HOUSTON — The Houston Astros have officially opened Spring Training 2020, and no one is talking about actual baseball.
On Thursday, Feb. 13, we heard from the majority of the players for the first time since Major League Baseball concluded their investigation into the alleged and now proven sign stealing scheme that was done using technology back in 2017.
I'll get to what transpired in Florida today in a moment...but first the thing that I can't get over. I don't think I will ever fully understand why then manager A.J. Hinch didn't put a stop to the actions that he witnessed that season. Whether it be because of pressure from above (which I do believe was the case) or because, as he claims, his natural personal growth as a manager...he needed to stop that nonsense as soon as he saw it, regardless of what would have been the immediate repercussions which I'm sure were nowhere near as severe as what we're all witnessing now. Adding on to that...the report states that he damaged monitors to show is disapproval and players said that if Hinch had come to them directly telling them to stop it...they would have. I don't know about you...but if your boss comes by your workplace and starts smashing things with a bat, that would be enough of a message for me to stop whatever the heck I was doing.
MLB says this was a player-driven scheme. We now know based on further reporting that the front office, including GM Jeff Luhnow, was heavily involved, too. However, while the front office certainly has a hand in this whole mess (and they should be held accountable)...I believe it fell on the players to be more responsible. This wasn't necessary. The team the Astros fielded in 2017 was immensely talented. Now, I have no doubt there were other teams doing similar things. Everyone tries their best to get a competitive advantage and to bend the rules...but blatantly breaking those rules even after MLB officials came down late that season with a warning to teams to stop doing it? That to me is unacceptable. The cliche is two wrongs don't make a right...call me old school, but their talent alone would have gotten them where they eventually went. Just look at the home/road splits for the majority of the players. They're success away from Minute Maid Park is proof that the this elaborate scheme was not needed.
On the first day of camp, we heard apologies from most of the players in what essentially became a feeding frenzy for the national media that flocked to West Palm Beach hoping to get an adequate response from the team that has become public enemy number one across the league. After weeks of demanding an apology from the players...those asking finally got them and to no surprise, it wasn't enough. The simple fact is, it was never going to be enough. Having said that...it was a terrible idea for Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve to give solo statements at a stand alone microphone without taking questions at the press conference. In today's world, the low hanging fruit (in terms of soundbites) is easy to take advantage of....and many around the country (especially in markets that feature teams that have the most grievance against the Astros) are doing just that with those few words by the two stars. Those statements were not good....HOWEVER, what came from the players AFTERWARDS in the clubhouse were much better. Carlos Correa, George Springer, Lance McCullers Jr. and even Altuve all gave more in depth statements, some players standing near or at their lockers answering questions for almost 10 minutes. Again, could some have been better? Sure. But as I said before it would not have mattered what sentiments they shared...the Astros cheated in the eyes of the baseball world and the level of disdain we're seeing from certain writers and others in the game won't go away overnight.
I've said many times before the ones that I feel sorry for most are Astros fans and as a whole, the city of Houston. They don't deserve to deal with the disastrous ramifications that have resulted from the actions of front office personnel and players during that season. This is a hard working town, a city that loves its teams and while it shouldn't matter what other people think about the Astros...it hurts as a fan to have deal with the constant negative publicity and the crazy vitriol that comes from other fan bases that feel cheated.
Players come and go, but the team is forever. The Houston Astros have taken a huge hit, and it will be awhile before people can think of this organization and not have the sign-stealing scandal be the first thing that pops up.
What's done is done...now play ball with the whole world hating you each time you step onto the field. That's one heck of a motivator if you ask me.
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