The Houston Astros Road Ahead

Houston Astros

Houston Astros Road Ahead

There has been so much talk and speculation on what lies ahead for the 2020 Houston Astros. This is without a doubt the biggest scandal in the history of baseball and maybe all of the four major North American sports. The presence of social media is keeping this issue hot. Players and fans have made so many public statements that any policing done to the Astros that results in personal injury could have legal ramifications.

The players and especially the fans are expecting a very long season for the Houston Astros. They will get booed. They will get heckled. But the big question is where the line will be. How far is too far? Will the Astros be protected in any way? There are four groups who will have a hand in the protection of the Astros.

The Four Groups

MLB

MLB will do anything they can to keep the games peaceful. This will include heavy fines and suspensions for pitchers who police the Houston Astros. Commissioner Manfred will do what it takes to keep this from turning into beanbrawls every game. This despite the fans and players citing the lack of suspensions to the Astros players and not stripping the 2017 World Series from the Astros as justification in this scenario.

It has been established as a fact that MLB could not suspend any Astros player for cheating. The head of the MLBPA Tony Clark has all but confirmed that. If any player is still upset over that, then he should take it up with his union. Commissioner Manfred is not going to strip any titles, and rightfully so. What is that going to do? All that will accomplish is the players and fans moving on to complain about another issue.

If the Commissioner strips the Houston Astros of the 2017 title then every title ever won by a team with a player who took PEDs has to get stripped. Every record set by a PED user needs to be removed from the books. What good will it do? The Astros already celebrated the win. The title is already tainted in most people’s minds.

The 1919 Cincinnati Reds were never able to convince anyone outside of the Queen City that they were better than the Chicago White Sox that season. Right or wrong, public perception is extremely strong and undefeated.

MLBPA

Aside from the players, the MLBPA deserves a huge amount of blame in this scandal. The failure to control their own members should be highlighted. Players have cheated long after MLB was notified and warned the MLBPA. Why haven’t the players stopped? Why does it look like MLBPA head Tony Clark does not care about his members cheating the game he once played?

That may be a little harsh. But Clark knew, as he said in his statement, that MLB had no authority to suspend any of the players because it was not indicated in the rules. Now Clark has the other members of his union questioning MLB why the players were not suspended and have publicly said we are going to police the players. Clark has not successfully gagged his players, but recently, the public comments have slowed down considerably.

If we are to assume Clark has privately told his members to stay quiet and they are still talking about it, why would he protect those players from suspension when they are throwing at Astros batters? Yes, the union’s job is to protect all their members, but in this case, do they simply pick a side?

Currently it has been over a week since an Astros player has been hit by a pitch. Eleven teams have been hit more times and three teams have been hit the same amount of times. The two most logical explanations are that the season has not started yet and pitchers are still rusty or MLB and/or the MLBPA have already told the players to knock it off. We will find out later this month how this is going to play out.

Umpires

No one talks about the real people who are in charge of the game once the lineup cards are handed in. The umpires have their own union and their own set of concerns. Do you think the umpires are going to want to break up fights during every Houston Astros game? The umpires could very easily toss any pitcher who throws any pitch at the Astros players they feel is intentional. Then they will toss the manager too. Who is going to stop them once the game starts?

The Teams

This is yet another overlooked group of people. Imagine the perspectives of Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno or Executive Vice President and minority owner of the Oakland Athletics Billy Beane. Both want to win very badly. Will they be okay with their pitchers throwing at Astros players and getting suspended?

The Angels currently don’t have one of the best pitching staffs in the league. Losing any of their main pitchers will hurt their chances of winning games. We all know how creative the A’s are with their in-game strategy. Beane is a former player, so he knows about the game policing itself.

But at what point does Moreno or Beane tell their players to not forget their goal this season? It should be every team’s goal to win the World Series and not police the Houston Astros. The ultimate punishment any team can give the Astros is beating them on the field.

Fan Reaction

There has never been so much fan reaction to one incident as this one has created. Commissioner Manfred definitely did not expect this. Unlike the steroid era years ago, the explosion of social media — specifically Twitter — has given anyone with WiFi a voice. It is extremely easy to open up a Twitter account — after all, it is a free service. Twitter does state they have rules, but it seems like nothing is ever monitored.

Every fan can now just tweet anything whether they are informed of the situation or not. They can tweet whether they know and understand all the facts or not. They can tweet death threats and other vile things and have little-to-no consequences.

