Yu Darvish and Accepting Failure

Yu know it. (MLB Gifs)

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.

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4 Comments

  1. Wire Fan

    The latest fun stuff (from Rosenthal and Drellich):

    “What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc.,” the sender wrote in an email message to Houston scouts. “So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings.”

    This was reportedly sent by a Houston executive to their scouts during the 2017 season to prepare for the playoffs. They also had a group slack channel.

  2. Wire Fan

    Judge probably has a significant gripe against the Astros. He lost what was basically a coinflip MVP race with Altuve in 2017. What do Altuve’s #s look like that year without help?

    How much money is that potentially costing Judge during the arbitration process? Millions, maybe as much as 10million? It is not just his arb1 year that is impacted as his next two years are impacted by his arb1 salary.

    Same thing for pitchers facing the Astros. If you are an AL West pitcher who might make 4 or 5 starts against them what is that doing to their arbitration salaries or their next FA contract?

  3. RetroRob

    The Astros whispers have been around the past few seasons. It reminded me of the whispers around Canseco and McGwire — the Bash Brothers — long before steroids became a major issue. Where there’s smoke,there’s fire. Some media and fans thought the complaining by the Yankees (and other teams) was petty. I thought it signaled something more; that teams knew whatever the Astros were doing went well beyond what’s accepted, yet, I kept coming back to one thought: If they were doing this, we should know about it once players left the Astros and went to other teams. I couldn’t figure out why it hadn’t broken. Then it finally did break.

    Manfred and MLB had an opportunity to make a strong statement regarding use of electronics and cheating with the Red Sox Apple Watch incident. Instead, they slapped the Red Sox on the wrist, and even pretty much took a minor incident against the Yankees and elevated it to the Apple Watch level simply to send a signal to the Yankees and other MLB teams not to air the league’s dirty laundry. That was a mistake on Manfred’s part because it likely encouraged even worse infractions, and quieted teams from saying anything.

    As a Yankee fan, I wouldn’t be too vocal or feel too smug. For all we know, the Yankees with Beltran on payroll may have tried something similar. What MLB should do, however, is significantly punish the Astros. Suspend their GM for a period of time, fine the owner millions, and remove draft picks. Make it extremely painful so other teams don’t try similar. Another Apple Watch slap on the wrist will accomplish nothing and instead encourage more cheating with electronics.

  4. Scully

    “Hal Steinbrenner refuses to sign Gerrit Cole because he feels uncomfortable committing dollars and years to a known cheater.”

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