Thanks To A Former President, Astros Haters Have A New Strategy In 2021

To paraphrase Meatballs, it just doesn't matter if Jose Altuve and the rest of the Astros "win clean" this year.
To paraphrase Meatballs, it just doesn't matter if Jose Altuve and the rest of the Astros "win clean" this year. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Back in 2020, before [waves hands] all this, I wrote about how the Houston Astros owed the city an apology for the sign-stealing scandal. My reasoning — which many of you took issue with — was not that stealing signs was some new thing in baseball, but that the Astros did it clumsily and torpedoed a great post-Harvey feel good story in their 2017 World Series win.

Although I'm not always the first to do so, I can eventually admit when I'm wrong. And when it comes to the 2017-18 Astros cheating fiasco, I was wrong indeed.

Not about it being dumb (as I said, this city sent a man to the moon and best we could come up with to tip off batters was banging trash cans), or about it giving more oxygen to aggrieved Yankee fans (who coincidentally embark on spittle-flecked rants whenever Rob Manfred's fabled sealed letter is brought up).

No, what I was wrong about was how if the Astros won again, with a healthy number of the 2017 team intact, it would go a long way towards restoring the team's reputation. We know now that's never going to happen. Worse, it's likely part of a growing trend, one that's already begun.

After Game 3 of the 2021 ALDS, which Houston lost in Chicago, White Sox pitcher Ryan Tepera suggested the high number of Astros strikeouts in that game were proof of some sketchy activities at Minute Maid Park. And as a member of a team that's never suffered a whiff of scandal, Tepera was merely taking a position that'll only be more common as time goes on.

Never mind that — as Houston manager Dusty Baker pointed out — the Astros were a pretty decent road team (.266 home vs. .268 away BA, .787 vs .780 OPS). And never mind how Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa went on to light the White Sox up in Game 4. Tepera's BS just shows what the strategy of Houston's opponents will be going forward: we didn't get beat, they cheated.

Granted, you may not get much of this from Houston's ALCS opponents. The Red Sox escaped with a slap on the wrist for their own 2017 shenanigans, and they're hardly babes in the woods. But just wait; should the Astros reach the World Series, they'll likely be met by the same brand of "Teperjury."

Because nobody can simply lose fair and square anymore. One-term President and lifelong crybaby Donald Trump may not have invented this playbook, but he's perfected it over the last year, bitching about widespread (and nonexistent) fraud and encouraging his more deluded followers to perpetuate conspiracy theories about sinister left-wing cabals. Trump has even gone so far as to suggest his supporters *not* vote in coming elections. Quite the cunning gambit.

So gird your loins, H-Town: never mind solid pitching or having one of the best hitting lineups in the majors, subsequent Astros home wins and road losses will be proof of their dishonesty. Houston won't be able to take every away game, and as we learned in 2017, if winning Game 7 of the World Series on the road didn't shut people up, nothing will.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar