The Houston Astros’ wild 2020 season came to an end Saturday night. The Tampa Bay Rays, after being up 3-0 in the ALCS, nearly blew the series ’04 Yankees-style, but they prevailed in Game 7 to reach the franchise’s second World Series. It might seem like Houston has nothing to be ashamed of, after making it within a game of the World Series in a season in which they finished two games below .500. To me though, this Astros ALCS loss is especially delicious.
Regular Season Failures
The Houston Astros’ first regular season since their whole cheating scandal was, uh, not great. They finished 29-31 over the shortened 60-game season, only making the playoffs due to the expanded format. To make matters worse, many of the former beneficiaries of their now-infamous sign-stealing operation took a noticeable step back in offensive production.
José Altuve 2019 OPS: .903. José Altuve 2020 OPS: .629
Carlos Correa 2019 OPS: .927. Carlos Correa 2020 OPS: .709.
Alex Bregman 2019 OPS: 1.015. Alex Bregman 2020 OPS: .801
George Springer 2019 OPS: .974. George Springer 2020 OPS. .899
The four core superstars of this Astros team lost an average of 195 OPS points this season, with only Springer experiencing a minor-ish drop of 75 points. I’m not gonna sit here and say ohhh they knew the signs then and they don’t know them now. I think it had more to do with pressing at the plate in an effort to overcompensate, and not being used to the heightened level of scrutiny. But it is a DAMN impressive coincidence that so many Houston hitters took a step back. And I loved it.
No one expected this Astros team to make it as far as they did. They weren’t supposed to have enough pitching and, like I pointed out, many of their stars were backpedaling into the playoffs. And yet, they found a way, getting by two tough teams in the A’s and the Twins on the backs of good-enough pitching and timely hitting. Dusty Baker is one hell of a manager.
They did all of this while simultaneously holding up a big middle finger to their critics, led by their persona non grata ring leader in Carlos Correa. The Astros seemed to embrace their roles as villains, and committed to their mission of proving the validity of their excellence by winning a title without the benefit of sign-stealing. There’s nothing like a good heel. Storylines like that are great for baseball.
You know what else is great for baseball? The fact that this Astros ALCS loss came in a heartbreaking Game 7 after winning three straight games to reach the brink of the World Series. *Chef Kiss*
You want your enemies to come close
A lot of people wanted the Astros to get spanked by the Twins in the first round of the playoffs. Even more people wanted them to miss the playoffs altogether. These people have no taste, in my opinion. What you should want for the teams you root against is for them to come really close to their ultimate goals, only to fall short. Tragedy. That’s why this Astros loss is magnificent to me.
They were so close. SO close to making history, becoming only the second team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the MLB postseason. Except they didn’t. Which was devastating. And beautiful. To me.
Hell, that wasn’t even the best possible option in my mind. I was rooting for an Astros-Dodgers World Series rematch in which the Astros get trounced from start to finish. Ultimate revenge for the Dodgers. But hey, this will have to do.
2021 can’t come soon enough
The Astros were in their heads at the plate in 2020 WITHOUT fans. Just imagine what next season has in store, assuming there will be fans. They’ve made their beds (or maybe, Correa made it for them), and now they have to lie in them. Time will tell if they are really cut out for the villain role.
Here’s hoping they lose the 2021 World Series on a walk-off grand slam.