Monday, February 17, 2020

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

Jose Altuve passive-aggressively took off his shirt to satisfy demands on whether or not he had a tattoo. This is the dumbest Madlib.

*Francis Martes - Frankie Tuesday - was suspended for the entire 2020 season after testing positive a second time for Boldenone. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, Martes was suspended for 80 games after testing positive at the beginning of the 2019 season. It wasn't a factor, since he was recovering from TJ surgery, but now it's put his entire career on hold.

Martes, 24, was once Baseball America's #15 overall prospect prior to the 2017 season. This closes the book on the July 31, 2014 trade with Miami. The Marlins received Jarred Cosart, Enrique Hernandez, and Austin Wates - the Astros got Jake Marisnick (traded to the Mets), Colin Moran (traded to Pittsburgh for Gerrit Cole), Martes, and a 2015 Comp Balance A pick which they used to draft Daz Cameron (traded to Detroit for Justin Verlander).

Since Martes was on the 40-Man Roster, the Astros now have an open spot.

*George Springer said it's "way too early" to decide on a contract extension with the Astros. Springer:
The fans have been great to me my whole career in Houston. The city has been great to me. I've grown up as an adult here, I guess. I've been in this organization since I was 21 years old. This organization has been very special to me, but time will tell.

In other words, "Let's talk money."

Counting his $2.52m signing bonus, Springer has made $52,455,300 from the Astros organization in his career, $45m of that from 2018-20. He'll be 31 in September.

*The Astros signed 34-year old reliever Jared Hughes to a minor-league deal with an invite to MLB Spring Training. Hughes:
I'm a Texan (Ed. Note: Dallas). I live in the state of Texas with my wife and children. I love the state of Texas and the people in it, and the opportunity to come and play for the Houston Astros is something I just couldn't miss. It's a dream come true.

Hughes has a career 2.88 ERA (4.11 FIP), 1.22 WHIP in nine MLB seasons, all in the National League.

In that above link, we find from McTaggart that:
-Correa changed his workouts and diet in order to stay healthy for an entire season.
-Bregman is 20 pounds lighter compared to last season, and thinks that the extra weight resulted in his slow start in 2019.
-Reddick's shoulder is on the mend. In 114 games from May 2 to the end of the season, Reddick hit .259/.301/.395.

*The Astros had their first full-squad workout (without Zack Greinke). Altuve:
I like to talk about the team, team results. I'm here taking full responsibility for the team. I appreciate what Carlos did. Believe me, that tells you what kind of person and what kind of teammate he is. I tell him 100 times what I feel about what he did. 

Reddick, on why he didn't use the Trash Can Scheme:
This game is hard enough as it is to focus on outside stuff like that. I'm not trying to make it about me...We've got to live with it as a team and get through it as a team. I'm not trying to individualize myself among these guys. We all could have stepped up and done something about it.
*

*Jake Kaplan on how Spring Training is different with Dusty Baker as opposed to A.J. Hinch. Kaplan:
For the most part, it's been plug-and-play with Baker replacing Hinch and James Click replacing Jeff Luhnow as general manager, and with most of the same coaches and data- and technology-savvy staffers as Spring Trainings past.

*Yuli Gurriel made Anthony Castrovince's list as MLB's Most-Underrated 1B.

*Game 4 Hero Jose Urquidy ranked 62nd on the ZiPS Top 100 Prospects list. Bryan Abreu was 72nd. Forrest Whitley was 84th and Brett Conine was 89th.

*Chandler Rome: The Astros know they have each other, and that's pretty much it. Reddick:
I think as a team we've done pretty much everything we can do. We keep asking for our peers' forgiveness, and hopefully, they can come around to us one day and understand that we are truly remorseful and sorry for what we've done.

*Mike Trout became the latest player to offer his wisdom to the Astros' situation:
It's sad for baseball. It's tough. They cheated. I don't agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything....A lot of people lost jobs. It was tough. Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming? It would be fun up there. A lot of guys lost respect for some of the guys...I lost respect for some guys. A lot of stuff that comes out, you have to see if it's true or not. I'll talk to them and see them in the season. All this stuff coming out, it's tough to see.

*This happened:

*Four current Astros pitchers (Osuna, Pressly, Verlander, Pruitt) faced the 2017 Astros at Minute Maid Park. Did they suspect anything?

*Humble resident Adam Wallach has sued the Astros for $1m for cheating, and also to not raise season ticket prices.

*Gleyber Torres still thinks the Astros cheated in 2019. Here's an idea: go up to the clean-shaven fella who smells like $300 million and ask him.

*Jose Altuve and the presumption of guilt.

*Bookmaker William Hill set the over/under on the number of times the Astros get HBPd at 83.5. Houston batters were hit 66 times in 2019, which was 16th. The Mets led MLB in 2019 with 95 HBPs, followed by the Reds at 89, the A's at 87, and the Cubs at 83.

