Every-Thing Sports

Bleep it! Go full heel turn!

Astros World Series
photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

I've listened to all the bull bleep and crap spewed after Jim Crane allowed Rob Manfred to clip his manhood and put them it a glass case with the heavy handed punishment in regards to the Astros sign stealing scandals. He then bowed down even further by forcing his players to publicly apologize at Spring Training. It was despicable. In the first hour of Late Hits, Patrick Creighton and Jayson Braddock laid out how many times throughout history teams were caught stealing signs and how they were doing it. This crucifixion of the Astros as if they're some sort of lone bandit is sickening!

All the people bitching and complaining, the frivolous lawsuits, the blatant ignorance, the spreading of baseless accusations...This should all serve as fuel to the Astros and their fans this season. They got caught. They thumbed their noses at the whole apology thing, especially Alex Bregman (shot out to Justin Verlander for wearing the "Nobody Cares" hat at the golf outing). Bleep it! Let's go full heel mode! The heel turn is complete.

First Things First

A heel turn is a wrestling term used to describe a good guy (a babyface or face) turns into a bad guy or heel. The Astros were the fun-loving bunch of homegrown talent of a franchise that endured tanking in order to restock their minor leagues. That paid off in a major way in 2017 when they won a World Series. It was extra sweet considering Houston was hit by Harvey that August. Most of the world fell in love with them. They were the John Cena of baseball. They were beloved by most, and still hated by a good amount of folks for their antics.

Scandals Tear Away At Their Image

Sign stealing was the straw that broke the camel's back. When they signed Roberto Osuna, there was a ton of backlash and understandbly so. He was suspended amid a domestic violence incident and they traded for him anyway. That lead to another incident in which former GM Brandon Taubman was fired for causing a stir in the locker room for being obnoxious about the Osuna trade towards some female reporters. Top this bleep cake off with thew fact that former GM Jeff Luhnow created a toxic work environment, and you have the making of a heel turn.

Heel Mode: Activated

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Back in 1996, Hulk Hogan turned heel when he joined the nWo. The wrestling world was turned on its ear. Everyone actually thought WWE sent them to take over WCW. Fans were shocked to see their hero of the last 10-plus years turn heel. This is how Astros fans must feel right now. Their beloved team got caught stealing signs. Now what? Bleep it! Go with it. Yeah they got caught. No they weren't the only ones. Sure the punishment is harsh. And yes, the trolls and piece-riders in media and other fan bases are annoying AF, but embrace it!

Relish The Role

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You know what happened to the nWo? They ended up becoming the hottest act in wrestling. Stone Cold Steve Austin did something similar. Both were supposed to be heels, but were so good at it and so cool, people ended up liking them. They were cheered, sold a ton of merch, and drove ratings through the roof. So much so that WCW actually beat WWE in the ratings for over a year. This is what the team and fans need to do. I don't give a flying flip that they cheated! "If you aint cheatin you aint tryin!" and my other favorite line "It's only cheatin if you get caught!" Become the cool heels. Celebrate homeruns and big hits by simulating buzzers and banging trash cans. Have a trash can bobblehead giveaway. Pretend to talk into fake buzzers and devices in the dugout. Fans: wear "Steal It Back" shirts and create other parody paraphenelia to thumb your noses at the crybabies from other teams.

I don't give a damn what people may think. If they stink, do it anyway. Do it more if they're mashing the ball and leading the division. During the All Star festivities, keep it going by pretending to steal signs and bang trash cans. That World Series win isn't going anywhere. It's history, it happened and they can't undo it. Ignore the dumbasses online and in the media. They're going to say all kinds stuff to keep this going, so don't feed them MLB can pretend to investigate other teams all they want, but we all know they want this to go away faster an unwanted rash in their nether regions. So let's go full heel Houston! Screw them! It's us versus all yall mentality from here on out!

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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