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Sport No, the Astros' league-leading HBPs in spring training are not retaliation for their cheating

02:05  27 february  2020
02:05  27 february  2020 Source:   sports.yahoo.com

Several Southern California youth leagues ban ‘Astros’ team name amid cheating scandal

  Several Southern California youth leagues ban ‘Astros’ team name amid cheating scandal Many in the baseball world are extremely upset with the Houston Astros amid their sign-stealing scandal that has dominated the offseason.

Houston Astros ' Alex Bregman, right, delivers a statement as Astros owner Jim Crane listens during a news conference "I hope that I made it extremely clear to them that retaliation in-game by throwing at a batter intentionally will not be The over/under line for betting with 80 1/2 HBPs this season.

The Astros were found by Manfred to have cheated during their run to the 2017 World Series and again The over/under line for betting with 80 1/2 HBPs this season. MLB teams were hit an average of Bettors can also wager on if the Astros will lead the majors in players hit by pitches this season

The narrative jumps out as soon as you look at MLB’s spring training leaderboards.

Jose Altuve holding a baseball bat: The Astros are getting hit by a lot of pitches. It is also spring training. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! Sports The Astros are getting hit by a lot of pitches. It is also spring training. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Houston Astros at the top of the league in HBPs with seven in five games, right in line with how fans and some MLB players have indicated the Astros should be ready to take a few pitches in the back.

That retaliation is clearly now beginning, as Astros manager Dusty Baker feared and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred warned against. No one should be surprised, given the jeers and signs we’ve already seen decrying baseball’s worst cheaters of a generation.

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Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s stern warning that the intentional beaning of Houston Astros in the wake But that hasn’t stopped the speculation that the Astros will be targets of retaliation at the plate for those upset The over/under line for betting with 80 1/2 HBPs this season.

The Astros filed their response to the first of those lawsuits, this one by daily fantasy sports players who argued in their filing that Houston’s cheating However, we’ve probably seen the backbone of their argument here already. Related slideshow: Best photos from spring training (Provided by imagn).

Except, that is almost definitely not what it happening.

If these Astros HBPs are retaliation, MLB is really bad at it

So, seven HBPs. Most in the league. Except there are currently four other teams — Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals — right behind the Astros with six plunkings.

To our knowledge, none of those teams are currently embroiled in the fallout of a massive cheating scandal, and yet they’ve experienced 85 percent of the pain the Astros have. Maybe if the Astros led the majors in HBPs by a wider margin, you could say it’s a trend. But having 14 percent of the rest of the league right behind them indicates we might just be dealing with, y’know, out-of-practice pitchers.

The narrative further erodes when you actually look at the Astros who have been hit by pitches. That list is Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Alex De Goti, Aledmys Diaz, Osvaldo Duarte and Dustin Garneau.

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On whether the Astros were stealing signs or not. But personally, Game 7 was played at Dodgers Stadium. David Ross names first three probable starting pitchers for spring training games. Mills is out of minor- league options, so he'd be the leading candidate to fill Chatwood's role in the bullpen.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s stern warning against the intentional beaning of Houston players in the wake of the Astros ' “It's dangerous and it is not helpful to the current situation.” But that hasn’t stopped speculation that the Astros will be targets of retaliation by upset

So, two well-known faces of the infamous 2017 team, two players who were not part of the Astros organization in 2017 (or 2018) and three minor leaguers. Probably not a group of players the league thinks had it coming.

But Altuve and Bregman got plunked! The other HBPs might just be organizational depth facing pitchers in the second week of their throwing programs, but those must have surely been deliberate, right?

Why don’t we take a look at the plunkings before declaring that. Here’s Altuve:

We’ll let Baker interpret the placement of that pitch.

“He was hit in the foot,” Baker told reporters after the game. “That ain’t nothing, you know what I mean? It wasn’t intentional.”

And here’s Bregman getting hit by a pitch that is much more well-placed as a plunking, right between the shoulder blades.

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The Astros and Nationals, neighbors at spring training , held their first full workouts Monday, and the contrast in vibes was striking. Why Astros ' Carlos Correa expects his offseason will lead to a healthy 2020. A day after Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant ripped the Astros over their cheating scandal

The Astros didn't play any regulars in their first few spring games, but Monday against the Tigers, new manager Dusty Baker rolled out a lineup that featured Altuve's welcome, as expected, was not warm. Here's how it sounded at the Tigers' spring training home in Lakeland, Florida: Jose Altuve’s first

That sure looks like a deliberate plunking ... until you notice the count was full and the ball thrown was a breaking ball.

The pitcher in question is also Ramon Santos. He has never thrown above Double-A, meaning a) his command might not be great and b) he probably isn’t angry enough at the Astros to purposefully blow a strikeout opportunity while trying to maintain his place in the Cardinals organization, which demoted him to Class A Advanced last year.

“It was a splitter,” Bregman said after the game. “It just got away from him”

So that’s what the Astros’ “retaliation” is right now. Five players who weren’t on the team that actually cheated, one player getting hit in the foot and another getting hit with a full-count splitter. That’s either an incredibly stealthy campaign to stick it to the Astros while skirting MLB discipline, or, and this might sound crazy, spring training.

Even if it all was deliberate, isn’t the point of retaliation to send a clear message? Why muddle the message with breaking balls from minor leaguers and balls in the dirt in games that weren’t even televised?

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None of this is to say the Astros won’t face retaliation on the field in the future, especially once the regular season starts. It’s inevitable given how openly livid players across the league are with both the Astros’ cheating and lack of player discipline. Astros hitters will get deliberately hit — which, by the way, is very dangerous no matter how good your command is — at some point.

However, interpreting nearly every hit by pitch against the Astros as retaliation — as some are doing now — would just lead to a lot of pitchers getting ejected for balls that simply got away from them.

Fans clearly want to see the Astros some kind of comeuppance, but acting like that’s what’s happening right now is just wishful, weird thinking.

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Heckling fan gets into exchange with Astros dugout during rain delay .
The Houston Astros are just over a week into spring training, and they’re already experiencing the kind of treatment from fans that they should count on for the regular season. © USA TODAY USA TODAY It’s even happening at their own spring training facility.Video recently hit Twitter of a heckling incident from the Astros’ Grapefruit League game against the Nationals last week, which was ultimately postponed after a 93-minute rain delay.

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