Dogged by criticism that they could not win without sign-stealing, Houston beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games to complete a truly dominant postseason.
For five years, wherever the Houston Astros traveled, they felt the fury behind the booing and jeers from opposing fans, and withstood charges that their 2017 World Series championship was tainted by allegations of cheating.
Amid the outcry, the Astros never went away. They kept striving to legitimize their success, reaching the postseason each subsequent year while advancing to the World Series three times. But as close as they came in that half decade, they never managed to prove unequivocally that, yes, they could win a title without illegally stealing opponents’ signs. Now they can!
Playing at home, where the scandal is rarely highlighted, the Astros beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1, in Game 6 on Saturday to win the 2022 World Series, rewarding their loyal fans with an unimpeachable championship to pair with their tarnished title in 2017.
That was the year the Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers for Houston’s first World Series crown. But they were later forced to admit to using technology and banging on trash cans to steal and relay signs. In the wake of the scandal, they were shunned by the baseball world, with fans in opposing stadiums demonstrating their outrage by booing and flashing signs that vilified them as cheaters.
“I think that’s what drove this team,” said Dusty Baker, the manager for the last three seasons. “The boos and the jeers that we got all over the country, it bothered these guys, but it also motivated them at the same time. And it wasn’t an us-against-the-world thing. It was more of a, come together even closer-type thing.”
The Astros do not often speak publicly about how the scandal fueled their desire to win what some might call a clean championship. But Lance McCullers Jr., a longtime Astros pitcher and one of five active players left from the 2017 team, said on the field after the game that when the right fielder Kyle Tucker caught the final out in foul territory, and the Astros players celebrated in the usual fashion, there was extra meaning in the hugs with the players from 2017 because of how important it was for their legacy.
“That was always going to be a dark cloud over our head,” he said of the scandal. “I’m sure a lot of people aren’t happy that we won, but at the end of the day we continue just to work and do things the right way.”
McCullers said that when the Astros were trailing by a run in the bottom of the sixth, he retreated to a special spot in the clubhouse for good luck, and was speaking to the team doctor when Yordan Alvarez came to the plate with two runners on base.
Congratulations Dusty Baker & Astros we are so proud of you! #LevelUp
*Article has references from ESPN & NewYork Times