TURNING THE PAGE
How the Astros finally conquered the gap between media and reality
Seven Houston Astros, two more than any other team, are in the final running for starting positions on the American League All-Star team. What does this tell us … other than these players are having big seasons and the Astros lineup is stacked for another drive to the post-season?
Obviously there's a disconnect between the media's coverage of the Astros and how actual, real-life, talent-appreciating baseball fans feel about the Astros.
This was supposed to be baseball's summer of discontent toward the Astros, the fans' first chance to express in-person their disgust and hatred of the Astros since news broke of their illegal sign-stealing in 2017 and possibly beyond.
If you follow the national media's coverage of the Astros' season so far, let's go to the video, you'll see fans holding "Astros cheaters" signs and chanting "F-Houston." You'd think the Astros were a despised band of rogues and the team needed to be banished from baseball. You'd think the Astros lineup consists of Hannibal Lecter at first, Freddy Krueger at second, Snidely Whiplash at short and Hans Gruber (from Diehard, my favorite movie villain) at third base.
But like they say on the Weakest Link, "it's votes that count." All-Star voting is done by fans, not the media, and the Astros are crushing the ballot box.
The Astros' real-life infield: Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman all finished Top 3 and qualified for the final runoff vote this week. Catcher Martin Maldonado, outfielder Michael Brantley and designated hitter Yordan Alvarez also made the final cut.
Consider that the same four infielders played for the 2017 championship Astros and have been receiving the brunt of boos in ballparks and media criticism. Altuve is the bull's-eye on the Astros target. There's no denying that Gurriel, Correa, Brantley are having sensational seasons, but injured Bregman is having a down year, Maldonado is hitting a teeny .171 and fans still voted for them.
Fans, the true umpires of the games, are voting in droves for these supposed scoundrels. If anything, there should be an eighth Astros on the runoff ballot: Kyle Tucker, after a rough start, has been every bit an All-Star. It just shows how loaded the Astros offense is - Tucker bats seventh most games.
In numbers there is strength. The Astros lead the American League in team batting average, RBI, hits, on base percentage, slugging, runs scored and probably pine tar used, bubblegum chewed, crotches adjusted … why not?
The Astros hope of landing multiple players on the All-Star team is boosted because the deadline for fans voting is Thursday and the Astros are playing at home this week. When the Astros play at Minute Maid Park, fan interest rises, the games start at a reasonable time and, Monday night's ninth-inning fizzle notwithstanding, they usually win.
As they say in Chicago, vote early and vote often, which is illegal in politics, but encouraged in baseball. While no Astros finished first in his position race, anything can happen in elections. For this second and final stage, you can vote once every day. So start the steal, for real this time.