The resumed MLB season has already endured some coronavirus-related mishaps but the league’s safety protocols have come under further scrutiny after a bench-clearing brawl appeared to risk potential further infection.
Tempers frayed between the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros on Sunday night after Oakland’s Ramon Laureano was hit by a pitch from the arm of Humberto Castellanos, prompting Laureano to remonstrate at first Castellanos – and then the entire Astros bench.
It was the third time in the the three game series in which Laureano had been hit with a pitch but the final straw appeared to come when Astros coach Alex Cintron began remonstrating at Laureano from within the bullpen, which prompted him to throw his helmet to the ground and charge towards Cintron.
Laureano was intercepted by the Astros’ Dustin Garneau before he could get to the opposition coach, but that didn’t stop both benches clearing and several players brawling openly on the side of the field.
RAMON LAUREANO VS. THE WORLD pic.twitter.com/0qxapKBO6P
— Barstool Sports (@BarstoolsTweets) August 9, 2020
“I was just trying to stop the situation before punches were really thrown and stuff got out of hand,” Garneau said afterwards. “That’s really what my whole goal was for that incident.”
As noted on commentary, this was the exact type of incident that Major League Baseball chiefs have been trying to avoid as they continue to grapple with the logistics of holding their season in the midst of a global health crisis in which the United States remains particularly affected.
Nah, Laureano clearly broke every COVID rule in the book here. He was the aggressor. He got hit by a 79 MOH pitch from a pitcher making his second career appearance. This was extremely stupid
— Jake (#ForTheH) (@FeelSurgical) August 9, 2020
If the COVID outbreak that stops the 2020 baseball season is caused by Ramon Laureano taking on the Astros dugout, so be it.
— Ben Heller (@benheller) August 9, 2020
As exciting as bench clearing brawls are, and as much as I like Ramon Laureano, I think there needs to be some pretty steep discipline considering the violations of coronavirus protocol.
— David Toborg (@Gets_by_buckner) August 10, 2020
Players from both teams have been mandated to adopt social distancing measures, such as maintaining space between one another in the bullpen and in the stands. However, these protocols went unobserved when the red mist descended.
Laureano was ejected from the game by the umpire team, who could also be heard imploring players to get back to their respective dugouts.
“Look, we understand and you do the best you can with these things,” the Athletics’ manager Bob Melvin said. “Obviously we don’t want to get into a brawl like that and we understand the protocol. Unfortunately, it happened.”
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However, the Astros’ manager Dusty Baker was a little less concerned by the actions of players of both teams.
“It’s in the heat in the moment, we’re all men out there, with high pride and anxiety and everything else. These things happen when you’re on the baseball field,” he said.
The reduced MLB season got underway in July and is planned to run until the end of October. Several teams have been quarantined and games postponed due to the continued impact of the novel Coronavirus.