The Houston Astros will be the only team in Major League Baseball with zero representation at the 2021 All-Star Game after all four of their All-Stars: Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Ryan Pressly opted out of the Midsummer Classic for various reasons.
Carlos Correa will miss the game after being placed on the team’s injured list prior to yesterday’s game against the Yankees due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Altuve will use the All-Star Break to rest a minor leg issue. Brantley will also be using the time to rest an injury, and Pressly is taking paternity leave to be with his pregnant wife.
All of these seem like normal issues that would merit stepping away, but if you look a little closer, all of these issues are a little suspect. Let me explain.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year and a half, you’ve probably heard about the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. To make a long story short, the Houston Astros cheated to win the 2017 World Series using a camera system to steal opposing pitchers’ signs. Baseball fans weren’t too thrilled with the discovery, and were even less thrilled at the fact the no players were punished for their blatant disrespect of the game. In total, for cheating their way to a World Series title, the Astros were fined $5 million and were docked several draft picks. That’s it. The Astros fired their GM and manager for their part in the scandal, but those firings were solely the decisions of the Astros organization and not Major League Baseball. Since the news of this scandal broke, baseball fans have been looking for every opportunity to heckle the team and its former players. Unfortunately, fans did not get that opportunity in 2020 due to COVID-19. No fans were allowed in stadiums, and therefore, no fans were there to boo the Astros every time they took the field. Therefore, the Astros’ shame tour defaulted to 2021, and fans have been ruthless.
Even former Astros are being heckled in their new home ballparks.
As you can imagine, the Astros don’t appreciate all the hate being thrown their way. Several members of that infamous 2017 team have publicly stated that they don’t believe they deserve to be labeled the villains of baseball. As much as the Astros have been heckled and hated since 2020, there has still never been an opportunity to do so on a national scale. The Astros were in the ALCS last season, but since no fans were allowed in the stadiums for AL playoff games, there really hasn’t been a chance for fans to twist the knife into the sides of the Astros at a major event. The 2021 All-Star Game in Colorado was supposed to be that event. However, since no Astro is participating, that opportunity has been stripped away from the fans. That begs the question: “Did the Astros pull out for fear of the backlash they’d receive at the event?” And honestly, that might be the case.
Of the four Astros selected to the All-Star Game, only two of them were on the 2017 World Series roster: Altuve and Correa. They were the first two Astros to opt out of the All-Star Game. Altuve is opting out of the game to rest a “nagging leg issue.” Well, that’s interesting. If this leg issue is such a problem, why did he play the entirety of last night’s game against the Yankees? In fact, Altuve hasn’t missed a game all week! You can’t tell me that it’s because this game matters. Yes, that’s the case, but the season is 162 games long, and missing one or two games wouldn’t vastly affect your team’s chances especially when your team has the best run differential in baseball and is 4.5 games ahead of the second-place team in your division. Not to mention that any team would gladly let one of their star players rest for a few days to make sure they were 100 percent for the remainder of the season. Plus, if Altuve has really been dealing with this nagging leg issue for some time like he says, why did it only just come up a week before the All-Star Game? Seems a little fishy.
As for Correa, the Astros’ shortstop will miss the game due to a sickness. Astros manager Dusty Baker said that he’s “day-to-day” with his illness. However, that’s not why the shortstop is opting out of the All-Star Game. Prior to falling ill, Correa said he was choosing to sit out the All-Star Game in order to attend a doctor’s appointment with his pregnant wife.
The other two Astros’ decisions to skip the All-Star Game make a little more sense. Michael Brantley has a history of battling injuries and has been dealing with side soreness since July 3. In fact, Brantley missed three games between July 3 and 5 in order to recover from his ailment. That being said, Brantley has played in each of the Astros’ last four contests. I’m sure if he really wanted to play in the Midsummer Classic, he would.
Astros’ reliever Ryan Pressly, on the other hand, will be using the four days off for paternity leave. His wife is much later in her pregnancy than Correa’s. However, his wife’s due date is July 30 — more than two weeks after the game, though babies are not known for always arriving on time.
Furthermore, MLB players are allowed just 72 hours for paternity leave, and in order to qualify for paternity leave, the childbirth must either be imminent or have occurred within the last 48 hours. I doubt a due date almost 20 days away would qualify as imminent. Why wouldn’t Pressly opt to take paternity leave closer to his baby’s expected due date? Perhaps there’s been an update with his child that the public isn’t aware of. It’s possible.
If neither Pressly nor Brantley were members of the 2017 Astros team, what would they have to fear? Why would fans go after them for the crimes of others? You’d be surprised. With Correa and Altuve out for the game, fans would likely be looking for any reason to verbally berate the Astros, even if it meant going after players who weren’t involved in the scandal at all. We’ve seen fans across all sports due some pretty dumb things since ballparks, arenas, and coliseums opened back up. We’ve seen fans throw things at players. We’ve seen multiple fans run out onto the playing areas. So to think that fans, especially ones who don’t realize that neither Brantley nor Pressly were on the Astros in 2017, wouldn’t heckle the two of them seems a little too hopeful.
It makes sense that the Astros would want to avoid this game over others. The All-Star Game is just a symbol. It doesn’t mean anything in the long run. There’s zero chance these players would opt out of a game with serious playoff implications. Therefore, if these four were to take any days off for fear of being heckled into the shadow realm, now would be the time to do so. Obviously, this is all purely speculation, but from what we know, these decisions seem a little too suspicious to be mere coincidences.
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