Jake Ruderman ’26
A Timeline of the Houston Astros’ Recent Success
With their win against the Yankees last week, the Houston Astros clinched the AL Pennant and made it to their fourth World Series in the last six seasons. It’s a ridiculously impressive accomplishment and a testament to their meticulously crafted roster and experienced manager. The Astros have dominated their competition in the last five years, advancing to six straight Championship rounds and winning one (and potentially a second) World Series.
So how did the Astros get here? Let’s take a look back at the storylines and decisions that built this team. With their looming move to the American League in 2012, the Astros moved into rebuild mode, acquiring prospects and strengthening their farm system. Second baseman José Altuvé debuted in 2011 and broke out the following season, becoming the second youngest all-star in Astros’ history. Altuvé became the face of the Astros, earning eight all-star appearances, three AL batting titles, and the AL MVP in 2017, all while standing at only 5’6”. First round picks George Springer and Carlos Correa debuted in the next few seasons and the Astros made it back to the playoffs in 2015. They made the playoffs again in 2017, spurred by a late-season trade for Hall of Fame pitcher Justin Verlander, beating the Yankees in the ALCS en route to their first World Series title. A strong 2018 season fell short in the playoffs, and the 2019 campaign ended in a stunning World Series loss. The pandemic-shortened 2020 season saw them fall in the ALCS again, and 2021 concluded with yet another World Series loss. Although they’ve only got one ring to show for it, this stacked team has come incredibly close time and time again.
So if all this is true, why is the Astros’ success discredited? There’s a simple answer: the 2017 cheating scandal. During the 2017 season, the Astros illegally placed a camera in centerfield, filming the catcher’s signs and relaying them to a TV in the dugout. An Astros player would then bang on a trashcan, once for curveball, twice for a different offspeed pitch, and not at all for fastball, alerting the batter to what pitch was coming and giving them a major, unfair advantage. Rumors also spread of buzzers worn under Astros’ jerseys that alerted them of the pitch type; despite MLB’s lack of findings, footage of José Altuve’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 2017 ALCS seemingly confirms suspicions, as he repeatedly signals to his teammates not to rip his jersey off in celebratory fashion. Although not full-blown proof, this is all the evidence some fans need to corroborate their beliefs.
MLB’s investigation into the alleged incidents confirmed cheating suspicions and sent ripple effects across the league; Astros’ manager AJ Hinch was fired and banned for a season, while multiple other coaches from that 2017 team, including Red Sox manager Alex Cora, were banned for a year. Players across the league spoke out in outrage about the scandal and its legitimate, career-changing implications. The Astros’ 2017 ALCS win over the Yankees seemed fraudulent, as they had won all four games at home. This series is considered to have been most impacted by the cheating scandal, as players and fans alike think the Yankees may have been robbed of a World Series berth. The MLB opted not to strip the Astros of their title, but despite its legitimacy in the record books, the 2017 World Series is widely regarded by fans as coming with an asterisk. The argument exists that this scandal didn’t make the Astros champions, it just assisted an already talented team, but we’ll never know if this is true.
This scandal has tainted the Astros for years, branding all involved as cheaters across the sport. Their image remains a negative one to this day, despite the roster and coaching staff looking vastly different, while some of the key players remain and continue to face scrutiny for their actions. It doesn’t help that the MLB went easy on the Astros, only docking them a few draft picks and disciplining none of the players involved, despite the investigation’s findings that this scandal was driven by the players. The Astros now stand as one of the most hated teams in all of professional sports, fueling the fire with their continued success under new manager Dusty Baker and standout young players Yordan Alvarez, Framber Valdez, and Jeremy Peña. The Astros just keep winning, and above all else, make a fantastic villain every MLB season. It’ll be years before every last semblance of the 2017 scandal is erased from their roster, and years more before they’re no longer ‘the cheating Astros’, but for now, they remain a very good team to root against, and the closest thing we’ve got to a modern day MLB dynasty.
Image courtesy of NBC Sports