Astros' Reputation Takes Another Hit With Cheating Allegations
The Astros reportedly "were electronically stealing signs" during their World Series-winning '17 season, adding to what has been an "awful few weeks for the Astros, both on and off the field," according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Astros President of Baseball Operations & GM Jeff Luhnow said, "These past couple of weeks there's been a lot of news surrounding the Astros and it's not all good news. It's disappointing. If there's an issue that we need to address, we'll address it." A's P Mike Fiers was on the Astros' team in '17 and in a story posted by The Athletic said that the Astros "stole signs using a center-field camera, which violates MLB rules." MLB and the Astros following Fiers' allegations said that it would "immediately launch an investigation on whether the Astros cheated." Even if the Astros are eventually "cleared, it badly sullies their reputation." Luhnow: "I'm hopeful we'll find out exactly what happened, and we'll address it if there's something that needs to be addressed, and we'll move on" (USA TODAY, 11/13). Luhnow said of how the team operates, "We haven't done everything properly, but I do feel confident that in general, most of the time, we did things right and we try and follow the rules. We try to be good citizens and we try to compete as hard as we can." He added, "I feel good about the organization" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/13).
NOT THE FIRST RUMBLINGS OF CHEATING: In Houston, Chandler Rome notes the Astros are cooperating with MLB's investigation, though it is "unclear if this investigation is independent of the ongoing one involving the firing" of former Assistant GM/Player Evaluation Brandon Taubman. The Red Sox in '17 were fined after the Yankees "filed a complaint against them" for stealing signs. Whether the Astros will be punished "remains to be seen." Fiers' allegation is the "latest lobbed against the Astros, who've been known to push boundaries in sign-stealing." Most recently, unnamed members of the Yankees "accused Houston of whistling to signal signs" during the ALCS. Both Luhnow and Astros manager A.J. Hinch "vehemently denied the deed" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/13). ESPN.com's Jeff Passan wrote allegations of cheating by the Astros have "chased the organization for years, going back to its World Series victory" against the Dodgers in '17. Sources said that opponents playing at Minute Maid Park are on "constant lookout for signs of subterfuge." Sources added that before the World Series this year, members of the Nationals organization "received warnings from others around the game to beware of everything from flashing lights to whistling to a person relaying signs from the train that runs above left field" (ESPN.com, 11/12). In DC, Dave Sheinin writes while the Astros "sit at the center of this controversy, all of baseball will be watching closely to see how MLB responds." In the digital age, it is "fair to speculate every team in the sport has been either a victim or a perpetrator of electronic sign-stealing, or quite possibly both" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/13).
PUSHING BOUNDARIES: USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques writes the Astros being accused of sign-stealing in '17 "perhaps best captures what we might call 'Astros culture.'" There "always has been and always will be a nebulous code to sign-stealing." It is just "so very Astros to push that code to the edge -- and over it" (USA TODAY, 11/13). In Houston, Jerome Solomon writes for the Astros, it is "hard to imagine any other conclusion besides guilty as charged." Solomon: "The 'crime' as it were, isn't so egregious that the World Series victory is tainted." This is a "baseball-wide issue." As for reputation, though, the Astros have "permanently damaged theirs" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/13). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes everything the Astros have done in this, the "greatest era in franchise history," including winning the '17 World Series, is "now smudged with doubt" (N.Y. POST, 11/13).
GETTING A BAD REP: USA TODAY's Nightengale writes the fallout for the Astros is "more about the image of the franchise." Just as players find it "virtually impossible to reshape their image, it's perhaps even more difficult for organizations to do it" (USA TODAY, 11/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown writes under the header, "The Astros Already Have A Bruised Reputation. A Sign-Stealing Scandal Could Land The Final Blow" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/13). On Long Island, David Lennon writes the Astros are "even better at cheating than they are at baseball." The Astros already have a "villainous reputation, and one that seemingly gets worse by the day" (NEWSDAY, 11/13). ESPN Radio’s Trey Wingo noted the Astros are "going to do what they think is necessary to win” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 11/13). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote any "plausible deniability is long since gone for Luhnow and the Astros" (ESPN.com, 11/12). ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said the Astros are “rapidly becoming a national embarrassment” and are “devoid of principles, devoid of decency to some degree” (“First Take,” ESPN, 11/13).
NOT THE ONLY ONES? SI.com's Michael Rosenberg writes this incident "looks and feels like Spygate." The Astros are "a lot like the Patriots: They win a ton, they have unconventional methods" and they are "secret about those methods." There are "surely a lot of baseball executives cackling and rubbing their hands together right now." But the "big difference" between the Astros and Patriots is that the Patriots were "widely seen as the one team breaking this rule, and they were warned about it." The Astros "may be perceived as the worst offenders" and "might even be the worst offenders." But they are "definitely not the only offenders" (SI.com, 11/13).