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The Major League Baseball season hadn’t lasted a week before benches-clearing drama involving the Houston Astros.
It happened on Tuesday in a contest between the Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The fireworks were set off when Los Angeles pitcher Joe Kelly sent a fastball behind the back of Astros’ hitter Alex Bregman with a 3-0 count, walking Bregman. Kelly then sent a fastball straight at the head of Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa. Later in the at-bat, Kelly struck out Correa.
After the punch-out, Correa stared at Kelly as he walked off the mound, only to be greeted by a mocking crying face and jeer “nice swing, b—h” from Kelly. The exchange resulted in both benches clearing and meeting between home plate and the Dodgers dugout. No punches were thrown before coaches separated the ball clubs.
I however, don’t believe the exchange was a message being sent from the Dodger’s ball club. Rather, it was sent from Kelly himself.
Seemingly all of baseball, minus Houston and its fan base want the revenge and punishment to be thrown at Astros players. It’s because baseball, as a whole, feels Commissioner Rob Manfred let the players off easy with immunity in exchange for their honest testimony regarding their illegal sign stealing system and its implementation.
The Houston Astros were busted for using video monitoring technology to relay upcoming pitches to batters at the plate illegally. Many believe that fueled their run to the 2017 World Series. Houston won that series in seven games. The opponent? The Dodgers.
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That intricate and blatant series of infractions was proven by Major League Baseball with video evidence and player testimony. It was sparked by the original whistle-blower and former Houston Astro, Mike Fiers. Fiers now pitches for the Oakland Athletics.
During that postseason however, Joe Kelly wasn’t even a Dodger. He was on the Boston Red Sox’s playoff roster for 2017 and 2018. Kelly only joined the Dodgers’ clubhouse in 2019. Kelly went 5-4 for a team that fell in the National League Division to the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals.
Keep in mind that Kelly’s Red Sox team was eliminated from the playoffs in 2017 by the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series. Kelly didn’t allow a run in two appearances that series. In fact, Kelly was the winning pitcher in Boston’s only ALDS win over Houston.
But Kelly has a well-known reputation among current and former teammates for being a “bulldog”. Kelly is always down for a confrontation and is happy to volunteer to initiate confrontation. It’s evident from Kelly’s actions on Tuesday night that he feels slighted or cheated by Houston, even though it’s not been proven to have been used against his 2017 Red Sox.
Still, if the Astros used that system all season long, including in the American League Championship Series and World Series, what logic suggests it wasn’t also used in the Divisional Series against the Red Sox?
Kelly’s confrontation with the Astros is this season’s first instance of blatant retaliation for Houston’s transgressions. Rest assured, it will not be the last.