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Does Hatred Of The Astros Spring Eternal?

Houston Astros
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

It is still too early to ask this question, but nothing says America more than kneejerk conclusion-jumping (unless of course it is stadium grifting), so let’s have at it before someone starts yelling for Darvin Ham to be fired.

Specifically, if the Houston Astros finish beating the New York Yankees and then either of the National League’s mutant challengers to win their second World Series in five years, has enough time passed for folks to get over the stench of the first? Will our lack of interest in anything that happened a preschooler’s lifetime ago allow us to say, Well done, you, if this ends with a parade around the I-10 loop during evening rush hour?

I’m guessing if you still care about baseball, you fall into one of two camps: No, or hell no. Baseball fans tend to cling to the old injustices, alleged or provably real, and the sins of the fathers tend to graft onto the sins of the kids. Ask some of them and they’ll swear to you that Alex Rodriguez is still taking PEDs today for whatever cosmetic reason he requires to run a basketball franchise and bloviate on Fox, because what’s a grudge if it can’t be held in perpetuity?

Why, when Jeremy Peña was shown in the Astros dugout with a tablet to look at his at-bat off Frankie Montas after his home run put Houston ahead of the Yankees, 4-1, a healthy number of viewers reflexively blurted out, Look! They’re still cheating, the nefarious bastards! Tris Speaker never did that! Or that Game 2 was decided by a 2017 holdover, Bregman, and his three-run homer Thursday night.

But Jeremy Peña didn’t play on that 2017 team that percussed its way to victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Neither did Chas McCormick, who hit the game’s first homer, or any of the other Astros save Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel and Bregman. The only pitchers left from that team, none of whom benefited from the recording sessions of Carlos Beltran’s Rhythm Kings, are Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers. The manager, the impish septuagerian Dusty Baker, is different. The general manager, James Click, is different. The owner, the noted snake-scale salesman Jim Crane, is still there, but otherwise this is an entirely different team than the one that offended your sensibilities so.

That is, if they did offend your sensibilities. In this culture, what the Astros did what not only well in keeping with America’s corporate, political and jurisprudence ethos, but very much a baseball/skullduggery thing going back to its earliest days. The Astros saw a market inefficiency and seized it. If there is a complaint, it’s that commissioner Rob “Why Is This My Problem” Manfred plea-bargained everyone down to no time served to find out what little he actually wanted to know. But that’s not a baseball problem, that’s a Manfred problem, and those two categories are a Venn diagram that never Venns.

So the question is repeated: Are these Astros sufficiently not those Astros that you will have no issue with them if they clear the final two tables? Does beating the Yankees cure all known diseases including memory? And why do people still hate the Yankees anyway? They don’t even spend the most money anymore.

But people do hate the Yankees because of what they used to represent, namely Comrade Petchesky’s sad New York-centric fan pathologies? I mean, George Steinbrenner’s been dead for 12 years and the Yankees haven’t won the World Series in 13. That one was a featureless romp over the last memorable Phillies team, which Comrade McQuade will share tales of, especially if you ask him not to do so. The Yankees are more of a historical artifact than the Astros, and people still Pavlov all over themselves when the mere name is mentioned.

So whither the new Astros? Are they new enough for your delicates? Is an 81-percent roster churn and similar front office rollover sufficiently memory-scrubbing to allow you to enjoy this team? Are not enough of a Padre, Phillie, or Yankee fan to care even one furrowed brow’s worth? Or are you just too busy watching the Bears and Broncos play another entirely undeserved prime time game, or the San Jose Sharks’ ongoing attempt to win Connor Bedard by going 0-82-0, or the British government continue to implode by trying to name Robbie Coltrane its new prime minister even though he just died? What say you heaps of inert DNA?

I guess we’ll find out in three more exciting weeks, or about the time you stop laughing at the Lakers. Like we said, some habits die hard, and others never die at all.

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