Joe Maddon to instruct Angels not to throw at Astros
By Jeffrey Bellone
The Los Angeles Angels will get first dibs at retaliation against the disgraced Houston Astros, but manager Joe Maddon wants to make sure payback isn’t issued by his pitchers.
When the Halos open up the season as the Astros’ first opponent following the sign-stealing scandal going public, Joe Maddon doesn’t want his pitchers making target practice of Astros hitters.
Maddon told reporters that he will instruct his pitchers not to throw at Astros players.
"“I’m going to have a talk with the boys about not doing anything,” Maddon said. “I think it’s more, appreciate to play the game. I think this has been bandied about enough. There’s no other way. It’s been sliced and diced. It’s been in the Veg-O-Matic long enough. Let’s go play baseball, let’s get things back together properly, let’s be civil about this and move on.”"
One could argue whether intentionally throwing at a player is “part of the game” or not, but give Maddon credit for taking an early stance in trying to quell the vitriol that will try to manifest itself into the game beginning on March 26 during the Astros’ home opener.
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By granting the players immunity, Major League Baseball opened up the door for opposing teams to take matters into their own hands in punishing the Astros for their wrongdoing.
Mike Trout didn’t mince words when asked about it earlier this spring, “I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing.”
Unfortunately for baseball, this is not a problem that is solved by one beaned hitter. What one team deems payback might not matter to another club. I imagine the Yankees have their own vendetta they would like to settle separate from anything a team like the Angels does on their own.
Of course, MLB could take precautionary measures by issuing warnings to pitchers before each game, but that would seem to put the Astros, once again, at a competitive advantage, knowing that opposing pitchers can’t throw inside for fear of missing on a pitch, hitting a batter, and getting ejected.
Perhaps the best way for the Angels to exact revenge on the Astros is to beat them on the field. The Halos could become America’s favorite team for the first time since Danny Glover was managing actual angels in Disney’s 1994 film.
After a helter/skelter offseason, the Angels enter the spring with the third best odds to win the American League West, according to FanGraphs. The Astros sit atop the projection system with an 84% chance to win the division, making them prohibitive favorites over the Athletics (13.2%) and Angels (4.0%). Maybe help from above is needed after all.
Prediction systems are one thing, but how Houston handles the intense scrutiny that will follow them all season long remains an open question. The Angels have an improved roster this season and should be in wild card contention after a disappointing 2019 campaign.
Whether they intentionally strike back at the Astros or not, Joe Maddon is clearly focusing his team on the ultimate prize: winning baseball games. If the Halos can steal the division crown away from a distracted Houston team trying to make amends all season long, that would be the best revenge of all.