*Joel Sherman thinks Rob Manfred should go back and punish the Astros players for the Sign-Stealing Scheme, after all. I'm no lawyer, but going back on a promise of immunity sounds like it wouldn't backfire at all. The punishment(s) he recommends: A three-year ban on All-Star Game appearances, no postseason money shares ever again, Astros bat first in home games in 2020 and 2021, no home playoff games for the next three seasons, no hosting the ASG for 15 years, no international signings for 2021 and 2022, Jim Crane suspended for two seasons.

*The Dodgers outrighted Tyler White to the minors after he cleared waivers following a recent DFA.

*The 15 Best Stories About Breaking Up In Public.

*The Hockaday History Teacher Who Used To Be A Spy.

*The Weekend When Jordan and the NBA Took Flight.

Monday Morning Hot Links

Another day in paradise...

*Forrest Whitley talked about reporting to camp at 230 pounds, up 40 from the 190 at which he showed up in 2019. Whitley:
I was just so skinny that by the time the season would reach like June or July, I wasn't ready. That showed in 2018; I got hurt quite a little bit....I think just the general thought process that went into that was just not coming into camp absurdly skinny like I had the past couple years. I remember a couple years ago I came into camp at like 190, so I wanted to lower the workload, eat a little bit more, and focus on coming into camp at a little better weight. 

I'm sitting at about 235, down five since the beginning of the month. Of course, I'm like 5'11" so

*Jim Crane told James Click he can have more money if he needs it. Click:
I know where our payroll is relative to the CBT line. (Crane) just shot it down and was like, 'We're over it, that's fine because we're going to win, and if you need more for us to win, I'll get you more.

Spotrac has the Astros' payroll at $214m to $231m. The line in which you pay the tax in 2020 is $208m, with a further penalty if you go over $228m. $37.3m is coming off the books after the season when Brantley ($16m), Reddick ($13m), and Gurriel ($8.3m) become free agents, with the possibility of a further reduction should the Astros not re-sign George Springer ($21m in 2020). I love savings. Love it when my favorite team has coupons. Getting a jersey embroidered with "Savings" on the back.

*Rob Manfred, on punishing the Astros' players themselves:
Look, it's impossible, given the facts that we found - and, frankly, the statements of the Astros' players since the decision came out - to escape the fact that, independent of what the GM did, the manager did, (the players) had an obligation to play by the rules, and they didn't do it. I understand when people say, 'The players should have been punished.' I understand why people feel that way, because they did not do the right thing...If I was in a world where I could have found all the facts, without granting immunity, I would have done that.

Manfred says throwing at Astros' hitters is "dangerous, and not helpful to the current situation."

Manfred, on the use of buzzers in 2019:
Can I tell you 100 percent certain that it didn't happen? No. You can never know that. People tell you what they tell you. I will tell you, the evidence on this issue was as consistent in the direction that nothing was going on as the evidence was consistent in the direction that there was inappropriate behavior in (2017 and 2018).

So stay with me here: The part of the quote that, and this is shocking I know, people are keying in on is the first part, where Manfred says he can't be 100% certain the Astros weren't wearing buzzers in 2019. But he goes on to say, if you take the time to read the whole quote, that the evidence was as consistent for them not wearing buzzers as it was consistent that they did shady crap in 2017 and 2018. In other words, Manfred's investigation probably got that right, since the Astros themselves are coming out and admitting it.

It is incredibly shocking to me that people are running to Jomboy's defense and taking what he throws against the wall as gospel, while ignoring evidence to the contrary. I can't quite put my finger on a parallel in society where people believe the guy they like is telling them the truth in the face of evidence to the contrary, and vilifying the people who provide said contrary evidence. It's right on the tip of my tongue. I'll figure it out, I guess, after a little more coffee.

Anyway, here's where the buzzer theory originated: Reddit user meme-engineer on October 24:
I had a dream a couple weeks back when the Astros were playing the Rays, it was that after the post season finished a news story came out that the Astros had a team of people deciphering signs with cameras and then that team relayed the signal to transponders that were worn in the cleats of the top (trusted not to snitch) Astros players, the transponders would vibrate according to what pitch was coming (example: once for fastball, twice for off-speed). But it was just a dream haha. That wouldn't happen.

*Say, what's happening with Mike Fiers:
Sunday, The Chronicle asked Fiers, the public whistleblower in the Astros' cheating scandal, if he'd like to respond to Correa's prompting, and Fiers politely declined comment. Then, before walking away, Fiers added, 'We did it as a team.'

*The A's had filed a formal complaint to MLB about the Astros before Fiers' allegations were revealed in The Athletic, and nothing was done.

*Yu Darvish says the Astros should lose their title. Darvish:
It's like the Olympics. When a player cheats, you can't have a gold medal, right? But they still have a World Series title. It feels weird.

