The Houston Astros. The Cheating Houston Astros. Since 2017, they’ve been the gold standard in the American League, reaching six consecutive League Championship Series and advancing to the World Series four times.
The Dodgers have only run into their downhill-rolling boulder once during this six-year span of excellence, losing a 2017 World Series in seven games that later, uh, came into question, to say the least.
If nothing else, though, these Astros have shown that legitimacy is what you make it. No franchise has had their World Series title questioned more than the ’17 Astros, featuring a clearly dominant core that didn’t need to design an elaborate cheating system to reach the top of the mountain, but did it anyway.
The second-most questioned title? That would be the 2020 Dodgers championship, which redeemed Clayton Kershaw once and for all and came at the end of a 60-game season. While there are far more reasons to toss buckets of cold water on 2017 than 2020, the fact remains that Dodger fans know what it’s like when their collective rivals hold a years-long grudge.
Which brings us to Bill Plaschke and his red-burning hatred of the Houston Astros, so much so that he’s going all in on the Philadelphia Phillies this October, a team that also stole postseason glory several times from the Dodgers recently (remember Matt Stairs?).
Do you still hate the Astros, who’ve been to the World Series (and lost it) twice since 2017? Or do you only hate the 2017-19 Astros (because, let’s face it, they likely didn’t stop bending the rules until they were caught).
Do Dodgers fans still hate the Astros for 2017?
Does this article’s headline start with a straw man? Is there anyone out there who actually finds the Astros lovable?
Dusty Baker is a joy, and there are some who want to see him finally get the ring he so richly deserves with such a talented team at his disposal, but the Astros are still the over-dog here. They’ve won 101, 103, 107, 95 and 106 games in their past five full seasons, only struggling in the shortened 2020 a few months after the allegations dropped (and they still forced Game 7 from down 3-0 in that year’s ALCS).
Cheating allegations threw this team’s lone title into chaos, but the absence of cheating allegations has not made Houston America’s Darling. Hating them extra hard to get back at a faction of this country that doesn’t seem to exist is a bizarre bit of recourse.
Then, of course … there is the simple fact that Houston believes they should stop being mocked for 2017 altogether, which … will not happen. Rob Manfred’s punishment was so light because he relied on the general public to shame the Astros into an uncomfortable existence. Five years — and a shuffling roster — was probably not enough shaming, if this is how Houston is going to react to their own success.
The Astros and Dodgers haven’t crossed paths lately, which is mostly the Dodgers’ fault.
That said, it seems the time has come to hate the Astros the way the world hates the ’90s Yankees and 2000s Cardinals — consummate winners, and frustratingly so.
Hating the Astros is different than hating the 2017 Astros, though. F*** those guys.