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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Houston vs. Atlanta Is Rob Manfred’s Nightmare World Series

One is Houston, the site of Tuesday night’s Game 1, where Manfred is seen as a villain over his handling of the sign-stealing scandal that tarnished the Astros’ title in 2017 and stained their players’ legacies. Many fans here believe Manfred scapegoated the Astros for committing a crime that was widespread at the time and unfairly transformed them into the most hated franchise in professional sports.

The other is Atlanta, where Manfred sparked a political firestorm by pulling the All-Star Game in response to Georgia’s new voting law. The move, which the Braves publicly opposed, enraged some state officials and alienated a portion of fans, who are now celebrating even more important games coming to town.

However it shakes out, it is a hellish proposition for Manfred. Sports commissioners frequently hear boos. (Just ask Roger Goodell how much he enjoys showing his face in New England.) But the vitriol Manfred will face at the end of this World Series will be particularly vicious, and coming from all directions—whatever he does now.

Manfred is pinned between liberal and conservative American politics in part because MLB began to respond to calls to act on social issues last year. It left the commissioner simultaneously under pressure to take those stances to their logical conclusion, at the same time he is still facing resentment from people aggrieved at the positions.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 26, 2021 at 10:28 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, braves, rob manfred

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   1. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 26, 2021 at 10:39 AM (#6049087)
One is Houston, the site of Tuesday night’s Game 1, where Manfred is seen as a villain over his handling of the sign-stealing scandal that tarnished the Astros’ title in 2017 and stained their players’ legacies. Many fans here believe Manfred scapegoated the Astros for committing a crime that was widespread at the time and unfairly transformed them into the most hated franchise in professional sports.

As a Yankees fan, I'm not sure why being the most hated franchise in professional sports is necessarily a bad thing. From what I've seen, it's just given the Astros more incentive to stick it to road fans like they did in Chicago and Boston.
   2. McCoy Posted: October 26, 2021 at 10:47 AM (#6049093)
Atlanta vs TB would have had to be probably the worst matchup MLB/Fox could have gotten this year.
   3. Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: October 26, 2021 at 10:55 AM (#6049096)
The Astros seem to be pretty comfortably leaning into their heel turn. I'm a big fan of that. If people are going to dislike you, own it and enjoy it when you can beat them. I suspect Manfred is pretty happy to hear a few boos in order to get the 7th and 8th largest TV markets against each other. Better that than a Tampa-Milwaukee matchup for TV purposes.
   4. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: October 26, 2021 at 10:56 AM (#6049099)
I can't imagine any angle I could care less about than the amount of booing Manfred will hear during the WS.
   5. winnipegwhip Posted: October 26, 2021 at 10:58 AM (#6049100)
Atlanta vs TB would have had to be probably the worst matchup MLB/Fox could have gotten this year.


Of all the possibilities at the beginning of the playoffs I would have said Milwaukee vs Tampa Bay would have been the worst matchup ratings wise.

Update: Coke to Jose.

   6. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: October 26, 2021 at 10:58 AM (#6049101)
As a Yankees fan, I'm not sure why being the most hated franchise in professional sports is necessarily a bad thing.

The Yankees are hated because they've been too good for too long; with the exception of the all-too-brief periods in the late 60s and the early 90s, the Yankees have been contenders pretty much every year since Babe Ruth came to town a friggin' century ago. Meanwhile, the Astros were mostly irrelevant (except 2005) for much of their half-century history before (allegedly) cheating to win in 2017. Not the same thing.

EDIT: Milwaukee vs Tampa Bay would have been the worst matchup ratings wise.

That was the match-up I was rooting for, as (a) neither team had ever won a WS (the Padres, Rangers, Rox and M's being the others) and (b) the sight of FOX execs hurling themselves out of windows. (Or just hurling.)
   7. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 26, 2021 at 11:13 AM (#6049103)
Here's the most over-the-top reaction I've seen lately to the presence of the Astros in the World Series:

As the Astros return to the World Series, is it time for baseball to forgive and forget? Nah.

The fact that the Astros hit much better on the road than at home in the years in question (2017 and 2018) doesn't seem to have entered the writer's consciousness, as well as the fact that in the 2019 World Series they lost all of their home games while winning all of their road games.

