If you’ve seen a lick of baseball news this week, you’ve certainly heard about the sign-stealing allegations against the Houston Astros.
To sum it up, the Astros are accused by both one of their former players and opposing pitchers of using a video camera to steal signs, then relay those signs by banging on trash cans. All of this allegedly occurred during the 2017 regular season, though we don’t know if it extended into the postseason or into the subsequent pair of seasons.
Immediately, you might think, “They’re not the only ones doing this. They’re just the ones that got caught.” That’s likely true, but also beside the point. The Red Sox and Yankees were each punished after Boston’s Apple Watch incident in 2017 and New York’s own questions involving their bullpen phone. The Brewers and Rangers have also been accused.
Yet it appears to the Astros may have both been more sophisticated and more willing to break the rules and norms. It might ultimately be unfair to punish them if many teams are doing the same, but this is something Major League Baseball ultimately wants to eliminate, particularly as technology only gets more sophisticated.
Over the course of the last three years, the Astros were not only successful but historically so. They struck out less than any other team and posted offensive numbers far above league averages in ways not seen in decades. Their individual players became household names and took home prestigious awards.
And, of course, they won the 2017 World Series while coming darn close to taking the 2019 crown as well. In both of those seasons, they beat the Yankees in the ALCS. To clinch the 2017 title, they beat the Dodgers, a 104-win team that ran through the National League.
Now there’s a cloud over all of their success. That’s what cheating allegations do. It still hangs above the Patriots’ dominance of the 21st Century after they were implicated in Gates of the Spy and Deflate variety. Even though it wasn’t about cheating, Saints fans are still in an uproar over a missed call in last year’s NFC title game. When a championship is seemingly stolen from you by artificial means, it’s infuriating on another level than an average loss.
If anyone has a gripe with the Astros, particularly the 2017 edition, it’s Yu Darvish. His reputation was sullied in the Fall Classic that year as the Astros tagged him for nine runs across just 3 1/3 innings in two starts, including the decisive Game 7. After striking out 14 batters in two prior postseason starts, he failed to fan one batter in the World Series.
At the time, the Astros intimated that Darvish was tipping his pitches. Now, there’s speculation that Houston was instead stealing his signs and gaining an unfair advantage that swung the series. If the veteran hurler wanted to cry foul and blame the Astros’ supposed cheating for his lack of success, he’d have plenty of justification. However, Darvish refrained from doing so when speaking about the issue with the Los Angeles Times.
“I feel that if I absolve myself and say it was the Astros’ fault I was bad in Game 7, in the World Series, I can’t develop as a person,” Darvish told Dylan Hernandez. “In life, I think huge failures are extremely important. I’ve had a few up to this point. The World Series was one of them. I think it will remain a point of reference for me. I’ve already learned a lot from it. So regarding that, I can’t view myself charitably. I think I have to continue to accept the results.”
Darvish’s sentiment here is remarkably healthy and potentially instructive for Yankees fans. Losing to Houston in 2017 and ’19 remains painful and won’t be undone, no matter what MLB’s investigation of the Astros uncovers. While the Yankees went 1-6 in Houston over those two postseasons, they scored just three runs in four games during the first ALCS, which can’t be blamed on signs. Suing the Astros won’t bring you any happiness.
We’ll never know what affect the alleged sign-stealing had on the past three seasons in baseball. That’s life, unfortunately. You can play with what-ifs and if-onlys forever and you still return to the same reality, the one with events in the same exact order. (I’m also a hypocrite: I’m going to have a post examing the 2010 postseason next week.)
Instead, we should take a page from Darvish, learn from our failures, even if they aren’t entirely ours. Personally, I’ll never forget running for a position at my college newspaper and losing. I dwelt upon that and blamed everyone but myself for months, wallowing in perceived slights. Moving past it and looking inward was the only way I could learn and gain anything positive from the admittedly bitter experience.
As for the Yankees, it’s hard to not to develop hatred towards an opponent that not only beat you but may have cheated you. However, New York has to plan how to improve its 2020 roster regardless and find a way to get over the hump. Living in 2017 and studying videotape for bangs of a makeshift drum won’t get the Yankees a title. You can feel however you want about Houston, and 2017/2019 won’t become positive memories any time soon, but the Yankees’ role in that drama is over, and Yu Darvish has the right of it.