How the Astros survived a scandal of their own making to win another World Series title

How the Astros survived a scandal of their own making to win another World Series title

If it’s 2022 Houston Astros are the World Series champions is of course the biggest story from the recently concluded Fall Classic. Somewhere along the line behind that title is the fact that the Astros have now successfully recovered from the embarrassments and downs the semi-recent sign-stealing scandal that baseball that has been simmering for so long.

Whether you think the Astros winning the belt and the title five years after winning their first completed some kind of redemption arc probably depends on how you feel about the scandal in general. Were the Astros the worst offenders or just the ones caught among their fellow rogue travelers? In any case, the 2022 championship confirms the Astros’ position as one of the great teams in recent history, and how they managed to go from pariah to conqueror deserves further investigation. Now let’s pretend we have such insights.

They avoided serious sanctions

As an unnecessary reminder, the Astros were found to have used the replay-review monitor to steal signs from the opposing catcher and, often by banging on the trash can, alert the batter when a particular pitch was about to be thrown. This was a violation of the rules, and after MLB conducted its own investigation, handed down punishments that seemed severe in terms of historical precedent, but in reality may not have been all that significant in terms of impact on the ground. Specifically, general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were suspended for the 2020 season (Luhnow and Hinch were immediately fired by owner Jim Crane), the club was fined $5 million, and the Astros forfeited their 2020 first- and second-round draft picks. and in 2021.

None of those things have significantly affected the on-field product we’ve seen since the discipline was imposed. Yes, those lost draft picks can eventually be felt, but it’s too early for that to happen yet. As for losing their main decision maker in the front office and in the dugout, that could have hurt the franchise, but, well, you’d be hard-pressed to say that it did given how the Astros have fared.

They survived the upheaval on and off the field

Speaking of that last point, the Astros replaced Luhnow with James Click, a former Rays and their front-office incubator, and Hinch with Dusty Baker, one of the most successful managers of the modern era. Since the Luhnow-Hinch tandem was fired, the Astros have hit at a .599 clip during the regular season (versus .594 under Hinch), and have won two pennants and—now—a World Series in a three-year span.

On the pitching side, the Astros have lost five notable free agents in recent years Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, George Springerand Carlos Correa. They have filled those gaps impeccably with an outstanding (mostly) domestic rotation, a wise investment in Justin Verlandercontinued development Yordan Alvarezand ALCS rookie and World Series MVP appearances Jeremy Pena. They are, of course, lurking in the background Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman – two key members of the 2017 team that the Astros chose to sign to long-term extensions.

Not many organizations can survive without thriving on their own despite such an outflow of talent in the front office and in the clubhouse, but the Astros have done just that in the years since the scandal.

They developed the starting pitching

Time was when the only knock on the Astros was that they weren’t particularly adept at turning promising prospects into useful big league pitchers. Names like Mark AppelForest Whitley, Francis Martesand Josh James stand out as unfortunate examples (although the book is not yet closed on all of them). That unfortunate trend has changed, however, largely due to the Astros’ success in developing international signees. Their 2022 rotation included homegrown likes Framber Valdez (signed in 2015), Luis Garcia (signed in 2017), Jose Urquidy (signed in 2015), i Christian Xavier (signed in 2015). That doesn’t mean Lance McCuller Jr., who was drafted by the Astros out of high school a decade ago. They’ve had a few misses over the years, but mostly thanks to those international signings, it’s no longer true that the Astros aren’t developing good pitching. In order to withstand the losses of a mound like Cole, Morton and Keuchel, you have no choice but to do so.

They made the playoffs

Since Saturday night’s pivotal win in Game 6, the Astros are 28-14 in the postseason under the Click-Baker combination. That’s a .667 hitting percentage, and through a full 162 games that comes with a 108-game hitting pace. Yes, the sample size is small, but that’s playoff dominance or something like that over the last three years. The Astros have been among the best teams in baseball over the past few regular seasons (the exception being the severely shortened 2020 campaign), but as we often see, regular season greatness doesn’t always translate to postseason success. These latest Astro models, however, avoided such mishaps in October and November, and now have a chance to prove it.

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