01/21 01:35 CST Beanballs, boos, lost legacy? Astros, MLB brace for fallout
Beanballs, boos, lost legacy? Astros, MLB brace for fallout
By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
AJ Hinch, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltrn lost their jobs in the wake of the
Houston Astros' sign-stealing scam, leaving three teams without managers three
weeks before the start of spring training.
On and off the field, the fallout from one of the biggest scandals in Major
League Baseball history is bound to carry over. A look at what's on deck for
the Astros and MLB:
THE FIERS FACTOR
Whistleblower or whiner? Fact is, when A's pitcher Mike Fiers went public, MLB
was forced to act. If he speaks anonymously, most likely his comments get
whisked into the whispers bin.
Fiers won't have to bat against the Astros, and it'd be too obvious to bunt up
the first base line and try to run him over. Will Houston hoot and holler at
its ex-teammate? We won't need to wait long to see if there's any ill will ---
the Astros' first road game of the season is at Oakland on March 30, the start
of a three-game series. Count on those Athletics fans in the outfield bleachers
at the Coliseum to bang their drums loudly to signal ridicule, not pitches.
Cleveland ace Mike Clevinger hinted at drilling Houston hitters. Others will,
too. There was plenty of tough talk when Michael Jordan tried baseball and more
when juiced-up sluggers teed off in the Steroids Era. "Can you imagine if Nolan
Ryan knew you were relaying his signs? You'd probably be missing a head," Mike
Piazza said last week.
So will the beanballs fly? Not likely. That kind of retaliation just isn't a
big part of the game anymore. Wouldn't be a shock to see some guys hit in the
ribs and backside, perhaps on those wayward curveballs that now serve as
purpose pitches. But Alex Bregman & Co. are bound to hear taunts everywhere
they play outside Minute Maid Park, especially when they swing way over a
slider: "Didn't know that was coming, did ya?"
For a century, it's been the Black Sox --- no one ever calls them the 1919
White Sox. Already, the label of Houston Asterisks is drawing attention. That
could last a long, long time. MLB isn't about to strip the Astros of their
World Series crown and give it to the Dodgers, or take away Jose Altuve's MVP
trophy and hand it to Aaron Judge. But could this affect Altuve's
marketability? And how about the first Hall of Fame test case in a few years
--- Beltrn's resume includes nine All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves, 435
home runs, glittery postseasons and now, also, prominent mention in
Commissioner Rob Manfred's report as a ringleader in the sign-swiping
Fans are usually willing to forgive someone who admits wrongdoing. Denying or
stonewalling doesn't often turn out so well. Witness Pete Rose's path. Barry
Bonds and Roger Clemens are shut out of Cooperstown; Mark McGwire eventually
came clean and was welcomed back into the majors.
A spy in the Wrigley Field scoreboard, cameras at Shea Stadium. We're certain
to hear tales about past cheating schemes. Jack McDowell says Tony La Russa
rigged a system with the White Sox in the 1980s. MLB put everyone on notice
with these penalties and that should have an effect --- for a while, anyway.
Yet in this high-tech world, it'd be foolish to think someone won't try to game
the system sometime.
In the meantime, will MLB change the rules on the sport's most obvious
non-secret, the pine tar and other sticky substances that pitchers use to get a
better grip on the ball? Maybe that's OK, shaky control in cold, damp weather
doesn't benefit anyone. Remember, though, Fiers himself came under scrutiny for
a shiny patch on his glove after pitching a no-hitter for the Astros against
the Dodgers in 2015.
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