The Houston Astros formally assembled last week and offered their apologies. Well, sorta. With declarations from Astros owner Jim Crane that the sign stealing technology did not affect the outcome of the games, and Astros players such as Carlos Correia getting defensive, people around baseball managed to get angrier and angrier. Phillies special assistant Larry Bowa suggests that there could be some bean balls in the future of the Astros.
Bowa told the Philadelphia Inquirer this week that Steve Carlton would have "done something about it", and suggests that some bean balls could be in order.
“Why wouldn’t you do anything about it? I’m not saying hit them in the head. I don’t want anybody to get killed, but hit somebody in the ribs and say, ‘If you want to keep doing it, we’re going to keep drilling you.’ That will stop it. Believe me, guys don’t want to get hit. But nobody did anything.”
Bowa was not the only one to suggest that something happen.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have frequently been at the center of the discussion, as it was the Dodgers who were defeated by the Astros in the 2017 World Series. Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling was supposed to be traded across town to the Los Angeles Angels this offseason, before a deal was canceled. When he thought he was being traded, he envisioned facing the Astros 19 times as a member of the American League West:
When he thought he was being traded to the Angels, Ross Stripling started wrestling with whether he would intentionally throw at an Astros hitter to retaliate. He concluded he probably would, at the right time, in the right place. I think it’s a fascinating question.— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) February 14, 2020
The Dodgers will not face the Astros during regular season play in 2020.
The talk of bean balls has led to a formal request for Major League Baseball to help. That came from new Astros manager Dusty Baker. As the comments escalate, the fear of retaliation grows. So Baker publicly asked for help:
"I'm depending on the league to try to put a stop to this seemingly premeditated retaliation that I'm hearing about," Baker said Saturday morning. "And 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."
This could be very hard to enforce.
The Houston Astros were hit by 66 pitches as a team in 2019. The American League record is 103, set by the Cleveland Indians in 2008. The difference between a "normal" season - 2019 - and the record is only 37 pitches. How will umpires be able to tell the difference between an anger-fueled hit by pitch and one that simply got away? It will be a gray area.
The Astros made a bad situation incredibly worse. Instead of accepting responsibility and calling the criticism fair, the defensive nature of the team, from the owner to the players has escalated the anger. Even Baker's comments make it worse; had the apologies been sincere they may have forgiveness instead of escalated anger, and Baker is just keeping the anger going.
Whether or not they get hit by pitches, 2020 could be a long season for this Houston Astros team.