Since Albert Belle’s career ended rather abruptly after the 2000 season, we didn’t get to see him age all that much in the public eye. He turned 34 in his last season and then just disappeared to wherever crazy, occasionally criminal elite power hitters go. I picture a fortress carved in a foreboding mountain, for what it’s worth.
Today he showed up at Cleveland Indians camp where he met up with former 1990s Indians Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar Jr. and manager Mike Hargrove and posed for this picture by Jordan Bastian of MLB.com:
Egads. Lofton looks like he could still lead off for a major league team and Alomar looks like he could be a backup catcher. I have no opinion about Baerga. If you made me put either Mike Hargrove or Belle in a lineup today, based on that pic alone, I’d go with Grover.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.