Since the start of spring training, a day hasn’t gone by without at least one player speaking out against the Houston Astros complicity in the sign-stealing scandal that has rocked the sport.
The criticism has been very pointed. Even Mike Trout, who never says anything bad about anybody, slammed the Astros, saying the players involved should be suspended and that he’d lost respect for some of them.
Like we said last week, it’s going to take a very long time for the animosity that’s been created to wear off. Those outside the Astros organization feel they were cheated and taken advantage of.
“There’s no sincerity. There’s no genuineness when it comes to it (Houston’s apology),” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant told the media last week. “I know that if I messed up big in that way, I’d be the first one to let you know just how big of a mess up it was. It’s hard to believe. It really is. It’s sad.”
We all know MLB has unwritten rules to police what it considers to be unsportsmanlike conduct on the field. You’re not supposed to disrespect the game by flipping your bat, bunting to break up a no-hitter, steal bases with a big lead or throw at hitters after the previous hitter belts a home run.
What usually happens in these instances is some pitcher ends up throwing at a hitter on the other team as retribution.
Well, the Astros apparently are very concerned the building animosity against the organization – particularly holdover players from the 2017 world championship team like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer and Carlos Correa – will result in their players being thrown at this season.
The concern is so great Astros manager Dusty Baker took some time during a press conference last weekend to ask MLB for its help his team’s greatest fear materializes.
“I’m depending on the league to try to put a stop to this seemingly premeditated retaliation that I’m hearing about,” Baker told reporters. “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.”
Opposing players are pissed because they perceive Houston’s cheating may have stolen the 2017 World Series from the Los Angeles Dodgers or cost Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees the MVP that season, which was won by Altuve.
They’ve also pointed to a number of unnamed pitchers whose MLB careers may have been adversely impacted, or ended, because of the beatings they took from the Astros lineup.
According to ESPN, Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling was asked last week whether pitchers might consider throwing at Astros hitters in retaliation.
“I would lean toward yes,” Stripling said. “In the right time and the right place.”
Two weeks ago, Cleveland Indians starter, Mike Clevinger, was asked by the media what he thought about it all.
“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,” Clevinger said.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if MLB decides to suspend an opposing pitcher for throwing at an Astros hitter after deciding not to suspend Astros players for their part in the scandal.
After Baker’s comment about potential beanballs, the media at Houston’s spring training facility went searching for players willing to comment about his concerns.
“The game has changed,” Astros pitcher Justin Verlander said. “I think the commissioner has made it very clear in the past few seasons that throwing a baseball at somebody isn’t an appropriate form of retaliation in the game anymore. The problem is knowing if it’s on purpose or not. But I guess when you come out and say I’m going to do it on purpose, you know.”
Of course, it didn’t take long for the Las Vegas wise guys to figure out a way to monetize the odds the Astros will be thrown at.
On Monday, one sportsbook said the over/under on Astros batters getting hit this season should be 83.5.
Braves outfielder Nick Markakis lent his voice to the anti-Astros sentiment.
“It’s anger,” Markakis said. “I feel like every single guy over there needs a beating. It’s wrong. They’re messing with people’s careers. There’s right ways to do it (steal signs) and wrong ways to do it. I 100 percent disagree with way they did it. There’s a lot of people that were hurt by it, and it was wrong.”
According to MLB, over the last five seasons, only nine teams have been hit more than 83.5 times in one year. The Astros were hit 66 times in 2019.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Sunday he’s already been planning to increase suspension time for pitchers intentionally throwing at batters on every team. Manfred added all managers will be informed of his plan during the spring.
“[It’s] simply not appropriate to express frustration you have growing out of the Astros’ situation by putting someone physically at risk by throwing at them,” Manfred told ESPN. “It’s simply not acceptable.”