As the 2021 World Series came to a close, I felt something that I honestly hadn't felt watching sports in a great number of years: enjoying watching a team lose. I am in no way an Atlanta Braves fan - I cheer for the Cleveland Indians… now Guardians (if they end up winning the lawsuit), but something about how much I despise the Astros as an organization made me a Braves fan for the time being.
As a Cleveland sports fan, I have seen my (more than) fair share of heartbreak in my short life. Whether it be LeBron leaving (twice), the Browns going 0-16, the Tribe blowing a 3-1 lead, or literally anything else I have always been supportive of my teams. That is what sports are about – the passion that fans and players share for a game and the spirit of competition that drives people to be better. The Astros as a franchise represents everything that is bad about sports.
Not only did the Astros cheat and win a World Series in 2017 over the Dodgers, but nearly every single involved party lied and the league did nothing to punish them. Cheating to win a championship is not fair play in the value of sports and certainly goes against sportsmanship. Then, piggybacking off of the denial to punish the Astros, the players and administrative staff alike went as far as to accuse the Dodgers and downplay their own actions.
According to Astros owner Jim Crane in 2020, "Our opinion is that this didn't impact the game" in a press conference. In the same press conference, Crane went on to say, "I didn't say that it didn't impact the game," directly contradicting himself in less than a minute.
Carlos Correa, who plays for the Astros still, said about Dodgers player Cody Bellinger, "So when [Bellinger] talks about that we cheated for three years, he either doesn't know how to read, is really bad at reading comprehension or is just not informed at all…" in an interview with Ken Rosenthal. For an organization that committed unsportsmanlike acts consistently to boost their own performance, the Astros' organization showcased bounds of deflection and pointed fingers at other parties when they were clearly in the wrong.
Since the scandal, the repercussions still feel few and far between. The Tigers hired AJ Hinch. The Boston Red Sox hired Alex Cora. Robert Manfred and the rest of the MLB never truly held the Astros responsible for their actions, but karma is a crazy thing.
After all of the controversy, the boos, and Astros Shame Tour accounts, it finally felt like karma finally caught up with the Astros as I watched them lose on Tuesday night. The Astros indeed lost last year to the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS in 7, but that didn't feel satisfying enough. They were at a neutral site with no fans due to the pandemic, so there was no true home team/road team dynamic. It wasn't satisfying to watch the Astros lose because there wasn't a sense of raw emotion that playoffs in sports brings. But this year was different and finally brought the satisfaction of seeing the Astros lose on the biggest stage.
At home on the biggest stage of many of the player's careers, the Astros lose 7-0 in an embarrassing fashion on national television. After all of the controversy, they failed to cash in under the lights that the media thrust onto them. No part of me is a Braves fan – sure, my little league team in second grade was the Braves, but no amount of me would consider myself a 'Braves fan.' But watching them win on that faithful Tuesday night brought myself and the rest of the neutral nation a long-awaited sense of joy in watching the Astros lose. Just as the Yankees were the team that every baseball fan wanted to lose in the early 2000s, the Astros fill that spot for any newer baseball fan.
If there has ever been a theme in sports throughout history, it's that cheaters never prosper. Normally that applies to specific players over organizations, but in this instance, a case of cheating loomed large over an entire team. Although it took two years for there to be a satisfying conclusion to the Astros cheating scandal, it was worth every second for those who waited. As some of the players involved in the scandal inevitably make their way out this offseason, the hatred towards the franchise will slowly deteriorate. But, the legacy of the 2017 Astros will always live in infamy with baseball fans as their 2021 season ended just when they thought they were closest to accomplishing their goals.