Way back about a decade ago, the hottest story line in sports was the cheating Houston Astros, their punishment (or relative lack thereof) for stealing signs and how much they were going to get booed by fans.
(Wait a second: I’m being told that was actually not a decade ago, but earlier this year. That can’t be right, but people are insisting it is).
Regardless: The Astros cheated their way to the 2017 World Series title. They were still being accused of cheating in 2019, when they made it to Game 7 of another World Series.
They were villains and were going to get yelled at in every city. In spring training, they were hearing a smattering of it. And players from other teams were seemingly on a rotating daily basis ripping the Astros.
And then … well, you know. Coronavirus shut everything down, and when baseball resumed again it was in front of zero in-person fans in a truncated season.
The Astros went about 2020 in relative silence. Fans couldn’t boo in person. And most of us were more concerned about other more pressing subjects.
And Houston kind of stunk. The Astros went 29-31 in the regular season. Coincidence or not, a team that led MLB in slugging percentage (.495) in 2019 was 16th in that category (.408) this season. Maybe it was the small sample size. Maybe it was the fact that they didn’t know what pitches were coming.
But they were good enough to finish second in the bad American League West, which was good enough for the No. 6 seed in these revised playoffs — which puts them into a postseason matchup with the Twins.
It’s just a three-game series, all of them at Target Field, and no chance still to boo.
The Astros are not the Yankees, with all the postseason baggage the Twins would carry into that series. But if you’re a Twins fan, don’t underestimate your capacity to dislike Houston.
The Astros haven’t even come close yet to paying in full for their actions, and now is a great time to remember that.