Ever since pitchers and catchers reported to camp last week, we’ve heard from the players en masse for the first time since the end of last season. With the effect that the premier story of the offseason, the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, had on many members of the New York Yankees, many were eager to hear what the players would have to say about it.
Needless, to say, they did not disappoint.
Responding to the plethora of excuses given by Jose Altuve and his teammates as to why the second baseman’s first priority after hitting an ALCS-ending walk-off home run was his shirt, Gary Sanchez gave us the quote of the offseason, saying,
“I can tell you that if I hit a homer and I get my team to the World Series, they can rip off my pants. Everything. They can rip everything off.”
We’ve got a long way to go until October, but I dare to say, that’s going to be a tough one to beat.
Other players’ responses were more...conventional, but they nonetheless conveyed the same anger at the Astros. When asked if he felt cheated out of a World Series berth in 2017, Masahiro Tanaka said, “Yeah, you do feel that way,” and reiterated that the team took extra precautions this year to combat any potential tomfoolery. While he wouldn’t go so far as saying that he was angered, saying that he was unsure “if mad is the right word,” he did note, “They’re obviously not abiding by the rules.”
A number of Yankees have also expressed doubts that the Astros stopped their electronic sign-stealing scheme following the 2017 season. Third baseman Gio Urshela, visiting ESPN’s The Michael Kay Show last week, believes that Altuve “probably” knew a slider was coming at the end of the ALCS, saying “It felt like some confidence in that at-bat against the best closer in the game and he probably knew it was coming.” When asked if it made him angry, he added,
“A little bit. But we try to do the best. We’ve got a really good team and they’ve got good players, too. But we’re trying to do the best and play baseball clean.”
Also visiting the show, Adam Ottavino added that he thought the at-bat looked “a little fishy,” but that he “can’t say one way or another.” That said, he doesn’t give them the benefit of the doubt about it.
“For me, when the trash cans stopped, it makes me think they just got smarter with the cheating, not that they stopped. That lends itself to a possible buzzer system, I don’t know. Yeah, it’s tough. It’s a crazy rabbit hole to go down, for sure.”
Although he called Altuve’s behavior “a little suspicious,” Aroldis Chapman has not used the possibility of sign-stealing to exonerate himself from blame. “At the end of the day,” Chapman said, “like I did before, I accept responsibility for how the events developed. I gave up the homer and we lost, that’s the bottom line.” The Yankees closer also commented on Marwin Gonzalez’s apology (the only one at the time of his comments), although one can speculate to what extent the current Astros players have followed his example.
“For Marwin to take that step, that takes courage to do that. That’s an example for all those guys. The findings of the investigation there, there’s no hiding about that. I think they should follow his steps and really take some action. At the end of the day, you really have to apologize to the fans. They are the ones watching it, seeing how everything has developed. It put baseball in a bad spot.”
Unsurprisingly asked to comment on the issue, the Yankees’ new ace and former member of the Houston Astros, Gerrit Cole, has been extraordinarily blunt. Cole said that he simply had no knowledge of any scheme and that he would not have been privy to its information anyway. While he has expressed support that his former teammates ceased the program, saying, “I believe them,” he did touch on the issue’s impact throughout the game.
“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.”
Pitchers Zack Britton and Luis Severino, meanwhile, have put the scandal in the past and instead focused on the outlook for 2020. Acknowledging that the sign-stealing may have affected him as he may have needlessly spent time trying to track down how he was tipping pitches, Severino acknowledged that “We can’t change it. We need to be focused on 2020 and try to win.” Similarly, Britton reiterated that the best way to retaliate on the Astros is not by throwing at them, but by “winning.”
Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu echoed these sentiments earlier this morning, saying that he’s “not angry, but disappointed” by the scandal, which he wants to “move on from and put behind us.”
Although not every player has spoken to reporters on the issue, many have made their feelings public in other respects. Aaron Judge, who arguably had the 2017 AL MVP stolen from him (this sentiment has been backed by Cody Bellinger and Bryce Harper, but surprisingly not by Gleyber Torres), has refrained from comment, but he has indirectly voiced his displeasure on Twitter. One month after deleting a tweet from November 2017 congratulating Jose Altuve on winning the AL MVP, he liked a tweet by Adam Jones mocking the unfinished tattoo excuse. Clint Frazier, meanwhile, mocked the Astros while streaming videogames on Twitch over the winter, banging on a virtual trash can.
Unfortunately, the players’ comments did reveal some troubling details about sign-stealing within the Yankees organization. Yankees star shortstop Gleyber Torres, when discussing the Astros sign-stealing, inadvertently revealed that he too steals signs from pitchers. Well, one pitcher: Luis Severino, on the PlayStation 4, in MLB: The Show.
Yep, that’s right. Gleyber Torres is a dirty screenpeeker.
Although Torres claims that he smoked Severino after doing it, according to Lindsey Adler, the Yankees pitcher did not seem to agree with that.
♂️ ♂️ ♂️ ♂️ that's okay I can still win— Luis Severino (@LuisSeverino94) February 17, 2020
I’d say there’s only one way to resolve this: a publicly-streamed match between the two. Who’s with me?