Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Tom Verducci joined Jimmy Traina on the latest episode of the SI Media Podcast and offered a stern warning to the Astros.
While Verducci doesn't expect Houston batters to get hit by pitches on a regular basis as retaliation for their cheating ways, he does think the mental toll of being baseball's biggest villains will be severe.
"The whole hit-by-pitch thing is being overplayed," Verducci said on the podcast.
"You're not going see guys getting hit left and right. First of all, MLB wouldn't allow it. They don't allow it in any circumstance now. We've seen pitchers thrown out of games for throwing changeups or breaking pitches that hit batters. The game is very sensitive to that. The old-school mentality is not there with most of these pitchers, especially anybody in their 20s. It's just not how the game is played. And again, if it's that obvious, MLB is not going to allow that to happen a second time, never mind all season long."
However, Verducci thinks that Astros players will be mocked and ridiculed all year and the venom they will face from fans and opponents won't die down at any point during the 2020 season.
"They'll get hit," Verducci explained. "You have to pitch inside. Bregman is a guy right on the plate. You have to pitch him inside, move him off the plate. ... My point on that, is that I don't think it's gonna be playing whac-a-mole all year long, but the Astros are not getting away from this. Time is not going to heal this wound. They don't come to New York until September. It will not have died down. If anything Yankees fans will just work up more angst.
One of their first series on the road this year is in Anaheim. You think, 'that's a safe place to play.' Dodgers fans are buying up tickets in Angeles Stadium. They're cooking up all these ideas and signs and bringing garbage cans to games. And then they'll go to the next city and people are gonna think of ways to get themselves on SportsCenter. That's what this society does. So, the Astros are going to get a point around May or June and they will not be able to believe it that this is still active."
According to Verducci, the backlash will be much worse than Houston anticipates.
"I think it's going to be a mentally exhausting season for the Astros," Verducci said. "They're going to wish this thing to die down and it will not. Bregman goes 0-for-12, what are we thinking about? He doesn't have any help. Altuve goes on a hot streak. What are we thinking about? Well, he just had a great homestead. They must have figured out something else, a workaround to this. So I think the mental toll on the Houston Astros is like nothing that they can expect."
In addition to discussing the Astros scandal on the SI Media Podcast, Verducci also gave his thoughts on the proposed playoff changes, Hall of Fame voting and the one change MLB needs to make to help the game attract more fans.