Yes, yes, yes, I know. This premise is both extremely silly and the kind of thing that would turn up in a game of Apples to Apples in which all the cards are half of a fictional Ringer pitch. By all means, mock away—but be sure to come back to the site on Monday when I compare LeBron James’s championship teammates to the cast of Ocean’s Eleven. You won’t want to miss it.
Frivolous though the comparison may be, there’s a reason for making it. Succession, unlike most TV shows, practically begs viewers to detest and deride its protagonists. The previous generation of TV antiheroes were ruthless, ill-tempered, and cynical. But they were also intelligent and charming. Rooting for Walter White or Tony Soprano felt benignly transgressive, like sneaking a cigarette behind the cafeteria.
The Roys and their courtiers, by comparison, are just awful. Greedy, selfish, petty, and cruel; to laugh at Succession is to laugh at its protagonists rather than chuckle at a shared intelligence with the show’s protagonists. This is truly a hatewatch.
The Houston Astros, over the past two seasons, have gone from an intelligent and self-confident antihero to an object of near-universal revulsion. After the franchise’s cheating scandal was exposed last fall, people tune in not to watch this team but to root against it. And yet, like the Roys, the Astros remain on top. It did not always look to be so; at 29-31, the Astros entered the postseason with the joint-worst record of any playoff team in MLB history—and yet they started the postseason on a four-game winning streak and sit just one game shy of a fourth consecutive ALCS appearance.
But that’s enough preamble. Who are the Astros’ counterparts in Succession?
José Altuve: Kendall Roy
The 2017 AL MVP emerged as the Astros’ best position player during their title run, as Kendall emerged as Succession’s main character at the start of Season 1. Just as Kendall’s missteps (rehab, the failed takeover bid, the looming threat of English Chappaquiddick) have often left him in a state of unease, Altuve found himself in an uncomfortable position in February. Rumors began to swirl that the Astros had used buzzers to signal incoming pitches during their cheating campaign, and Altuve’s famous 2019 ALCS-winning home run—the one where he told teammates not to rip off his shirt—came under scrutiny. The excuse Carlos Correa gave on Altuve’s behalf? He’d just gotten a bad tattoo and didn’t want anyone to see.
Major Kendall energy there.
Alex Bregman: Shiv Roy
In Season 1, Shiv tried to break with the family tradition of right-wing agitprop and make her own name by working on the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders stand-in Gil Eavis. But Shiv’s more palatable politics hardly made her more ethical, because Shiv is an operator. More than her siblings, Shiv understands messaging (if not internal corporate politics) in a way that reminds me of Bregman’s easy trash talk. And on a team built around Altuve and Correa, Bregman came in late and emerged as the Astros’ best position player, much like Shiv’s late play for control of Waystar Royco.
Zack Greinke: Logan Roy
I don’t mean to insinuate that Greinke shares the eldest Roy’s penchant for wanton cruelty, but he’s an older, accomplished guy who’s famous for being extremely curt. Before his start in last year’s ALDS, Greinke answered eight questions in a press conference and used only 67 words. At one point, he asked a reporter to repeat a question and then answered it with “I don’t know.” It’s not “Fuck off,” but it’s as close as you can get in an MLB press conference.
Carlos Correa: Tom Wambsgans
When the Astros won the World Series in 2017, Correa celebrated the occasion by proposing to his girlfriend on national TV, in front of God, Ken Rosenthal, and the American public. That alone is enough to get Correa lined up with the preeminent Wife Guy of Waystar Royco. It’s also appropriate that Correa is a middle infielder; the other famous historical Wambsgans (or Wambsganss) is Cleveland second baseman Bill Wambsganss, who in 1920 became the first and only player to turn an unassisted triple play in the World Series.
But it’s not just about that. It took about three months for the Astros to publicly address the sign-stealing obligations, an occasion they celebrated by holding one of the most awkward press conferences in baseball history. Correa was one of the few Astros players who came close to a believable apology that day, but it was Correa who dumped a bit of accelerant on the fire last week by calling out the haters. “I know a lot of people are mad,” he said after Houston knocked the Twins out in the first round. “I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here. But what are they going to say now?”
