One of the biggest stories in MLB in the recent years of course has to be the exposing of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal that helped them gain an edge on their competition in the regular and postseason of their 2017 World Series winning season. MLB did conduct a proper investigation and took the necessary measures to punish the wrong doings and wrong doers the Astros automatically fell into a place no team ever wants to fall into, cheaters land. Now that Houston has been able to bounce back from the hate and constant pinpointing, World Series odds experts are looking at Houston as a very attractive choice to win it all again this year.
So can 2021 be the year in which the Astros go for the title again, but without any cheating scandals in the way?
A Quick Stroll Down “Cheaters” Memory Lane
The Houston Astros 2017 World Series title run was as great as any other teams’ especially when you take into account the roster and style of playing that Houston brought to the table. Back in 2017 the Astros finished their season in a very solid first place of their AL West division with a record of 101 wins and 61 losses, yes, a 40 game difference. They went on to defeat Boston in a timely fashion three games to one in the AL Division Series before taking out the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. Up until then, everything seemed like a perfect season in the makings. They went on to defeat the Dodgers in seven games to take home the World Series title, cue celebrations and pandemonium all over Houston.
With that not being enough, they went on to the 2018 season with the idea of running it back, taking their division once again with a 103 wins and 59 losses record. They would go on to lose the AL Championship Series to the Red Sox and see the end of their road there.
It was in November 2019, where news first broke out about a method in which the Astros used a video camera in strategic places of center field to film the opposing team’s catcher signals for every pitch. Houston players or team personnel watching the live feed would then via audio clues, like banging on trash cans, would tell batters what pitch was coming their way next. In January 2020 it was finally confirmed by MLB that the Astros had in fact been sign stealing during their 2017 World Series winning season and part of the 2018 season, cue shame and embarrassment all over Houston.
While they were able to make it back to the 2019 World Series in a losing effort against Washington and back again in the 2020 AL Championship series against Tampa Bay, almost edging them out but losing in the 7th game, the damage had been done and in the eyes of baseball the Astros were and will probably always be seen as “cheaters”.
2021, The Year To Prove Houston Can Win Without Sneaking
Let’s start out here with something that has always made Houston a threat for anyone facing them, their pitching core. While before the Astros could easily be interchanging pitchers from the starting rotation to the bullpen to bring relief and spunk to their games, especially in the postseason, 2021 is not the case. They lost future hall of famer Justin Verlander to Tommy John Surgery and have been battling with injuries all season long having them have to pull as many tricks out of the bag as possible to keep their rotation going strong.
The Astros have found some very much needed help from unexpected sources though. Rookie pitcher Luis Garcia has been everything the Astros have been needing to salvage their pitching, but they need to keep him healthy. The Astros know that the key to make it to the postseason and even the World Series is having a strong rotation that can make the relievers’ job easy. With Greinke, Garcia, Odorizzi, Urquidi and Valdez they could make it happen.
On the offensive side of the ball, while the post scandal years saw the team go into a sort of perennial guilt slump, karma one might say, the Astros are back to their old run driving dominating selves. All of their main players like Carlos Correa, José Altuve, Alex Bergman, Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley are all still going strong for Houston and they have shown no signs of stopping. Until they can finally get their pitching under control, their hitters have no problem holding down the fort.
Is 2021 The Year For Redemption?
The 2020 season was a nightmare for the Astros, and not because of their baseball playing but because of the shadow that has hung above them ever since the scandal went public. The Astros became the team everyone loved to hate, fans and opposing players alike. While thinking of this whole scandal being put to rest is not really a sane idea to say the least, the Astros are now riding on the opportunity to show that they can play baseball just as good as everyone else without cheating.
With fans finally able to be back in the stands Houston can ride off that, ride off the love from their home fans and the hate from the opposing fans. What is done is done at the end of the day and while the mark will always be there, the Astros have a good enough team to make 2021 their redemption run year.