As we look towards the upcoming 2020 MLB season, the Houston Astros have undoubtedly become the new villains in baseball.
There are a lot of reasons to hate the Houston Astros right now; for a few years now, they have positioned themselves as the ‘new thing,’ the smartest, most analytics-focused team in the MLB, and the questionable attitude by players, but especially by front-office executives has earned a good amount of enemies and haters.
To make matters worse, the recent cheating scandal and the disastrous PR moves that followed have cast serious doubts on their greatness, including players from other teams urging the league to vacate their 2017 World Series title over the allegations of sign-stealing through the use of technology and the infamous trash can banging.
This will undoubtedly make the upcoming season a total battleground, a must-see media spectacle, and a baseball story that MLB could benefit from. Fans from all over the league will certainly give them a rough welcome in their road games, and their every single game will be scrutinized for signs of further cheating. Most importantly, people will question their wins and celebrate their losses from this moment onward, which to be honest, will make really good TV for the rest of us.
Most recently, after Carlos Correa’s comments in the wake of the aforementioned public apology fiasco, the Astros have solidified their new image as sports villains. This is the perfect time for them to lean into it and give us the greatest baseball drama of the 2020s. They can even take notes from the most notable bad guys in other sports.
Here are three of the most important lessons the Astros could learn from the villains of other games:
1. Win, win, win no matter what
The New England Patriots can easily be considered the villains of football. Their legendary success under coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the ensuing cockiness of their fanbase, Belichick and Brady’s public support of Donald Trump, are all factors make them quite easy for others to hate.
But what irreversibly turned them into the game’s bad hombres was the series of cheating scandals around them. Both Spygate and Deflategate have cast a shadow on their reputation, raising questions about their performance in those seasons.
Nevertheless, the Patriots responded simply by destroying the rest of the NFL. During their dominant phase, every time their greatness was put in doubt, they just went back to the field and won the big games, coming back from deficits, showing us all why they’re just a nightmare to play against, giving us a taste of how great they are. They won three more Super Bowls after the scandal, proving they didn’t really need to cheat.
The Astros can totally do that; yes, the sign-stealing scandal is impossible to ignore right now, but they are a great team, with a remarkable line-up and one of the best starting pitchers in history. They can just go out there and shut up all their critics by winning another MLB championship, finally gifting Dusty Baker his long-overdue moment of glory.
2. Just embrace it
This off-season was definitely the beginning of the Astros’ heel turn, as wrestling fans would call it. They are the team to hate, but also the team to beat, and no matter what you think about them, they’re still really hard to take a win from.
And that makes them the perfect villains. They will have the whole league rooting against them, so it’s time for the Astros to take a few pages from the wrestling world and make it part of their entire appeal. Embrace the confrontation, the shouting, and the booing. Make it entertaining, have fun with it.
When the Astros take on this season’s MLB superpowers — especially the Dodgers and the Yankees — it will be a rating’s gold mine. You can already see the dollar signs in the eyes of the TV broadcasters.
3. Get the fans involved
In Mexican soccer, Club America are one of the historic giants; in their 104-year existence, they have won a record 18 titles, making them the most successful club in Liga MX.
They’re also the most hated sports team in Mexico.
Club America are the squad with the biggest operating budget, giving them a huge advantage when it comes to signing talented players from Mexico and abroad. The fact that they’re owned by Televisa, the biggest media company in Latin America, has contributed to their dominance since every game they play is a nationwide television event and opposing fans believe they have historically benefited from shady refereeing decisions and the overwhelming support of Televisa’s PR machine. This all places them firmly as the villains, the team that must be stopped. And half the country goes to the streets to party when they lose.
But that has only made their already passionate fans more hardcore. Every weekend, thousands of ardent supporters show up at their matches in the team’s colors, and the sense of community is undeniable.
Most importantly, the team and the fans are together in the villainy. One of their mantras is “Odiame mas” (Hate me more), an invitation for rivals to engage in the battle, to join in the fun. Half of the country hates them indeed, but the other half loves them religiously.
The Astros could do this by reaching out to the already intense, loyal fanbase, and contribute to the narrative. Astros fans are a wonderful community, and their unwavering support for the team, even amidst the scandals and accusations, can motivate the team to face this new era with dignity and pride. There is a sense of family when a group of people shares not only their team colors but the “us against the world” mentality. It could further unite an entire city.