But the real beauty is his guilt-by-association, wherein nearly every player on the Astros roster is somehow tainted because they were signed or developed during the years that Jeff Luhnow was their GM. He goes on for paragraph after paragraph about this:
Bregman is playing on a five-year, $100 million contract he agreed to in the spring of 2019 — a season that ended with the Astros (mercifully, from MLB’s perspective) losing to Washington in the World Series — and that kicked in to start 2020, by which point the Astros’ scheme had been uncovered. Altuve just completed the fourth season of a seven-year, $163.5 million deal that all but made him an Astro for life. Correa will be one of the sport’s most coveted free agents this offseason, nearly certain to receive a nine-figure contract. ...

But Luhnow’s fingerprints are all over this Houston roster. Framber Valdez is the Game 1 starting pitcher. Luis Garcia is likely to start Game 2. José Urquidy is probable for Game 3. That’s three-fifths of a rotation signed as international free agents by Luhnow’s scouting department and brought to the majors by Luhnow’s player development operation.

Right fielder Kyle Tucker? Drafted and developed under Luhnow. Center fielders Jake Meyers, who’s injured, and Chas McCormick? Drafted and developed under Luhnow. Former ace Zack Greinke? Traded for by Luhnow. Closer Ryan Pressly? Traded for — and signed to a contract extension — by Luhnow. Officially, left fielder Michael Brantley was signed as a free agent by current GM James Click — but only after he was signed as a free agent by Luhnow.

So in roster construction alone, there is a tie to the stench of the scandal. Luhnow’s organization was the organization that cheated and got caught, so he’s out. But his players remain employed — and thrive. ...


   8. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 26, 2021 at 11:15 AM (#6049105)
As a Yankees fan, I'm not sure why being the most hated franchise in professional sports is necessarily a bad thing. From what I've seen, it's just given the Astros more incentive to stick it to road fans like they did in Chicago and Boston.

The Yankees are hated because they've been too good for too long; with the exception of the all-too-brief periods in the late 60s and the early 90s, the Yankees have been contenders pretty much every year since Babe Ruth came to town a friggin' century ago. Meanwhile, the Astros were mostly irrelevant (except 2005) for much of their half-century history before (allegedly) cheating to win in 2017. Not the same thing.


If you'll re-read what I wrote, I never said that the reasons the two teams are hated were equivalent. My only point is how that hatred works as an incentive for the teams that are hated.
   9. BDC Posted: October 26, 2021 at 11:21 AM (#6049107)
The fact that the Astros hit much better on the road than at home in the years in question (2017 and 2018) doesn't seem to have entered the writer's consciousness, as well as the fact that in the 2019 World Series they lost all of their home games while winning all of their road games

"We were cheating but it didn't work quite as ideally as models might predict" is not really much of a defense :)
   10. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 26, 2021 at 11:30 AM (#6049112)
That "quite" is carrying quite a load there, BDC. Check out their home-road runs scored splits for the two years in question.

2017 Astros home-road splits

2018 Astros home-road splits


   11. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: October 26, 2021 at 11:40 AM (#6049116)
Screw the Astros. Go Braves.

Although if the Astros win, at least I get to be happy for Dusty.
   12. bunyon Posted: October 26, 2021 at 12:01 PM (#6049121)
From what I've read, I think there is decent evidence that they type of behavior the Astros engaged in was fairly widespread. Even that the Astros were behind the times (a garbage can, really?).

But, just as with PEDs, a defense that is summed up entirely as "well so were they" isn't much of a defense. Just as no one cares if a 18HR second baseman was using steroids, no one cares that a 75 win team might have been stealing signs.


On the other hand, I'm all for whatever gets Manfred booed as loudly and often as possible.
   13. JJ1986 Posted: October 26, 2021 at 12:11 PM (#6049124)
The cheating really doesn't bother me, but Correa, Bregman and Altuve acting like victims does bug me. Still, I'm not going to root for the Braves.
   14. Cris E Posted: October 26, 2021 at 12:14 PM (#6049126)
I can't imagine any angle I could care less about than the amount of booing Manfred will hear during the WS.

