Ahhhh, do you smell that? That’s the unmistakable smell of beef on the grill. Good, quality baseball beef. I’m detecting the presence of the Yankees, the Astros, and a not-forgotten cheating scandal. And wait, what’s that? I believe I am detecting the presence of shirts … and possibly jackets?
In order to understand this beef we must first go all the way back to Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, when Astros star Jose Altuve slapped a walk-off dinger off Aroldis Chapman that sent Houston to the World Series. At the time, everyone thought Altuve was just a cool guy who had hit a cool homer, but ever since it was revealed that the Astros owed a great deal of their success to a complex and shameless cheating operation, that home run has looked a little fishy. Maybe Altuve knew what pitch was coming! Maybe he knew it because some guy near the Astros dugout was using a video feed to steal signs and bang on a trash can like usual, or maybe something even more sinister went down. Maybe Altuve was alerted to what pitch was coming by a secret buzzer that he wore on his chest. This became a believable conspiracy theory due to how weird Altuve was about not letting anyone take his jersey off during the post-homer celebration. If you watch the homer again, you’ll notice Altuve gripping his jersey with both hands and hanging on for dear life as he approached home:
The Astros have always explained this odd behavior away by claiming that Altuve didn’t want his jersey ripped off because he didn’t want people to see his unfinished tattoo near his collarbone, which, hmm, OK man.
So anyway, the Yankees and Astros played a three-game series over the weekend, and during Saturday’s game Aaron Judge did this while rounding third base following his third-inning homer, which gave the Yankees a 1-0 win:
That was pretty obviously a direct shot at Altuve, and one that Judge earned. He finished second to Altuve in the AL MVP vote after the 2017 season, and so he has a better reason than most to despise the vile, cheating Astros. Judge played coy after the game, though, telling reporters that he was just letting his teammates know that they should “button up a little bit” because “it’s pretty chilly” in the Astros’ stadium when the roof is closed.
By the time Sunday’s series finale got started, both teams were fully committed to various garment-based taunts. Astros catcher Martin Maldonado got things started in the bottom of the third, when he punctuated a solo home run by pulling down his jersey to reveal that he was not in fact wearing some sort of electronic buzzing device:
But the Yankees were ready for this, and quickly took things to the next level. Suddenly, there were jackets involved:
For most of the game, it looked like the Yankees were on their way to a dominant series sweep, the kind that could have very well turned around what’s so far been a disappointing season. They were hitting dingers, they were talking shit, they were pitching well, and they were finally going to get some measure of revenge against the hated Astros. The ninth inning started with Yankees leading 7-2, and then, ah well, everything went to hell. Houston started the inning with five straight hits to cut the lead to 7-5, which of course led to Jose Altuve stepping to the plate with two men on. He hit a walk-off three-run homer, and then, after he touched home plate, his teammates ripped his damn shirt off:
So what did we learn here? The Yankees are still really salty about the Astros’ cheating scandal, but not quite good enough of a team to really stick the landing on their little revenge tour. We also learned that the Astros, a team that has recently been found guilty of cheating at baseball in just the most deeply embarrassing way you could ever think of, are not currently being told what pitch is coming by any sort of electronic devices concealed under their shirts. So we have that on the record.