Managers of contenders and non-contenders alike often talk about wanting to put their best lineups on the field late in the season out of some sense of fairness to other teams, but not Davey Johnson.
Johnson told Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com that once the Nationals lock up the division title he’s going to rest regulars even if other people think that might be helping one of their late-season opponents like the Cardinals:
I really don’t give a rat’s ass what somebody thinks about my club and who I put on the field to either help somebody else or I’m not supposed to rest my regulars after we clinch it, I’m resting my regulars. End of conversation.
Fair enough. You win a division so convincingly that you can essentially take the final week off and … well, you’ve earned it. Tough for anyone that might hurt, but resting regulars in baseball isn’t quite like doing the same in basketball or even football. It’s not as if Johnson has trotted out the same lineup for 150 games already. And of course in the Nationals’ case their previously choosing to “rest” Stephen Strasburg will overshadow, say, Adam LaRoche getting a couple days off.
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.