Photo: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports
The Houston Astros returned to Yankee Stadium Tuesday night for the first time since Game 5 of the 2019 American League Championship Series.
The Yankees and their fans waited for this moment going back to when the Astros were caught cheating last year. They used technological aids to steal signs of opposing teams, which is a no-no. It played a role in the Astros beating the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS along with winning the World Series. It also played a role in the Astros winning the 2019 ALCS, which featured Jose Altuve wearing a buzzer to pick up on a pitch that Aroldis Chapman threw to him that would end up as a home run in Game 6 that helped the Astros go to the World Series.
The much-anticipated matchup did not happen last season due to COVID-19 that prevented cross-country traveling.
The Yankees fans let it all out, and they will continue to do so Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. They even saw the Yankees win to start off a three-game series with a 7-3 victory over the Astros that resembled a playoff-like intensity. It was like the old days at the old Yankee Stadium, which was an intimidating place for visitors to play during the regular season and the postseason.
Good for the Yankees fans if it made them feel better. Good for the Yankees that there was closure.
But here’s the problem with all this: It changes nothing in the end. The Astros did not have their World Series championship stripped. So what if they cheated? Parades last forever and flags stay forever. The city of Houston celebrated the Astros for their accomplishment and they raised up the World Series flag. Memories can’t be taken away despite people putting an asterisk on their accomplishments.
Yes, Major League Baseball forced the Astros to fire Jeff Luhnow as their general manager and A.J. Hinch as their manager. They lost their first-and-second round picks in the 2020 and 2021 amateur draft. They paid a $5 million fine.
No matter. The Astros came out light in a sense the players did not get punished for partaking in the sign-stealing scandal. Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Altuve and the rest of the Astros get to play.
If anyone thinks dealing with the boos on the road and having to talk about cheating will get to the players, think again.
The Astros love this. They embrace it. They are used to this already after being heckled in places like Oakland, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Seattle. They know what to expect. They have no choice but to embrace the role of being a villain. It brings out the best of them.
Tuesday night was a big deal since it took place in New York. Everything magnifies in the nation’s No. 1 market. Who said everything is just bigger in Texas?
From the Astros perspective, Tuesday night was just another night on the road. They experienced this enough that they can ignore the noise and play baseball. Plus, it helps they have a manager in Dusty Baker that knows how to unify the players for a common cause.
If being booed in New York was the worst thing that happened for the Astros, they will take it. It could have been so much worse.
Besides the Yankees had opportunities to beat the Astros in 2017 and 2019 ALCS. They did not get the big hit when it came down to it. They also lost two games to the Astros at Yankee Stadium in the 2019 ALCS. In the end, they failed. No one can blame the Astros for that one.
Plus, the Yankees don’t come off as innocent themselves. During the 90s championship run, they boasted many players taking steroids, specifically Roger Clemens. Granted, every team featured players taking steroids, but the point is the Yankees cheated themselves. It’s hard to feel sorry for them in that retrospect.
It’s hard to feel sorry for the Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers here. In the end, the Dodgers did not get it done in Game 7 at their own ballpark. The Yankees could not get the big hit against the Astros. Plus, teams cheat, though the Astros did it so blatantly that Major League Baseball had to address it.
The Yankees fans did what they had to do. They did not disappoint. They were creative in heckling Altuve, Correa and Bregman. They did it right rather than resort to stupidity such as violence. It was a night meant for them.
For the Yankees, this win does nothing for them other than keeping their winning streak going at four and being one game above .500 (15-14) for the first time since April 6. It’s hard to say a regular-season win was the best revenge since the Astros still beat the Yankees when it mattered already. The only time the Yankees and their fans say revenge is sweet is if the Astros lose to the Bronx Bombers in the postseason.
For the Astros, it was just another night of a 162-game season.
So again think about it: Does this really hurt the Astros?