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The Karma Series

The Washington Nationals have won the World Series and the nation could not be happier.

When the championship series were won, I think there were plenty of rooters for the Houston Astros around the country. Jose Altuve is one of the most likable characters in baseball, and the Astros had simply played great baseball all year. As an American League partisan, I was poised to root for them even though they’d beaten my team to get there.

But before the Astros postgame celebration was over, karma was already turning against them. “Karma” not in the strict sense it is used in Hinduism, but in our colloquial American sense of justice and getting what you deserve. You could say the bad karma started long before October, when the Astros went out and signed a bargain, a pitcher who was serving the longest domestic violence suspension ever handed out by Major League Baseball, and who might have been in jail if the woman he beat hadn’t fled to Mexico and decided to stay there instead of returning to face him.

Many people were critical of the signing of Roberto Osuna. He’s not the only abuser in baseball, not by far, but he’s the one critical to this story. Various beat writers, and one woman writer in particular, took to tweeting the domestic violence hotline whenever he pitched. Some in the Astros front office apparently did not appreciate having their noses shoved in the crap they’d shoveled in. During the postgame celebration, totally unprompted, assistant GM Brandon Taubman went on a profanity-laced tirade directed at three female sportswriters in the clubhouse, one of whom was wearing the purple domestic violence awareness bracelet. (“I’m so fucking glad we got Osuna!” etc.) In other words: fuck your criticism, winning means more to us than your petty humane concerns. (This was a particularly stupid gloat given that Osuna had coughed up the lead in the game and had to be bailed out.)

Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated posted an article about being one of the three women. An hour later the Astros, who had declined to comment for the story, issued a statement that her article was falsified. Ballsy move when the incident happened INSIDE A ROOM FULL OF REPORTERS. The Astros story about what happened began to change, and then change again, as basically the entirety of the sports media rose up against them. Statements from the BBWAA. Investigations from the MLB commissioner’s office. Eventually they had to fire Taubman, fully retract their statements, and GM Jeff Luhnow had to eat crow in front of the entire blood-hungry press corps. Did the Astros think that just because Donald Trump seems to be getting away with yelling “Fake news!” whenever someone criticized him that they could do the same?

If anything, the corruption and impugnity with which Trump has conducted himself as President has made the press and the American people absolutely STARVED for justice, and his abuses of the press have left us all hungry for truth. The Astros were never going to get away with that.

And the vast majority of the previously neutral baseball-watching public dubbed the Astros “the bad guys” and the Nationals “the good guys” for the World Series.

During the 48+ hours that the Astros front office drew the ire of both anyone who cares about treating women (and players) as human beings and integrity of the press, though, karma took care of itself. The lost both games one and two–at home!–in decisive fashion. They got their asses beat. Karma was served.

By the way, as I’m writing this, we’re watching the Fox postgame celebration coverage, and Davey Martinez, manager of the Nationals, is wearing the purple domestic violence awareness bracelet.

Karma doesn’t rest, though. And neither does the crooked Trump PR machine. It was announced that Trump would attend game 5 of the World Series, if the Nationals did not sweep. The Nationals came back to the “swamp” that is Washington, DC, and scored only one run in each game. It seemed unbelievable. The pendulum had swung so far the other direction that it seemed that the Astros, having appeased the angry gods, had grabbed all the momentum. Not even all the Baby Sharks in the world could bring the Nats to life. Karma wouldn’t be reversed by announcing that not only would Donald Trump not throw out the ceremonial first pitch but that superstar philanthropist chef Jose Andres (who just got back from serving over 1 million free meals in the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas) would. Not even announcing that Tom Lerner, the owner, didn’t want Trump to sit in his box.

How could this be? The Nationals have pitcher Sean Doolittle, one of the true “good guys” of baseball, who tweeted support for LGBTQ folk after another relief pitcher in the NL was found to have made homophobic tweets, and who went on a campaign to visit and publicize independent bookstores as he went around the country with the team this year. They have Davey Martinez, who underwent a heart procedure this season and came back to lead his team. They picked up a reliever for cheap, Daniel Hudson, who as far as we know not only isn’t a wife-beater, but missed a game in the postseason to be there for the birth of his daughter.

But not only did the Nationals hitters seem cursed, one of their two ace starting pitchers came to the ballpark on the day of his start with his neck and shoulder so badly spasmed that he couldn’t even put on a shirt without his wife’s help. Max Scherzer faced the media, in obvious pain, unable to even raise his arm, much less pitch.

Maybe, just maybe, though, the gods of justice were appeased by the fact that Trump was booed mercilessly by the crowd when Trump was shown on the scoreboard, and then they began to chant “Lock him up!” (If you’re reading this in the year 3000, impeachment proceedings against Trump have recently begun. Look it up.)

The Nats went back to Houston needing to do something that had never been done before: win four games on the road in a World Series. They faced elimination in Game Six, but their other ace, Stephen Strasburg restored order, the bats came to life free of the DC grind, and they forced a Game Seven.

The cortisone shot Scherzer had taken on the day of his scratch had taken effect, and he and Houston’s Zack Greinke treated the baseball world to a gutty pitchers duel for five innings. But it would come down to the bullpens: and Osuna and Hudson in particular, with the bad guy coughing up runs, and the good guy nailing down the final out of the World Championship.

Trump is still in the White House (for now) but at least in the metaphorical world of professional team sports, the bad guys got what they deserved and karma prevailed.

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