Both the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves have made it through the gauntlet of Major League Baseball’s postseason and are set to begin the World Series at Minute Maid Park tonight. Many fans have a pretty strong rooting interest in this year’s Fall Classic because of the despicable cheating committed by the Astros during the 2017 season that resulted in them winning the title. Everyone wants to see Houston fail now that the playing field is supposedly even, but since the massive scandal came to light following the 2019 campaign, the Astros have kept on winning. They fell in the ALCS during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but they’re back in the main event this time around.
I’ve been doing nothing but rooting for more Astros success. Not only would another world championship legitimize the 2017 team as a group that could have reached the pinnacle of baseball without stealing signs, but it would tell all the holier-than-though critics to shove it. That’s right, no one should like cheating, but a lot of the fans who turned into Houston haters overnight seem to be under the assumption that no one else has tried to steal a sign via camera or other shady method.
Based on the career paths of the ringleaders of the trash can scheme, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, I’m convinced that at least two other teams were trying out similar systems in their own clubhouses. After winning the World Series with the Astros in 2017, Cora left to manage the Boston Red Sox for the next two seasons before the scandal was still under wraps. Not only were his Red Sox investigated for a similar sign-stealing system, but Cora implied that the Yankees were also up to no good during the 2019 London Series.
Beltran was working as a special advisor for the Yankees at the time in his first baseball role following his playing career, which ended after the 2017 season. It sure seems like the the two big American League East powers were implementing similar sign-stealing systems to the one that brought Cora and Beltran success on the 2017 Astros. And why wouldn’t they? They won in Houston and now found themselves in high-pressure organizations where winning is even more important.
Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa continue to be the faces of the scandal who are booed in stadiums across the country. Meanwhile, it seems likely that Beltran was cooking up something similar for the Yankees, whose fans loathe the Astros almost as much as they do the Red Sox. A Houston victory in this World Series would enrage Yankees fans and others who want to see some karmic justice done on Correa and Altuve. For me, it would just prove that those guys have always been the real deal.
That brings us to the Braves. I usually can’t stand the Braves. It is pretty hilarious that despite all of their success in the 1990s and beyond, they have only won one World Series since moving to Atlanta in 1966. Some things are bigger than sports, though, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred proved that when he moved the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver this spring.
In doing so, Manfred violated one of my favorite constants about sports. Sports is supposed to be a unifying factor that doesn’t have anything to do with politics. It’s supposed to be what we can tune into to get away from all the bickering going on between our government leaders in the “real world.” Sports teams and sports leagues shouldn’t choose sides in political debates unless those debates directly affect the sports and teams in question. When Manfred moved the All-Star Game because of a voting law that had nothing to do with baseball, he was putting baseball in a spot where it didn’t belong.
Of course the losers in this case weren’t the politicians that were trying to pass a law that Manfred and his corporate sponsors didn’t like. The losers were the people of Altanta, no matter what their political affiliation. Instead of celebrating Hank Aaron’s life and legacy where he hit his record-breaking 715th home run, MLB did so in Denver, where there was no MLB team until 1993. All so baseball could be used as a political tool instead of the unifying factor that it was meant to be. Horrible.
I don’t know if MLB plans on fixing this error in judgement by granting Atlanta an All-Star Game in the future, but at least Manfred will have to face the prospect of handing the Commissioner’s Trophy to the city he screwed over. If that were to happen in Truist Park, the fan reaction would be something to behold for all time.
So now I have to choose between rooting for Houston to stick another world title in their critics’ faces or for Atlanta to avenge the theft of an All-Star Game. Hopefully the World Series just being in Atlanta is enough, because I can’t see myself pulling against Correa, who continues to be one of my favorite players in the game. His new watch celebration is putting him over the top.