A few more assorted thoughts on the sordid Astros:

–What I’d like to see this spring and summer: Before Jose Altuve comes to bat at opposing ballparks, this video should play on the Jumbotron:

–By the way, watch that video again if you have not in awhile. Methinks that Ken Rosenthal was already wise to this scheme before this interview. He’d heard whispers, most likely from players on opposing teams. Listen to the question he asks directly before the Columbo question. Rosenthal inquires, “Going around the bases, what was going through your mind?”

Interesting question in hindsight, no? What was going through Altuve’s mind was, How do I keep my guys from blowing this for us with their over-exuberance? When Rosenthal did not get the honest answer, and he never expected to, of course, he got a little more specific:

“You asked your teammates not to tear your shirt. Why?”

As has been pointed out by others, Altuve asks, “What?” even though he heard the question. He’d heard every other question. But this time he asked, “What?” Why? Because the bluntness of the question surprised him. And as liars do when caught, he instinctively replied with a question to buy himself a moment to think of a decent excuse. Textbook.

But I think Rosenthal already knew.

–Why use a buzzer instead of banging on a trash can? Because Games 6 or 7 at Minute Maid can get pretty loud. That’s my presumption. All of the Astros to a player denied using buzzers when they met with the media on Thursday. I don’t believe them. You may. I don’t.

–Why were Carlos Beltran and Joey Cora fired as managers on other teams (they were with the Astros in 2017, of course) but none of the players who took part have been suspended? I understand the guaranteed immunity deal, but it seems odd that you are able to fire managers but not players when all were involved in the same scam.

–Maybe I’m repeating myself, but whoever is advising the Astros in P.R. (remember their terrible handling of when the former GM went on his misogynistic rant after the ALCS win?) these past six months is as bad as you’ll find. The supposition that the players could simply apologize and hope to “move on” is unbelievably myopic and lacking in self-awareness.

This is the defining moment of their careers. Not a World Series title. Nor an MVP trophy. And unlike players/teams in most sports, EVERYONE loathes them now. Every team in MLB is united in despising the Astros. From the long view perspective, commish Rob Manfred would’ve actually been doing the Astros a favor had he stripped them of their World Series rings and suspended each player involved for at least one year. Then at least they could have said they’d paid their debt.

But they haven’t. Not even close. So this scandal will continue to linger. And fans, instead of taunting them for being cheaters, will instead be openly hostile because not only have they cheated but it feels as if they really weren’t punished for it. Fans will demand justice. So will opposing players.

Mark these words: this will have a lingering psyche on these players for years. Eventually some will answer their crisis of conscience by perhaps confessing everything that went on, but if these Astros believe an “Us Against The World” mentality will buffet them through 2020, they’re wrong. Because deep down most of these players know that they deserve to be punished.

–Someone else brought it up, but it’s on the nose. If Jim Crane really wants anyone to think that the sign-stealing scheme had no impact, then he should volunteer his pitchers to inform opposing batters what they are about to throw. Even for just one three-game series. Let’s see how that works out.

–By the way, what if in future years we learn that the moon landings really were a fraud? Houston would be home to the two biggest frauds of the last half-century. Something to rub your chin thoughtfully about and ponder.

–There’s a difference between gamesmanship and cheating. If a runner leading off second is sharp enough to interpret a catcher’s signals and relay that info to the hitter, bully for him. And them. That’s not cheating. That’s just using your brain. Besides, the difference is more than just technology being used. The difference is that the opposing pitcher and catcher are aware of this cat-and-mouse game they’re playing with the batter and baserunner. It’s all out in the open. What the Astros were doing was slimy and clandestine.

Justin Verlander said that he could’ve done more. He strongly intimated that he’d spoken up against it, that he’d been overruled, and that he remained silent. But that he regrets it.

That’s not good enough.