Truth.
   15. Astroenteritis Posted: October 26, 2021 at 01:22 PM (#6049147)
Speaking as an Astros fan, obviously, but I think Manfred did what he had to do. He couldn't let the whole league be tainted, and Mike Fiers gave him an out. It was a logical decision to hammer the Astros, from the viewpoint of "the best interests of baseball," so to speak. Of course the whole scandal was incredibly overblown, but Manfred's actions essentially put it all to bed and in the rearview mirror, and importantly, avoided dragging too many "marquee franchises" into the mess.

Banging on a trash can was so easy for the opposition to detect and counter, and you know word got around to other teams quickly, so it's no surprise it didn't help the offense much, if at all. However, everyone gets to be all self righteous and have a bad guy. Pretty much works out for everyone except Houston, but they don't seem to be too bothered by the reaction, anyway.

Now losing your manager, general manager, and several valuable draft picks, on the other hand, that does hurt, but the Astros just keep going as best they can.

   16. bunyon Posted: October 26, 2021 at 02:11 PM (#6049157)
15: You may be living in a bit of a bubble. A lot of people don't think the Astros got hammered near enough and the players skated completely. I happen to think a lot of teams (if not every team) were doing it, but once you rule that your champion cheated, unless you explicitly say everyone was doing it, the punishment here seems light.

Again, I think the punishment is probably pretty appropriate but only if we accept most teams were doing something similar. If it really was only the Astros, it's light.

And, anyway, they've done fine since being outed. There is no question they're a great team. They really are sort of Bonds-like. No one can deny the innate greatness, but they cheated nonetheless.
   17. villageidiom Posted: October 26, 2021 at 03:11 PM (#6049170)
I am looking forward to this Series, if only because it's more baseball, and I like baseball.
As a Yankees fan, I'm not sure why being the most hated franchise in professional sports is necessarily a bad thing.
It's a little too early for a professed Orioles fan to dress up for Halloween.
Speaking as an Astros fan, obviously, but I think Manfred did what he had to do. He couldn't let the whole league be tainted, and Mike Fiers gave him an out. It was a logical decision to hammer the Astros, from the viewpoint of "the best interests of baseball," so to speak.
Similar to how a lot of Yankees players were singled out in the Mitchell Report, the punishment was focused on the people connected to the source. Selig had Radomski; Manfred had Fiers.
   18. McCoy Posted: October 26, 2021 at 03:47 PM (#6049173)
Re 5 possibly but TB vs Mil has a matchup of two different regions and timezones while ATL vs TB is a very narrow band of geography.
   19. Howie Menckel Posted: October 26, 2021 at 08:41 PM (#6049232)
I don't want to see either team win a game at home - it's the best consolation I can think of.

so Braves in 7, then.
   20. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: October 27, 2021 at 01:14 AM (#6049325)
But, just as with PEDs, a defense that is summed up entirely as "well so were they" isn't much of a defense.
Disagree. "Cheating" implies violating norms in order to gain an unfair advantage. If everyone is doing it, then the norm doesn't actually exist, and any advantage isn't unfair.
   21. McCoy Posted: October 27, 2021 at 05:46 AM (#6049326)
So, just like steroids then.
   22. BDC Posted: October 27, 2021 at 08:05 AM (#6049334)
"Cheating" implies violating norms in order to gain an unfair advantage. If everyone is doing it, then the norm doesn't actually exist, and any advantage isn't unfair

Yes; although there are grey areas where something is either not against the rules (steroids pre-testing), or just sitting there begging to be exploited (the ubiquity of video showing the catchers' signs) – and people take advantage of that, but they are not proud of it and would rather their actions not be publicized.

I don't know exactly what to think of that in either case. Probably both are examples of some concept of sportsmanship that goes beyond the strict limit of the rules and what one can get away with.

In the most general terms, cheating or unsportsmanlike behavior in order to win is to my mind a venial sin – fine somebody, suspend them a while, clarify and enforce the rules going forward, and the offender should come back with a clean slate. Whereas gambling on games remains unforgivable because it is inextricable from throwing or fixing games, which IMO is far worse than trying to press an advantage.
   23. bunyon Posted: October 27, 2021 at 08:24 AM (#6049337)
Agree completely with 22.
   24. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 27, 2021 at 12:26 PM (#6049369)
As somebody whose team was just defeated by Houston in the ALCS - and who lost to Houston in 2017, as well - I do not understand the hatred for the Astros, except for one thing: They win a lot.