Correa generally seems like the most image-conscious of the Astros’ stars, which is not the same thing as being image-savvy. As the player whose selection truly kicked off Houston’s rebuild in 2012, Correa was groomed from his teenage years to be the face of the Astros. If the Astros were going to be the Yankees of the 2010s, Correa was supposed to be their Derek Jeter. From the moment he was called up, Correa was the Astros’ most visible and marketable player: in the headlines, on billboards, and grilling burgers with Craig Biggio in HEB commercials.
But in contrast to Bregman’s easy trash talk or Justin Verlander’s diffidence or Altuve’s reticence, Correa has always seemed like someone who wanted to be liked. Not as badly as A-Rod, but perhaps similarly intentional. Tom is a sycophant and a putz, but more than that he just wants people to like him, and that desire leads to most of the awkwardness that befalls his character: the watch incident, the “We Here For You” incident, and so on.
This raises an obvious question with no clear answer that nevertheless looms over all Astros Discourse: What do we actually want from these players? For them not to have cheated, for starters; failing that, for them to have been punished. But those ships have sailed. The 2017 World Series title stands, regardless of anyone’s feelings, and even if MLB had revoked it, doing so would not have made anyone feel that much better in the long run.
The Astros haven’t apologized to most people’s satisfaction, perhaps because an apology would involve admitting full culpability, and people who escaped official sanction tend not to do that. What apology would someone like Correa have to issue in order to completely rehabilitate himself, and what actions would he have to undertake in order to make that apology credible? How much time will have to pass?
I genuinely don’t know. Maybe it’s not possible. Which is why, failing that, it might be better to keep up an aggrieved posture for the time being, to try to draw motivation from people who say that all of Houston’s success since 2015 was the result of the trash can. It’s not the most morally upright choice, but it makes for more interesting TV.
Lance McCullers Jr.: Roman Roy
Small for his position, frequently overlooked in favor of his more prominent teammates, sometimes given to intemperate utterances. “We have a good team,” McCullers said after pitching Houston to victory in Game 1 of the ALDS. “We may not have the big names, the big bank accounts, but we’ve got guys with balls.” Of all the characters on Succession, Roman is definitely most inclined to talk about bank accounts and balls.
Both McCullers and Roman also make the most of their screen time. If there’s a baseball equivalent to the “We do hate speech and roller coasters” line, it’s McCullers’s curveball rampage in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS.
Kyle Tucker: Cousin Greg
One of the youngest members of the crew, who arrived on the scene after most of the bad stuff (“Cruises?”) happened. And at 6-foot-4 and a slim 199 pounds, Tucker can also be described as having a “Cousin Greg body type.”
Michael Brantley: Frank Vernon
He’s just here and trying to do his job.
George Springer: Gerri Kellman
I’m not sure why, but Springer seems to have escaped most of the ire directed at his teammates. Maybe that’s because, despite winning World Series MVP in 2017, he never appeared on camera doing anything particularly suspicious and never said anything particularly memorable about the scandal, for good or ill. Maybe he’s just that likable. I don’t know. But that’s sort of how I feel about Gerri, who’s involved in every awful thing the Roys do but remains the most likable character on the show.
Mike Fiers (Oakland A’s pitcher): Ewan Roy
The whistleblower who started it all. Fiers is a taller, older player who was once involved in the Astros’ cheating but eventually left the company and spoke out against a business model he found morally repugnant.
Trevor Bauer (Reds pitcher and frequent Astros antagonist): Stewy
I’m not going to explain this, but it’s true.
Dusty Baker: Rhea Jarrell
The charming, experienced leader brought in to navigate the Astros in a time of crisis. When’s the last time you saw Holly Hunter in anything and didn’t immediately pump your fist? Everyone loves Holly Hunter, almost as much as everyone in baseball loves Dusty Baker.
Carlos Beltrán: Connor Roy
The only member of the Roy family with a lick of sense, Connor has left the family business behind and actually used his wealth to have fun. Similarly, Beltrán spent his entire Hall of Fame career looking for a ring that he finally won in 2017, then he immediately retired and rode off into the sunset. Now, retirement has not been without its speed bumps for Beltrán. His brief tenure as Mets manager, which ended in disgrace before he even took the field, was a disaster on par with Connor’s run for the White House. But life has its ups and downs.