Once a rising dynasty became MLB’s biggest laughing stock due to a cheating scandal, and just like that, the fall of the Houston Astros came as fast as their rise. What seemed like a great time to be a player on this team was secretly the start of turmoil for the organization. As rumors of the Astros illegally stealing signs began to circulate in October 2017, it wasn’t until 2019 the rumors were confirmed by a former player in the organization. Since the punishments were handed out earlier this year, this team has not been able to catch a break, and even through a pandemic filled season, fans and players from all teams have been strong to show their dislike for the Astros and what they did. Such a distasteful decision led the team to rock bottom, but this ground is not unfamiliar to this organization. They’ve risen from the worst of situations although this one seems impossible to come back from.
The Beginning of the Chaos
On November 12th, 2019, The Athletic published the story where former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers confirmed the team’s sign-stealing methods in the 2017 season. He states that the players would decode catchers signals from a live video feed and then bang on a trashcan to signal hitters off-speed pitches. The next two months consisted of baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s extensive investigation, with a team that conducted interviews with 68 witnesses and dug through thousands of emails, Slack communications, texts, and videos. This later was proven not to help as the scheme was player-driven, meaning there was no email evidence.
MLB finalized the investigation in January 2020 with Rob Manfred concluding that the Houston Astros did use illegal sign-stealing method’s from the 2017 season through the 2019 season. This cost the Astros their first and second-round picks for 2020 and 2021 for the MLB draft, a 5 million dollar fine, and a one-year suspension of Hinch and Luhnow, but later that month, they were let go entirely by the organization. Funny enough, although player-driven, no suspensions or fines were handed out to the players, causing significant outrage throughout the league. They might have lost significant assets like crucial first and second-round picks, but the fact that those who were playing out the scheme didn’t get any disciplinary action was an outrage.
Let the hate be known
Comments were coming through left and right from players all across the league and across different sporting platforms. Not only was everyone outraged that the team cheated their way to a title, but they were also handed a mediocre punishment, which saw no player involved suffer any significant consequences. Mike Trout of The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim said in an interview with reporters, “It’s sad for baseball. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing”. Most notably, many pointed out that they might have taken away a World Series title from the Los Angeles Dodgers had they not cheated. “I mean, these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is (Jose) Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in 2017. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us,”, Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers said in a statement. This was not going to sit well with anyone, and that’s when all the shaming began.
With the uncertainty of the season sitting in the hands of the coronavirus pandemic that shut down the country in early 2020, fans were left wondering when and if they would be able to show the Astros the much-wanted hate they were planning to once the season began in April. Though the season didn’t start until July this year and saw games being played in empty stadiums, fans got creative and began showing their hate in creative yet funny ways. The 2020 Astros shame tour was a Twitter account created in February 2020 to highlight what many thought would be a year full of Astros slanders from all 29 teams.
The season might not have started on time, but that didn’t stop fans from making memes, jokes, and even going as far as standing outside of stadiums to yell at the Astros team buses as they entered the stadiums. Recently, fans stood outside of Dodgers Stadium to show their hate to the team who most likely cost them their 2017 World Series title. Fans planned to gather at the stadium entrance while also following CDC masks guidelines. When not much can be done, this gesture was a fun and creative way for fans to show the Astros how much they are hated across the league.
Dodger players are also joining into the action in scorning the cheating Astros. Pitcher Joe Kelly caused quite the scene on the July 28, 2020 game against the Astros. First, he threw a 96 MPH fastball behind Alex Bregman’s head in the 6th inning, causing heads to turn. Then, he struck out Carlos Correa and made the infamous pouty face in his direction, causing a frenzy. The benches cleared, and just like that, Kelly found himself with an eight-game suspension. Ironically, this was the first disciplinary action handed to a player when it came to the cheating scandal- and Kelly wasn’t even a part of the cheating. This caused even more outrage as to how a player who just wanted to show his disapproval of the Astros’ actions could have possibly served a longer suspension than any of the cheaters themselves. Kelly’s suspension was later stripped down to just five games, but for a pitcher, five games is a longer time than a player since they pitch every 3-4 days.
Regardless, fans and Kelly found fun out of the situation. A mural was unveiled in Downtown LA on September 8, 2020, of Kelly’s now-famous pouty face. Local artist Jonas Never painted the mural less than 2 miles from Dodgers Stadium. The image became a hit on social media, and Dodger fans visited the site of one of the most defining moments in baseball this year. The Kelly family showed their love as well with Kelly’s wife Ashley sharing pictures of the family of five visiting the mural. In one photo, Kelly is even seen imitating his famous pout causing Dodger fans to love him even more.
As the 2020 regular season comes to a close, many wonder what’s next for the Astros. This season might have been a different one, and although some Astros players seemed to have struggled this year, they were able to clinch a playoff spot on Friday night. This doesn’t mean they’re still the all-star team that swept baseball just a couple of years ago. Their record to end the season lies slightly below .500 and what many expected as the downfall has turned into a somewhat different situation. They haven’t made any significant moves when it comes to key players like Altuve and Correa. Still, it’s only a matter of their mindset and trying to continue forward despite what is being said about them and the organization. The once all-star Jose Altuve is only hitting .220 and has struggled significantly this season. It’s hard to say if this is due to outside factors other than the cheating scandal, but one can only think all this negatively has to have a toll on the players and their feelings towards the situation. As for what is to come from this organization, many are not sure. We can only hope for a regular 2021 season to determine what their organization will look like after this short season and the upcoming offseason. With that being said, they at least made the playoffs this year, which will again cause some controversy and disapproval from fans. More games do mean more chances for fans to keep showing their hate for the team, so we’ll see what they can cook up this postseason.