Before October, it seemed like anyone associated with the Astros were trying to forget 2020 ever. Baseball slapped the coaches involved in the 2017 sign-stealing scandal on the wrist by suspending them for a year but Houston's coach A.J. Hinch was subsequently fired for not proactively stopping the cheating. No matter though, he immediately landed the job once the suspension was over with the rebuilding Detroit Tigers. Things seem to be going back to "normal" for the Stros in 2021. Whatever normal means these days.
How to Watch the Houston Astros on fuboTV
A majority of games will be available on the local Regional Sports Network AT&T Sportsnet Southwest. Others will be broadcast on national channels. Check here for the full-season schedule.
TV: AT&T Sportsnet Southwest, ESPN, FOX, FS1, MLB Network (out of market only)
Live Stream: fuboTV (watch MLB free with fuboTV)
While their were no fans in the stands to heckle the Astros, it still seemed like the entire team felt the weight of the prospect of tarnished reputations, being inches away from the 2019 championship and the effects of a pandemic-shortened season. It all caught up with them in the loss column finishing the season under .500 but under playoff expansion, they still made the playoffs for the fourth-consecutive season. They returned to the ALCS, also for the fourth-consecutive season.
They just didn't make an appearance in the ALCS, they almost made a historic comeback being down 0-3 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Only the 2004 Red Sox were able to come all the way back from that deficit against the New York Yankees on their way to their first championship since 1918. While the Astros weren't able to win Game 7, it should give them confidence going into this season.
Dusty Baker's experience and leadership gelled this team when it mattered most steadying the ship when it easily could have capsized into chaos. The team shouldn't hear as much criticism as last year either, especially with fans not likely to return later in the season. On the field, Houston will face some adversity not having their star center-fielder George Springer who was originally drafted by this team. Springer moved to Toronto to accelerate their rebuild but he will likely start the season the IL with an oblique strain. Springer was truly the beginning of the turnaround for this franchise coming out of the doldrums beginning in the late-2000s.
The Astro's wouldn't been done filling holes in the outfield after Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick left for free agency. Brantley resigned but Reddick is gone for good after regressing from his Oakland and Boston days. While they didn't land a big name to replace Springer, Myles Straw is the next man up and has a good shot of making the opening day roster. He's no Springer and will need much more consistency in the bigs to put up better numbers at the plate, but Straw has the wheels to set the table at the top of the lineup.
The 2021 Astros might be all about getting back to status quo. Even without any major splashes, any team would be thrilled to get back to this recent Astros run. Hall-of-Famer Justin Verlander is still expected to miss the entire 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery but Carlos Correa avoided arbitration and resigned for a year. They also signed catcher Jason Castro who played for the Astros for nine seasons until they traded him before they won the World Series. It might just come all together if Jose Altuve can bounce back from the worst year of his career in 2020 hitting .219 and five homers. It was a promising sign for Astros fans when he hit a more normal .306 and hit five homers alone in the playoffs.
These moves aren't going to change the landscape of baseball but the Astros don't have to. Like them or not, they have been a force and a model in the last decade that nearly every other team has tried to replicate. The Astros were bad last year and they were won game away from the World Series. If they just get back to status quo and be good, baseball headlines will be all about the Astros once again. Good or bad.