The cheating scandal in Houston that was eventually cast onto the Boston Red Sox is still the biggest story of this off-season. As the classic Greek myth puts forward, out of the box flew sign stealing, ex-players and coaches who knew and did nothing, interns involved in cheating outside of the home park, and old accusations resurfacing.
The harder MLB tries to slam the lid and pretend the contagion is contained, the more it looks like they just scratched the surface. Fans are mad and the lack of outrage from more inside the game is deafening.
Years ago, Trevor Bauer accused Gerrit Cole of using a foreign substance to increase his spin rate. He was quickly told to shut up and sit down. Looking back, was it true? I don’t know, but here is a player who at the very least turned a blind eye to a cheating operation so organized that his entire organization from the top down was implicated.
Charlie Morton was just interviewed upon his arrival to Spring Training, and anyone who has talked to Charlie for ten minutes, even on a fan level, knows he’s a kind soul and he is harder on himself than anyone could ever be.
Here’s what he had to say in case you missed it.
"I was aware of the banging. … Being in the dugout you could hear it. I don’t know when it dawned on me, but you knew it was going on. Personally, I regret not doing more to stop it. I don’t know what that would have entailed. I think the actions would have been somewhat extreme to stop it. That’s a hypothetical.”
I want to let Charlie off the hook here if I’m honest, I like the guy and have personally talked to him several times. But regardless of whether he felt compelled to do something or thought he wasn’t of the right stature to speak up hardly matters. The real poop here is that he knew. That immediately leads to Justin Verlander who happens to be one of the most outspoken players in the game about “playing the right way” and not “showboating,” which is ironic considering he was one of the many Astros willing to ignore what was going on in order to win.
How many visitors do you think heard those thuds and knew something was up? Why wouldn’t they talk you ask? My mind immediately goes to they were probably doing something similar if not less audible. Even if you take out the teams that only spent 3 games there in Houston and only consider their division rivals, someone heard something.
The Pirates last season went into Houston and boat raced them. That’s right, our Pirates who sometimes went games without a single 1-2-3-inning, beat the tar out of the Astros at home. Jacob Stallings spoke to this as he explained why the club employed such complex signs. They knew this was going on and defended against it.
What a stain this is on the game. I can play six degrees of Kevin Bacon with this all day, but what frightens me most is that out of all the players we can prove this touched, and all those we can reasonably ensure were suspicious, only one said something. Funny how negative stories started coming out about Mike Fiers from all over right after that.
Making a deal with the players to tell the truth may have dug up some facts faster than an investigation would have, but it also stole the possibility of punishment and reckoning that was well-earned.
See a player who went from 6’1” 195lbs and heads into the following spring at 6’1” 225 and looks chiseled beyond belief and try to not think steroids as your first inclination. It may not be fair. That kid might have just put in the work, but the damage of the steroid scandal and the overt truth that it is very much so not been eradicated from the game is still a shade we all view the game through. This will be no different, but MLB could do more to ensure it doesn’t continue in a new more inconspicuous form. Creating a special department where players could reach out anonymously when they feel things like this are taking place would be a great start.
The baseball community did nothing to encourage someone else to come forward considering the way Fiers was treated, and now every fan will be looking for oddities every time they watch a game. Someone looked like they were waiting on that 3-0 Curve, oooh was he cheating? Pitcher licks his fingers excessively, (Hi Keone) maybe he has tar in his cheek.
Doubt has crept in, and MLB let it happen. Now that Pandora’s box is open, stop trying to shut the lid and instead face the realities of the new world you live in.
Follow Gary on Twitter: @garymo2007