Darvish threw 3.1IP in the 2017 World Series in two starts - Game 3 in Houston and Game 7 in Los Angeles - and allowed 9H/9R (8ER), 0K:2BB, 2HR, and threw 61 of his 96 pitches for strikes.

*Chris Sale:
Yeah, it sucks. But what am I going to do? Am I going to hold them at gunpoint? Am I going to sit here and curse them out through a bunch of cameras? If I have something to say to them, I know those guys. I can get one of their numbers and text them and talk to them face-to-face or whatever. It happened. What are you going to do about it? You can sit around and cry about it or I can get my ass to work and try and win a championship.

*GM James Click says the focus is on rebuilding trust:
Every Astros employee, every single one of us, is absolutely committed to making sure that that kind of thing never happens here again. That's our focus. There will be absolutely zero tolerance, no tolerance whatsoever, for that kind of behavior in the Houston Astros organization ever again. And furthermore, that would be the case whether there had been an investigation or not. Any organization that I'm a part of would be absolutely 100 percent in compliance with the rules. There'll be no question about that.

*Yahoo's Tim Brown: The Astros should stop apologizing and go full heel.

*Will Harris is "in a tough spot" in Washington. Harris:
Oh, man. They're obviously my friends, and guys that I consider family, guys I will have a relationship with the rest of my life, hopefully. And now watching them go through this...

*MLB will restrict access to video during games. Dugout phone calls will be recorded. Bo Bichette, on technology in the games:
In a way it would be dumb to not take advantage of what we have, but at the same time I think that...personally I'd be fine if there was no technology in there whatsoever. I mean they did it back in the day, why can't we do it now? So I'm sure part of the reason (the Astros) did what they did, it is because of how easy the access was to it. And for me, I'd have no problem taking every bit of it away.

*California Little Leagues are banning the use of "Astros" in naming their teams.

*All the ways teams could use the 26th spot on their active roster.

*What you need to know about the rule changes for 2020.

*Outside: How to deal with the regret of a missed adventure.

*Vice: This filmmaker believes Tupac is alive and living in New Mexico.

*A Musical Selection:

Note: 3:03 into this song is one of my favorite musical moments of all time.



Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday Morning Hot Links

In Josh Prager's book (my favorite non-fiction baseball book) The Echoing Green - $4.99 for Kindle currently - he goes back to the Shot Heard 'Round The World in the 1951 NL playoff game, detailing a system the Giants had to deploy a guy in an office in centerfield of the Polo Grounds to use a buzzer to signal to the dugout what signs were coming in. Voila! Bobby Thomson's legendary home run. It's a really good book. You should read it. 

But first, Spring Training updates (these are short):

I think in general, during the playoffs, I was trying to do exactly what I did during the regular season, but there were times offensively I wasn't where I needed to be. 

Josh James is working on his full wind-up delivery, meaning the Astros are going to give him a chance to make the rotation. James:
Right now, I'm not feeling too comfortable out of the windup because I've been primarily in the stretch, especially being a reliever all year...so just some stuff to work out of the windup to get comfortable.

Dusty Baker is a big fan of rest:
I believe in rest days and I believe in telling guys when they have rest days. There's mental rest days, there's baseball rest days, there's days you say, 'Hey man, go out and have a good meal and a couple of drinks and let your hair down a little bit and you won't be off for another couple of weeks.

Sign-Stealing

*Carlos Correa took the most forceful stand by an Astros player in response to the league's comments in response to the Astros' opening statements at the outset of Spring Training. You can read the full transcript here (not sure if it's paywalled. If it is, click here) Some highlights:
Like I said, I have no problem when people talk about what happened during the regular season in 2017. You know, whatever people have to say, we've got to take that on the chin. Guys, it was wrong. It was wrong and we've got to own that and we've got to take that.

On Cody Bellinger: 
If you don't know the facts then you've got to shut the f*** up.
He's telling me we cheated them out of a championship? Game 7, he throws a ball away in the first inning and we scored two runs.

Cody Bellinger hit .143/.172/.393 with 17K:1BB in 29 PAs in the 2017 World Series while hitting in the clean-up spot (He hit 5th in Game 5). In 28 postseason games since the 2017 NLCS, Bellinger is hitting .141/.206/.263. And the more I think about this rant, I keep coming back to the takedown of Bellinger's reading comprehension skills. That's really funny. 

*Correa said that Altuve would get mad when someone used the trash can when he was at the plate and that Altuve, Reddick, and Tony Kemp did not use the trash can. He admitted that he did. Over at SignStealingScandal, Tony Adams noted the following percentage of bangs:

Reddick: 3.9%
Altuve: 2.8%
Kemp: 0.0%

*On the 2017 Yankees:
The Yankees (in the ALCS). They scored one run in the first game, one run in the second game, they scored one run in Game 6, and they scored no runs in Game 7. If you expect to win with three runs in four games, you're out of your mind.

On Kurt Suzuki: 
Oh, they won the championship. And he's still talking about that? Enjoy your ring. Enjoy your teamates. Enjoy what you guys accomplished. Congratulations to you guys. You guys played better than us. That was it.

