurt you" zone). The other was just a high fastball, a bit inside, that the hitter was (justifiably) not expecting. Either one could have ended a career, but at least Noah's was part of a strategy to retire a hitter rather than an attempt at pure physical vengeance. Jesse Spector further spells out the differences:

Furthermore, throwing behind someone is more dangerous than a pitch like the one Syndergaard threw because the natural reaction of a hitter facing 98-100 mph thrown at him is to duck, back up or both. It would have been much easier for Lawrie to get hit and hurt by Herrera's pitch than it would have been for Escobar to be by Syndergaard's.

Finally, there is the difference between what Syndergaard did after his pitch and what Herrera did after his. Syndergaard threw his pitch, stood on the mound and waited to get the ball for his next pitch. Herrera, after getting ejected from a game in which there had already been umpire warnings about pitches directed at hitters, yelled at Lawrie and pointed at his head.

But those are distinctions I will make partly because I already don't like Kansas City, and that's how the subjective human mind works. Objectively speaking, the point isn't the intention, it's the margin for error. Noah's nearly-100 mph fastball could have missed its spot by a few inches just like Herrera's could have, and then it wouldn't matter much what everyone meant to do. Heck, you certainly can't deny the fact that Noah's pitch was closer to the head than Herrera's was.

In reality, the Royals and their fans have a right to be pissed ... if you ignore all history leading up to this point. But this is the game that the Royals chose to play this year. I'm not trying to argue that Noah was right or wrong to do what he did. It's debatable if it even helped, considering the Royals went on to score in each of the first two frames anyway and the New York bats were what really won the game. What I'm trying to say is, "Hey Royals, this is what everyone was talking about in April." This is what it feels like to have someone pitching around your head.

If you're going to complain about this now, then you have to go back and admit you were wrong in April. I don't care what you thought about Lawrie's mildly improper slide; we've seen what actual dangerous, dirty slides look like recently, and they cost Jung-ho Kang and Ruben Tejada their postseasons with torn ACLs. I don't care what you thought about Scott Kazmir's backfoot slider hitting an opposite-handed batter in the back foot. Back in April, the Royals and a vocal section of their fanbase thought it was okay to throw at a batter's head for reasons, and now they don't like it for different reasons. It's one or the other.

(If that tweet gets pulled, here is a video of Noah's full press conference with the key quote at 3:30, and here is a condensed version of the presser.)

Again, I don't know that I can fully condone what he says there. I think it's cheeky because I don't like the Royals and because it all turned out alright, but in reality if Noah got suspended for calling his shot (he won't) then I would understand. Noah probably could have achieved his brushback goal while keeping the ball lower.

But once again, we're back to a binary choice. You are either okay with pitchers throwing high and tight, or you're not. You either think Noah was wrong and admit that Herrera was wrong, or you defend your reliever and tip your cap to Noah for good gamesmanship. But after all the crap I had to listen to in defense of Herrera in April, I have no interest in hearing Kansas City cry about the same thing now. The Royals chose to play the role of the fiery tough guys this year, and they need to sleep in the bed they made.

I've never heard such a great team whine so much.

Today's Lineups

Alcides Escobar - SS Curtis Granderson - RF
Ben Zobrist - 2B David Wright - 3B
Lorenzo Cain - CF Daniel Murphy - 2B
Eric Hosmer - 1B Yoenis Cespedes - CF
Mike Moustakas - 3B Lucas Duda - 1B
Salvador Perez - C Travis d'Arnaud - C
Alex Gordon - LF Michael Conforto - LF
Alex Rios - RF Wilmer Flores - SS
Chris Young - RHP Steven Matz - LHP