It has now been weeks since the breaking news of sign stealing in baseball. As the investigation drags on, players, coaches, MLB executives and even celebrities have all weighed in. Opinions are varied but one constant remains. What will be the Astros’ sign-stealing backlash? Here is a look at this from three different angles.
With the 2017 World Series win, the Astros achieved added millions to the worth of the franchise. It brought relevance back to the city of Houston and really dug the team out of the American League depths. The 2019 team worth is listed as $1.8 billion. It is safe to say that owner Jim Crane will see a drop in revenue this season. Loyal, die-hard fans will still travel to Minute Maid Park to watch their team play but regular baseball fans will avoid trips and special reasons to attend. Attendance will be down across the board, at least through the All-Star break. This financial downturn will only be the beginning of the sign-stealing backlash.
The team has already been booed at every Spring Training game this season and there is no reason to believe that this will stop anytime soon. MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred made it clear to the baseball world that backlash in the form of physical retribution will not be tolerated. ESPN’s Karl Ravech quoted the Commissioner as saying, “It’s really dangerous, really a dangerous undertaking, and completely independent of the Astros investigation we will be issuing at the beginning of this week a memorandum on hit by pitches which will increase the ramifications of that type of behavior.”
Jose Altuve is one of the outspoken leaders of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. He was hit with a ball, although it was agreed to be unintentional, on the foot in the February 24 game versus the Detroit Tigers. Can fans expect more of this backlash?
There are certain players in baseball that when they speak, the world listens. Mike Trout and Nick Markakis are two of these players. After staying quiet for some time on the subject, veteran outfielder Trout made his point of view very clear. Rhett Bollinger from MLB.com reported Trout’s comments. “It’s sad for baseball…It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected.” Trout went on to say “I lost some respect for some guys…You don’t know what helped them or whatnot, but if you know what’s coming, it’s going to definitely help them.”
It’s clear from his vantage point that the players outside of the Astros’ franchise don’t agree with the immunity granted by baseball. They also want to see some sort of punishment. Retribution needs to come from MLB before the players take it into their own hands, old-school style.
Markakis suggested as much when he said that the Astros’ players “need a beating.” Anyone that knows Markakis believes he does not mean an actually beating. Players aren’t going to be chasing one another with bats. Buster Olney stated in the Baseball Tonight Podcast the call for a “beating” was symbolic of the way players feel and for the need of reprimands. No matter which veteran player speaks, the voice is consistent. Astros’ sign-stealing backlash will come from players.
Only time will tell if the baseball fan world and MLB players will forgive and forget. The stigma from 2017 will follow this organization for years if not decades to come. The main way to move on from this is to play baseball. Houston needs to show the baseball community they can win without cheating. If they do this, the healing will begin. Until then, Dusty Baker, the Astros Manager, put plainly what needs to happen next. The Astros players need to “put on their big boy pants, and keep playing.”
A link to the full Karl Ravech interview with MLB Commissioner can be found here.