Kenley Jansen doesn’t necessarily feel as though the Dodgers were cheated out of a championship in 2017 when they lost a seven-game World Series to the Houston Astros, who were accused of stealing signs electronically — an illegal practice — during that season and, possibly, postseason.
But Jansen said Tuesday the Astros should face harsh penalties if a Major League Baseball investigation confirms allegations first reported by The Athletic, which detailed a system in which the Astros relayed catchers’ signs in real time at home games using a camera in the outfield and a monitor near their dugout. Signs were then reportedly relayed to hitters by banging on a trash can.
“Teams try everything,” said Jansen, a 10-year veteran who went 5-3 with a career-worst 3.71 ERA and 33 saves in 62 games in 2019. “For this to be done with, it’s time for MLB to [take] control. Put a blurry sign where fans aren’t going to see [the catcher’s fingers].
“If you find out some teams cheated and they have to pay a big fine or someone is banned forever or they lose their job . . . they can’t be in this game.”
Jansen appears to be in lockstep with Commissioner Rob Manfred, who addressed the sign-stealing scandal at the owners meetings in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday.
“Any allegations that relate to a rule violation that could affect the outcome of a game or games is the most serious matter,” Manfred said. “It relates to the integrity of the sport.”
Manfred said he had no reason to believe the sign-stealing scandal extends beyond the Astros “at this point in time.”
If Houston is found to have violated rules — and former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who pitched in Houston from 2015 to 2017, spoke on the record to The Athletic about the scheme — Manfred said he could impose penalties beyond multi-million-dollar fines and the loss of draft picks.
“I’m not going to speculate on what the appropriate discipline is — that depends on how the facts are established at the end of the investigation,” Manfred said. “But my authority under the major league constitution would be broader than those things as well.”
Jansen was dominant in 2017, going 5-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 41 saves in 65 appearances, but he struggled in two World Series appearances in Houston, giving up two earned runs and three hits, including a home run by Alex Bregman in the Dodgers’ Game 4 win and Bregman’s walk-off RBI single in Houston’s 13-12 Game 5 win.
Jansen yielded one earned run and three hits, struck out six and walked one in six innings of four Dodger Stadium appearances.
Does Jansen look back at his home-road splits during the series and wonder?
“That’s baseball, man,” Jansen said. “We lost.”
This season also ended in bitter fashion for Jansen, who stood in the bullpen, warmed and ready, while setup man Joe Kelly, in his second inning of relief, gave up a 10th-inning grand slam to Howie Kendrick in a 7-3 loss to Washington in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.
While the Nationals went on to win the World Series, the Dodgers, winners of 106 games and their seventh consecutive NL West title, extended their championship drought to 31 years.
“We win together, we lose together, and as a team we failed,” Jansen said during a visit Tuesday to UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, where he and his wife, Gianni, donated two state-of-the-art tech lockers filled with iPads and Nintendo gaming consoles to pediatric patients. Jansen and Gianni got the idea to donate to pediatric care patients when their son Kaden, who was 2 years old at the time, was hospitalized in New York City because of a bacterial infection over Christmas in 2017 and the kids in the hospital “didn’t have any toys” to play with.
He also has a message for Dodgers fans: The team will continue to grind despite its string of postseason disappointments.
“[The Dodgers] can do better,” he said. “That’s a fact. I know it can be tiring [for the fans] — yeah, we won the division seven years in a row, the impatience starts kicking in. But we want everyone to know we are out here fighting for a championship.
“That’s what we’re going to continue to do, and I have no doubt in my mind that Andrew [Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations] and the staff, plus [manager Dave Roberts] are going to put a really good team together for us to compete for a championship next year.”
Roberts was heavily criticized for his Game 5 decisions to use Clayton Kershaw in relief — the left-hander gave up game-tying homers to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto in the eighth inning — and to send the erratic Kelly back out for the 10th.
But Jansen firmly believes that Roberts, who will return for his fifth season in 2020, is the right man to lead the Dodgers.
“This is a what-if game,” Jansen said, referring to Roberts’ Game 5 moves. “I’m ready to go any time [but it’s my] understanding he wanted to lengthen that game; he wanted to go one more inning with Joe and from there, two or three innings with me. It didn’t work out. Like I said, we win together, we lose together.
“But as long as I play this game, I hope Doc is my manager. What he built here in the clubhouse, it wasn’t like this before he came here. It’s more of a team now. Everybody is united. It’s about the team, not about one player. We all buy into it and try to win a championship. Doc kind of built this.”