Generally speaking, fans of a sport do not hate teams that don't win all the time. People didn't hate the Patriots because they thought Brady/Belichick were arrogant, or because they thought the the team cheated...ultimately, they hated New England because for 19 years, they went to the Super Bowl nearly 50% of the time, and won it about a third of the time. If the Patriots struggle for a few more years like they have the last 1 1/2 years, the hatred for the Patriots will soon go away, and they'll be just like everybody else again.

Same thing with Houston - for American League teams, the Astros are arguably the number one barrier that stops other teams from getting to the World Series. For 40+ years, it was the Yankees - which is why the Yankees were hated by so many other teams' fans.
   25. Howie Menckel Posted: October 27, 2021 at 02:47 PM (#6049393)
People hate the Patriots in significant part because Belichick is a dick.

and they hate the Yankees in significant part because of their pampered, whiny fan base.

and they hate the Astros because not only did their players get off 100 percent scot-free, they still had the stones be whiny about it anyway.

more than just "winning" is involved.
   26. BDC Posted: October 27, 2021 at 02:55 PM (#6049395)
Back when the Cowboys were winning Super Bowls, everybody hated them. Actually everybody still hates the Cowboys, so I don't know what to think ...
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: October 27, 2021 at 11:44 PM (#6049513)
hmm, they were incessantly called "America's Team" even as most fans despised them.
that didn't help.

that the toxin-tongued reptilian Jerry Jones bought the team - and here we are.

they have their best team this year in like forever, though
   28. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: October 28, 2021 at 08:31 AM (#6049535)
(The Cowboys) have their best team this year in like forever, though

Yep, Dallas has had...let's see now...one straight losing season, from 2020 to 2020. (The Cowboys haven't had consecutive losing seasons since 2001-03.) They won the NFC East...three years ago, in 2018. They went 13-3 just five years ago, in 2016!

Yeah. Forever.
   29. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 28, 2021 at 09:36 AM (#6049546)
As somebody whose team was just defeated by Houston in the ALCS - and who lost to Houston in 2017, as well - I do not understand the hatred for the Astros, except for one thing: They win a lot.

As somebody whose team was knocked out by Houston in 2017 and 2019, I second the emotion.

------------------

People hate the Patriots in significant part because Belichick is a dick.

and they hate the Yankees in significant part because of their pampered, whiny fan base.


That "significant" is carrying a lot of weight there. If the Patriots and Yankees had played like the Jets and the Mets over the years, people would condescendingly mock and pity them, not hate them. As a Jets and Mets fan you above all should know that.
   30. bunyon Posted: October 28, 2021 at 09:44 AM (#6049549)
I find that fans hate other teams and fans of other teams for whatever reason is closest to hand.
   31. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 28, 2021 at 09:50 AM (#6049552)
I find that fans hate other teams and fans of other teams for whatever reason is closest to hand.

Bingo.
   32. SoSH U at work Posted: October 28, 2021 at 09:52 AM (#6049553)
The most popular teams in sports are almost always going to be the least popular teams as well, e.g., the Yankees, Lakers, Cowboys. Teams that are widely popular will be the teams that will also generate the most hatred.

Not many people hate the Pirates.
   33. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 28, 2021 at 10:05 AM (#6049556)
HEY MANFRED, YOU WANT A NIGHTMARE? I'LL SHOW YOU A NIGHTMARE!

Atlanta Heads Home, Hoping to Find Strength in Defiance

And here's the cherry on the cake:
Beyond all that, former President Donald J. Trump is expected to attend Game 4 on Saturday night. Trump last took in the World Series two years ago in Washington, when he was shown on the scoreboard and booed by the fans in attendance. Another N.L. East ballpark may be more forgiving.


Maybe Trump can lead them in a tomahawk chop. I can hardly wait to see if Fox cuts away from the action for an in-game interview with him.

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