A Los Angeles Angels employee carries away an inflatable trash can thrown onto the field by fans during Monday's 7-6 win over the Houston Astros

Los Angeles (AFP) - Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker has criticised Los Angeles Angels fans who hurled abuse at the scandal-tainted 2017 World Series champions, insisting the Texas outfit had already been punished enough for the sign-stealing controversy which rocked baseball.

In a stormy road game in Anaheim on Monday, Astros players were loudly booed and taunted by Angels fans throughout before sliding to a 7-6 defeat, Houston’s first loss of the season.

At one stage in the sixth inning an inflatable trash can was hurled onto the playing field, before a real trash can full of refuse was thrown onto the field in the seventh inning, disrupting play.

Those gestures were a reference to the 2017 scandal in which Astros players illegally stole signs from opposing pitchers and then communicated with batters by hitting a trash can.

“You can tell the amount of hostility and the amount of hatred in the stands,” Astros manager Baker said after Monday’s loss, which followed a similarly stormy reception for the Astros during last week’s opening series against the Oakland Athletics.

“How many in the stands have never done anything wrong in their life? We paid the price for it. How many people have not cheated on a test or whatever at some point in time?

“I think that sometimes we need to look at ourselves before you spew hate on somebody else.

“It’s a sad situation for America, to me, when you hear things – I mean what are the kids supposed to think in the stands?

“And some of them are kids that are following their parents. It’s sad to me. People make mistakes. We paid for ours, and I wish they’d leave it alone.”

Major League Baseball suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for the entire 2020 season and fined the Astros a maximum of $5 million over the scandal.

But although Luhnow and Hinch were later fired by the team, no Houston player was ever sanctioned, and the club was allowed to keep the 2017 World Series title, won in seven games against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Baker however said the Astros should be allowed to put the controversy behind them.

“You can’t carry that scarlet letter around all your life,” Baker said.

“We’ve paid the price. How many times can you say you’re sorry? That’s all you can do. All you can do is go on with your life.”