The benches cleared and the Dodgers and Astros shouted at each other after LA reliever Joe Kelly threw near the head of several Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly and Carlos Correa had plenty to say to each other after a tension filled at-bat. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The Astros and Dodgers had a bench clearing dispute — somewhat social distancing style. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa ends up on his rear after going down to avoid a dangerous Joe Kelly pitch. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly almost hit Alex Bregman as well. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa went towards the Dodgers dugout after his encounter with Joe Kelly. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The Astros and Dodgers had plenty to say (and scream at each other) during the 2017 World Series rematch. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly had some colorful language and descriptive expressions for the Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is brought down by Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly in the 6th inning of a rematch of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The Astros and Dodgers are taking their feud to a new level. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa found themselves in the spotlight again. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Alex Bregman drew one of the most stressful walks of his career from Joe Kelly. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The Dodgers enjoyed their return to Minute Maid Park. But they still do not have a World Series trophy this century. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa's bat also did some talking for the Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros pitcher Framber Valdez is being counted on as a starter in a depleted rotation. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock scores when catcher Martin Maldonado cannot handle an errant throw home from Alex Bregman. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
With no fans in the stands, there are no out of town scores posted at Minute Maid Park either. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts and Carlos Correa have plenty to talk about. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa's defense speaks for itself as well. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa is used to rounding the bases. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Framber Valdez tosses a pitch in the first inning in a rematch of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park
Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw, currently on the injured list, chats with former teammate and current Astros pitcher Zack Greinke before a rematch of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve celebrate a little differently in these coronavirus times. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros outfielder Michael Brantley is an offensive force. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros Zack Greinke before a rematch of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park
Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker are two important pieces of the Astros' offense. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa connects on a homerun in the second inning against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler in a rematch of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park.
Carlos Correa has a flair for the big moment. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The Houston Astros are adapting to baseball in 2020. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Astros manager Dusty Baker have teams that are anything but fond of each other. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Some of the Astros are still wearing their Black Lives Matter T-shirts. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Dugout life in 2020 is different — and somewhat the same. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Joe Kelly is the new king of LA — and much of the sports loving world outside of the nation’s fourth largest city. He’s being celebrated on social media, lauded by Hollywood columnists and national TV and radios hosts alike for punking the Houston Astros.
Only, Joe Kelly mostly just acted like a punk.
All those saluting the Dodgers’ demonstrative reliever as the rebel sheriff that baseball needed to put the cheating Astros in their place are missing a huge part of what actually transpired at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night. Kelly — a man with a 97 MPH fastball — threw dangerously close to Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman’s heads.
That’s not valiant. That’s not the stuff of some hero baseball vigilante. That is largely indefensible.
“You going to throw at somebody,’’ Astros manager Dusty Baker says, “you don’t throw at a guy’s head. That’s dirty baseball. Now you’re flirting with ending his career.’’
This is your grand hero?
I know we’ve all been without real sports for a long while and what transpired in downtown Houston during a 5-2 Dodgers win was hellaciously entertaining (as long as it wasn’t your head in the line of fire), but come on. . . we need to be better than this. Dusty Baker is as old school baseball as it comes. He played the bulk of his career in baseball’s Wild West 1970s. If anyone understands baseball payback, it’s Dusty Baker.
If Kelly had thrown in the vicinity of Correa or Bregman’s ribs or plunked them on the rear, Baker likely would have accepted it. He is completely livid because Kelly tried to turn head hunting into a troll job. That is not cool. It’s reckless. Irresponsible. And largely bush league.
“Balls get away sometimes,” Baker says. “But not that many in the Big Leagues.”
This kind of thing is hilarious when Kenny Powers does it in Eastbound & Down. In real life, it’s not so funny to threaten another professional baseball player’s career.
“I mean, my accuracy isn’t the best,” Kelly says in a postgame Zoom video conference with LA reporters. “Broke my window with my newborns coming, two days before they were born.” (That’s a reference to the infamous home video of Kelly shattering his own window while trying to work on a pitch at home — and maybe the greatest bit of advance covering up planning since the One Armed Man.)
Venom was promised — and it arrived at Minute Maid Park with several loud and pointed Kelly fastballs. The new instant LA Dodgers folk hero — and instant Houston Astros super villain — directed a 97 mph fastball just behind Bregman’s back at near head level and several more pitches near Carlos Correa’s head, including an 89 MPH curveball that brought Correa to his butt.
And then, all socially distanced hell broke loose.
What, you thought the Astros and Dodgers were just going to renew their 2017 World Series hatefest with we’re-all-in-this-together pandemic feelings?
More like a UFC event broke out. Oh, no punches are actually thrown. There is not even a good shove. But when Kelly strikes out Correa to end a tension-filled inning on a pitch much closer to the zone, Kelly unleashes a “Nice swing, bitch!” Correa then starts screaming about the earlier Kelly “misses” near his cranium.
Kelly then mocks Correa with a crybaby gesture that includes sticking out his tongue. “Shut the f*** up!” Kelly screams back towards Correa, who is advancing toward him at this point.
“It’s one of those things that I pitch competitively. And with no fans here, it’s easy to hear some stuff,” Kelly tells reporters later.
Soon, all the players on both teams are out of the dugout and screaming at each other as the coaches and managers try to step in-between the two sides. Even Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, Highland Park’s own mild mannered superstar, is livid and angrily yelling at Correa and the Astros.
It’s quite a scene in this 2020 coronavirus sports world. Actually, it’s more than a little refreshing that some old fashioned sports hate can still endure.
The fact the Dodgers beat the pitching-challenged Astros is very secondary to the main event. ESPN happens to be lucky enough to be televising Round Two on Wednesday night.
Joe Kelly’s World Series Stand?
The Dodgers feel like the Astros cheated them out of a world championship in 2017 with Houston later getting sanctioned for an elaborate electronic sign stealing operation that was in effect during the seven game tilt. Joe Kelly was not even on that Dodgers team, but he quickly endeared himself to an entire fanbase — and much of the baseball world outside of Houston — by making it his fight.
Correa did not speak to reporters after a game in which he had three of the Astros four hits, including a home run. Bregman did, but he said little, repeating “I don’t know” several times in responses to questions about the bench-clearing shouting match.
With the Astros having two of the whopping eight rookies currently in their bullpen pitching after Kelly’s sixth inning sideshow, Baker’s team was hardly in position to do much retaliating on Tuesday night. That could change Wednesday, even though another rookie (Cristian Javier) is starting for Houston.
“We don’t start nothing,” Baker says. “But we don’t take nothing, either, if you know what I mean.”
There may be no fans in the stands to ratchet up the hatred even further, but five games into baseball’s Bizarro World season, the Astros and Dodgers are showing everyone that the intensity remains very real. It is certainly more fun than talking about the mess that the Miami Marlins apparently made of social distancing.
“You know for me, even before the game, there was kind of a quiet focus, determination in the clubhouse. It was different,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says. “. . . I just really liked the intent behind tonight’s game.”
OK. . . intensity is great. But it does not justify head hunting. A good troll can be very real world dangerous. Much of the American sports world can celebrate Joe Kelly all it wants. But it does not change the truth of what he really did.
Joe Kelly did not stand up t0 the Astros. He didn’t put “cheaters” in their place.
He made it all about himself and recklessly toyed with the careers of two of baseball’s best young players.