At the beginning of the Padres vs Astros series last weekend I started a discussion with a friend who moved from Houston to San Diego a few years ago. We talked about our experiences with our teams and how fanbases are changed by the decisions their franchises make. Follow JJ Miranda on twitter.
NICHOLAS MCCANN Fri, Aug 21, 10:34 PM
missed your letters. I’m writing to you tonight because your Houston Astros
have started a series with my Padres.
matchup means a lot for our fan base. Because of how the pre-COVID 19 offseason
events played out the way they did for the Astros a bullseye has been put on
their backs in a real way. It feels extra important for the Padres to win this
series to make their statement against what Houston’s team means to baseball’s
fans watching their own team rebuild in recent years have always looked to your
team as a guiding light example of a particular type of rebuild to look forward
to. If what we have now works out we like to think our team would handle its
success in a better way.
What’s it like to root for a team with this stigma attached to it? And more importantly, how has it been as a fan defending a legacy that virtually every other fan base takes issue with?
JJ MIRANDA Aug 22, 2020, 1:18 PM
good to hear from you. Sorry for not writing sooner. I’ve been busy, flooded
with ill wishes regarding the Astros ‘cheating’ scandal. Anyway, I too am
looking forward to the rest of the series. I understand that the Padres are
trying to do God’s work both literally and figuratively in beating the evil
Astros and what they represent with statement wins. I hope it works out for
them. However I do see many parallels between the Padres of today and the
Astros of yesterday. Let me explain. The Astros, until last fall, had been the
darlings of the MLB. No doubt, so I can see why many teams including the Pads
looked to them as a guiding light of what could come out of a rebuild. However,
anyone who’s watched enough baseball knows there’s always more going on behind
the scenes. Before answering your questions about what it’s like continuing to
support them I’d like to provide some context.
no doubt the general public hates us. I don’t blame them. They don’t understand
the game. The vast majority of people never played it and therefore don’t
understand the mechanics at a detailed level. At the same time there’s social
value to being on the ‘let’s hate the Astros for what they did to the Game’
bandwagon. When you have a common enemy, it takes the target off your team.
Convenient. That’s an understandable, albeit emotional, argument sure, but what
about facts? Did they cheat? Sure. Yes. Is there proof of this? Yes. No
argument here. Do they deserve the treatment they’re getting now? Sure. Are they
alone in doing what they did? Absolutely not. Proof? The Red Sox have been
punished multiple times for the exact same thing and yet they’ve retained their
titles and no one ever Joe Kelleyed them. (Speaking of Kelly, it’s ironic how
much of a hypocrite he is for doing what he did recently despite having been on
one of those ‘cheating’ Sox teams that also won a title and no one calls him
out for this… because DODGERS. That’s why.) So why haven’t the Sox been
treated the same way? Because RED SOX. That’s why. Either way I think it’s
worth exploring rather than conveniently and lazily putting all the blame on
the Astros. (The WHO?)
are letting their emotions prevail rather than looking at the evidence laid
bare by the MLB in the form of ‘unwritten’ or ‘unsaid’ communications, much
like the ‘unwritten’ rules of the game itself. I’m sure you,
a loyal Pads fan can understand the reality of the unwritten rules
given the absolute hellstorm of shit thrown at you recently with the Tatis Slam
Diego situation. Tatis, and arguably the entire Padres organization, has been
under assault (however briefly) by the same exact ‘baseball culture’ you
mention because he decided to swing at a pitch he liked on a 3-0 count while
already having ‘enough’ of a run advantage. This unwritten rule should be dead
by now but it’s not. You only have to look as far back as August 5, 2001 for
validation in Tatis taking that swing. In one of the greatest MLB comebacks
Cleveland, down 12-0 going into the fourth inning, came back to beat Seattle
14-15. Did Seattle heed the unwritten rules of Baseball? If so they lost
because of it unlike the Padres.
make the comparison between the Astros cheating and Tatis breaking other rules
to point out that fans are fickle. In the case of the Astros and what the MLB
told us in the subtext of how they disciplined them, I pose a question: Why, if
the Astros’ ‘cheating’ scandal was so egregious and so unique and so wrong, did
the MLB not simply strip the team of the 2017 World Series Championship title?
