Dodger fans finally had their chance to let the Astros have it over Astrogate Tuesday night. Over the Astro Intelligence Agency very likely remaining in operation during the 2017 World Series. Over the hapless Rob Manfred forced to issue immunity to Astro player culprits in return for their spilling the deets—then having to walk back his temporary-insanity dismissal of the World Series trophy as a hunk of metal.
Over what Mike Fiers finally blew the whistle on about the Jeff Luhnow-era Astros’ systemic, illegal, off-field-based electronic cheating, opening the way to further exposure of Luhnow’s amoral results-before-people operating ways. Over the Astros’ failure to own up at the notorious spring 2020 presser before the pan-damn-ic shut spring training down and delayed what proved the 2020 irregular season.
Over owner Jim Crane putting his foot in his mouth repeatedly. (This didn’t impact the game; we won the World Series; I didn’t say it didn’t impact the game.) Over Astro players doing everything in their power not say flat-out that they and the organisation cheated.(We’re not going into details. Never mind how many details were exposed over almost three months preceding.)
Last year the pan-damn-ically mandated fan-less stands deprived one and all of letting the Astros have it live and in person. They had to settle as Dodger fans did for milling outside the ballparks, social distancing properly enough, but heckling, hollering, and banging when the visiting Astros’ team bus arrived for the games.
This year, different story. The returning fans began making up for lost time. The bad news is that no few of those fans took things a few steps too far. Maybe not as far as the Astros took high-tech sign stealing, but far enough.
For one thing, the Astro roster is whittled down to only five remaining members of the 2017 World Series roster. For another thing, it’s been demonstrated plausibly since that Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the arguable face of the franchise, objected to the trash can bangings that sent the pilfered intelligence to the batter’s box while he was at the plate.
For a third, protesting fans have crossed the line too often from heckling, booing, and catcalling to throwing things on the field. Things from the harmless enough stuff such as inflatable play trash cans to honest-to-God real trash cans and other none-too-soft projectiles. Astros reliever Ryne Stanek swore that fans near the right field bullpen threw “basically full beers at people for a half an inning” when the game was two-thirds done.
Dodger fans Tuesday night threw down hollers of “cheaters,” rounds of expletives in English and Spanish, and rather impassioned booing when Dodger Stadium’s public address announcer threatened the sellout crowd with ejections for throwing things onto the field, possibly even including any foul balls or home runs the Astros hit into the seats.
Somewhere in the middle of the racket the Astros and the Dodgers played a baseball game. Somewhere in the middle of it, the Astros won, 3-0, despite Dodger starter Walker Buehler pitching six stout innings with only one run against him, courtesy of Michael Brantley’s RBI double in the third.
Somehow, another Astro relief pitcher, Blake Taylor, still thought it took “a special player” to wear an Astro uniform still bearing the taint of the 2017-2018 cheaters.
“If you’re not willing to withstand the criticism you’re gonna get at every stadium we walk into, you can’t handle it — it’s tough. It’s tough thing to ask a lot of guys to do,” he told reporters.
But the crew that we have right now, they’re all in on this. They know that they’re not the only ones going through this. Every single person in this clubhouse gets booed every time we walk on the field and just gets called “cheaters” and things like that. So at the end of the day we’re just one big family and we have each other’s backs, no matter what.
Even leading the American League West by five games, it isn’t always a thrill to be an Astro these days. I say again: Fair or not, the Astros will wear the Astrogate stain until the last member of that tainted 2017-18 team no longer wears the uniform. Even if it’s patent nonsense to hold the entire 2021 roster responsible for what Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, and Lance McCullers, Jr. were part of in 2017 and couldn’t own up to in pre pan-damn-ic shutdown spring 2020.
(Why let Altuve off the hook? There also turned out to be not a shred of real evidence, after all, that Altuve wore any kind of wire device under his uniform, as suspected after he ducked the jersey shredding following his pennant-winning walkoff bomb in the 2019 American League Championship Series.)
I say again, further: Go ahead and make all the racket you want denouncing the Astros. Boo them if you must. Insult them if you must. Wear those Oscar the Grouch costumes if you wish. (The independent league St. Paul Saints couldn’t keep up with the demand for “Astro the Grouch” figurines playing recorded trash can bangs last year.) Hoist the inflatable trash cans, bang your plastic ones loud and long if you must, sing anything from “Secret Agent Man” to “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
But keep it in the stands and quit throwing things onto the field. Manfestly, Joe and Jane Jerk-fan, that makes you look at least as bad as the Astros made themselves look when they got exposed as illegal off-field-based electronic-and-algorithmic cheaters and then—given the chance to own up and man up—told the world the dog ate their homework.