Astros-Gate by Bob Ryan

It began with Watergate…since then every type of subterfuge becomes a “gate”….so I couldn’t wait until next Monday to dive in on the Astros-Gate. Everyone will get damaged in some way……

..it began on Nov 12, 2019 when former Houston Astros player Mike Fiers publicly alleged in an article published by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic that the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules. While his allegations have proven to be absolutely true….one would think that Fiers doesn’t ever expect to be back inside an MLB clubhouse again. Breaking the sacro-sinct code of “what goes on in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse”….even Fiers— the guy who began the wagon rolling over the cliff will suffer from his revelations.

…factual findings of the MLB investigation led by Comish Manfred (shortened, but these ARE the exact words of the report”)… “At the beginning of the 2017 season, employees in the Astros’ video replay review  room began using the live game feed from the center field camera to attempt to decode and  transmit opposing teams’ sign sequences (i.e., which sign flashed by the catcher is the actual sign) for use when an Astros runner was on second base. Once the sign sequence was decoded, a player in the video replay review room would act as a “runner” to relay the information to the dugout, and a person in the dugout would notify the players in the dugout or signal the sign sequence to the runner on second base, who in turn would decipher the catcher’s sign and signal to the batter from second base”…it gets worse…” Early in the season, Alex Cora, the Astros’ Bench Coach, began to call the replay review room on the replay phone to obtain the sign information”…” Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs  and communicating the signs to the batter. Cora arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros’ dugout”. As season progressed, “. One or more players watched the live feed of the center field camera on the monitor, and after decoding the sign, a player would bang a nearby trash can with a bat to communicate the upcoming pitch type to the batter” Then, “However, witnesses made clear that everyone proximate to the Astros’ dugout presumptively heard or saw the banging. In addition to players using the monitor installed near the dugout to decode signs, employees in the Astros’ replay review room continued to decode sign sequences using the monitors in the room and communicate those sequences to the dugout for use when a runner was on second base. Both methods of sign stealing were used by the team in parallel throughout the 2017 season”. While further East, “In August 2017, the Boston Red Sox were caught transmitting sign information from their replay review room to individuals in the dugout wearing smart watches. The incident received significant media attention, and I(Manfred) issued a press release on September 15, 2017 announcing the fine of the Red Sox” It was addressed again in MLB meeting with management in the off-season—emphasizing that mechanical assistance to steal signs was forbidden. It continues in Manfred’s report, “The Astros’ methods in 2017 and 2018 to decode and communicate to the batter an opposing Club’s signs were not an initiative that was planned or directed by the Club’s top  baseball operations officials. Rather, the 2017 scheme in which players banged on a trash can was, with the exception of Cora, player-driven and player-executed. The attempt by the Astros’ replay review room staff to decode signs using the center field camera was originated and executed by lower-level baseball operations employees working in conjunction with Astros players and Cora. The efforts involving the replay review room staff were mentioned in at least two emails sent to Luhnow, and there is conflicting evidence about conversations with Luhnow on the topic. When the Astros players were interviewed , Many of the players who were interviewed admitted that they knew the scheme was wrong because it crossed the line from what the player believed was fair competition and/or violated MLB rules. Players stated that if Manager A.J. Hinch told them to stop engaging in the conduct, they would have immediately stopped. Although the Astros’ players did not attempt to hide what they were doing from Hinch or other Astros employees, they were concerned about getting caught by players from other teams. Several players told my investigators that there was a sense of “panic” in the Astros’ dugout after White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar appeared to notice the trash can bangs. Before the game ended, a group of Astros players removed the monitor from the wall in the tunnel and hid it in an office. For the Postseason, a portable monitor was set up on a table to replace the monitor that had been affixed to the wall near the dugout.

All of the above is taken directly from the report….some of my thoughts…

…I totally agree that Luhnow & HInch are guilty and their firing (and hopefully never rehired) is just

…I also agree that the owner had absolutely NO idea of this illegality taking place.

