The pop of the mitt. The sound of mowers cutting down excess growth. The chatter from dugouts and the stands are back, but it’s also accompanied by more “boo’s” than has ever been heard on the spring training fields.
Current hit batsman count is seven players, at the time of this writing, that all wear Houston Astros jerseys. That is significant.
While getting back on the field will help distract players and fans from the Astros cheating scandal, it’s always going to be there, right under the surface. In my opinion, I believe there will be more Houston batters hit in spring training, by ratio, than in the regular season.
Maybe it’s a hunch. Maybe it’s just what I see as a chest-beating, “how could they!” sort of reaction that will not carry over as much as we’d like it to.
Why? Bob Manfred has made it clear, he will protect Astros batters from retaliation this season.
Threatening suspensions for anyone who intentionally throws at one of their players.
Obviously, that is within the discretion of the home plate umpire in each game, but I believe it will benefit the Astros. That threat will keep from pitching inside as often, so naturally, Houston sluggers can hug that plate a little tighter.
Regardless, I think players will be far less inclined to intentionally throw at Astros hitters this season once Opening Day is upon us. I also think that the Los Angeles Dodgers want to go out and destroy the rest of the league with all this pent of anger (see: Cody Bellinger). On top of being the best team in the National League on paper as of January 1st, 2020, they got exponentially better with the addition of Mookie Betts. That is bad news for everyone in the league.
Spring has sprung indeed, and the Dodgers seem to have their focus on winning more than ever. Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, even Clayton Kershaw, took time on their time off to be analyzed and tweak their mechanics. They are in it, to win it.
With the deepest, and likely the most talented, team Los Angeles has ever seen, they will have no excuse for not winning the team’s first championship in 32 years.
That is, of course, someone cheats them out of it.
Featured Image: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers