Spring training games are less than a week away, and baseball is still buzzing about the Houston Astros using an illegal center-field camera to steal opponents’ signs during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The punishments to the Astros organization, former manager AJ Hinch, and former general manager Jeff Luhnow were handed down last month, but the spotlight is back on the scandal because of aggrieved players just this week meeting with the media at spring training in Florida and Arizona.
Some of the loudest comments were made by Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger, whose team lost to Houston in the 2017 World Series. He said that not only were the Dodgers robbed of a fair World Series, but that Jose Altuve stole the American League MVP award from Aaron Judge.
Much of the outrage was directed at the unemotional and insincere-sounding apologies from Astros players as well as the comments made by owner Jim Crane at a press conference. I feel bad for Crane, because he’s had to navigate this scandal as the head of the organization even though I think he had no knowledge of what was going on in the clubhouse. I could be wrong, but if Crane wasn’t in the dugout during games, there’s no reason to believe that anyone kept him up to speed on his team stealing signs illegally.
Just look at what the team’s hitting coach Dave Hudgens had to say about the scandal.
When I first heard about it, it was during a game. The season had been going for a little bit. I don’t remember exact dates or anything, I just remember sitting in the dugout and heard some bangs going on. After it went on for a little while, I asked a player sitting next to me – I can’t remember who it was – ‘What’s the banging going on back there?’ I didn’t know what it was. And he said, ‘Oh, they’re letting him know a breaking ball’s coming,’ or whatever. I said, ‘Wow. OK.’ And so I wish at that point I would’ve gone to A.J. and said, ‘Maybe this isn’t the right thing to do. What do you think?’ But we didn’t. So now we’re dealing with it.
Again, he could be lying, but it sounds like Hudgens, who is in the clubhouse and dugout with the players every day, barely knew what was going on. Why wouldn’t the hitting coach want to know more about what his players were doing to decide which pitches to swing at? Isn’t he burying his head in the sand just to avoid blame? Even if Hudgens knows more than he is letting on, it still leads me to believe that Crane didn’t know much at all.