Monday, January 14 was a tough day for the Houston Astros. It was a great day for people on social media who take joy in kicking folks when they are down. And a terrific day for Texans coach Bill O Brian. I kid, I kid.
Now, let me begin by saying that I’m not ‘that’ guy. The guy who mocks a teams’ fans when they lose. I’ve made friends by being that opposite guy. We, as fans, have almost as much investment in what happens on the field as players and none of the control. And so I’ve always tried to take a more “good winner” take on the teams I love. When you love a team, that love is unconditional and it sucks when they lose, don’t play well or are seen as not above board. Yankees fans this year saw Game 6. They don’t need me piling on. I guess I grew up in the ‘good game’ culture? I’m old. I know.
Part of this, part of why I try to fan the way I do, is where I am in my life: I’m in my 40s. A military veteran and dealing with that, a husband a father, and a grandfather. Times at Astros and other baseball games are times for me to hide from the problems of the world. Hide from the demons as it were. And mostly, times for my wife, my daughter and my grandson to enjoy each other.
Onto the “sign stealing” topic on hand.
At its core, I agree with the punishment. It was a rule that the commissioner explained, the punishment laid out according to his memo, what it would mean to steal signs was clear, and yet, was done anyway.
I do, however, think ‘everyone is doing it.’ This is where people pile on: “does everyone doing it make it ok?”
No. This doesn’t make it OK. But the importance of that statement, at least when I say it is simple and two fold:
1) if this punishment is the standard applied to all teams who do it, then I agree with it. Ken Rosenthal keeps reminding folks that this is not just the Astros. He did so today, again in fact. If this is the first in an attempt to clean this part of the game up, then I agree. If we don’t hear of another team, especially in light of the Red Sox accusations, if the Astros are a scape goat as some think and then the rest get slaps on a wrist, then I am not as OK with it. Not that how I feel about it matters, I guess.
2) Saying ‘everyone does it’ is a way to (effectively, I think) combat the over spin of the actual crime. It wasn’t invented by the Astros and it will not stop with the Astros. The Astros are not mustache twirling villains with Manfred tied to a set of train tracks. They are, in fact, a group of humans who were looking for a slight competitive edge that they knew or at least believed, was wide spread in the sport.
I’m fully aware that my investment in the moral side of this issue is tainted, not by my love of the team, but by my age and experience. Baseball players are not my heroes. Haven’t been since high school. I don’t use them as examples of heroes to others. My friends who didn’t come home from over seas are my heroes. My friends still struggling with what happened overseas when we served are my heroes. Not millionaires payed to play a kid’s game, as much as I dearly love that game. I want my Grandson to be a major league ball player (if he wants) because it will mean a change in his lifestyle, not because it elevates him to some moral ground. (I fully admit I might feel differently about this if I were 20, like I did with steroids).
I do have an issue with the sign stealing being illegal, because of the legality in some instances, is in question. It’s like, murder is legal is if its with your bare hands…but not when you use a gun. But I digress. It’s illegal. So on we go.
One thing that does bug me is the social media race for false equivalencies. This is not the same as the ‘Black Sox”. Gambling, particularly in the early 1900s, was dangerous not just because of the integrity of the game, but because of the organized crime element introduced into the sport.
It’s not PEDs. While the spread of sign stealing, I believe, is similar to PEDs (It was done because it was wide ranging and the competitive edge in a field full of similar offenders), they still aren’t equal. PEDs and the encouragement of other players to do it essentially were encouraging people to do bodily harm to themselves and introducing a more criminal element to the game. (Steroids weren’t all bought at the HEB Pharmacy).
Many reading this will dismiss this as making excuses or homerism. Maybe it’s true. I’m self aware enough to realize I’m incapable of true neutrality.
The players are responsible for what happened, but due to the knowledge of how wide spread this is, the ability to discipline them was conveniently not included in the CBA. So, Hinch and Lunhow, who both turned blind eyes, took the brunt of the punishment. Astros fans years from now when the effect of the lost draft picks will be felt took the punishment.
If I were Astros owner Jim Crane, I might have made the same calls in releasing both men. But the buck also, ultimately, stops with him and his punishment is pretty light.
The point of this is not to rehash the punishment or the whole scandal. Just one man’s opinion. The mission of the podcast is to view baseball from the fan’s perspective. This fan doesn’t feel differently about the 17 Series. That year meant too much to me on many different levels and it still does.
But the fan’s perspective.
We’re gonna face the brunt of it. From fans who feel cheated to those who think they are clever. This is not going to stop me from being an Astros fan. It’s not going to stop me from going to road games and wearing gear. I’ll be at the Rangers, Mets, A’s, Twins, Blue Jays and Orioles this year. It means I’ll have to hear it from drunk guys around me and will be forced to stay calm. The conversations will be less good natured. All because I won’t NOT support the team I grew up with. I’ll get ‘clever’ comments like “Houston Asteriks” (Really? So original). Because I feel the if I bail on the Astros now, it will call into question my own integrity as a fan. And while I don’t think the 17 season is tainted, I’m not happy that they have put me in this position.
But again, I think the punishment was fair. Justified. Necessary. I just hope it doesn’t stop here and that other teams are also held accountable.