We know now stripping the title never crossed their mind. Why? The answer is
very simple: It is because the MLB knows all teams, especially the blue blood
successful ones, have always done what the Astros did because it has always
been an unwritten rule and punishing them by stripping the title would
force the MLB to address many titles before it. It probably would have caused
former players to come forward and put other more recent titles into question,
the way Mike Fiers did. It doesn’t mean what the Astros did was okay. Not at
all. But in a way, they became a victim of their own success and blue blood
teams got tired of being embarrassed by them in the playoffs. Not because of
cheating, but because they are the Astros, an inferior team that should have
stayed in its place.
digress. It’s important to understand these facts in order to understand what
it’s like to root for a team with a ‘stigma’ attached and in order to understand
what it’s like to, as you said, ‘defend a legacy that virtually every other fan
base takes issue with.’ To answer both your questions, it is quite easy to both
root for and ‘defend’ the legacy because despite the continued crumbling of
baseball’s unwritten rules in today’s game the MLB is in essence admitting that
what the Astros did was not an outlier. More importantly, it is an admission
that the MLB knows there’s proof out there they can’t censor. That many, many
other teams have been doing it for decades. Given all the video there is of so
many games for so many decades, it’s just a matter of time before someone goes
digging in the MLB archives and puts together similar cases against other teams
from years past. For now, Baseball seems to be intact. The Astros situation is
just a temporary vanity fix to the facade that is the MLB’s illusion of a clean
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. I’d like your thoughts on my take of the Astros situation and the parallels I see between them and your Padres. Do you think the Pads fanbase actually thinks the Astros are an outlier? Do they actually think no other team has ever done this before? Or if they don’t think this, then why are they head hunting Astros too?
NICHOLAS MCCANN Sat, Aug 22, 9:21 PM
Tonight the Padres
went crazy on offense and the entire fan base lost it. I hear what you’re
saying about how the title in question wasn’t taken away because MLB knows it
would open a door that they want to see closed forever. In a way it’s similar
to how David Stern always isolated the NBA’s major gambling scandal as being
just a “rogue official.” Leagues have to protect records and minimize anything
that calls into question their validity.
Tonight there was an
incident where Fernando Tatis Jr. got hit and the umps warned the Padres. There
are a hundred ways to read into this but some fans seem to take that as a reflection
of the league recognizing the Astros as being targets and having a quick
trigger finger to defend them, knowing things could easily get out of hand.
I think Tatis means so
much to us that we don’t want to view any situation with him rationally. For
me, with the unwritten rule he broke last Monday it never entered my mind to
contemplate what he could’ve done wrong. Tatis did something so it was right
because what Tatis does is always right. Conversely, this same part of my brain
is able to paint Astros as villains very easily. They didn’t do anything of
significance to my team during the period in question but they were an easy
thing to reduce down and root against from afar.
A guy like Jose Altuve must mean something similar to you. He has struggled a bit out of the gate and people pile on in delight after he was at the epicenter of the scandal. Even if you can justifiably argue that cheating in that way is universal, does it change anything about your relationship to a specific player knowing that they benefited in a major way in a big spot? Most Padres fans would run through a wall to protect the legacy of Ken Caminiti’s 1996 season. I wonder if you’re specifically disappointed with anybody in particular for making this beautiful experience you had harder to deal with.
JJ MIRANDA Aug 23, 2020, 10:41 AM
not disappointed in anyone at all. They were just doing what is common practice
in the game right now. In fact, stealing signs continues to this day.
Proof? The Padres last night hit what felt like 20 home runs off the Astros.
They’re not up there guessing pitch by pitch. They’re getting real time info that
helps them know what’s coming which includes info that comes from them
stealing signs. It’s always been a part of baseball. What I am disappointed in
is just how people pretend stealing signs is illegal in the game and then
just put their heads in the sand. It was acceptable in the game for all
time until the Red Sox… sorry, I mean until the Astros. The last point I’ll
make regarding your comment on the idea that they ‘benefited in a major way in
a big spot’ is that this idea makes me smack my head because, knowing what
pitch is coming can help as part of a broader approach, but it’s never a
certainty and I’ll give you an example. Zack Greinke recently has taken to
verbally calling his pitches to the catcher. Telling the batter what’s
literally coming. The batter knows it, everyone knows it and yet he dominates.
Why? How’s this possible? Because literally knowing what’s coming is not that
big of an advantage. It’s not necessarily all you need to know to hit a
baseball. People just brush over this fact. And it is a fact.
Padres looked really good last night. Very exciting to see them clicking that
way. Its a great feeling when your team is deeply talented, building confidence
and are all ON. They’re starting to string the wins together and its a
great feeling. The Tatis situation last night was crap. Bielak is a
dumbass. Why did he throw at Tatis? Because Bielak was pissed off about getting
railed haha. It happens. That’s baseball. But he’s a young dumb kid still
trying to play the way of the unwritten rules that say 8 runs in the second is
enough. That’s why despite not getting tossed, Dusty pulled his stupid ass.
