Dying Love?

AJ Hoffman: Osuna trade makes Astros a little less lovable

The Astros appear to be willing to win at all costs. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Astros were the feel-good team of last season. They persevered and won a championship in a year when their home city was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey. The team had great chemistry and for the most part was an extremely likable group of players. If you are a fan of the Red Sox, Yankees or Dodgers, it makes sense that you cheered against the Astros, at least in those particular series.

For the majority of people who didn’t have a dog in the fight, however, the Astros were an easy team to cheer for. 

This year’s squad added a few pieces, but for the most part had the same feel. That all changed with the Roberto Osuna trade. I know, “we don’t know the details” behind his domestic violence accusation. We do know that police found enough to warrant arresting him. We do know that he didn’t appeal his suspension, even though it was the longest suspension handed out for domestic violence in the history of the game. We do know that Jeff Luhnow said that the team had done their due diligence and that Osuna is “remorseful” and has “willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior.” 

That last nugget is interesting for multiple reasons. Doesn’t Luhnow saying Osuna is remorseful mean that he is admitting to the accusation? Does anyone have remorse over something they didn’t do? Secondly, how is it possible to say that he has “willingly complied with all consequences” when he still has a court date, where he plans to plead not guilty. 

When video surfaced of Astros prospect Danry Vasquez hitting his girlfriend multiple times in a staircase, the Astros acted quickly, releasing him from the organization. 

Well respected players on the team, including Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers tweeted strong statements about the video, including Verlander saying “I hope the rest of your life without baseball is horrible. You deserve all that is coming your way.” 

Today, video of Verlander was released asking his thoughts on the signing. Of note, Verlander, arguably the most accomplished player in the organization, said that management did not discuss the move with him. Verlander said that he stands by his words, but has now been put into the obviously awkward situation of having to “wait on all the information.” It’s pretty clear that he isn’t happy about the trade, and I highly doubt that many in the notoriously light and fun-loving clubhouse are. 

This trade has turned maybe the most likable team in baseball into something that feels slimy and gross. They have put winning above all else, which in this case means above their integrity. 

It reeks of desperation, particularly because it seems like it wasn’t necessary. There were plenty of relief pitchers on the market if they absolutely had to have one, but most considered them amongst the favorites to win again even as they were constructed. 

In 2003, the Astros announced that Julio Lugo, their starting shortstop, was no longer on the team a mere 8 hours after he was accused of hitting his wife and banging her head off of his vehicle. The decision was quick, and it was the right call. It definitely hurt the team (who by the way finished 1 game out in the NL Central that year), but then GM Gerry Hunsicker decided that the organization’s integrity was more important that any one individual. 

Jeff Luhnow felt differently. He decided that the team’s “zero tolerance” policy on domestic violence, actually left room for a little bit of tolerance. 

The fact of the matter is if the Astros win another World Series this year, most fans will forget about Osuna’s past over time. But right now, it seems like the Astros are hurting their reputation and the chemistry of their team in order for them to feel a little better in the 9th inning. 

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

- William Shakespeare

You might wonder why there is a puppy picture on a story about the Astros scandal. This little beauty is my Dalmatian, Dynamo. Why is she here? To distract you. To dazzle you. Who doesn't love a puppy picture? Who cares if it has anything to do with the story? She made you look.

And the point is...

Sadly, that is the role of the media these days. Please listen to my rant. Please click on my story. Who cares if the headline isn't accurate? None of that matters. Look at me! I need likes and retweets!

The Astros cheating scandal is the latest story to be overblown, overanalyzed and overexposed. Why? Page views. Ratings. A failing media.

Exploring every angle

None of that is meant to excuse the team. Let's be honest; the Astros cheated. They will be punished, and they should. Draft picks, fines, suspensions. All are possible, and whatever they get is probably warranted.

And that is where the story should end. But that is not what the world is about anymore. It has to be endlessly debated. Pictures of a laptop on a table become the Zapruder film. There HAS to be a conspiracy. Every detail has to be debated. Which side you come down on depends on your biases.

Stupid takes

Some have even said the Astros should be stripped of their World Series title. This isn't college. It's a dumb, look at me take. It will never happen. This is not Avengers: Endgame where you can enter the quantum realm and change the past. It is real life, where events can't be changed. Did the cheating help them win? Who knows? You still have to hit the ball, even if you know what is coming. And it did not make a difference for the Astros pitchers. And harkening back to the steroid era, how do you know the other teams did not do it too and just did not get caught?

The big argument about PEDs was "oh, look at the big numbers the hitters put up." But how do you know the pitchers weren't doing it, too? The same goes here.

Truth is, you don't know. Which is why results can't and shouldn't be changed. Period. To suggest it is just dumb.

More stupid takes

On the Astros fan side, the defenses are just as silly. "They did nothing wrong. Where is your proof? Why aren't there other players coming forward?"

As an aside, let's not leave out the great misleading phrases. "Due diligence." (In other words, we know this is a bad idea, but we want to sound like we know what we are doing). "Witch hunt." (Yes, I am guilty, but this is how I deflect it).

As another aside, if you find an actual witch on your hunt, let me know. I always wanted to meet one.

They cheated. Period. And they will be punished. But the point is not that at all. It's to find every possible angle to get people to read and react. To care more about something than we should, when there are far more important things we should be riled up about. But you are being told to care, so you will keep clicking. It's the new normal, where reporters make themselves the stories and insert themselves into it. And that's why they turn stories like this into major issues. For their own benefit.

Nothing new

This is just the latest media distraction. The Patriots deflated balls saga was the most overplayed, overanalyzed scandal in sports history. Why was it so important? Because hot takes, web sites and analysts told us so. Many hinted at even bigger conspiracies. Why? Because we are a society dazzled by puppies.

Just this past weekend, the entire Colin Kaepernick story was over reported from all sides. The NFL was just doing a PR move. He just wants to be a martyr.

The NFL's waiver was broken down word by word.

Over a guy who hasn't played in three years.

The reason? He gets page views and clicks. And ratings. We keep getting told how important every aspect of the story is to our lives. In truth, it's just another distraction, a false narrative created to keep us dazzled and up in arms. Do we really care about these things? And if we do, what the hell is wrong with us?

Just like the Astros scandal. Is it a bad look? Of course. Are they guilty? Sure looks like it. But punish them and let's move on. We get it. They banged trashed cans. But punishment is never enough. People have to post pictures that might be something. Videos that might be something. Emails that might be something. Add it all up and it doesn't make things any worse. It just creates talking points. And people wonder why so many people consider the media - and social media, as the lines are completely blurred - "fake news."

In the end...

It's not fake news. It's misguided attempts to to keep us coming back for more. And too many of us fall into the trap. We are too distracted by everyone telling us these things are so important that we keep clicking. It takes on a life of its own, and then any theory is possible. Any conspiracy is possible. So we keep reading and digging and we are immersed in it. Look at this! Click on me! In a few weeks the Astros will be the most evil organization that ever lived and should be disbanded. And some of you will believe it and buy in, because that's how distractions work. And once we are distracted? We can believe anything.

Hence the picture of Dynamo. To distract you. By the way, did you notice one of her spots looks like Mickey Mouse? Let the Disney conspiracy begin. We shall start our own tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.

And we all know what that signifies.

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