About a month ago, I wrote an impassioned piece about Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly throwing fastballs at the heads of Astros batters. In that article I made clear that I believe that while the anger and frustration that the Dodgers felt is most definitely warranted, nothing ever justifies endangering the physical health of another player. Kelly ended up receiving an eight game suspension from the Commissioner’s office, which equates to a 22 game ban in a full-length season. I had hoped that this dropping of the hammer would mark the start of a new era, where headhunting bravado is unequivocally not tolerated. Alas, as he has done with just about every major issue that has arisen during his time as Commissioner, Rob Manfred has bungled yet another clear-cut case, and the game of baseball as a whole is worse off because of it.
Last Tuesday, the Yankees beat the Rays in what was another exciting installment in an increasingly tense rivalry. However, the play on the field took a backseat to the shenanigans that took place at the end of the contest, as Aroldis Chapman, the man who throws harder than anyone else on the planet, threw a 101 mile-per-hour fastball directly at the head of Rays utility-man Mike Brosseau.
This was evidently done in retaliation for some pitches earlier in the series that the Yankees deemed to be too close for comfort. Whether the Rays were missing their spots or not is more or less irrelevant, as the fact remains that had Brosseau not had the cat-like reflexes to duck out of the way, he most likely would be laid up in a hospital bed right now, or God forbid, six feet under. This of course led to the ever-present, but often anticlimactic, benches clearing incident, and harsh words were exchanged on both sides. While no punches were thrown, Rays manager Kevin Cash threatened retaliation, saying, “I have a whole damn stable of pitchers that throw 98 miles per hour,” insinuating that he isn’t above continuing this ill-advised beanball war.
Suspensions were handed down on Wednesday, with Chapman receiving three games, and Cash and Yankees skipper Aaron Boone each receiving one game apiece. This is where I really have an issue, as Rob Manfred and his handling of headhunting is entirely inconsistent.
First and foremost, Kevin Cash should have been hit with a much lengthier punishment for stating on national television that he would have no problem with his team intentionally throwing at opposing players. The fact that Boone, who was an inert component during the whole ordeal, was given the same suspension, is a joke. Moreover, I am incredulous as to how Chapman received less than half of the punishment that Joe Kelly did for the exact same crime. When Kelly was suspended, the league made a big deal out of the fact that he also taunted the Astros, but even if this is the difference between the two, how can making faces account for a five game difference? It is as clear as day that both Kelly and Chapman were throwing as hard as they could at their opponents’ heads, and luckily no one was injured either time.
From the outside this looks like Manfred laid the smack down on Kelly because of the debacle that was his handling of the sign-stealing scandal, and because he didn’t want the issue continually being brought up. Now, when the team that Manfred let skate after stealing a World Series isn’t involved, the same issue somehow doesn’t warrant the same harsh penalty. This isn’t to say that Joe Kelly shouldn’t have been punished. I believe wholeheartedly that Kelly could have killed Alex Bregman, and an eight game suspension was more than justified. However, Rob Manfred’s inconsistent and frankly, inexcusable mishandling of this most recent incident is making bad situations worse, and calling into question his true motivations.