Smith: No Moral High Ground, Just Baseball, For Astros And Red Sox

There’s a decent chance that at some point during this American League Championship Series fiercely proud orange-and-blue believers will loudly complain that Boston is (or was) cheating.

It will be hilarious. Ironic. Ridiculous. And one of the silliest moments in the history of Houston’s Major League Baseball franchise.

The national media hating on the Astros being back in the ALCS for the fifth consecutive year while praising Alex Cora for professionally guiding the underdog Red Sox into the same ALCS?

Hilarious. And stupid.

“Unfortunately for us, we did what we did, and people are always going to be able to draw back on that, whether it’s because they want some retweets or they want some Instagram quotes or whether it’s because they want to be heard or they just want to throw shade at us. But what we did (Tuesday) here speaks volumes,” said Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., after his team won its AL Division Series in Chicago and silenced a White Sox crowd that had constantly reminded the Astros of their recent past.

Red Sox versus Astros in mid-October 2021 already represents many things and says a ton about us as human beings before the first pitch of Game 1 has even been thrown inside a roaring Minute Maid Park on Friday night.

Life goes on.

Winners win.

The smartest survive.

Sometimes it pays to cheat.

The real truth is always more complicated than it appears on Facebook.

“We put ourselves in this situation. For those who think that it’s in the past, no, we live it every day. ... We made a mistake, and we’re paying the price,” Cora said Thursday at Minute Maid Park after surprisingly naming Chris Sale as Boston’s Game 1 starter. “For the fans to let (the Astros) know how they feel, I understand. I live it, you know? Not as loud as they get it, but I get it on the road all the time. So it’s weird, right? Because I was part of it. But I’ve been addressing this the whole season. I haven’t (hidden). I’m here.”

Pretending that the high moral ground still exists as the Astros and Red Sox battle each other again on the same postseason field while everyone else in the AL is forced to watch the remainder of the playoffs on TV?

Please.

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At least the Astros organization took its 2017 and ’18 sign-stealing scandal seriously, firing former manager A.J. Hinch and ex-general manager Jeff Luhnow and doing more to end the franchise’s golden era than MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

The widely respected Dusty Baker followed Hinch. In Chicago, a remade team’s veteran skipper outmanaged and outclassed Hall of Famer Tony La Russa.

Boston “suffered” through a 24-36 record during a 2020 coronavirus-impacted season that barely existed. Then one of baseball’s most storied franchises proudly brought back the once-fired Cora — who was axed because he was at the center of the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme — last November.

The Boston-tough, tradition-proud Red Sox made it less than 10 months without having Cora as the daily face of their baseball club.

And I don’t have time to get into that absurd Apple Watch thing from 2017, which publicly preceded the Astros’ issues. Or Boston’s 2018 World Series title — set up with a 4-1 ALCS victory over the Astros — which eventually was given a mini-asterisk by MLB.

“As an organization we strive for 100 percent compliance with the rules,” the Red Sox said in an April 2020 official statement. “MLB’s investigation concluded that in isolated instances during the 2018 regular season, sign sequences were decoded through the use of live game video rather than through permissible means. … We apologize to our fans and Major League Baseball, and accept the commissioner’s ruling.”

Hinch and Luhnow were the fall guys for the Astros.

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Someone named J.T. Watkins received the blame for the Red Sox.

But cheating is cheating, and cheating can never be forgiven. At least that’s what all the Twitter users with 20 followers say every time MLB is forced to promote the Astros on social media again.

“If you’re going to talk (expletive) on other teams, state facts,” said Carlos Correa, after the Astros closed out the ALDS and answered vague post-Game 3 accusations by White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera with a powerful 10-1 road win in Game 4. “If you don’t state facts, then you’re going to lose credibility in this game. It’s unfortunate that he had to say those words, because we came out here hungry.”

Mookie Betts is a Dodger now.

Kiké Hernandez, who was drafted by the Astros in 2009 and spent six years in the organization, now inspires the Red Sox after inspiring the Dodgers.

Justin Verlander has pitched in one game since the Astros came three innings away from winning the World Series again in 2019.

Cora is managing the Red Sox for the second time, while Hinch is trying to get the Tigers above .500 in Detroit.

“Baseball is something that’s hard to predict,” Baker said. “We’ve got a formidable foe coming in here. The guys know Cora, and Cora knows us. And so it has the makings for a great series.”

Four seasons after the Astros ignited their historic ALCS run with an instant classic 5-4 victory in the Fenway rain in Game 4 of the 2017 ALDS, the AL’s best two teams are battling for a World Series spot again.

The high moral ground has been destroyed.

For the Astros and Red Sox, baseball is all that remains.

brian.smith@chron.com

twitter.com/chronbriansmith

Source : https://www.houstonchronicle.com/texas-sports-nation/brian-t-smith/article/Smith-No-moral-high-ground-just-baseball-for-16533078.php

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