Alex Cora

David Ortiz Shatters Glass House Throwing Stones At Mike Fiers

In speaking with the media, David Ortiz called Mike Fiers a snitch for revealing the Astros sign stealing, and he defended Jose Altuve and Rob Manfred. This should surprise no one.

With Pedro Martinez, that’s now two members of the 2004 Boston Red Sox attacking Fiers for coming public. Maybe that team is over sensitive to benefitting from cheating as Manny Ramirez, the 2004 World Series MVP, has been suspended multiple times for PEDs.

In addition to testing positive twice, Ramirez was one of the players who had tested positive during the 2003 survey testing. There were 104 players who tested positive including Ramirez and Ortiz. To hear, Ortiz tell it, this was a conspiracy.

No, that’s not a joke. He actually told WEEI, “The only thing that I can think of, to be honest with you, a lot of big guys from the Yankees were being caught. And no one from Boston. This was just something that leaked out of New York, and they had zero explanation about it.”

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, he claimed it couldn’t possibly be true because he dislikes chemicals, and he never tested positive.

Of course, in the same breath he admitted to taking supplements from GNC. The never failed a test is a red herring too. After all, Alex Rodriguez never tested positive (like Ortiz did), and he was using PEDs.

Also like A-Rod, Ortiz worked out with MLB banned trainer Angel Presinal. Presinal was banned from the Majors due to multiple incidents where he carried and administered PEDs to players, and he also instructed them on how to avoid testing positive.

So, Ortiz wants us to believe his being named was a conspiracy, and that even with his working out with a banned trainer who provided PEDs and advised on how to beat tests, he never used them.

It’s probably also a coincidence Ortiz is criticizing Fiers and defending Manfred when he know the Red Sox were caught illegally using an Apple Watch in the dugout in 2017.

Of course, we don’t know if 2017 was the first time the Red Sox used it. However, we do know the Red Sox were caught up in their own scandal. That led to Alex Cora‘s firing. At the moment, there’s an MLB investigation and report pending.

While we don’t know how long the Red Sox were doing it, we do know they’ve been twice implicated in sign stealing. We also know they’ve had their fair share of PED players, and based on the 2003 testing, that includes Ortiz.

In essence, even if Ortiz wants us to believe different, in one way or another, the Red Sox cheated, and he benefitted from it. You’ll also note that while he says the someone from the Astros team should’ve said something in real time, Ortiz was very quiet about what the Red Sox did while he was winning three World Series rings.

Somehow, Ortiz wants to hold the Fiers Astros to a different standard he held himself and his teammates. He also wants players to keep quiet about cheating and benefitting therefrom.

How convenient for him.

Manfred Did Not Need To Give Astros Players Immunity

In Mickey Callaway fashion, Rob Manfred had to go back out and speak again about Major League Baseball’s handling of the Astros sign stealing scandal. That was necessary because of how poorly the first interview went. To highlight just how bad it went, he referred to the Commissioner’s Trophy awarded to the team who wins the World Series as just a piece of metal.

While that was a big misstep, the biggest complaint remains the Astros players themselves, aside from Carlos Beltran, have faced no repercussions for their actions. On that point, Manfred reiterated the need for immunity saying, “We would not have gotten where we got, in terms of understanding the facts, learning the facts, disclosing the facts if we hadn’t reached that agreement.”

That agreement was between MLB and the MLBPA wherein it was promised if players were upfront about the scandal they would not face fines or suspensions.

When you actually look at it, Manfred did not need to give the players immunity at all. In fact, it was completely unnecessary to conduct the investigation, and by granting the immunity, he really just created a whole host of other problems.

Starting at the beginning, Manfred acknowledged there were complaints from other organizations. While he knew there were other teams, the one which came to mind was the Oakland Athletics. So there were allegations present which could have led to his office conducting an investigation of the Astros front office.

Keep in mind, MLB did not need to offer the Red Sox players immunity to determine the team was illegally using an Apple watch, and they did not need to grant Yankees players immunity to determine they were improperly using the dugout phone.

In order to prepare the report, MLB interviewed 45 individuals who were not Astros players, and they “reviewed tens of thousands of emails, Slack communications, text messages, video clips, and photographs.”

Within that information, MLB would have been able to ascertain information like the setting up of the center field camera, the texting of the sign data to Alex Cora in the dugout, and all the ways the front office used to steal the signs electronically and relay those signs in some way to the dugout.

