As Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Houston Astros alleged sign-stealing scheme nears its third week, players from around the league are becoming more outspoken about their suspicions and how they feel the team should be punished if found guilty.
That includes a pair of former Houston draft picks who have gone on to MLB success while playing for Astros’ rivals in the American League West.
Delino Deshields Jr., who was selected eighth overall by Houston in 2010 and now plays for the Texas Rangers, along with Ramon Laureano, an outfielder for the Oakland Athletics who was drafted by Houston in the 16th round in 2014, both told The Los Angeles Times they suspected Houston was going above and beyond accepted tactics to steal signs. Now both would like to see the league send a strong message by “significantly” punishing the Astros.
Suspend everyone involved
Laureano was particularly outspoken about how the league should handle the situation.
“They should suspend everyone who knew about it and was involved,” Laureano said. “We were in the same division as them and suspected it. It’s not fair for the guys affected by it, especially the opposing pitcher. Stealing signs is part of the game when you’re on second base and things like that, but you can’t take it to another level like they did. Because of them, teams started to have multiple signs with nobody on base. I’d never seen that before. You started to see mound visits with nobody on base. The whole thing was crazy.”
“They really need to do something that is going to scare the … out of everybody in baseball,” DeShields Jr. said. “It can’t be slap on the wrist. They have to scare the … out of everybody. If not, then everybody’s going to try it to win a World Series.
“I don’t think they can strip their title and act like that year just didn’t happen, but the league needs to penalize them heavily if the facts are the facts. Everyone is responsible for it from the ownership to the manager. I like [Astros manager] A.J. [Hinch] personally, but if he was allowing this stuff to happen he should get a significant suspension.”
One thing we have consistently heard about in connection to these allegations is the line many opponents feel Houston has crossed. It’s generally accepted that if a baserunner can steal and relay signs successfully, that’s part of the gamesmanship that goes into baseball. The pitcher and catcher might not like it, but it’s on them to fix it.
If a team is using cameras and a more elaborate scheme like the one Houston is accused of, it crosses that line and unfairly puts the pitcher in a vulnerable position. That’s why many feel the punishment needs to impact the Astros from top to bottom.
On Wednesday, we learned the New York Yankees complained about suspicious blinking lights at Minute Maid Park during the ALCS that they felt could be connected to a sign-stealing scheme. That’s just another layer for a story that seems to add new layers every day.
Why DeShields suspected Houston was cheating
Looking back now, the whole picture has become clear for those who suspected Houston was scheming.
For DeShields, the suspicions began with sudden improvements to the Astros’ approach at the plate.
“I would talk about it all the time with my teammates, whether it was on a plane or in the clubhouse after a game,” DeShields Jr. said. “We’d wonder how certain things happened. One day they would look really bad, and the next they’re putting everything in play. I was in that organization and I’m close with a lot of those guys and I’d ask them, ‘What’s different about you guys? How do you go from being the worst team in baseball as far as strikeouts go to being the best team as far as not striking out?’
“They would just say they stick to their approach and have a selective, aggressive mind-set. They were teaching us that when we were coming up so it made sense, but looking back maybe there was more to it than that. I always thought they were really good at picking up signs, but what gets lost is they were also really good at not letting other teams pick up their signs.”
“We could never figure it out. They were really good at the sign stuff on both sides. The paranoia when teams played them was extreme. You knew when you went into Houston you had to really be prepared.”
The league has not yet determined whether Houston violated its sign-stealing policy. But the more we hear from players who have been on the inside and outside of the Astros organization, the more troubling the case appears to be.
There’s no clear timetable for when MLB is expected to reach a decision. The longer it goes though could be an indication of just how wide-ranging the evidence is.
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