What makes the Houston Astros so good and so hateable at the same time?
From a cheating scandal to outright dominance, the Astros are a team that has created very contrasting feelings amongst baseball followers.
Since 2017, there hasn’t been a better team in MLB. While there is sure to be some debate around that first sentence, we leave it to you to decide between statistics and sentiment.
The Good: The Astros have dominated for half a decade
If even you’re a casual fan of baseball, it should probably have occurred to you by now, that the Houston Astros are appearing in their fourth World Series since 2017. Let’s be honest that’s pretty impressive. Of course, even a casual fan will know that the 2017 World Series, which the Astros won, was as controversial as it gets. With a cheating scandal uncovered, there will forever be an asterisk alongside that title from six years ago. For more on that you can check out the section below, but for now the point is this: Having risen from the ashes of scandal, the Astros have maintained not only the bulk of their roster, but a high level of play as well. Perhaps that’s why they’re back in the ‘Fall Classic.’
The Bad: The debate about punishment continues
Taking the aforementioned scandal into account, there was obviously a punishment that followed. This is perhaps where a lot of fans lost love for the Astros. That’s to say, many believe the Astros weren’t punished severely enough for what ultimately boiled down to outright cheating. When news of their pitch-stealing operation broke, GM Jeff Luhnow was suspended for a year, the franchise had to give up a 1st and 2nd round pick and it was subsequently fined to the tune of $5 million. Yet, a large percentage of fans wanted to see more. The jury is still out on that one, but for perspective, teams caught cheating in the world of soccer have been docked points, stripped of titles, or even demoted. You be the judge.
The Ugly: They cheated fair and square
We’ve mentioned the scandal now twice over, but what exactly happened? It was 2017, the same year the Astros won their first World Series, when news of a sign stealing scandal broke. What’s that mean? In short form, the Astros developed complex system involving monitors that were in their bullpen. The Astros would watch the screens which in turn displayed feed from a camera positioned at center field of Minute Maid Park. Through this system, the Astros would relay to their batters what pitch was coming next. The team communicated the inside information by banging on a trash can - the number of hits indicating which pitch was next. It should be said, that sign stealing has been a part of baseball long before the Astros got in on it, however, the way in which they did had never been seen before. Consider for a moment, some reports suggested that varying players - including 2017 AL MVP José Altuve wore a buzzer inside his uniform, with which he would be notified as to what pitch to expect.
Regardless of where you stand on the Astros, they will begin their World Series bid on Friday, 28th October at 8:00 p.m. ET against the Philadelphia Phillies at Minutemaid Park in Game 1.