Manufactured Hatred: How Sports Media Created Baseball's Latest Villains

Normalizing Conspiracy

I've talked at length about why José Altuve should be immune to much of the flak from angry people, both within our fanbase and outside of it. At worst he didn't discourage his teammates from cheating. At best he did, and they cheated anyway. In either case, Altuve is not a cheater.

So why is he constantly framed as one? That stems from another issue entirely: the introduction of conspiracy theorists and supposed "experts" into the national conversation. When José Altuve homered off Aroldis Chapman to end the Yankees season in 2019, it was considered a great baseball moment. To us, it still is. To others, it could only have happened with cheating.

The most notorious conspiracy guy out there is Jomboy, who used the scandal to propel himself to baseball relevance. The Astros cheated in 2017, that is a fact. They tried to use a system to gain an advantage over other teams at the plate. Others are convinced, without a shred of evidence, that this continued throughout the entirety of the 2018 season, 2019, and 2020.

But when Altuve won the ALCS for the Astros, Jomboy didn't immediately analyze the footage for evidence of a buzzer. He, like most, recognized that Chapman hung a slider to Altuve, and in the process hung the Yankees season out to dry. Sports media outlets like ESPN have enabled this conspiracy talk by having Jomboy on as a guest to discuss a scandal for which he was not part of the official investigation, to offer insight. Why him? Why not a player?

This is a man who pushed a baseless buzzer conspiracy, who ignored evidence disproving it, and who used circumstantial evidence to "prove" that the Astros cheated the Yankees in 2017, and the Dodgers as well. On that note he's definitively biased. A Yankees fan isn't going to be objective when talking about the Astros, because they're going to be emotionally invested with anger. Expecting objectivity is ludicrous, which means ESPN doesn't want objectivity, they want Astros hatred and views.

These outlets made conspiracy theories mainstream to generate hatred for the Astros.

Why Circumstantial Evidence is Worthless

Throughout the ALDS this year we saw one of the best graphics ever as evidence of media bias against our team.

It broke down the 2017 hitting numbers of the Astros compared to 2020, conveniently leaving out both 2018 and 2019 because showing those numbers wouldn't fit the narrative they wanted: that they needed to cheat to be relevant.

Dayn Perry, CBS Sports hack, wrote an entire article about the 2020 Astros' offense versus the previous years with the headline "Why the post-scandal Astros' 2020 offensive struggles might not be a coincidence" only to end the article by declaring "None of this justifies flatly declaring that Houston's pre-2020 success at the plate is mostly attributed to nefarious practices." If that's the case, why did he write the article at all?

The narrative is all that matters to them at the moment. Dayn Perry is fully aware that circumstantial evidence is worthless, especially in baseball. Guess who else had a miserable 2020? Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Aaron Judge, etc. Does that prove they cheated in some previous year to be more successful? Of course not.

Other circumstantial evidence comes in our home/road playoff splits. The problem is I can turn this exact same thing around on the Yankees who bring it up surrounding 2017. We scored 2 runs in games 1 and 2 of that series. 2 runs. The Yankees scored 19 runs in their 3 home games. They scored 86% of their runs in a 7 game series over the span of 3 games in New York. So in that regard, which team has more circumstantial evidence for having cheated at home?

Home/road splits in the regular season are important, because the Astros were only able to cheat during their home games, and didn't start really using it until May 28th. Before the 28th, their use of it was minimal, a handful of pitches per game, versus several dozen at it's peak. People are essentially outraged over them cheating in around 60 games.

What's funnier is that their road numbers were actually better. It was a narrative I remembered being hilarious during Game 7, that the Astros were a young team that "learned to hit on the road" as if that was something they only discovered in the playoffs, when the reality is that they hit better on the road all season long despite advantages at home.

In essence, none of this proves anything. It doesn't prove that Yelich is a cheater because he had a bad season, if doesn't prove that we needed it to win, it doesn't prove that the Yankees cheated in 2017, because all of this evidence is circumstantial. If you brought this to a court, you'd be laughed out of the room.

One final piece of goodness. The 2018 Red Sox won 108 games in a season they cheated. The next 2 years they missed the playoffs. Betts has not come close to matching his 2018 numbers. I can be circumstantially biased too if I want to be.

These outlets treat circumstantial evidence as definitive proof to generate hatred for the Astros.

Falsehoods and Gross Hypocrisy

On February 18th Molly Knight, an Athletic reporter, declared I fucking love baseball and the damage being done to the sport's integrity is devastating.

