Good morning! Happy Valentine's Day. Hope you're feeling a lot more love than the Houston Astros right about now.
We’re six weeks out from Opening Day, and yet we’re talking baseball yet again, because … man, have you seen what’s happening with the Astros?
The quick version: Houston stole the signs of opposing teams throughout the 2017 season, a year in which they won the World Series. Two years later, the Astros got caught. And on Thursday, the first day of spring training, they had to explain themselves.
Houston’s line of reasoning goes something like this: “Yes, we stole signs. And yes, it gave us a bit of an advantage. But no, it didn’t help us win the World Series. Definitely not. Can we move on now?” Not exactly a case study in effective crisis management.
Now, the easy Hot Take here is that baseball must strip the Astros of their 2017 World Series title. They cheated, they altered the competitive fabric of the game, they admitted to it, open-and-shut case.
It’s not like we haven’t seen teams get stripped of their titles before — for instance, the University of Michigan apparently didn’t play anyone in the 2013 men’s basketball championship and still lost, at least in the eyes of the NCAA. It doesn’t often happen in pro sports, but if there were ever a time …
I don’t think baseball’s going to strip Houston of its title, if only because doing that would open up the commissioner’s office to retaliation from a whole passel of Houston attorneys, and let’s just say Rob Manfred and Co. don’t exactly have clean hands in this whole scandal either. But! Let’s not let that stop us from doing our duty as good and loyal fans of the great game of baseball.
To start, there’s this: Houston has officially supplanted the Yankees and the Red Sox as the most hated team in the sport. Now, none of us is a fool; we all know our teams don’t field starting nines of saints. But still … there’s something about not only what the Astros did, but how they tried to cover it up, and how they’ve utterly botched the revelation, that makes them eminently hateable.
Dodgers fans know this. They’ve organized a caravan to travel to the Astros’ first series in Anaheim, in early April, to unload on Houston. And it won’t stop there. In the first two weeks of the season, the Astros travel to Oakland, new home of whistleblower Mike Fiers. They’ll get booed there. They travel to in-state rival Texas; they’ll get booed there. They’ve got a mid-April series at Tampa Bay, and the five fans who show up will definitely boo them with all the volume they can muster.
But why stop there? If Houston’s going to keep its flag, it’s up to the rest of us to slather an asterisk onto it, with glee and gusto.
It’s simple. If you love the game of baseball, boo the Astros.
If you’ve ever cheered a bottom-of-the-ninth walkoff homer, boo the Astros.
If you’ve ever followed a pennant race more closely than you ever followed a single class in high school, boo the Astros.
If you’ve ever gone to a game with your dad as he patiently explained the nuances of a double-switch, or bought your kid ice cream to keep them in their seat past the third inning, boo the Astros.
If you’ve ever opened a pack of baseball cards and pulled out your favorite player, boo the Astros.
If you’ve ever sprawled out over some sun-baked bleachers, stared out blankly at the fourth pitching change in an inning, and thought, hey, it still beats being at work, boo the Astros.
If you’ve ever watched a baseball game at that perfect moment of twilight, while the last of the sun’s glow is still visible and the stadium’s lights have come on, where the summer’s warm breeze swirls, the beer’s at that perfect state icy coldness, and for a moment everything is right in the world … then friends, boo the ever-living [censored] out of the Astros.
It’s going to be a fun baseball season … unless you’re an Astro. Enjoy the weekend, everyone, and we’ll see you back here Monday.
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