An Apology from an Astros Fan
As I was cleaning out my closet, I ended up counting how many sports jerseys and hats I owned. A majority of them were Houston Astros merchandise. I looked at my gold World Series jersey and hat and asked myself a question “Can I still wear this proudly?” I have been vocal online discussing with other fans which most were Yankees and also Dodgers fans. Some I trolled for entertainment and some I had a decent back and forth discussion where I believe a solution can be reached. I write this now with only good intentions and hope that baseball fans everywhere can come together on some common ground.
Where anger and hate can dissipate and punishment, healing and redemption can begin. I ask now for forgiveness for what short comings my statements may have. For my knowledge in baseball is average but my love for the sport and my team is comparable to any other fan who publicly declares their love for baseball.
First and foremost, the reason the anger remains and some may say increasing is due to the fact that the punishment does not fit the crime. When I first heard of the scandal, no one knew what the punishment would be. However, most logical people including Astros fans would theorize that returning the trophy makes sense, suspensions, fines, firings…for me, I went further and thought that perhaps this team was ineligible to play for a whole year. Or perhaps the suspensions of key players (if there were a lot), would be staggered throughout the season. I say this not to say that I know what commissioners should do.
I wouldn’t know the first thing about that job title and its responsibilities. I only thought of this because it felt like a punishment that would be as close to equal to the crime.
So when I heard that AJ Hinch (coach) and Jeff Lunhow (GM) were suspended for a year, my heart broke. That’s like removing Bill Belichik from the Patriots. I understood, accepted and said “Ok we will suck for a year but he’ll be back”. Then Jim Crane (owner) announced shortly after that both of them were fired. My heart broke again for the second time within the hour. Again I accepted and never protested. I prepared my heart for more bad news to come.
When I came to learn later on that, that was the extent of the punishment and that the players themselves were given immunity in exchange for their cooperation, I was astounded. I remained quiet because I was conflicted once more. Many fans from opposing teams were understandably upset as a nice way to put it. I remember how much people demanded an apology and I would respond and just say “I heard they were addressing this issue closer to Spring Training”.
When the players themselves remained quiet until Spring Training, I understood that it was damage control. Perhaps they were buying their time, waiting for the flame to die down or they wanted to come together to speak as one voice or all of the above. The waiting wasn’t helpful for fans of other teams.
So when the conference finally came, I thought ok, after this, we should all be able to move on. But somehow, the apology seemed to have made things worse. I remember feeling a lot of things at the same time. I sat back and listened and put myself in a position as the opposing team and the opposing fans.
What I hear in unison is that people want to hear the words “we cheated” or “I cheated”. This seems to mean more than “we broke the rules”. If the Astros are asking for forgiveness and words are part of the things they can offer, why not say the words? Even if the statements seems synonymous enough, the people are telling you what they need to hear. Words are free.
Also, when Mr Crane was asked if the usage of technology had any effect on the World Series, he said no at first then said something different later. Lance McCullers Jr (Astros pitcher) was asked a similar question and he answered something close to “no, it didn’t affect the World Series because I know what it takes to win”. The “Apology” meeting has added fuel to the fire and has opened up a back and forth of arguments between players. One example was Cody Bellinger’s opinion on Altuve stealing an MVP title in 2017 which in turn has lead to Carlos Correa defending his friend. Do we want to be the team that pulls out a calendar that has to differentiate between “we beat you fair and square on this day but not this day?”
The debate back and forth has to stop. I love you Astros but you guys opened the door on this. You opened the door to questioning our integrity. We cannot be upset or defensive about it now. We made our bed, now we must lay in it.
Now for those who may say that other teams are cheating too and are not being investigated, that is true and I agree. At the same time, I want people to think about speeding when they’re driving. We all know people who speed. Heck, we all probably do it and none of us feel any guilt towards it when we choose to do it. However, if you don’t ever want to pay for a ticket, then you must make a conscious decision not to speed at all. That is the only way to guarantee not ever receiving one. Most of us speed because we know they cannot catch all of us. We, as Astros fans, cannot be mad now that our team got caught but other’s did not. Our team should have never took a peak inside pandora’s box because you cannot control or predict what damage this small opening can do.
One of the reasons why this situation is worsening is due to the fact that the anger has nowhere to go as if there isn’t a system in place to get justice. There is. Many people feel that justice wasn’t served and some are suggesting to let it be taken on the field with intentional hitting of Astros players. I ask fans and players everywhere to take a pause here and think. We as people should never let our anger drive us. Everyone complains about Astros getting away with their crime and I can empathize. But now I ask for all of us to act better. Baseball can be a dangerous game as is. No one’s life is worth risking in exchange for a false equivalent of justice. It would not be justice to break someone’s arm or worse. Let us remember, these men are also fathers, husbands, sons and brothers. We have to be better than this and not lose sight of what is important.
Let us put the spotlight on MLB again. With all the rule changes they applied this year, shouldn’t they clarify the one addressing the use of technology to steal signs? Or more importantly, a detailed result of what the punishment is for players or employees who participate or aware of illegal sign stealing? Also, how does MLB feel justified in granting their immunities? For what is the value of the truth if punishments continue to be vague and on a case by case basis?
The punishment doesn’t make sense when you think of it as justice. The punishment makes sense when you remember that this has always been a money making business. Think of all the merchandise and tickets that were sold under the guise of World Series/Champions? Also, think of how much money MLB and the Astros will lose if the stars of the team were suspended or ineligible to play? They always say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. The Astros is the team to hate. Rumors are already out that Yankees and Dodgers fans have united in hate to see the Astros lose in Anaheim. Are we as fans punishing the same establishment we detest, or are we distracted and giving them more of our hard earned money?
As for the Houston Astros, you guys opened the door to questioning everything. We have to own that. We can only be transparent now. Offer more words only if it leads to healing. You guys have so much more to prove. Every win will be questioned. Every loss will be taunted. A decent performance on the field will be interpreted as showing our mediocrity due to our inability to cheat. We have to rebuild everything from scratch. Your fans are relying on you. All of baseball hopes that from now on, the game we love will only be played fairly. And the Houston Astros are in a place where they can help rebuild this trust again for all of baseball depending on how this team acts this 2020 season.
And now I go back to my closet and look at my World Series hat and gold Astros Jersey. I cannot, in good conscience wear this proudly or publicly. This, I freely give up, as my part as a fan in the redemption and healing process. I also ask for forgiveness on behalf of the Houston Astros and some fans. We as Texans, can be hard headed as our motto suggests “Don’t mess with Texas”. But besides being headstrong or as most of us just say Houston Strong, we are also humble and also honorable. We all become emotional when it comes to the things we love but at the same time, I believe we all have one important thing in common. We love baseball and we all want the game to be played fairly as this is an American ideology we all share.
I can only hope that at some point we can put this behind us and each of us must make that decision in our own time. I also forgive the Houston Astros. Part of me believes we never needed to cheat to win but we will never know now. The only thing my team can do is prove it on the field as all of our teams must every year. My loyalty to this team has never wavered. I believe this will be the last time the Astros will participate in anything remotely like this. Right is right and wrong is wrong. And only when we are honest with ourselves can we really put the pieces back together.
A Houston Astros Fan