Apologies for the radio silence the last few weeks. As you might know, I’ve been deeply involved in the amazing Tip Your Cap to the Negro Leagues campaign and that has taken up virtually every hour of every day. And I’m now involved in another campaign that might be just as big (or even bigger) and so it’s back into the cave. I’ll tell you about it soon.
And I’m still counting the 60 greatest moments in baseball history (down to the Top 10 moments, which will appear every Monday), and I’m still PosCasting (amazing conversation this week with Kevin Harlan), and I’m still working on a whole bunch of other things …
But there’s a baseball season going on (sort of), and I can’t miss out on that.
So this is my plan: To try (if possible) to take 30 minutes every morning to write a little baseball thing. The key here is that it has to be 30 minutes, no more, no less, so that could mean it will end mid-sentence. Apologies if that happens.
I’m calling it: Baseball in the time of COVID.
Today’s Baseball in the time of COVID features the Joe Kelly Fight Club.
OK, so look: I don’t feel super-qualified to tell you what’s going on in the mind of Joe Kelly. There’s a whole lot to unpack there, I mean this guy once interviewed Nelly while dressed as an old man, he once danced The Worm behind a Shelby Miller interview in order to create a distraction, and you already know that during the quarantine he was working on a change-up in his backyard, and he missed an entire 10-by-10-foot net and broke a window in his own home.
Also, there are numerous different “Joe Kelly Fight Club” T-shirts.
So, no, I’m not going to be able to tell you what the heck was going on in upstairs when he fired a 5,394-mph fastball behind Alex Bregman’s head. After he threw the pitch, Joe Kelly yawned. I’m not entirely sure he’d be able to tell you what the heck was going on upstairs.
He has denied throwing the pitch on purpose — pitchers always do that — but considering that it was 3-0 pitch and considering that the Dodgers basically feel like the Astros cheated them out of the 2017 World Series and considering that Joe Kelly has played that role of enforcer before, I would guess it was intentional if I felt qualified to guess.
And, like always, I think anyone who purposely throws a fastball anywhere near another player’s head should be denounced and fined and, sure, suspended.
But the weird part of the Joe Kelly thing is that, if anything, many people seem to be just as bothered — if not more bothered — by the pouty face he offered to Houston’s Carlos Correa after striking him out and the taunt that came with it (“Sit down bitch”). THAT was what finally prompted the benches to clear, that pouty face is what is likely to be remembered most. I guess T-shirts are being made.
And I have to say that the pouty face is funny for so many reasons.
There isn’t enough fun taunting in baseball. The game is weighed down by so many unwritten rules that players rarely feel free to let their emotions go. The Dodgers are really, really mad that the Astros cheated to win the 2017 World Series. They’re not alone in that fury. And that fury is doubled, tripled, quadrupled because it feels like the Astros got away with since none of the players were punished.
People DO NOT LIKE when someone seems to get away with cutting in line, cheating the system, etc. The getting away with it part preys on some dark human emotions.
So what are the Dodgers — or other teams — supposed to do? One possibility is throwing at the Astros’ heads, and there are plenty of people — including a whole bunch of old-time baseball people — who think that’s the right approach. I don’t. It’s too dangerous and can lead to something really, really bad.
But taunting? I mean, why not? How about every time a pitcher got out an Astros hitter, he yelled out, “Tougher without knowing what’s coming isn’t it?” Or what if every strikeout immediately led to a Joe Kelly pouty face?
Point is, I think baseball would be better without some of those unwritten rules hiding what lurks underneath.
And my 30 minutes are up.