Whitley's Believe It Or Not: If cheaters prosper, Astros will win the World Series

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
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The World Series begins tonight, and there are a lot of reasons to pull for Atlanta. The biggest is that if the Braves win, it will show that cheaters never prosper.

I wish that old proverb were always true, but I’ve seen New England win too many Super Bowls. Now we have the Astros, who make Bill Belichick look like Billy Graham.

They won the 2017 World Series to the echoes of trash cans getting bashed. It turned out the noise was part of an elaborate cheating scheme.

A center-field camera fed to a video room, where someone snatched the catcher’s signs and relayed them to the dugout. Players would bang on a trash can to alert hitters to what pitches were coming.

It may sound silly, but no less a hitting authority than Hank Aaron said, “I think whoever did that should be out of baseball the rest of their life.”

It took almost two years for the scandal to be uncovered. The general manager and manager were fired. Houston was fined $5 million and got to keep its ill-gotten trophy.

MLB didn’t punish any players, much to the disgust of just about every non-Astro in the league. What’s worse, the Astros have shown little remorse. Fans have showered them with boos this season, and the Astros feel as if they are the victims.

“How many people have not cheated on a test or whatever at some point in time?” manager Dusty Baker said. “I mean it's easy if you live in glass houses, but I don't think anybody lives in glass houses."

Oh, please. The only people outside Houston cheering for the Astros are Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, John Calipari, the 2001 Enron executive board and the 1919 White Sox.

I suppose anyone who hates old proverbs are also Houston fans. Because if cheaters get what’s coming to them, the Braves will stuff the Astros in a trash can and bang on it till they beg for mercy. ...

Studs of the Week: Jacksonville Jaguar Dawuane Smoot and his wife, Aumari. She went into labor and collapsed as they were leaving for the hospital, so her husband played midwife and successfully delivered a healthy baby girl with the help of a 9-11 operator. Great hands for a defensive lineman.

Dud of the Week?: Bucs fan Byron Kennedy. After catching a touchdown, Mike Evans gave the ball to Kennedy in the stands, not realizing it was Tom Brady’s 600th career TD ball and could be worth $500,000 or more at auction.

Kennedy returned it after the Bucs promised him a few goodies. Brady said he’d give him “something nice in return.” It was studly of Kennedy to give it back, but as Tony Romo said, he’d better at least get a date with Giselle Bundchen out of it. ...

Reason No. 2 to pull for the Braves: Baseball Commissioner/Virtue Signaler Rob Manfred moved this year’s All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver to protest Georgia’s “restrictive” voting laws.

Never mind that about half the states with MLB teams have similar or more restrictive laws, like actually requiring a photo ID to vote. If the Braves win it all, Manfred will probably try to move the trophy presentation to Denver. ...

Note to Florida fans: In the interest of whistling past the upcoming graveyard, I am declaring the rest of this column a Georgia-free zone. ...

A woman tried to climb from the stands into the Ravens’ radio booth during Sunday’s 41-17 loss to Cincinnati. She told the announcers she was looking for a drink. They should have told her to try the Ravens’ coaching booth. ...

China has pulled Celtics games off state-run TV because Boston center Enes Kanter started wearing shoes emblazoned with slogans critical of the Chinese Communist Party. One pair read “Stop Genocide, Torture, Rape, Slave Labor.”

In related news, the NBA has passed an emergency rule stating Boston centers must play barefooted this season. ...

Recruiting update: The Athletic surveyed about three dozen assistant football coaches and asked which schools should be recruiting better. One ACC coach said, “Florida State, Florida, Miami. Anytime you have schools like Alabama and Clemson coming into the state of Florida and getting players out of there, that’s a damn shame for those schools with the tradition and rich history they have.”

One SEC coach said, “Florida should be killing it but they’re not. FSU and Miami stink right now.”

On the positive side, UF fans, freshman gymnast Leanne Wong won the silver medal in the World Championships All-Around this past weekend in Kitakyushu, Japan.

Wonder if she can play defensive tackle? ...

This just in: In keeping with MLB principles, fans in Atlanta will not have to show IDs if they want to purchase a World Series beer. I know that broke my Georgia-free vow, but I couldn’t resist. ...

Betting odds on the new NBA season: The Nets are 3-1 favorites to win the title. Miami is listed at 20-1 and Orlando is 250-1. Luka Doncic is 4-1 to be voted MVP, and the odds of LeBron James wearing a pair of Enes Kanter’s shoes are 12,000,000-1. ...

That’s all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. If you plan to attend Saturday’s Florida-Georgia game and need a drink, please don’t try to climb into the Gators’ radio booth.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley

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