Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman were throwing the ball during practice, then gathered for a group hug near second base after finishing practice Monday.
Atop the Minute Maid Park diamond, the sun was shining on a large pennant attached to a tower of light.
“World Series Champions,” it read, along with the number “17” and the Astros logo. And it was solid gold.
No, there is no spot or asterisk on that tribute. At least not here in Houston.
Because if the taint of their signal theft scandal en route to their 2017 championship hangs over them, the Astros aren’t showing it. Let the rest of the sporting world condemn them forever as baseball’s greatest cheaters; they are focused, they say, on putting another shiny pennant on that tower.
“I am not concerned with the narratives. I’m not worried about any of that, ”Bregman said.
Back in the World Series for the third time in five years, they have that opportunity starting Tuesday night in Game 1 against the Atlanta Braves.
The Astros are the favorites to win in Las Vegas and are supported at home, but only there.
Insulted, cursed and annoyed with fake trash cans in every major league stadium all season, the Astros know there is nothing they can do to change the mindset of the fans. The hatred directed at them on social media, that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Neither are the rumors. During the AL postseason, there were hints and speculation about wrongdoing.
Take note of this: During Monday’s practice, the only camera in center field was for the Fox broadcast. The official Major League Baseball report that issued the penalties in January 2020 noted that the Astros used a camera in the central to help them illegally steal the signals emitted by the opposing catchers.
“We just want to show the world that we are the best team. In order for us to do that, we have to get four more wins. I don’t think outside noise motivates us at all, ”Correa said.
However, it is difficult to ignore it.
“I wasn’t here with the team in 2017, but I’ve been booed just like anyone else,” said Yordan Álvarez, who was named the AL MVP.
Outfielder Michael Brantley played Houston that season while with Cleveland. Now he wears the Astros jersey, fully aware that many fans think he should say “Villains” on the front.
The team’s cheating past, you know, is as much a part of the uniform as the Astros logo with the star. And it haunts them to this day.
“Surely yes. We perceive it everywhere we go, “he said.
The most criticized are the four players who were part of that team in 2017 and who are still in the lineup: Altuve, Correa, Bregman and Yuli Gurriel.
Bregman is the one who is most annoyed by the subject. Altuve often lets it pass, while Correa is quick to acknowledge what happened.
For manager Dusty Baker, it’s a thing of the past. Hired after manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired by the team and suspended by Major League Baseball, the 72-year-old boss said his players aren’t encouraged by haters.
“That is what I think people are trying to do, as their main source of motivation, but that does not motivate you as much as going to win and towards excellence,” he commented. “You can only get carried away by ‘I’ll show you,’ or you can only get carried away by negative motivation to a certain extent.”
“I think this team has already overcome that because they know they can play. So this is what you have to think about, me against the world? ”He said. “After a while, how much more can you have that mantra? So I think that is over for a long time. “
Altuve, the star second baseman and the team’s driving force, has been with the Astros since 2011, from 100-loss seasons to 100-plus-win years. He helped Houston beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series that went to seven games and lost a seven-game series against Washington in 2019.
Could this postseason alter the perception of the past?
“I haven’t thought about that,” Altuve commented. “But I think we have the same mentality as always, we are going to go out and try to win.”
“There is not a single boy who is thinking about something other than winning,” said the Venezuelan. (AP)