While not included in the report, the Wall Street Journal noted MLB found evidence of the front office’s full extent of the involvement in the scandal. That included PowerPoint presentations and other data. While this gives what the Astros front office knew and did, including but not limited to the emails identifying players like Beltran, you could still argue there was further cooperation needed to find out what the players did.

Again, that did not require immunity of the entire Astros roster.

Remember, this began when Mike Fiers went public with the allegations. In the article from The Athletic, Fiers came forward with how the Astros players were banging trash cans to relay the signals. Right there, MLB had the information they needed, and they had a key witness who wanted to share the information.

MLB also had the opportunity to speak with AJ Hinch as well as other members of that coaching staff. There were players from 29 other teams they could have asked to come forward to share information they knew. Certainly, seeing comments from players like Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Aaron Judge, Seth Lugo, Michael Conforto, and Mike Trout, it seems players were chomping at the bit to get back at the Astros for cheating.

Overall, MLB could have discovered all they did without giving one Astros player immunity. The main reason is Fiers already came forward, and MLB had the ability to put the squeeze on the Astros coaching staff, which they did with Hinch.

In fact, given the implication that this was a player driven system, it would have been more effective to give Hinch and others immunity to divulge everything they knew. You could say the same for Cora, who was implicated in two scandals.

When you break it down, MLB did not need to give the Astros players immunity to undertake this investigation. Not in the least. It’s a red herring.

As an aside, unlike the Mitchell Report, it created more problems. In fact, with Beltran being the only one named, it created more drama and speculation. Right now, instead of feeling like the matter is completely handled there is rampant speculation about buzzers, Jose Altuve‘s tattoos, and other nonsense.

The real reason Manfred gave the players immunity is he didn’t have the stomach for a fight. Certainly, there was going to be one as the MLBPA said in a published statement, “the applicable rules did not allow for player discipline, because even if they did players were never notified of the rules to begin with, and because cases involving electronic sign stealing MLB had stated that Club personnel were responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules.”

In the end, the players weren’t granted immunity for investigative purposes. Instead, it was to avoid a fight. There are good reasons for that. By not having the drag out fight over the suspensions, you are shortening the cycle of the story. Additionally, with the CBA expiring next year, Manfred is effectively keeping some peace with the MLBPA while also fracturing the union a bit.

Of course, there are other unknown reasons to grant the players immunity. No matter what those reasons, MLB didn’t need to grant the immunity to players to conduct an investigation. Not in the least. Knowing that, there needs to be a further inquiry into what the real reason was as to why the players were granted immunity.

Trivia Friday: 2017 Astros On New Teams

So far, Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora are the only 2017 Houston Astros who have had to face any repercussions for their involvement in the sign stealing scandal. That will change for 21 players as they will have to face their new teammates and explain their actions.

Can you name the 21? Good luck!


Marwin Gonzalez Jake Marisnick J.D. Davis Derek Fisher Tyler White Cameron Maybin Juan Centeno Tony Kemp Max Stassi Colin Moran Teoscar Hernandez Mike Fiers Cameron Maybin Charlie Morton Dallas Keuchel Ken Giles Michael Feliz Will Harris James Hoyt Francisco Liriano Tyler Clippard Jandel Gustave

Red Sox Fans, It Could Be Worse, So Much Worse

The Boston Red Sox traded away Mookie Betts, arguably the second best player in baseball, for what amounted to an underwhelming return because the organization believes it needed to get under the luxury tax. This came on the heels of the team needing to fire Alex Cora because he was implicated in the Astros sign stealing scandal.

To that, Mets fans say, “You’re lucky!”

Since the Wilpons took over control of the Mets in 2002, the Red Sox have won four World Series titles to the Mets none. The reason is the Red Sox have competent ownership who will spend and allow their baseball people to run the organization.

The Red Sox got rid of Pedro Martinez towards the end of his career. The Mets helped accelerate that by forcing Pedro to pitch hurt to generate just one last big gate at the end of the 2005 season.

The Red Sox had a similar sell off moving Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett in a blockbuster where they got little more than salary relief from the Dodgers. The Red Sox took advantage of that payroll relief by investing it in the roster and winning the World Series the following year.

Meanwhile, the Mets cannot even afford to reinvest insurance proceeds from Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright. Meanwhile, the Mets get Gonzalez when his career is done because they won’t sign a big free agent, nor would they give Dominic Smith a chance much in the same vein the Red Sox gave players like Betts a chance.

