HOUSTON — Fans didn't get to rudely welcome the Houston Astros to ballparks across North America in 2020, the season after Major League Baseball uncovered an intricate sign-stealing scandal used during their World Series season in 2017.
So the 2021 edition of the team is getting some harsh treatment in road stadiums.
Chicago White Sox fans will have their turn to let the Astros know how they feel next month, when they visit the South Side.
Simultaneously, they'll be cheering on a member of that 2017 championship team.
Dallas Keuchel spent the first seven seasons of his major league career in Houston, accomplishing the kind of things that build the kind of resume that earns a massive free-agent payday. He got that contract from the White Sox during the same offseason in which the sign-stealing scandal was uncovered, actually becoming the first player to apologize when he met the media at SoxFest that winter.
This weekend, Keuchel returns to Houston for the first time since leaving as a free agent following the 2018 season. And in the middle of a mostly nostalgic media session, he was asked about the reception his former team is getting from fans across the league, sharing some pointed thoughts.
"I think a lot of fans are misinformed, because it wasn't just the Astros doing things. We were kind of keeping up with the times," Keuchel said. "And it's kind of sad that it is what it is at this point in time.
"But I've moved on, and life always moves on. I'm not going to get stuck back in a past year or a past experience. It is what it is, but life moves forward.
"If people want to hold on to what they think is reality, then I let them. But it doesn't hurt me. I just try to move forward, try to be the best I can, because I know my life here in baseball's not going to last forever and I'm trying to take advantage as much as I possibly can."
It's obvious that folks aren't moving on from hating on the Astros. And Keuchel can look in his own clubhouse for someone who recently brought up the scandal in comments pointed at the commissioner.
Carlos Rodón criticized Rob Manfred for instituting 10-game suspensions for pitchers caught using "sticky stuff" to manipulate pitches while not suspending any Astros players involved in the sign-stealing scheme.
"It's hard to see this when you're giving out 10-game suspensions for cheating but you give the Astros no suspensions at all," Rodón told NBC Sports Chicago's Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast. "So if Rob Manfred can look at himself in the mirror and say, 'Hey, I'm doing the right thing,' that's fine. You can't suspend the team you actually knew was cheating during a playoff game, that's on you."
What Manfred did do was suspend former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who Keuchel clearly has no lost love for.
"Lunhow's not there anymore, so I don't have anybody to dislike," Keuchel said earlier this week. "We never got along, no bones about it."
"There was no communication. I said that in '17, when I made my thoughts known about the trade deadline. And that's pretty much it," Keuchel added Thursday. "When there's no communication, ... no personal relationship in the slightest, that rubbed me the wrong way.
"I played this game very hard and just wanted a little bit of respect, and I don't think that was given for a lot of the guys. So I spoke up, and I'm still speaking up."
Keuchel shared mostly joyous thoughts about his return to Houston, calling it "home" and a place he thought he'd never leave. But amid all the accomplishments, part of his legacy — and the legacies of everyone who played for the 2017 team — will be tied to the scandal in the minds of plenty of fans.
And no matter what kind of reality Keuchel thinks they're living in, they're going to continue to let the Astros hear about it.