It became the unfortunate story of the off-season. The former World Series champion Houston Astros stole the headlines in the worst way possible, and while we are still waiting for Astros' players to address the problem they helped create, Pittsburgh Pirates' players are starting to weigh in.
Yesterday the team hosted their annual Pirates Fest at PNC Park. Every year it gives fans an opportunity to meet and hear from players and coaches. This year, some of those discussions involved the Astros' sign stealing scandal, and Pirates' players had some interesting things to say.
In terms of the severity, Josh Bell felt that sign stealing is worse than steroids, "I think that cheating with knowing what's coming in half the games of the year is worse."
Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran have interesting perspectives because both of them were in the Astros' organization in 2017, but neither benefited directly from sign-stealing. Musgrove spent the majority of his time in the bullpen and Moran's only at-bats that year were on the road. Musgrove was asked how he felt knowing that his team was cheating:
"I was in my first year, I was a rookie. I was kind of just keeping my mouth shut and keeping to myself, trying to learn from the guys I was around."
Jacob Stallings had the best quote on the topic. He was explaining how he would hear opposing teams and their broadcasts making fun of the Pirates for their complex signs when no on was on base, "now everyone kind of knows why" Stallings said.
Stallings also expressed skepticism over whether or not the penalties levied against the Astros' organization would be enough to deter teams from doing it again in the future. His reasoning is in the same vein as something that Gary Morgan brought up last week. Gary's point was that, while winning is fun for fans, the sting that comes with the realization that those wins (even if they are World Series wins) came by way of cheating more than counteracts it. Stallings isn't sure MLB GMs, coaches, and players will feel the same. There's a lot of money on the line for them:
"They’re still World Series champions. I don’t have all the specifics that the Commissioner’s Office has. But if you win a World Series, was it worth it in the end?"
Perhaps this was a subtle way for Stallings to suggest that the Astros' championship should be vacated. Maybe he was just pointing out that the penalty issued by the commissioner for cheating didn't equal the benefits received and any attempt to do so would be futile. Either way, he seems to be echoing a sentiment from around the league, particularly among those who played the Astros regularly, that punishment wasn't enough.
Finally, we got to hear a rather candid take from our former skipper, Clint Hurdle. Clint said that this isn't much of a surprise as teams were warned about this and they knew that this was going on, they were just unable to catch anyone doing it. Here's what Clint had to say:
"Our game...is the greatest game ever, but we continually find ways to bruise it...we need to stop bruising it. There's no right way to do wrong."
He expressed that there were good men who did this, they just made bad choices, and urged others to find the grace to forgive them. "We have freedom of choice, but we don't have the freedom to decide the consequences of our choices." Spoken like only Clint can.
It is no doubt a stain on the game that will last for quite some time, but hopefully it will lead to a fairer game in 2020 and beyond.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife