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Houston Astros' Jeff Luhnow, AJ Hinch suspended 1 year; Alex Cora (Red Sox) and Carlos Beltran (Mets) Out

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Just now, sblfilms said:

One of the funny things in that article was about how people knew to include the info they needed Lunhow to see in the first page of an email because he was known not to read the whole thing. That seems to be a common practice of big time business executives.

Lol I read maybe a sentence of an email before deciding whether I need to commit

myself to reading the rest.  A really busy day, I will just look at the title and make that decision. 

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You’re an accessory to a robbery, and now you’re in the backseat of the getaway car. You never intended to be part of a criminal act. But the doors are locked, the driver is speeding away, and you’re unable to escape.
 

One member of the 2017 World Series champion Astros uses that analogy to explain the feeling in the clubhouse as the team deployed a real-time sign-stealing scheme that season.

 

Carlos Beltrán, a highly respected veteran with a Hall-of-Fame resume, had helped create the system, and as the senior member of the team, his voice functionally prevailed over all others. Clubhouse dynamics are a powerful force, conditioning players to keep quiet and respect veterans, and ultimately played a role in the Astros’ snowballing scandal.

 

Few players voiced any objections at the time to Beltrán or anyone else in authority, and the Astros continued with a different form of illicit sign stealing the following season, after Beltrán had retired. Major League Baseball had failed to take enough action to prevent such activity in the seasons leading up to 2017.

 

In that context, Beltrán, along with former bench coach Alex Cora, became a driving force behind the trash-can banging system that marked a culmination of the Astros’ use of electronics to steal signs illegally.

And some Astros players, even manager A.J. Hinch, felt powerless to stop him.

Hinch, in his recent interview with MLB Network, did not make excuses for his failure to prevent the Astros’ illegal practices, which led to his suspension for the 2020 season and subsequent firing. Beltrán’s sway over the clubhouse, however, helps explain the inaction of Hinch and his other coaches and players, even as some who were there say they felt conflicted about the team’s misconduct. The reluctance of anyone in uniform to challenge Beltrán spoke to the power of the accomplished veteran in the sport’s political pecking order.

 

The Astros during home games would use a video monitor positioned near the dugout to decode signs from a center-field camera, then bang on a trash can to alert the hitter to which pitch was coming. They used a different system on the road, decoding signs during games from feeds to the video replay room, then relaying the sequences from the replay room to the dugout to a runner at second base to the hitter.

 

“I was in my first year, man,” former Astros pitcher Joe Musgrove, now with the Pirates, said in a Jan. 24 interview on MLB Network. “Along with (Alex) Bregman and a lot of those guys, and in your first year in the big leagues you’re around guys like Beltrán and (Brian) McCann, some big names. And I’m not going to be the pitcher to walk up and tell ‘em to knock it off.”

 

Both McCann and Beltrán played for the Yankees during the 2014, ’15 and ’16 seasons before joining the Astros in ’17. But it was Beltrán who, according to multiple sources, told the Astros that their sign-stealing methods were “behind the times.”

During the season, small groups of Astros discussed their misgivings. McCann at one point approached Beltrán and asked him to stop, two members of the 2017 team said.

“He disregarded it and steamrolled everybody,” one of the team members said. “Where do you go if you’re a young, impressionable player with the Astros and this guy says, ‘We’re doing this’? What do you do?”

 

Beltrán did not respond to a request for comment. Half a dozen members of the 2017 team interviewed by The Athletic for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity.

 

Recently, commissioner Rob Manfred’s designation of the Astros’ cheating system as player-driven came into question.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week on a letter MLB sent Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow as part of its disciplinary process. In the letter, the league described efforts of lower-level Astros front office members, including director of advance information Tom Koch-Weser and director of team operations Derek Vigoa, in one segment of the sign-stealing process. Vigoa had developed an algorithm called “Codebreaker” in Excel that helped decode signs more quickly.

 

The introduction of Codebreaker was ultimately part of an attempt by the Astros to steal signs using their video replay room — something other teams were known to have been doing at the time, in various forms. During the 2017 season, the video replay room systems had been largely unchecked until the commissioner punished two teams, the Red Sox and Yankees, that September.

 

(As The Athletic previously reported, the Yankees used the video replay room to decode signs as early as 2015, Beltrán’s second season with the club. At the time, MLB’s rules for electronic sign stealing were broader and largely unenforced. Following the 2017 season, and again after 2018, MLB put more detailed and stricter measures in place to try to prevent real-time electronic sign-stealing.)

 

The Astros’ development of an algorithm to decode signs from video was legal as an advance scouting tool, and the use of that algorithm would have remained legal if it had not been deployed live during games — a practice the Astros eventually adopted. However, it was their other sign-stealing effort, involving the trash-can banging to signal pitches in real time, which Beltrán and Cora helped direct, that MLB found most egregious.

 

“What happened was Cora and Beltrán decided that this video room stuff Koch-Weser was doing (with Codebreaker) was just not working, inefficient, too slow,” a person with direct knowledge of the investigation said. “They just had some lower-level guy put up this monitor and did it themselves.”

 

“But it was two different things,” that person continued. “The real kind of crime here was they didn’t stop (in September) and the banging on the trash can was over the top compared to what happened before.”

The front-office clearly had a role in developing the Astros’ rule-breaking methods, and the environment in which those flourished. But the trash-can banging — the sign-stealing main event — originated with uniformed personnel.

 

Members of the 2017 Astros use various terms to describe Beltrán — El Jefe, the Godfather, the king, the alpha male in the building. Beltrán was 40 that season, capping off a 20-year career, seeking to add to his Hall of Fame resumé. No other person in the Astros’ clubhouse carried the same stature, including McCann, who was 33 that season and a less accomplished player.

In the culture of a major-league clubhouse, players adhere ritualistically to longtime codes. To at least some, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers broke one of those codes — what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse — when he confirmed the Astros’ trash-can system to The Athletic. Deference to accomplished veterans is another enduring clubhouse dynamic.

Astros second baseman José Altuve was not yet an MVP. Future Hall of Fame pitcher Justin Verlander did not join the team until Aug. 31. Hinch, who had averaged 85 wins in his first two years with the Astros after a failed stint with the Diamondbacks, was not yet a World Series-winning manager.

Manfred’s report states that Hinch attempted to signal his disapproval of the Astros’ scheme by twice physically damaging a monitor that team members used to decode signs from the center-field feed, necessitating its replacement. But Hinch evidently feared he would lose credibility in his clubhouse by taking further steps.

 

“It’s complicated when you’re talking about a team and all the inner workings of a team,” Hinch told MLB Network, without referring specifically to Beltrán and Cora — the latter of whom remains under investigation by MLB for his roles both with the 2017 Astros and ’18 Red Sox. “But I just feel like I could have done more, looking back, especially the leader I feel like I am in 2019 versus where I was in 2017.

 

“I’m much more confident today than I was in 2017. Where I fell short is that I didn’t believe that at the time. Otherwise, I probably would have handled it differently. And I should have.”

Even for the Astros’ players, things are clearer in hindsight.

Nearly three years after the fact, some say they were uncomfortable with the trash-can banging system. Some members of the 2017 team, however, do not recall players dissenting at the time.

“No one ever said anything about how they didn’t agree with the system,” one team member said. “They loved hitting with the system.”

 

The players also continued their rule-breaking in 2018, after Beltrán had retired and Cora had left to become manager of the Red Sox. While The Athletic and MLB’s investigation found no evidence of the Astros using the trash-can banging system in ’18, Manfred’s report said, “the team’ replay review room staff continued, at least for part of the 2018 season, to decode signs using the live center field camera feed, and to transmit the signs to the dugout through in-person communication.”

 

The belief among many Astros that opponents also were skirting rules to gain a competitive advantage contributed to the players’ mixed feelings; one member of the 2017 team referred to electronic sign stealing during that time as an “epidemic.”

“Did we know for sure? No, but there was so much BS in the air about what to believe other teams were doing and not doing,” another team member said. “And so it got really muddled.”

 

Beltrán retired after the 2017 season, a World Series champion for the first time. Less than two months later, he returned to one of his former teams, the Yankees, as a special advisor to general manager Brian Cashman.

 

By that point, paranoia about illegal sign stealing had reached a fever pitch around the league. A good portion of that paranoia was directed at the Astros, and the Yankees already held suspicions about their seven-game loss to Houston in the 2017 American League Championship Series. Manfred’s report later made clear that the Astros used both the video replay room and the monitor next to the dugout to decode signs during the 2017 postseason.

 

One Yankees official said whenever he would ask what the Astros “were doing down there,” Beltrán would chuckle and say, “Nothing no one else is doing.” Two other former Yankees with the Astros, McCann and Joe Espada, who took over for Cora as bench coach in ’18, essentially would say the same in casual conversations with their former club. But Beltrán, according to one team source, divulged particulars of the Astros’ scheme to certain low-level Yankees officials, providing confirmation the team was justified in ramping up its efforts to combat sign stealing.

 

True to his reputation as a savvy observer of the game, Beltrán also astonished the Yankees with his ability to determine through video — legally — which of their prospects were tipping pitches. While his information proved useful, his overall impact was minimal, some with the team say.

 

Cora, on the other hand, had risen to stardom as the Red Sox manager, winning the World Series in 2018, his first season. In 2019, he and Beltrán were on opposite sides of the game’s biggest rivalry. And that June, without prompting, Cora made Beltrán’s role a surprising topic of discussion in a news conference after the Red Sox gave up 29 runs in two losses to the Yankees in the London Series.

 

“I was joking with someone that (the Yankees’) biggest free-agent acquisition was Carlos Beltrán,” Cora said, with a big wink. “I know how it works, you know? He’s helping a lot. They’re paying attention to details and we have to clean our details.”

“It was eye-opening the last few days, from top to bottom,” Cora continued. “And I’m not saying devices and all that stuff, it’s just stuff that the game will dictate and will scream at people and is right there.


Throughout the evening, I was looking and I saw it, you know? And right now, they’re a lot better than us, so we need to get better.”

Even at the time — months before anyone learned of Cora’s and Beltrán’s role in rule-breaking with the 2017 Astros — the Yankees’ coaches found Cora’s comments curious. Beltrán was on the trip, but the coaches rarely saw him otherwise, and he had not been part of their preparation for the series. One player recalled clubhouse chatter in London about Beltrán’s relationship with Cora, and — in another example of the widespread paranoia throughout the industry — questions about whether Beltrán could be trusted with the Yankees’ secrets.
 

The Yankees again lost to the Astros in the ALCS, this time in six games. For Beltrán, the sting of José Altuve’s walk-off homer off Aroldis Chapman lasted only so long. On Nov. 1, he was named the new manager of another of his former teams, the Mets.

On Nov. 12, The Athletic reported that the Astros had stolen signs illegally in 2017,following with a story the next day identifying Beltrán and Cora as playing key roles in the system. Beltrán, in statements to The Athletic and New York Post, said he was not aware of the camera in center field, and said the Astros only stole signs legally.

Manfred announced the Astros’ punishment on Jan. 13, prompting the dismissals of Hinch and Luhnow. No players were suspended, but Manfred’s report confirmed Beltrán’s involvement in the Astros’ scheme.

The Red Sox fired Cora the next day.

The Mets parted ways with Beltrán two days after that.

 

“Over my 20 years in the game, I’ve always taken pride in being a leader and doing things the right way, and in this situation, I failed,” Beltrán said in a statement he released to media outlets. “As a veteran player on the team, I should’ve recognized the severity of the issue and truly regret the actions that were taken.

“I am a man of faith and integrity and what took place did not demonstrate those characteristics that are so very important to me and my family. I’m very sorry.”

Nearly a month has passed. Beltrán has not commented since.

 

As the Astros begin spring training this week, they will face numerous questions about their conduct in 2017 and ’18. Baseball is considering a series of changes to further clamp down on illegal sign stealing. Increased scrutiny and attention may prevent a system like the Astros’ from ever sprouting again, but the enduring lesson is that, if unchecked, teams will always seek an edge. And clubhouse dynamics generally do not prepare players to say, “enough.”


From the Athletic.

 

Beltran is having the bus repeatedly rolled over him by the Astros now.

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Sucks that it has to be a Latino that started all this, but boy is that dude muy sucio.

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Respect to Correa for not letting the Astros/MLB get away with their assassination of Beltrán. Literally the only video clip I’ve seen from today that shows any level of genuine ownership of what they as individuals did. 
 

It is hilarious that nobody even said the word “cheated” though. 

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Yeah Correa owned it for the most part. Good for him. Altuve, Reddick and Bregman on the other hand....:badass:

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Bregman at the podium was the grown up version of when you were a kid and your mom made you go apologize for something you don’t think you should have to apologize for.

 

This whole circus is why you just lean into being the villain.
 

“Yeah, we cheated, how does my ring look?” and walk off.

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26 minutes ago, sblfilms said:

Bregman at the podium was the grown up version of when you were a kid and your mom made you go apologize for something you don’t think you should have to apologize for.

 

This whole circus is why you just lean into being the villain.
 

“Yeah, we cheated, how does my ring look?” and walk off.

 

Yeah my hate towards the Astros is now mostly directed towards Bergman (intentional misspelling). 

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1 hour ago, sblfilms said:

Bregman at the podium was the grown up version of when you were a kid and your mom made you go apologize for something you don’t think you should have to apologize for.

 

This whole circus is why you just lean into being the villain.
 

“Yeah, we cheated, how does my ring look?” and walk off.

Exactly. Just own it at this point. “Everyone cheats for an edge. If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. Unfortunately we got caught while others haven’t. Not everyone can be pure like the Yankees and never cheat. Without cheating, we would have lost to the Yankees twice and been chumps. No one likes a chump. We did it to be champs and we are. Ain’t no one taking that away from usssssss!” 

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10 hours ago, rc0101 said:

 

 

That was stolen from the Bauer one a bit, but still good.

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14 hours ago, johnny said:


This was a fun read, but the absolute least surprising thing in the article is that TB had very few friends growing up. He strikes me as the “abrasive to everybody to protect himself from the harm of relational vulnerability” type :p 

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Players will get in more trouble for retaliation against the cheaters than any of the cheaters will get for cheating.

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5 minutes ago, johnny said:

it’s amazing how they keep making things worse 


Non-sense, my love for Correa keeps growing. Be the bad guys! I just bought my Monday/Tuesday night ticket plan for the season, plus the series against the Yankees. Much excite. 
 

And he also said what I’ve always assumed and then was backed up by analysis of the video, Jose Altuve didn’t like that trash can banging and told them to not do it during his ABs. Guy doesn’t need any help being amazing <3

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9 minutes ago, johnny said:

They’re all cheaters 

 

No doubt. And they got away with it. And they aren’t sorry.

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29 minutes ago, sblfilms said:

 

No doubt. And they got away with it. And they aren’t sorry.

Then they need to stop lying

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3 minutes ago, johnny said:

Then they need to stop lying

Correa isn’t lying about Altuve though. This has been verified by video from the games.

 

Here is a quick thread from the guy who went though nearly 60 games

 

 

You can see his log of the scheme at http://signstealingscandal.com/?mod=article_inline

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Seems sketch. Looks like a cheater to me. Is altuve going to show us his tattoo that Correa says he has ? 

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