As a disgruntled fan of their division rival the Seattle Mariners, the one thing I knew I wanted to do while traveling in Florida was attend a Houston Astros spring training game. If you haven’t been following the MLB offseason, the headlines have been dominated by the Astros cheating scandal that revealed they used an elaborate sign-stealing scheme involving cameras and trash cans to alert their players of incoming pitches. This tactic was used during their 2017 World Series-winning season and through part of the 2018 season.
While I can’t say I ever approve of cheating, I certainly understand it at such a high level. The MLB is a multi-billion dollar industry, and there are millions at stake for players in the playoffs. Therefore, I don’t think it’s fair for me to speculate what I would’ve done in that situation. However, the Astros’ “apologies” were what made me lose all respect for them.
The response that was most offensive to baseball fans came from the Astros owner, Jim Crane. In his first press conference following the scandal, Crane said the pitch-stealing scheme didn’t help the Astros win the World Series, only to backtrack less than a minute later. Later that day, many Astros players issued what was at best considered a partial apology. While many said they regretted the situation, most players refused to admit that their pitch stealing was the reason for their World Series championship.
All-star shortstop Carlos Correa spelled out how the Astros truly felt about the scandal in an article by ESPN.
“When you analyze the games, we won fair and square,” Correa said in the article. “We earned that championship.”
The Astros cheated, and they clearly wouldn’t have continued for so long unless they felt it gave them an advantage. The Astros’ apologies were basically them talking down to the rest of the league. I can’t even understand the arrogance that one must have to get caught cheating on such a large stage and only say that the cheating didn’t even affect the outcome. The Astros saying they would’ve won it all anyways made their apologies worse than saying nothing at all.
From the very first pitch of the game, my friend and I were quite unwelcome in our section, likely because we started the game by screaming at any Astros player involved in the cheating scandal. We were most vocal against Josh Reddick and Lance McCullers Jr., the two Astros from the 2017 and 2018 teams that were starting in the game I attended.
The family next to us was particularly concerned; the father even switched seats with his oldest son to provide a barrier between his family and our brazen disgust of the team they were supporting. However, it was a slow game and while we were loud we made sure to keep our language PG, so tempers cooled between us and the Astros faithful. They did briefly rise again when the opposing Nationals took the lead in the top of the ninth inning and we let the Astros players know they better get their trash cans ready for the bottom of the inning.
I think going to this game taught me one thing in particular: The majority of Astros fans feel the same way as the players. They believe they earned a World Series championship. Clearly, I see it differently. They cheated, and if it didn’t give them an advantage, why would they have risked tarnishing such a huge accomplishment?