- Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for ESPN.com.
HOUSTON — The Houston Astros are sticking to a theme they’ve mastered since returning to the national stage after their sign-stealing scandal came to light in 2019: They’re not out to prove anything — except that they’re the best team in baseball.
They’ll get a chance to prove that beginning Tuesday when they take on the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the World Series.
“I’m not worried about narratives,” third baseman Alex Bregman said Monday. “I’m not worried about any of that. I want to win four games.”
The Astros were caught electronically stealing signs — a breach of MLB rules — during their run to a World Series title in 2017. The fallout was dramatic, with both manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow losing their jobs.
The players weren’t punished by the league but have been heckled and taunted by opposing fan bases while on the road. Games 3-5 of the Series are in Atlanta.
“We get it everywhere we go,” left fielder Michael Brantley said. “What makes this team so special is we’ve been here, done that. We’ve been through all of it.
“There’s no stage that’s big enough. There’s nothing that a crowd is going to do to us that’s going to get us off our game.”
Bregman, second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa are holdovers from that 2017 squad and get the loudest boos. All were asked a version of the same question: Would winning the World Series in 2021 prove they can be the best team without cheating?
“I don’t think the outside noise motivates us at all,” Correa said. “The guys inside [the clubhouse] — we motivate ourselves to just be better every single day, and you see the results on the field.”
Altuve added: “I haven’t thought about that, but I think we have the same mindset we always have, just going out there and try to win. This is a pretty special team … We all want to win.”
Manager Dusty Baker was brought in after the scandal as a settling force. He has preached letting go of negative feelings, as they will motivate you only so far.
“I think this team is way past that because they know they can play,” Baker said. “You can only be driven by ‘I’ll show you,’ or you can only be driven by negative motivation so far.”
Astros owner Jim Crane admits the scandal is “in front of them” on a daily basis — but winning this year could help put the negativity behind them.
As for the players, they’re fine with just sticking together and letting things play out.
“We believe in one another, and we trust in one another,” Brantley said.
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