Houston Astros Manager Dusty Baker is worried. In the wake of the sign-stealing scandal that put an asterisk around the team’s 2017 World Series Championship, he fears opposing pitchers may target his players with fastballs in an act of revenge.
“I’m depending on the league to try to put a stop to the seemingly premeditated retaliation that I’m hearing about,” Baker said. “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.”
Dusty Baker is concerned about “premeditated retaliation” against the Astros. He wants league to step in. pic.twitter.com/GSFaHJhX9d
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 15, 2020
He seems to have reason to be worried. Ross Stripling, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team the Astros swindled of out a World Series ring, has expressed a possible willingness to throw at ‘Stros if given the chance.
“I thought about that if I was going to the Angels because they open in Houston, right,” Stripling said, per the Houston Chronicle. “And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Ah…That’s a good question. Would I do it? I would lean towards yes. In the right time and the right place. Maybe I give up two runs the inning before and I got some anger going. Who knows? But, yeah, it would certainly be on my mind.”
Cheating has long been a part of baseball’s storied history. Pitchers scuff the ball or use foreign substances such as Vaseline to improve the movement of pitches. Hitters cork their bats to add power, turning pop flies into home runs. During the late 1990s, as Barry Bonds transformed from a speedy outfielder into the Incredible Hulk and Mark McGuire was hitting homers like the Gashouse Gorillas of Bugs Bunny fame, it was obvious to everyone that steroids were being used. And yes, sign stealing is as old as the game.
Obviously the Astroisks’ cheating scandal has more gravity because it led to them grabbing the coveted World Series crown, but it’s not some crazy outlier in baseball. The league has imposed heavy fines and draft penalties on Houston. One can make a compelling argument that the players should have faced punishment, but if so it should come from Major League Baseball, not vigilante pitchers hurling 90-mile-an-hour fastballs at people.
For one thing, intentionally throwing at hitters is remarkably dangerous. According to a statistical analysis by the American Journal of Sports Medicine conducted on the 2011 to 2015 seasons, a whopping 2,920 injuries occurred in MLB as a result of batters being hit by pitches. Those injuries resulted in 24,624 days missed over those five seasons. And that was without hurlers playing Batman to bring about some cosmic justice.
None of this is to say that pitchers with a grudge shouldn’t throw inside to send a message. That is, after all, a regular feature of baseball, and if a batsman gets hit, well, it happens. There is difference between a purpose pitch with a chance of landing and rearing back to intentionally risk injuring a batter. Frankly, if pitchers want to do the latter, the manlier thing to do would be to just challenge some Astros to a fist fight.
Aside from the penalties already placed on the 2017 “world champions” by MLB, the Astros will suffer a firmer and more painful form of penance. The championship itself is forever tainted. Like the 1919 Black Sox, this team will forever be known as the one that cheated. Whatever glory they felt as they lifted the trophy or slipped the World Series rings on their deceitful little fingers is gone.
Perhaps worse, the disgraced players will always wonder, as long as they live, if they could have won without cheating. If they could have maintained their dignity and still taken the crown. As to those players who want revenge, the best revenge is living well, or in this case winning a championship fair and square. If they want to punish the Astros, there can be no better way to do it.