HOUSTON, Tx. – In the month since commissioner Rob Manfred levied a $5 million fine and stripped the Houston Astros of four draft picks for improperly using technology to steal signs, it has become evident that the rest of the league’s players do not find the punishment to be severe enough. Indeed, it seems inevitable that Major League Baseball will soon have a different problem to solve: how to stop opposing pitchers from seeking justice in the form of retaliatory plunkings.
New Astros manager Dusty Baker is among those to sense what’s coming. On Saturday, he made it clear he hopes the league takes preventive measures before anyone gets hurt.
“I’m depending on the league to try to put a stop to this seemingly premeditated retaliation that I’m hearing about,” Baker said, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan. “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.”
Too many players to count have expressed disgust with the Astros over the past week, including various members of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers, of course, lost the 2017 World Series to the Astros in seven games. They, along with everyone else, can only wonder how the series would have played out if the Astros had not been cheating.
Though the Dodgers are not scheduled to play the Astros this season, an uncompleted trade that would have sent Ross Stripling to the Los Angeles Angels gave Stripling a chance to think about whether he would’ve thrown at the Astros when he faced them. “I would lean toward yes. In the right time and the right place,” Stripling told Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times.
Alex Wood raised an absurd point: a pitcher who plunks an Astros batter intentionally is likely to face a stiffer penalty than any Astros player will for their role in the cheating scandal. “It’s funny because I’m pretty sure it probably will happen. Somebody will take it into their own hands,” he told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, “and they’ll get suspended more games than any of those guys got for the biggest cheating scandal in 100 years. It’ll be pretty ironic when that happens because I’m sure that’s how it will end up playing out.”
Commissioner Manfred granted the Astros players immunity in exchange for honest accounts. Presumably, Manfred wanted to prevent a drawn-out process and did not want to have to investigate further allegations that would have been made if the players knew they were likely to face suspensions. Manfred also likely wanted to avoid a prolonged battle with the union.
It’s worth noting that Manfred’s official report concluded the sign-stealing operation was “player-driven.” That account has since been thrown into question by the Wall Street Journal, who published emails proving the Astros’ front office knew and contributed to the team’s “dark arts.” That includes current employees like Tom Koch-Weser.