STEP YOUR GAME UP

Enough is enough: here’s the definitive, must-read MLB rant for every Astros fan

Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images.

They don't call them "dumb jocks" for nothing. Over the past two weeks, two sports, which happen to be my two favorite sports, have jerked around fans and done some pretty stupid things that may have caused irreparable damage.

Baseball, which has been slowly circling the drain in popularity anyway, made it crystal clear that team owners and players have stopped caring about fans and the game itself. The battle in recent weeks between billionaire owners and multimillionaire players over when to start the coronavirus-delayed season, how many games should be played and how much money the players should make has been disgusting and vulgar to fans.

There's a golden oldie by the Marvelettes called Too Many Fish in the Sea. It goes: "I don't want nobody who don't want me, 'cause there's too many fish in the sea." It's good advice and that's how I feel about baseball after a lifetime of loving the game. I realize that baseball don't want me, and there's too many fish, like basketball and football, golf and soccer, in the sea.

Baseball should be the last sport to exhibit such arrogance. Baseball isn't exactly in a growth spurt. Attendance at baseball games is down 7 percent over the last five years – down 1.6 percent in 2019 after dropping 4 percent the year before. Last season, for the first time in 15 years, baseball attendance fell below 70 million. Last season, 14 of baseball's 30 teams had declining attendance, including the Houston Astros. Even though the Astros had the best record in all of baseball, attendance was down about 4 percent. In 2018, average attendance at an Astros home game was 36,796. In 2019, down to 35,276 a game.

Baseball is called "the national pastime," but lately it's just a meaningless catchphrase. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, only 9 percent of Americans say that baseball is their favorite sport. It's the lowest percentage since Gallup started asking that question in 1937. Go ahead players and owners, keep bickering over money. Fans love that, especially with 20 million Americans out of work and 120,000 dead from coronavirus. They'll only stay away even more when games finally resume under commissioner Rob Manfred's almighty executive order to play a 60-game season starting in late July.

Little League, which used to groom Americans to be baseball fans for life, is in steep decline, too. Youth participation in baseball is down more than 4 percentage points in the past decade. The popularity of video games and the average weight of kids is way up, however.

Between scandals, slow play and mind-numbing long games, baseball just ain't happening for young people. Basketball players, like LeBron, the Freak, KD and James Harden are cool. The best baseball player today is Mike Trout. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't recognize him in line at the supermarket, and I know I wouldn't recognize his voice on a radio interview. The most famous pop baseball song played in ballparks today is Centerfield by John Fogerty. The song mentions superstars Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. They played 50, 60, 70 years ago.

The average age of a baseball fan is 57, not good for the long run. Only 7 percent of baseball fans are 18 and younger. It's going to take more than Tuesday night dollar dogs and Friday night fireworks to pull fans back to the ballpark. And owners and players squabble about money and air dirty laundry in public? How stupid can they be?

But baseball's stupidity isn't in the same stratosphere as what tennis demonstrated the past two weeks. While the sport is officially shut down waiting out the coronavirus pandemic, Novak Djokovic, possibly the most dangerous pro athlete in the world, organized four weeks of exhibition tennis tournaments in Eastern Europe. Djokovic, an anti-vaxxer ("personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine"), insisted that fans be allowed to attend the tournaments with no social distancing and no face masks required. As a result, the tennis stadium was packed, every seat sold, practically nobody wearing a mask. Meanwhile players high-fived and hugged each other, and posed for selfies with fans. One night after the matches, several players danced shirtless in a conga line in a Belgrade nightclub.

Here's a shocker: so far, four players from the event – Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki and the "brains" behind the operation, Djokovic himself – have tested positive for coronavirus. So have one trainer and a coach. Troicki's pregnant wife also has tested positive. We can only wonder how many fans caught the virus. Stupid, thoughtless Djokovic.

Coric said, "I deeply apologize for anyone that I have potentially put at risk by playing the tour. Please stay safe and healthy." Dimitrov posted a photo of himself resting in a bed. Ironically, he is wearing a face mask in the photo. You should have thought about that sooner, buddy. Alexander Zverev, who played the tournament and has since tested negative, promised on Instagram, "I will proceed to follow the self-isolating guidelines. As an added precaution, my team and I will continue with regular testing." He added the praying hands emoji. Marin Cilic, who also tested negative after the event, said, "I will self-isolate for the next 14 days and continue to listen to the advice of medical professionals."

Australian bad boy Nick Kyrgios, who did not play the event, called Djokovic's unprotected tour "boneheaded," which usually is a word reserved for Kyrgios.

The U.S. Open will be held in late August in New York City. There will be ultra-strict safety rules, including players having to stay in airport hotels near the tennis stadium, no travel into Manhattan, limited player entourages, and no fans in attendance. Djokovic doesn't like all the safety measures and says he may not play the Open. If a vaccine is discovered and tennis insists that players roll up their sleeves for the shot, Djokovic is unsure what he'll do. But he had no problem staging an event with no social distancing or face masks, where three players caught the virus.

And Djokovic's parents wonder why their son isn't as popular as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, two of sports greatest gentlemen and humanitarians, who support health guidelines to keep players safe from coronavirus?

Djokovic's mother: "I don't know why people don't love him like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Maybe it's because he beat them and became world No. 1 and they couldn't stand it."

Djokovic's father: "There is no doubt that my son is the best in history. Federer was jealous of Novak from the moment my son made his turn. He is jealous because my son is better than he is and will surpass him." His advice for Federer is to quit tennis, "Go man, raise children, do something else, go and ski, do something."

While it's true that Djokovic has a winning record against both Federer and Nadal, and may one day pass both in grand slam titles, greatness doesn't translate to admiration and love from fans. You want to know why fans cheer for Federer and boo your son? It's because he's a jackass, and the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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