Why the Astros Shouldn’t Apologize to the Dodgers

LA Dodgers, Houston Astros. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)
LA Dodgers, Houston Astros. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros do not need to apologize to the LA Dodgers over the outcome of the 2017 World Series. We have something else in mind.

The confirmation that the Houston Astros illegally stole signs during their 2017 World Series championship victory over the LA Dodgers has been the talk of baseball ever since Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich first broke news of the scandal in The Athletic late last year.

Who was involved?  What would the punishments be?  How would the team respond to the barrage of questions from the press?  How will opposing players react?  And would the Astros apologize for their actions?

So far we know that Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora have emerged as key figures in the scandal.  We know  A.J. “I’ll take a bat to the monitor but I won’t tell my players to stop cheating” Hinch turned a blind eye to it.  We “know” Jose Altuve is very shy and his wife doesn’t approve of him being in public without a shirt on.

We know that Rob Manfred completely dropped the ball on the punishments.  We know that the MLBPA has taken the position that the Commissioner doesn’t have the authority to punish the players, once again, seeming to prefer to defend the handful of players who cheated than to protect the hundreds of players who were victimized by their cheating.  And we know there are few things worse than having to graciously listen to and accept an apology from someone who truly isn’t sorry for their actions!

The Press Conference

For weeks the baseball world has been waiting to hear how the Astros would respond, while little was said.  Ironically, the only ones who seemed to publicly express regret were former Houston pitchers, who although they certainly benefited from the scheme vis-a-vis run support, were not active participants.

Related Story. Astros punished, but justice will never be done. light

Team owner Jim Crane insisted that once all the players got together at spring training they would be apologizing.  It seemed like it could be credible.  After all, Crane came down harder on his manager and general manager: Manfred just suspended them for a year, Crane fired them.

Perhaps Crane was going to emerge as the “leader” figure who could provide the team with the moral compass they were so sorely lacking. Turns out about the only positive thing the press conference could have done for the Astros is try to make their case that you can know what’s coming and still fail miserably.

First of all, someone needs to tell the Astros that if they want people to believe their apologies are sincere, they may want to stop sugar-coating what they did.  They didn’t “break a rule.”  They cheated!

George Brett having too much pine tar on his bat was breaking a rule.  Using a camera in center field to relay the signs to the dugout in real time so hitters know what pitch is coming isn’t breaking a rule. It’s cheating. Plain and simple.

It is not — I repeat, not — the same thing that players have been doing between the lines for over 100 years. Say it with me. “It’s Cheating!”

The Owner

There’s an old saying that a fish rots from the head down. That certainly seems to be the case here. Can you really expect the players to show real contrition when the owner comes out at the press conference and says, “Our opinion is, this didn’t impact the game.  We had a good team, we won the World Series.  We’ll leave it at that.”  So much for Jim Crane being the moral compass!

Stealing signs didn’t impact the game?  Seriously?!  If knowing what the pitcher was going to throw doesn’t provide an advantage, then why do pitchers and catchers waste everyone’s time going through a million signs before each pitch?  Why don’t they just yell out the pitch they are going to throw?  Either this guy is a complete liar or he doesn’t know the first thing about baseball.  Either way, he needs to go crawl back under the rock he crawled out from.

Nuke LaLoosh: [Gives up monster HR] God, that sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball!

Crash Davis: He did know

Nuke LaLoosh: How?

Crash Davis: I told him.

The Players

The truly remarkable thing in all this is that even after so much information has come out, the Astros are still trying to defend the results of their cheating.  Alex Bregman, Altuve and Carlos Correa are probably the three biggest faces of the team — at least as far as position players go.

Bregman and Altuve each issued tersely worded apologies. Neither seemed particularly sincere.  In fact, Bregman sounded like he had read the official guide on how a prisoner of war should speak if they are forced to issue a statement during their captivity.

Then came Correa. At first, Correa seemed to come across with one of the more sincere apologies.  And he insisted that we could believe him about not using buzzers, because “If I’m lying here I lose credibility if something like that comes out.” There is something surreal about listening to a player say you can believe him because he wouldn’t want to jeopardize his credibility by lying about THE WAY THEY WERE CHEATING!

But OK, we could have just kind of “let that one go” for the moment if that had been it.  It wasn’t.

Even after so much information has come out, the Astros are still trying to defend the results of their cheating.

Shortly after, Correa felt compelled to respond to Cody Bellinger‘s comments about the scandal.  Namely that the Astros have been cheating for three years, Altuve stole the MVP from Aaron Judge, and the Astros stole the World Series from the Dodgers. His “defense” against the allegations was not only complete BS, but his tone reeked with attitude, saying Bellinger “either doesn’t know how to read, is really bad at reading comprehension, or is just not informed at all.”

