Astros: Opposing players faux outrage could cause problems

Major League Baseball could have a problem on its hands related to the Astros sign stealing scandal.

Since the league’s report on the Astros sign stealing scandal was released, we’ve heard plenty of opinions on the matter, most of which are no more important than the rest. But a few have shined a light on something most people knew to be true.

The latest was longtime first baseman Will Clark, who when asked about the Astros, implied that they were just the ones who got caught, but that illegal sign stealing is rampant. There have been plenty of others who’ve indicated the same thing, with allegations going as far back as when Tony LaRussa managed the White Sox in the 1980s.

Yet there have been several current players who’ve expressed anger and indignation over the fact that the Astros players illegally stole signs yet escaped any real punishment. The situation hasn’t been helped by a litany of holier-than-thou bloviating gasbags in the media and in the game, especially from those centered in New York and Los Angeles.

Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger has expressed his outrage and apparent lack of a sense of humor over the issue, though really it’s just a convenient excuse for his team losing two straight World Series. The Dodgers can claim they were cheated and publicly whine and bemoan their lack of a ring, but they’re not getting any sympathy from anyone outside Los Angeles.

The now-retired CC Sabathia was just plain mad, erroneously contending his Yankees were the better team in 2017. Now Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger has not so subtly hinted at some form of retaliation against Astros hitters this season, meaning the league has a bigger problem on its hands than just sign stealing.

Retaliation for What?

We’ve already established that despite the multitude of “outraged” people calling for the Astros players to apologize, they don’t need to. This whole sign stealing mess isn’t just confined to the Astros, even though those in New York and Los Angeles — and probably the league itself — would prefer if it was.

The Astros are a convenient enemy right now for a lot of people, and the league should be truly concerned that other teams will look to retaliate for what they perceive was done to them by the Astros back in 2017. The Yankees and Dodgers would be at the forefront of this, and Clevinger has thrust himself into that spotlight as well.

Any pitcher who had a rough outing against Houston in the past three years could decide to take it upon himself to get a little revenge, even though there’s no way of knowing to what degree the sign stealing may have helped the Astros hitters. This is the consequence of Mike Fiers ratting on his former team and the league making it look like the practice is isolated.

The first time an Astros player gets hurt by a pitch this season, the league will have a whole new problem on its hands. If the league is not going to discipline the players who actually did the sign stealing, then it also has to protect them from those who would put them in harm’s way out of some misplaced anger or sense of injustice.

If the league actually cares, it would issue a notice to every team that intentionally throwing at Astros hitters or doing anything in retaliation for the sign stealing will be met with the strictest punishment. Immediate ejections and suspensions would have to result, and umpires would need to be on the lookout for anything of the sort.

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How the league handles this possibility will be very telling in how it views sign stealing in general. If it wants the Astros to be a public scapegoat, the league may not do much to deter retaliation. But if it truly cares about fairness and about the safety of its players, it will put a stop to people like Clevinger before they have a chance to do real harm to someone.

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