The Houston Astros were slapped in the face by MLB, and it’s not the first time.
We all knew it was coming. The Boston Red Sox got a significantly lighter punishment than the Houston Astros did for their sign stealing violations, making it look like the two teams operate with two different sets of rules. Our analysis of the disparity makes that pretty clear.
But sadly, this sort of thing is what Astros fans have come to expect. Houston has never been a favorite of MLB, and it doesn’t take much to see it. There’s a pattern here — a long train of abuses, if you will. For a while, I thought it was just that former Commissioner Bud Selig hated Houston, but current Commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be picking up where Selig left off.
Admittedly, my baseball memory only dates back about 20 years, so my knowledge of the pattern only goes that far. But just in the past couple of decades, I can recall a few instances that perfectly illustrate MLB’s apparent disdain for and unfair treatment of the Astros. The sign stealing saga is only the most recent.
Opening the Box
Let’s go back to the Astros first appearance in the World Series in 2005. This is where my contempt for Selig really took hold. With Houston set to host Games Three and Four, Selig ordered that they keep the Minute Maid Park roof open for the games, contrary to the team’s wishes.
The Astros wanted it closed for the same reason they like it closed now. It’s a nice little home field advantage when the crowd gets going and it gets loud inside the juice box. Up to that point, the team was 40-18 at home with the roof closed and 15-11 with it open. But Selig couldn’t let the team make that choice, not even while facing an 0-2 series deficit.
Never mind the fact that Game Two was played outdoors in cold, rainy conditions in Chicago, which the White Sox players surely would’ve been more accustomed to. The Astros simply shouldn’t be allowed any advantages in their home stadium, for that would threaten the integrity of the game.
Sorry About Your Hurricane
Selig struck again in 2008 in the wake of Hurricane Ike. With Houston reeling from the hurricane’s devastation in mid-September, he ordered that two “home” games against the Cubs be played in Milwaukee, which is often referred to as North Wrigley due to its proximity to Chicago. That effectively made them home games for the Cubs, and with the Astros forced to play one day after Ike made landfall, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
It didn’t help that the Astros were no-hit by Carlos Zambrano in that first game, with the hurricane and their families certainly on the players’ minds. Prior to that game, the Astros had won six in a row and were just 2.5 games out of the NL Wild Card spot. But the Cubs game was the first of a five-game skid, and though they rallied to win six of their last nine, the Astros still finished 3.5 games out.
Many players were vocal in their displeasure, including Lance Berkman, who said, “Major League Baseball has always valued the dollar more than they do the individual, the players and their families.” Doug Brocail added, “to make us go up and play at North Wrigley like we had to on no sleep, it was absolutely ridiculous. If it was New York or Boston, it would have been played at the end of the season.”
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I’m sure it was just a coincidence that Selig chose Milwaukee, considering he owned the Brewers prior to becoming commissioner. Regardless of how crooked and insensitive it was, it’s clear that it killed the team’s momentum along with any chance of making the playoffs.
Extortion? No Problem!
Selig’s last knife in the Astros’ back came during the sale to Jim Crane. Though Crane and Drayton McLane had come to an agreement, Selig effectively held up the sale until Crane agreed to move the Astros to the American League.
Berkman once again called Selig out for it, flat out accusing the commissioner of extorting the prospective new owner. The Astros had been a National League team for the entirety of their existence and were not the most logical team to move. That would’ve been Selig’s Brewers, who were previously in the AL before switching to the NL. But of course he wasn’t going to make them move back.
Instead, with the Astros conveniently up for sale at the same time as the league was discussing realignment, Selig found an opening to stick it to Houston once again. Now we’re forever blessed with a heavy slate of West Coast road games each year that are still in their early stages when those of us in the Central Time Zone go to sleep.
I won’t deny that there are some advantages to being in the AL, but it’s the way it was done that really grinds my gears. It was underhanded and low, but then again we should expect nothing different. It’s how Selig always treated Houston.
Now, with Manfred letting the Astros be the bad guy while the Red Sox get off easy, the train of abuses continues. We’ll never be as important to MLB as New York, Boston or Los Angeles, which to a certain extent is understandable. But that doesn’t mean we should be treated any less. Unfortunately, it’s what we’ve come to expect.