Ramon Laureano and the Oakland Athletics have embraced the role of anti-heroes

Oakland Athletics, Ramon Laureano (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics, Ramon Laureano (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Ramon Laureano’s actions this past weekend have reiterated the Oakland Athletics’ role in a story of retribution.

As the Oakland Athletics enjoy one of their rare off-days during the 60-game sprint of a season, they await the fate of Ramon Laureano‘s appeal.

Laureano, who decided to charge the Houston Astros’ dugout to give their hitting coach, Alex Cintron, some pointers on hitting after graciously giving Humberto Castellanos a crash course on how to throw a slider, was handed a six-game suspension on Tuesday.

Cintron, meanwhile, was dealt a 20-game suspension for instigating. Or for hiding behind a wall of his players while pantomiming that he couldn’t get through. Perhaps a combination.

On one hand, unlike the three pitches that pelted him over the weekend, Laureano dodged what could have easily been a much heftier punishment.

Major League Baseball was clear about their coronavirus-influenced protocols heading into the 2020 season. Players weren’t to spit or high five. And they definitely weren’t given the green light to charge into the opposing team’s dugout to spur a melee.

Per the operations manual, fighting, as well as instigating fights are “strictly prohibited.” And, more threatening to Laureano, violators of that rule wouldn’t be handed punishments that were “reduced of prorated based on the length of the season.”

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In other words, Major League Baseball deemed that Laureano’s actions deserved a six-game suspension whether it was a 60-game season or a 162-game season.

He awaits the league’s decision to reduce that punishment to what will likely be four games. On the other hand, Cintrón’s 20-game suspension is the longest suspension for an on-field offense in 15 years.

At first glance, it feels as if Rob Manfred had finally decided to quit his wrist-smacking in favor of actual punishments. Cintron will be banned from being in the dugout during games for a third of this season. That sounds extreme.

But it doesn’t take into consideration the fact that Cintron will still get to travel with players. He will still get to work with the team during warm-ups. He’ll still get to give Jose Altuve pointers on how to maybe get to the Mendoza Line by season’s end.

It also doesn’t take into account that Cintron is a repeat offender in attempting to instigate fights with players on opposing teams.

Whether the A’s are without Ramon Laureano for six games or four games or even a single game, they’ll be affected more by the suspensions than the Astros will be.

The happenings from this past weekend’s series sweep supplements a growing catalog of reasons for fans to detest the Houston Astros. It also highlights a burgeoning beast that MLB has brought upon themselves.

From the day that Jomboy inadvertently spurred internet sleuths with the task of uncovering one of the most elaborate and substantiated cheating scandals in baseball history, every fan outside of a 10-mile radius of Houston anticipated their comeuppance.

But the comeuppance never came.

Sure, the Astros lost their general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch through year-long suspensions and subsequent firings. And, sure, they were fined four draft picks over the next two years along with the financial equivalent of a start and a half from Zack Greinke.

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And yeah, you can throw in that the New York Mets were shamed into releasing Carlos Beltran before he had to endure a single Mets game this season.

But thanks to the Rob Manfred’s almighty offer of immunity, not a single Houston Astros player received even a single day suspension.

When players across the league looked to self-police, MLB announced harsh punishments against anyone who targeted the Astros. When fans anticipated serenading the team with jeers, coronavirus forced fans out and replaced them with inaudible cardboard cutouts.

Any semblance of punishment seemed to completely evade the 2017 “World Champions.”

The fans have clamored to venerate anyone willing to step up and become the anti-hero.

They came together to plaster Joe Kelly’s pouty face across the internet when he wildly threw behind Alex Bregman. They collectively cheered as Lazor Ramon got a step or two away from hitting Alex Cintron with a “Hey yo, Chico” and a Razor’s Edge.

But even if Kelly had beaned Bregman with a 105-mile-per-hour heater on the shoulder, even if Ramon Laureano was able to stand atop the visitor’s dugout and wave a burning Astros flag after pummeling Cintron, fans would continue their bloodlust.

It’s far too late for Manfred to suddenly backtrack, force Jose Altuve to turn in his buzzer, and sit out the entirety of 2020 — even if the Astros wouldn’t miss his .180 batting average this year.

