Joe Kelly sparked the first benches-clearing ... uh ... social-distanced brawl of this new, strange MLB season Tuesday night when he threw a pitch behind Alex Bregman's head and had some choice words for Carlos Correa after striking him out. What I'm sure was a cordial discussion took place on the field afterwards as everyone donned their masks and tried to stay away from each other while cussing out the opposing team.
It was all rather amusing, to be honest. But the Los Angeles Dodgers are not laughing today as MLB handed down suspensions for the spat. They'll lose Kelly for eight games and manager Dave Roberts for one.
An extremely generous soul might believe that Kelly's inaccuracy was just that, rather than an attempt to send a message, but Kelly does not get the benefit of the doubt as noted above. That's the equivalent of suspending Kelly for around 22 games in a season of standard length, which is a big hit. MLB's front office was not kidding around when it announced it would be harshly punishing players who retaliate against the Houston Astros in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, and those who create situations leading to violations of social-distancing and other rules in place this season.
Eight games is a lot in a 60-game season. Plus, Kelly is a reliever, so it's not like he'll only miss one start. He could have theoretically pitched in most, if not all, of the team's next eight games. The Dodgers have enough talent to overcome the loss, but each game matters significantly more this season. This might make other pitchers think twice before giving an Astros player a brushback pitch. Which is, after all, the whole point. MLB made that abundantly clear in its first opportunity to do so.