Since retaliation has always been allowed whenever one of baseball’s unwritten rules are broken, the Houston Astros should be bracing themselves for whatever punishment opposing teams decide to hand out this season.
The Oakland Athletics will set the tone, as they’re currently scheduled to be the first team to host the Astros this season. But due to the pandemic around COVID-19, who knows if, and when, baseball will be played.
But at some point, the games will begin.
Fans and players are still rightfully pissed about the slap on the wrist that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred gave the Astros, and at how insincere their “apologies” for stealing the 2017 World Series title felt. While the Astros were hit with a maximum fine of $5 million, lost some draft picks and had to hire a new manager and general manager, the players got off scot-free.
“Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series, we’ll leave it there,” said Astros owner Jim Crane.
Manfred has said that in-game retaliation will not be tolerated, as new manager Dusty Baker has already went on record trying to make sure his roster of spoiled cheaters is protected this season.
“I’m depending on the league to try to put a stop to the seemingly premeditated retaliation that I’m hearing about,” said Baker. “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.”
It’s beyond hypocritical that a 70-year-old man who’s given his life to a game that frequently dispenses on-the-field justice to turn around and beg for protection from it. And since baseball’s unwritten rules were created to allow players to self-govern the sport, what’s the point of having all these stupid rules if they can’t be implemented when it’s actually time to use them?
Because if it’s acceptable for a player to get hit with a fastball for flipping his bat, breaking up a no-hitter, or taking his time around the bases, then what’s the acceptable punishment for using video technology and alleged electronic devices?
A punch to the face?
Getting hit with a bat?
Bench-clearing brawls with every team in the league?
I don’t know the answer, but something has to go down.
“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,” said former Reds, and current Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood. “It’ll be pretty ironic when that happens, because I’m sure that’s how it’ll end up playing out.”
Not surprisingly, pitchers have been some of the most vocal critics of leniency shown by MLB. What the Astros did was entirely directed at screwing over their profession.
“One of the worst things that could happen is that we get through spring and it’s just forgotten about, or that you get pegged for the first two games and it’s just forgotten about. It needs to be reiterated,” Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling said.
Given how baseball has always dealt with its issues, it shouldn’t have been a shock that the league would error. I mean, this is the sport where legends call out whistleblowers for exposing one of the greatest cheating scandals in sports history.
“I’m mad at [Fiers],” said David Ortiz about Mike Fiers, the former Houston pitcher that gave up the goods on the Astros. “After you make your money and you get your ring, you decide to talk about it? Why didn’t you talk about it during the season when it was going on? Why didn’t you say, ‘I don’t want no part of this.’ Now, you look like a snitch.”
Say what, Big Papi?
Players are in a no-win situation. Tell the truth, and you’re a snitch. Say nothing, and you’re a part of the problem. Fiers’ actions are similar to what Christy Mathewson did when he spoke up about the infamous Black Sox throwing games as it was happening during the 1919 World Series.
Are we expecting too much from a sport that gave birth to a culture that’s allowed things like this to happen for so long?
“If MLB did an investigation as thorough as they did on the Astros with every team in baseball, they’re going to find a lot more than they want to find,” said Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove.
If everybody’s cheating, and cheating is accepted in baseball, in the end, the Astros may have nothing to worry about. Because I bet if you look through enough of all those “unwritten rules,” you’ll probably find one that says Houston didn’t do anything wrong to begin with.