Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker is trying to get ahead of something he knows will be a problem in 2020. In an effort to make sure Astros players aren’t intentionally thrown at this season, Baker asked Major League Baseball to “put a stop to this seemingly premeditated retaliation that I'm hearing about.”
Baker’s comments come after a number of pitchers suggested Astros hitters could have it rough this season. Most of those pitchers — like Mike Clevinger and Alex Wood — were careful when speaking about the issue. Clevinger said Houston hitters “shouldn’t be comfortable” when they get in the batter’s box. Wood said there will be pitchers who “take it into their own hands.”
The only pitcher to outright admit he would throw at the Astros was Los Angeles Dodgers starter Ross Stripling, who said he would do it “in the right time and the right place.”
While Baker’s comments aren’t likely to make non-Astros fans happy, they shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s in Baker’s best interest for every player on the Astros to stay healthy and in the lineup. Getting constantly assaulted with baseballs is going to make that difficult. It’s also worth noting Baker was hired to protect his players. You can’t expect him to say, “Yeah, my players should get hit all the time.” He would immediately lose the Astros’ clubhouse.
MLB will need to step in for Baker to get his wish. Opposing players aren’t happy with any aspect of the Astros’ cheating scandal. It’s not just the fact that the Astros cheated, it’s that — after months of considering the situation — the Astros didn’t show any remorse this spring.
With a thoughtful, heartfelt apology, perhaps Astros players could have calmed the masses. Instead, opposing players likely feel even more justified in their anger.
Since the scandal broke in the offseason, many opposing players had months to stew on the situation, letting their fury build as the Astros remained quiet and the league continued its investigation. When that investigation resulted in no Astros players getting punished, and Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman issued non-statements at the team’s FanFest, opposing players only grew angrier. All that pent up frustration is likely fueling the comments suggesting the Astros are going to be hit a ton in 2020.
Baker’s comments put MLB in a difficult spot. If the league suspends Astros players, it undermines its credibility and ability to conduct an investigation. If it steps in and tells opposing teams to take it easy on the Astros, it risks further angering players on 29 teams. If it does nothing, it sends a message that retaliation is fine ... at least until MLB then punishes non-Astros for taking matters into their own hands.
The league has handled the entire situation poorly from the start. Baker’s comments only further illustrate how tough it will be for MLB to pull itself out of a colossal mess of its own making.
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