Honestly, I'm too old to get in the middle. I really don't associate myself with this kind of stuff. I just kind of go about my business and try to stay out of everything and get ready to play baseball. That's what it's about: playing baseball.

Suzuki walked that back awfully quickly. 

*The Athletic's Jake Kaplan: Why Carlos Correa has come out swinging for the Astros.

*Verlander, on losing respect across baseball
Yeah, it bothers me...Everybody's entitled to their own opinion. I think facts are still coming out. Information is still coming out. I don't think this is something that's done now, even for us...People can speculate all they want. We dug our grave. We're in it. But I think emphatically, everybody made it clear that [wearing buzzers] wasn't true. I think we need to go out and prove that we're going to win. We can win. We have a great ballclub and we can do it the right way.

*Dusty Baker says MLB needs to step in and stop premeditated beanings of the Astros. Why is this coming up? Dodgers (of course it's the Dodgers) pitcher Ross Stripling, who was almost traded to the Angels, was asked about whether he would hit an Astros batter:
I thought about that if I was going to the Angels because they open in Houston, right. And I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' Ah...That's a good question. Would I do it? I would lean towards yes. In the right time and the right place. 

Baker:
I'm depending on the league to try to put a stop to the seemingly-premeditated retaliation that I'm hearing about...I'm just hoping that the league puts a stop to this before somebody gets hurt. It's not good for the game. It's not good for kids to see it. I think both: stop the comments and also stop something before it happens.

I can see both sides here. Obviously the Astros don't want to get hit with the ball. Obviously the rest of the league is frustrated that no player actually got punished for the sign-stealing scheme. It's probably more frustrating for an opposing player to realize that they could get punished more severely in an act that they (rightly or wrongly) believe is an effort to police the games themselves, since MLB's message of punishment did not directly affect anyone actually banging a trash can or receiving a signal about what pitch was coming. It's an impossible situation. On a base, primal level, I get it. 

*Brian T. Smith: The Astros can't move forward until they stop damaging themselves. 

*Jeff Passan: This war of words between the Astros and everyone else isn't going to end soon. Passan:
There's more to come. There's always more with this Astros story that drips out with all the efficiency of a broken faucet. The coming days, weeks, months will teem with more details, explanations, facts. Manfred's report looks more and more like a Polaroid that needs to be shaken. The manifold characters all have their versions of the story to tell. There are reputations to be salvaged, careers to be saved, sides to be taken. This is just the beginning.

*Kenley Jansen says the sign-stealing scandal is worse than steroids and gambling. It's just behind Original Sin and slightly ahead of Murder. Jansen:
At least back then [in the steroid era], everyone had to be on steroids. It was a fair game.

Ooooh history is All The Way Revisioned now. This is fun. 

*Kris Bryant agrees that the Astros' stealing signs was worse than steroids.

Why link to these statements? For when it comes out that perhaps their teams were stealing signs, as well. 

*The New Yorker: Is stealing baseball signs really so bad? Bobby Valentine:
It's the same thought that I have when I'm on a highway, and I'm in the lane where everyone's going 82 mph, and then the guy in front of me gets pulled over. I think, Jeez, is he just unlucky? Everyone else was going 82.

*Rob Manfred defended his punishment of the Astros in an interview with ESPN's Karl Ravech.
Manfred told Ravech that any discipline of the players likely would have resulted in grievances from the MLBPA, citing Luhnow's failure to communicate to the Astros' players the contents of a 2017 memo outlining MLB's policy on the use of technology. Manfred says that although he doesn't absolve the players in Houston, he believes that Luhnow and Hinch were obligated to inform them of the memo and enforce MLB's rules. 

In other words, Manfred didn't want a union fight. 

Other Stuff:


*Leeds United 1 Bristol City 0. With Fulham's loss, Leeds are three points clear of automatic promotion to the Premier League. There are 13 games left. FiveThirtyEight gives Leeds an 80% chance of promotion.

*A Musical Selection:


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saturday Morning Hot Links

There were actual baseballs being thrown. So here's how this is going to go: New baseball stuff will go at the top, sign-stealing stuff will go towards the bottom, and interesting things I come across will go below that. So if you want to skip the sign-stealing stuff, you don't have to do it at the top. Let's get to it, I guess...

*Justin Verlander was scheduled to throw on Friday, but didn't, because he threw a 60-pitch bullpen on Wednesday and wanted some extra rest.

*Lance McCullers is looking forward to a healthy 2020:
I feel like I've put in a lot of hard work over this past 15, 16 months. I've come a long way, not only physically, but also mentally and just kind of where I'm at and moving to the season. I'm excited to get going again, obviously. I've had to wait a long time. It felt like a lifetime but here we are, and I'm very excited to just be able to contribute again to the team and not only run to the clubhouse to get waters and bananas and stuff like that.

