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  • ‘Hate their guts’: Four years later, some celebrities still despise the Astros as ‘cheaters’ – Houston Chronicle

 October 30

by Carolina

When the Astros step up to the plate at Atlanta’s Truist Park for Game 3 of the World Series tonight, they’ll face legions of Braves fans echoing the taunt that’s chased them around the country for almost two years: “Cheater!”

Those in attendance aren’t the only ones eager to pile on the hate for the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, which tainted their 2017 World Series championship against the Los Angeles Dodgers and made the team the unofficial-official villain of baseball. Along with notable fans from Travis Scott to Kate Upton, the team also garnered celebrity detractors.

Take Bill Simmons of The Ringer, once known as “The Boston Sports Guy.” On an Oct. 15 podcast episode, the Red Sox fan had this much to say about Space City’s baseball talents: “Obviously hate their guts.”

TIMELINE: How the Astros cheating scandal played out

Unlike some fans, Simmons didn’t minimize the key role Astros bench coach-turned-Red Sox manager Alex Cora played in securing Boston’s 2018 World Series championship just a year after assisting in Houston’s victory. While investigating the 2017 cheating scandal, Major League Baseball determined that Cora had helped develop the Astros’ scheme of using replay review to decipher signs and banging trash cans to signal incoming plays to batters. Subsequent investigations discovered the Red Sox also used their replay review room to steal signs during their 2018 championship.

Still, Simmons didn’t think twice about jeering the Astros during the American League Championship Series.

“Does that mean I’m not going to enjoy it every time the Fenway fans chant ‘cheater!’ at (Jose) Altuve and (Carlos) Correa and all that stuff? Yeah, I’m going to love it,” he said.

Astros fans may have reason to be grateful to Simmons for helping jinx the series in favor of the better team of “cheaters.” The Astros would go on to shut down Boston 5-0 last Friday and clinch the ALCS, winning them the heart of Texas and intensifying the loathing of almost everyone else.

The public hate train began when Major League Baseball wrapped up its cheating investigation in Jan. 2020. MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred fined the Astros $5 million, suspended general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for a year and docked the Astros’ first and second draft picks but granted the team’s players immunity. Houston also wasn’t required to vacate its 2017 championship, sparking a wave of condemnation from celebrities.

“I know if someone cheated me out of winning the title and I found out about it I would be f—— irate! I mean like uncontrollable about what I would/could do,” tweeted Lebron James in a colorful calling-out of Manfred that ended with the hashtag, #JustMyThoughtsComingFromASportsJunkieRegardlessMyOwnSportIPlay.

Former Braves player Nick Markakis was more explicit. “I feel like every single guy over there needs a beating. It’s wrong. They’re messing with people’s careers,” he told reporters. Markakis left the Braves before the 2021 season, but the Astros will play his teammates on their home turf while enduring scorn and continued accusations of cheating.

On Tuesday, “Breaking Bad” actor and Dodgers fan Bryan Cranston piled on in an Instagram post.

“They have been exposed as cheaters. Not in a good-ol’-fashion baseball way, but in a ‘calculated, devious use of technology and a trash can’ way,” Cranston said. “They disrespected the game, and that is why they are universally disrespected and despised by nearly everyone who loves baseball, including me.”

Forty thousand ecstatic fans in Minute Maid Park would beg to differ, but one Astros superfan and local celebrity is taking his support to Atlanta. For Nguyen Le, who has followed the team to all 58 playoffs games since 2015, Houston’s trip to the World Series this year has taken on a deeper meaning in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal.

‘GOLDEN ERA’: Astros superfan talks Game 6, Fenway Park, and life after Correa

“I love this team more because of all the hatred they’ve received from opposing fans,” said Le, who frequently films himself confronting fans who shout obscenities and deride the Astros as cheaters. “I’m looking forward to us basically proving to ourselves and everyone that we’re good, and we don’t need to cheat to do it.”

Le, an obsessive baseball fan since the ’80s, also challenged the notion that sign-stealing wasn’t a “good ol’ fashioned” form of rule-bending, or that the Astros were the singular source of Major League Baseball’s cheating woes.

“What I’ve realized is, many of the fans are just casual fans and they don’t know their baseball,” he said. “They don’t know that the players on their teams were caught cheating too.”

Still, Le agreed with the Astros haters on one point: the cheating scandal might signal a turning point for baseball. If so, it’s a culture change that came at Houston’s expense.

“The boys cheated four years ago, and I’m not defending what they did, but everyone in the game cheats – just like the steroids era, the game promoted it, until they didn’t,” he said. “Baseball is full of cheats, and so the league itself made us a sacrificial lamb.”

Matt Young contributed to this report.


Original posted at www.houstonchronicle.com

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