Part of the reason for this is the Mets are run by Jeff Wilpon, who continues to prove he’s inept at running a franchise. That goes from assembling a roster to being the type of person who fires an unwed pregnant woman. He also opted to hire a former agent in Brodie Van Wagenen.

Van Wagenen’s first move was to trade Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to help get his former client Robinson Cano out of Seattle like he wanted. Later in the offseason, he signed his former client Jed Lowrie for $20 million, and so far, he only has eight pinch hitting attempts to show for it.

Van Wagenen was hired over Chaim Bloom, one of the most respected people in the business. Bloom was the guy who helped keep the Rays competitive while having significant financial constraints. This is exactly why Mets fans have little to no sympathy for Red Sox fans.

The Red Sox are run by owners who will do whatever it takes to win, and they continuously hire accomplished baseball people who win games for them. They find ways to move past their mistakes, and even when they make unpopular decisions, they offset it by trusting smart baseball people and spending.

Meanwhile, the Mets are cursed by the incompetent Wilpons who can’t even manage to allow someone to overpay for the Mets by over a billion dollars.

So, yes, Red Sox fans, trading away Mookie Betts sucks. However, you at least have Alex Verdugo, Brusdar Graterol, Chaim Bloom, and owners who will eventually spend. The Mets fans have a young core they love but won’t win because of incompetent ownership.

So, yes, Red Sox fans, it can be worse – MUCH WORSE.

 

Pedro Martinez And Jessica Mendoza Completely Miss The Point On Mike Fiers

Recently, Mets employee Jessica Mendoza and Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez publicly criticized Mike Fiers for telling The Athletic about the Houston Astros illegal sign stealing program. His speaking to The Athletic led to a Major League investigation and penalties being levied upon the Astros.

According to Fiers, he went public because  he wanted “the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing.” As a result, knowing what he knew, he would tell his teammates on the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics about it, so they could be prepared.

What is interesting is whatever he personally did wasn’t working. Since leaving the Astros, Fiers has made four starts against the team in Minute Maid Park. In those four starts, he has only pitched 16.1 innings, and he has a 11.02 ERA with the Astros hitting .397/.440/.731 against him.

That included the Astros roughing him up for nine runs in 1.0+ innings in a September start. At the time the Athletics were in a dog fight for one of the two Wild Card spots. While the Athletics did capture one of the two spots, Fiers was left off the postseason roster. It’s very likely Fiers had had enough.

Notably, Fiers said he has strained relationships with his former Astros teammates because he shared the information to his new teammates. As discussed above, he also caught the ire of Mendoza and Martinez.

Mendoza said, “It was a player that was a part of it, that benefited from it during the regular season when he was a part of that team. That, when I first heard about it, it hits you like any teammate would. It’s something that you don’t do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know, but to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it’s hard to swallow.” (ESPN).

Martinez echoed similar statements saying, “If you have integrity you find ways to tell everybody in the clubhouse, ‘Hey, we might get in trouble for this. I don’t want to be part of this.’ You call your GM. You tell him. Or you call anybody you can or MLB or someone and say, ‘I don’t want to be part of this.’ Or you tell the team, ‘Get me out of here, I don’t want to be part of this.’ Then you show me something. But if you leave Houston and most likely you didn’t agree with Houston when you left and then you go and drop the entire team under the bus I don’t trust you. I won’t trust you because did have that rule.” (WEEI).

At the core of what Mendoza and Martinez is saying is there are ways to do this, and Fiers did it the wrong way. Honestly, Mendoza and Martinez have completely missed the point.

Both have painted a picture of Fiers as a bad teammate who violated clubhouse rules by going public. However, they fail to speak on how the Astros were bad teammates for employing the system against him.

They wanted Fiers to work through this internally while ignoring the fact the Astros knew what was transpiring.

The Statement of the Commissioner found the General Manager Jeff Luhnow, “had some knowledge of these efforts, but he did not give it much attention. It also found AJ Hinch “did not stop it and he did not notify players or Cora that he disapproved of it, even after the Red Sox were disciplined in September 2017.”

As we see Fiers going internal was pointless as the Astros were aware of it, and they did it anyway. Parenthetically, this also assumes Fiers didn’t voice his concerns internally. But really, who cares? At the end of the day, top to bottom, the entire organization was in on this.