*Zack Greinke won't report to camp until February 22 - a full week after all other pitchers and catchers. What's the reason, Dusty?
Other than he's Zack Greinke. I've got no problem with that. 

Check this 2019 piece on Greinke and his disdain for Spring Training.

Baker, on Altuve:
That's Mighty Mouse. He's a bad little dude. He's one of the best players, I think, that I've ever seen. I was talking to him yesterday. I always wanted to win a batting title as a player. I came in third a couple of times and this dude has three batting titles.

*Austin Pruitt is positioned to make the back-end of the rotation.

*Brad Peacock has had a recurrence of the nerve damage in his neck. He's throwing at 90 feet, but his Spring Training is officially delayed.

*Forrest Whitley reported to camp 40 pounds heavier than last year in an effort to be more durable.

*ESPN has added a couple of Astros games to their April slate: April 7 vs the Mets, April 20 at Tampa.

*Forgive me if I'm a few days late on this, but FanGraphs revealed their Top 100 Prospects list. Forrest Whitley is the lone Astros prospect in the list, what with the graduation of Kyle Tucker and the Greinke trade. On Whitley:
He wields one of the deepest repertoires in all of the mnors and, though the elite-looking changeup he showed during the 2018 Fall League was not present in 2019, all of his stuff is still above-average or better, both visually and on paper. 

Game 4 Hero Jose Urquidy came in at 101. Meanwhile, Urquidy was one of five pitchers listed by The Athletic's Eno Sarris as having the stuff in a small sample size to warrant a breakout season in 2020.

*Make sure you check out What The Heck Bobby's conversation with Astros Scout Jim Stevenson.

Sign-Stealing Stuff

*Chandler Rome: The Astros are seeking a return to normalcy on the field. McCullers:
We apologized for it. I think you guys spoke to pretty much everyone on the 2017 team that's here in an Astros uniform. We meant what we said. We can't control how people feel yesterday or moving forward. We all addressed it. We all stand by what we individually said and we're looking forward to moving forward with a good 2020 club.

Dusty Baker:
It's all in the past now. I'm hoping the players don't have to answer any more questions about it. Because how many times can you say the same thing? It's time for us to get to work, put it behind us, ask for forgiveness. The guys said they were sorry.

*Mike Bolsinger: Why I'm suing the Houston Astros.

*FanGraphs' Ben Clements: The hypothetical value of an ideal, frictionless banging scheme.

*Tony Kemp was asked to use "the system" when he came up in 2017 and apparently said no.

*Nationals GM Mike Rizzo:
Somebody's got to say the word over there - 'cheated' - and that's important to me. We keep skirting around the word, and they cheated. They were found guilty of it, and I haven't heard it yet...We did it with character, dignity and did it the right way. We feel good about that.

*Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki said the Astros were cheating in the 2019 World Series.

*The Athletic: New rules to prevent electronic sign-stealing are being discussed among MLB officials.

*Jake Marisnick:
I'm a grown man in a situation that I can stop, and I didn't stop it.

*John Smoltz had a warning to players/teams/fans who are going all-in on the Astros hate, because it may turn out that they're not so clean, either.

*Trevor Bauer, unsurprisingly, has a lot to say about the Astros. A snippet:
F*** you. You know? That's how I feel about their whole operation, especially, especially when you're so outspoken against stuff. If you take a stand and you're so firmly against stuff, you better f***ing make sure that you're not doing the stuff you're talking about.

*The Hero Who Hit .143 in the 2017 World Series - Cody Hollow Man Bellinger - had some strong words to say, including that Altuve stole the 2017 MVP from Aaron Judge and "everyone knows they stole the ring from us." The Dodgers are ready to kick some skulls.

*Brian Cashman:
The Houston Astros had a distinct advantage over their opponents. That's a fact.

*J.D Davis - who denied having knowledge of the banging scheme in December - said that, yeah, he knew about it, and of course is very sorry.

*Jeff Passan: How Jim Crane's apology became a farce.

Other Stuff

*Minor Leaguers are getting a raise in 2021. Minimum weekly salary by level:
Rookie/Short-Season: From $290 to $400
Class A: From $290 to $500
Double-A: From $350 to $600
Triple-A: From $502 to $700

*Esquire: The Secret History of Page Six

*The Danger of Befriending Celebrities

*21 Rhetorical Devices, Explained

*A Musical Selection:


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Friday Morning Hot Links

When does an apology fall short of satisfying the aggrieved party? I thought about this a lot today. There are a number of reasons why an apology is rejected or at least treated with skepticism:

1. The apologizing party was told to apologize. Someone told them they were to apologize - that it's something that they should do. They don't really want to do it, but did it, anyway.
2. The apologizing party is not actually sorry.
3. The apologizing party knows/thinks others were doing the same things for which they are currently apologizing, and thus the apology sounds insincere.

Regardless, the Astros held Apology Day yesterday in West Palm Beach.

