Kessel: Bring the Houston Astros to Justice


Zach Kessel, Columnist

On Monday, Houston Astros second baseman José Altuve, who was a large part of the Astros’ 2017 and 2018 sign-stealing conspiracy, strode to the plate to take his third at-bat of spring training amid a cacophony of boos. Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Nick Ramirez promptly hit him in the leg with a pitch.

It was more than likely unintentional; pitchers coming after batters typically don’t wait until the third time the batter sees the plate to throw at them. And the pitch was a breaking ball, also atypical when a pitcher targets a batter.

But it does raise interesting questions: Do biblical precepts apply to America’s religion? Does “an eye for an eye” pass muster when a professional sports commissioner refuses to punish flagrant cheating?

Considering MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s complete and utter inadequacy, and the Astros’ flouting of league rules and common decency, I say yes.

For those unaware of the details, the Astros stole signs using video cameras in center field, relaying that video feed to a TV in the team clubhouse and banging on trash cans to signal which pitches were coming. They also may have worn buzzers under their jerseys, to the same effect.

Pitchers across the league are champing at the bit to face the Astros. Cleveland Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger said last month that he doesn’t think “it’s going to be a comfortable few at-bats for a lot of those boys, and it shouldn’t be.”

When asked if he would intentionally hit an Astros player if given the opportunity, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling said he “would lean towards yes.”

In fact, William Hill, a sportsbook, set an over/under on the number of Astros batters that will be hit by pitches during the 2020 baseball season at 83.5, which would entail one batter being hit just over every other game in baseball’s 162-game season.

And pitchers should do it.

The Astros’ cheating won them a World Series in 2017, most likely at the expense of either their ALCS opponent, the New York Yankees, or the team they beat in that year’s Fall Classic, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their cheating won Altuve the American League MVP that year, instead of the arguably more deserving Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge.

Astros players in ’17 and ’18 enjoyed exorbitant statistical seasons at the expense of the rest of the league, and the powers that be in Major League Baseball neglected to punish the players for their misdeeds. If the league won’t do it, the mob will.

Baseball’s players have a colorful history of self-policing, and intentionally hitting opposing batters with pitches has been one of the most common ways players have done so. Never before has a team’s conduct so obviously deserved that sort of punishment.

The Astros cheated other teams out of potential championships, and other players out of awards, but that is not the most abhorrent effect of their treachery. They cheated other fanbases out of happy memories and cost countless children the experience of seeing their favorite team win a World Series. And they didn’t stop there.

The Astros’ apology tour, if we can call it that, was nothing short of shameful. Astros owner Jim Crane said that he doesn’t think he should be held accountable for actions that took place under his watch. Altuve said the team “feels bad,” but, along with the rest of the organization, shows no remorse. Even further, shortstop Carlos Correa, when asked about the scandal in an interview with Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, said that players across the league who have voiced their displeasure with the Astros “got to shut the f–k up,” and that they “don’t know the facts.”

Well, Mr. Correa, the report was released, and new information keeps pouring out. We know the facts much better than you’d like, and the case against you and your team becomes more and more damning every day.

So, pitchers across Major League Baseball, do the right thing, and give the Astros the punishment they deserve but that the league itself is too cowardly to dole out. Hit Astros players when they step into the box. Help out some people who bet the over on the hit-by-pitch total. And bring the Astros to justice.

Zach Kessel is a Medill freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.