It takes a special kind of logic to start your segment with a callback to the 1994 strike — the darkest moment in recent baseball history — and then make a full-throated argument that baseball today is in dire trouble. I mean, you think one would at least note that baseball has achieved labor peace, instituted the strongest drug testing regime in U.S. sports and has increased revenues something like 800% since then, but maybe that just slipped everyone’s mind:
To be fair: I am on board with concern about the demographics of baseball fandom. It is somewhat concerning that the audience for the game is getting older. Baseball worries about that too and they’ve actually been working on it. Time will tell if they figure that out. It’s also worth wondering and maybe worrying about who the next commissioner will be. The current battle to replace Bud Selig has one faction which seems to want to take us back to the days when owners and players were at odds and things like salary caps were discussed in polite company. If that happens, we could find ourselves back in the bad old days again.
But to claim that baseball “depends” on local revenue as if that were a bad thing and to cite the Q-ratings of various athletes as if that is some gauge of health is a lot of effort to get around the fact that baseball is doing really darn well these days. Way better than it was doing in the mid-90s, that’s for sure.
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.