WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker urged Major League Baseball to help protect his players from potential retaliation and to discipline opponents who hit Astros players with pitches because they’re angry at the organization for the widespread cheating during their championship-winning 2017 season.
“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.”
It comes a day after reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger said the Astros “stole” the 2017 championship from the Los Angeles Dodgers and second baseman Jose Altuve “stole” the American League MVP from New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge in 2017. Cincinnati Reds starter Trevor Bauer went on an eight-minute harangue of the Astros, saying: “I’m not going to let them forget the fact that they are hypocrites, they are cheaters.”
Asked whether he would consider throwing at Astros batters, Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling told reporters: “I would lean toward yes. In the right time and the right place.”
Stripling’s comments echoed the sentiments of Cleveland Indians starter Mike Clevinger, who two weeks ago said: “I think players will deal with it the way it should be across the league. I don’t think it’s going to be a comfortable few ABs for a lot of those boys, and it shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t be comfortable.”
When MLB determines the intent of a pitch is to hit a player, it typically levies a suspension for between three and five games. Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood balked at the idea that Astros players were not disciplined for the sign-stealing scandal — they traded honest testimony in interviews with MLB for immunity from punishment — but others could be for throwing at them.
“Somebody will take it into their own hands, and they’ll get suspended more games than any of those guys got for the biggest cheating scandal in 100 years,” Wood said. “It’ll be pretty ironic when that happens, because I’m sure that’s how it’ll end up playing out.”
Altuve, who a spokesman said was not at the Astros’ complex on Saturday, was not available for comment. Through the spokesman, outfielder George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa declined comment. Starter Justin Verlander was the lone member of the 2017 Astros to speak Saturday.
“The game has changed,” Verlander said. “I think the commissioner has made it very clear in the past few seasons that throwing a baseball at somebody isn’t an appropriate form of retaliation in the game anymore. The problem is knowing if it’s on purpose or not. But I guess when you come out and say I’m going to do it on purpose, you know.”
Players across baseball have denigrated the Astros since reporting to spring training — particularly following an ill-received apology Thursday during which owner Jim Crane suggested the cheating scheme “didn’t impact the game” and consistently deferred to commissioner Rob Manfred’s report to defend his lack of accountability.
“I thought the apologies were whatever,” Bellinger said. “I thought Jim Crane’s was weak. I thought Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving ’em immunity. I mean, these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.
“I know personally I lost respect for those guys. I think I would say everyone in the show, in the big leagues, lost respect for those guys.”
The only way to regain the respect, Verlander said, is to win this season.
“It’ll be like walking into a visiting stadium in the playoffs every time we go anywhere,” he said. “At least we’ve experienced that before. You hope it’ll die down eventually. I don’t know if it will or not.”