To the chagrin of the city of Houston, MLB Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred, and the attention-starved Washington Nationals, the fallout from the Astros' sign-stealing scandal continues, and is actually getting worse, no thanks to the response from the team itself.
Owner Jim Crane may have fired manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow, but has otherwise shown himself woefully unprepared when it comes to facing the music. This non-contrition continues with the players. Because while some, like former OF Jake Marisnick and pitcher Justin Verlander, appear sincere, most current players' statements amount to little more than mumbled platitudes that make them sound like grade schoolers caught drawing on the couch in Sharpie.
Houston deserves a better apology. Not for sign stealing, especially because I suspect a lot of these holier-than-thou opposing teams are going to be tugging their collars when MLB's final report comes out. No, we need some team mea culpas for a host of other offenses.
1. For Cheating ... Stupidly.
Just so we're all clear, stealing signs in baseball is a time-honored pastime, and one that's tolerated provided teams don't use "technology" to gain an advantage. The list of teams alleged to have indulged in this practice is long and goes back over a century. Nevertheless, in 2017, Manfred warned all MLB teams not to engage in "electronic sign stealing" or face the consequences.
And yet, in a city that sent men to the Moon and in an age when cutting-edge tech has never been more widely available, the Astros ignored Manfred's warning and signaled incoming pitches by ... banging on a trash can. Not only is this arguably the least elegant means of telegraphing pitches short of yelling "Slider!" from the dugout, it was easily recorded, one Astros fan did so, and broke down almost every Astro home at-bat from 2017 to show this.
It's as idiotic as being caught filming an opposing team's sidelines from yet *another* team's press box. The Astros should just rename themselves the Patriots and be done with it.
2. For Inspiring More Bitching About the "Integrity" of the Game.
One element of Manfred's decision not to suspend any players or revoke the 2017 championship (which he probably can't do anyway) has been the haste with which opposing players have spoken up in defense of an organization that would dismember them and sell their limbs if proper cyborg-generating technology existed.
It's always hilarious to hear about respect for "fair play" from members of a league that's stolen land to build stadiums (hi, Los Angeles!), refused to admit black players until 1954 (or 1959, if you're the Red Sox), and whose owners practically had to be waterboarded so they could treat their employees like human beings.
On the flip side, if I have to listen to another millionaire lunkhead who's barely skirting the League's PED policy bleat about "playing the game right," especially if they're trying to deflect attention from earning $4 million for another reserve-level WAR season (hi, Nick Markakis!), I'm going to laugh until I puke blood.
3. For Making Sports Gambling Even More Expensive.
So you're telling me that in addition to individual games and betting on HOU win totals (O/U 96), I have to put money on how many HBPs the team is going to get?
According to William Hill sportsbook, that number is 83.5, or roughly one batter plunked every other game. Infielder Alex Bregman is the most likely target, both in totals (O/U 10.5) and most thrown at (+100). Seems low, if you ask me. I also like the over (1.5) on how many Astros rush the mound in 2020. Embarrassed or not, they're gonna get tired of that shit come late summer.
And of course I'm still betting on these. Not all my kids need to go to college.
4. For Making Daniel Tosh a Thing Again
Remember Tosh? No? Well, he's back anyway, and it's the Astros' fault.
If you recall, he (still) has a show called Tosh.0 that was popular for about a month in 2010, then he made a hilarious joke about how great it would be if a woman at one of his stand-up shows got gang-raped and both he and his show effectively dropped off the face of the Earth.
That is, until he started the hashtag #cancelhouston and encouraged his Twitter followers to suggest punishments for the cheating Astros. The answers were about as clever as you'd expect from people who consider nut shots on America's Funniest Home Videos too cerebral. It's still no excuse for giving that ballbag another 15 minutes of fame.
5. For Ruining the Best Comeback Story this City Ever Had
When the Astros won the World Series, Houston was still mucking out houses and dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which is tied with Katrina for the costliest Atlantic storm in history. Seeing our baseball team win its first championship barely eight weeks after we were nearly washed into the Gulf was an incredible feeling. I walked out of my house after Game 7, stood in a neighbor's driveway, and drank champagne. It was the first time any of us could remember feeling good in months.
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This scandal dwarfs anything that came before, whether it's the Roberto Osuna hiring or the mishandling of Brandon Taubman's asshole remarks, and it won't go away until every player and member of the front office from 2017 has eventually left Minute Maid Park. In addition to the asterisk just about every non-Southeast Texas baseball fan has put on the Astros' title, potential Hall of Famers like Jose Altuve and Justin Verlander will see those prospects drop as well.
A formal Astros apology won't wash off the stink, but it might help Houston move forward and eventually silence their critics (seriously, do you know how hard it is to make frigging Yankees seem sympathetic?).
Mike Fiers is still a rat, though.