That’s how the Washington Nationals addressed baseball’s biggest scandal Thursday, on their first official day of spring training, on a day that should have been all about their title. They are the reigning World Series champions. They beat the Astros to earn that title. They are on the other side of a shared facility with the Astros, far enough from the drama, but enveloped in it just like everyone else.
Cheating is a leaguewide problem, even when, in this case, the evidence is confined to one team. The Nationals learned that upon arriving at camp.
“They crossed the moral line and cheated, but they got to answer to it,” Scherzer said after throwing a 56-pitch bullpen session Thursday morning. “It’s not really for us to speak for them. They need to speak for themselves. They need to talk to the fans of baseball and explain what happened.”
“It is unfortunate that we have to answer questions about that,” echoed Doolittle. “But there’s also questions like this being answered in every clubhouse around baseball, so we’re not the only ones getting it just because we share a complex with them.”
A couple hours earlier, the Astros held a news conference with owner Jim Crane, Manager Dusty Baker, and José Altuve and Alex Bregman, two star players who took part in the electronic sign-stealing scheme. The sentiment around baseball was that the Astros had not shown enough remorse, if any at all, when addressing this situation in January. Thursday provided another chance.
The Nationals had not read or watched all Astros’ responses by the time their clubhouse opened around noon. Scherzer and Doolittle wanted a chance to digest the apologies before delving into them. But Harris, a reliever who joined the Nationals this offseason, had to make a statement of his own. He spent the past five seasons with the Astros, and while he did not get signs relayed to him at the plate, he was around the dugout and clubhouse while it was going on.
“We all share in that, no doubt,” Harris said when asked if he ever wished he objected to the sign-stealing practices. “To see where it’s gotten to, there’s a lot of guys wishing you could have maybe done something to change history. But at the same time, a lot of us don’t necessarily know what those things are. It’s hard to quantify in your head what maybe you could have done.”
Doolittle has angled anger at the sign-stealing, the Astros’ tepid response in January, and on behalf of the pitchers who had their careers affected by an uneven playing field. He noted Thursday that Harris’s comments will go a long way with his new teammates, and he appreciated Harris being open to continued dialogue. The two relievers had already discussed the sign-stealing reports by the end of the first pitchers and catchers workout.
“I appreciate his apology,” Doolittle added. “Talked with him a little bit about it so far in spring, and I feel like his remorse is genuine. I think he’s excited to be here, to have a fresh start.”
To help the sport reach that point, players have begun compiling proposals to present to the league. They are doing so in conjunction with the MLB Players Association and hope the effort gains traction once full teams have reported. The MLBPA visits spring training sites, and this will be at the forefront of each conversation. The plan is to figure out best practices for in-game technology, how it should be regulated moving forward, and how they can assure this never happens again.
Scherzer, who is on the MLBPA’s executive council, has been part of that process. So has Doolittle. And while they didn’t share many details Thursday, this much was clear: Players feel unified by what was revealed about the Astros. That should extend well beyond having to answer the same questions on the first day of spring.
“We don’t really owe them anything,” Doolittle said of reacting to the Astros’ planned, public response Thursday. “Kind of take our time sifting through what they had to say. Kind of sit with it. I don’t know. I think about how they say they wish they had done more to stop it and they’re remorseful. And I think about pitchers that had to stand up in front of their lockers after games, and searching for answers after they just got hit around.”