Overtime: Is the Houston Astros’ Legacy Reparable

After cheating allegations, the Astros have reshaped their image. (Courtesy of Twitter)

After cheating allegations, the Astros have reshaped their image. (Courtesy of Twitter)

There’s no denying the dominance of the Houston Astros over the past few years. Year in and year out, the Astros have been a powerful force, with three World Series appearances and five straight American League Championship Series appearances. However, their legacy was tainted in 2020, when allegations of sign stealing during the 2017 and 2018 seasons became known. The sign stealing was believed to be used throughout the ALDS and ALCS, helping the Astros attain the World Series in 2017.

The scandal devastated the integrity and morale of the team, leading to multiple staff members being fired and players’ reputations being spoiled. Members of the team, such as Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, were criticized for their statements made after the event and remained among the more disliked figures across Major League Baseball.

Crazily enough, the scandal broke within the Astros organization first. Whistleblower Mike Fiers initially reported to The Athletic how detailed the sign-stealing operation was and the levels at which they continuously did it. Furthermore, the scandal involved players and staff as reports broke, saying many individuals within the organization played a part in the scandal.

Yet, with all the commotion, the Astros managed to secure a playoff run in 2019, 2021 and now 2022. While cheating has not been present on the team since the 2017-18 fiasco, Houston continues to make waves, however, in a more positive way.

New additions to the roster, such as Jeremy Peña, have developed the depth that the Astros have possessed consistently for a time. Peña was named World Series MVP this year after contributing heavily to the team, slashing .400/.423/1.023 with one home run and three RBIs. Fans love young talent that leads a team, something the Astros needed after damage to their reputation.

But is it possible to repair the damage caused by the cheating scandal? One of the most crucial aspects of the cheating boils back to the fact that the Astros never needed to cheat. They have been an absolutely dominant franchise these past few years, both with and without cheating.

While the team warrants positive feedback for their on-field efforts, fans across America are still not convinced. Before the World Series, an Economist/YouGov poll found that 59% of Americans wanted the Philadelphia Phillies to win the Championship, even though over 50% believed the Astros would win.

In truth, the losses from the scandal — losing their general manager and manager, two first-round draft picks and a fine — had little to no impact on the team. While losing a person like your general manager can be scary, the Astros already had their critical talent in peak form.

Hiring new manager Dusty Baker also seemed to help bolster their public appearance. This year marked Baker winning his first World Series in 25 seasons and being the oldest manager in World Series history. Baker is a well-liked and respected manager, making him a good candidate to lead an already struggling Astros team image-wise.

Honestly, I don’t believe the Astros will ever escape this cheating scandal. While Houston has done everything they can to move on, the general public will always choose to pick on them because they cheated. In addition, many fans that were snubbed by the Astros, namely the New York Yankees, feel this is their way of giving the Astros the punishment they deserve. The Astros snubbed one of the largest fan bases in baseball, a feat that most teams would not dare to do. It also doesn’t help that the Astros used trash cans to steal signs. That part is pretty hard to forget.

But while all of the negativity and hatred powers on, the loyal Astros fan base still is ready to support them no matter what. Even after the embarrassment of being a Houston fan in 2017-18 occurred, they now have a second World Series to back them up, and this time, they didn’t have to cheat.

I suppose that is all the Astros could hope for — a fanbase that supports them even after they do something against the rules. While it might be a hard pill for Phillies fans to swallow, they were beaten fair and square this year. So, Houston will be branded winners at home, but to the rest of Major League Baseball, the Astros will have to settle in and live with the title of “cheaters” for a while longer.