Before Angels owner Arte Moreno held court with reporters for 30 minutes and outlined how he intends to push his team back into the playoffs for the first time since 2014, the typically diplomatic star of Moreno’s franchise torched a division rival.
In his first press conference of the spring, Mike Trout on Monday morning said he had lost respect for Houston Astros players who used an elaborate and illegal sign-stealing scheme to gain an edge on their way to winning the franchise’s first World Series in 2017.
“It’s sad for baseball,” Trout said. “It’s tough. They cheated.”
Trout also expressed frustration with the discipline handed down by Commissioner Rob Manfred, who granted players immunity in exchange for their cooperation in his investigation. Trout did not think that Manfred’s one-year suspension of former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and ex-field manager AJ Hinch was sufficient.
“You don’t know what helped them or what not,” he said. “But if you know what’s coming, it’s going to definitely help them. I don’t know if you take the trophy away or take the rings away, but they should definitely do something.”
He later added: “The players getting nothing, that’s definitely not right, for sure.”
Throughout the 2017 season and for part of 2018, Astros video room staffers used an outfield camera to steal signs from the catcher and relay them to batters. They eventually began banging on a trash can at the base of the dugout steps.
Trout said he never heard the banging himself, but he “noticed the banging off the bat, from center field.”
“It seemed like they weren’t missing pitches,” he said. “It’s frustrating because you have guys coming in here battling every day and working on stuff and they make a nasty pitch down and away. I can’t tell you when this happened, but I’m sure it did. I can’t imagine what the pitchers feel like. It’s a mental game. You go in a stretch where you’re doing good and you go into Houston and get banged up, it could mentally drain you.
“I lost some respect for some guys. A lot of stuff that comes out, you have to see if it’s true or not. I’ll talk to them and see them in the season.”
Third baseman Anthony Rendon, who signed with the Angels as a free agent during the offseason after leading the Washington Nationals to the World Series title over the Astros, was more forgiving.
“Everyone’s quick to hammer them down and just kill them, basically,” Rendon said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror, and we’re not perfect people. Whether it’s a speeding ticket or whatever it might be, some of us are trying to get an edge some way or another in life.
“They happened to get caught for doing it. You can forgive them, but doesn’t mean you have to forget.”
Trout, 28, won his third MVP award last season. He hit a career-high 45 home runs, drove in more than 100 runs for the first time since 2016 and batted .291 in 134 games. Despite not playing after Sept. 7, Trout led baseball in on-base percentage (.438), owned the highest AL on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.083) and was second in the AL in home runs.
He couldn’t fathom what his numbers would look like if he had the same edge as the Astros, some of whom reached out to Trout to explain the situation.
“Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming?” he posited. “It would be fun up there.”