The Tampa Bay Rays just became America’s favorite baseball team.
For the second time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Rays are four wins away from making a trip to the World Series. The last time around was a success, with the Rays stunning the Boston Red Sox with a Game 7 win in 2008.
This time around, the Rays will have to go through the Houston Astros — a team that essentially every baseball fan is rooting against. There are two pools of baseball fans heading into this year’s ALCS: Fans in Houston rooting for the Astros, and then the rest of the known universe rooting against them.
Of course, the reason for this is that the Astros getting busted for cheating back in 2017 is not something baseball fans are as willing to overlook as MLB seems to be. Houston allegedly used trash cans to bang on in order to signal pitches to their batters. The Rays, well aware of the narrative, celebrated their ALDS victory on Friday by smashing up all of their clubhouse trash cans.
America, meet your new favorite baseball team.
Houston was lightly punished over the offseason after the cheating scandal was revealed. Manager A.J. Hinch was fired, the team was fined, but the World Series title was not removed and no players were suspended for their actions. Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran served as fall guys as well, losing their managerial gigs in Boston and New York, but given the severity of what happened the punishment did not fit the crime.
Once again: The Houston Astros cheated to get a competitive advantage and ended up with a World Series in 2017. MLB didn’t think that was a big deal, at least not based on the punishment.
The arguments made defending the Astros were that, much like the use of PEDs, the team was already World Series caliber and the trash can cheating element was just an extra edge. While that’s extremely stupid and the definition of cheating, that specific argument is being backed up by the Astros run. MLB expanded its playoffs to allow for new teams to have a chance at getting to a World Series in a shortened season, but what happened was it allowed the Astros to sneak in and then run roughshod. The Astros would become the first team in MLB history to make the World Series with a losing record if they beat the Rays, which in the warped minds of Astros defenders is exactly the reason why the cheating scandal is not a big deal.
Houston is a good baseball team and doesn’t need to cheat, and this postseason run is seemingly proof. That’s the argument, and that’s the narrative that the Rays are going to attempt to bash to pieces much like they did their clubhouse trash cans.