In a normal postseason year, bandwagons for teams hoping for a chance at winning a World Series fill up with casual supporters who are willing to devote their time and energy to rooting for a different team. There’s a myriad of reasons to do this.
- Want Clayton Kershaw to win a ring? Root for the Dodgers.
- Genuinely enjoy the play of Ronald Acuña, Jr. and Freddie Freeman? Root for the Braves.
- Big fan of small-market teams taking on high salary lineups? Let me introduce you to the Tampa Bay Rays.
However, if you’re looking for a more personal connection to a bandwagon, you have a very solid option in 2020: The Anti-Astros Bandwagon.
To call it the Anti-Astros bandwagon is not entirely fair, I suppose. It’s less of a choice to join and more of a calling. After this past offseason’s discoveries, it was clear to every MLB fan that the Astros were in the wrong. To make matters worse, the Astros were knowingly in the wrong. The Astros made the choice to cheat.
And since the MLB’s investigation wrapped up, the Astros haven’t been the most contrite group of people. José Altuve’s 2017 AL MVP award came into focus as the cheating scandal emerged. While Altuve apologized generally for the Astros wrongdoing, he never addressed his MVP award and the lack of honor that comes in winning a tainted award.
His teammate Carlos Correa did have some things to say.
“José Altuve was the one guy that didn’t use the trash can,” Correa told Ken Rosenthal. “The few times that the trash can was banged was without his consent, and he would go inside the clubhouse and inside the dugout to whoever was banging the trash can and he would get (upset). He would get mad. He would say, ’I don’t want this. I can’t hit like this. Don’t you do that to me.’ He played the game clean.”
“The reason José Altuve apologized to the media was for being part of the team and for not stopping it. But he’s not apologizing for using the trash can. He’s not apologizing for cheating because he did not cheat … José Altuve earned that MVP, and he’s been showing that for years.”
And then right after their Wild Card sweep of the Twins, Correa added fuel to the fire.
“I know a lot of people are mad, I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said to The Athletic. “But what are they going to say now? We’re a solid team. We play great baseball. We won a series on the road, in Minnesota. So what are they going to say now?”
First off, winning a series in Minnesota is historically easy to do. That’s not a difficult task. Teams do it all the time.
Secondly, Carlos, haters are going to say the same things. Your former manager and GM are suspended for a year, and you yourself only talked after being granted immunity. You were immune to the punishment, but not innocent of the crime.
And so as the under-.500 Astros trotted into the ALCS with that same swagger and attitude as they’ve become known for over the last three years, the majority of baseball fans grew angry. This isn’t right. This sucks.
And for a brief moment, in the midst of the worst year we all can hope to live through, as we count down the days to an election that seems sure to divide us even further, the Houston Astros gave us a gift.
The Astros allowed us to unite against evil.
I know that’s hard for a lot of Astros fans to hear, but as someone who has supported a team with a tough history in regards to cheating, you’ve gotta stop fighting it. People will hate from now until forever. It’s like you ruined someone’s wedding by streaking through the first dance and belly-flopping on the cake. Don’t expect people to forget that any time soon.
But for the rest of us, this is the moment we’ve been waiting for. Finally, united in one voice, albeit separated and isolated, we can boo the Astros as loud as we want. Rather than waiting for the Astros to come to a city near you, we can all throw our support behind the Tampa Bay Rays and hope that justice is done.
And there are some real risks going into this ALCS for those of us who are anti-Astros. The Astros torched the Twins, and cleanly dispatched the Athletics, proving they’re a solid ballclub. You have to know that, you have to acknowledge that. So if the Astros advance to the World Series, the hate will magnify, but it might also motivate the Astros even more.
Because the other side of this is that the Astros feed off that hate, it’s a motivator. In the same way that Barstool sold “New England vs. Everybody” shirts and “Detroit vs. Everybody” shirts sell out. It’s a rallying cry. It’s a motivator.
When the masses swarm in large numbers against you, it’s easy to fall into the David role versus their Goliath. The Astros are fighting to prove their ability, to prove their legacies, to prove they didn’t need to cheat.
It truly is the Houston Astros vs. Everybody. And that mentality swings both ways.
However, as they’ve face elimination at the hands of the small budget organization in Tampa Bay, there’s a bit of sweet irony coming into play. A team that is made up of scrappy, young ballplayers on minimal contracts, playing their game and showing the world what they can do.
After winning the game’s most prestigious honor by cheating, the Astros are one loss away from doing the thing they tried to avoid for the last few years: losing to a better team.
Goliath always has to keep an eye out for Davids, because those slingshot wielding heroes can come at you fast.
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