2 days ago she declared that the 2018 Red Sox and 2020 Dodgers were the best teams of the last decade (the 2019 Astros were statistically better than those Red Sox) and added that it was probably not a coincidence that Betts led off for both.

So which is it? Are you upset about the damage to the sport's integrity or not? Mookie Betts and the 2018 Red Sox cheated, by stealing signs illegally and relaying them to the hitters. They won the 2018 World Series and Betts won the American League MVP. They used almost the exact same system, and had almost the exact same results. For the record, when she was confronted about this, she stated that the Red Sox didn't cheat the Dodgers out of anything because the Dodgers now knew the Astros had cheated them and could plan ahead (which is obviously ridiculous).

Buster Olney says Evan Gattis stated that what the Astros did was a step beyond what other teams did except that I can't find that statement anywhere. It appears to reference his appearance on a podcast where he says they were wrong, cheated the fans, and that he felt bad. I'm pretty certain he never said that what they did was the worst thing ever.

That is the same man who put an article out on ESPN blaming the Astros for the MLB season being delayed, not the global pandemic that has killed over a million and saps people (especially athletes) of their energy.

There's also the Bleacher Report stating that not a single breaking ball thrown by Kershaw in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series resulted in a swing and miss. Except that's a complete lie, as Altuve struck out swinging at a slider in the first inning of the game.

The common trend here is that the "whataboutism" that is so often attributed to our fanbase is entirely projection. Olney and Knight want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to celebrate the accomplishments of cheating big market teams, while pretending that what we did was the worst thing in the history of the sport. They ignore Logan Morrison implicating other teams because those other teams are the ones they love. If you bring them up, they deflect to the Astros and say what they did was worse.

All I'm saying is I want the same standard upheld with every team. Yes we cheated, hate us if you want, but don't give them a pass when they did the same thing.

And why the hell is Kershaw suddenly a victim, one of the worst postseason performers in living memory? I love the guy, he's a good dude, but it's much more likely that he was simply off his game under pressure as he has been a hundred times.

These outlets push outright fabrications and ignore the actions of other teams to generate hatred for the Astros.

Leaps of Illogic

Ben DuBose, who is one of my favorite twitter personalities for Houston sports, typically goes to bat against most of the illogical doofuses who make absurd accusations about the team. It's his belief, and mine as well, that you will never be able to please those who are most outraged. I believe it's because their outrage is fed constantly by major sports media outlets who cannot let it go.

There are ridiculous accusations, that the 2019 Astros cheated throughout the entire season, and screwed the Yankees again. That Manfred knew they cheated in 2019 but let them off for... some reason? The notion that we were let off lightly is absurd, yet it exists anyway, and as Ben puts it, wouldn't that embolden us to simply keep cheating in 2020 instead of stopping?

Despite us literally reaching the World Series in 2019 and losing it on a fluke foul pole home run from a terrible hitter off an unhittable pitch, ESPN hacks like Ramona Shelburne implied that us losing in 2020 was proof that we needed cheating. Here we have an ESPN writer, on the payroll, pushing a disproven conspiracy theory that originated from the toxic cesspool that is the Yankees fanbase. Need I say more?

...and still the 2017 Champions of the World...

Despite all that, what bothers them the most is the inability to change history. They want the title stripped. But that opens up a can of worms. If they do that, then do the Red Sox lose it too? What if it turns out the Nationals were cheating? The Cubs? How far does that rabbit hole go?

The Astros are not beloved. It's my belief that history will vindicate them, maybe in a year, maybe in a decade, maybe when I'm an old man who doesn't even remember the first time they won (hopefully because they won so much by the time I was old that I got tired of it).

I don't know what I would feel about the Astros if I wasn't a fan of the team. But I do know this. I don't hate the 2018 Red Sox or Mookie Betts, I simply want them to face the same level of hatred we do, or alternatively for us to face the same lack of it they do. I don't believe their cheating robbed us in 2018. That was clearly Joe West.

I tend to not cling to cheating from other teams as the worst actions in sports anyway (Looking at you Dirty Machado). I'm not dumb enough to believe Deflategate was why the Patriots won that game. I'm not dumb enough to believe steroids are why Bonds and A-Rod were great players. I don't even think Pete Rose should be banned from the sport.

It's why I still wear my 2017 gear. Still admire the 2017 World Series baseball on the mantle (signed by Altuve of course), and the replica of the brick that I have that's somewhere outside Minute Maid Park.

I've been a fan of this team longer than the Texans have existed, since I was too young to know anything about it. That won't ever change.