There’s another point to be made with the Red Sox discipline in September 2017.

This was much more widespread than anyone knew. As we’ve since discovered even with Major League Baseball issuing a penalty and directive, the Astros continued to cheat, and in the ensuing season, the Red Sox cheated again.

Also, to this point, we’ve yet to see Major League Baseball commission an investigation on par with the Mitchell Report. The Mitchell Report is instructive here because it was prompted by Jose Canseco‘s book “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big” as well as Mark Fainaru-Wada’s and Lance Williams’ book “Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports.”

The efforts to clean up the game were prompted by speaking outside the clubhouse. Supposedly, these are efforts Martinez now applauds even though he was a beneficiary of prior cheating scandals with his being teammates with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz on the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.

One other point on the 2017 Red Sox punishment is it was private, and there was no further investigation into the 29 other teams. Had that occurred baseball likely would have caught the Astros in 2017, 2018, and the cheating which has happened since that MLB disavows happening.

As an aside, we haven’t heard Mendoza or Martinez speak out about how the current Astros players were all too willing to place the blame on Carlos Beltran and Cora. Apparently, they’re aghast at speaking out publicly, but apparently ratting out people who left to save your own hide and reputation is not worth criticism.

Like it or not, as we’ve seen with baseball’s handling of this and other scandals, we needed Fiers to go public. While you can fairly point out Fiers didn’t go public when he was winning a World Series, criticizing him for going public is plain wrong because his going public has ultimately helped the game.

More than that, after dealing with this issue internally with three organizations for three years, and nothing having come of it, Fiers finally did what had to be done. He went public.

In the end, if you want to criticize anyone for that, blame Rob Manfred and the front offices of the Astros, Tigers, and Athletics because it was their relative inaction which led to this.

 

Mets Not Having New Manager Yet Is Simply Incompetent

How can it be the New York Mets still have not named a replacement for Carlos Beltran?

Keep in mind, the Mets are in a completely different situation here than than the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox.

The Astros knew the hammer was going to come down from Major League Baseball, but they presumably did not know or could be quite sure they’d lose AJ Hinch for the year.

Seeing the rulings, the Astros moved quickly, and they fired Hinch to not just attempt to turn the page on the scandal, but to also figure out who was going to be their manager in 2020 and beyond.

The Red Sox seeing Alex Cora‘s level of involvement and knowing he was likely going to face harsher penalties than Hinch fired Cora the day after the report, and they immediately began their search for a new manager.

The Mets waited a few days, and they yielded to what was really a vocal demand from a minority to fire Beltran. Keep in mind, the Mets fired Beltran despite his not being suspended for the 2020 season.

The Astros and Red Sox knew they were going to be without their managers, and they acted accordingly. The Mets did something they did not have to do, and worse yet, they didn’t have a replacement immediately in mind.

That’s stupefying.

Consider, unlike the Astros and Red Sox, the Mets had undertaken a search this offseason to hire a new manager to replace Mickey Callaway.

The Mets know or should know who can be a manager of the Mets. They also know or should know who could handle this situation. And yes, with this being New York and the Mets, this is something which should have been contemplated.

Herein lies the problem.

According to reports, the New York Mets have not contacted Dusty Baker, John Gibbons, Buck Showalter, or really another established veteran like Bruce Bochy.

They’re also not going back into their candidate pool. Eduardo Perez was one of the finalists, and he has not been contacted again. The Milwaukee Brewers see their bench coach Pat Murphy as an ideal fit, but the Mets aren’t repursuing him.

After reading Mike Puma’s report in the New York Post, the Mets are essentially paralyzed “as team executives try to deduce the best way to please the prospective new boss.”

While the Mets are scared about what Cohen will think about a new hire, they’ve failed to realize he’s watching them fumbling through this process.

Like all of us, Cohen sees the Mets being completely reactionary and not remotely proactive in their handling of Beltran. We all see the Mets fire Beltran without a plan in place.

They’re afraid to interview someone else or conduct a new search. They were ill prepared and not willing to make Tony DeFrancesco, Hensley Meulens, or Luis Rojas their new manager.

The Mets could’ve fired Beltran, and they could’ve held up Rojas as their new manager showing us all their complete faith in him. We could’ve heard why DeFrancesco has the skills to lead the Mets starting in 2020. We could’ve heard about Meulen’s championship pedigree, and why they knew in the short time he’s been with the organization why he was the man for the job.

