Why Do People Say Free Joe Kelly?

Kevin Smith

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Why Do People Say Free Joe Kelly

In the world of professional sports, disciplinary actions are an important tool to maintain order, sportsmanship, and player safety. However, sometimes these punishments can be controversial and spark debate among fans, players, and media.

One such case is that of Joe Kelly, a professional baseball player who received a suspension from Major League Baseball (MLB) for his actions during a game in July 2020.

Since then, the slogan “Free Joe Kelly” has become a rallying cry for supporters who believe that his suspension was unjustified or overly harsh. We will explore the reasons behind the slogan and the arguments for and against it.

The Incident

On July 28, 2020, the Los Angeles Dodgers faced off against the Houston Astros in a regular-season game. The game was notable because it was the first meeting between the two teams since the Astros were found guilty of cheating during the 2017 season.

The Dodgers, who lost to the Astros in the 2017 World Series, were particularly motivated to win. In the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Dodgers leading 5-2, Joe Kelly, a relief pitcher for the Dodgers, entered the game.

His first pitch to Alex Bregman, a star player for the Astros, narrowly missed Bregman’s head and went behind him. Kelly’s next pitch, a 96 mph fastball, was high and inside, causing Bregman to jump back to avoid getting hit.

Later in the at-bat, Kelly threw a breaking ball that struck Bregman on his back foot. After striking out Bregman to end the inning, Kelly reportedly made a facial expression and yelled something in the direction of Bregman.

During his next at-bat, Kelly threw another pitch that went behind Carlos Correa, another Astros player. Correa and Kelly exchanged words, and the benches cleared, with players from both teams rushing onto the field.

Ultimately, MLB handed down a suspension of eight games to Kelly for his actions during the game. After appealing the suspension, Kelly’s penalty was reduced to five games.

Reactions to the incident were mixed, with some players and fans supporting Kelly and others criticizing him for his behavior on the field.

The Astros players were particularly critical, with Correa accusing Kelly of throwing “a ball at somebody’s head on purpose” and stating that Kelly “doesn’t have to get suspended because he’s not even a good pitcher.”

The Arguments for Free Joe Kelly

Some supporters of Joe Kelly argue that his punishment was unjustified or overly harsh. They argue that throwing pitches near batters and engaging in trash talk are not uncommon occurrences in baseball, and that Kelly’s actions did not warrant such a severe penalty.

Supporters of Kelly also point to his clean disciplinary record prior to the incident as evidence that he is not a habitual offender.

Comparisons to other similar incidents and punishments have also been made. Some fans and commentators argue that Kelly’s suspension was disproportionate when compared to similar incidents in the past.

For example, when New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman threw a pitch near the head of Tampa Bay Rays player Mike Brosseau in September 2020, he received only a one-game suspension.

In another incident, Houston Astros pitcher Roberto Osuna, who was accused of domestic violence, received a 75-game suspension, which some argue is less than what Kelly received for his actions on the field.

Finally, some supporters of Kelly criticize MLB’s disciplinary actions and consistency. They argue that the league is not consistent in its punishments and that players are sometimes penalized for actions that other players get away with.

They also point to the fact that the Astros were found guilty of cheating during the 2017 season but received no individual punishments, which they believe shows a lack of consistency in MLB’s disciplinary actions.

Overall, supporters of “Free Joe Kelly” believe that the punishment Kelly received was too severe and that the league needs to be more consistent in its disciplinary actions.

They argue that baseball is a physical and emotional game, and that players should not be penalized for actions that are commonplace in the sport.

The Arguments Against Free Joe Kelly

One argument against the “Free Joe Kelly” movement is that his actions put player safety at risk. When a pitcher throws a pitch near a batter’s head, it can be a dangerous situation that could lead to serious injury or even death.

Some argue that Kelly’s actions were reckless and could have had serious consequences for the Astros players he threw at.

Another argument against the movement is that it is important to uphold the integrity of the game. Baseball is a sport that is built on rules and codes of conduct, and it is important to enforce those rules in order to maintain a level playing field for all teams.

By throwing at Astros players and engaging in taunting, Kelly may have violated those rules and compromised the integrity of the game.

Finally, some argue that players have a responsibility to maintain sportsmanship and respect for their opponents. While some trash talk and gamesmanship is to be expected in any competitive sport, there are limits to what is acceptable behavior on the field.

