MLB sent shockwaves through the baseball world this offseason when they handed down unprecedented punishments for the Houston Astros and their cheating scandal. The team forfeited draft picks, millions of dollars, and were essentially forced to fire manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. Both received year-long suspensions.
The reaction from the baseball world has been harsh. As players, executives, and the media react, some speculate that there may be retaliation from other MLB teams. Should the Astros be worried?
Buster Olney’s analysis of the Astros’ cheating
Houston’s cheating scandal comes down to a simple reality: The Astros took a tenet of the game (stealing signs) and added an unfair/unjust element; they used technology to assist them. The complicated system violated the spirit and competitiveness of baseball.
ESPN’s Buster Olney believes pitchers may throw at the Astros next season because of the scandal. He likened it to Ryan Dempster throwing at Alex Rodriguez following Rodriguez’s second suspension from baseball for PED use.
The unwritten rules of beanings in baseball
Baseball is built on its rich, centuries-old tradition of unwritten rules. These guidelines have a special significance and most players honor this. For example, it’s considered bad form to cross the pitcher’s mound when a batter leaves the field of play after getting out. Rodriguez once did this to then-Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden and got an earful.
Likewise, pitchers will sometimes “bean” players (or hit them with a pitch) due to a transgression of one of these unwritten rules. For example, if a pitcher for Team A hits a player on Team B (intentionally or not), a pitcher from Team B is often expected to hit a player from Team A.
As long as the pitcher doesn’t aim for the face or head and hits the player on the back or rear end, this is typically considered fair game by most. It may lead to a bench-clearing brawl, but it’s expected and accepted behavior. This begs the question: Does the Astros’ behavior lend itself to unofficial punishment?
Is retaliation from MLB players justified?
It’s hard to judge whether the Astros “deserve” to get hit with pitches this season for a few reasons:
- Baseball’s unwritten rules are rather nebulous. By design, they’re unwritten, so there’s no agreed-upon code.
- The only player officially named in MLB’s report on the matter was former Astro Carlos Beltran. Now, he’s not only retired but the Mets let him go from his manager job to his role in the scandal. While players can guess which Astros participated in cheating, there’s no way to verify exactly who was involved.
- Different teams were affected differently by it. For example, an NL team playing the Astros this year may have never played them while they cheated. Teams who played Houston in the postseason like the Yankees and Dodgers, however, are justifiably angry.
Answering the question of whether the Astros deserve it is impossible. The easier question is whether the Astros will be punished with beanings this year. The answer: Almost definitely.
The Astros’ cheating affected the livelihoods of many. Based on their offensive success, people lost pitching jobs. Others were demoted to the minor leagues or traded. What the Astros did hurt the game. There’s no question that at least one pitcher will take the punishment into their own hands.
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