Usually, there’s no grey area when it comes to punks and heroes, but there are always exceptions to the rule. And in the year of our baseball Lord 2020, with the national pastime gloriously blessing us with games again, that’s Joe Kelly in a nutshell. 

Real fans know the Dodgers reliever has a bit of a reputation for throwing at batters and basically giving zero fucks on the mound when it comes to handing out punishment baseball style.

For old school fans of the game, it’s refreshing. For the younger generation—the few that actually fuck with baseball—it seems antiquated. But no matter how old you are or who you root for on the diamond (unless it’s the Astros), every baseball fan should be saluting Kelly and raising hell over the ridiculous suspension he was handed down Wednesday.

As far as we’re concerned, Joe Kelly should be praised, not punished. 

If you weren’t paying attention, Kelly was told to sit down for eight games, or 13 percent of the abbreviated MLB season, after he incited a benches clearing incident—that’s a no-no in the world of baseball during a pandemic—between the Dodgers and Astros at Minute Maid Park Tuesday. Kelly threw a fastball that whizzed by Astros third baseman Alex Bregman’s head (purposely or not) and later taunted Astros shortstop Carlos Correa as he walked off the mound. According to Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kelly told the No. 1 pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, “Nice swing, bitch” after striking him out.  

Take. A. Bow. Joe Kelly. You, sir, are a baseball hero.

Now I’m not here to say throwing at or near a guy’s head is necessarily the right thing to do and that I want to see more of it. But let’s be real here: if Major League Baseball had shown any kind of spine back in March when it released findings on the Astros cheating scandal we wouldn’t be anointing Kelly right now for his antics.

But here we are giving praise to a guy many fans around the baseball universe probably despise and have even called a punk for his penchant of stirring shit up and/or wildly throwing at or near guys just because they’ve had success off of him or his teammates like it’s the 1930s. Truth be told, baseball needs to weed out guys who think like Kelly because nobody needs to be unnecessarily hit with a baseball or have the shit scared out of him while he’s digging in. 

Unless that is, you play for the Astros.

Because if MLB had done what it was supposed to do months ago and properly punished the Astros—I’m talking the players and not the franchise or its former executives or former manager—for cheating their way to the 2017 World Series, Kelly wouldn’t have done what he did. But since MLB commissioner Rob Manfred took the cowardly route and refused to punish those who actively participated in one of the game’s most egregious cheating scandals, players on opposing teams are rightfully going to feel a certain way about the Astros having stooped to ridiculous levels to attain undeserved immortality with zero repercussions.

And without fans in the stands during the weirdest, most dangerous season in Major League Baseball’s rich history to properly roast the Astros for their cheating ways—most especially for the lack of contrition they all showed when they were exposed as certified frauds—“punishment” was inevitably going to be left up to the players. The Astros—Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Justin Verlander, and others—who benefited from the banging on trash cans to win the franchise’s first World Series title must never be forgiven nor left off the hook. MLB let 'em off the hook. Fans, most especially Yankees fans, for sure weren’t going to let that happen after the Astros dispatched the Bronx Bombers in the 2017 ALCS in seven games, winning all four at home. Imagine what it would’ve been like when the Astros arrived for a three-game series during the sweltering New York summer and the signs and chants Yankee Stadium would’ve welcomed them with?

The same goes for Dodgers fans—although the two teams weren’t scheduled to meet in LA when the original 2020 schedule was released—since it was the Astros who celebrated winning Game 7 of the World Series on the road in iconic Dodger Stadium. It’s kinda good to know players, like Joe Kelly, won’t let the Astros forget, either. 

"My accuracy isn't the best," Kelly told reporters after the game, explaining how his 3-0 fastball sailed past Bregman’s head at a heart attack inducing 96 mph. 

Baseball’s been back less than a week and it already produced the quote of the year.

You kinda get why Kelly got suspended so many games because MLB isn’t going to tolerate guys getting up in each other’s grill when they’re already dealing with a COVID-19 disaster involving the Marlins. But at the same time, it was incredibly lame for the league to come down so hard on an individual who did a better job policing the sport than the sport itself.

Kelly’s brand is all about being a punk on the mound, but Tuesday, in Houston, he wore a cape. You can criticize him for not being part of the Dodgers in 2017 all you want and me for being a hypocrite—one minute telling you Kelly’s brand of ball is antiquated, the next praising him for playing sheriff. I don't care—I’m choosing to salute him. He sent a message on behalf of baseball fans we’ve all been waiting for. Cheating clowns don’t deserve glory. They deserve punishment, embarrassment, and one high and tight they didn’t know was coming.