Of course, that’s not happening because the Mets fired Beltran without a plan. In fact, they fired him without having a clue what direction they’d like to go. The only thing they knew was Cohen was lurking on the horizon, and he was judging them.

When you break it all down, Brodie Van Wagenen’s and Jeff Wilpon’s entire handling of this situation has been inept, and with each passing day, they’re showing Cohen and the whole baseball world, they should not be entrusted with running a baseball organization.

MLB Won’t Allow Carlos Beltran To “Tell The Truth”

With Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox now agreeing to part ways, that leaves Carlos Beltran as the only individual named in the Astros investigation who is still employed in baseball. This means the heat is going to be ratcheted up on him.

Already, we have heard calls for Beltran to be fired by the Mets. We’re also seeing the media call for Beltran to come clean and tell the truth.

John Harper of SNY, who once advocated the Mets sign Jose Reyes, called Beltran’s involvement a bad look for the Mets, and he called for Beltran to correct his lies.

Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote an article saying Beltran should tell the truth and “it’s in everyone’s best interests to watch Beltran face the music before rendering final judgment.”

This is a sampling of the swirling opinions about Beltran’s involvement and his prior statements to reporters disavowing knowledge of the Astros sign stealing measures.

Specifically, Beltran texted Joel Sherman of the New York Post, “I’m not aware of that camera. We were studying the opposite team every day.” With all due respect to Andy Martino of SNY, it is hard to believe he wasn’t lying when he said this.

That said, it is possible he didn’t lie, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The media believes Beltran lied to them and their brethren, and they are owed a correction.

To be fair, the reporters have a very valid point, especially since it is their job to seek and report the truth. However, the problem is it appears Beltran isn’t permitted to say anything at all.

As we see with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball has requested the Dodgers and all of baseball “not to comment on any wrongdoings during the 2017 World Series.”

As reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN, “Multiple ownership-level sources told ESPN that dissatisfaction with the penalties had emerged following a conference call with Manfred, in which he explained how the Astros would be disciplined, then told teams to keep their thoughts to themselves.”

Effectively speaking, for better or worse, Major League Baseball has placed a gag order on everyone. If that is truly the case, it is eminently possible, how could Beltrán possibly speak to the press about his involvement?

More to the point, why would Beltrán potentially incur Major League Baseball’s wrath by speaking at a time when Baseball very clearly wants no one talking about the scandal?

At this moment, Beltran is really awaiting direction from Major League Baseball, and more importantly, direction from the New York Mets. Keep in mind, if the Mets wanted Beltran to speak, he would’ve already spoken.

In the end, the calls for Beltran are all well and good, but at the end of the day, the Mets manager cannot speak unless otherwise directed by Mets ownership and permitted by Major League Baseball. Until such time, we have to sit and wait until he is permitted to say what apparently needs to be said. When that’ll happen is anyone’s guess.

Mets Are The Last Organization Which Should Fire Carlos Beltran

Major League Baseball had concluded its investigation, and they have levied their penalties against the Houston Astros. This has led to the firing of AJ Hinch, and based upon what was contained in Major League Baseball’s report, it is safe to assume that not only is Alex Cora is eventually going to be handed his own severe punishment, but his days as the manager of the Boston Red Sox are likely over.

That leaves Carlos Beltran as the only current Major League manager named in the report who has not faced nor will face any discipline.

The reason behind Beltran not facing any discipline was Major League Baseball going out of its way to not suspend any of the players caught in the sign stealing scandal. In 2017, Beltran was a player, which means he is not subject to discipline.

Despite that, there has been a push for the Mets to fire their new manager. Chris Carlin attempted to conjure up Beltran being part of both a conspiracy and cover-up on his ESPN Radio program. It is also being discussed all over WFAN with Boomer and Gio as well as Moose and Maggie making it topics for discussion. On that point, like Carlin, Boomer said the Mets should fire Beltran.

While the topic certainly is going to drive ratings and discussions, at the end of the day, you really have to wonder why exactly the Mets should fire Beltran.

Right off the bat, you could say it is going to be a distraction. It’s a fair point as it is going to be a topic for discussion during Spring Training when Beltran meets with the press. However, that’s really only going to be it.

