It has been a tumultuous few weeks for the Astros, whose well-documented sign-stealing scandal has owned headlines over the past month. As a result, the club had to let go of its eminently successful GM-manager tandem of Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch after Major League Baseball suspended them for a year apiece.
Since Luhnow and Hinch lost their jobs, Astros players have been accused of wearing buzzers under their jerseys last season in order to identify which pitches were coming. The league didn’t find any evidence that occurred, but Yankees manager Aaron Boone – whose team lost to the Astros in the 2019 ALCS – didn’t dismiss it Wednesday. Boone instead noted that it’s “certainly one of those great unknowns,” per Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. Hinch also addressed the matter, stating that he has “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.”
Regardless of whether Hinch is telling the truth, it’s up in the air whether he or Luhnow will work in MLB again. Houston has already replaced the two with Dusty Baker and James Click, respectively. Baker, owner Jim Crane and Astros players will address reporters at 9:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, the first day of media availability at spring training, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
It’s unclear exactly what the Astros will say, but odds are they’ll take a regretful tone for their wrongdoing. Crane, after all, revealed a few weeks ago that the Astros would “apologize for what happened, ask forgiveness and move forward,” as Jeff Passan of ESPN relays.
Former Astros Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Joe Musgrove and Max Stassi – all members of the franchise’s 2017 World Series-winning club – have already apologized for the team’s past misdeeds. Nevertheless, there are multiple major leaguers who have voiced disgust toward the Astros this week.
Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney – now teammates with Stassi – ripped into his division rivals, saying (via Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times): “They sure as [heck] need to do more than what they already did. That was terrible. I understand they are going to go get their (stuff) in order and they are going to have their thing to say, and they are going to hide behind the commissioner’s report and whatever. But I don’t think that’s good enough.”
Robertson was a member of the Yankees in 2017, when the Astros defeated them in a seven-game ALCS to advance to the World Series. The typically reliable righty had a disastrous Game 6 during that series, yielding four earned runs on four hits while failing to record an out in a 7-1 loss. Robertson suggested to Salisbury that there was foul play involved in that dominant Houston performance.
“I got roughed up in Game 6,” he said. “And I felt like in that game I threw as well as I’ve ever thrown in my entire life. I had some pitches that got hit that I was a little shocked by and some pitches that didn’t get swung at that I was a little shocked by. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about what we know now. But it all comes together now and, you know, I’m upset about it, that’s for sure.”
Athletics righty Mike Fiers, an Astro from 2015-17, was instrumental in bringing Houston’s methods to light back in November. But Fiers isn’t the only member of the Athletics who knew something was wrong. GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin, whose club finished second to the Astros in the AL West in each of the prior two seasons, informed Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that the A’s complained to the league about their sign-stealing rivals. However, MLB did not take action against the Astros at that point. Had Fiers not eventually gone public with his complaints, it’s possible nothing would have been done.