The Houston Astros cheated their way to a World Series and were punished by Major League Baseball. A strong players' union prevented many of the primaries from facing real consequences and their cooperation with the investigation helped soften the blow. This is obviously unsatisfying to opposing fanbases who now feel the need to enact some sort of vigilante justice.
Houston opened 2021 last night in Oakland and the crowd there made it their business to cascade boos and bang trash cans as a reminder that they've neither forgiven or forgotten. That's all well and good and par for the course.
But rising for a standing ovation when starting pitcher Chris Bassiitt plunked Carlos Correa is a move soaked with loser energy.
For one, Bassitt didn't mean to do it. The fans weren't cheering retribution, they were cheering their own team's incompetence. Now, surely not a single person stopped to think about this before making a joyful noise because that's simply not what you do three-beers-deep at the ol' ballgame but perhaps in the light of day we can re-examine that choice.
MLB's cheating scandals are tough to stomach. There's real concern that inadequate punishment will be detrimental to the overall goal of stopping them in the future as technology only gets better. At the same time, the Astros' scandal happened four years ago. Yes, it only came to light later and fans weren't allowed in stadiums last year to voice their displeasure. That doesn't mean they sound any less lame and whiny for holding this old grudge.
Especially if their hometown team was unaffected by the Astros' sign-stealing scheme. The 2017 Oakland Athletics went 75-87. The biggest thing standing between them and success this year wasn't Houston, it was themselves.
Look, I get it. There's no statute of limitations for disgracing the game. And people are entitled to their emotions. But are we really going to have ballparks cheering every time Alex Bregman, Correa, or Jose Altuve or anyone else on that team gets clipped with an errant pitch by accident? For how long? Two more years? Three? At what point is it going to feel a bit empty?
The most confusing part of this — and getting inside fans' heads is always an odd endeavor — but isn't there some disconnect between trying to valiantly defend the game's honor while not understanding the difference between an intentional beanball and a pitch that slipped? At its purest form, it matters if someone is rooting for Correa and his teammates to get hit on purpose or just plunked either way.
The former seems born of some anger, no matter how righteous. The latter is just a person sitting in the stands and wanting a player to get hurt out of rage, which doesn't feel like something to celebrate.
That's coming from a person who believes in the importance of policing the game. Who believes brush-backs and retribution is an important element of the game if done safely. But make no mistake, if you're rooting for HBPs for HBPs' sake, that's the very definition of hoping for injury. Maybe not a serious one, but pain nonetheless.
Seems like a slippery slope people may want to reconsider sliding down.