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As apology tours go, this thing hit black ice three exits back.
The Houston Astros tried silence. They tried remorse or regret or something. I’m not sure exactly. They oversteered. They tried press conferences in which they summoned the vibes of a fifth-grade oral report. They even, way back when, tried denials. They understeered. Soon, they’ll point out that they are, if you really think about it, victims. Give it time.
None of it worked. Nor, by the looks of things, will it work. In the end, everybody ends up counting their teeth in a ditch.
That leaves one option. They’re going to like it. They should have thought of this two months ago, before all that memorizing. Before they rented the overhead projector and got their bad tattoos fixed.
It’s time they wear their misdeeds. Wear them like a freakin’ neon thong at Mardi Gras.
Full heel. Scary face paint. Black hat. Cersei Lannister the crap out of it.
Embrace the hostility.
Because while it seems no one can agree on much of anything right now, they do agree on this: It’s going to get worse. It’s going to get a lot worse.
One day soon they’re going to open the doors and let the people in. The people are not happy. One day next month they’re going to line the field and turn on the lights and play real, regular-season baseball. Against other teams. The other teams are not happy. The people in those other places where those other teams play are really not happy.
None of them are going to get happier any time soon.
In fact, Astros manager Dusty Baker, the guy who ran toward the fire, already alerted Major League Baseball to the possibility his batters will be routinely targeted from 60 feet, 6 inches. Presumably, he didn’t mean intrasquad games. But, it’s still early.
And already commissioner Rob Manfred admitted the apologies — whether due to the plan(s) or the execution(s) — have been a coffee-on-the-lap insult to the injury. Lawyers are in, both the passed-the-bar and the clubhouse kind. Baseball writers are competing for the most damning of adjectives. Pete Roget is, like, “Uncle, man.”
Camps have been open a week, officials are foaming the runways for reporting position players, and not a single person has yet said, “Eh, they seem sincere. Let’s move along.”
Instead, Astros players and management are being asked to turn in their trophy, their rings. Wait’ll people remember there’s a gold banner at Minute Maid Park that is supposed to symbolize the best thing to ever happen to that franchise.
There’s this old saying that became something knitted into throw cushions that advised, “If you are being run out of town, get in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.”
The Astros can’t leave town. It’s in the rules. They can, however, make the best of their coffee-stained trousers, detail every inch of what occurred for however long it occurred, conclude that they will be the villains for this season and beyond, and then go be the bad guys most believe them to be.
You’re in that role, play it big. Bat flips. Hard slides. Dugout dances. Crotch chops. Then leave town with a couple wins and the silverware.
If someone is ever not sure, just do what Alex Bregman does.
Hey, everybody wants to be liked. At least respected. The road doesn’t offer much of that to begin with. Cheat the game — steroids, corked bats, trash cans, whatever — and every stop is “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but with more weirdos.
There are people out there who fear for the sport, who mourn for the lost integrity of entire baseball seasons, who wish none of this happened. There also are people who take this personally. Not all of them are in the stands, and some of their ire is valid. Even Manfred, speaking Sunday afternoon in Florida and defending the immunity-for-honesty methodology of his investigation, reminded that there is no deeper humiliation in the game than having been a Houston Astros batter in 2017. It’s no fun to have dictated the lede of your career obituary at, say, 25. The Astros have.
So, they will, in 2020 and for who knows how long after that, play every night against every wronged player, every angry fan, every ball writer on deadline, in every market but one. Their own.
It will be hard. Sometimes embarrassing. The voices will be loud. The judgments louder. Teams are coming for them. And they’ll know they’ll have earned most of it, if not all of it.
Hell, they might as well go full heel. They might as well enjoy it.
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