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Sports Authority

Baseball needs a Braves win

| Thursday, October 28, 2021

The World Series got underway Tuesday night with a 6-2 win for the Atlanta Braves. On the road in Houston, Atlanta stole Game 1 against the most hated team in professional sports: the Houston Astros. Teams use some “Us Against the World” messaging from time to time in order to garner some motivation, but in the case of this series, it is actually Houston against the world.

If there exists someone who was not already an Astros fan, or has money on Houston, that is rooting for them in this series, please let me know. I would be shocked.

While sports fans everywhere are rooting for the Braves to pull this one out, nobody needs Atlanta to emerge victorious more than baseball itself. A win for the cheating Astros would be another blow to a sport that seems to cede more and more interest to the NFL and NBA every year.

For those that are unfamiliar, the Houston Astros won the World Series in 2017, beating the LA Dodgers in four out of the seven games. Houston won behind the play of charismatic AL MVP Jose Altuve, whose big hits throughout the playoffs helped the Astros beat both the Red Sox and Yankees on their way to the Fall Classic. As it turned out, however, Houston had employed illegal tactics, such as using game feed video to determine which pitches were coming. They would intercept the signal and relay the signs to runners on base, who would then alert the batter. Other times, a trash can was banged when a certain pitch was signaled for, telling the batter what to expect. Also, after Altuve hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees in the AL Champion Series, he was seen telling his teammates to not take off his jersey, causing many to think he was wearing a hidden wire. Needless to say, the Astros did not endear themselves to many fanbases around the country.

Four years later, Houston still has not escaped the shadow of the cheating scandal, and the MLB’s lack of action — namely not vacating the World Series championship or stripping Altuve of his MVP — has not helped. The Astros remain the most hated team in all of professional sports and, given the fact that they have continued to be successful post-scandal, this is not going to change anytime soon. Since that 2017 World Series run, Houston has appeared in the ALCS for five straight years, a stat I was not aware of until recently, and one that deepens my dislike for them.

All of this brings me back to my point: Baseball needs Atlanta to win this series. Mostly, the Astros cannot resume their position atop the MLB, but also because of the amazing underdog story that this Braves team represents. They lost their best player for the season — Ronald Acuña Jr. — to a torn ACL on July 11. Atlanta didn’t even have a winning record until August 6. For context, the playoffs started less than two months later on Oct. 5. Additionally, they spent 126 days under .500 this season, the fourth most by a division winner since 1969, and the most since the Blue Jays spent 131 days in 1989. This is also their first World Series appearance since 1999, and would represent one of the most improbable title runs in recent sports memory.

In a sport where the Dodgers and Yankees can buy a new team each and every year, a Braves comeback win would be great for baseball. The Braves rank 10th in payroll in the MLB, and while they are above the league average, it would be encouraging to see a team that doesn’t simply pay to win and take home the Commissioner’s Trophy. More importantly, it would prevent Altuve and his cheating buddies from retaking the MLB throne. If you still need another reason to justify rooting for Atlanta, Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies stole a base in Game 1, giving all of America free tacos from Taco Bell. What more can you ask for?

In the end, it all comes down to the old adage: cheaters never win. Let’s hope that rings true in this series.

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