(Reuters) – The Houston Astros will enter the 2020 MLB season as baseball’s newest villain after they were exposed as cheats for stealing pitch signs from opposing team’s catchers during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Fortunately for Houston, who open their campaign on Friday, they will not have to endure the wrath of baseball fans since the COVID-19 outbreak means spectators will not be allowed at ballparks for at least the start of the 60-game season.
During Spring Training, prior to the shutdown of sports in March, Houston players were booed mercilessly after their cheating tactics were made public.
And while MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said intentionally throwing at Houston players will not be tolerated, the Astros could still be subjected to such behavior by those who want to penalize them.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, in an article last week for The Players’ Tribune, said he does not condone throwing pitches at someone intentionally but that resentment toward the Astros could lead to others seeking some form of retribution.
“I’ve got to imagine, for some, it very well could,” the former All-Star wrote.
“Just understanding the temperature of baseball players and coaches around the league, and the sentiment of how many players were upset with how the Astros conducted themselves … There’s a lot of bad blood toward them.”
One of the most anticipated match-ups of the season will come next week as the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost the 2017 World Series to Houston, visit the Astros for a two-game series in a clash of teams among the favorites to win it all this year.
While many in baseball feel the Astros’ 2017 World Series, the franchise’s only championship, may be overshadowed by the sign-stealing scandal the team are simply eager to move on from the darkest chapter in the franchise’s history.
“It’s over now,” said Dusty Baker, who took over as Astros manager in January. “I hope we don’t have to keep rehashing that over and over throughout the course of the year. It’s behind us. I’d like to leave it behind us.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)