Olney: Astros players have a lot on the line in 2020


As chance would have it, the Houston Astros‘ first exhibition game was a home game of sorts, with Houston playing host to the team that shares its West Palm Beach complex, the Washington Nationals. Because it’s still February and a lot of the veterans are relatively early in their preparation for the regular season, no members of the 2017 Astros played.

And yet the Astros were still booed, vociferously, in the first dress rehearsal for what promises to be an extremely challenging year.

Really, there’s nothing that the Houston players can do about it anymore — not even the many current Astros who were with other organizations in 2017, like outfielder Michael Brantley, who was serving out his final season with Cleveland back then. Some of the reaction has crossed the line, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote the other day.

New Astros manager Dusty Baker said it right in speaking with reporters, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post among them. “You’ve just got to put your big-boy pants on and just try to shut it out and just play baseball and realize that this too shall pass,” Baker said. “When? I’m not sure.”

The response to some of the Astros may never dissipate, leaving them to figure out how to cope with it all. Maybe mental coaches can help. Maybe competitive defiance will kick in, with an “I’ll show you” instinct taking over. It’s possible that some players will let it get to them; the negative reinforcement from booing fans is part of the reason why Ed Whitson, Kenny Rogers and Sonny Gray departed the Yankees.

For members of the ’17 Astros who have moved on to other teams, such as the Twins’ Marwin Gonzalez and the Mets’ Jake Marisnick, it’ll be a little easier because the uniforms they wear won’t set off the reflexive response that the Houston gear will generate.

Each of the ’17 Astros still with the team has no choice but to endure, and as with all players, they all have something at stake personally this season.

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