What I also thought was horse crap was that the blues warned both benches for
that??? WTF? There was ABSOLUTELY no reason the Padres should have been warned
for that. ZERO. My take on that move is the umps are just inserting themselves.
Probably because they don’t want it to escalate but warning just the Astros
bench is enough for the Pads to get that message. No need to call them out at
the same time. Childish umps.
Anyway, I will say, it’s a weird position to be in having grown up in Houston, a fan of the Astros all my life and now living in San Diego and having always liked the Padres during that same time because it was my first little league team. Now to watch them on a more regular basis, it’s exciting to see how quickly they’ve become so good but I will admit, part of me deep inside worries for them because what I see the Padres becoming right now feels like I’m watching the rise of the Astros all over again and I just hope they don’t get blasted with some scandal simply because they’ve gotten too good too fast. Our villain was the Yankees then and continues today. Your villain is the Dodgers. Much like the Yankees, the Dodgers are an entitled team and crowd and that is a recipe for scandal. Either way, I’m looking forward to that game later today. Padres already won this series. Dominant. They’re leaving zero doubt. I’m really looking forward to the next series when yall play the Dodgers next month. The two series played so far have been pretty evenly matched. I’d love to see the padres dominate the Dodgers the way you guys are whipping us this series. I have a feeling that would trigger some headhunting by Joe Kelly.
NICHOLAS MCCANN Aug 23, 2020, 4:33 PM
the Padres swept the Astros. This conversation has made me think a lot about
where the Padres are going and what they can look forward to if they reach the
mountain top. When a franchise starts to be dominant everybody looks for
reasons to tear them down.
I do see a lot of similarities to the Astros in their journey. AJ Preller is looked at a lot like Jeff Luhnow was on his way up. These are guys who both have a certain level of perceived modernity attached to their thinking and they’ve taken big swings. It all makes me wonder what happens to a front office culture when those big swings work out. How does that operation stay grounded?
feel for Astros fans because you guys were asked to take a clearly defined
route that was painful at first and you bought in. Carlos Correa means
something to you because when you look at him you know how hard it was to watch
the bad baseball that it took to get that pick in the draft.
Manny Machado and Tatis Jr are the faces of this franchise and I can see a myriad of reasons for why the rest of the league will find reasons to hate us. I guess that’s better than the other way around.
JJ MIRANDA August 24, 2020 2:49 PM
Great for the Padres, also a wake up call for the Astros, they’re going to need
to do a little more homework on teams like this so they don’t get pounded the
way they did.
pains are definitely going to be a part of any franchise rebuild and the fan base
will, at some point, go from always doubting their team out of cynicism to
outright expecting their team to just destroy opponents. (Enjoy these moments
because they’re just so sweet when happening in real time) It’s a great feeling
and if Preller and Co. keep doing what they’re doing, the Padres are going to
get there quickly. I would not be surprised at all if the Padres win the series
against the Dodgers in September. In fact, I expect the Padres to win that
series and maybe even sweep the Dodgers.
are a series of obstacles for a team to go from status quo to champion. The
first major one for the Padres is beating the Dodgers every time they meet. If
they can accomplish this, I expect the Padres to make a deep playoff run THIS
YEAR. Staying grounded is a waste of time I think what’s most important is
achieving a positive and winning culture and then maintaining it. Culture in
baseball is both the hardest thing to achieve and the easiest to destroy. An
example of this, going back to the Astros, is last year when the Astros lost
the World Series. If you ask any Astros fan, ‘hey when exactly did the Astros
lose the World Series last year’ most will say it was in Game seven against the
Nationals. My answer would instead be: “October 21, 2019. The day SI
published the story about Brandon Taubman’s Osuna comments towards female
reporters.” Why? Because the team, despite continued success after that
point, you could see the instant change to the team’s culture. It was
fractured. It still is. Since then, they’ve been affected by the shitstorm
their organization has been in and none of them will ever say it but I bet you
each and every one of those players have asked themselves if they even want to
play for the Astros in the future.
never been so long winded but I guess I had more on my mind than I thought.
Thanks for hearing me out. I just hope my perspective provides some…
something of value to you on your journey to World Series glory.
NICHOLAS MCCANN August 24, 2020
Hopefully we can pick this up in the World Series. Thanks to your team for not allowing the Dodgers to be champions in 2017. That would have been worse for baseball.