Remember, one of the purported reasons not to sign Jose Reyes was his domestic violence was going to be a distraction. It was for maybe a week or two. Beyond that, Citi Field was alive with Jose chants, reporters wrote articles advocating for him to be signed and to receive more playing time, and at the end of the day, he was nominated for the Marvin Miller Award.

Keep in mind this story will die quickly. In terms of Mets Spring Training, this scandal is going to die very quickly as the Mets have Yoenis Cespedes return and Jed Lowrie‘s health to cover amongst the myriad of issues which always arise in St. Lucie during February and March.

Of course, there’s an ethical issue to discuss. After all, cheating in sports (and life) has always been viewed distasteful, and an organization should not be led by an individual who is so willing to skirt the rules to their own benefit.

On that higher moral note, Jeff Wilpon has his own history of distasteful conduct including firing an unwed pregnant woman. The Mets eventual new owner, Steve Cohen, paid a $1.2 billion fine, the largest fine ever levied, for insider trading.

Like it or not, the Mets have not shown any had any sort of an ethical litmus test for their ownership, front office, or players. It would now be bizarre to hold their manager up to some standard not present anywhere else in the organization.

Beyond that, no one is quite sure what Beltran even did. Major League Baseball‘s report stated, “a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter.” It then said Cora devised the system and had the players execute it.

Be careful of what it did and did not say. It said Beltran discussed better decoding and communication. It did not say he was responsible for the illegal technological set-up, nor did it specifically name him as one of the players relaying messages. It’s possible he had a hand in all of it, but he was not specifically named for anything other than wanting a better system.

When it was the New York Giants with Bobby Thompson, it was the “Shot Heard Round the World.” With the Astros, it’s now being treated as the biggest scandal in Major League history this side of the Black Sox.

It is a slippery slope when you penalize and fire people for what you think they did. Honestly, many assume the worse with Beltran, but those assumptions are not present in the report. If you are going to take the position his even being a part of it is enough to want him gone from the team, the same is then true for J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick, each of whom were members of the 2017 and 2018 Houston Astros teams.

Overall, Beltran was part of a team who cheated and won a World Series. After that, he was a member of the New York Yankees front office as an advisor to Brian Cashman. Knowing Major League Baseball was conducting this investigation and fully knowing Beltran may be implicated in that investigation, the New York Mets hired him to be their manager.

While some may want to trump up the report to be more than it was, fact is the Mets hired Beltran with their eyes fully opened. When they did hire him, Brodie Van Wagenen said, “Carlos has an extremely high baseball IQ. He has an appetite to collaborate and he’s a mentor, and he’s a communicator from the 25th man on the roster to the first. From our veteran players to our minor-league prospects, he cares about improving each player in that clubhouse.

That is why he is the Mets manager, and even after the investigation all of this remains true. As a result, Carlos Beltran should remain as the Mets manager until he proves unfit for the job, or until he is further implicated as being anything other than a player who wanted to find a better way to steal signs.

Astros Penalties And Suspensions Raise Many Questions

After Mike Fiers brought the Houston Astros sign stealing to light, it was a matter of when, not if, Major League Baseball would levy penalties. After an investigation, we would have our answer.

GM Jeffrey Luhnow and Manager AJ Hinch were not cited as ringleaders, but they were suspended for a year. After the suspension, they were fired by the Astros owner, Jim Crane, who was cleared of any wrongdoing.

While Crane was cleared of any wrongdoing, the team was fined $5 million, and we were told that’s the most they could be fined. They’re also losing their first and second round picks over the next two drafts.

Overall, Alex Cora was painted as the ringleader, and his comeuppance is coming. When that comes is not the only question this investigation and levying of penalties invoke.

THE MONEY

Major League Baseball wants you to know that $5 million is the most any team can be fined by the Commissioner. That is partially true. According to Article II, Section 3 (e), the Commissioner is limited to fining a club $5 million for “each offense.”

The Astros did not cheat just once. As noted in the report, they cheated throughout 2017 and into 2018 (more on that in a moment). They cheated in at least 81 homes games plus the postseason. With reports Hinch smashed the televisions, they cheated each time they rebuilt the system.

This was not an isolated occurrence. The Astros cheated multiple times per game, and they reaped the benefit of tens of millions of dollars. Really, it was more than that, and in the end, they were hit with a rounding error due to a purposefully narrow view of the constitution.