…MLB fining the Astros huge money, taking away draft choices seem appropriate.

But……how can these players….ALL of them involved get a “pass”?   They all KNEW it was illegal… forbidden by the league. It clearly is the most serious cheating scandal in the history of the MLB. Manfred ..more or less…excuses them since their manager was the leader. Come on…all the players knew it was wrong. For example, if the player was taking PED’s …did he need the manager to tell him directly “NOT TO DO IT” to be wrong?…same with the signs!

 I would have been far more severe with the entire roster….I would hold them accountable…

While Luhnow & company(including Carlos Beltran) will hopefully be excluded from any roles in MLB teams ever again, ALL the players knew that cheating was taking place..and many participated in it.

1st …make them refund all their extra playoff money from those seasons. Give to charity.

2nd….don’t ever allow any of them to accept management roles in the MLB

3rd…remove any bonuses for batting titles or award or achievements in their contracts.

Hold these men accountable….remember 1919, Joe Jackson was accused of cheating. He signed a guilty plea…despite being totally illiterate…he had NO idea what he was signing. To this day, 100 years later, he’s still not in the HOF despite being identified by his peers as the “Best Swing of his Era” and one of the very best defensively. In those day, apparently, men in those days were held responsible and not excused because the management didn’t indicate to them that an obvious wrong …is WRONG! Manfred actually says, ““I recognize that some players may have understood that their conduct was not only condoned by the Club, but encouraged by it.” Think about that  one…  Little Leaguer Players  have been held to higher standards than these MLB’ers.   Manfred’s report lowered the hammer on Hinch & Luhnow but the actual cheaters skated away.. free as a bird!

4th..Should all long term contracts of these Astros be negated…or renegotiated? Surely, there’s some clause in those contracts about abiding by all the MLB rules/regulations.

Now a short bit on real sports thoughts…

The LSU-Clemson game was absolutely terrific. I didn’t have a dog in this fight…I just wanted a good, competitive game with lots of outstanding catches, throws, tackles (Yea….I still like hard tackles) and plenty of emotion. LSU was the best team in the USA this year! Congrats to them! I do wish that the game didn’t take half a work-day to play!

While I’m on football…..the NFL playoff games are totally different from the hum-dum of the regular season games. Players are using football skills…not trying to injure the opponents. The KC Chiefs –Texans game was really a Tale of Two halves….well, maybe 1 qtr vs 3 quarters….but any way.. it turned on the failure of a fake punt and then KC exploded.

I’d love to read YOUR thoughts on the Astros-Gate…..thanks for taking the time to read a 2nd edition this week.

Comments

  1. As to the scandal…I just kind of think that the MASSIVE amounts of money and prestige at stake in sports today are really at the root of all this. Whether or not the principals in this thing are crooks at heart is difficult to say but that isn’t really the point is it? Gaining an advantage by whatever means I guess they felt justified in doing especially when they didn’t get caught initially. Kind of like the kid who steals a candy bar and being successful, graduates to things bigger. Perhaps they even used the rationale that it was just getting an edge in competition. BUT…the bottom line is they screwed up and screwed up bad and have no one to blame for the punishment but themselves. No one should feel sorry for them, not even a little bit. It’s just a shame that games have come to mean so much that rules are just made to be suggestions to be followed only if you feel like it.
    Take care…BH

  2. Couple comments says:

    I imagine you are not surprised. I was not. Luhnow was and is a snake. Everyone involved is now suspect including our beloved hitting coach. TM

    Great read. I also believe that a majority or all of the players had to know what was going on, Your articles on very interesting. J O’B

  3. I don’t think the league did enough to truly uphold the integrity of the game. When it’s all said and done the Astros on lost 2 draft picks. I don’t think ever team cheats and I don’t think the league has made a strong enough point to keep other teams from doing the same thing as the Astros and “winning” a championship in doing so. DL

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