Correa then addressed a few of the specific allegations before concluding that Bellinger should “shut the f*** up!”

Well, allow me to retort!

Correa claims that Altuve didn’t steal the MVP from Judge and was one of the only players that wasn’t cheating. In fact, he claimed that Altuve would get pissed off if someone banged the can while he was up and that he couldn’t hit that way and to stop it. This statement is interesting for numerous reasons.

First, it conveniently ignores the implicit benefit Altuve had from an offense that was cheating for the entire year. How many extra runners were on base during Altuve’s ABs? How many extra runs did Altuve score from hitters knowing what pitch was coming while he was on base? How many extra pitches did opposing pitchers have to make because Astros hitters were able to lay off pitches that they would have otherwise whiffed at and how many times did a pitcher get knocked out of the game early because they weren’t effective?

When you and your team perpetrate one of the biggest cheating scandals to hit MLB in the last 100 years, you don’t get to take the moral high ground.

All of those factors played a part Altuve’s numbers that year and certainly helped to win a close race for the MVP award.  Perhaps Carlos Correa should become “better informed” about the game of baseball?

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t support the broader narrative that all the other players were “steamrolled” by the actions of a few influential players. Clearly, if Correa is to be believed, Altuve didn’t have any problem telling the people involved that he didn’t want to be part of the sign stealing. By 2017, Altuve was already a four-time All-Star and a three-time Silver Slugger (with a top-three MVP finish the prior year).

He was one of the best players on the team and one of the team leaders. How hard would it have been for any of the other “innocent” players who just went along because they didn’t know what else to do to just simply follow Altuve’s lead? They didn’t even need to take a moral stand, they could have simply claimed they found it distracting — just like Altuve!

Third, his statement that they won fair and square is downright insulting to the other teams, the fans, and the game itself. They cheated. They cheated the entire regular season and they cheated in the postseason.  It is right there in the Commissioner’s report. If they cheated, which they clearly did, then by definition, that means they didn’t win it fair and square. Perhaps Carlos needs a little help with his reading comprehension.

Finally, what bothers me most is that he has the nerve to cop an attitude about it!  Hey Carlos, just to be clear, when you and your team perpetrate one of the biggest cheating scandals to hit MLB in the last 100 years, you don’t get to take the moral high-ground when the rest of the league calls you out on it!  And if you want people to have the “facts” before they speak, then maybe you and the rest of your teammates should all come clean and publicly admit who did what and waive your immunity instead of hiding behind your mommy’s (that is, Rob Manfred’s) skirt.

What’s next?

Honestly, one of the biggest disappointments coming out of this whole scandal is the way Manfred has handled it. There were widespread reports that there were numerous accusations about the Astros cheating, but nothing was done until the whole sordid story was broken by The Athletic.

Even after the story broke and the facts came out, the Astros still got to keep their title and none of the players who cheated got punished! Then, to add insult to injury, Manfred issued a statement warning the rest of baseball that any on-field “retaliation” would not be tolerated. So not only were the Astros players not punished for their cheating, but they are now being given an advantage because it will be harder for pitchers to pitch inside without risking being ejected/suspended.

The next best thing is to vacate the Astros World Series title and strip them of their rings.

While it is obviously impossible to truly “fix” this situation, something still needs to be done. The other players and the fans are furious about this. It goes to the very integrity of the game itself. I understand that Manfred granted the players immunity if they testified honestly about what happened. The MLBPA insisted on that (although, it kind of begs the question as to what the hell the MLBPA is thinking as they once again sell hundreds of their innocent members down the river in order to protect a few dozen guilty ones). However, Manfred still could have done more to protect the game without suspensions/fines against individual players.

In a perfect world, the 2017 World Series would be replayed with the Yankees playing the Dodgers for the championship. Unfortunately, that is impossible. Not only have rosters have changed, but it would be a logistical nightmare to try to figure out how/when to schedule it. So that’s clearly out.

However, the next best thing is to vacate the Astros World Series title and strip them of their rings. At the very minimum, this would be a “real” consequence and would send the message that you cannot win a World Series title by cheating. It would certainly be a better result than having the players take matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, I highly doubt Manfred will have the guts to do that.

Alternatively, Manfred could attempt to dole out a little poetic justice. Since the Astros used technology illegitimately to cheat, they should not be trusted to use legitimate technology this year. So for 2020 (at a minimum), the Astros should be banned from having ANY video in the dugout — including video replay. In other words, if the Astros want to challenge a call on the field, let them do it based on what they see on the field with their naked eyes without the benefit of video replay.

But as for an apology, I think the sentiment was best expressed by Tanner Boyle in The Bad News Bears: “Hey [Astros]… You can take your apology and your trophy and shove ’em straight up your … !”