GOODYEAR, Ariz. – After throwing a bullpen session on Friday afternoon, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer probably knew he was going to be asked about the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal when he stood in front of his locker.
Bauer was outspoken, as always, on Twitter after the story surfaced in November and Major League Baseball began its investigation. He publicly feuded with the Astros in 2018 when he said Astros pitchers were using foreign substances to enhance the spin on their pitches.
When Bauer was asked why it was important for him to be outspoken against the Astros, he had an 8-minute, 10-second response.
“If you come at me, I feel like I have every right to defend myself,” Bauer said. “Now they’ve chosen to make it about me and attack my character. I’m not going to let them forget the fact that they are hypocrites, they are cheaters, they’ve stolen from a lot of other people and the game itself was completely unfair.
“They’ve negatively affected the fans, they’ve negatively affected players, they’ve negatively affected kids and the future of baseball – which is what I’m most upset about. Now all the things they do really well as an organization are going to get completely washed away and forgotten about so the next generation of kids gets set back five or 10 years on the analytics, training and health and all the different stuff they do really well.”
MLB’s investigation found that the Astros used a real-time center-field camera to electronically transmit signs from the catcher. They banged on a trash can to signal whether a pitch was a fastball or off-speed to the hitter. Former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were each suspended for one season. Alex Cora, the team’s former bench coach, and Carlos Beltran, the only player named in MLB’s report, were fired from the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, respectively.
“They mocked everything about everyone who said they were doing something under the table or illegal or whatever,” Bauer said. “Cheating is one thing. It’s not OK. But at least if you cheat and you come out and you get caught and you’re like, ‘Look, I did this, and it wasn’t right. This is why I did it. I’m not going to do it again. I learned my lesson.’ Whatever, you can be contrite about it, speak honestly about it, but even now, we don’t even have a freakin’ apology that means anything from any of them.
“At least the vast majority of people who got caught doing steroids weren’t attacking the character of other people in the league, blasting them for saying they might be taking steroids when they knew damn well they were. It’s just so … it’s filthy, it’s hypocritical. It’s underhanded. I don’t know.”
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The Astros held a press conference on Thursday at their spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. Owner Jim Crane said that their sign-stealing scheme “didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series, and we’ll leave it at that.”
That didn’t sit well with Bauer.
“You’ve been lying the entire (expletive) time,” Bauer said. “Now you’re lying about your apology. ‘We don’t think it affected the game.’ You’re either lying or you’re a (expletive) idiot. And (you) don’t become a billionaire owner of a team by being a (expletive) idiot. So, you’re lying.
“What did you expect from them? The entire time they had been super dismissive and it’s very obvious that they don’t think it affected the game. They feel like they were in the right. You can tell a fake apology when you have to give an apology, but you don’t want to apologize because you don’t think you were wrong. You can tell what it is when you see it. That was that. They didn’t give a (expletive).
“Of the people I saw speak, not a single one of them actually meant what they were saying. Yeah, you have to say the words, but, honestly, in that situation, I would rather them just come out and say, ‘Yeah, we did it. We’re not sorry about it. Yeah, we cheated. We’ll take the penalty and come beat us.’ At least it would be honest. Just tell us how you actually feel. Don’t lie.”
Bauer says the Astros’ cheating negatively affected other players and teams.
“Whit Merrifield was not an All-Star because José Altuve was,” he said. “Aaron Judge did not win the MVP because José Altuve did and things like this. So now, Whit Merrifield, when he goes to sign his long-term extension, doesn’t have All-Star next to his name. All-Star probably makes him a lot more valuable in arbitration, which perhaps makes him not sign that deal or maybe sign the deal for that many more million dollars.
“Aaron Judge doesn’t have MVP next to his name. What is he worth in his first year of arbitration? That’s millions of dollars. The trajectory of the career, too. It’s not the first time where it’s a million or two, but then the next year it’s two or three and the next year after that, it’s four or five.”
When the New York Yankees said they heard whistling during the American League Championship Series last season against the Astros as a possible sign-stealing scheme, Hinch called it “ridiculous.”
“If you’re going to sit there as A.J. Hinch and tell me that I should probably sweep my porch and my accusations are unfounded,” Bauer said, “and you’re going to laugh in the face of the media about the Yankees saying that he may be doing something in the postseason and saying, ‘oh if I knew it was going to get in their head, then we probably would have done something.’ Like, (expletive) you! How are you going to say that when you know damn well that you’re doing what they’re saying? I don’t know.
“I mean, I don’t know anything about the whole (Roberto) Osuna situation, right? But if you’re Justin Verlander and you decide to take a stance against domestic violence and speak out 100% against it and then you flip-flop your opinion when someone is now on your team and it’s affecting you, that’s not having character. That’s not taking a moral stand, that’s just pandering to the public. It’s the same thing as cheating.”
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Bauer says he has no problem when signs are stolen from second base or coaches read a catcher’s signs, but the Astros crossed a line.
“I’m probably going to get myself in trouble for saying all of this different stuff, but it’s how I feel,” he said. “I think it’s important to stand up and say something because I’m not afraid of the backlash. I’ve been out there on my own my entire life, basically. I had very few friends growing up, I really didn’t have a peer group, I’ve been attacked by coaches along the way and fellow teammates for training the way I did. I’m used to this.
“A lot of other players don’t have the standing in the league, don’t have that sense about themselves or just don’t want to rock the boat or whatever, but we all feel this way. We’re all pissed. If no one ever comes out and says anything then nothing gets done.”