On a Crappy Astros Season and a Pair of Unlikely Series Wins

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This team broke my heart.

But slowly, I'm getting over it.

That's what you do when something crappy goes down, after all. You accept, you make mental adjustments, you forgive when possible. You get angry. And you move on.

Fuck, they *cheated*. Why did they do that? Why did they do that, when the talent level was such that they probably didn't even need to?

* * * * * *

I didn't watch a single regular season game this year, and I haven't even seen a playoff game yet. Truth be told, I just wanted them to cancel the season, so that the hatred around the league could subside, and so I could spend a year thinking about what I wanted to do with this fandom of mine. Take a year off, a year in exile, I figured, and then I'll probably come back with this team in '21 as hardcore as ever. Probably. It probably would have been for the best, too, but then Manfred and the union, unable to leave the money on the table, I'm sure, cobbled together this 60-game season.

But so what? When the Marlins had half their team in quarantine early on, and then the Cardinals were nearly as bad, I was sure there was no way this season would ever conclude. I never bought the MLB TV package--which should have been on a serious discount, to my mind, but wasn't-- and I checked out the boxscores from time to time, and waited for the third teamwide COVID breakout that would kill this halfbreed season.

Surprisingly, the third breakout never happened. But the Astros never as I checked out the standings and the boxes drew my attention with their play, either. Beyond the predictable dustups with Joe Kelly, and Laureano, the Astros season I was missing appeared completely mediocre and completely forgettable. I spent some time wondering why the Astros were suddenly so average. Surely losing Cole and Verlander and Yordan was big, but what did I know, maybe the motherfuckers had been cheating in 2019, too. Maybe it was ALL tainted. And wouldn't that suck.

Didn't know it then, but by now, I think we've apprehend that the 29 - 31 season was due to that famous bugbear of sabermetricians, the small sample size. Have you seen where the 2017 World Series winners had a stretch where they won 29 games out of 60?

Good thing, then--I guessed--that Manfred's plan corrected for the short season by lengthening the playoffs, and increasing the participants. Maybe we could beat the Twins? Maybe the Astros could do a little something at the end to put some positive spin on a shitty season played under a shitty scandal during a shitty plague year. Not likely, but maybe.

I wasn't sold, that's for sure. I cut the cord with cable last year, and with the package over and the playoffs on broadcast TV, I made no plans for how I could watch the Twins series; they were gonna take place during work hours, anyway. So I made sure to open the ESPN GameCast app on my salesman's desktop at work and I skeptically watched it go down, a page reload at a time.

And holy hell, Houston won. They didn't look dominant, but they beat the Twins in every phase of the game. Over the two games, they outpitched 'em, they outhit 'em, and they played better defense. It wasn't a fluke--the Astros were simply the better team.

Which brings us to Carlos Correa, who in the winner's circle of that Wild Card series--probably prematurely--asked "what are they gonna say now?"

And you know, the past is the past and what's done is done, and they cheated and they got caught, but it seemed to me like a good question at the best time all year to ask. What ARE they gonna say, the willfully blind who refused to look at, who purposely BURIED, proof of the Yankees' similar antics, the hypocrites who pretended that Boston hadn't done the same goddamn thing? The Joe Kellys of this world who pretend every professional ballplayer doesn't do whatever he can to get an edge? The rabble-rousers who shout that this thing is the worst scandal since the Black Sox, ignoring the '51 Giants, who, correcing for technology, played the same song, note for note? Yeah, the Astros were guilty, but it doesn't mean they weren't good, and it doesn't mean nobody else was cheating or ever has cheated, and it sure as fuck doesn't mean you get to be a hypocrite about it. You can't really say that when you're 29 - 31, but you can say it after you win a playoff series, and quite simply, if they don't like it, fuck 'em.

I probably have to explain it to anybody who isn''t in their mid 50's, so here goes. I didn't become an Astros fan or a baseball fan until I was 21. My childhood and adolescence were spent rooting for the Oakland Raiders. And that franchise has become a laughing stock--I hear they're now in Las Vegas of all places. They're now a true joke, but in the late 60's and during the '70's, the Raiders were a franchise unlike any other, in any sport. They were a team of misfits and motorheads, of shaggy freaks and bikers, with with fans of the very same ilk. The Raiders wore their hair long, and had scraggly beards. They wore dark shades and leather. They played on the edge of the rules, and went past them when it suited. And they won, regularly, and everyone not in what they'd today call Raider Nation hated them. Despised them. Called them assassins. And Stabler, Biletnikoff, Hendricks, Hayes and Haynes, and the rest of 'em didn't just regularly win. in spite of the hatred. They won while *thriving* on it.

Correa's comments reminded me of those classic Raider teams so very much. Commit to excellence, and enjoy the hate. Baseball is a different sport from football, and you don't need George Carlin to point it out. So I never thought we'd get here, but here we are. If this is the role, embrace it.

So I was disappointed Correa didn't go off some more after the A's series, but I guess there's still time. It won't be the whiny Yankees in the ALCS, more's the pity, because Aroldis Chapman gave up *another* playoff series-deciding home run, and I wonder how the Yanks are gonna try to deflect the blame from their precious, overpaid selves this time, but I'm sure if he tries, Correa can up with some smack about the Rays. And if not, he can always look towards the Dodgers.

And listen: who knows what's gonna happen? As the 2019 'Stros found out, and the 2020 Yankees, too, the Rays are damned good. So, this might be the extent of the 2020 playoff push . But the season to my mind, as weird and as star-crossed as it's been, is already a success, and it has clarified my thought processes a good bit as I recover from this awful and goddamned ill-conceived scandal.

Meantime, let's look into the logistics of changing team colors to silver and black, OK?