Statements

Bregman:
I am really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization, and by me. I have learned from this and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans. I would also like to thank the Astros fans for all of their support. We as a team are totally focused on moving forward to the 2020 season.

Springer:
The amount of remorse, regret that's very, very obvious to us in this room...There's no real way to express how much regret we have. How much remorse we have.

Reddick was asked if the World Series was worth breaking the rules:
I don't think so...It's something that we're gonna probably regret and feel bad for for the rest of our careers.

Carlos Correa had a lot to say, on Twitter and to the media. Correa entertained a question on Twitter from noted troll Incarcerated Bob (who is credibly accused of being behind the "Beltran's Niece" Twitter account) and said there was nothing going on in 2018 or 2019. Correa also confirmed Manfred's findings in the report, but rejected the idea that the Astros were wearing buzzers. Altuve:
It was a fake Twitter account that started everything. It makes me upset that a fake Twitter account had that much credibility. Like I said, I feel bad for 2017, but I can say something I didn't do was the buzzer thing. No one on this team wore a buzzer.

A.J. Hinch tried to clarify that he was not aware of any buzzers. What reality is this, even. Hinch:
There has been a significant reaction to my answer to the 'buzzer' question. To be clear, I have never seen any such device used in baseball. I am not aware of any such device existing or being utilized with the Astros, the players, or any other team.

Correa, On Beltran steamrolling everyone into buying into the trash can scheme:
[Beltran] was the best teammate we've ever had...We all had a say in everything...When the anonymous source is saying we felt intimidated, we were too young to say something, that's straight up bullshit.

Verlander:
It's been difficult, showing up in 2017. And once I spent some time there, understood what was happening. I didn't - I wish I had said more. Looking back, I can't go back. I can't reverse my decision. I wish I had said more, and I didn't, and for that I'm sorry.

McCullers:
I think that's something none of us can go back and change. I think the important thing we've all come together here. We met (Wednesday) and we stand behind Alex and Altuve and are remorseful for what happened for what happened that season and look forward to moving on.

Dusty Baker:
At the meeting [Wednesday] night the players showed tremendous remorse and sorrow and embarrassment for their families, the organization, the city of Houston and for baseball.

Jim Crane completely misread the situation:
Our opinion is this didn't impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we'll leave it at that.

This is, of course, completely stupid. The Astros had a good team, they won the World Series. It impacted the game. Click that link to see the logical gymnastics Crane does. 10.0 from all judges, including the East German one. More Crane, on whether he should be punished by Rob Manfred, who is an employee of Jim Crane and 29 of his closest billionaire friends:
Well, clearly, the report states that I didn't know about it. Had I known about it, certainly I would have done something about it. I did hire Jeff, and I think Jeff did a lot of great things for the organization over the years. You know, no, I don't think I should be held accountable. 


Billionaires never think they should be held accountable. Read more to see how Crane threw Hinch and Luhnow under the bus. Jim Crane wants to be the new White Knight who leads the Astros into the Garden of Nevermore or whatever dreamland Crane is the mayor of. Billionaire wants all of the credit and none of the blame.

Will Harris told Nationals reporters that he wishes he would have made better choices.

Reactions

*Ken Rosenthal:
The Astros screwed up their news conference on live television Thursday as only they can.

*The San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger: The Astros apologized, but for what, exactly?
The Astros might have gone to unprecedented lengths to break the rules, putting careers and legacies in peril in the process, but they did not do this to affect the outcome of games. The players, who obviously would have won the World Series without any help, are profoundly sorry for taking part in the scheme, even though the whole thing was beyond their control. The owner, who was completely oblivious to what happened before, can absolutely guarantee everything will be above board from now on.

*A's pitcher Sean Manaea:
I saw a couple of interviews and they all said pretty much the same thing - they skated by everything, they swept everything under the rug. They didn't own up to anything and they're trying to move on which is like - what are you guys trying to move on from? You haven't even said what it is you did. They're just now saying they're sorry, but what about this entire offseason? It was like: deny, deny, deny. When the time comes, you have to say what you're trying to move on from. It's crazy.

*Rays pitcher Chris Archer, on his August 1, 2017 start, in which he allowed 6H/4ER, 5K:0BB, 2HR in a 6-4 win against Houston the day after Dallas Keuchel said the Trade Deadline was "Disappointing to say the least." Archer:
It's pretty messed up. The whole thing is messed up. It sucks when you dedicate your whole life to something, and somebody's out there doing some shady shit like that.

Mike Fiers was the opposing pitcher that game. He allowed 3ER in the first inning. Archer allowed four runs, all were driven in on homers from Beltran and Bregman and hits from...Beltran and Bregman. Archer:
You heard some rumors but I don't think anybody expected it to be to that extent, especially when you know these dudes on a personal level. You've talked to them. You've gone to dinner with them. You've even been on the same team with some of them - Team USA and stuff [Archer played with Bregman in 2017 for the World Baseball Classic]. FaceTimed with them throughout the season and offseason. Texted with them. Whatever. And then to find out to find out I was a part of them being successful. It was definitely disheartening. It's bad for the game. They set out the punishments, and it is what it is at this point. I guess it's time for everybody to move on.

