In the fallout of the punishment from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, the biggest losers are the fans, whose championship is forever tarnished.
Every baseball fan who’s been waiting for a championship for their team dreams of what it will be like when their team finally wins it all. What will the final play look like? How will it feel to finally see it happen? Will the wait have been worth it?
After a 55-year wait, Houston Astros fans got to see what it was like in 2017, as they celebrated when Charlie Morton got Corey Seager to ground out to second base at Dodger Stadium to seal a 5-1, Game 7 victory in the World Series. I imagine many Astros fans have gotten on YouTube and watched that moment over and over again.
A little over two years later, that moment is forever tainted, as MLB came down on the Houston Astros on Monday for stealing signs during their 2017 championship run. The team was hit hard, as they lost multiple draft picks, were fined $5 million, and lost their manager and general manager, with the team decideding to fire A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow, respectively, after they were suspended for one year for their role.
As the Astros appear to be in disarray, with just a few weeks until the start of spring training, we can feel either sympathy or contempt for all those who were involved. We can debate whether the punishment was fair or where the Astros will go from here as they prepare for the 2020 season. Yet that loses sight of what matters the most: all those Astros fans who might no longer be able to enjoy the memories of that magical 2017 season.
If I were an Astros fan, I’m trying to imagine how I would be feeling right now. I imagine I’d feel lost. Betrayed. Scammed. I’d feel like that whole season when my dreams finally came true was a big lie. I can’t even imagine what they must be going through.
There’s no question that the Astros needed to be punished for what they did, and the league may not have even gone far enough. Yet it doesn’t seem right that the fans will be punished along with everyone who was actually involved in the scandal, as the punishments will likely — at the very least — make it more challenging to field a good team over the next few years.
It’s too bad that there’s not anything that MLB can do to make up for what’s happened to Astros fans. Much like the strike of 1994, which wiped out the postseason and may have doomed baseball in Montreal, or the use of steroids that was rampant back in the 1990s, we can’t go back and change the past. The hard truth is that the Astros failed their fans and their community. And it’s hard to say at this point whether that damage can ever be undone.
Then again, maybe to some fans it was worth it and they don’t feel a thing in the fallout, as they wear their World Series champion shirts and remember where they were on those nights.
Hopefully, this scandal will not turn many fans away from the great game of baseball. Hopefully, the kids especially will come back to the game next year and beyond. And I think they will.
Yet this scandal is just another example of how difficult it is to be a fan of what is ultimately a game when the business side of the game gets in the way. We can only hope that baseball in Houston, and everywhere else, will come out of this stronger than ever.