Before we get into the heart of this blog post, let me make a couple points clear:
- I’m not condoning the obvious cheating that took place during the Houston Astros’ run to a World Series title in 2017. The sign stealing contributed to their championship, although we’ll never know exactly which game(s) in that series mattered most in Houston’s 4-games-to-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. (And, yes, I know the Dodgers absolutely choked in Game 7, but that’s another story.)
- Major League Baseball meted out the punishment it thought was most appropriate to the Houston organization and some of its employees. Whether you or I think those sanctions were not enough, spot on or too strong is irrelevant. They’ve been handed down. Game over, so to speak.
Now, let’s move on.
Last night, the two teams began a series in Houston. And one Dodgers’ pitcher, Joe Kelly, decided he was itching for a (verbal) fight. Kelly was not a member of the Dodgers in 2017; in fact, that year and the next one, he was on the Boston Red Sox, the team that won the 2018 World Series over the Dodgers. And that title has been tainted in the minds of some people because of some shenanigans during the playoffs pulled off by the Red Sox. (Houston did beat Boston in one of the 2017 playoff rounds, a fact Kelly almost certainly had on his mind last night.)
Kelly threw one pitch to one Astros’ player that went well behind the batter’s head. After striking out another batter, he directed a cry-baby face at him, which sparked some verbal back and forth between multiple players.
Kelly is playing with fire.
Whether retaliation is appropriate is not the point because we know a Houston pitcher will do it; the culture of baseball demands it. (And if you are a Dodgers’ fan, please don’t question the legitimacy of the retaliation when it comes.) Let’s hope, as it was with Kelly, that the pitch goes behind a Dodgers’ hitter and doesn’t hit him. Because if one intent to throw behind someone turns out to be a pitch that slips and accidentally cracks a player in the face, we’re looking at the potential of ending a career.
I doubt what happened last night is a one-off event. There are plenty of pitchers (come to think of it, plenty of players) all across the league disgusted by what took place during the 2017 playoffs. Houston cheated and got away with it. However, no one on any of the opposing teams was physically injured. Deliberately throwing a baseball at someone takes getting even to a dangerous level.
A pitch that hits a player in the rear end? Hey, a little bruise results and nothing more. A pitch that breaks ribs or causes a concussion? Nope, you’re not going to get me to endorse that.
Chances are the umpires will warn both managers tonight that they’re well aware of the likelihood of a payback pitch. When that pitch happens, it will be incumbent upon them to then tell the managers and the teams that enough is enough.
Kelly undoubtedly was cheered by his teammates when they returned to the clubhouse after last night’s game, which the Dodgers won. I anticipate an Astros’ pitcher will receive the same greeting tonight.
If yelling and finger pointing is all that comes from the fire Kelly lit last night, fine. But if someone accidentally gets hurt, it’s on him.