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Chris Archer to make debut for Pirates vs. Cardinals

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The Pittsburgh Pirates beat out other teams to land right-hander Chris Archer at the non-waiver trade deadline Tuesday, and now they will get to see him in action.

Archer is scheduled to make his Pirates debut Friday when Pittsburgh opens a key National League Central series against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park.

The Pirates gave up rookie outfielder Austin Meadows, right-hander Tyler Glasnow and a player to be named to acquire Archer from Tampa.

“Just the intensity he brings, the electric stuff that he has on the mound, he’s fun to watch,” Pittsburgh’s Sean Rodriguez, a former Rays teammate, said, according to mlb.com.

Archer is 3-5 with a 4.31 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 17 starts. Over the past three seasons, he is 22-36 with a 4.10 ERA. He has been among the top three in the American League in strikeouts each of the past three seasons, the only Tampa pitcher to ever have three 200-strikeout seasons. He also has been reliably available, with at least 32 starts each of the past three seasons.

“We understand the surface numbers aren’t typical Chris Archer surface numbers,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “We believe the indicators are there that Chris Archer is still an upper-echelon, top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.”

Archer arrived Wednesday and received a warm welcome from teammates and fans.

“That was the biggest relief after all the trade rumors — these guys really want me,” Archer said.

Pittsburgh and St. Louis have identical 56-53 records, tied for third in the division, following the Cardinals’ walk-off 3-2 win on Thursday against Colorado.

The Pirates, who were off Thursday, have won 16 of their past 20 games, boosting them into wild-card contention.

The Cardinals are 8-7 since the All-Star break and are not only in a playoff chase but also in the midst of a youth movement.

Gone, in the minor leagues or on the disabled list are Tyler Lyons, Sam Tuivailala, Greg Holland, Luke Voit, Tommy Pham, Matt Bowman, Brett Cecil and Luke Gregerson.

Called up or added through trade are Daniel Poncedeleon, Auston Gomber, Dakota Hudson, Tyler Webb, Tyler O’Neill and Chasen Shreve. St. Louis also recently added eight minor league players.

That follows the firing of manager Mike Matheny.

“We could have done it many different ways,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said, according to mlb.com. “We look at our system, and we’re just trying to add to it as well as creating opportunity at the major league level. Not everybody is going to agree with that philosophy. But that’s our road map, and we’re hopeful it’s successful.”

He called the current stretch of games a “peek at the future.”

The Cardinals could get one veteran back over the weekend. Second baseman Kolten Wong (left knee inflammation) is expected to travel to Pittsburgh and be activated from the disabled list as soon as Friday.

Right-hander John Gant (3-4, 3.49 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday for St. Louis. Gant is coming off a 5-2 loss to the Cubs on Sunday, when he matched a season low with 4 1/3 innings. He allowed three runs, two earned, including two homers.

Gant is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA in four career appearances, two starts, against Pittsburgh.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.