Last night, the Astros clinched their fifth AL West title out of the last six. And that one they missed was the 2020 season, which basically doesn’t count. So for all intents and purposes, this is their fifth straight division title. Currently, that’s the longest streak in the majors, as the Dodgers can’t match that. And the Astros never failed to win less than 95 games in that span, and they’ll end up with their fourth 100+ win season out of the last five full 162-game seasons. Their 502 wins over the past five years only trail those Dodgers by seven. They are the benchmark in the AL, and have won that pennant three times.
And yet we still wave a hand at whatever they accomplish, dismissing it as not real, based on a cheating scandal that’s now five years old and essentially irrelevant. Oh sure, there’s always the cudgel of “JUST ONE WORLD SERIES!” They’ve lost two, one in seven games, and one in six — a fraction of a season. A playoff game here or there is no comment on how a team is run, and we know that by now.
Since that marked 2017 title — however marked it is in your own mind — the Astros have introduced Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez to their everyday lineup, stars themselves. They introduced Jeremy Peña this year, who still only has one full season above High-A and is likely to join the other two as foundations for the team. They’ve also completely turned over their rotation behind Justin Verlander since 2017, including acquiring and then letting Gerrit Cole walk. And yet the beat goes on.
Oh sure, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are still here, and they’ll never wash off the stink of L’Affaire Garbage. Well, Bregman has a 143 wRC+ in an offensively deflated season. Altuve has a 153. So either they’re still cheating, which means they’re doing it better than everyone else, or everyone else is stupid, or both. Or it could be that they’re just really good.
Sure, it’s a little distasteful that they just let George Springer, Cole, and Carlos Correa walk simply to stay under the luxury tax, which they could afford. But also Springer has a 132 wRC+ since leaving, and Correa has a 138 this season in Minnesota. So either they brought the spy gear with them, or they were just really good, too.
Does that make the Astros likable? No, not especially, as that cloud will always hang over them. And they still had a front office that not only acquired Roberto Osuna, but then touchdown danced about it to a woman reporter. Except that front office is gone now. So’s the manager.
No, what we were all upset about was that the Astros were just better at it than everyone else. And they’re better as an organization than just about everyone else, too. The Red Sox cheated, but they haven’t been a constant threat. The Yankees cheated, and they’ve been even less of one. Oh, hey, anyone else notice that Trayce Thompson on the Dodgers is besting his career wRC+ by 40 points in a season where it’s been harder than ever to hit well? Isn’t it interesting that that keeps happening at Chavez Ravine? I think it’s interesting.
We care about it in baseball…because. The Patriots cut out their opponents’ radio communications or fuck with footballs and we find it cute. Various Stanley Cup champs hide guys on LTIR (Long Term Injured Reserve) to game the salary cap and it’s just doing good business. As Eddie Murphy said in The Distinguished Gentleman, “And everything I did in this town would be considered legit!”
No, the Astros still get booed because they’re still here, and because they’re still here it renders 2017 more and more into the background and less of a stick to beat them with, and we’re upset about not having it anymore. Because we all want our teams to be the Astros. That’s what we’re really angry about.
Not that the Astros have to care. They just win.
If you want a really unlikable organization, may we present Hockey Canada?
Also, all of the junior leagues in Canada haven’t heard a peep from Hockey Canada, after the latter’s July promise to completely remake how they would handle sexual assault and abuse in hockey at all levels in the country, thus leaving them to their own devices.
Hockey Canada wanted to make a bunch of noise about changing hockey’s culture, and hockey’s culture springs from Canada whether they like it or not, in order to hasten all of it blowing over. They’re dying to get to October when the games start again and people will start looking over there. And now they’ve got a survey to prove it.