Baseball has developed a lot of unwritten rules over the years. One of the most well known is to intentionally hit a batter as an act of justice for unsportsmanlike conduct. For instance, when a wild pitcher hits a batter in the head, the first batter to come up (from the wild pitcher’s team) the next inning is “plunked.” It shows solidarity. It sends a message to the offending teams. That message being: “there will be repercussions for your actions even if the officials fail to enforce consequences.” At the moment many Dodger’s fans feel this doling out of “street justice” is perfectly acceptable. It’s easy to understand both players’ and fans’ frustration, but now it’s apparent that hitting the Astros is hurting baseball. It’s time to stop hitting the Astros; just start beating them.
Among Dodgers fans, it’s an unpopular opinion to not bean Astros batters. This spring training, Astros batters have been hit by seven pitches in five games. This averages out to 1.40 HBP/ game as opposed to the league average last year of 0.41 HBP/game. This is clearly retaliation and a strong message from the opposing teams.
Not So Sweet Revenge
Whether you’re a Dodgers fan, Aaron Judge, or just someone who respects baseball, it’s hard not to feel that this vigilante punishment is just. But as a true fan of the game, it’s hard not to ask: “Is this right? What does this really do?” They already got away with cheating. It’s clear the league isn’t going to dole out any actual lasting punishment beyond draft pick elimination. There is nothing wrong with making countless memes, trash-talking, or banging trash cans to express the animosity that baseball fans have toward the Astros. That is part of baseball and without it, the pastime would be without excitement or passion. However, this vengeful approach is only hurting baseball.
Not An Apology
This is in no way an apology for the Astros. There is no excuse that could absolve them or remove the tainted air around their organization. Their actions are indefensible. But above all, it’s important to give the game the respect it deserves. The disrespect the Astros’ showed the game is unconscionable. But that doesn’t mean turning the game into an outlet for revenge is the answer. It’s just more disrespect
Hitting every Astro’s batter will only succeed in giving them more base runners. Writer Ryan P. Morrison of BeyondTheBoxScore.com mentioned in an article that “the run value of aHBP is similar to that of a walk. If we can accept the average HBP to be worth 0.35 runs, then despite their rarity, HBP can have a noticeable effect on a team’s season.” Astros players have already been given immunity. The last thing they deserve is a boost in their stats. Real fans don’t want to see them get hurt. They want to see them lose. A bruise will heal. But losing a fair game when you’re a known cheater leaves a scar that will never go away.
Lack Of Accountability Builds Resentment
It’s obvious that the lack of action from Commissioner Manfred has all of baseball frustrated and angry. The New York Daily News quotes Manfred: “I think if you look at the faces of the Houston players as they’ve been out there publicly addressing this issue, they have been hurt by this.” Manfred went on to say that intense public scrutiny is “a form of discipline and maybe the most powerful deterrent of anything we did here.” Judging from Manfred’s use of the word “maybe” it doesn’t seem that even he’s convinced enough has been done.
The Commissioner of the MLB is saying that the shame of getting caught for cheating is the punishment for cheating. Anyone who has ever been cheated on (in any way shape or form) know’s this punishment is not appropriate. If he’d actually enforce real punishment maybe the HBP “street justice” the Astros are experiencing would be less severe. What we can know for sure is that giving the Astros immunity only builds resentment. It builds resentment between those who play the game fairly, the cheaters, and Manfred himself.
Speaking Out Is Better Than Hitting Astros
Dodger MVP Cody Bellinger spoke on the subject saying, “I thought Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving immunity.” The all-star went on to accuse Astros second baseman Jose Altuve of stealing the MVP title, saying: “I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from Judge in ‘17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us. But it’s over.” As upset as Bellinger is – and rightfully so – he makes sure to end his comment with “But it’s over,” which is the healthy way to look at it.
Ripple Effect of Hitting Astros
There is a very natural impulse to want to give the punishment that the league refuses to dole out. This is what we are seeing in Spring Training. As Bellinger’s comments show, the ripple effect that the Astros have caused is beyond that of possibly stealing the ring from the Dodgers. The only way to end that ripple is to stop hitting the Astros. It’s impossible to calculate how many games the Astros won fairly – that’s why Bellinger is trying to move on by claiming it’s over. As sweet as revenge looks, it will not change the past.
It would benefit all of baseball to learn from the past, but not dwell on it. The only way to set the record straight is to play the game fairly. Show the world that when it’s fair and square, the Astros will not be champions. Of course, it’s tempting to imagine the Dodgers winning a fair series in 2017. However, replaying “what if” scenarios in one’s mind only adds to the resentment and frustration. If it fuels fan’s anger, imagine what it does to honest players who uphold the game’s ethics. Given the evidence, it seems to drive some to hand out punishment themselves. This of course, is not good for baseball.
The End Goal
Pitchers should throw pitches to win games. They shouldn’t be deciding pitches based on their desire to bring others to justice. This gives the Astros’ even more control of the game. The Astros disrespected baseball by having an unfair amount of control over the game. Hitting Houston’s batters with pitches only gives them more control. Pitchers should not be making plays with past actions of the Astros’ in mind. Pitchers need to stop hitting the Astros’ intentionally.
Hitting the Astros and having them go to first base doesn’t prove anything. Making them look like fools shows all of baseball that when the Astros face other teams fair and square, the outcome will be far different. If people saw that, many would realize that they didn’t just steal titles and rings. Instead, they also cheated fans out of three years of pure and fair baseball. As for Dodger’s fans, we’ll know that if it took them seven games with cheating to beat us, we really like our odds going into 2020.
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