While the Houston Astros might have won the 2017 World Series title by stealing signs, the club is currently paying the price. Major League Baseball might have handed down a punishment, and spring training is underway, but no one has forgotten the Astros’ misdeeds. If anything, the scandal seems to keep snowballing.
Although that’s somewhat to be expected—you can’t boo the Astros, for example, until games begin—the club is also making things worse for themselves. Rather than owning up to their sins, Houston just keeps digging a deeper and deeper hole.
Recapping the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal
From spitballs and pine tar to performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball has seen plenty of players trying to gain an advantage by any means necessary. The Houston Astros organization, however, took things to the next level.
As initially detailed by The Athletic, the Astros used a camera in center field to observe the opposition catcher’s signs. That video feed ran directly to a monitor in the dugout tunnel; there, viewers would crack the code. That information, in turn, was used to alert the batter about potential offspeed pitches. Major League Baseball launched an investigation and confirmed virtually everything The Athletic heard from Mike Fiers.
While the league handed down a sizable sentence—general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch received yearlong suspensions, while the club was docked several draft picks and fined $5 million—the wound has continued to fester. Between the players’ lack of punishment and potential flaws in the league’s investigation, everyone from LeBron James to Mike Trout called out Major League Baseball and commissioner Rob Manfred.
The Houston Astros keep digging themselves deeper into the hole
In life, it’s generally a good idea to own up to your mistakes, vow to do better, and move on. The Houston Astros, however, have just kept making the situation worse.
From the players to the front office, almost no one affiliated with the Astros organization has shown any form of remorse. Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve provided a boilerplate statement earlier in the spring; Carlos Correa did a bit better but still argued that Altuve deserved the 2017 AL MVP. The club’s owner, Jim Crane, admitted that his team “broke the rules,” but claimed their actions didn’t impact the game.
Since then, there have been additional, smaller stories that keep the PR nightmare going. The Astros’ Double-A affiliate, for example, revoked a local attorney’s season tickets and $45,000 business partnership after he filed a lawsuit on “behalf of season ticket holders who want their money back in the wake of the team’s sign-stealing scandal.” At spring training games, signs criticizing the Astros have been confiscated.
While neither of those episodes directly relates to the team’s on-field activities, they continue to foster an air of opposition; if the Houston organization doesn’t believe they did anything wrong, fans will be more inclined to remind them at every available opportunity.
Dusty Baker has the right idea
While the Astros organization hasn’t won anyone over in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, manager Dusty Baker seems to be moving things in the right direction. Although he didn’t offer any apologies—he realistically couldn’t, since he just joined the team—the MLB veteran did suggest that his player just have to keep their heads down and go to work.
“You’ll probably get the same reception most places you go, especially the first go-round,” Baker said after his team was roundly booed in their spring training debut. “So you’ve just got to put your big-boy pants on and then just try to shut it out and just play baseball and realize this too shall pass.”
Eventually, the sign-stealing scandal will pass. It would happen more quickly, however, if the Houston Astros owned up to their actions.