Everybody loves a villain. The NBA has super-teams, the NFL has Tom Brady, and the MLB, since 2019, has had the Houston Astros.
In 2019 former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, in an interview with the Athletic, revealed that in 2017 the Astros, at home used an illegal camera positioned in center field to steal pitch calls and relay them to hitters.
This revelation marred the 2017 World Series victory for the Astros and has plunged them into infamy. They were now public enemy number one, and everyone just wanted to see them lose. In the first season following the news they were eliminated in the ALCS by the Tampa Bay Rays, and the world rejoiced.
People in the aftermath of 2017 have loved to hate the Astros and point to the cheating as the reason for their success. I (a die-hard Dodger fan) was all for the Astros being torn apart by the baseball world and claiming that the cheating was what caused them to be good. But it is time to move on from 2017 and accept that the Houston Astros are just really good at baseball.
Since that fateful 2017 season, the Astros have won 100 plus games in three of the five seasons (the 2020 season had only 60 games). A run of dominance was started that year and has consisted of four division titles and deep runs into October every year.
They have seen the emergence of Alex Bregman as one of the best 3rd basemen in baseball. He was the runner-up for the MVP in 2019, posting a line of .291, 41 home runs and 112 runs batted in. They have welcomed to the fold, 2019 Rookie of the Year, Yordan Alvarez as well as All-Star Kyle Tucker. And while not the MVP he was in 2017, Jose Altuve continues to be a sure bet to hit about .300 and 20 home runs. From top to bottom, their lineup is chalked full of All-Star talent and consistency.
Along with this lineup that continues to get stronger, the Astros pitching staff has been top three in team earned run average three of the last five seasons, including leading the league in 2018. This was not the result of stealing the opposing teams pitching signs. What did happen in 2017 was the addition of one Justin Verlander. Since joining the team in 2017, Verlander in his three full seasons has been an All-Star all three years, won the Cy Young Award in 2019, was runner-up in 2018, and is likely in line to win it this year. Along with him, the Astros also had two years of All-Star Gerrit Cole and now have a group of talented young arms including Christian Javier and Framber Valdez, who have helped push them to the World Series yet again.
The five years following the scandal have been a constant display of veteran leadership, top-end talent, and elite potential. The Astros in spite of all the hate and turnover, losing their head coach, general manager and multiple draft picks, have been one of the most consistent and successful teams in recent MLB history. Led by manager Dusty Baker and several key veterans who went through that scandal, the Astros clinched a spot in this years World Series against the Phillies, making that their second straight appearance and fourth in six years. They have gone to the American League Championship Series every year for the last six years.
If the Astros can win their second title this year, they will cement themselves at the top of the American League and should be recognized as a legitimate dynasty.
This of course all goes out the window if in two years you open up The Athletic and there is an article exposing the cheating of the Astros in the 2022 season, so we can all hope.