*Clean-shaven pretty boy Gerrit Cole:
My feelings really haven't changed much. Nobody is getting a win out of this. It doesn't look very good. I guess I'm just fortunate to be able to be here and move past this and get to experience all the good things about coming to a new team and all that kind of stuff.

Hero, really. Enjoy Central Park and Serendipity and whatnot.

*Add Former Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens to the list of dudes who are really sorry.

*Evan Drellich: Blame is a tangled mess.

*SI: Breaking down the Astros' latest PR meltdown.

*Dave Roberts "believes in karma."

*LA stays LA:

Other Notes

*Pete Putila will retain his Assistant GM role. Tom Koch-Weser and Derek Vigoa will remain with the Astros...for now. James Click hedged a little:
I think any new GM coming in would want to take a full view of the baseball operations staff and figure out how we take the awesome people that we have here and maximize them and put them in the right position to succeed. It's something definitely on the front-burner for me.

*Chris Speier has been added to the staff as a Quality Control Coach.

Ed. Note:

I've flirted with actually typing this out for most of the offseason, but as Spring Training actually starts in earnest (for real! You can watch Forrest Whitley throw right here!) I want to get this out. There is a certain part of me that is defined by the Astros. I get mad when they lose a game they have no business losing, when they get shut down by a guy making his 2nd career start, when the bullpen blows a Quality Start, when they go 1x13 w/RISP, when they go 0-4 at home in the World Series. Obviously I've had an Astros blog for over 11 years. I've been on Twitter for almost 11 years and have not changed my banner photo once. The Astros are a part of me. Not anywhere close to all of me, but I do spend a lot of time thinking and writing about this particular organization because I was really homesick in Upstate New York in 2008.

Many of you know I'm a public high school history teacher. I also coach soccer. The 2016-17 school year was the absolute hardest year of my life. I taught US History and AP US History for the first time each, and I was in charge of my own team under a ridiculously demanding boss with whose personality I clashed on an atomic level. So I would get home from a road game and an almost-two-hour bus ride and have to then prepare for two different classes the next day.

I love - truly love - two sports teams: the Houston Astros, and Leeds United. I was at the game that sent Leeds to the Champions League quarterfinals WITHOUT Robbie Keane and Eirik Bakke and Rio Ferdinand and Olivier Dacourt! (Leeds United has been a train-wreck since 2003 - it was a real bad time when the Astros AND Leeds were both just complete disasters and affronts to their sport). This was how I was spending my leisure time. Anyhow, when, on June 3, 2017 - the final day of the hardest year I've ever encountered - the Astros beat the Rangers to go to 40-16, the 2017 Astros brought me joy. Later that Autumn, a team I actually loved actually did something. They won the World Series. Since then it has been Hans Gruber falling from Nakatomi: they traded for Osuna, Taubman did Taubman things, Fiers talked to Evan Drellich. It's all shadows now. To me, it's tainted. It doesn't need an asterisk, the asterisk is implied. Were other teams doing it? Maybe, probably, I don't know. I know a lot of people worked really hard to get that World Series and, as advanced as the Astros were with analytics, a freaking trash can, the guy the Astros let walk to the Mets, and the Other Guy From The Carlos Gomez Trade, brought them down.

No one will ever replace the feeling I had at 10:59pm on November 1, 2017. But I know now that it's not the same, that there is shame involved. And if the players don't feel it themselves, I sure do.

Throughout this offseason I have considered shutting Astros County Dot Com down. Getting Randos (and, to be honest, some friends I've known for a long time) in my mentions blasting me for having the gall to be happy for 25 guys doing cool things who happen to have "Houston" stitched across the front of their shirt is not fun. I simultaneously want the Astros to beat the hell out of everybody and also to not have done what they did. And what they did was to cheat their way to the postseason. I'll go to my grave wondering how Alex Bregman could hear a trash can getting hit with 42000 people yelling at the top of their lungs in the bottom of the 10th of Game 5. I'll also go to my grave wondering why a team with that much talent would risk it all. No one - including Mike Fiers - has turned in their Ring, so maybe that's why I'm going to keep this dumb blog going for the time being.

I was not immediately affected by Hurricane Harvey. My mom and my dad live on different sides of Houston. Neither of their houses flooded. I've met a lot of you in real life. I know a lot of you on Twitter. I'll go with the maxim (which I didn't come up with) that Facebook is for friends who are now strangers, and Twitter is for strangers who are now friends. The 2017 World Series saved a lot of you - it was a welcome respite when your world was literally floating away or rotting under floodwaters (which Yankees fans would like to have happen every single year). Now, I'm just sad. I'm beaten down by pretty much everything. The Apologies are hollow because it didn't need to come to this in the first place.

