How this new documentary could tilt some Houston fans' perspectives

How this new documentary could tilt some Houston fans' perspectives
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images.

Just when you thought time and a worldwide pandemic would help everybody forget thinking of the Houston Astros as evil, conniving cheaters … along comes a furloughed LeBron James to produce a documentary, Last Dance-style, about the Astros 2017 sign-stealing scandal. The multi-part series will be called Sign Language, due for the streaming service Quibi. No date yet when the expose will be ready, but fans in New York and Los Angeles already are calling Pizza Hut and getting comfortable on their couches.

What's left about the Astros descent into infamy that we don't already know? According to a press release in Sports Illustrated, Sign Language will "transcend the baseball diamond to explore larger themes of greed, cheating, corruption, sportsmanship and social media activism." And you thought it was just wayward ballplayers whacking a garbage can? Nope, it was a mirror of society, a study of the human condition.

Or when a breaking pitch was coming. Remind me again, what baseball team does LeBron James root for? Punch up a photo of LeBron wearing his Yankees cap.

Sign Language may be a blunt awakening for Astros fans in Houston. I read the local paper and listen to talk radio. Here many fans believe the real villain in the scandal is Mike Fiers, who ratted out the Astros two years after he accepted his World Series ring and prize money and moved to another team. Here's what the other 29/30ths of the baseball world thinks. The Astros cheated and got caught. They admitted that they cheated and promised never to do it again. Why are you mad at Mike Fiers? You should be mad at the Astros.

Everywhere else, fans can't believe that the Astros got off so lightly, with only their manager and general manager suspended for a season, loss of draft picks and a $5 million fine. That's pocket change for Astros owner Jim Crane. Everywhere else, fans can't believe that no Astros player was suspended for a game, 50 games, a season or forever. You'll probably hear Yankees and Dodgers fans (and some players) say that the Astros disgraced the sport. A hundred years ago, eight Chicago White Sox players were banned for life for cheating in the World Series. The only difference between the Black Sox and the Astros … the Black Sox cheated to lose the World Series, the Astros cheated to win the World Series. If cheating is cheating, what's the difference?

The best part of Sign Language, will come after the documentary airs, when LeBron James and the Lakers come to Houston to play the Rockets. Shhh, if you listen real close, you can already hear the booing.

A Giant surprise

I have no problem with fakes and phonies, in fact I see it as an art form. But even I'm appalled by the Masked Singer on Fox. Here's a typical last five minutes of the show. The panelists offer their guesses who's inside the cockroach costume. Jenny McCarthy will say, "It's Bruce Springsteen!" Nicole Scherzinger will say, "It's got to be Drake!" Ken Jeong will guess "Mick Jagger!" The audience will chant "Take it off," and the mystery celebrity will be revealed … it's Jake from State Farm. Meanwhile, the panelists lose their minds, they can't believe that the Masked Singer landed such a superstar. And it's not even the new, cool-looking Jake from State Farm. They got the old pudgy one.

Last week, it was time for the Rhino to be unmasked. Among the panel's guesses: Sam Hunt, Trace Adkins, David Hasselhoff, Tim Tebow and country superstar Jason Aldean. One panelist, and I'm not kidding, thought it was Blake Shelton.

Yeah, it's Blake Shelton, one of the most popular and highest-paid entertainers in the world, the star of NBC's The Voice, is sweating in a Halloween costume on a silly game show on a rival network.

The Rhino slowly twisted and turned his mask. It was Barry Zito, the former San Francisco Giants lefty pitcher, who retired five years ago. The panelists jumped from their seats with orgasmic glee. For real? I'm not accusing Fox sneaking the identity of the mystery singers to the panelists, or instructing them to pretend they recognize – or ever heard of – Barry Zito. I have trouble believing that former Pussycat Dolls singer Scherzinger could take one look at a sweaty Barry Zito with his hair plastered down and know who that person is. She gave him the "I love you" sign. She must have been a big fan of his 65-mph slow curveball.

I have been a Giants fan my whole life. I couldn't pick Barry Zito out of a police lineup. Jenny McCarthy knew that Zito wore No. 75 and won the Cy Young Award? I doubt if Giants catcher Buster Posey could tell you what number Zito wore.

Last respects

Off the sports beat, three very, very funny actors died recently: Fred Willard, who played insane dog show announcer Buck Laughlin in Best in Show; Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza in Seinfeld; and Ken Osmond, who played smart aleck Eddie Haskell in Leave it to Beaver. Here are my favorite lines from each:

Buck Laughlin - I don't think I could ever get used to being poked and prodded. I told my proctologist one time, "Why don't you ever take me out to dinner and a movie sometime?"

Frank Costanza - The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I've got a lot of problems with you people, and now you're gonna hear about it.

Eddie Haskell – Wally, if your dumb brother tags along, I'm gonna … oh, good afternoon Mrs. Cleaver. I was just telling Wallace how pleasant it would be for Theodore to accompany us to the movies.

I went through the drive-through at Chick-fil-A one morning this week. They've got new home kits for chicken parm sandwiches! One question, Chick-fil-A, have you been reading my diary?

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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”


Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.


Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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