Nobody to Blame for the 2015 Collapse
Sep 20, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros mascot Orbit entertains fans during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
When I arrived at work on Thursday morning, a co-worker who teaches across the hall immediately popped in:
“It’s over. Our manager just doesn’t know how to handle a bullpen. Sickening.”
This reaction is, of course, human nature. An event happens that causes us some level of emotional distress, and we immediately search for someone to blame. The goal is to transfer the feelings of sadness and/or anger that we do not deserve — I personally did not throw a flat slider to David Freese in the eighth inning Wednesday — onto someone who does. As succinctly as I can define this universal truth of fandom, it goes like this:
I am sad because someone else failed at his job. I now must inform others that [A.J. Hinch], who I have found to be most responsible, is the rightful owner of my sadness. If others agree with me, their acceptance will cause me to become less sad. (By the way, this is extremely related to why some fans can’t stand seeing players smile in the clubhouse during a losing streak. How dare they cause me such misery and not seem to share it?)
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Fans have every right to take pride in the city where they live and want that location to be victorious over other cities where other people live. Feelings of tribalism and community connectedness are not silly; they’re a sign you are not a sociopath.
But that hurt we feel when the local team fails us? Sometimes, we don’t have a case to transfer it to anyone. Sometimes, there’s nobody to blame. This is especially true in baseball, a sport with more randomness and luck involved than any other major sport.
The 2015 Astros are the ultimate case of a collapse without a cause.
On May 4th, the Astros were 18-7. As a result of their early hot streak and a flawed division, they spent the overwhelming majority of the 2015 season in first place, despite the fact they never once made it to even 15 games over .500 following their plus-11 start. They were like a football team that scores a touchdown on its first drive and then punts the rest of the game, starting the fourth quarter up 7-6.
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