Playing With Fire

Tim Tschoepe, Sports Editor

I’m going to start this off by saying that I am an Astros fan, I have been for years and will always be. That being said, there’s a lot of controversy around the team and their organization. It’s like, if you’re a fan then you’re a cheater and support cheaters when that’s not the case.  This was a great team and didn’t need to cheat and to make history. In their defense, they were under the influence of, future hall of famer, Carlos Beltran and probably felt responsible for bringing a bright side to the city of Houston after hurricane Harvey. Ultimately they did bring a light to a city that was absolutely devastated by Harvey. 

 

Since then, the M.L.B. came out with a ruling on the subject of sign stealing and the Astros and have been hit with backlash ever since. Players, coaches, and even Lebron James have weighed in on the topic and expressed their disapproval with the commissioners punishment. The league enforced a 5 million dollar fine and the seizer their 1st and 2nd round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021 as punishment. A punishment that will absolutely wreck the Astros’ farm system and their trade pieces. 

 

  The story broke of the Astros stealing when Mike Fiers, a former Astros pitcher, told the San Francisco Chronicle in late 2019, less than 2 weeks after the World Series ended. Fiers, who now pitches for the Oakland A’s, was not signed by Houston after the 2017 World Series ended. He went to the Detroit Tigers that off-season and was traded to Oakland where he pitched against Houston in the 2019 regular season. Fiers said the Astros were “advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win” and even steal opposing teams’ signs. I have a problem with his statements in every way shape and form, first, you just screwed an entire organization in less than 10 words. Second, Fires was clearly ok with this when he played on the team cause he got a ring out of it and said nothing then. Lastly, with coming out and saying that the 2017 Astros were cheaters, Fiers should come out and say he’s a cheater also.

 

The most exposing evedence of a posible sign stealing sheme was that of a banging noise coming from the Astros dugout on every off-speed pitch during a game against the White Sox. Video surfaced from that game where you can hear a noise from the dugout before a couple of the off speed pitches. The pitcher during that game was Danny Farquhar, he said “There was a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a change-up signal got put down,” and “After the third one, I stepped off. I was throwing some really good changeups and they were getting fouled off.” In my opinion, the video makes it seem bad, however it takes a lot of skill to hit these “really good changeups” and it could have just been the skill of Evan Gattis to get the bat on them. 

 

The commissioner’s report says there was a camera in center field positioned on the catcher and the video was relayed to the monitor in the dugout for the players to relay the signs to a batter. The report also states that the manager at the time, AJ Hinch, tried breaking the monitor and said in an interview with MLB network that the players would replace it every time. Also the report said the ring leader in the scandal was Carlos Beltran, who was signed to the team prior to the 2017 season. Since the information has come out, several players had apologized for the incident including Marwin Gonzalez, Charlie Morton, and Jake Marisnic. None of the big stars on the astros have said anything except im sorry, all those except Carlos Correa, who is very adimate and defending multiple stars on the team including Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick. I am so glad I have a Correa jersey because I agree with every word he said in an interview with MLB’s Ken Rosenthal. In that interview he states that there was no cheating past the 2017 season and that it wasn’t the big name guys participating in the scheme. 

 

In my opinion, to cheat in the playoffs and the World Series is a very bold move. You have cameras, media, and not to mention, all the fans at the stadium for every home game. There is so much noise as well, there is no way that you can relay a banging on a trash can to the plate because of the noise level. Also if you look at the World Series, the Dodgers left a lot of runners on base and didn’t take advantage of opportunities to score. The Astros won those games fair and square, Cody Bellinger is just a cry baby and can’t get over the fact that he has watched two World Series slip through his finger tips. Let me remind you that they won game seven in Los Angeles, as well as game two, so to say that any cheating was done in those wins is preposterous. In the report, there was ne cheating on the road so they won those games fair.

 

I guess the most frustrating thing is that they were probably good enough to win it all without the scandal. This team had Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Charlie Morton. This is already a great team and with the mid-season addition of Justin Verlander, this was a bonafide championship squad. In 2017, the Astros went 101-61 in the regular season and beat the Red Sox, 3-1, in a best of five series, beat the Yankees, 4-3, in a best of seven. Then as we all know, in the World Series they beat the Dodgers in a best of seven, 4-3. This was a great team and didn’t need to cheat and to make history. In their defense, they were under the influence of, future hall of famer, Carlos Beltran and probably felt responsible for bringing a bright side to the city of Houston after hurricane Harvey. The city needed a distraction and they gave it to them in the form of a world series title. They didn’t have to steal signs but I do think they helped the city heal as a whole.

 

Entering the Spring Training, the Astros were intentionally targeted by pitchers, fans, and the media. Opposing pitchers targeted the big name players as well as the newcomers. In my opinion, there’s no reason to intentionally hit players, go out and beat them on the field, let your play on the field talk, not your actions on and off the field. That’s just my opinion, y’all don’t have to agree with me, but that’s how i feel.

 

This scandal has brought a lot of pain to the city of Houston and to me just by being a fan. Ive had to deal with questions about them cheating and every time I have, I back the Astros. They have alway been and will always be champions in my mind, even if it’s a little controversial.