For nearly three years, you haven't been able to even breathe the word Astros in Houston without people lighting up. Wear a jersey to the grocery store and get high fives or chants of "Go Astros." The first team to give the city a championship since the '90s and one of the perennial best teams in baseball, they have become the veritable toast of the town.
Sure, the team has done some things to tarnish a bit of that luster like trading for closer Roberto Osuna as he was coming off a long suspension for violating the league's policy on domestic abuse, or having an assistant GM taunt female reporters about Osuna during the ALCS locker room celebration — never mind the ridiculous attempt by the team to smear the reporter who wrote about it.
But even those mistakes, idiotic as they were, don't come close at least in scope to what they are being accused of now. Recently, the Athletic reported that the Astros used cameras to steal signs from opposing teams. Their sources were anonymous with the exception of former pitcher Mike Fiers, who went on record.
Since then, a flurry of new stories have come out including reports of leaked emails showing the Astros were indeed not just looking into technology as a means of gaining an edge, but implementing it. As those reports have trickled out, people online have used YouTube videos to show how the Astros allegedly alerted hitters to pitches by banging on a garbage can before off speed pitches and not fastballs. Knowing the speed of a pitch certainly gives a hitter a distinct advantage at the plate.
Bregman down 0-2. gets two offspeed pitches that come with the bang. spits on the first. homers on the second. pic.twitter.com/pM6i0UKgGH— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) November 13, 2019
Then there was still video from the 2017 documentary about the Astros season showing a possible computer workstation next to a dented garbage can.
Yes, admittedly some of the Twitter users and folks online are seeking to overstate what has happened, especially ones with a vested interest in other teams (cough...Yankees...cough), but it's hard to argue that the Astros did try whatever they could to give hitters an edge.
In response, GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters, “We haven’t done everything properly, but I do feel confident that in general, most of the time, we did things right and we try and follow the rules. We try to be good citizens and we try to compete as hard as we can.”
Let's not sugarcoat this. This is bad because of not just what happened, but because of how it damages the reputation of a team many considered the best in baseball before this happened.
Much like the Astros piss poor response to Assistant GM Brandon Taubman's shameful locker room antics after the ALCS, this is a huge story in baseball and the Astros better come up with something better than "Well, shucks, y'all, we do our darndest not to break the rules."
Like most hyper competitive environments, teams are always looking for an edge. Sign stealing has long been part of typical gamesmanship, but that was when guys were on second base and looking directly at a catcher, not some computer nerd skulking in a back hallway and relaying signs with all the tact of a prison riot.
The Yankees and Red Sox have been busted for a variety of similar tactics. Just like them, if this is true of the Astros, it's cheating and stupid.
Lunhow understands no matter what he says. He is doing anything and everything he can to gain a tactical advantage over his opponents. But this seems too far.
And don't think for a second Major League Baseball is just going to gloss this over either. The familiar argument of "Well, everyone's doing it" is probably true (note the Red Sox and Yankees above), but it won't save the Astros from some serious repercussions. And in this case, expect it to be worse thanks both to the publicity and the fact that the Astros won the World Series they year they are accused of sign stealing.
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The MLB will try to make an example of the Astros.
Of course, this mostly sucks for the fans. The Rockets' two championships in the '90s still bear the dreaded asterisk in some corners of the NBA world because Michael Jordan was off trying to play baseball for one-and-a-half of those two seasons. Just when we thought we had a title fair and square, and potentially a dynasty on our hands, this happens.
One online poll found that nearly 70 percent of respondents believed the Astros should have a literal asterisk put next to their championship. There are plenty who believe they should have to forfeit it altogether.
That's just haters hating, but there will be punishment and, if true, there should be. If we can't win without some guy banging on a garbage can, we don't deserve it in the first place.