There were a lot of players in Houston’s clubhouse, younger players, who would have forfeited their careers had they narc’ed on their teammates. But not Verlander. He’s already a two-time Cy Young Award winner, an AL MVP, and a future Hall of Famer. Verlander could’ve stood up in the clubhouse and insisted that this stops now or else I’m going public. And if y’all want to blackball me, go ahead, because there are 29 other franchises who would only be too happy to welcome me.

That would’ve taken courage. And integrity. But Verlander wouldn’t have paid for it with his career. In fact, he’d have been lauded for it. However, in his moment of truth, Verlander failed. We are judged, rightfully so, by the decisions we make and the actions we take in our moments of truth. Verlander failed.

–Now new manager Dusty Baker is coming out and asking MLB to discipline pitchers who bean his batters. Shut up, Dusty. No one’s done a thing yet and you’re preemptively getting your self-righteous anger up? Stop. I guess you needed to be a manager so badly that you took this job. You deserve what you signed up for: managing the most-hated team in baseball (to not wear pinstripes) in decades.

–The Astros have cheated the game far more than Pete Rose ever did. I’ve heard people say that Rose, by not betting on his team some nights, was basically saying he expected them to lose. People who say that don’t understand gambling.

I’m not excusing entirely what Rose did, but how he bet (as a manager, remember, not as a player) simply demonstrated that he was a shrewd wagerer. Bet on the sure things. Stay away from toss-ups. The inference that by not betting Rose was in any way acting to compromise his team’s chances of winning is absurd. Moreover, and this is important, Pete Rose is one of the two most competitive sumbithces ever to lace up spikes. The other is Ty Cobb.

Pete Rose had a gambling problem. Probably still does. But he was never going to cheat the fans or cheat the game. Sorry.

Rose’s scandal took place about 30 years ago, at a time when people in charge were still willing to do what was right no matter how much it seemed, in the short term, to damage the integrity of the game. Or to sully it by keeping a scandal in the papers. No one was too big to jail/too big to fail. Men in charge, like Bart Giamatti (Paul’s dad), did what was necessary, as opposed to what was expedient.

Over and over again in the past decade or so, from the TARP bailout to the U.S. Senate acquitting Donald Trump to the commissioner giving Houston a slap on the wrists, people in power excuse the cheaters and crooks because no one wants to disrupt the money being generated. The problem is that their short-term solutions have long-term consequences. The general public no longer believes in justice. In fair play. In the rule of law. And so when the rest of us see that the big fish can get away with whatever they want simply because the system is loathe to rebuke itself, well, why should the rest of us retain or exercise virtue? There’s no upside to doing the right thing.

The Astros are just the latest example, based on the punishment Rob Manfred gave them, that crime pays. It’s one thing for gangsters to be espousing that mantra. It’s another when our top branches of government and our national pastime do as well.

The Astros organization, at the very least, should be stripped of their World Series and ALCS titles and banned from the game for a season. That would go a little in the direction of healing the game.

–Someone suggested that opposing teams could ban together and refuse to play the Astros. I’ve thought about the idea of having a pitcher bean an Astro, being tossed, and his replacement doing the same. Ibid. Ibid. Op Cit. Until the umpire tosses every pitcher from the game. Do I think that will happen? No. Would I like to see it happen? Yup.

–I’ve been thinking of that final scene in The Departed. Matt Damon, bag of groceries in hand, gets the stank eye from the lady in the elevator. Then he walks into his apartment only to find Donnie Wahlberg staring at him, wearing gloves and boots and a haz-mat suit. Pointing a silencer directly at Damon. And for just a split-second Damon reacts with surprise and shock, as if he’s about to make a plea, and then just one moment before Wahlberg fires, Damon’s visage changes. There’s a nod of acceptance. Of acquiescence as if to say, “Yeah, I deserve this.”

That’s what is going to happen to the Astros this season. Are they really going to get upset when they take one in the ribs? Or are they going to know deep-down that, Yeah, I deserve this. Because they do.


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