If the last week of faux apologies, conflicting stories, and poor leadership suggested anything, it’s that Major League Baseball needs to re-open its investigations of the Houston Astros — particularly the 2019 season.
The arrival of spring training has given us up-close and personal access to an Astros team that has bumbled its way through public apologies while adding fuel to the fires of impending feuds with the rest of the majors. Those affected by the scandal — particularly members of the Yankees and Dodgers — have held no qualms voicing their displeasure of the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing techniques that helped aid their 2017 World Series title.
Houston’s apologies have been less than convincing, though they’ve been magnified by the audacious attempt of team owner Jim Crane claiming that it “didn’t impact the game.”
That press conference last week did more than enough to tarnish the decent move of immediately firing manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow when MLB commissioner Rob Manfred handed down year-long suspensions for the two of them.
While Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman offered poor, cookie-cutter excuses for apologies, Carlos Correa’s initially-refreshing candor has now led to further uncertainty involving Houston’s cheating tactics and an obvious indication that Manfred should re-investigate the franchise’s cheating scandal that could have stretched into 2019.
Correa was the first to truly admit that the Astros benefited from their sign-stealing scheme, which had a camera in center field relay the opposing catcher’s signs to a TV monitor just inside the dugout tunnel. An attendant would then bang on a trash can to alert the batter of what pitch was coming.
Throughout MLB’s investigation of Houston’s 2017 season, suspicions emerged that the Astros might have used buzzers worn inside their uniforms over the past two seasons to further enhance their sign swiping.
The evidence most used push that narrative was Altuve’s walk-off home run off Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees to send the Astros to the 2019 World Series back in October.
Before touching home plate where he was mobbed by his teammates, Altuve clutched his jersey and commanded that his shirt not be ripped off. He later ran into the clubhouse to change out of his uniform and into an American League champions t-shirt — a swap that most players do on the field.
Altuve told Ken Rosenthal immediately after the game he was shy.
Then Correa told reporters that Altuve’s wife disapproved of his husband’s shirt getting ripped off before citing an in-progress tattoo that “honestly looked terrible.”
Altuve revealed the tattoo, which simply said “Melanie” on his left shoulder, to reporters on Monday in the Astros’ spring training clubhouse.
This came hours after Manfred found more ways to make things worse.
Speaking with ESPN, the commissioner admitted that he will never be “100% certain” that the use of buzzers didn’t happen.
If that isn’t an invitation to take another in-depth look into last year, then Manfred is admitting that the Astros are getting away with at least a season of cheating without further punishment.
After cutting a deal with MLBPA to grant Astros players immunity in exchange for honest testimony, Manfred said that public backlash will be an overarching form of punishment this year.
Not suspensions, not fines, but being chastised by fans.
He then went on to warn players around the league that vigilante justice in the form of throwing at batters “will not be tolerated.”
So players who try to exact some form of revenge against a group of players that were not punished for partaking in one of the largest cheating scandals in MLB history will be punished.
Rob Manfred is further tarnishing his reputation along with the trust between Major League Baseball and the fans. The only way that can be fixed is if he gets this Astros situation right, which means he has to stop trying to sweep this under the rug.