This past weekend, my wife and I were having dinner and a couple sitting next to us was having a rather heated discussion. "Why do you care?" the woman asked. "Because, I don't want what happened to tarnish it," he responded. The topic: the Astros sign stealing scandal.
To think this hasn't reached deep into the hearts and minds of fans, Astros or otherwise, is not paying attention. In Houston, we have a natural sensitivity to our teams, especially the ones who win given how few of them have ever won a title. So, naturally, there would be some concern.
But, how much do it really change how you feel? How much should it?
As someone who has followed the team since I was a kid and have covered them for several years in the media, I have mixed feelings. Ultimately, I don't think this incident should change their standing as world champions. They were great, including on the road, over the last three years. Their roster is loaded with talent. They have an innovative approach at the plate, on the mound and in the field. In short, the Astros are the franchise by which others are and should be modeling themselves.
Having said that, while I don't personally believe the sign-stealing was the difference in the big picture, it is difficult to ignore that cheating is still, well, cheating. If you really are that good, that skilled and that ahead of the curve, why resort to something that could call all of that into question?
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Of course, this is what a culture of win-at-all-costs breeds. Ask the New England Patriots. From lip reading and sideline cameras to deflated balls and even, problematic sideline equipment for opponents, Bill Belichick has demonstrated he will stop at nothing to win it all. The Astros appear to have taken some cues from one of the most winning franchise in pro sports.
Now, MLB has expanded its investigation and is digging deep into 2018 and 2019 as well as 2017, no doubt aided by former players and scouts, some of whom don't like the way they were treated by the organization, which has been accused in the past of being rather cold and calculating in their methods. All reports are you do not want to go to arbitration against the 'Stros as they pull out all the stops, no matter how rough the results might be on their own player.
If they are ultimately found guilty of the charges and punished by baseball, it won't take away the way it felt to win a World Series. It won't force banners to be taken down and trophies to be returned.
But, I might feel a bit like that guy sitting next to me at dinner. None of us wants the luster to come off the shine of that World Series. And, in the end, to the victor almost always go the spoils. Still, I wish the Astros would have stuck with being the smartest and best team instead of the sneakiest. At least we could all feel better about it.