Column: What’s wrong with game? Let Joe Kelly count the ways



The rage-fueled adrenaline that Joe Kelly released into Minute Maid Park evaporated by the time the Dodgers and Houston Astros returned Wednesday.

In its absence, there was clarity.

Major League Baseball’s disciplining of the Dodgers’ version of Ricky Vaughn made the obvious come into focus. There was no bench-clearing incident to conceal the truth.

The season is a sham.

Who knows what this 60-game schedule is, but what it’s absolutely not is a credible major league season. The World Series trophy the Astros won by cheating has as much legitimacy.

Kelly was suspended for eight games for throwing near Alex Bregman’s head and taunting Carlos Correa in the first game of the two-game set.

OK.

Except it’s not OK, eight games in a 60-game season the equivalent of 22 over a 162-game schedule.

“Personally, I think it’s a little bit tough,” Dodgers reliever Caleb Ferguson said to Alanna Rizzo on SportsNet LA’s pregame show.

Kelly wasn’t part of the 2017 Dodgers team that had its signs stolen by the Astros, but played for the Red Sox team that was eliminated by them in an American League Division Series that year.

“I think a lot of people forget about that, being with the Red Sox there,” Ferguson said. “There’s some bad blood boiling over there.”

Never mind Kelly doesn’t appear to have any idea where he’s throwing the ball half the time and the league might have done the Dodgers a favor by banishing him for more than 13% of their games.

Excessive punishments became an inevitability the moment Commissioner Rob Manfred mandated a season of this length. In a normal year, Kelly’s actions might call for a ban in the neighborhood of 10 games — about 6% of games. But the league wasn’t about to suspend Kelly for only three or four games. MLB wanted to make a statement. Doing so practically required the commissioner’s office to go overboard.

“Major League Baseball does their thing and Joe is going to do his,” Ferguson said. “That’s how he wants to handle it and that’s fine and I think everybody in the clubhouse appreciates it and respects it.”

By the way, with their 13-inning, 4-2 victory over the Astros, the Dodgers have completed 10% of their season.

Or, more precisely, 10% of their scheduled season because the reality is that no one knows who will play how many games.

The Miami Marlins are shut down for the week, as more than half of their active roster tested positive for COVID-19. There’s no guarantee the games they missed will ever be made up.

The Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals also had games wiped out.

The schedule isn’t the only thing MLB is making up on the fly.

One week into the season, the lengths of games evidently remain subject to change as well. The league and players’ union are in talks about shortening games of doubleheaders, according to multiple reports. One game could be nine innings and the other seven innings; or they both could be seven innings.

Which was pretty much expected, as the commissioner’s office appeared to plan as well for this season as the White House did for the pandemic. This is the same league that didn’t reach an agreement with the union for an expanded postseason until opening day. The shortened season already improved the chances of bad teams by protecting them from the danger of, you know, actually playing games. And if that wasn’t enough, the eight of the 15 teams in each league will make the playoffs. So with less than two months left in the season, the Angels went into Wednesday only one game out of first place. When was the last time they could say that?

Speaking of the Angels, they played in the first extra-inning game contested under the special extra-inning regulations in place this season.

The inning starts with a runner on second base.

It’s kind of like baseball, but not really baseball. Games might as well be decided by a home run derby at this point — or a coin flip.

How appropriate for the Dodgers to take part in such a game on Wednesday, a marvelously pitched game on both sides ruined by a gimmick.

Mookie Betts drove in a go-ahead run in the 11th inning. Scott Alexander failed to protect the 2-1 advantage in the bottom half of the inning.

Edwin Rios launched a two-run home run in the 13th. The stadium was silent as he rounded the bases. But this wasn’t the silence of a shocked crowd. This was the silence of an empty ballpark. The moment was so right, but also so wrong.





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