The large scale reaction from the entire baseball community regarding the seismic findings of MLB’s investigation regarding the cheating of the 2017 Houston Astros has been negative, and appropriately so. The media and fans alike feel that the asterisk that has been permanently branded upon the 2017 World Series Champions tarnishes the game of baseball, and damages its reputation and integrity. These beliefs are completely justified and appropriate. Yet … what if this ordeal, in the long run, will actually end up being beneficial for Major League Baseball?
When first pondering this, those who love the game of baseball will likely gasp in disbelief. “How could cheating be good for the game?”, “How could three managers and one general manager losing their jobs be good for the sport?”, and “How could a lovable World Series team having an asterisk attached to it forever help the game?” These would be the reactions of the logical fans and media members should they be presented this claim. Once again, they would be completely justified.
They would also be fundamentally incorrect. The social media firestorm borne from the truth of the ‘17 Astros is unlike anything the league has ever seen. In this day and age, the unmistakable truth is that “any publicity is good publicity”. Whether traditional baseball fans like it or not, stories that make national headlines aid the game’s following and viewership in a time when social media reigns supreme.
The NBA’s Twitter following has become nearly cult-like in recent years, with drama and pettiness galore. The NFL has seen its fair share of this as well, although football is already the most popular sport in the nation by far, so its social media presence is not quite as important for its longevity. Baseball is behind the times in numerous senses, but the most critical aspect of MLB that is far too old-fashioned is its ability, or lack thereof, to make waves on social media.
The NBA has had countless instances of hilarious and gripping moments on Twitter, from when then Los Angeles Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin held teammate DeAndre Jordan captive in his home in order to make sure he re-signed with the club as a free agent in 2015.
Another incredible moment on NBA Twitter also involved the Clippers, when after a 2018 win versus the Houston Rockets it was alleged that a fight nearly broke out in the locker room tunnel of the Staples Center. The whole saga took place in real-time on Twitter, with a number of accounts reporting on the action and a myriad of memes inspired by the night.
The phenomenon of NBA Twitter has exponentially expanded the game’s popularity and fanbase. It has inserted the sport directly into today’s popular culture, which is exactly what baseball so direly needs. MLB’s popularity on Twitter has never been in the same realm as the NBA’s. Not even close. Until Thursday.
News of MLB’s investigation and its findings became public on Monday, which in itself caused a ripple effect that resulted in the firings of Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, and Mets manager Carlos Beltrán. The news, rumors, and speculation have swirled all week, but they came to a breaking point yesterday.
The entire day was a whirlwind of finger-pointing and conspiracy theories galore that were summed up in this amazing Mean-Girls-inspired parody. Yesterday began with Jomboy, a rising star in baseball media, speculating that the Astros’ cheating went far beyond what was originally believed. He highlighted a Twitter account whose owner claimed to be the niece of the disgraced Beltrán, who alleged that Astros players had at times had buzzers under their jerseys in order to more easily alert them to which pitch was coming. José Altuve’s obvious effort to stop his teammates from tearing off his jersey after his ALCS-clinching homer in 2019 was supposedly proof of this wild theory.
The Tweets from Beltrán’s “niece” came into public focus in part because of Jomboy, whose tweet that featured them now has more than twenty-six thousand likes. Reds’ pitcher Trevor Bauer, who has his own history of beef with the Astros, stirred the pot even further when he backed up Jomboy’s claims.
However, ESPN’s Marly Rivera shot down the conspiracy theories with verification that the account did not, in fact, have any affiliation whatsoever with the Beltrán family.
Thursday’s insanity reached another level when video reached Twitter of ESPN analyst and Mets’ employee Jessica Mendoza. Mendoza was interviewed on ESPN about the Astros scandal, where she made outlandish and ridiculous claims stating that former Astros pitcher and whistleblower Mike Fiers was out of line, and that he should not have gone public with any allegations of wrongdoing.
Twitter greeted Mendoza with massive backlash, as they should have.
Perhaps the most bizarre conspiracy of the day involved the (usually) universally beloved Mike Trout. David Brosius, the son of former Major Leaguer Scott Brosius, took to Instagram to accuse that Trout has been taking the noted performance-enhancing-drug HGH, and that he has been for years while MLB has swept it under the rug. Obviously, this is a crazy (and likely unfounded) conspiracy theory, yet it swept through Twitter like a firestorm nonetheless.
MLB Twitter was ablaze yesterday, with additional comments from the likes of MLB players Cody Bellinger, Alex Wood, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Gómez, Noah Syndergaard, the aforementioned Trevor Bauer, the retired Mark Teixeira, and Hall-of-Famer Mike Piazza.
This brand of chaos is exactly what baseball needs. This offseason has been more active and news-filled than any MLB winter has been in years. It is the middle of January – right in the middle of the College Football Championship and the NFL playoffs – and people are talking about baseball. It cannot be emphasized enough how truly incredible this is. While it may be for the wrong reasons, baseball has received a shockwave of attention this week – and nothing could be better for the league in the long run.