Here’s what’s unshakable about the Houston Astros: They cheated the game. And they’re back in the World Series. No homespun Dusty Baker yarn can cover that up.

This issue seems such a thing of the past, until you realize how much it informs the present. Go around the infield that will take the field at Minute Maid Park to open Game 1 on Tuesday night in Houston, and it is blemish after blemish after blemish — Yuli Gurriel at first, José Altuve at second, Carlos Correa at short and Alex Bregman at third. All were Astros in 2017, when that crew was banging on trash cans and stealing signs all the way to a title. All are Astros now, poised to win another championship.

How to feel about all this?

“I equate them to the steroid guys,” one top MLB team executive said Monday. “They’re stained for the rest of their careers.”

“It’s hard,” said a high-ranking official from another team. “They’re a super-talented team. Did some of their guys benefit from it? Absolutely. But at the same time, they’ve proven that they’re really good.”

This World Series isn’t tainted, because it stretches credulity to believe the Astros are still using video to decipher the signs between an opponent’s catcher and pitcher, all so these very talented hitters could have the distinct advantage of knowing what was coming. New protocols were established. Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch were suspended by Major League Baseball as general manager and manager, respectively, then fired by the Astros. The sport tried to move on.

It can’t, though. It’s not yet two years since those penalties were announced, and it remains hard to shake the stories of the lengths those players went to and wonder how it benefited them. The phrase that nags at the brain from MLB’s investigation, sprinkled throughout the report: “player-driven.”

That’s still relevant. Bregman is playing on a five-year, $100 million contract he agreed to in the spring of 2019 — a season that ended with the Astros (mercifully, from MLB’s perspective) losing to Washington in the World Series — and that kicked in to start 2020, by which point the Astros’ scheme had been uncovered. Altuve just completed the fourth season of a seven-year, $163.5 million deal that all but made him an Astro for life. Correa will be one of the sport’s most coveted free agents this offseason, nearly certain to receive a nine-figure contract.

Their penance is — they’re booed on the road? That’s it?

Looking back, it seems that’s how MLB wanted it. In exchange for information, it granted 23 Astros players immunity. It’s the easiest way to figure out the crime. It’s a lousy way to levy the punishment.

As the World Series plays out, there will be a let’s-just-forget-this crowd, and that crowd will point to the fact that the beloved Baker is now the manager and the roster has turned over quite a bit since 2017, the season MLB’s investigation identified as the height of the scam — when the Astros happened to win the World Series. But that crowd can’t deny the importance of those four starting infielders to this team — not to mention Luhnow’s imprint on this roster.

“It’s like Luhnow’s letter from the grave,” one of the executives said.

Hinch sat out for a year and was then hired by the Detroit Tigers. Alex Cora, Hinch’s bench coach in Houston, was fired as Boston’s manager following the scandal, then returned to that same perch a year later. And it says here that Carlos Beltrán — one of the masterminds behind the plan when he was a player, since hired and dismissed as the New York Mets’ manager because of his Houston transgressions — will get another job in the game, and soon. There is, at least in some corners, forgiveness in baseball.

Luhnow, though, probably will never work in the sport again. He set the tone for an organization that had an outsize arrogance. He was something between tolerated and loathed by almost all of his colleagues with other clubs. His lack of institutional control cost him his job. His reputation will almost certainly prevent him from getting another.

But Luhnow’s fingerprints are all over this Houston roster. Framber Valdez is the Game 1 starting pitcher. Luis Garcia is likely to start Game 2. José Urquidy is probable for Game 3. That’s three-fifths of a rotation signed as international free agents by Luhnow’s scouting department and brought to the majors by Luhnow’s player development operation.

Right fielder Kyle Tucker? Drafted and developed under Luhnow. Center fielders Jake Meyers, who’s injured, and Chas McCormick? Drafted and developed under Luhnow. Former ace Zack Greinke? Traded for by Luhnow. Closer Ryan Pressly? Traded for — and signed to a contract extension — by Luhnow. Officially, left fielder Michael Brantley was signed as a free agent by current GM James Click — but only after he was signed as a free agent by Luhnow.

So in roster construction alone, there is a tie to the stench of the scandal. Luhnow’s organization was the organization that cheated and got caught, so he’s out. But his players remain employed — and thrive.

“I can’t forgive them,” one of the team officials said. An example: “I love the player Correa. I can’t stand the person Correa.”

It sticks, and not because the players didn’t deserve second chances but because there’s a sense they got off free from their first. Even Baker, who has an almost flawless touch with people, can only spray so much deodorant on the situation. When Altuve comes to the plate Tuesday night, leading off in the bottom of the first, it’ll be hard to separate the moment from the past. MLB concluded that the Astros had stopped the trash-can-banging scam by the time they reached the 2019 World Series. Most people in the game think that’s, um, garbage.

The walk-off home run Altuve hit to beat the New York Yankees and clinch that pennant should be the defining moment in the career of the seven-time all-star and 2017 MVP. Instead, it falls somewhere between a curiosity and conspiracy, because people still believe Altuve was wearing a buzzer under his jersey through which he was alerted to the incoming slider from Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

Think about it: They cheated and won in 2017. They then stopped — voluntarily — two years later?

“Most people believe they never found out everything,” one of the executives said.

So it hangs over these players, and it hangs over this series. Maybe some people can root for Baker, who has now managed for five franchises and appeared in the postseason for all five. Maybe some people will root against the Braves because their nickname and logo are anachronistic and their fans still insist on an offensive “chop” chant.

The fallout from the steroid era is that Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, et al., haven’t been voted into the Hall of Fame. Down the road, maybe the Astros’ sign-stealing trickery will prevent Correa or Altuve from getting into Cooperstown.

That’s for years from now. This week, it’s the 2021 World Series — a series that, even before it starts, is haunted by the team that won it four years ago and returns now, its reputation preceding it. Deservedly so.