The A’s finally get their shot at the Houston Astros in the ALDS beginning Monday.
The A’s now can be the squad to knock the Astros out of the playoffs after dethroning them in the AL West. And Bob Melvin's squad will have the whole baseball world rooting for them, not to mention most casual sports fans after the Astros' cheating scandal was the talk of the MLB offseason before the coronavirus pandemic.
There's more incentive for the A's after comments by Astros shortstop Carlos Correa saying people need to stop talking about the fact that the team cheated simply because they won their Wild Card matchup against the Minnesota Twins.
A’s starter Mike Fiers was the whistleblower who exposed the Astros' cheating ways when it was discovered the team would steal signs electronically during their 2017 World Series run. Fiers had been a member of the team that season and earned himself a ring.
On the outside, it appeared many had Fiers’ back, but with the combination of the coronavirus pandemic halting sports this year, and the MLB and the Players Association being at war with one another, it could have been forgotten.
It hasn’t been, despite Astros manager Dusty Baker saying nobody on the team had mentioned Fiers’ name during the season.
That’s not the only reason this will be a more personal matchup.
During an Astros-A’s series on Aug. 9, Oakland outfielder Ramón Laureano was hit by a pitch twice in that game and three times over the series. During the third occurrence, Laureano took first base when Houston hitting coach Alex Cintrón began chirping at Laureano in what would later be determined to be an offensive dig at Laureano’s mother.
That’s when this happened:
Laureano charges the Astros dugout and the brawl breaks out pic.twitter.com/CQ2K8kFnlb— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 9, 2020
Both Cintrón and Laureano were suspended, but Laureano’s suspension, following an appeal, was reduced to four games from its original six.
The baseball world has not forgotten what happened. The Green and Gold faithful cheered extra loud for Fiers during Fan Fest and he received a standing ovation during spring training.
We weren’t able to hear how fans would greet the A’s with Fiers on the mound due to MLB protocols this season, but it’ll be a tense matchup. And it will be a battle filled with storylines around the cheating scandal that you won’t be able to escape.
Perhaps the A’s will end up being heroes -- the team that gave the Astros exactly what they deserved, an early start to their uncertain offseason.