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Does Astros' cheating scandal hang cloud over World Series matchup?

Carlos Correa, despite being part of the Astros teams that cheated, stands to land a large contract as a free agent this offseasonGETTY IMAGES

The Astros are back in the World Series after only one year off, and the team's cheating scandal of the '20 offseason "seems such a thing of the past, until you realize how much it informs the present," according to Barry Svrluga of the WASHINGTON POST. The Astros "cheated the game," and "no homespun Dusty Baker yarn can cover that up." Baseball "tried to move on." It "can’t, though." It has been less than two years since penalties were announced for the Astros' sign-stealing operation, and it "remains hard to shake the stories of the lengths those players went to and wonder how it benefited them." The phrase that "nags at the brain from MLB’s investigation, sprinkled throughout the report: 'player-driven.'" Astros 3B Alex Bregman is playing on a five-year, $100M contract he agreed to in the spring of '19. 2B Jose Altuve just completed the fourth season of a seven-year, $163.5M deal, and SS Carlos Correa "will be one of the sport’s most coveted free agents this offseason." Svrluga: "Their penance is -- they’re booed on the road? That’s it?" Looking back, it "seems that’s how MLB wanted it." In "exchange for information, it granted 23 Astros players immunity." It is the "easiest way to figure out the crime." But it is a "lousy way to levy the punishment" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/26). ESPN’s Frank Isola on the Astros being back in the World Series: "You know, that whole cheating scandal that they never got penalized for. Oh, forget about it” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/25).

POLAR OPPOSITES: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes baseball fans "all around the world are suddenly conflicted, faced with the interesting dichotomy." They "may hate the Astros with every fiber of their body," but because Baker is their manager, fans "suddenly find themselves rooting for the Astros." Baker "may be the most beloved man in the game of baseball." No one has a "wider array of friends, from every walk of life, in the game." Many neutral fans are "suddenly pulling for the Astros, wanting to see him win that ultimate prize as a manager before he’s done in this game" (USA TODAY, 10/26).

MEDIA VIEW: WFAN’s Gregg Giannotti said Braves-Astros “has the potential to be a worst-rated World Series than last year." Giannotti: "This is the last thing that baseball wanted. I wonder if Rob Manfred is happy or upset that the Astros are back in it because on one hand he could be like, ‘Well, it shows that the reason that they won wasn’t only cheating so that makes me feel better about the situation,’ or he could be like, ‘Man, this sucks because the team everybody hates is in the World Series'" (“Boomer and Gio,” WFAN, 10/26). Click here to see SBJ Atlas' breakdown of the Houston and Atlanta media markets (SBJ). 

DO PLAYOFFS NEED TWEAKING? In S.F., Ann Killion writes on paper, the Dodgers "were the best team in the regular season," and on the field, the Giants were. That neither will play in the World Series is due to MLB's postseason format that "forced the two best teams into a five-game divisional series instead of allowing them to meet in the championship series showcase." Killion "Might the format be adjusted? Maybe." Rule changes and adaptations in sports are "usually born of frustrating situations like the one we just witnessed, leaving the two best teams dueling in an early round series." But such a change "will probably be a low priority in an offseason when a baseball work stoppage looms" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/26).

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