Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is thinking positively in the wake of the organization firing manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for their role in the team's sign-stealing scandal.
While addressing the media Saturday, Altuve expressed his belief that Houston will return to the World Series:
Mark Berman @MarkBermanFox26
.@JoseAltuve27: “Believe me, at the end of the year everything will be fine. We’re gonna be in the World Series again.People don’t believe it. We will. We made it last year. We were 1 game away from winning it all.I’m happy for the Nationals..We will be in the World Series again” https://t.co/P4YR415N2A
The Astros won their first World Series in franchise history in 2017 and returned last season, but they fell to the Washington Nationals in seven games.
The impact of the sign-stealing fiasco has reverberated throughout Major League Baseball. In addition to Hinch and Luhnow losing their jobs, the Boston Red Sox parted ways with manager Alex Cora, and the New York Mets moved on from manager Carlos Beltran.
Cora was the bench coach in Houston in 2017, and Beltran was a player for the Astros that season. Both were named by MLB as playing a role in devising the sign-stealing system.
In addition to the Astros' World Series title, Altuve winning the American League MVP award in 2017 has been called into question. Altuve hit .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI and 32 stolen bases en route to beating out New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge for the honor.
The Astros also beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series that season, a feat they repeated in 2019.
Houston defeated New York on an Altuve walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, which has become the subject of controversy as well. After hitting that homer, Altuve could be seen telling his teammates not to rip off his jersey as he crossed home plate.
Given the controversy surrounding the Astros currently and the fact that they lost ace starting pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Yankees in free agency, Houston is no longer viewed by most as the team to beat in the AL.
The Astros will return a top-flight lineup led by Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley in 2020, though, plus a starting rotation headed by Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke.
It is unclear just how big of a role sign-stealing has played in the Astros winning over 100 games and reaching at least the ALCS in each of the past three seasons, but based purely on talent, it isn't outside the realm of possibility that Houston could return to the World Series for the third time in four years.