Red Sox players express confidence MLB ‘won’t find anything’ in sign-stealing probe
Chris Sale remembers feeling shell-shocked as he stood on the mound in Houston’s Minute Maid Park while a cacophony of pyrotechnics and train whistles filled the air.
The Boston Red Sox ace, who went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a major league-high 308 strikeouts that season, was rocked for seven runs and nine hits in five innings of an 8-2 loss to the Astros in the 2017 American League division series opener.
The left-hander gave up three solo homers, to Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve in the first inning and Altuve again in the fifth. All were no-doubters.
Did Sale have any suspicions back then, before Houston’s illegal sign-stealing scheme came to light this winter, that the Astros might have known what pitches were coming in that game?
“Yeah, I mean, I think they ran out of fireworks, and that guy on the train [above the left-field wall], he must have kept his job for another year because of me,” Sale said at the team’s spring-training complex on Sunday.
“I was on the mound thinking, ‘How the hell are they doing this?’ They’re hitting breaking balls over the fence, fastballs up at their neck. It crosses your mind, but what kind of idiot do you look like if they weren’t [cheating]? I’m not going to sit here and say they were because I don’t have 100% evidence.”
While Houston players have been blasted by numerous players around the game for a scandal that tainted their 2017 World Series win over the Dodgers, the Red Sox’s opinions of the Astros have been a little more tempered, and for good reason.
‘I don’t think there’s a player ... who relishes the idea of being a 2017 Houston Astro answering questions about what happened and why it happened.’
Boston is being investigated by Major League Baseball for its own sign-stealing allegations from 2018, a year that ended with popular rookie manager Alex Cora guiding the Red Sox to a five-game World Series win over the Dodgers.
And Cora, a driving force behind Houston’s sign-stealing scheme as the Astros’ bench coach in 2017, was fired in January and replaced by Ron Roenicke.
The Red Sox are alleged to have used the video replay room near the dugout to decode signs, which were relayed to the bench, and then to base-runners, and eventually to batters.
The alleged scheme was not as streamlined or efficient as the one employed by the Astros, who used an outfield camera and a monitor near the dugout to steal and signs and banged a trash can to relay them to hitters in real time.
We have no reason to lie to them. We’re confident they won’t find anything.
Chris Sale on what he told Major League Baseball
“We always want the investigations to go as quickly as possible but never at the expense of making sure we’ve pursued every possible lead and done everything we can do to get the facts right,” Manfred said. “There have been a couple of developments in the Boston thing that slowed us down, people who had to be re-interviewed as a result of things.”
There is a general sense around the game that if the Red Sox did break the rules, their transgressions were not as egregious as those of the Astros. The sense in Boston’s JetBlue Park clubhouse is that they will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
“I can’t really answer any questions about any of that stuff because our investigation is still ongoing,” first baseman Mitch Moreland said, “but to my knowledge, there’s nothing that they can come down on us for.”
Are the Red Sox, who will hold their first full-squad workout on Monday, anxious to get some closure on the investigation?
“There’s a lot of chatter, you hear lot of stuff going on, a lot of stuff that hasn’t been answered yet,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. “We’ll see what happens. I’m pretty confident [they won’t find anything].”
Sale, who is recovering from an elbow injury that sidelined him for the final six weeks of 2019 and a bout of pneumonia that slowed him this spring, said he was interviewed for 30 minutes by baseball investigators over the winter.
“I gave them every bit of information I had,” Sale said. “We have no reason to lie to them. We’re confident they won’t find anything.”
Manfred warned pitchers on Sunday not to seek retribution against the Astros by intentionally hitting them with pitches, but Sale is not one to shy away from such tactics.
In September 2014, Sale, pitching for the Chicago White Sox, believed the Detroit Tigers stationed someone in center field to steal signs. Sale hit Victor Martinez with a pitch in the left shoulder, sparking a benches-clearing incident.
Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa lashes out at Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, who claimed the Astros “stole” a World Series ring from them in 2017.
He would not be surprised to see some high-and-tight fastballs headed toward Astros hitters this season.
“I think the game polices itself sometimes,” Sale said. “It will be interesting to see how this plays out because I think you’re going to see some stuff happen this year.
“I don’t know if it’s right, wrong or indifferent. Different people handle things differently, and guys are gonna do what they feel necessary. I think some people feel more cheated than others, and rightfully so.”
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