MLB’s Punishment Of Joe Kelly Is ‘Tough But Fair,’ Analyst Says

Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers has a word with Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros as he walks off the mound
Bob Levey / Getty Images

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly was suspended for eight games earlier this week after throwing pitches that nearly hit a couple of Houston Astros players. While most of the baseball world has been up in arms over the length of the suspension, Bleacher Report‘s Zachary Rymer wrote on Wednesday that while the punishment was tough, it was also fair.

Kelly put himself in the middle of the first big on-field controversy of the 2020 season when he threw pitches to both Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa that came dangerously close to hitting them. After one particular fastball — which was clocked at 96 miles per hour on the radar gun — skimmed just over Bregman’s head, Kelly and the opposing dugout began angrily yelling at one another. Before Kelly went back to the Dodgers dugout, he could be seen making faces and yelling at opposing players. Both benches were cleared, and it appeared MLB was about to have its first fist brawl of the coronavirus era.

It’s thought Kelly’s behavior after the pitches were thrown is what led to his eight-game suspension. The incident also led to suspensions for Dave Roberts and Dusty Baker — the managers of the Dodgers and the Astros respectively. Each was suspended for one game. Roberts served out his suspension on Thursday night. Kelly is appealing.

Rymer pointed out that even in a 162 game season, the length of Kelly’s ban would be considered long. In 2020, it’s the equivalent of more than 20 contests. The penalty has been widely considered excessive when Kelly didn’t even hit the players.

During spring training, several pitchers voiced their intention of hitting Bregman, Correa, Jose Altuve, and others that the league preemptively said if beanballs were thrown, the consequences would be severe.

Rymer said that Kelly’s punishment represented Manfred following through on that warning. Because of that, the analyst argued that the pitcher’s ban was not a cause for outrage. It was to be expected that the consequences for throwing beanballs would be harsher than in the past, so he contended that it made sense for the pitcher to be handed such a tough sentence.

Though, the analyst also pointed out that there seems to be some hypocrisy at play. Kelly and others around the league have expressed dismay over the fact that the Astros were caught stealing signs from opponents during the 2017 season –the year they won the World Series — and not a single member of the roster had to miss any game time. Commissioner Rob Manfred allowed them to avoid punishment, as long as they told the whole truth about their cheating.

The analyst said the league has made its point and added that rightly or wrongly, it wants the 2017 scandal to stay in the past. It also doesn’t want any scenario where dozens of people are throwing punches in the middle of a pandemic.