Credit…Annie Mulligan for The New York Times
For five years, wherever the Houston Astros traveled, they felt the fury behind the booing and jeers from opposing fans, and withstood charges that their 2017 World Series championship was tainted by allegations of cheating.
Amid the outcry, the Astros never went away. They kept striving to legitimize their success, reaching the postseason each subsequent year while advancing to the World Series three times. But as close as they came in that half decade, they never managed to prove unequivocally that, yes, they could win a title without illegally stealing opponents’ signs. Now they can.
Playing at home, where the scandal is rarely highlighted, the Astros beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1, in Game 6 on Saturday to win the 2022 World Series, rewarding their loyal fans with an unimpeachable championship to pair with their tarnished title in 2017….
In the end, the winning equation was simple: Framber Valdez threw six dominant innings. Yordan Alvarez hit three-run homer in the sixth to give the Astros a lead. Their bullpen held it. The Astros completed a postseason in which they lost two games on their way to their second title in six years — their first since the sign-stealing scandal that forced them to clear out their coaching staff, the one that left them in need of a manager capable of weathering inherited storms to come.
Whether this win qualifies as redemption for the Astros’ tainted 2017 title is a question for the collective baseball consciousness, which can rarely agree on much of anything. But one of the things it does agree on is Baker, a presence beloved around the sport. He is not a perfect manager. He is not a perfect person, something he has brought up many times since taking over here. The Astros made mistakes, he says. But so has every single person that boos them, so has he.
Fortunately, baseball does not reward perfection. It rewards resilience. It unearths truth. And the truth about Baker, three decades into his managerial career, is that few people in this game are as universally respected — as constantly, consistently, kind….