The Houston Astros have been perhaps the best team in baseball over the last three seasons. They won 101+ games every year, won a World Series and reached another.
Unfortunately, those accomplishments are tainted because, well, they cheated.
The Astros were supposed to embark on a season-long villain tour, but given the pandemic – and the fact that fans won’t be in attendance – will Houston still face that scorn?
“It’s a definite advantage that they’re not going to be facing the vitriol on the road with the fans, so I think from that standpoint they catch a little bit of a break,” former MLB executive Jim Duquette said on The Zach Gelb Show. “But the depth on the pitching side for me is a little bit uncertain.”
Duquette is confident in Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers, Jr. After that, it gets a little dicey.
“Verlander, McCullers, we know Greinke will be good,” Duquette said. “They’ve got some big arms at the back end of their rotation with [Josh] James and [Framber] Valdez, but I don’t know how that’s going to work. Their bullpen right now seems like it’s a disaster. [Roberto] Osuna’s a question mark. Joe Smith [is] not ready and may end up opting out. I’m not sure. They still don’t have Yordan Alvarez, the rookie offensive player who’s really good – excellent offensive player. So I feel like they’re a little bit undermanned.”
It’ll be quite the challenge for 71-year-old Dusty Baker, who is managing for the first time since 2017.
“I feel bad for Dusty,” Duquette said. “Dusty is a friend of mine. It just doesn’t seem like the cards have lined up well for him with all of these issues that they’ve been dealing with and some of the injuries, too.”
Will players police the game this season? In other words, will they still bean the Astros for their sign-stealing transgressions?
“I do think you’ll get some guys that will do it,” Duquette said. “But I’m not so sure you’re going to see it league-wide. We’re going to miss the Yankees/Astros, which we were going to get under the normal season. But we will get Dodgers/Astros, if you’re going to go back to that 2017 season. But you’re not going to have the fans there. I just think it’s going to be difficult. There’s so much attention that’s going to be placed on those games that I think it’ll be hard for retribution.”