Yesterday Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic followed up on their Tuesday bombshell about the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing in 2017. In the followup they noted that Mets manager Carlos Beltrán and Red Sox manager Alex Cora are likely to be interviewed by Major League Baseball as it investigates the Astros’ use of a center field camera to steal opposing signs:
Cora was the team’s bench coach in ’17; Beltrán was a designated hitter and outfielder in the final season of a 20-year career that might result in his election to the Hall of Fame. Multiple sources said they were not the only members of the team who participated in the Astros’ scheme that season.
That Beltrán knew all about it is more than inferential based on him being a player for that team. Indeed, in an interview with The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd earlier this month, Astros’ third baseman Alex Bregman made some comments that, with the benefit of hindsight, are far more illuminating than they were on first read:
“I think Carlos Beltrán helped out the Yankees this year a lot,” Bregman said. “Like a lot lot.”
The statement came accompanied by a wry smile and a lack of specifics. A follow-up inquiry was unsuccessful. “He helps a lot behind the scenes,” Bregman said, holding his expression.
The thing about all of this, though, is that there was no way whatsoever that the Astros’ scheme was ever going to remain a secret, right? Players change teams all the times via trades and free agency. Coaches of successful teams are hired by other teams to manage or coach. Players are adversaries on the field but are often friends off the field. When hatching the center field camera scheme — a scheme that had to have involved multiple people in various baseball operations and non-baseball operations parts of the organization and was certainly known by everyone in the dugout — it had to have been known, with 100% certainty, that people outside the organization would know, sooner or later.
So why still do it? Probably because everyone knowing was not considered a risk. It was not considered a risk because other teams are doing it and other things along these lines too. Just as one team doesn’t usually go after an opposing pitcher for using pine tar because their own pitchers are also using it, one team likely doesn’t blow up another for cheating lest their own cheating schemes get blown up.
And that held, for the most part here. Tuesday’s story was not a function of, say, the Nationals or the Yankees or the Rays lodging a complaint over the Astros stealing signs. It was because a couple of reporters — one of whom, Drellich, has been all over the Astros over the past few years — finally got someone to talk about it on the record.
None of which absolves the Astros, of course. Cheating is cheating and Major League Baseball has made it clear that using electronic or technological means to steal signs — as opposed to players looking in from second base to figure it out — is against the rules. It does, however, implicate many other teams. Maybe all of them.
Remember that if and when Major League Baseball decides that this is just an Astros problem. Because if they’re doing that, they’re solving a P.R. problem, not a cheating problem.