On the surface, that reads like a trick question. But it is not.
In a world where clicks, likes, and retweets are the best mode to create a “BRAND”, being talked about, even negatively, is better than not being talked about at all.
This leads us to the Houston Astros electronic sign-stealing scandal. Normally, a team, which won 100 plus games in each of the last 3 seasons along with winning the 2017 World Series would be celebrated. However, the opposite has occurred after it was reported that during that 3-year run, the Astros orchestrated an elaborate, high tech method of stealing opponent’s pitchers’ signs, thus giving Astros’ hitters an incredible advantage.
A month ago, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred punished the Astros, issuing a $5 million fine while taking away their first and second-round selections in the next two amateur drafts. Also, their General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Field Manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for a year. Both were subsequently fired by Astros Owner Jim Crane.
This story would usually damage the game of baseball. But, in this case, the Astros’ trash is now Major League Baseball’s treasure.
Case in point, spring training generally entices as much excitement as a Tom Steyer interview, but now 6 weeks away from opening day, baseball is dominating local and national sports talk radio.
Meanwhile, stars from around the league, who are generally as compelling and exciting as apple sauce, have spoken out against the Astros, feeling that the punishment is not harsh enough.
Baseball’s best player, Mike Trout, said he was upset that the penalties were too lenient and questioned why individual players were not punished. Those are the most interesting opinions Trout has shared in his illustrious career.
And, I love it. For once, star players are showing personality, which should hopefully lead to real hate among opposing players. Baseball needs this unbridled disdain among its competitors.
The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has been highlighted by Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson fighting, Don Zimmer charging Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek wiping Alex Rodriguez’s face with his catcher’s mitt.
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The Astros are now the official villain of baseball. Sports benefit from this narrative.
31 NFL teams detest the New England Patriots. The Warriors were mocked and jeered after they added Kevin Durant to a 73 win team.
Astros games will be must-watch in 2020. Opposing pitchers will certainly drill Jose Altuve, Alex Bergman, and Carlos Correa in their asses and ribs. Crowds will come out en force to let the Astros know what they think of them.
While baseball purists are appalled at this scandal, casual fans will follow the sport closer than at any point since the ‘Steroid Era’.
Barry Bonds is my favorite athlete of all time. In his only career appearance at Fenway Park, Bonds was booed louder than any athlete I can remember. At that time, Osama bin Laden would have received a warmer reception. Signs with asterisks were handed out. It was wild.
It was unforgettable. In his first at-bat the future all-time Home Run champ – there, I said it – hit a 500-foot bomb which was just inches foul. The emotions of the moment swayed from hatred to awe. More than any athlete of my lifetime, Bonds was incredibly comfortable being the man in the black hat. That moment happened nearly 13 years ago and is still burned in my memory.
Apathy is the worst thing in sports. Controversy, hatred and passion fuel sports.
The 2020 Houston Astros will not foster apathy among baseball fans.
John Sapochetti is co-host of the “Sap & Kat” Show which is heard on FullPressRadio.
Follow him on twitter @johnsap25
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