The Oakland A’s and Houston Astros had a benches-clearing brawl on Sunday, with Astros coach Alex Cintron and A’s outfielder Ramon Laureano serving as central figures.
Punishments were announced Tuesday, and Laureano received a six-game suspension, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. Cintron was hit with a 20-game suspension, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale adds that it’s the longest ban ever given to a major league coach.
Laureano has appealed his suspension, per a league press release. It had initially been scheduled to begin Tuesday but will now wait for the appeals process. Cintron’s is effective immediately.
In the 7th inning of Sunday’s series finale, with the A’s just a couple frames away from completing a sweep and dropping the Astros into third place, Houston reliever Humberto Castellanos drilled Laureano with a pitch. It was the second time in the game that Laureano had been plunked, and the third time in the series — twice by Castellanos, and once by Brandon Bailey, the player for whom Laureano was traded between these two clubs after the 2017 season.
Laureano taunted Castellanos on his way to first base but eventually arrived at the bag. However, Cintron, the team’s hitting coach, continued to yell at him and goad him into further confrontation, visibly waving him toward the dugout and allegedly saying something about Laureano’s mother (Cintron denies that part). The outfielder finally had enough and sprinted toward Cintron, though he was stopped on the way by some Astros players. Laureano and A’s catcher Austin Allen were ejected, but nobody from Houston was booted.
While not condoning his actions, the A’s have generally defended Laureano by insisting he would only do such a thing if unreasonably instigated. Laureano expressed regret for losing his cool and also acceptance of the upcoming consequences, and said he didn’t think the Astros threw at him intentionally. Check out Slusser’s full writeup for more info.
It’s not clear when Laureano’s suspension will begin, but when it does, the A’s will be without their starting center fielder and one of the hottest hitters on the team. Fortunately, they are deep in the outfield, and can still put out three strong veterans — Robbie Grossman in left (169 wRC+), Mark Canha in center (137 wRC+), and Stephen Piscotty in right (hit a walk-off grand slam last week), with super-sub Chad Pinder also available to help out.
For Laureano, this sounds about right. My guess was that he would end up serving five games — I don’t know exactly how the appeals process works, but oftentimes they get reduced. Alternatively, Laureano could just be appealing to stall the beginning of his absence until a more strategically favorable part of the schedule, such as the seven upcoming interleague games rather than AL West divisional matchups. But whatever the result, it’s not 10 or 15 or something ludicrous, in some attempt to set a harsh example for the league.
I feel like Laureano was not the primary person at fault, but he still did something wrong, and so punishment is in order. This seems fair.
As for Cintron, I don’t really get it. What does suspending a coach accomplish? Especially for a partial season? Of course coaches play a role and make a difference, but I’m not sure it’s one that can be measured in a number of individual games. Starting pitchers tend to get longer bans than position players because of the way their playing time is scheduled; give a starter four games and he won’t even miss a start, so you have to go up to 8-12 to really do anything. How many coach games equal one position player game?
I don’t see much purpose in suspending Cintron for less than a full season. Just send him home and tell him to come back next spring. That’s the example that needs to be set, that coaches should be setting the example in this age of strict rules and protocols. Maybe the Astros will just take care of it themselves and cut ties with him — they have to be desperate for a P.R. win at this point, and this would be an extremely easy one, especially since they’re not hitting much right now anyway.
I think if Houston cared about their rep and culture and how bad it is they'd suspend Cintron themselves the rest of the season and say 'that's not what we're about and that's not who we are' but that's who they are and what they're about so they won't— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) August 11, 2020
In the end, justice seems to have more or less been served. The A’s player got what he had coming. Someone on the Astros took at least some kind of punishment. Case closed, pending appeal.