MLB Quickly Shoots Down Buzzer Accusations Against Astros' Stars
The internet has "exploded with rumors that Astros players could have been wearing some sort of buzzers underneath their uniforms" during the '19 MLB Playoffs, prompting the league to release a statement to "stamp out that talk," according to Matt Young of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The league's statement said, "MLB explored wearable devices during the investigation but found no evidence to substantiate it." Young notes the rumors began when a Twitter account that "claimed to belong to a niece" of former Astros CF and Mets manager Carlos Beltran posted that 2B Jose Altuve and 3B Alex Bregman "wore buzzers" to get pitch signals. Shortly after that post, ESPN "reported the account was 'not related to the (Beltran) family in any way.'" Altuve on Thursday "issued a denial through his agent Scott Boras." Boras said, "He wants it known that he has never, ever worn an electronic device in a major league game -- ever" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/17). Reds P Trevor Bauer on Thursday tweeted that he has "heard 'from multiple parties'" that the Astros' sign-stealing "system evolved beyond the trash can noises to players wearing buzzers inside their uniforms" (USA TODAY, 1/17). ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez noted the Twitter account that made the initial buzzer allegation "appears to have been disabled." The account "referenced Altuve's walk-off home run" to beat the Yankees in Game 6 of the '19 ALDS. Replay shows that as he "approaches home plate after his pennant-clinching homer, Altuve clearly and demonstrably tells his awaiting teammates not to yank off his jersey" (ESPN.com, 1/16).
IF IT'S ON THE INTERNET...: YAHOO SPORTS' Mike Oz wrote this "could just be another conspiracy theory," as the internet is "full of them." But so much of the "initial Astros cheating scandal played out on Twitter, Reddit" and YouTube videos -- and MLB's investigation "proved it all to be true -- so there might be a good reason to pay attention" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/16). In Houston, Chandler Rome notes a postgame photo of Astros RF Josh Reddick began to circulate, in which there is "something unusual stuck to his left shoulder." Reddick said of the image, "That's confetti." Reddick said the rumors about the Astros are "ridiculous." Reddick: "That's all I'll say" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/17).
NO PLAYER PUNISHMENTS? In New Jersey, Pete Caldera writes as well as Commissioner Rob Manfred handled punishments for Astros execs, his "third rail has been the players." Manfred "won't touch them for various reasons," including his September '17 "edict about holding management solely accountable, resistance by the [MLBPA] and the vagueness of who benefited and to what extent" (Bergen RECORD, 1/17). In DC, Barry Svrluga wrote there are "practical concerns not listed among Manfred's reasons for not pursuing player punishment." The players' association "would not have accepted punishment without a fight -- or a series of fights -- and it's possible resulting grievances would have taken months or more to resolve." This is a "delicate time for relations" between MLB and the MLBPA, and it could have "seemed unwise to add acrimony to an already belligerent situation as the two sides head into what are expected to be contentious -- and perhaps revolutionary -- talks" for a new CBA over the next couple of years (WASHINGTON POST, 1/16). Also in DC, Will Leitch wrote suspending individual, active players for cheating almost "certainly would have opened a fight with the union, stirring questions about whether executives or players are more responsible for cheating scandals such as this one." Omit the names of "any specific still-active players" from that '17 Astros team, and any "potential trouble vanishes" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/16). In Boston, Tom Keegan wrote Manfred deserves "credit for coming down hard on cheating, as compared to past punishments, but there is no deterrent for the players to cook their own schemes to gain an illegal edge on their union brothers, and ball clubs care less than ever about who's managing the team, thanks to the power wielded by analytics departments" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/16).
THE UNETHICAL ERA: SI.com's Tom Verducci wrote there is something "much bigger going on here," as MLB is "smack in the middle of a crisis of ethics." Teams "'finding an edge' has become the mantra of an increasingly data-driven game and world," which has "spawned one scandal after another in the sport." MLB "needs an awakening," and if the jobs of A.J. Hinch, Alex Cora, Jeff Luhnow and Beltran are "part of the cost, so be it" (SI.com, 1/16).