HOUSTON – The Houston Astros are attached to a theme they have dominated since returning to the national stage after their sign-stealing scandal came to light in 2019: They don’t want to prove anything except that they are the best team in baseball.
They’ll have a chance to prove that starting Tuesday when they face the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the World Series.
“I’m not worried about narratives,” third baseman Alex Bregman said Monday. “I don’t care about any of that. I want to win four games.”
The Astros were caught stealing signals electronically, a violation of MLB rules, during their run to a World Series title in 2017. The consequences were dramatic, with manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow losing their jobs.
The players were not punished by the league, but were booed and mocked by rival fans while on tour. Games 3-5 of the Series are in Atlanta.
“We feel it everywhere,” left fielder Michael Brantley said. “What makes this team so special is that we’ve been here, we’ve done this. We’ve been through it all.
“There is no stage that is big enough. There is nothing that the crowd will do to us that will take us out of our game.”
Bregman, second baseman José Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa are holdovers from that 2017 team and get the loudest boos. They were all asked a version of the same question: Would winning the World Series in 2021 show that they can be the best team without cheating?
“I don’t think outside noise motivates us at all,” Correa said. “The boys inside [del clubhouse] – we motivate ourselves to be better every day, and you see the results on the field “.
Altuve added: “I haven’t thought about that, but I think we have the same mentality that we’ve always had, just going out and trying to win. This is a very special team … We all want to win.”
Manager Dusty Baker was hired after the scandal as a settlement force. He has preached how to let go of negative feelings as they will only motivate you up to a point.
“I think this team has gotten over that because they know they can play,” Baker said. “You can only be driven by ‘I’ll show you’, or you can only be driven by negative motivations.”
Astros owner Jim Crane admits scandal is “in front of them” on a daily basis, but winning this year could help push the negativity behind.
As for the players, they are fine with sticking together and letting things unfold.
“We believe in each other and we trust each other,” Brantley said.