The Houston Astros apologized for their sign-stealing scandal as spring training began, and then the rest of Major League Baseball had a chance to weigh in. And no one, it’s safe to say, seems satisfied.
[The Astros want to ‘move forward.’ The rest of baseball isn’t eager to let them.]
Players, coaches and executives have shared their feelings on the Astros’ illegal scheme, in which they used a camera rig in center field to decode signals between opposing pitchers and catchers and transmit them to hitters, according to Commissioner Rob Manfred’s investigative report. Houston won 101 games and its first World Series in 2017 and then 103 games in 2018, which at the time was a franchise best. Second baseman José Altuve was named the 2017 American League MVP with a .346 batting average, 24 home runs and 204 hits, edging out New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.
Some baseball figures want Manfred to strip the Astros of that World Series title and Altuve of his MVP award. Manfred has resisted after promising Houston players immunity from punishment if they spoke with investigators. Speculation continues as to whether Houston cheated in other ways that weren’t detailed in Manfred’s report.
[Perspective: In the Astros scandal, Rob Manfred has taken a bad situation and made it worse]
Here are some of the most visceral responses from major league players and executives in the days after the Astros reported to spring training.
New York Yankees outfielder
“[The Astros are] only really sorry because [they] got caught. ... They didn’t have a problem being in front of the cameras and enjoying all the lights when they were doing it in ’17, and now they have to explain themselves and point fingers and this guy’s talking for this guy.”
Los Angeles Angels outfielder
“It’s sad for baseball. It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected, a lot of people lost jobs. It was tough. Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming — it would be pretty fun up there.”
New York Yankees outfielder
“I wasn’t a fan of the punishment. I thought it was a little weak for a player-driven scheme. ...
“I just don’t think [winning the 2017 World Series] holds any value. You cheated. It wasn’t earned. That’s how I feel. It wasn’t earned the way of playing the game right. ...
“I could sit up here and lie to you and say that I’ll forget about it and move on, but you’re always going to have that bad taste in your mouth.”
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder
“I thought the apologies were whatever. I thought [Astros owner] Jim Crane’s was weak. I thought [Commissioner Rob] Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving them immunity. I mean these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from [Aaron] Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.
“I know personally I lost respect for those guys. I would say everyone in The Show, in the big leagues, lost respect for those guys.”
[What is sign stealing? Making sense of Major League Baseball’s latest scandal.]
Atlanta Braves outfielder
“I feel like every single guy over there needs a beating. It’s wrong. They’re messing with people’s careers. … There’s right ways to do it and wrong ways to do it. I 100 percent disagree with way they did it. There’s a lot of people that were hurt by it, and it was wrong.”
Chicago Cubs third baseman
“A lot of the apology … was about 2017, 2017. I’m pretty sure it was going on in 2018 and 2019, too. That’s just so sad. If they didn’t get caught, they’d still be doing it. They’re only doing this apology because they got caught. There’s a lot of feelings on it and I know everybody around the league is pretty upset, and rightfully so because it’s really a disgrace to the game.
[Aaron Judge says Astros should be stripped of 2017 title because they ‘didn’t earn it’]
“This is people’s livelihoods, too, that they’re messing with. Guys have never pitched in games since then, guys have won awards that maybe they shouldn’t have won. Who knows? Those guys are certainly talented ballplayers. I personally think it’s worse than steroids. I really do. Steroids you have to compete and hit the ball. If you know what’s coming off of these pitchers, guys throwing upper 90s with really good curveballs and sliders, you can totally formulate an unbelievable game plan off certain things, if you know what’s coming. It’s just frustrating. They’re going to have a tough year this year, for sure. I got booed really loud in St. Louis. And they’re going to get — wow — everywhere they go, rightfully so.”
Washington Nationals general manager
“Someone has got to say the word over there: ‘Cheated.’ That’s important to me and for the sport to move on, which is what I’m most concerned about. We have to make sure that all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed on this investigation before we end it.”
New York Yankees general manager
“I definitely think [the scheme] had an effect on things, without question. The Houston Astros were dealing with a distinct advantage, more so than their opponents. That’s a fact.”
Cincinnati Reds pitcher
“They are hypocrites, they are cheaters, they’ve stolen from a lot of other people, and the game itself was completely unfair. You guys [the Astros] think you are better than everyone and you don’t have to abide by the rules? F--- you. You know? That’s how I feel about their whole operation.”
[If MLB won’t punish Astros players, opposing pitchers ready to dole out justice on their own]
Washington Nationals pitcher
“Someday I’m going to hopefully have some grandkids and sit down and talk to them about the experience of the World Series and not really feel ashamed of it at all.”
Cleveland Indians pitcher
“I don’t think it’s going to be a comfortable few at-bats for a lot of those boys, and it shouldn’t be."
Washington Nationals utility player
“It doesn’t put baseball in a good light, and the commissioner hasn’t done a great job of trying to defuse the situation, honestly. You cheat, you cheat. There’s no fairness in that.”
Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman
“Calling the World Series trophy a piece of metal, I mean, I don’t know if the commissioner has ever won anything in his life. Maybe he hasn’t. But the reason every guy is in this room, the reason every guy is working out all offseason and showing up to camp early and putting in all the time and effort is specifically for that trophy, which, by the way, is called the Commissioner’s Trophy. So for him to devalue it the way he did yesterday tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game. At this point, the only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says ‘Commissioner’ on it.”
Washington Nationals relief pitcher
“I think about what I was just talking about before — the implications that it had on guys’ careers and it’s cast so much into doubt beyond just what they did in 2017. Past outcomes are being second-guessed from that season specifically, from that playoff run specifically. And now think about what it’s done moving forward. Any time a player starts to improve or has a breakout season, any time a team gets hot and goes on a run, there’s going to be those questions: What are they doing? How are they doing this? Is this tainted? Are they cheating? … The way that it really erodes integrity of the game is tough. And I don’t know because part of me wonders, if you’re the kind of person that’s willing to do that, are you able to step back and see how that affects the integrity of the game? Can you see how it erodes public trust and fan confidence in the product that we have on the field? So I don’t know. That’s the kind of stuff that I’ll be looking for when I see what they had to say. But they had how many months to put something together?”
Houston Astros pitcher
“Once I spent some time and understood what was happening, I wish I had said more. I can’t go back and reverse my decision. I wish I had said more, and I didn’t.”
José Altuve shows off his tattoo as the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal takes a reality-TV turn
Baseball wanted accountability and remorse from the Astros. That didn’t happen.
This was the time for the Astros to own their cheating. Maybe they missed the sign.