If the Houston Astros manage to emerge through this Christopher Nolan-inspired year where time and reality are bent and refracted to the point of nauseous disorientation, then history will recognize them as champions. And worthy ones at that. Because every remaining team is in the same position, trying like Andy Dufrense to tunnel through a half-mile of crap to realize the ultimate goal. But until that happens, we don't have to indulge in Houston's attempts to rewrite history. Or hell, even their daydream fantasies about what's happening *gestures indiscriminately at everything* out there.
The Astros walked into a fanless Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of an ALDS against the Oakland A's on Monday and survived, 10-5. Starting pitcher Lance McCullers escaped a lackluster outing by gritting his teeth and getting three huge outs in the fourth inning. His offense responded by posting a late flurry of runs, paced by Carlos Correa's two dingers. They now have a tight grip on the series. They do not, however, have a firm grip on reality.
Take the two players mentioned above. Correa, who is doing his best to prove that all his previous postseason exploits were not the sole byproduct of rule-skirting, has repeatedly done his best to cast his team as the heroes.
“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said after sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card round. “But what are they going to say now?”
Well, outside of the clubhouse, people -- mad or otherwise -- continued to say the same thing. That the Astros cheated egregiously and largely escaped punishment. That they made a mockery of the game and fair play. That, worse, they denied opportunities to other franchises who weren't openly flouting the rules. Lots of people who aren't handsomely compensated lost out on bonuses, rings, and memories that would lasted a lifetime.
Litigating the past isn't all that productive. Perhaps we would stop doing it if the Astros stopped bringing it up. If they quit when they were ahead and stopped trying to recast the die. One understands why they're doing this. They've been an excellent team and it goes against human nature to not want credit or to lash out when cornered.
But dammit, is it ever tone-deaf. The Astros can use it as a rallying cry behind closed doors all they want but when the door is wide open, the public is going to overhear some stuff that sounds particularly wild.
Like McCullers after Game 1. To reporters.
Ah, yes. The notoriously plucky no-name Astros with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, Carlos Correa, Zach Greinke and Michael Brantley. The notoriously frugal Astros with a paltry $82.5 million payroll this season, the fourth-highest in baseball. If not for their balls there is simply no way they could be competing with the A's and their enormous $36.7 million expenditure. We all remember what a massive underdog Goliath was in that matchup against David.
This is all borderline laughable. Yet perhaps to be expected. No one sees themselves as the villain in their life story. But Houston is the villain. They cheated and prospered and largely avoided a comeuppance. And they can't make us forget or like it. Or pretend none of it happened or that they're really the good guys. Because they aren't, even if they emerge as the best guys.