Yankees Address Astros’ Sign-Stealing Scandal As Pitchers and Catchers Report to Spring Training
TAMPA, Fla. – Pitchers and catchers reported to the Yankees Spring Training facility on Wednesday and it didn’t take long before the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal was brought up in the clubhouse.
In his first press conference of the spring, skipper Aaron Boone spelled out how he and his team have felt this offseason in response to Major League Baseball's thorough investigation on Houston's deceptive scheme. He admitted it's been a challenge to individually wrestle with his emotions and find some clarity.
"Obviously these last several weeks has been a lot," New York's manager said, slowly answering a slew of questions on the subject as he meticulously thought through how to respond. "We’ve had a lot of time to process all of this and the range of emotions has been huge. Mad, frustrated, disappointed."
Boone is especially connected to this controversy. In each of his first two seasons as skipper, the Yankees have been eliminated in the postseason by Houston and Boston, the two clubs under the microscope for cheating and electronically stealing signs. Not only that, but Boone revealed he considers A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora – the former managers of those two teams – his friends.
That being said, New York's manager wasn't at the helm back in 2017 – the year in which the Astros were proven to have used a covert camera in center field in their home ballpark to relay signs to their dugout, as further detailed within the Commissioner's report.
To backstop Gary Sánchez, learning about Houston’s scheme came as a shock – he believed the Yankees' organization was doing a great job being “very careful” with their signs at the time.
“It’s tough. After you learn everything about the investigation and not just for us, but for anybody that faced them,” Sánchez said through his interpreter. “Then we learned how they were deciphering the signs, which is kind of instantaneous. It doesn’t feel good as a ballplayer when you hear something like that.”
Sánchez explained in retrospect that he had “maybe” heard the Astros’ banging behind their dugout, signaling which pitches were coming to their hitters. Then again, he recalled that he was more focused on doing his job to pinpoint and determine what exactly was going on in the moment.
“It was my first full year in the big leagues,” he said. “I had no idea that people were doing things like that.”
Sánchez started behind the plate in all four games the Bombers played in Houston’s Minute Maid Park during the American League Championship Series in 2017. Although it’s hard to quantify how much of a competitive advantage the Astros gave themselves in the midst of their World Series run that season, the backstop had no trouble recognizing the impact of stealing signs.
“I can tell you as a hitter, if I know something is coming I’m going to have a higher percentage of being more successful,” he said. “That’s plain and simple.”
From the batter’s box to the mound, Yankees’ right-hander Luis Severino also touched upon the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme while chatting with reporters in the clubhouse on Wednesday. Rather than placing blame and focusing on the events that took place 28 months ago, however, Severino is looking ahead.
“For me, it’s already in the past,” Severino said, admitting he was frustrated when he initially learned what the Astros had done. “I have to focus on 2020. We could get mad, we could get anything, but we can’t change the past.”
"I don’t really dwell on the things that I'm not able to control," the Yankees' manager explained. "I look at it now as it’s time to move on and look forward. We have a great team [at Spring Training]. We know the sky is the limit with that team and we have championship aspirations so as we kick things off in earnest tomorrow, the focus is on eliminating distractions and making sure we’re in a position to start laying the foundation to be a champion."
New York went 2-6 against the Astros on the road in 2017, including a three-game set midway through the regular season and four losses in the ALCS that year. In Game 6 in 2017, one win away from advancing to the World Series with their ace on the mound, Severino was handed the loss after surrendering three runs and walking four in just 4.2 innings pitched.
As for 2019, rumors of Houston using clandestine technology under their jerseys have persisted this offseason. Although Major League Baseball has yet to find evidence of such a scheme in their investigation, Boone isn't ruling it out as a possibility.
"That's certainly one of those great unknowns," he said, responding 'no' when asked if he's convinced the Astros didn't use new tactics to cheat this past season. "I’ve spent time, as I’m sure a lot of people have, wondering about all the things that could have potentially been going on and we’ll never know for sure."
When asked about Jose Altuve's walk-off home run off Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 of the ALCS last October, Sánchez seemed torn as to whether or not the Astros' second baseman knew what was coming.
“He stayed back pretty well on that pitch,” Sánchez explained through his interpreter. “But they asked him what were you looking for in that at-bat and he said he was looking off speed.”
When it comes to Altuve’s celebration – grabbing his jersey tight to prevent his teammates from ripping it open as he crossed home plate – Sánchez supplied such much needed levity to the conversation.
“I can tell you that if I hit a homer and I get my team to the world series, they can rip off my pants,” he joked. ”They can rip everything off.”
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