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We Have a Chron Commenter! Open Letter to Leah Vann

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Chron, not to be confused with the Houston Chronicle, has hired a new reporter: Leah Vann. Just two months ago Vann responded on X to a suggestion that Altuve deserves respect with a curt “No,” followed up by declaring that she “didn’t need to respect cheaters.” Vann deleted her past tweets and tried to start over with a sort of apology/justification: you can read it here.

For my part, I suggest the CB community welcome Leah and show her the grace (even if undeserved) that has been denied Altuve, which is most definitely deserved. In her tweet she pledges to do better and from her track record as a journalist, it seems she will.

So I’m not here to rake Leah over the coals; whom amongst us hasn’t said something dumb during the ALCS, or otherwise known as the Astros Invitational? Speaking of invitations, here’s mine to Leah: report on the story, which is the real story that will only be really heard many years from now—how Altuve became the undeserved scapegoat for not only a franchise, but a sport.

I’m not going to do the work for you, but the PBS documentary is a good place to start. Yes, the Astros cheated, and most people around here acknowledge that the Astros probably cheated more than most teams from roughly May-September of 2017. But unlike steroids, where results were immediate and shocking (see Bonds, Barry on baseball reference), the results for the Astros were mixed: the team hit better on the road than at home, the elite players weren’t markedly better in 2017 than before or after, and the league did a terrible job communicating the rules and repercussions Moreover, the punishment, far from being negligible, was severe: loss of draft picks, maximum possible fine, loss of a good manager and perhaps the greatest GM in 21st century MLB. Sure, the players weren’t individually suspended, but that decision wasn’t some crazy side deal that the players cut for themselves, but a policy from MLBPA.

This is all just a sidebar, though. The real issue is Altuve. It’s been documented in the most conclusive way possible that Altuve didn’t like the system and let it be known. This isn’t that surprising. He’s an instinctive hitter with elite bat-to-ball skills. Why follow a system that takes away those instincts?

Yet still, Altuve has been mercilessly booed in every stadium from Spring 2020 all the way through October 2023. He has been the subject of vile jeers and relentless guilt-by-association. If a player rejected a cheating system in one season, it seems less, not more, likely that he would wear a buzzer in 2019. This was a rumor spread by an internet troll falsely presenting herself as Carlos Beltran’s niece. I can’t think of a less credibly source, yet the national media has taken this up, again and again. Imagine if I posted slander about you or someone you loved on the internet, and professional journalists took it seriously and relentlessly amplified it?

Certain professional athletes are jerks. Take the aforementioned Barry Bonds. Others are arrogant and entitled. Surely you’ve interviewed some of them. Isn’t it odd that amidst a chorus of hatred raining down for over four years that nobody, not a single person, has a bad thing to say about Jose Altuve? I mean, sure, they call him a cheater, but they have nothing bad to say about him. Nobody complains that he’s rude, or arrogant, or plays dirty, or plays the game the wrong way. Instead he’s almost universally regarded within baseball as one of the nicest, humblest, most generous and unassuming professional athletes they’ve ever covered. He’s the ultimate teammate. He’ll hit a huge HR and then credit his teammate in front of him for having a great AB. When the spotlight shines on him, he shines it elsewhere.

And it’s precisely because he’s the ultimate teammate, because he’s refused to defend his own actions and blame other teammates, that he’s been so mercilessly pilloried. Sports journalists outside of Houston have known this but consistently refused to defend him. Because they did nothing but pile on, they’ve left themselves in a bind because the Astros, unexpectedly, have not gone away. They have not receded from the national spotlight despite the loss of draft picks, the departures of Springer, Correa, Morton, and Cole, because they have the ultimate culture setters: Altuve and Bregman.

For Houston fans, we don’t just respect Altuve. We don’t just root for Altuve. We don’t just defend him. We don’t just wear his gear. We literally love Jose Altuve. We give him the love that he deserves from any fan of baseball but is denied because of the media’s total and complete failure to report the story fairly. Watch the documentary about Altuve’s origins You are not required to cheer or root for the Astros. You’re required to be an objective reporter. But I can say as a fan in my fifth decade of rooting for this team, there is no professional athlete in my memory who deserves not only the highest accolades as a player, but as a human being. He’s exactly the kind of professional athlete you want your children to look up to. By trying to be objective you will learn to love him.

Your worst day on the internet, a place you call ruthless, is probably mild compared to the 81+ games that Altuve spends on the road. A burden he wears largely because of bad media coverage. The bad media coverage that led you to say what you did. Watch that documentary and see the pure joy with which Altuve plays stick ball on a run-down field in Caracas, and see the smile that he used to have plastered on his face as the most likable player in professional sports. Now he wears a stone face on the road after every big hit. America has robbed itself of that smile. Do your part to bring it back by being truthful about Altuve.