MAKING MEMORIES

Dear Astros: Thank you, from a lifelong Houston sports fan

The title was special. Harry How/Getty Images

I’m tired of the cloud that hangs over Houston sports.

I’m tired of being reminded of the Renfro catch vs the Steelers in ’79.
The Phi Slama Jama losses to NC State and Georgetown.
The soul crushing loss in ’80 to the Phillies, and ’86 to the Mets.
The 1998 letdown by the best team in baseball.
Albert Pujols stealing Brad Lidge’s soul.
Damian Lillard.
The game 7 blowout vs the Mavs.
Getting swept by the White Sox in 2005.
35-3.

There’s a ton more examples I could list, but I’m tired of re-visiting them.

I’m tired of expecting things to go wrong.

I’m tired of the knot in my stomach when you know it’s not over and they can still find a way to lose.

I’m tired of letdowns.

I’m tired of the disappointment.

I’m tired of the teams I root for not getting respect nationally.

I’m tired of feeling like the teams in Houston are cursed.

I’m tired of “maybe next year.”

Some of you will read this and say, but what about 1994 and 1995? The Rockets and Clutch City? Yep, those were amazing but you can’t shake that asterisk.

* Jordan wasn’t there.

I’m tired of the asterisks.

So last night was special.

I went from tired to thankful.

I’m thankful that this time there is no no asterisk (second best record in the AL and beat the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Dodgers in the playoffs).

I’m thankful for the best game of baseball I’ve ever watched (World Series Game 5 – I think that’s when I started to think, maybe the fog over Houston Sports is lifting).

I’m thankful to the Astros for making this city believe again. For making me believe again.

Thank you for not quitting.

Thank you for being clutch.

Thank you for being there for the city during Harvey.

Thank you, Astros.

#EarnedIt

Houston accused of more wrongdoing

New report of illegal sign-stealing puts Astros back under scrutiny

Jason Behnken / Getty Images

Back in 2017, the Houston Astros could be considered the darlings of the MLB. They helped pull a Harvey-ravaged city out of despair and into a celebration in a matter of months with the acquisition of Justin Verlander and subsequent World Series victory. The young team full of potential suddenly had the attention of not only fans but other MLB clubs and the league's front office.

On Tuesday, that attention reared itself yet again in a severely negative way, with the Athletic reporting (subscription required) that former-Astro Mike Fiers was alleging and confirming that his former team used illegal means to steal signs in their 2017 championship season. Fiers, along with three other anonymous sources with the team in 2017, claims that the team used cameras and other technology to monitor opposing catchers to relay signs to batters in real-time. The Astros have released the following statement:

"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."

While GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

Another negative blow to the team's reputation

This is not the first time the Astros have been under a microscope in recent years, the most recent being less than a month ago when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted reporters in the Astros clubhouse following their ALCS series-clinching win. The Astros fumbled that event, coming out with a rebuttal against the reporter, which would eventually be retracted, and Taubman terminated from his employment.

Neither is this the first time the Astros have dealt with accusations of sign-stealing and other forms of cheating. In this year's ALCS, the Yankees complained about a "whistling" noise from Houston's dugout they believed to be a method of relaying pitches to batters at the plate. Also, in the 2018 postseason, the Astros found themselves under fire for having an employee taking photos of the opposing team's dugout.

It's just part of the game until it's not

Both pitch tipping and stealing signs are things that are nearly unavoidable in baseball. With the catcher having to relay a sign to the pitcher 60.5 feet away using his hands, the opposing team will inevitably try to decipher what's coming. The same is true of tipping, where if a pitcher has a tell before a specific pitch, that information will quickly spread through the dugout.

However, there is a line teams should not cross, and that comes by way of utilizing technology to aid further the ability to steal signs, and using that to give an immediate advantage to a batter amid an at-bat. The Astros are not the first team to be alleged of this type of grievance, as the Red Sox received a fine after utilizing a smartwatch to try and steal signs.

It's a widely known and accepted fact that teams will try anything within reason to get a leg up on their opponent. However, with technology ever improving both for organizations to use and be caught by, it's no surprise that this is becoming an issue that the MLB will have to deal with, and soon.

Ramifications could loom large

Will the Astros be found guilty and made an example of to deter other teams for trying similar tactics? It appears we will have to wait for the conclusion of this investigation to find out. While it may not be an indictment of the entire team, it will bring into question the integrity and character of many of the team.

Still, no matter the outcome, the report alone and continued negativity surrounding the Astros organization has made them villains of many, a role that many would not have expected this team to play if asked just two years ago.

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