By: Matteo Raffa
The Houston Astros may have avoided one of the most scrutinizing seasons in sports history, for now. The fans and the league, except Manfred, have not forgotten how the Astros destroyed the integrity of baseball. Here are 6 things that we have learned about the new, fair-playing Houston Astros.
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
1. They didn’t forget about the scandal either.
Carlos Correa had a lot to say throughout the offseason and during Spring Training. Since the cheating scandal has been validated by the league, and underwhelming punishments were distributed, the main Houston trio has been silent off the field. Altuve and Bregman have been quiet on social media and have not been in headlines for any surprising answers during interviews. It is not clear whether they are sorry for what they had done to their own careers, or they stay off the Internet to preserve their own mental health. The incident between Correa and LA Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly was the only spark of the season thus far. We expect that there will be many similar scenarios of pitchers intentionally hitting Houston batters throughout the season.
2. Major League Baseball wants to move on.
Based on the treatment the team has gotten from the league, it is evident that Manfred wants to leave this stain in 2017. The Red Sox were found guilty of manipulating the game in 2018, but it has not received nearly as much attention. Commissioner Manfred did not hesitate to hand Joe Kelly an absurd 8-game suspension for intentionally throwing at Correa and Bregman. He seems to treat the Astros as equals with the other teams in the league, when in reality they are not. He believes that the public shame for their actions is adequate for a punishment. We can only hope for clean and regulated baseball for the 2020 season and in the future.
3. The Astros’ scandal hit the organization hard.
The Houston Astros are not the same powerhouse of a ball club that they were from 2017-2019. Through the first week of baseball the Astros have not been hitting well. Bregman and Altuve are both hitting for .188 and Springer for .172. There is no telling whether they are adjusting to their new hitting coach or that they are not accustomed to guessing offspeed pitches. Their bullpen is not the same as it was either. They lost some key arms, such as Will Harris, and they are relying on their rookies to carry them later in the ball game. Seven players have made their major league debut within this first week for the club. While they are going through a team restructuring, rather than a rebuild, they are leaving the AL West wide open. The Athletics should act fast and win early to get a jump on the worn out Astros.
4. The Show goes on.
Almost every powerhouse ballclub, excluding the Red Sox, improved during the offseason. Teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, Twins, Indians, Reds, Athletics, and the strong NL East clubs have all upgraded their rosters with acquisitions and minor league call-ups. Clubs realized that they were done wrong by the MLB and the Astros organization, but that is not an excuse to remain stagnant during the offseason. Now, more than ever, the World Series is anyone’s to win. The Astros were the favorites in the late 2010’s every year because of their strong hitting and starting pitching. Now that they have lost Gerrit Cole, Verlander is injured, and the bullpen has collapsed, they have new challenges to face. It would be nice to see another team from the AL West take control of their division while the Astros figure out their woes.
5. Dusty is back and has his team’s back.
Every baseball fan recognizes Dusty Baker as a successful, but not too successful, manager. He has always had a place in the league among mid-tier and good ball clubs. He was called to manage the Astros after the league had banned AJ Hinch for the 2020 season. After the Joe Kelly incident the other day, Baker was quick to call for suspension. He brought to attention that a pitcher can seriously hurt and endanger another player’s career by throwing at their head. This instant protection by the new skipper has to resonate well with the players. A new form of trust is built when a manager strongly sticks up for his team (Ex: Aaron Boone and the “savages in the box” rant). We’ll be paying close attention to how Dusty Baker fairs with his new position as the Asterick’s manager.
6. Even though the teams have forgotten, fans have not.
Baseball Twitter is still very displeased with the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, MLB, and Commissioner Manfred. Emotions are high strung when the Astros are in the spotlight. All fans from all other ball clubs across the country are consistent with their opinion on the cheating scandal. One thing that fans were stripped of this season was the opportunity to let the Astros have what is coming to them. When the opportunity comes, fans will torment the Houston batting order 1 through 9. Gut feeling tells me that players that leave the club in the future will get similar treatment at their new clubs. Careers and reputations are tarnished for these athletes. Whether the core Astros lineup wins 0 or 10 more World Series rings, they will never be able to escape the year 2017. The fans, and hopefully Cooperstown, will not allow them to forget either.