I’m Rooting for The(se) Astros

And other things that are hard for me to say.

I’m not sure which is worse, the fact that I have to own up to my disastrous 2022 MLB Season predictions, or that I’m going to root for…gulp…the Houston Astros.

In April, I wrote my 2022 MLB Picks and Predictions piece, and in it, I suggested that the Astros would finish second in the AL West, behind the Angels:

If there’s one thing my mother taught me, it’s that karma’s a bitch. One day I’ll have to get over the Astros cheating scandal. You will too. But I don’t know if that’ll happen until they start to suck again. Pay your dues. Repent. Make the 2011 Astros look like the ’27 Yankees. It’ll happen one day, right? Gargamel will finally capture Jose Altuve, right? I can only hope. Until then, they’re gonna be good. I’m just hoping the Angels will be better.

Well, the Angels stink. Not only was that not the worst prediction I made, but I also don’t think it was unreasonable. Trout? Ohtani? Maddon? Iglesias? Syndergaard?

Only two of those guys are still around and their names rhyme with Gout and Bohtani.

And they’re in fourth place, only ahead of an Athletics team that at least had the balls to wave the white flag in the offseason.

So now, once again, the Astros are sitting pretty atop the division, eyeing a first-round playoff bye and their chance at another title.

I also have to eat crow on my Yankees prediction, where I put them in fourth place in the AL East:

I’m very simply not scared of this Yankees team. Joey Gallo is a louch. Torres was not the right choice. Rizzo doesn’t seem like he wants to play there. Aaron Hicks is a nobody at this point. This team needed to fire up last year and I don’t know if that attitude will change at all. Aaron Boone is a bump on a log who gets paid to chew gum. He’s not gonna do it. Cashman’s not gonna do it. They’re in a low period. A low period that could still mean 90 wins. But it’ll be without any pomp or circumstance, and an early October exit.

Cashman went all out, Aaron Judge is having an MVP season (can anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with Bohtani win this award?), and the Yankees are the best team in baseball.

That was hard to type, but I’ve gotten some practice admitting it on the Bleacher Brawls podcast every week.

The Yanks put it all together and will be a force in the playoff run.

Meanwhile, my Red Sox aren’t quite out of it, but they’re basically out of it. Even if they were to make the playoffs, it would be a tough squeeze. And it wouldn’t last long.

So I need a playoff team. No self-respecting fan mulls around in October if their team is out of it, they jump on a bandwagon!

Can’t root for anyone in the AL East, (other than my local Baltimore Orioles, but I find that unlikely). Have no interest in the Twins. No attachment to the Braves. Milwaukee has Hunter Renfroe, but that’s not enough. I don’t think the Brewers or the Mets did enough at the deadline. San Diego might win it all, so that’s too easy.

Yikes.

I’m left with the Houston Astros.

Now, I want you to understand that this has taken a lot of self-reflection.

For years I’ve had to grapple with the fact that Alex Cora, Boston’s manager, was apparently the mastermind behind the whole 2017 cheating scandal. Then he turned around and lead Boston to a World Series title in 2018.

I’ve had to get over that. Maybe it was easier to do that because I’m biased and love the Sox. But there’s a part of me that feels like it’s an easier pill to swallow because Cora served his time for doing his crime. He served his year-long suspension (which conveniently landed during the short 2020 season) and was rehired as Boston’s manager.

Meanwhile, the players involved in the championship were never punished. They snitched and never got stitched. And that still bugs me. The team got fined, the team got draft picks taken away, but the players on that team basically got away with it. Their only real loss was their manager, A.J. Hinch, but how much of a loss was that really?

I’m not going to wish any legitimate harm or malice on these guys, but I hope they are mildly inconvenienced forever. I hope Jose Altuve only gets unskippable YouTube ads, preferably the longer ones, like movie trailers. I hope the Slurpee machine is down every time Alex Bregman walks into a 7/11. And I hope Justin Verlander drops his Cy Young and dents it.

But I need them to beat the Yankees.

Yes, I’m the guy that wrote the following at the beginning of the season:

The attitude to always root against them is so weird to me. Rivalry, yeah yeah. But we won that rivalry in 2004. Nothing will ever top that ever again. Stanton hits a home run every single time he plays in Fenway and I don’t even blink. The Yankees are not what they used to be.

First of all, my opinions are allowed to change. That’s a lot easier to write when the Yankees have been docile for a few seasons.

Also, I would love for Yankee fans’ spirits to be crushed after such a great regular season. I might actually enjoy the Yankees episodes of Bleacher Brawls again.

And the Astros can do that. They won the season series against the Yankees 5–2, which is clearly more than an easy best-of-seven series victory in the playoffs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the Astros to win the whole thing. After they whoop the Yankees in the ALCS, they’ll have to face the Dodgers, Padres, or Mets. I’m calling Padres, so good luck getting past a 1–2–3 that involves Tatis Jr., Soto, and Machado. Not to mention Bell or Cronenworth, or their playoff rotation of Darvish, Snell, Manea, and Musgrove — then getting closed out by Hader.

But, if they happened to win it all, I could swallow it.

During last year’s World Series, I wrote:

The only person I like in Houston is Dusty Baker. At 72 years young, Baker became just the ninth manager to win a pennant in both leagues after the ALCS victory over my beloved Red Sox. He wasn’t there for all of the trash can nonsense a few years ago, but unfortunately, him winning also means cheaters winning. Baker is really the only reason to root for Houston, but he’s not a good enough reason. Go Braves.

It would be nice to see Dusty win one from the helm, something he hasn’t been able to do yet. I just wish it was somewhere else.

It would be nice to see Christian Vázquez get something for his misery after being traded from the Red Sox to the Astros. Every baseball fan remembers the times when they got to see their catchers jump into their pitchers’ arms, and I will forever cherish the memory of Vazqy running to hug Chris Sale after the final out of 2018. I would be okay with seeing him do that again. (Can he call another strikeout of Machado for the final out?) I just wish he could’ve done it with us.

The only other guy I will root for is Trey Mancini. I moved to Baltimore at the lowest point in the Orioles rebuild and I watched as Birdland fell in love with the guys that would see them through to the other side. Mancini was at the top of that list. Now that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, Trey got traded. With all he’s been through, with the kind of ballplayer and kind of man that he is, I’ll be rooting for him wherever he goes. I wish he could win one in Baltimore, but anywhere else will do.

That’s it. If those guys won, I’d be okay with it. I could swallow it.

But really, that’s it.

I hope every other Astro burns their microwave popcorn.

Want to chat Red Sox? Check out Bleacher Brawls.

Want to chat baseball? Email me: theboywholovedjoekelly@gmail.com

Want to keep updated with the column? Find it on Instagram @theboywholovedjoekelly and Twitter @boywholovedmlb

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Patrick J. Regal

Patrick J. Regal

Educator. Artist. Founder and Editor of Feature Presentation. Instagram: patrickjregal