Is This The Beginning Of The End For The Never Ambivalent Houston Astros Core?

Tom Hill, Staff Writer

On the night of Tuesday, Nov. 2, the Houston Astros watched another team celebrate a World Series berth on their home turf. For the second time in three years, this has been the inevitable realization for this team, despite being favorites in both series. Houston has failed to deliver a championship that one would call “authentic” after their 2017 World Series was “cheapened” by a cheating scandal. As the seasons go by and the opportunities go missed, the narrative about this team will continue to live on. How good was this team? How good was this core?

Dusty Baker just concluded his second season as the Astros’ manager. He is still in a highly coveted search for that elusive ring. A very decorated manager throughout his time in the league, he is still without that one hallmark of all great baseball managers. The baseball world would alter their perception of both him as well as his Astros if he could get it. This idea is going to have to wait at least another year after the Astros shortcomings in this year’s fall classic.

The Astros, after Game 2 in this series against the Atlanta Braves, could not get any momentum on offense. This team seemingly never came up with big hits. Losing 2-0 and 3-2 in Games 3 and 4 respectively, they were the second team in the last 30 years to leave 11 runners stranded on base in a game. The only other team? The 2019 Astro team during Game 1 of that World Series game against the Nationals. The Astros couldn’t take advantage of a shorthanded Braves team ravaged by injuries both in their lineup and the rotation. Braves outfielder and eventual World Series MVP, Jorge Soler, outhomered the entire Astro squad 3-2, furthering the absolute ineptitude from the Astros lineup. The Game 1 leg injury to Braves starter Charlie Morton didn’t hamper the senior circuit representatives; young phenoms Max Fried and Ian Anderson stymied a prolific offense.

Now, with the baseball season concluded, teams are officially pivoting their attention to the offseason. The elephant in the room for the Astros is in regard to their 27-year-old superstar shortstop, Carlos Correa. Correa’s market value is projected at around $30 million annually, making it tough for the Astros to compete with some of the bigger markets around the league. After an offseason that saw them lose outfielder George Springer, they might have to realize the situation may be commensurate this offseason with Correa.

On top of the Correa situation, the team has to be mindful of veteran free agent pitchers Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. The two 38-year-olds are well past their prime, and Verlander in particular is coming back from injury. One may speculate that the Astros would be wary about bringing back two aging players at a position that yields quite a bit of injuries.

Despite the team still being uber talented, it’s fair to believe that they are in a state of flux. The Astros may look to make some minor changes via the free agent market. High reward, low risk moves will try to aid a team looking to win a relatively feasible division. This is a league that has a bevy of gapfiller players who can shore up a team’s often minor but obvious inefficacies.

The Houston Astros, one may hate them, but they always have an opinion about them. This is a franchise that is going through an obvious transitional phase. This phase creates the question: How is this team perceived among people within the “baseball world?” Some feel that this team wasn’t fairly penalized for their tainted championship in 2017. Due to a very strong players union, none of the players on that team were disciplined in any way. With Correa’s likely departure, three players from 2017 remain. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregamn, and Yuli Gurriel.

Is this the ultimate pivot for a franchise with a checkered past? Will they ever cement themselves as “real” champions? Why did they need to cheat in the first place? Many questions center around this franchise and how they perform in the foreseeable future. Is this the beginning of the end for this organization; will they ever salvage their scandalous past?