Houston Astros: what to expect in the 2020 season

The Houston Astros cheated their way to a World Series title in 2017.

Houston Astros logo, Wikimedia Commons, Fair Use

The Houston Astros cheated their way to a World Series title in 2017.

Zach Zeman, Print EIC

After months of the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal lurking around the MLB, a new season has started, and
spring training games in the southern states have begun. How does a World Series cheating team start a new year? And what does the new 2020 season for the Astros franchise entail?

In the 2017 regular season and postseason, and in parts of the 2018 regular season, the Houston Astros illegally used a camera to steal pitching signs from the opposition’s catcher. Because of this, the team was able to report the stolen signs to their batters before the pitches were thrown as a way to let them know whether the pitches thrown would be offspeed or normal, for example.

How did this information about the sign-stealing get out? Well, former pitcher (not given a new contract after the 2017 off-season) for the 2017 World Series champions Mike Friers addressed The Athletic in November of 2019 speaking on the teams’ sign stealing, “That’s not playing the game the right way…They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win,” Friers said.

Many ball players like Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge and numerous pitchers from around the league have shared their thoughts on the situation throughout the league. In an Athletic article with New York Yankees’ right fielder Aaron Judge, Judge stated how the whole cheating scandal affected him. “You’ve gotta make the right decision because we’ve got kids watching us. We’ve got peers watching us and every single move we make. If you try to cheat the rules or do something wrong, then it’s gonna come out eventually. It always does,” Judge said.

What punishments has the team received? After investigating the many allegations, the MLB came out with their punishments for the team. The MLB suspended general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch while also fining the team $5 million (the highest amount allowed) and removing their 2020 and 2021 first and second-round draft picks. Because of this, Astros owner Jim Crane had dismissed both Luhnow and Hinch for their parts in stealing signs.

To know that another team had an advantage … I just don’t feel like that’s earned,” Judge said.

— Aaron Judge

Were these punishments just? In numerous fans’ perspectives, the MLB didn’t give the Astros any significant penalties. Because in the grand scheme of things, $5 million is truly not a lot of money for an MLB franchise to lose. Many argue that the punishments should go as far as the MLB forcing the Astros to give up their rings, banners, and anything that reminds the team about their championship run in 2017.

In a Chicago Tribune article, current pitcher for the Chicago Cubs and former pitcher for the 2017 Dodgers Yu Darvish spoke on how the players should’ve been penalized for their actions. “Like the Olympics, when a player cheats, they can’t have a gold medal,” Darvish said. In the same article, Aaron Judge was in agreement, “That’s how I feel. It wasn’t earned. It wasn’t earned the way of playing the game right and fighting to the end and knowing that we’re competing, we’re competitors. The biggest thing about competition is laying it all out on the line, and whoever is the better player, a better person, comes out on top. To know that another team had an advantage … I just don’t feel like that’s earned,” Judge said.

What does this mean for the Astros coming into the 2020 regular season? So far, so bad. The Astros are currently 2nd in the league in most players hit by pitches in spring training. Coincidence or not, it’s something to be said. There are many posts on Twitter where baseball fans are yelling into the Astros’ dugouts reminding them of what they did back in 2017. Due to the fact that the MLB has been back in session for only a couple of weeks, and there are numerous videos of fans heckling, booing, and pitchers hitting batters, it’s going to be a long tough year for these guys.