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MLB's harsh suspension of Dodgers' Joe Kelly sends warning to stop throwing at Astros players

MLB's harsh suspension of Dodgers' Joe Kelly sends warning to stop throwing at Astros players 1

MLB came down hard on Joe Kelly for his lack of control.

It suspended the Dodgers right-hander for eight games Wednesday after he threw a fastball behind the head of Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and sparked a benches-clearing staredown by trolling Astros shortstop Carlos Correa.

MORE: What Joe Kelly said to Carlos Correa to spark get-together

MLB also suspended Dodgers manager Dave Roberts for one game because of the intentional pitch.

Kelly is appealing the suspension, which means he will be available out of LA’s bullpen for the Dodgers’ game in Houston on Wednesday night. Roberts cannot appeal his ban and will therefore sit out Wednesday’s contest.

The commissioner’s office put itself in this position last winter by how it handled its investigation into sign-stealing by the Astros in 2017, the year they defeated the Dodgers in the World Series. Commissioner Rob Manfred gave Bregman, Correa and all the other active players from that team immunity in exchange for full disclosure about prohibited activities. A.J. Hinch, Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora lost managerial jobs in the aftermath.

It was assumed that revelations of the Astros’ cheating would lead opponents to throw at hitters in retaliation. There was great anticipation in the spring that Bregman, Correa and Jose Altuve would wear a lot of fastballs this year. The Dodgers, who believe the Astros stole their title three years ago, got their opportunity because of MLB’s COVID-19 schedule revamp; the teams weren’t originally scheduled to meet this year.

MORE: A timeline of the Astros sign-stealing scandal

MLB’s actions last winter also made a wide swath of fans (and injured Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman) angry, and that’s why they both loved Kelly’s actions Tuesday (he said after the game that his 3-0 pitch behind Bregman and his curveball near Correa’s head weren’t intentional) and hated the decision by MLB vice president Chris Young, a former big league pitcher, to suspend Kelly. The hashtag #FreeJoeKelly trended on Twitter on Wednesday night.

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Kelly wasn’t on the Dodgers in 2017, but he was a member of the Red Sox team that lost to the Astros in the ALDS that year.

MLB, it must be noted, also considered Kelly’s history of throwing at hitters and inciting brawls in handing out its suspension. He drilled the Yankees’ Tyler Austin with a retaliatory pitch in 2018, which prompted Austin to charge the mound and set off a fight.

Another possible reason why MLB treated Kelly harshly: Players got too close to each other when the benches cleared Tuesday and violated MLB’s COVID-19 safety protocols. Only Kelly and Roberts were suspended, but MLB wants to keep such incidents at a bare minimum. 

Astros manager Dusty Baker, who was fined for his role in the incident, said after Tuesday’s game that Kelly’s pitch to Bregman was “dirty baseball” and that throwing at players’ heads has no part in the sport.

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