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Dusty Baker says MLB should protect Astros from beanball retaliation

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And he’s right.

Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros cheated.

They cheated during their 2017 run to the World Series. That was well documented in Commissioner Rob Manfred’s report issued last month. You can read it here (.PDF).

Many think Astros players should have been suspended for their roles in the cheating scandal. They weren’t, largely because they were given immunity in exchange for information. (A secondary reason is likely because any suspensions would have been tied up in grievances, possibly for a long time.)

There have already been hints by some players that retaliation against Astros players might happen in the form of beanballs or other “purpose” pitches. Houston’s new manager, Dusty Baker, says that shouldn’t happen:

“I’m depending on the league to try to put a stop to this seemingly premeditated retaliation that I’m hearing about,” Baker said Saturday morning. “And in most instances in life, you get kind of reprimanded when you have premeditated anything. I’m just hoping that the league puts a stop to this before somebody gets hurt.”

Think what you want about Baker — and I know many Cubs fans have strong opinions about him — he’s right, and one of the reasons he was hired as Astros manager was to be a voice of reason like this.

It’s pretty easy, in my view, in modern baseball to determine whether an inside pitch is thrown with intent or just gets away. Sometimes the latter happens, a hitter gets plunked, and the game moves on.

And then there are ugly scenes like this. [VIDEO]

No, those pitches didn’t “just get away.” They were thrown with intent — one of them at a batter’s head. What does that solve?

This even happened in a Cubs spring training game last March. Carl Edwards Jr. threw this pitch at Austin Nola intentionally:

How do I know that? CJ admitted it:

As Edwards noted, Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant got hit in that game — which was against a team of Mariners minor leaguers, since the major league Mariners had departed for their season opener in Japan. Check out the boxscore from that game — do you recognize any of those Seattle names? It’s not surprising that some minor league pitchers didn’t have command or control a couple of weeks into spring training. No Mariners pitcher was throwing intentionally at Cubs that afternoon.

Retaliation by throwing at batters on purpose is childish and needs to stop. But according to the article where Dusty Baker is quoted that I linked above, several pitchers have already said they’re thinking about doing it.

Here’s one direct quote:

Asked whether he would consider throwing at Astros batters, Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling told reporters: “I would lean toward yes. In the right time and the right place.”

And another:

Stripling’s comments echoed the sentiments of Cleveland Indians starter Mike Clevinger, who two weeks ago said: “I think players will deal with it the way it should be across the league. I don’t think it’s going to be a comfortable few ABs for a lot of those boys, and it shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t be comfortable.”

And another:

Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood balked at the idea that Astros players were not disciplined for the sign-stealing scandal — they traded honest testimony in interviews with MLB for immunity from punishment — but others could be disciplined for throwing at them.

”Somebody will take it into their own hands, and they’ll get suspended more games than any of those guys got for the biggest cheating scandal in 100 years,” Wood said. “It’ll be pretty ironic when that happens, because I’m sure that’s how it’ll end up playing out.”

Wood isn’t wrong about the lack of discipline to Astros players for the scandal, but I believe he is wrong about the remedy.

The situation isn’t one that has an easy answer. Yes, Astros players probably should have been suspended. How many and for how long is an open question. But as I noted above, there were reasons they weren’t, including getting the information that resulted in Manfred’s report.

But retaliating by throwing intentionally at batters, which could possibly result in serious injury, isn’t the answer either.

It surely would have been better if Astros players had offered sincere apologies. That’s certainly not what we got the other day from owner Jim Crane and players Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, who sounded like men who were being forced to do something they absolutely did not want to do. Their statements came across as “We’re sorry we got caught,” and that’s likely what is angering people across baseball. Kris Bryant’s statement on his first day at spring training sums it up:

KB is right. It was a disgrace and the players should have been punished. But I believe intentionally throwing at hitters is also a stain on the game. MLB ought to lay down the law about this before the 2020 season begins.

Poll

Throwing baseballs intentionally at hitters as retaliation for perceived past misdeeds is...

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    ... always right
    (53 votes)
  • 26%
    ... always wrong
    (146 votes)
  • 64%
    ... it depends
    (354 votes)
553 votes total Vote Now