The Astros boasted the Killer B’s a generation ago: Bagwell, Biggio, Bell and then Berkman. Today’s Astros are associated with other B’s — more like scarlet letters, really: banging, buzzers and boos.
Ah, yes, the boos. They’ve been loud, they’ve been constant and they’re not going to stop for a while. Everyone wearing a Houston uniform has heard them during the first week of exhibition games in Florida. They’ve been fans’ direct responses to the club’s sophisticated (and, eventually, against-the-rules) sign-stealing scheme during its 2017 World Series championship season.
Six position players are left from that now-infamous team. Five have been booed while playing on the road in the Grapefruit League; the sixth, Josh Reddick, has yet to appear in a major league spring game.
On Monday, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel heard it at the Tigers’ park in Lakeland. Here’s some of the reaction to Altuve, who has denied allegations that he and other hitters wore buzzers to receive stolen signs last year.
On Wednesday, George Springer got his earful in Port St. Lucie.
He was greeted coldly before each of his three at-bats against the Mets. In his second trip, against reliever Justin Wilson, he tried to hit a pitch onto Interstate 95 a few miles away. He failed miserably and instantly became the butt of internet jokes.
Was Springer already fed up with the fans’ response, or was he just swinging hard at a hittable pitch while preparing for the season? There’s no sign anyone tried to ask Springer after the game, so who knows?
If he was trying to stick it to the boo-birds, then that’s not a good sign. That means Springer has already grown rabbit ears, which are really bad things to have in baseball. Rabbit ears betray distraction, frustration and anger. Players know better than to grow them because then they’ll hear worse stuff.
The attendance for Astros-Mets on Wednesday was 4,088, a fraction of the people the Astros will be playing in front of a month from now in the regular season. Houston’s first road trip is to Oakland and Anaheim and includes the Angels’ home opener on April 3. The 40,000-plus who are expected at Angel Stadium will likely include a large contingent of Dodgers fans who are ready to vent over their team’s loss to the Astros in the Fall Classic three years ago.
The Astros who were around the team then could embrace their role as baseball’s heels and tell those fans to bring it on. If they do that, though, then they better be killers on the field. They best not come up empty the way Springer did Wednesday. Then those fans won’t let them hear the end of it.