On another note, Major League Baseball once stripped the Dodgers away from Frank McCourt due to how he operated his team, and George Steinbrenner was banned from baseball stemming from his attempts to get out from under the Dave Winfield contract. While it’s true this scandal may not have arisen to the level of stripping ownership away, it is also fair to point out there is far more than just taking away money that could be done to an owner.

JIM CRANE

The report goes out of its way to say he knew nothing. That’s possible, but it also says the Astros had a “failure by the leaders of the baseball operations department and the Field Manager to adequately manage the employees under their supervision, to establish a culture in which adherence to the rules is ingrained in the fabric of the organization, and to stop bad behavior as soon as it occurred”

That culture was one established directly or indirectly by Crane, and yet, he was at least personally exonerated.

Now, it is very well possible he didn’t know what was occurring. However, as we saw with the Brandon Taubman attacks of a reporter, he showed everyone he did not care about what his employees did as long as the team was winning.

AJ HINCH AND ASTROS’ COACHING STAFF

It is just interesting how Hinch smashed televisions on multiple occasions to show his players how he disapproved of what they were doing. However, baseball also punished him for one year for his failure to tell his players to stop. In terms of the coaching staff, we are being led to believe it was only him and Cora (who is going to be dealt with later by baseball) who knew or had the power.

Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens must’ve also known. The same can be said for the rest of that 2017 coaching staff including Gary Pettis, Brent Strom, and others.

Why is it they all got a pass? Don’t the coaches have a similar responsibility to tell their players not to do certain things?

On that front, the report does indicate the commissioner is going to leave it to the Astros to deal with other employees, but seeing how Crane has responded to the questions, he’s done. In essence, Crane and baseball have no issue with anyone other than the manager and GM, and they want you to believe with them gone, the people who could conceive, carry out, and/or continue this cheating, are also gone. That’s hard to believe.

CARLOS BELTRAN

First and foremost, why was Carlos Beltran the only player mentioned? It was made clear he wasn’t the only one involved, and yet he was the only one singled out. Either name them all or none.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post has floated the idea of this hurting Beltran’s Hall of Fame candidacy, which is possible, while Chris Carlin of ESPN Radio has created in his mind a massive coverup and has demanded Beltran’s firing.

On that note, how is it whenever something in MLB happens, the Mets find a way to look bad? I’d also note why is it now incumbent on the Mets to fire their new manager?

ALEX CORA SET UP TO BE A FALL GUY

Reading the report, it is very clear Cora is going to be the fall guy for all of this. Not only was he with the 2017 Astros, but he was also with the 2018 Red Sox. As the report is written, we see baseball wants to make him the mastermind behind all of this.

The problem is the Red Sox were fined for similar actions in 2017, and as Logan Morrison said, the Astros had been doing this since 2014. Morrison also implicated the Yankees and Dodgers, which is interesting considering they are purportedly two of the victims of the cheating.

It should be noted Crane purchased the Astros in 2011 while Cora was working for Baseball Tonight in 2014. How are we to believe Cora did all of this when other teams did it long before he got there?

BASEBALL DIDN’ T WANT TO KNOW

If you read the report, Major League Baseball wants you to know the Astros stopped cheating during the 2018 season. That coincides with Cora being the manager of the Red Sox and Beltran working for the Yankees front office. Put another way, they were gone, so this was a convenient point to say the Astros stopped everything.

There’s a problem with that. Part of the reason there was an investigation into the sign stealing was actions by the Astros during the 2019 ALCS. Instead of banging on trash cans, there was whistling to tip off pitches.

It’s clear there was something still going on during the 2019 postseason. In fact, we heard the Nationals team was very careful during the World Series. Despite that, Major League Baseball wants you to believe this was isolated to just a little more than one season for the Astros and just the 2018 season for the Red Sox.

Basically, baseball is burying its head in the sand, and they don’t want anyone to delve further into the matter. We see that with reports over their threatening teams if they speak about this publicly. Overall, baseball wants you to believe this matter has been completely handled, and it is going away.

If the steroids scandal is any indication, acting like this is not going to allow this to go away, and in the end, people who are somehow lauding Manfred for his handling of the matter will be justifiably criticizing him.

FREE AGENCY

With the Astros being stripped of their first and second round draft picks for each of the next two years, there is a real issue over free agency. With the way the rules are written, teams have to forfeit a draft pick. Looking at the Astros, they already have. Does this mean they can pursue free agents with reckless abandon knowing they’ve already lost the draft pick, or does the loss of the draft pick effectively mean they cannot sign players who have received a qualifying offer.

