Every-Thing Sports

Bleep it! Go full heel turn!

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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Jose Altuve is on a roll. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

And then there were six. Games left in the Astros’ regular season. Three vs. Tampa Bay then three vs. Philadelphia, all at Minute Maid Park. The first three are important for the Rays as they jockey for Wild Card positioning with the Blue Jays and Mariners. The second three games decide playoffs or no playoffs for the Phillies as they try to stave off the Brewers. The Astros have nothing to play for with regard to the standings but it’s still a fun finish to another fabulous season. 102-54! Matching or topping the franchise record of 107 regular season wins would be grand, but it’s not a goal they’re going to push the limits to achieve. There are a couple individual pursuits of note this final week. We’ll hit those then get to truly important stuff to be settled on before the Astros start their postseason October 11.

Crunching the numbers

Three weeks ago I wrote that Jose Altuve needed a tremendous finishing kick to get there, but that his first .300 batting average season since 2018 was within striking distance. He promptly went one for eight over his next two games, lengthening the odds against him. In 15 games since Altuve has sizzled, banging out 21 hits in 54 at bats for a .389 average. So with six games to go he’s at .297. If Altuve gets 20 more official at bats he needs eight hits.

Yordan Alvarez’s assorted maladies sure cause some indigestion. The knee history, the hands, and now an ankle roll. Yordan is still four RBI short of joining Kyle Tucker with 100+. They’d be the Astros first 100+ tandem since…just three years ago when Alex Bregman (112) and Yuli Gurriel (104) did it.

Setting the playoff rotation

The playoff schedule is stupid in spots, dictated by television. The Astros against To Be Determined in their best-of-five American League Division Series will have game one Tuesday October 11, then a day off before game two Thursday, then a day off before game three Saturday (same is true for Yankees vs. To Be Determined). That’s ridiculous, and gives longtime Astros fans Kevin Brown nightmares (see 1998 NLDS). Unless there’s a three game sweep, game four would be Sunday. Should the series go to a decisive fifth game, there is no off day between games four and five. This impacts starting pitcher planning. Obviously the Astros go Justin Verlander in game one and Framber Valdez in game two. Almost certainly Lance McCullers gets the ball in game three. Then (unless the series is a sweep) there is a decision to be made. First, with the two off days Verlander would be available on four days rest. Up 2-1 last year, after a rainout the Astros brought back McCullers on a shorter four days rest (game one was a night game, game four a day game) and Lance blew out his arm again. If up two games to one, pitching Verlander on “normal” four days rest to go for the kill would take him out of the American League Championship Series until game three, and that would be his only starting availability in the ALCS unless you’d foolishly bring him back on three days rest if there was a game seven. So, if up 2-1 the smarter play is to start Cristian Javier in game four which has Verlander ready to go in a do-or-die game five or if the Astros advance in four, game one of the American League Championship Series. If down 2-1 and you pitch Verlander, if there’s a game five it’s the guy you passed over in game four, or Framber on three days rest.

Yes, Javier in game four, over Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia because quite simply, Javier is better. Unless Verlander or Valdez gets knocked out early, committing Javier to a bullpen role where he’d throw two or three innings vs. the six or so you’d expect out of him as a starter doesn’t make sense, definitely not with the first round schedule. Presumably Urquidy or Garcia will be on the roster for long reliever duty (carrying both would be poor roster management). The Astros have the best bullpen in the Major Leagues. Getting cute and using Javier over Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero, or Ryan Pressly would be silly. Over Hector Neris or Bryan Abreu? Maybe. When Javier is vulnerable it’s walks and home runs that typically get him, so bringing him in in a tight seventh or eighth inning spot would be a dubious choice given the high caliber alternatives.

As for the roster, teams can change it round by round. Carrying 13 pitchers in a best-of-five with two scheduled off days is impractical. The Astros should carry Yainer Diaz or Korey Lee as a third catcher and David Hensley as an extra utility option. 12 pitchers: Verlander, Valdez, McCullers, Javier, Urquidy OR Garcia, Pressly, Montero, Stanek, Neris, Abreu, Will Smith, Hunter Brown OR Phil Maton.

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