With the current events of COVID-19 affecting the new 2020 MLB season, it may have been easy for baseball fans to miss a scuffle that took place a few days ago. In the highly anticipated 2017 World Series rematch, the Los Angeles Dodgers traveled to Houston to take on the Astros. After winning the title, the Astros were caught having stolen signs from opposing team that season thus robbing the Dodgers of a possible championship. Tensions were high and benches would clear during the game after Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly threw at multiple batters.
As many predicted, last night’s series opener between the two was not without excitement and mild tensions. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly threw a 96 mile-per-hour heater directly at the head of Astros third baseman Alex Bregman. Bregman was quick enough to duck out of the way. This move seemed quite intentional but, Bregman avoided conflict. The next batter, Michael Brantley, grounded into a fielder’s choice without incident. After Brantley, Yuli Gurriel watched two pitches sail up and in and also walked on four pitches. The next batter, however, is where things really get interesting. Carlos Correa, one of the main culprits at the center of the cheating scandal, immediately received two offerings directly at his head, forcing him to fall to the ground. After these two, Kelly reigned it in and struck Correa out, ending the inning.
The fireworks didn’t stop there though, as Kelly taunted Correa as he walked to the dugout. This causing both benches to clear with some shouting and saber rattling taking place. All in all, no one was hurt.
In response to this scene, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred handed down suspensions to Joe Kelly and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts of eight-game and one-game lengths. Many see this as hypocritical, as the same man who let the Astros walk with barely a slap on the wrist. Kelly was simply meting out his own form of justice in the wake of such weak leadership. You have to sympathize with this viewpoint, as Manfred’s handling of the cheating scandal was entirely feckless and truly detrimental to the game.
As much as we the fans may hate the Astros because of their improprieties, nothing qualifies for throwing fastballs at someone’s head. Joe Kelly and the rest of the Dodgers are right in holding righteous indignation towards the Astros and taunting them at every opportunity. Despite that, endangering someone’s life is not only out of line, but perilous and reckless. Many fans and baseball insiders alike have no problem whatsoever with Joe Kelly’s actions because they see it as vigilante justice.
Pitchers have been seeking revenge through fastballs for the entire history of the game. And in an age where hurlers routinely dial it up to over 95 miles-per-hour, it has never been more dangerous. We all remember the terrifying scene that took place when Giancarlo Stanton took a Mike Fiers’ fastball to the face.
Professional pitchers are incredibly talented and are more precise than anyone else in the world. However, no one is flawless, and if a pitcher misses by mere inches when throwing at a batter it could lead to serious injury or death. The only man to ever die on the baseball field — Ray Chapman — was felled by an errant fastball that struck him in the skull. This may not have been the result of an intentional beaning but, the point remains the same that deliberately trying to injure an opponent is just too dangerous to ever justify.
In 2005, the Cubs called up a rookie outfielder named Adam Greenberg to make his major league debut. On the first pitch he saw, Greenberg took a fastball off the back of his head. He collapsed to the ground immediately and was subsequently rushed to the hospital.
Suffering from a compound skull fracture, Greenberg experienced vertigo, nausea, vision issues, and acute pain. His career as he knew it was over. He would only receive one more major league at-bat in a 2012 feel-good story with the Marlins. Greenberg was not the victim of an intentional hit-by-pitch, which makes the prospect of throwing at someone on purpose even scarier.
As much as we may dislike different players and teams, it is unjust to wish physical harm in that way on another player. It’s even more unsportsmanlike than what the Astros did in 2017. This issue goes beyond the Astros and all of the problems that they have brought down on themselves. This is about a problem endemic in the game that will not go away until a hardline stance is taken against it.
Commissioner Manfred must take action to prevent these scuffles from causing further injuries. While you can support Joe Kelly’s actions, the suspension was justified. Let’s just hope Manfred is not doing this to protect his reputation but to show full force against Beanball Wars.