- Yankees star closer Aroldis Chapman’s three-game suspension for throwing at the head of a Tampa Bay Rays player has been reduced to two games on appeal
- Dodgers’ Joe Kelly likely rattled after he received an eight-game suspension for similar actions against the Houston Astros, but had that punishment reduced to five games upon appeal
- Yankees/Rays rivalry more fiery than ever before as both enter 2021 season boasting World Series aspirations
In what will be a long, cold offseason in Major League Baseball, some news continues to drip in here and there.
This time, it comes in disciplinary form, or perhaps lack thereof, as a New York Yankees player has seen his suspension reduced on appeal for an action that helped ignite what is now one of the most fiery rivalries in all of Major League Baseball.
Chapman Suspension Reduced on Appeal
Yankees All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman has seen his three-game suspension for throwing near the head of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Mike Brosseau has been reduced to just two games on appeal.
Special assistant to the commissioner John McHale Jr. heard the appeal and ruled in favor of Chapman in this instance.
Chapman was originally suspended during the season, but his appeal was not heard until the conclusion of the season and he will serve the suspension to begin next season. His original suspension was announced by Chris Young, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president of baseball operations.
In a game between the Yankees and Rays at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on Sept. 1, Chapman hurled a 101 mph fastball that zipped by the head of Brosseau in the first pitch of an at-bat that took place with two outs in the ninth inning with the Yankees holding a 5-3 lead.
An Aroldis Chapman 100.5 mph fastball came inches away from Mike Brosseau’s head 😳
— The Athletic MLB (@TheAthleticMLB) September 2, 2020
After umpires issued warnings to both dugouts, Rays manager Kevin Cash was tossed from the game for arguing with the umpiring crew, likely wondering why his team was issued a warning when Chapman’s actions could only be described as attempted homicide.
The hard-throwing left-hander averaged 98.2 mph on his heater last season, but regularly gets the pitch over 100. As recently as 2016, the 32-year-old averaged a career-high 101.2 mph on the four-seamer, and despite a “dip” in velocity, he remains one of the hardest throwing pitchers in baseball, ranking 9th in average fastball velocity in 2020.
Chapman would go on to strike out Brosseau to end the game, however the Rays’ utility infielder got the last laugh as he homered off Chapman late in Game 5 of the ALDS to send the Yankees packing and the Rays to the ALCS to face the Houston Astros.
Mike Brosseau hits the go-ahead solo shot on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
Against Aroldis Chapman. 🤐pic.twitter.com/pZ5OkLve9l
— Rotoworld Baseball (@Rotoworld_BB) October 10, 2020
Joe Kelly Likely Rattled, But Understands
Speaking of the Astros, a similar situation took place between themselves and Dodgers right-hander Joe Kelly in 2020.
In a matchup between the Dodgers and Astros on July 28 in Houston – you know, the World Series matchup from the Astros’ cheating scandal in 2017 – Kelly threw a high pitch that narrowly missed the noggin of third baseman Alex Bregman before almost pegging Carlos Correa with some offerings shortly thereafter.
While Kelly was mostly all over the place in that outing, it was fairly obvious intent was involved, like it was with Chapman. Kelly would go on to strike out Correa on a nasty slider before issuing a pouty face before the two exchanged words, causing the benches to clear and tempers to flare.
Joe Kelly vs. the Astros last night. pic.twitter.com/704pdz5USr
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 29, 2020
It should also be noted that Kelly was somewhat spiked while covering first on a potential double-play ball – likely unintentionally – followed by someone from the Astros dugout shout an expletive at Kelly in regards to getting back on the mound.
Nevertheless, whether it was the amount of pitches that narrowly missed Astros hitters – two – or the pouty faced that followed, Kelly was handed down a harsh, eight-game suspension by Major League Baseball. Such a harsh and unprecedented punishment – during a 60-game season, no less – angered most baseball fans everywhere as it appeared the league was once again going out of their way to protect an Astros team that cheated everyone they faced in 2017 and potentially beyond, including the Dodgers in that 2017 Fall Classic.
Kelly, who actually didn’t play for the 2017 Dodgers but rather than 2018 Red Sox that beat the Dodgers in the ensuing World Series, had this to say about the lesser punishment Chapman faced to the Dodgers media:
“It definitely looks kind of fishy for myself. I originally had thoughts on it when I saw the Chapman thing. The language they used against me is that I was the repeat offender… Chapman had the exact same thing but I’ve probably said a lot more words than Chapman said. I don’t think the words I used to the people that make these positions were very nice when the appeal process went down…”
Kelly’s suspension was ultimately reduced to five games on appeal.
Yankees/Rays Rivalry Among Best in Baseball
Getting back to the rivalry between the Yankees and Rays, it’s certainly become among the very best in the sport of late.
The Rays upset the heavily-favored Yankees by running away with the AL East by seven games in 2020 before Brosseau’s ALDS homer gave them the ultimate revenge on Chapman and the pinstripes.
Don’t expect the rivalry to dial down anytime soon and we can only hope that the MLB schedule goes back to its 162-game norm so we can see upwards of 19 contests between these two clubs in 2021 as opposed to the 10 we witnessed in 2020, if course with an additional five in the postseason.
Both will certainly enter the season sporting World Series aspirations. As per MyBookie, the Yankees sport the second-best odds to win the 2021 World Series at +550 with the 2020 AL Pennant-winning Rays coming in fourth at +1000. When it comes to the AL Pennant, the Yankees are the favorite +275 with the Rays listed second at +500 to repeat.
I don’t condone head-hunting with 100 mph heaters, however we can only hope these intense rivalries return to form in the near future.