As a Diamondbacks fan, I didn't really care about the scandal, just thought I'd get some interesting responses. I wanted Houston to win, since the Dodgers are our rivals and knocked us out that year, but if I knew Houston cheated, I probably would not have watched. I think without the cheating, LA would have won it all for sure. 2018 is interesting, but I think the Red Sox still beat the Dodgers that year. I like your replay though Calcaterra.Before I answer this, I'd like to clarify that I'm a Mets fan, so I really don't have a horse in this race. At the very most, I was hoping the Dodgers would win in 2017, so take that however you choose to.
The Astros are an absurdly talented team, first and foremost. After all, as is frequently brought up in my social circles, you may be able to have the signs, but there is a special amount of effort actually needed to pull off hitting a ball that travels at 100 MPH, especially hitting it so powerfully that it lands 400 ft away. So, let's say that AJ Hinch told Alex Cora (and Beltran, for that matter) something to the tune of "cut it the hell out, or get the hell out" early in the season after he realizes just how bad it would look if discovered. I think that, with the offensive weapons they had partnered with the all-around elite pitching, they would likely still win their division and at least 90-95 games, with some wins being taken off because of the late-game implications of the scandal, and others just due to butterflies. They make the postseason, probably still the second seed in the AL. From here, it's a crapshoot, although it's overwhelmingly likely that the Dodgers tear through the NL like they did IOTL, with the AL remaining competitive between the Indians (who could end up defeating the Yankees in the ALDS), the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Astros. My money would be on the Indians facing the Dodgers in the series, with LA winning in six.
After that, the butterflies really begin to take hold; it's written in the stars that Cora would go to the Sox, but if the Yankees lose to the Indians, would they still fire Girardi? Would they hire someone other than Boone? If the Yankees go to the World Series or, (god help us) win it, what ramifications would that have? The Red Sox were a monster team in 2018, and there need to be further considerations about how much they were aided by sign-stealing. If it wasn't too major a factor, they'd likely still win 104+ games and the fall classic. If it was as big a deal as some have made it, could they fall in the playoffs to the Astros, could the Indians go three-peat as AL Pennant winners? Maybe the Dodgers go all the way and win it.
What I'm saying is the Astros are a very talented team, but their cheating is a major question mark, even after all of the investigations and inquiries. The most likely answer is that, if they didn't cheat in 2017 (or beyond) they'd probably still make it to the World Series at some point in this four-year span, and they might still win it. They are just too talented not to. The effects are unquestionable, though. Alex Cora to the Red Sox is a powerful consequence of their success, as is Aaron Boone's rise to the command of the Bronx Bombers. Even looking to the future, the Tigers with Hinch could end up as contenders in two-to-three years, and the Red Sox are surging as of the time of writing. Carlos Beltran, without the scandal, could stay on as Mets manager (although I'd be lying if I said that would turn out well), and he would have fewer obstacles when he tries to make his case for Cooperstown in the next few years. But, ultimately, there is something we should all remember; Aaron Judge was terrible in the playoffs.