The Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles couldn’t be more different. Both are major league baseball franchises, and up until very recently, that’s about where the similarities ended. The Astros have appeared in two of the last three World Series, winning one (in 2017), and losing another in seven games (last year, to the Washington Nationals). The Orioles, of course, haven’t appeared in a Fall Classic since 1983.
Houston has won an average of 96 games per season over the past five years, topping 100 each of the last three. The O’s, meanwhile, have lost 100+ games in two straight seasons, and haven’t played in a playoff series since 2014 (they played in the Wild Card game in 2016). The Astros have been on the cutting edge of the baseball analytics revolution, putting together a front office that was the envy of the rest of the league. The Orioles, until hiring Mike Elias & Sig Mejdal away from said Astros just over a year ago, were the laughingstock of baseball in this regard, barely having an analytics department at all.
So, it would seem a no-brainer that Orioles fans would have been happy to trade places with Astros fans here over the last half-decade or so. We’d have jumped at the chance.
However, all of that changed recently, with the Astros being found guilty of using technology to steal signs during their recent run of success. The ‘Stros were fined $5 million; their manager, A.J. Hinch, and GM, Jeff Luhnow, were both suspended for the entire 2020 season (and subsequently fired by the team); they were stripped of their 2020 and 2021 first-round draft picks; Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, members of Houston in 2017, both lost their jobs, as manager of the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, respectively.
As a result of all this, Houston’s entire legacy is in question.
It’s a brutal episode for MLB, and for baseball fans everywhere, regardless of whether you cheer for the Astros, feel that your team was wronged by them on their way to all those wins, or just love the game in general. It’s the steroid scandal all over again, in some ways.
That black cloud that will hang over baseball will be explored exhaustively over the next few weeks, months, and years. What I was curious about, was whether or not Birdland would still trade places with Houston, given the chance.
My informal Twitter poll, that got 516 votes (presumably near all from O’s fans) found that 41% of O’s fans would still trade places. Here’s a sampling of some of the responses folks wrote:
I'll take last place honestly every single time before taking first place dishonestly.
— FrankStrovel (@FrankStrovel) January 15, 2020
I would take the Astros IN A HEARTBEAT. I don't give a damn if it's tarnished or not. ALL OF BASEBALL IS TARNISHED. All time hits, all time home runs, countless legends all tarnished. So yes give me a ring all day. Tarnish it as much as you want. Still a ring. https://t.co/hCiyP09QLM
— Ryan Weinberger (@HandsZeus26) January 15, 2020
It's not even a WS and I can't imagine how devastated I'd feel if I found out we cheated during the 2014 run. No thank you.
— Blake Senft (@_Blockay_) January 15, 2020
Either way we would currently be a laughing stock. We would not have known it at the time and would’ve enjoyed all that October baseball
— HomeSweetHomePetSit (@HSHpetsits) January 15, 2020
I like the Orioles, not wins. When they lose, they’re still the Orioles. And they still call Oriole Park home. That’s infinitely better than being a bunch of cheaters just to get a trophy that will sit in an office somewhere.
— Kevin Shumway (@kevinshumway) January 16, 2020
Honestly, the voting went about as I’d expected. It’s a tough question, and I’m fascinated by the responses, on both sides. I think that, if you asked fans of a team that hasn’t been as long-suffering as we O’s fans have, you’d get a lot more people saying “No!” They don’t know the struggle, man.
I should also point out that I took the poll before the most recent allegations, that players actually had buzzers taped to their bodies to alert them what pitch was coming. Would that affect the results, I wonder?
So what about you? If a fairy could wave a magic wand and make the 2015-2019 Orioles and Astros trade places – the good and the bad – would you sign up for that?