Supporters of this argument believe that Kelly crossed those limits by throwing at batters and taunting them, and that his suspension was therefore justified.

Overall, opponents of the “Free Joe Kelly” movement believe that player safety, the integrity of the game, and the responsibility of players to maintain sportsmanship and respect should take priority over any arguments for leniency in Kelly’s case.

They argue that his actions were unacceptable and that his punishment was appropriate.

Impact of the “Free Joe Kelly” Slogan

The “Free Joe Kelly” slogan has gained significant traction on social media, with many fans and supporters of Kelly using the hashtag to express their solidarity with the player.

The movement has also inspired numerous memes and online jokes, as well as a number of online petitions calling for MLB to reduce Kelly’s suspension.

The slogan has also become a popular merchandising item among fans, with t-shirts, hats, and other items featuring the phrase being sold online and in sports stores.

This has created a new subculture of fans who identify with the “Free Joe Kelly” movement, and who wear the merchandise as a sign of their support for the player.

The incident and the “Free Joe Kelly” slogan have become significant in sports culture, with many commentators and fans debating the merits of Kelly’s actions and the appropriate level of punishment.

Some see the incident as a reflection of larger issues in baseball, such as the use of unwritten rules and the role of players in policing their own game.

Others view the slogan and the movement as a sign of fans’ growing dissatisfaction with MLB’s disciplinary actions, and their desire for greater transparency and consistency in the league’s decision-making processes.

Overall, the “Free Joe Kelly” slogan has had a significant impact on sports culture, both in terms of its popularity among fans and its significance in larger debates about the role of players and the league in maintaining sportsmanship and fair play in baseball.

Comparison of Punishments for Similar Incidents in MLB

IncidentPlayer(s) InvolvedPunishmentYear
Joe Kelly throwing at Astros playersJoe Kelly5 games (originally 8 games)2020
Yasiel Puig fighting with Giants catcherYasiel Puig2 games2018
Bryce Harper charging mound after hit-by-pitchBryce Harper4 games2017
Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija fight after home runMichael Morse, Jeff SamardzijaNo suspension2017
Rougned Odor punching Jose BautistaRougned Odor8 games2016

This table compares the punishments handed down by MLB for several incidents involving on-field altercations or other violations of the rules. By comparing these incidents, we can see how Kelly’s punishment compares to those of other players who have been involved in similar incidents in recent years.


Why did Joe Kelly throw at the Astros players in the first place?

Kelly has stated that he was trying to send a message to the Astros for their role in the sign-stealing scandal that came to light in 2019. He felt that the Astros had not been adequately punished for their actions and that they had not shown enough remorse for their behavior.

How did MLB determine the length of Kelly’s suspension?

MLB determined the length of Kelly’s suspension based on a number of factors, including the severity of his actions, his history of on-field incidents, and the potential impact on player safety. The league also took into account Kelly’s behavior during the incident, including his taunting of the Astros players.

What has been the reaction of the Astros players to the “Free Joe Kelly” movement?

Some Astros players have been critical of the movement, arguing that Kelly’s actions were dangerous and that he deserved the punishment he received. Others have been more sympathetic to Kelly, acknowledging that the sign-stealing scandal has had a significant impact on their reputation and the way they are perceived by fans and other players.

Has Joe Kelly spoken publicly about the “Free Joe Kelly” movement?

Kelly has not spoken publicly about the movement, but he has acknowledged the support he has received from fans and other players on social media. He has also used his social media accounts to promote merchandise featuring the “Free Joe Kelly” slogan, with proceeds going to charity.


The “Free Joe Kelly” movement has become a significant cultural phenomenon in the world of baseball, with fans and supporters rallying behind the player and calling for a reduction in his suspension.

While some argue that Kelly’s actions were reckless and put player safety at risk, others see the incident as a reflection of larger issues in the sport and the need for greater consistency and transparency in MLB’s disciplinary actions.

Regardless of one’s stance on the matter, it is clear that the “Free Joe Kelly” slogan has had a significant impact on sports culture and will continue to be a topic of debate and discussion among fans and commentators in the years to come.

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Kevin Smith

I am a dedicated learner who is constantly pursuing my dreams in many areas of life. I am a Finance major at the University of Maryland, a professional baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays and the owner of my personal brand, Elevate Baseball. I hope to inspire younger learners of all sports and interests to tirelessly pursue their dreams, whatever that may be. LinkedIn

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