The Houston Astros reminded everyone just how good they really are.
In a season that was equal parts frustrating and unbelievable, the Houston Astros did something very few people thought they would do: They advanced to within one game of the World Series. We’re all sad to see this playoff run end, but it was one of the most important runs in franchise history.
From the moment the sign stealing scandal broke, it was always going to be a rough 2020 for the Astros. What they did was wrong, and no one’s defending it. But it became clear over the past several months that, because Mike Fiers ratted them out, MLB decided to use this team as a scapegoat for what was obviously a league-wide problem with illegal sign stealing.
In fact, teams have been trying for more than a century to illegally steal signs, to varying degrees of success. The Yankees and Red Sox were busted for it recently, and several other teams were accused as well. Depending on the outcome of the pending court case, we might find out more about what the Yankees were doing around the same time the Astros were cheating.
But no matter what happens, there will always be an ignorant segment of the population that believes the Astros stole the 2017 World Series and ruined the game of baseball, which of course is hogwash to anyone who cares to know the facts. They will continue to spout nonsensical and illogical things, perpetuate outright lies and scream “cheaters” until they’re blue in the face. Nothing will change that, unfortunately.
Back to Reality
But to everyone else, these Astros showed they’re still a major player in this league. They lost Gerrit Cole and Will Harris to free agency, and Joe Smith decided to opt out. Then they lost Justin Verlander, Roberto Osuna and Yordan Alvarez to injury for nearly the entire season, didn’t see Jose Urquidy until September, and used a total of 15 different rookie pitchers.
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They also had several offensive players struggle. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel had down seasons at the plate, and though George Springer, Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker had good years, they needed this postseason run to validate their status as a top-tier team in the sport. By getting to Game Seven of the ALCS against the AL’s best team, and defeating the other two division winners along the way, they certainly did that.
Correa and Altuve really came alive in the playoffs, with Correa stepping into the spotlight to become a leader on the team and a lightning rod for the haters. That all seemed to weigh heavily on Altuve this year, who’s also been falsely accused of wearing a buzzer in 2019, so the fact that Correa stepped up to take some of that weight off Altuve’s shoulders is a key development.
The Astros are also in good shape to contend for another title in 2021. They’ll have Altuve, Correa, Bregman, Gurriel, Tucker, Alvarez and Martin Maldonado in the lineup to go along with Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers, Framber Valdez, Urquidy and Cristian Javier in the rotation. If they add a couple of veteran relievers to the bullpen that features Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Ryan Pressly and hopefully Smith, they’ll be in excellent shape, and they could re-sign Springer and/or Brantley.
But the 2020 Astros, if nothing else, proved they don’t need trash cans or sign stealing to win games. Despite all the injury and free agent losses, they’re still a formidable team with a ton of talent, and their championship window isn’t closing anytime soon. They gave us some exciting moments and a memorable playoff run, and Houston fans will always be grateful for that.