There’s no question that the Houston Astros stole the show this offseason, and not in a lustrous way. In November 2019, former Astros’ pitcher now Oakland Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers confirmed through Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that the Houston Astros used electronic-based sign-stealing that begin back to their World Series-winning season in 2017. Throughout the offseason, numerous reports began to surface, players from different organizations confirmed, and a few former Astros’ players added confirmation. Talks escalated, and evidence pointed out that the organization used the banging of trash cans to give hitters hints of what pitches came. The scandal timeline became nastier as the organization handled the situation poorly (I’m trying to be nice here).
For the past three to four years, the Texas Rangers were the “little brother” to the Houston Astros, and the Rangers became portrayed as villains in the process. Most notably back in 2017 when the Rangers refused to switch a home-and-home series because of Hurricane Harvey. The city was unable to host the late August series due to the flooding and urged the Rangers to agree to a switch that would move the series to Arlington and a September series back to Houston. The Rangers disagreed and the series moved to Tropicana Field where Texas took two out of three. During that time, the public, and more importantly the Astros’ front office, shamed the Rangers for not agreeing (and I even quoted that it was a lose-lose situation). Now, this may be a coincidence as both teams still would have played three “home games” each, but according to reports, this was happening during the thick of the sign-stealing scandal.
There’s also a personal vendetta for the Rangers and notably Rangers manager, Chris Woodward, and hitting coach Luis Ortiz. Both guys were on the coaching staff of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers that went into Game 7 and eventually fell to Houston in what was a span of back-to-back World Series losses. “You know, we fought hard to try to win those World Series,” Woodward told WFAA’s, Mike Leslie. “And, you know, the ’17 one hurts, obviously. Hurts a lot. Just because I felt like that team was a world championship-caliber team. We felt like we were going to win the World Series.”
March begins, and the Houston Astros may be the most disliked team in all professional sports (that’s not a hyperbole). Countless t-shirts with “asterisks” are made, sign-stealing jokes flood Twitter and Facebook, and even the North Texas Tollway Admiration joked about in their roadside assistance reminders throughout North Texas tollways.
— Rama Vangipuram (@ramavan) February 20, 2020
How Should the Rangers handle this when the Astros take the dish?
Of course, talk is talk. Everybody is talking about targeting Astros’ players. In Spring Training, pitchers have hit seven Astros’ players, which is fourth in MLB (Reds, Dodgers, and Cardinals have nine hit batters each). MLB also made a statement that they will watch closely and put umpires on high alert, which will create frustration to pitchers who love to pitch inside.
Chris Woodward does not seem like the type of individual that will let personal emotions dictate his club, especially for a young club clawing through the AL West. Is there a portion of him that feels it is a bit personal? Of course, but Woody is not the type that will order his guys to hit any Astros on command intentionally. Also, the Rangers acquired a clubhouse leader and friend, Robinson Chirinos, who spent time with the Astros last season, which could put a halt into any plans.
All this said, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a guy like Mike Minor or Lance Lynn throw behind Alex Bregman or Jose Altuve and then move on. Minor was in the Braves organization and was a teammate of former Braves’ pitcher Kris Medlen between 2010 and 2013. In late January, Medlen didn’t hold back his disgust to the Astros, as well as current Brave Freddie Freeman. You can read more in David O’Brien’s article from the Athletic.
In the long run, I don’t see the Rangers doing anything drastic. I feel the consequence to pride ratio is too high, and there’s too much risk involved. If anything transpires, it’ll be in that first series (April 10-12). Once the season gets going, things will cool off and the scandal will quickly become a thing of the past. I will say this, that the first series against Houston at Globe Life Field will be a series to witness. Get your tickets and enjoy some trash banging (if that phrase isn’t already trademarked).
Here’s some of the most recent Houston Astros Tweets and reactions that came through.
— Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) February 28, 2020
Someone left an asterisk sign at the Astros Spring Training center 😂😂
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) February 29, 2020
Listen to the fans booing the Astros in the background 👀
— SNY (@SNYtv) February 29, 2020
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