This week, the Houston Astros defeated the Minnesota Twins two games to zero in an American League wild card series. Afterwards, Carlos Correa, the Astros’ shortstop, asked, “What are they going to say now?”
Correa was referring to the criticism, and in some cases hatred, directed at his team for cheating during the 2017 season (and quite possibly at times thereafter). Correa seems to think that the two-game sweep of the Twins represents vindication.
Here are a few things we can “say now” to the Astros:
First, they are extremely lucky to have made the playoffs. They lost more games than they won this year. As far as I know, no team in major league baseball history has ever before made the playoffs with a losing record.
Second, anything can happen in the playoffs. And winning two playoff games in a row proves very little, especially against a team that forgets how to execute a routine force play at second base.
Third, Correa’s OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging average) was a poor .709 this season. In 2017, the year in which it’s undisputed that the Astros cheated, his OPS was .941. Correa is 26 years old, and so should be in his prime now.
Fourth, Correa’s decline this year, with no cheating going on, is pretty typical of the decline of his teammates who were on both the 2017 and 2020 Astros.
I think I understand Correa’s need to lash out at critics of his team. How many players on other teams would have turned down the advantage the Astros were gaining from their sign stealing techniques? How many of us would have? We can’t know for sure.
Nonetheless, Correa’s gloating is unwarranted and looks bad. One can’t be contrite forever, but one should be able at least to feign a little bit of humility in these circumstances.