Los Angeles Dodgers say Joe Kelly's 8-game suspension too harsh

ByAlden Gonzalez via ESPN logo
Friday, July 31, 2020

The Los Angeles Dodgers were predictably displeased with the length of Joe Kelly's suspension, an eight-game punishment levied after Kelly's erratic pitches and demonstrative taunts sparked a benches-clearing situation at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Tuesday.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who was suspended for Wednesday's series finale against the Houston Astros, called it "too aggressive" and said he "completely" agrees with Kelly's decision to appeal. Dodgers outfielder A.J. Pollocksaid he believed it to be "very, very harsh."

"I don't think anyone's too happy about it," Pollock said. "It's not our call; it's obviously the commissioner's call. But I don't think anyone's too happy about that. I just don't think it's very good feel on his end."

Kelly threw a 3-0, 96 mph fastball behind the head of Astros third baseman Alex Bregmanwith one out and none on in the bottom of the sixth. Later in the inning, he threw two curveballs that brushed back Carlos Correa. After striking him out, Kelly made pouty faces at Correa and shared some choice words with the Astros' shortstop, prompting both benches to clear.

The eight-game suspension would take up 13% of this 60-game season, which is the equivalent of a 22-game suspension under a typical 162-game season. Over the past 10 years, no player has received a suspension longer than 20 games for a violation that wasn't tied to performance-enhancing drugs, recreational drugs, substance abuse, domestic violence or, in the case of Juan Carlos Oviedo, identity fraud.

"I think it's a combo, a mixed bag of things, that led to that harsh of a suspension," Roberts said.

Those reasons included: the bitter relationship between the Dodgers and Astros in wake of the Astros' sign-stealing scandal; Kelly's prior suspension, when he was docked six games for hitting New York Yankees infielder Tyler Austinin 2018, triggering a brawl; the National League-record 1,048 hit by pitches in 2019; and the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the Miami Marlins' clubhouse.

"There's a lot of guys that were upset about the severity of it," Roberts said, noting that Kelly never admitted to throwing at Bregman on purpose.

"When a pitcher's on the mound, stuff happens," Pollock said. "No one got hit. And I think they're trying to find some intent and that's kind of a really hard thing to find. This game has policed itself for so many years. You hope that teams are all being treated equally. I don't know if [MLB commissioner Rob Manfred] is doing that.

"For me personally -- most baseball guys that are true baseball guys, they would say that's outrageous. That's just me coming from where the game's been. It didn't seem right to me, and especially with what happened with the Astros.

"There's been no suspensions on that end, so I don't know. It's just bizarre. I don't think anyone's too happy about it. We're hoping that [the suspension] gets significantly reduced because I think eight games in a 60-game season is pretty outrageous."

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