That said, I don't think the Astros were the only team dabbling in the "dark arts" of using technology MLB made available for an edge. Still, when you're the first one caught, it's not pleasant. And you can bet that if Even Drellich With Reporting From Ken Rosenthal (the Carlos Santana feat. Rob Thomas of our generation) tugs at this thread long enough, he/they could unravel the whole thing. I just don't know if they will, or if the Fury of Baseball can stay stoked long enough to care if another team did.

A Musical Selection:


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

*Just as we all suspected - or at least hoped - they would, more details emerged about the Astros' sign-stealing scandal; Namely, that it originated with Former Mets Great Carlos Beltran, according to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich:
Carlos Beltran, a highly-respected veteran with a Hall-of-Fame resume, had helped create the system, and as the senior member of the [2017 Astros], his voice functionally prevailed over all other. Clubhouse dynamics are a powerful force, conditioning players to keep quiet and respect veterans, and ultimately played a role in the Astros' snowballing scandal.

(A non-paywalled version of the story can be found here)

This new reporting uncovers a few new details:
1) There was a system in place to relay signs to a runner on second base in real-time on the road via the replay room.
2) Brian McCann tried to get Beltran to stop on at least two occasions.
3) It was Beltran who told the Astros that their sign-stealing was "behind the times."
4) Codebreaker - the predictive Excel spreadsheet - was legal (as has been noted) as an advance scouting tool. "Cora and Beltran decided that this video room stuff Koch-Weser was doing was just not working, inefficient, too slow."
5) Depending on who Rosenthal and Drellich talked to, Astros players were either uncomfortable with the trash-can banging, or they loved it.
6) Beltran went from Houston and the parade back to the Yankees as an executive, and disclosed some of what the Astros were doing to New York.

Joe Musgrove:
I was in my first year, man, along with Bregman and a lot of those guys, and in your first year in the big leagues you're around guys like Beltran and McCann, some big names. And I'm not going to be the pitcher to walk up and tell 'em to knock it off.

(Speaking of Musgrove, he also said:
I don't want to say [the 2017 World Series] is tainted, but I think it is....If MLB did an investigation as thorough as they did on the Astros with every team in baseball, they're going to find a lot more than they want to find.

So Beltran arrives in Houston after 2.5 seasons in New York (and part of the 2016 season with the Ramgers, of which I have zero recollection) and tells them their sign-stealing isn't up to par, then he "fixes" it and goes back to New York. Yeah I see no Yankees connections to it at all.

And that's the thing: Manfred wanted this to be quick and easy and everyone hates the Astros anyway thanks to Brandon Taubman and the Osuna trade, he hoped MLB would just move on. Here's hoping they don't.

*This article from the Washington Post's Barry Svrluga and Dave Sheinin says that the Astros' sign-stealing was "a big open secret...throughout baseball" beginning as early as 2016 and "maybe earlier." And then, "the whole industry knows they've been cheating their asses off for three or four years."
Former Astros Great Tony Sipp warned the Nationals about their sign-stealing, as did several members of the Dodgers.

*Marwin Gonzalez, speaking to reporters:
I'm remorseful for everything that happened in 2017, for everything that we did as a group, and for the players that were affected directly by us doing this and some other things. That's why I feel more regret and that's why I'm remorseful.

*Speaking of players that were affected directly, Former Blue Jays Great Mike Bolsinger has filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court accusing the Astros of unfair business practices, negligence, and intentional interference with contractual and economic relations.

Bolsinger is from McKinney [raises eyebrows]. He posted a career 0.5 fWAR in parts of four seasons, and walked 27 batters in 41.1IP in 2017. Bolsinger enjoyed an ERA of 5.50 or higher in three of his four MLB seasons. Bolsinger's last game was August 4, 2017 when he allowed 4H/4ER, 1K:3BB in 0.1IP at Minute Maid Park. The Astros fan behind SignStealingScandal.com noted that the August 4 game was when the trash-can banging peaked. Bolinger:
I don't think [Manfred's] punishment has fit the crime. And let's be honest, all these guys are going to get managing jobs again...Guys like us that were cheated? I don't have a job. I'm not playing.

Man, it would be a real shame for this to go to actual trial where details about what other teams were doing were required under oath. Sports Lawyer Michael McCann fleshes out Bolsinger's case.

*Jim Crane will head to West Palm Beach on Wednesday (today) to talk with the 2020 Astros about how to address the sign-stealing scandal to the media, which the team will apparently do on Thursday.

*Baseball Prospectus' updated PECOTA standings have the Astros winning the 2020 AL West by 12 games.

*Jesse Sanchez notes that the Astros have the AL West's best bullpen.

*The proposal to shake up MLB's postseason.

*Love and Lhotse.

*She was a running prodigy. He was the most powerful man in track. How her promising career unraveled.

*A Musical Selection: