The Houston Astros’ mascot Orbit is meant to be an alien, but on Friday at the Oakland Coliseum he was more like a troll.
Before the coronavirus pandemic began, the leading story of the baseball offseason was the Astros’ cheating scandal. During their 2017 championship, Houston used an advanced sign-stealing system that went beyond the reasonably accepted levels of gamesmanship and into the realm of ill-gotten, unfair advantage. The enduring symbol was the trash can they banged on to communicate to their batter what type of pitch was coming next.
The Astros received some light punishment from MLB, but not nearly enough to appease fans. After all, not only had Houston cheated, but they got a ring out of it. Worse, the players showed virtually zero remorse, and didn’t seem to understand why everyone was so mad at them.
One recourse fans had to look forward to was the 2020 season, and the Astros coming to visit their teams’ home ballparks. Think of one of those Retirement Farewell Tours, like for Mariano Rivera or David Ortiz, but the exact opposite. It would be apocalyptic booing.
But then the virus hit, and fans weren’t allowed to attend games due to social distancing. Gone were the dreams of telling the Astros what you thought of them, close enough that they might hear you.
Fast forward to Opening Day, and teams around the league have filled their empty seats with cardboard cutouts of their fans. The Oakland A’s are among the clubs to have instituted such a program, and they came out pretty well.
During Friday’s Opening Day broadcast, though, one cutout in particular was spotted in the outfield.
Orbit (Astros mascot) in a trash can cutout at The Oakland Coliseum. pic.twitter.com/rNa5O2mufP— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) July 25, 2020
That’s the Astros’ mascot, Orbit, sitting in a trash can, reminiscent of the one that the team used when they wanted to cheat at baseball. Troll protocol activated.
The design was submitted by LF Bleachers 138 “Bryan” (@SandLot408 on Twitter), one of the team’s top diehards and perhaps Ramon Laureano’s biggest fan. He told me that he sent it in along with the Ramons that are flanking it in the above tweet, but that he wasn’t sure if the A’s would actually put it up. When he and some other fans were invited by the team last weekend to come adorn the Coliseum bleachers with their customary assortment of brilliant homemade banners, he was pleased to find that the club had indeed printed the troll job.
Bryan had originally hoped to use this design for a full banner when the Astros came to town, but that kind of time-specific material is not possible now because all the banners for the season were hung at once last weekend and can’t be switched out for different opponents. So instead, he made it into the cutout and submitted it that way. Here’s what the full banner would have looked like (there’s always next year to use it!):
If you can’t be there to boo the Astros in person, may as well poke some fun however you can. Well played by Bryan, and props to the A’s for actually putting up this cutout.