The Houston Astros are defending World Champions, 2018 American League West Champions, and confirmed big ‘ole stinky cheaters.
According to a report from Metro USA, the Astros were caught red-handed with an employee with a video camera near the Boston Red Sox dugout in Game 1 of the ALDS. The alleged employee didn’t have a media credential and was “texting frequently” per the report from Metro.
Major League Baseball themselves confirmed the incident via email with a simple statement: “We are aware of the matter and it will be handled internally.”
Now that I’m done trying my damnest to summarize the Metro post and not just plagiarize it, let’s get down to what this means about the Indians.
For one, Metro confirmed that security knew about the possibility of this happening because the same thing happened against the Indians in the ALDS, though it’s not confirmed who exactly tipped Major League Baseball off and/or when exactly the cheating occurred.
The cheating alone is bad, but the fact that it comes from the Astros — the same team that mocked Trevor Bauer for hinting that the Astros pitchers’ sudden ramp up in RPM might not be completely legit and the same team that harbors the most holier-than-thou player in baseball in Justin Verlander — were caught employing New England Patriots-esque cheating tactics is just... *chef’s kiss*.
Justin Verlander, the same guy that constantly claimed the Indians were stealing his signs when they were crushing him for a decade, likely got a real advantage from actual, factual video recorded cheating. Beautiful.
Now, do I think the Indians could have beaten the Astros without this cheating? Probably not. There’s only so much a guy with a video camera can do to help you — by my best estimate, having your entire lineup go cold for a week is not a recipe for winning, no matter how downright scummy your opponent is. But the Indians clearly knew it was happening, and they weren’t happy about it, which also brings me to my next point:
We owe the Indians an apology.
Not for the way they played, of course, but they were trying their hardest to hint that something didn’t smell right with the Astros following the sweep and it got spun in the entirely wrong direction. It started with The Athletic running a piece based on comments from Mike Clevinger, effectively saying that the Indians felt they were let down by their own coaching and analytics department in the series. I also turned into a post on Let’s Go Tribe under the same false pretenses.
Shortly after the series on his A to Z podcast, Sports Time Ohio broadcaster Andre Knott was able to shed light on what Clevinger and others actually meant with with their post-game comments:
...[the Astros] push the envelope like no one else. Some would say cheating. They’ve got some Bill Belichick to them, to how they do things. That’s totally my opinion. I’ve just seen things and been around things that I just don’t see done at other ballparks. It’s very reminiscent of going to Minute Maid Park, it’s like going to Gillette ... you have that feeling that you’re always being watched, you’re always being paid attention to.
Talking specifically about quotes from Clevinger:
I think a lot of players’ quotes post the last game were really saying things like that and most reporters weren’t privy enough to know what they were really saying and they went and ran and wrote stuff that they probably didn’t realize they were writing.
This was a good week before the confirmed report came out and it lines up pretty damn close with what the Indians were saying after the game, if you put it in the right context. It wasn’t that they felt they weren’t prepared enough, it’s that the Astros were over-prepared by scraping data they shouldn’t have had access to.
I still stand by saying the Indians were massively outplayed that series, regardless of cheating — again, I don’t think any amount of cheating or not cheating could have saved them. I’m also beyond caring about pine tar or other substances to improve spin rates or even stealing signs over the course of a game. Those things happen, and they happen on the field. But to steal information with some dude sitting in the stands with a video camera; that goes just a little bit beyond, and it makes me question what else they’re willing to do.
Nothing will happen to the Astros in these playoffs — surely MLB doesn’t want to ruin the chances of another great team rising to a dynasty. But at the very least, this report, and any more that come after it, can serve as a bit of justice for players like Bauer and Clevinger who tried to keep them honest.
The Astros are a really good team, but it’s the cheating that makes them special.