DAN BICKLEY

Houston Astros should be vacated of 2017 World Series, 2 ALCS banners

Jan 16, 2020, 5:36 PM | Updated: 5:40 pm
Houston Astros' Jose Altuve celebrates walk off against New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman to...
Houston Astros' Jose Altuve celebrates walk off against New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman to win Game 6 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Houston. The Astros won 6-4 to win the series 4-2. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Astros are filthy.

The damage they’ve caused Major League Baseball is reprehensible. Their brazen brand of cheating has created another tsunami of fraudulent statistics, asterisks and public mistrust.

Their crime is even worse than the steroid era. Here’s why:

Performance-enhancing drugs will grow your muscles, speed your recovery and even expand your hat size in some extreme cases. They will fuel self-confidence and swagger. They help generate power and bat speed. They obviously work.

But they pale to the advantage gained by a professional hitter who knows what pitch is coming.

It’s not even close.

That’s why the anger inside the sport is palpable, and why this story is far from finished. On Thursday, rumors surfaced that the Astros were essentially wired for success. Hitters would wear concealed electronics inside their uniforms. They would be buzzed with pitch information by a human decoder working off of an illegal monitor in the team’s tunnel. These claims were strongly reinforced with anecdotal evidence uncovered by internet sleuths.

Two videos strongly suggest Jose Altuve is hiding something under his jersey. A still picture of Josh Reddick during a post-game interview reveals a piece of tape over his pectoral muscle, exactly where you’d expect a wire to be fastened on a snitch in The Sopranos.

And then there was the awkward question from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, shortly after Altuve hit a series-clinching home run in the 2019 American League Championship Series:

Rosenthal:  “You asked your teammates not to tear your shirt. Why?

Altuve:  “What’s that?”

Rosenthal:  “You asked your teammates not to tear your shirt. Why was that?”

Altuve (laughing):  “I don’t know. I’m too shy. Last time they did that I got in trouble with my wife.”

This is a painful, blatant lie and everyone knows it. The question from Rosenthal came with advanced suspicions, the kind of thing that happens when a reporter from the national network gets a tip from the other team at some point during a high-profile series, and that tip seems to come to fruition before his very eyes.

We already know the Astros were so seduced by their ability to steal signs with modern technology that they banged on garbage cans in the dugout. The reward was worth the risk, even though the commotion inside in the dugout was guaranteed to raise suspicions of everyone on field level.

Commissioner Rob Manfred found the Astros guilty of stealing signs during the 2017 season, when they won the World Series. This came after a warning to all clubs from Manfred’s office before that postseason, and still, the Astros did not cease cheating.

So it only makes sense that they would advance and evolve their scheme and their cheating ways in 2019, after failing to repeat as World Series champions. And based on anecdotal evidence, their refined scheme included buzzers, eliminating the need for noisier methods.

The Astros have cheated the Dodgers and the Yankees out of potential championships. They’ve affected the careers of every player they’ve unfairly conquered. They cheated a sport that still hasn’t reconciled Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens for the Hall of Fame. They affirmed that the clubhouse culture in baseball is one of the most toxic forces on the planet.

Their World Series title in 2017 needs to be vacated. Same with their two recent ALCS banners. Even if the gesture accomplishes nothing more than deterring the next team from cheating the sport that pays them a fortune.

Alas, my faith in Manfred and Major League Baseball seems to have been premature and misplaced. MLB has no intention of discovering any more dirt or invalidating the record book even further. MLB released a statement on Thursday claiming it “explored wearable devices during the investigation but found no evidence to substantiate it.”

Right.

At some point, Manfred will have to pull his head out of this quicksand to catch his breath. When it happens, can someone please alert him to check the internet?

Plenty buzzing there.

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Houston Astros should be vacated of 2017 World Series, 2 ALCS banners