As the Astros have bungled their apologies for the sign-stealing scandal that has dominated this offseason, Carlos Correa has perhaps been the organization’s most forthright member. In response to the most recent backlash around the game, Correa came out with a passionate defense of the organization- and teammate José Altuve– in an interview with Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic.
“José Altuve was the one guy that didn’t use the trash can,” Correa told Rosenthal. “The few times that the trash can was banged was without his consent, and he would go inside the clubhouse and inside the dugout to whoever was banging the trash can and he would get (upset). He would get mad. He would say, ’I don’t want this. I can’t hit like this. Don’t you do that to me.’ He played the game clean.”
“The reason José Altuve apologized to the media was for being part of the team and for not stopping it,” Correa continued. “But he’s not apologizing for using the trash can. He’s not apologizing for cheating because he did not cheat … José Altuve earned that MVP, and he’s been showing that for years.”
Correa’s defense of Altuve came in response to Cody Bellinger, who sounded off on the scandal Friday. Bellinger argued the Astros “stole” the 2017 World Series from the Dodgers and that Altuve “stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge.” Bellinger also referenced the unsubstantiated rumors that Astros’ hitters wore electronic buzzers the last few years, made famous by Altuve’s refusal to take off his shirt after his 2019 ALCS-clinching home run off Aroldis Chapman. The Astros have categorically denied using buzzers, and Correa doubled down on that yesterday.
“2019, nobody wore buzzers. That’s a lie,” Correa told Rosenthal. He continued, “(Altuve) hit that home run off Chapman fair and square. He was not wearing buzzers. That’s a story that a fake account on Twitter broke, and then people just got on that wagon and started talking about the buzzers. Like, no. Nobody thought about buzzers. Nobody was using buzzers.”
Instead, Correa gave a pair of explanations to Rosenthal for Altuve’s unwillingness to have his shirt ripped. First, he says, Altuve’s wife had previously told him not to remove his shirt on the field. Somewhat comically, Correa added that Altuve was embarrassed about a “horrible” unfinished collarbone tattoo he wished to keep hidden from public view.
To be clear, Correa did not shy away from all criticism related to the scandal. He admitted to Rosenthal that hitters who used the trash can system in 2017 gained an improper, unfair advantage over opposing pitchers. (In that respect, he disagreed with Astros’ owner Jim Crane, whom Correa says “doesn’t know what kind of advantage we have…because, from afar, it looks hard“). Rather, his defense of the organization’s legacy lies in their postseason success.
Correa argued that the club often struggled to decode signs from the center field camera during the postseason due to opposing teams’ improved countervailing efforts, citing numerous key hits he claims were unsupported by sign stealing. That not every hit was sign stealing-aided, even if true, isn’t enough to say definitively that the Astros would or wouldn’t have won the 2017 World Series without the scheme, though.
Additionally, Correa pointed to the commissioner’s office finding no evidence the club continued the sign stealing efforts in 2019. Last year’s AL pennant, the shortstop argued, was “clean baseball all around.” Of course, some fans and opposing players will roll their eyes at that assertion; the organization has hardly earned the benefit of the doubt on this issue.
Yet Correa’s most passionate defense seemed to be of Altuve, in particular. Clearing his double play partner’s name, it seems, was the main impetus for Correa’s interview with Rosenthal, which is worth reading in full.
For what it’s worth, signstealingscandal.com, which attempted to log every trash can bang during Astros’ 2017 home games, recorded bangs on just 2.8% of pitches (24 bangs on 866 pitches) thrown to Altuve, never more than two in any particular game. These, again, were against Altuve’s wishes, according to Correa. That’s clearly not definitive proof Altuve didn’t participate in the scandal (and as both Correa and Altuve admitted, he deserves some blame for doing little to stop it). Nevertheless, it’s at least partially supportive of Altuve’s legacy and the legitimacy of his 2017 MVP.