The 2020 Houston Astros avoided the cheating fallout. What will the 2021 Houston Astros storyline be?
You might be able to make a case that the Houston Astros are the luckiest team in the entire sports world. Yeah, they made it to Game 7 of the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays after being down 3-0 in the series, but I am not talking about just that.
This is the team whose manager and general manager were fired for being involved in MLB’s most infamous cheating scandal. You can bet other teams reacted to that. You can bet other teams’ fan-bases reacted. There’s animosity. There’s hatred. And we, as fans, were unable to see any of it at the games this year.
If 2020 had been an ordinary year, the other teams’ fans, especially fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, would certainly have watched (closely) Jose Altuve and George Springer every time they stepped up to bat. How much heckling would we hear in the stands? Would opposing pitchers dare to throw any beanballs? How much “trash” talk would we hear on the field?
The fact that the Astros barely received any sort of official punishment is what made this story more interesting. The Astros’ discipline was seemingly a slap on the wrist; the MLB fined them only $5 million and suspended their manager, A.J. Hinch, and General Manager, Jeff Luhnow for the entire season.
This created the perfect recipe for other teams and fans to take matters into their own hands.
The COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately, took away one of the most intriguing storylines of the season (of course COVID-19 did a lot more than that, but we hope that goes without saying). A season in which the Astros and the MLB’s 29 other clubs saw no fans in attendance at any of the stadiums, a drastically reduced schedule of only 60 games, an expanded playoff format, and, for the first time ever, the World Series being held at a neutral site.
I’m definitely not advocating for opposing pitchers to throw a 100 mph fastball at someone’s face. Revenge can be had many other ways—mostly by just beating the Astros on the field—and, like what happened to Pete Rose, this scandal will follow all of those involved, as it should.
But the Astros walked away from this season as the American League runner-up. They also walked away from their much-deserved vitriol from the other fan bases. Regardless of the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series this year, I’m sure they and their fans, along with all of the New York Yankees (and much of baseball in general), won’t easily forget what the Astros did.
I guess we’ll have to wait until next season’s opening day to see if those fan bases and ballclubs continue to harbor that intense hatred. A Houston Astros storyline and story overall to watch in the 2021 MLB season–whenever that is.