NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin: Houston, You’re Not the Only One With A Problem

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So what’s next for the Astros and MLB.

Baseball was putting the stench of the steroid era in the rear view mirror and now they have to deal with worst instance of team cheating, since the 1919 “Black Sox” Scandal. Even though the Astros’ hitters are the ones who have been implicated, the pitchers have to be charged with “guilt by association” because they were right there in the dugout while this was taking place.

Commissioner Rob Manfred made the correct decision and it’s one that will have far reaching ramifications.

MLB may not take away the 2017 World Series title but, in the court of public opinion, whoever played on, or was part of, that team will always have the label of “cheater” attached to it.

Did the 2017 Astros really need to steal signs to claim their first World Series title.

Judging by the evidence that was found in MLB’s investigation and looking at the results and how the 2017 ALCS played out, you can surmise that the Astros may not have employed their sign stealing system in the first two games but after being wiped away in games 3-5 at Yankee Stadium, they went to the system for games 6 and 7. The Yankees didn’t hit in those final two games but who knows how much of an edge the Astros carried into that do-or-die contest.

Luis Severino (was he tipping or were the Astros hitters tipped) and David Robertson (4 batters faced, 4 runs given up) were roughed up in game six, while Tommie Kahnle gave up three runs in 1.1 IP in game seven.

Another game where the system may have been used was game 5 of the 2017 World Series when the Astros won 13-12 in 10 innings. Clayton Kershaw and Brandon Morrow were hammered for 10 of Houston’s 13 runs. Could that just have been a day where Kershaw and Morrow did not have it? Maybe, but did the Astros’ hitters have the edge of knowing what’s coming?

It’s true that a hitter could know what’s coming and still not hit it if it’s located in the right spot, but knowing what pitch is coming is still an advantage for a major league hitter. If a hitter knows a change up is coming instead of a fastball, they can lay off that pitch.

The fall out from this shameful act is just starting to be felt.

Former Mgr. A.J. Hinch and former GM Jeff Luhnow have been handed their punishment. I think Hinch will get another job in baseball but Luhnow was not well liked to begin with so he’s probably cooked.

Even though the players will receive no formal punishment, they will be facing discipline of a different kind. Astros’ players can expect a lot of ridicule from fans, especially when they’re on the road and who knows how their hometown fans will react to all this.

Just as the home run lost some credibility during the steroid era (abundant home run totals were being attributed to steroid use) the Astros offense has lost credibility. When they put a big inning on the board, are they going to be questioned as to whether or not they’re stealing signs again. What about when they hit a home run, which some will feel was aided by illegal info, not steroids.

Some of the current players were on a Hall of Fame track. How will this scandal affect their status to even qualify for the ballot.

At this time, the Astros organization is in turmoil. When things eventually settle down, what will be the future of this current roster. Houston has some decisions to make. Do they keep this cast together under the specter of being linked to the sign stealing scandal, or do they start to break it up.

They already lost Gerrit Cole to the Yankees. George Springer is a free agent after this upcoming season. Carlos Correa has two more years before he can hit the market. Yuli Gurriel is 35 years old while Justin Verlander will be 37 this season.

Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve are under control through 2024. Bregman has a limited no trade (10 teams) clause while Altuve has a full no-trade. You have to feel that some personnel changes are in order.

The “scales of justice” now tipped towards Boston where the Red Sox are under investigation for some alleged shenanigans of their own that may have taken place during their championship run in 2018.

Harken back to game 3 of the ALDS vs. the Yankees. Severino was said to be tipping pitches when the Red Sox hitters bombed him for 6 runs in 3 IP. Again, was the young Yankee pitcher tipping or were the Red Sox hitters tipped as to what was coming? That’s left up to your imagination but it’s worth pondering since the Red Sox are under investigation.

Manager Alex Cora is the common denominator as he was also Houston’s bench coach in 2017 and now, the former Red Sox manager. The two sides mutually agreed to part ways Tuesday night.

Who knows what new manager Carlos Beltran told the Mets but it would behoove both him and the team to get out in front of this and not let it linger until the start of spring training. As my nysportsday.com colleague Joe McDonald wrote, “Beltran needs to meet with the media and take his medicine.”

Beltran has already misled the media by denying he had anything to do with the sign stealing system. With Hinch and now Cora out of a job, the already enormous pressure on the first year manager was just amped up ten fold. If the team is playing for a division title, or at the very least, a playoff spot, then the pressure will only come from the results on the field and not what happened three years ago.

MLB has taken a hit here but the sport has taken many hits over the years and has still survived. The Astros sign stealing scandal is certainly not a very good optic as the sport enters a new decade, but they’ll move forward from this.

Commissioner Manfred’s historic decision is a start.


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