Baseball-loving America relieved after being eliminated from Houston Astros

Manuel Margot and Willy Adames of Tampa Bay Rays celebrate the 4-2 victory over Houston Astros and with it a place in the World Series, the final of the baseball season in the US.Image Getty Images

Everyone except Houston Astros. It was the ardent wish of baseball fans at the start of the playoffs in the American MLB baseball league. The relief was great when the baseball villains, caught foul play in previous seasons, were eliminated in the semi-finals by Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Florida club let Houston come back from a 3-0 game deficit to 3-3, but put things in order in the decisive seventh game: 4-2. Houston’s comeback was admirable, but compliments were not forthcoming beyond the Texas city’s borders.

The ‘bad guys’ of the American sports world were eagerly waved goodbye. “The Rays have done baseball a favor,” said MLB Network journalist Jon Heyman, in the minds of many baseball fans. ‘The Astros can one day make it to the final again, but not this year. Not in the year the scandal was revealed. Thank you, Rays. ‘

The Houston Astros sins had not been forgotten in a season that was delayed for months due to the coronavirus outbreak and was reduced to 60 games (instead of the usual 162).

Last winter, the club was exposed: Houston had cheated in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, according to an investigation by the MLB after a former player was kicked out of the school. How the plan worked? In home games, the club aimed a camera at the fingers of the opponent’s catcher to intercept hand signals, communicating the type of throw to his pitcher. In the catacombs, just behind the dug-out, players and staff viewed the images on a video screen.

Initially, the information was brought to the dugout by a player, an errand boy, later on, text messages and smart watches and trash cans were used that players pounded with batons to immediately warn the batter. Only with a fastball (straight, straight, hard) it remained silent. At an upcoming effect ball the drumming started, for observant viewers to hear even softly on television.

From 2017 to 2019, the Astros won the most games of any club in the MLB. In 2017 the club became champion. Houston was allowed to keep the title, MLB boss Rob Manfred ruled, much to the anger of many baseball fans. According to them, the penalty the competition handed out was too mild: coach AJ Hinch and technical director Jeff Luhnow were suspended and then fired. The club was fined $ 5 million, but affected players went unpunished. Some of them cooperated in the MLB investigation.

Public apologies from star players José Altuve and Carlos Correa came late, and club owner Jim Crane was furious by stating that the misguided behavior had not affected the outcome of matches.

Should the corona pandemic have seen winners, Houston Astros was one of them. At the start of the new season, supporters of rival clubs cleared their throats, banners were made and the blades were proverbially sharpened, but after months of delay, the Astros ended up playing in front of empty stands. They were spared the swearing, the booing the players had gotten a taste of while preparing for the originally planned season.

Outside the stadium, hatred flowed freely. A Twitter account called ‘2020 Astros Shame Tour‘had more than 300,000 followers in no time and keeps on repeating it every day. During the series with Tampa Bay, played on neutral grounds in San Diego, a Chicago White Sox supporter blew his heart from his balcony above the stadium. “Attention, members of Houston Astros involved in the 2017 and 2018 scandal,” it said through a megaphone. “You are all cheaters.”

Even when questioning Amy Coney Barrett, a candidate for the US Supreme Court, a senator last week cited the Texans’ practices. “I want to talk about Houston Astros, which everyone knows are terrible cheaters.”

Earlier in the playoffs, after beating the Minnesota Twins, star player Carlos Correa added another puddle of fuel to the fire. ‘I know a lot of people are angry that they don’t want to see us here. But what are they saying now? ‘

Thank goodness for Tampa Bay Rays, it sounded Saturday night. For freshman Randy Arozarena, he accounted for seven home runs in the playoffs, including a crucial one in the playoff against the Astros. The sensational Cuban was named best player of the semifinal. For the first time since 2008, the club is on a modest budget in the World Series, the final of the baseball season that starts tomorrow. (On Sunday night, the tiebreaker in the other semifinal was played between Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.) The best is yet to come, players and coaches emphasized, but beating the Astros has won the hearts of neutral viewers.

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