On that point, George Springer is set to be a free agent. If the Astros extend him a qualifying offer and he signs elsewhere, does this now mean the Astros have a backdoor way to get draft picks?

So far, that has not been made clear, which in the end, speaks to how haphazardly the report was constructed. Really, it was not about discovering the truth or levying penalties. No, it was about finding a fall guy and trying to present the matter as isolated and closed.

CONCLUSION

The Astros sign stealing scandal created a huge problem for Major League Baseball. By and through the commissioner, Rob Manfred, baseball wants you to know it conducted a full investigation, and really the matter is closed. They even had a coordinated effort with the subsequent firings of Hinch and Luhnow by Crane.

And yet, baseball purposefully did not conduct an investigation into the full breadth of the Astros sign stealing, nor have they looked into it across the sport, at least not yet. They also really failed to punish the Astros financially in a way which will discourage them or another team from doing this or something similar ever again.

In the short term, it does seem baseball is controlling the message, and they have placated many. However, with the way this was all handled, it should not be a surprise to any if these problems re-emerge in the ensuing days, weeks, or months.

 

Eduardo Perez May Be Best Mets Manager Candidate

Aside from the 22 games of experience Tim Bogar has with the 2014 Texas Rangers, the Mets managerial field is filled with inexperienced candidates. Despite that being the case, the Mets have a very interesting group of candidates with Eduardo Perez perhaps being the person whom the Mets should hire.

In an era of analytics, you want someone who is well versed in advanced data. With Perez being a part of the ESPN “Nerdcasts,” you know he is well versed in analytics. However, when it comes to analytics, it is not just being well versed in them. In fact, like the Boston Globe reported, Alex Cora showed with the 2018 Boston Red Sox it’s not just knowing analytics. It is also about how about how to best utilize them, getting the best people into the organization to handle them, and finally, finding out those things you don’t know.

With respect to Perez, he knows all of this. He knows this from his dealing with the people at MLB and other organizations who compile the data. He knows that from working with ESPN and MLB Radio. He also knows that from his being the Astros Bench Coach when Jeff Luhnow and the current analytically driven people were brought to the organization.

That is one aspect currently overlooked with Perez. He has experience as a coach and manager. From 2008 – 2009, he was the manager of Leones de Ponce of the Puerto Rican Winter League. In 2008, his team won the championship, and his team would win the league title. He would serve other roles from there including the Marlins hitting coach, and as discussed above, the Astros bench coach. It should be noted Perez resigned to spend time with his family.

Perez returned to ESPN. On that front, Perez has developed media savvy. In an era when the manager does pre-game and post-game press conferences, that ability is of vital importance. For the Mets, it is all the more important considering the incident Mickey Callaway had with reporters earlier this year.

Part of Perez’s media savvy is understanding people. Recently, while co-hosting The Leadoff Spot with former Mets General Manager Steve Phillips, Perez was asked by Phillips about the importance of being bilingual. Perez responded it isn’t about being just bilingual, but rather being multicultural. It’s understanding the players from Puerto Rico have a difference experience than those from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. It’s also about understanding how the kid from the Midwest is different from the Northeast or California.

On the topic of his co-hosting a show with Steve Phillips, Perez has an opportunity to gain insight into how the Mets run their organization. He gets the chance to hear from someone who was a part of the Mets organization for 13 years on how the team operates and how best to navigate his way around the organization.

Any manager who is hired by the team is going to be confronted by that right away as the team is rumored to want to keep some of their coaches from last year’s Mets team. Those coaches include Chili Davis and Gary Disarcina, who were teammates of Perez from his playing days.

With Perez’s playing days, coaching career, and time spent in the media, he has been a baseball lifer. In fact, his being a baseball lifer goes all the way back to his being the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez. When you think about it, Perez has spent his entire life not just in baseball, but around some of the greatest players who have ever played the game.

When you break it down, Perez has a wealth of knowledge and experience. With all that he brings to the table, he is going to be a vital asset to whoever hires him. If reports are to be believed, that is going to be the Mets. If true, the Mets are going to get an intelligent communicator who knows this game just as well as anyone. Overall, he just might be the best possible candidate for this job, and the Mets will be much better off for having hired him.