Truth No. 1: The Astros’ cheating scandal was as disgraceful as it was disgusting and will forever taint the careers of those involved. The intricacies of the deception were astounding. The lack of sincerity in the apologies was astonishing.
We’ve seen a bungled news conference from team owner Jim Crane, who said the cheating had no bearing on games’ outcomes. We’ve heard the tone-deaf address from Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, who referred to the World Series trophy as a mere “piece of metal.”
We’ve entertained tattoo-related excuses surrounding second baseman Jose Altuve, watched a profanity-laced video from shortstop Carlos Correa, and observed what seems to be a new detail emerging every day.
It has been a study in dishonesty and disingenuousness — and there’s no telling when it all might cool down.
Truth No. 2: This might all be great for the game.
Never before has MLB felt so much like WWE. Spring training interviews are starting to resemble prematch promos.
Reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger went on the offensive last week when he said that Houston “stole the (World Series) ring” from the Dodgers in 2017, and that Altuve robbed the Yankees’ Aaron Judge of the American League MVP honors that same season.
Reigning American League MVP Mike Trout expressed disappointment that no players were punished in the scandal, and that it would be “pretty fun” if he got to go up to the plate knowing what pitches were coming.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, the 2016 National League MVP, also expressed dismay about the lack of player punishment, and said what the Astros did was worse than the steroids scandal.
And Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner called Manfred “out of touch” for referring to the World Series trophy as a piece of metal, saying “I don’t know if the commissioner has ever won anything in his life.”
All the best marketing minds in the world wouldn’t have been able to come up with a plot this intriguing heading into the season. The incessantly loathed Yankees suddenly look lovable next to Houston.
Have you checked the over/under for how many times certain Astros are going to get plunked by an opposing pitcher this season? Alex Bregman is coming in at 10.5, George Springer’s at 8.5, and Altuve and Yuli Gurriel are at 6.5 HBPs apiece.
You’d think a scandal of this proportion might suck the interest out of a sport. But often the best way to drum up enthusiasm is to unite against a common enemy.
The signs in the stands are going to be incredible whenever the ‘Stros come to town. The memes on the internet already are.
If the Astros succeed? It’s only going add intrigue to the season. If they fail? It will lead to schadenfreude enjoyed by all.
Besides, MLB might be the most resilient sports league in the world. You’d think the steroids scandal would have broken it the way doping did the Tour de France, but it didn’t. Last year, the league’s revenue increased for the 17th consecutive season as it reached $10.7 billion.
As long as there is no work stoppage like there was in 1994, then baseball thrives. This will continue in 2020.
In the meantime, we can expect a new quote to go viral every time a player or manager is asked about the Astros. And we can expect equally vehement responses from Houston players as the situation intensifies.
Details on this story will continue to roll out, as will speculation, frustration and anger.
But wild as this situation is, it isn’t turning eyes away from the game. If anything, it’s luring more in.