All things considered, it’s been a pretty quiet week since the Astros returned home from their road trip. No on’e thrown at anyone or tried to start any fights. The biggest on-field development was the return of Yordan Alvarez to the lineup, who immediately launched a three-run bomb to announce his return.
But, of course, there was also the suspensions for the fight that came last week where Álex Cintrón got one of the heaviest suspensions ever doled out by the league for his part in the brawl. While I think the punishment was a little harsh, Cintrón was definitely the one who instigated the fight even if Laureano was the one who did the actual charging.
Let’s be clear, what Cintrón did was not “just words,” he taunted Laureano while the situation was deescalating and then challenged him to a fight while walking towards him. Laureano made a stupid move, but he never would have done that if Cintrón had acted with a little maturity.
I did find 20 games to be a little harsh in light of how few Laureano got for his role. The thing is, some portion of that was the league over correcting and punishing an Astro, any Astro, to try and appease some people baying for blood from a Houston employee. I don’t think it’ll work, but I do think that’s part of why they did it.
The fact is, everything the Astros do in the next couple of seasons, at least, will be viewed through the spectrum of the 2017 cheating scandal. It doesn’t matter that the resulting punishment was a product of a system that was put in place to protect all players in MLB, nor that the team was severely punished for the actions of the players, nor that the whole cheating system was reportedly born out of an effort to “keep up” with the rest of the league. None of that matters, all that matters is perception, and the perception is that the Astros will never be punished enough.
Of course, when you hold to such a narrow perspective, it tends to make your arguments one-sided and kind of stupid. More and more, people are arguing that bad actions against the Astros should be rewarded while the Astros should be punished harshly and with prejudice. Those people know that, objectively speaking, Cintrón doesn’t deserve to be suspended for a full season and then fired for his actions, but they yearn for some kind of release for the cheating scandal.
Unfortunately, this isn’t being countered in any real way by national baseball media. While it’s not as widespread as some Astros fans would like to believe, there are a number of prominent journalists who will gleefully go along with the outraged narrative infecting reporting on the team. For them this is a great way to drive clicks, especially from the Yankees and Dodgers fans that have been trying to rewrite history and crown themselves the ‘17 World Series champs since November.
Now I understand that this is the way things are right now. That the Astros brought it on themselves with the cheating and that no amount of mitigating factors is going to change the anger thrown at the team over this. But it’s disappointing to see so-called journalists throw rationality out the window and join in the hero worship of people who tried to physically harm the Astros.
That is a dangerous narrative to produce because it gives credence to the idea that throwing a baseball as hard as you can at someone’s head can be appropriate sometimes. We’re telling young fans of other teams that if someone makes you mad it’s alright to try and hurt them, possibly permanently injure or even kill them, just to satisfy that anger.
But I have a feeling that if something serious like that were to happen you’d see a bunch of think pieces about how “policing of the game” by players has gone too far. I’m sure a number of them will come unironically from some of the very same writers who are promoting the idea of vengeance. I’m also sure that a number of writers will have some form of “they brought it on themselves” in those articles, which you see a lot of these days when talking about the Astros.
Anger makes people stupid and dangerous, especially when you have enough angry people willing to yell whatever they think without forethought. Nobody deserves capital punishment or bodily harm over that, but the idea that Joe Kelly and Ramon Laureano are heroes for what they did makes it sound like such a thing is laudable.
And this is after living eight months now with the results of the cheating scandal. The refusal of fans and media members to get over it and move on coupled with the celebration of every baseball that barely grazes an Astros player is tedious and sophomoric. Seriously referring to a group of people who are Mad on the Internet as a “movement” is disingenuous and gives them more power than they deserve.
I know things won’t change any time soon though. Even as I write this I feel the ennui settling in and shadowing everything baseball related for me. I have struggled to find joy in the sport since the scandal broke. Though a good portion of that has to do with the world in general right now and the cracks in the foundation of the sport itself, a lot of it also has to do with the constant, unending stream of jeers from uninformed fans from other teams.
I’m sure most of those fans will think it’s a good thing that I’m being pushed away from the team. They want the Astros to be forever banished from the face of the earth and probably consider themselves somehow justified in all of it. I expect no sympathy from them or anyone else about how I feel about the team. I also don’t expect much reflection from people on their role in driving fans away from the sport for the sake of scoring cheap online online points off the Astros.
It’s just where we are right now, and it’s just so stupid.