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Cruz: Astros’ scandal turns MLB into must-see TV — as the worst kind of reality show

Feb 18, 2020, 10:49 AM | Updated: 1:06 pm

Astros 2B José Altuve...

The Astros' sign-stealing scandal now includes José Altuve's supposed bad tattoo. (Getty)

(Getty)

The Astros’ sign-stealing scandal is simultaneously both the best and worst thing to happen to baseball. For years America’s pastime has been called antiquated, stodgy and irresponsibly bland – the plain, dry toast of professional sports.

But things taste a little different this season.

Groz: MLB could have avoided mess | O’Neil: Astros’ apologies are trash

We are barely a week into spring training, but it feels like baseball is currently the hottest reality TV series melded with the spiciest soap opera – and somehow we fast-forwarded to sweeps week.

Astros owner Jim Crane told the media he believed the sign-stealing scheme “didn’t impact the game.” Then contradicted himself a mere 55 seconds later.

Reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger accused Astros second baseman José Altuve of robbing Aaron Judge of the 2017 American League MVP. Then Houston shortstop Carlos Correa accused Belli of not understanding how to read, grasp reading comprehension, or understand facts.

Cut to Altuve going shirtless in front of reporters two days later after Correa claimed the reason he didn’t want his shirt ripped off after belting a walk-off HR in the 2017 ALCS was to avoid revealing an unfinished, rather unflattering collarbone tattoo. José Altuve – a man who once claimed to be shy – is now flashing reporters and starring in the Young and the Bare Chestless.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred also told ESPN he didn’t want to punish players for cheating because players weren’t adequately informed on how not to cheat.

SOAP OPERAS WISH THEY HAD THIS WRITING TEAM.

Now, I fully admit it that I’m guilty of stuffing popcorn into my face in rapt attention. I’ve followed every drama-filled minute. I’m not alone in my viewership, either – people around the world are staging watch parties. Baseball is currently the topic of conversation.

Normally this is the kind of attention that dry, bland toast begs for, especially one week into the preseason. The problem is this isn’t an hour of relatively innocuous, pre-produced television. It’a not a mindless guilty pleasure we can turn off at the end of the evening. Instead, we’re all reluctantly glued to the continual degradation of Major League Baseball, an ethical failing within a beloved sport. We can’t turn the channel, nor do we have the luxury of a mute button. This show blares nightly.

The sad thing is the whole sign-stealing debacle might initially prompt an influx of new MLB interest. Eyes everywhere will be watching. What happens when the first Astros slugger steps into the box on opening day? How many fans will carry trash cans to stadiums when Houston comes to town? What will it be like when the Yankees face the Astros in their penultimate regular season series?

I TOLD YOU, IT’S LIKE A 162-GAME SWEEPS WEEK.

In the short term, baseball will be must-see TV. One week in and already we’ve heard players hurl accusations of cheating, lying, stealing, and even illiteracy. The ultimate cost of this unintended programming is still unknown. Baseball deserves better than to be turned into the worst kind of reality show.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Lydia Cruz on Twitter.

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Cruz: Astros’ scandal turns MLB into must-see TV — as the worst kind of reality show