The tweet below shows just how bad this situation has become. It is one thing to be mad at the players who cheated and voice your displeasure. But it is certainly not okay to wish death on a player or his children who have nothing to do with this.

It is understandable for the fans to be angry with the Astros players. But that is where the line has to end.

At the Ballpark

There has been no shortage of material stating what awaits the Astros players when they play road games. They will be booed which is expected. They also can be the subject of vulgar insults during the game. But what can’t and won’t be tolerated is throwing dangerous objects onto the field.

All 30 teams in the Major League will not tolerate that kind of behavior. To fans who are upset: if you really believe that the Oakland Athletics or the New York Yankees will be so upset as to allow you to do what you want to the Astros players, then you will be in for surprise. You will be ejected from the stadium if you are lucky to not get arrested.

The umpires have the authority to declare a game a forfeit if in their opinion one of the teams is in danger. In that case, the team you are cheering for will take the loss. Just think about that. Is throwing objects on the field worth you getting arrested and your team taking a loss? I bet if a Yankee fan asks Aaron Judge, he will say, “Let us beat them on the field.”

Boo if you want but also remember this. There will be a father taking his young children to a baseball game. That father might not be able to afford to take his children to more than one game. Should he have to sit by and listen to fans screaming obscenities all game long? Do you not think the security in the stadium won’t throw you out for doing this?

Code of Conduct

Every MLB team has a code of conduct for their fans, and in most cases it will be many of the same rules. But those rules are not entirely uniform. Beginning with the 2018 season, MLB issued a code of conduct to be followed by all teams. After the 2017 incident at Fenway Park when Adam Jones was berated by racial slurs, MLB decided to put this into place.

The Boston Red Sox went as far as to add “hate speech” to their policy, and that includes a lifetime ban for any fan who violates this rule. Every team lists on their website the complete rules regarding the conduct while inside the stadium and what the fans can’t do. On the website for the Angels, for example, there is a list of what the rules are. The list includes the following:

  • Guests will enjoy events free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language and obscene gestures.
  • Guests who engage in throwing of objects or any other behavior that is deemed disruptive to other fans will be subject to immediate ejection from the stadium.
  • Fans are not permitted to bring in any type of noisemakers or musical instruments into the stadium. Exceptions to the rule are Angels team-issued items such as “Halo Sticks.”
  • Additionally, any signs or t-shirts that display vulgar language can be confiscated and could result in an ejection from the stadium.

We know a lot of these rules are either not enforced or overlooked. But security will be doubled and on high alert for every Houston Astros road game.

Season Tickets

Another overlooked scenario is what happens when fans throw objects at visiting players. There could be very serious consequences to these actions. Back in 1995, there was an incident during an NFL game where fans threw snowballs onto the field at the visiting team. It was at Giants Stadium during a game between the New York Giants and the San Diego Chargers. It had snowed during the week, and the majority of the snow had been removed except for directly under the seats.

An equipment manager for the Chargers was struck by an ice ball and was knocked unconscious. The fans continued to throw the snow and ice onto the field despite being warned that the game could be ruled a forfeit by the Giants. Giants owner Wellington Mara had said if the referees had declared the game a forfeit it would have been justified.

The Giants then did a thorough investigation by examining videos and asking for other fans to confirm where those fans were sitting. As is their right, the Giants took away those season tickets from the owners of those seats. It did not matter that the owners of those seats were not using those tickets that day. So whether you are selling seats on secondary markets like Stub Hub or if you are just giving away the tickets to friends, the owner of those tickets still lost them. If you are a season ticket holder, are you prepared to lose your seats because you or others feel the need to police the Astros in any way other than booing them?

Going Forward

The fans want blood, but they won’t get it. It is true the Houston Astros players did not get any punishment handed to them by MLB. But they will now have to live with what they did. The admitted cheating has tainted the championship they won. Also, for players like Jose Altuve, this scandal can definitely hurt his Hall of Fame chances. This is not nearly enough for a lot of fans. But it will eventually have to be enough. MLB has made their ruling and it will not change.

As for what the other players will do this is another story. There will be edicts handed down from MLB and the MLBPA preventing the players from policing the Astros. That might not seem fair to a lot of people, and it’s not. But this is the way the system is run, like it or not.

The MLBPA had done a great job over the years of getting their players paid lots of money while providing them protection from suspension. This can’t be denied. If this scandal was a snake it has many heads. It’s always the case that the innocent parties are the victims. We can only hope that these innocent people do not take matters into their own hands.

So, please, boo the players if you want. Some good old fashioned heckling is fine too. But don’t cross that line.

 

 

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