Houston Astros can thank Rob Manfred for ALCS berth

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 08: Carlos Correa #1, George Springer #4, Kyle Tucker #30 and Myles Straw #3 of the Houston Astros celebrate a series win against the Oakland Athletics in Game Four of the American League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 08, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 08: Carlos Correa #1, George Springer #4, Kyle Tucker #30 and Myles Straw #3 of the Houston Astros celebrate a series win against the Oakland Athletics in Game Four of the American League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 08, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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The Houston Astros will be a part of the American League Championship Series yet again, and they have Rob Manfred to thank for it.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Houston Astros are heading to the American League Championship Series. At this point in time, their appearance in the series is an engrained part of October, right there stores putting out Christmas decorations and pumpkin spice everything. It may be annoying, but it is what it is.

Only this year, the Astros should never have been in a position to return. They finished the regular season with a 29-31 record, seven games behind the A’s for the division. Under the normal rules for postseason eligibility, the Astros would have never sniffed the postseason this year.

This year, the Astros have Rob Manfred to thank for their return to the ALCS. His postseason plan, which involved eight teams per league and the top two teams in each division, essentially ensured that Houston would have their chance. While the Mariners put up a belated, but spirited, attempt to take the second AL West berth, the Astros were just mediocre enough to hold on.

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It is not just the playoff set up that gave the Astros this chance. Manfred also went out of his way to protect the players for their part in AstroGate, keeping them on the diamond throughout the truncated 2020 season. Yes, AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were suspended, and subsequently fired, but that did not truly affect the product on the field.

For a time, the Astros appeared to be getting their comeuppance even with Manfred’s refusal to do anything at all. The offense, especially Jose Altuve, fell flat without the dulcet tones of banging trash cans. Injuries had led to the bullpen being almost completely untested and the rotation appeared to be in shambles.

However, none of that mattered. The Astros dispatched the Twins, which is a given once the playoffs roll around. Then they easily battered the A’s, showing that the divisional title meant nothing. One more series win, and the Astros are in the World Series for the third time in four years.

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For the fourth consecutive year, the Houston Astros are in the ALCS. This time, they can thank Rob Manfred for their appearance.