In attempting to find an avenue for vengeance, one must look toward banished-manager A.J. Hinch’s apology (read: mandated public appearance).

Hinch didn’t need two bangs of a trash can to know that Tom Verducci would ask him directly if the Astros 2017 world championship was tainted.

"“It’s a fair question. And I think everyone is going to draw their own conclusion. I hope over time and demonstration of the talents of this team and the players, the careers that are being had — these are some of the best players in the entire sport, all together on the same team — I hope over time it’s proven that it wasn’t.”"

There, beneath the prepared statements and the dreaming-aloud of teaching kids right from wrong while coaching small-town high school ball, Hinch outlined the exact way for baseball to get its retribution.

The Astros would need to become mortal again.

The Oakland Athletics have everything in their repertoire to drive the final stake through the Astros’ beating heart and conquer the beast that has knocked them back to second place year after year.

While they weren’t necessarily victimized in 2017 as a result of the sign-stealing scandal, they have grown into the admirable almost-as-goods.

They’ve become the annual “underdogs” despite back-to-back 97-win seasons. They’ve accepted being the well-behaved goody-two-shoes of the American League.

But while Matt Chapman and Matt Olson served as the babyfaces of the franchise, another player has brought the kind of swagger that flips that prim and proper appearance on its head.

Ramon Laureano provides a little edge to the Oakland Athletics’ organization.

Ramon Laureano is that player.

In 2017, while the Astros made their now-notorious run to a world championship, Laureano was hidden away within Houston’s minor league affiliate in Corpus Christi. He was walled off from breaking into the show thanks to a slew of other talented outfield prospects and stars.

He was denied a place on the 40-man roster, which would have prevented him from being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, and he was subsequently dealt to the A’s in exchange for a Single-A reliever.

On August 3rd, 2018, Laureano made his Major League debut. In the top of the 13th with two outs, Jose Iglesias of the Detroit Tigers attempted to steal second. The throw came quickly from the plate but skipped past Jed Lowrie and rolled into center field.

It was the first chance for the league to receive a stern warning: don’t run on Ramon Laureano.

Laureano launched the ball to Matt Chapman to hose Jose and end the inning. Iglesias couldn’t believe it.

In the bottom of the 13th, Laureano stepped to the plate with two on, two outs, and two strikes on him. Despite it being just his first big-league game, amidst a playoff run by a team that wasn’t supposed to be there, Laureano came through by roping a ball off the right-field wall to win the game.

It was his first hit in the majors.

Ramon Laureano’s fearlessness is nothing new to Oakland Athletics fans who have watched him electrify both defensively and offensively. But it now serves as the catalyst for Oakland’s insurrection against Houston’s tyranny.

The A’s have morphed from the good boys next door into the stubborn, hard-nosed, incorrigible force that threatens to make the expectant dynasty of the Houston Astros look like nothing more than a facade held up by cheating.

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Laureano represents a swagger that is bursting beneath Oakland’s kelly green uniforms.

He epitomizes what sets this year’s team apart from the ones from year’s past. By launching himself toward the Houston dugout, he embraced the role of anti-hero on behalf of his teammates.

They are the force that can stop the Houston Astros from ever validating their own talents.

It may come with the cost of Ramon Laureano missing the Bay Bridge Series over the weekend, but the A’s proved this past weekend that they are not going to back down. They will not allow Houston to prove themselves as being worthy.

Ray Ratto of 95.7 The Game wrote that the Laureano incident “belies a basic truth about this team…baseball players don’t particularly like rules in general, and will devote time to circumventing as many as they can manage.”

In a season laden with additional COVIDic rules, the one that Oakland is set on breaking is one that has been set against them each year before — that they do not belong with teams that are the caliber of the Houston Astros.

Laureano’s story is cut from that same cloth. He wasn’t supposed to make it. He wasn’t supposed to be good enough to break through to the next level. He certainly wasn’t supposed to break out into a brawl during the age of a pandemic.

But he did.

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And, in doing so, he reminded us that, in order to break those rules and shatter through the glass ceiling — to disrupt that status quo and to rewrite evolving history — it takes charging relentlessly ahead, without fear, toward the one thing standing in the way.