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Starting Nine: The Crawfish Boxes Staff Reactions to The Astros Cheating Scandal

The mantra for most of the season has been “This is a great time to be an Astros fan.” The last several weeks have not been great times. The TCB staff share their thoughts.

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Most of you know the outlines of the story by now. A week ago, former Astro Mike Fiers alleged that during the 2017 season the team used video surveillance to steal signs, and then alerted batters by banging on trash can lids. Baseball has started an investigation.

Yesterday the Athletic revealed that anonymous sources had sent them an email that the Astros’ front office inquired about the possibility of having scouts using cameras, although it is uncertain as to whether this was actually done, or to what use the cameras would have been put. Astros executive Kevin Goldstein was later implicated as the sender of the email.

The reaction of Astros fans can be described as the three D’s: denial, dismissal, or disillusionment.

Here at The Crawfish Boxes we’ve heard from more than a few people wondering why we haven’t written an in-depth editorial about all of this yet. Well, as much as we’d like to have done so, it’s not that simple. To write an editorial you have to have a definitive stance and opinion on the whole thing which, to be honest, many of us are still sorting out.

Our fandom has been stretched to limits we’ve never seen before. Though we wish we could have presented the quintessential Astros fan perspective earlier, there really isn’t one for an issue like this. The connection we feel for our team is complicated and means different things to each of us.

We, the staff of TCB, are devoted Astros fans one and all. We have not written a unified opinion piece on this issue, in part because we too alternate between the three D’s, but mostly because, with an investigation of the facts still ongoing, it is difficult to form an authoritative, informed opinion at this time.

The following is a sample of the reactions and opinions we have expressed among ourselves. These opinions are in flux, and will continue to be as more facts are uncovered.

Eric Huysman: So, there is more news about the Astros’ cheating scandal. Apparently, the Astros were asking scouts how to cheat, get the competitive advantage. There are email and slack channel discussions as evidence. What do you think?

Stephen Sydnor: Let me just say for the record, I haven’t read the Athletic article, but journalist like to use anonymous sources, but in my mind anonymity should only be given in extraordinary circumstances. This isn’t it. That all being said, it’s not that I don’t believe it but I’m wary on that allegation. As for the other allegations, Mike Fiers seems salty but believable. I just wonder why Morton, Liriano, Maybin, and other players from the 2017 team have said nothing.

Hatter: The Astros cheated. There is too much evidence and too many allegations in the past year corroborating it. And the video and audio evidence is there. You can watch a random 2017 home game and hear the carefully timed trash can bangs from the very first plate appearance on. To continue to believe that the Astros are innocent and this is all a framejob is an exercise in self-delusion.

The question is are they the only ones who are doing this? Probably not, and if they aren’t does it matter? “Well, everybody else is doing it” may be enough to satisfy some disappointed fans, but there are a lot who won’t take solace in that, including me.

Eric: The latest news shows that the Astros were on the mindset of looking for ways to cheat, aka, get the competitive advantage. Maybe because they thought others were doing it.

Spencer Morris: Kevin Goldstein wasn’t a person I expected to find at the epicenter of this scandal, quite the opposite, to be honest. The organization appears to have been completely out of control.

Obviously, the cheating is very real. I’d be surprised if the Astros ended up being the only team in hot water, but I’d be even more surprised if we find out another team had a more extensive operation. I don’t think any punishments are off the table and I can’t say they should be. I think just about anybody who works in the Astros front office should be expecting a sit-down. If the information that continues to come out follows the trend of recent news, the 2017 title could even come under scrutiny.

The biggest question I still have- how directly involved were the players in all of this? I’m scared of what the answer might be.

Hatter: Well it didn’t start in Houston. It had to come from somewhere, as the initial Athletic piece reports that it began with a new player in 2017 who helped set it up. So far, it’s just speculation reports as to who, but that list of new 2017 players is short: Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick. Beltran, who has a reputation for seeking and finding out tips to improve hitting seems the natural suspect. I suppose that will come more to light as the investigation continues, as Beltran is one of those being questioned.

bilbos: Beltran denied that it was happening. I thought he was prime suspect as soon as I read that. I wrote a Fanpost in 2017, Beltran is the reason for the season. Little did I know.

Eric: You know who is enjoying this? Trevor Bauer. He can’t wait to say I told you so.

Stephen: Honestly I don’t think the title should be vacated. If the allegations of the sign stealing are true like I think most of us believe, the Astros still have to hit the ball. They did in 17 and didn’t in 19. Like I said above, I’m not sure about the team asking scouts how to cheat.

Hatter: It won’t be vacated. That’s just mob mentality of Twitter reacting. Not saying it’s right, but many achievements in professional sports have been on the back of cheating and they still stand. Bonds’ home run record, the Patriots’ 2002 Super Bowl etc.

bilbos: If scouts were involved systematically in electronic surveillance this is devastating. If it goes to the top I think there is a chance it could cost Luhnow’s job. Even if he didn’t have direct knowledge there is obviously something toxic in the culture of the Astros front office that will stain the organization for along time.

Moe Feaux: I’m #outraged by the Astros. They should vacate all wins from 2015 through 2020 and it’s not even debatable. Everybody should be fired, including the train guy who telepathically reads the opposing catcher’s mind.

Stephen: Sarcasm aside, Moe, I do believe twitter, baseball fans, executives are playing up these accusations to a level that seems like the world is ending. This all being said, Moe makes a point, what should the punishment be. The worst being vacating wins including the world series, a playoff ban, firing of Luhnow, Hinch, suspensions for players.

Basically a death penalty type move. And the easiest being some loss of draft picks and fines.

Moe: The Astros will get a fine and lose a draft pick, that’s it. Fans of other clubs and media may be outraged, but Manfred and all other MLB clubs know this is going on in 30 out of 30 clubs and will continue to do so.

CKuno: It’s pretty clear at this point that the Astros cheated during 2017, with an increasing body of evidence suggesting that it may have occurred after Manfred warned the league and possibly into the playoffs. This new evidence is more fuel for that fire but not really something that changes the overarching storyline of what’s going on, simply more confirmation of how systemic the efforts to cheat were within the organization. It’s surely disheartening as a fan to see that, but I was already fairly convinced that the front office was involved in this so it doesn’t change much for me personally.

Astros fans can talk about how other teams are probably guilty as well or that the Red Sox and Yankees were fined for the same thing or whatever, but there’s not really much that can mitigate the current situation. The Astros cheated, got caught, and will be punished for it, almost definitely severely. I don’t think they’ll vacate the title but I am beginning to think that the Astros will be made an example of as MLB seeks to damage them in the win column. Honestly I can’t say they don’t deserve it.

Hatter: When you say you were already fairly convinced that the front office was involved in it, CKuno, at what point are you talking about? Prior to the Athletic article, I’d certainly harbored my reservations about the front office ethics beginning with the Osuna trade, but whatever you think about Osuna, that transaction was still within the Astros’ rights to do, and wasn’t against the rules. The revelations in the Athletic were a blindside for me, because it showed that the front office was willing to work outside the rules to gain the competitive advantage, which is what disturbs me. Maybe I am being naive because every team does this, but even if that’s true, just because most politicians have questionable ethics, that shouldn’t stop you from being disappointed when you find out that a politician you admire is actually corrupt.

CKuno: I just don’t see how the trash can system could have been kept a secret from the front office if it was set up between the dugout and the clubhouse. Once it became clear that that was what they were doing I couldn’t think of any possible way that the execs didn’t know, especially considering how long the system was apparently in effect. Even if it didn’t concoct the method, the FO gave its blessing by not putting a stop to it. This new evidence more directly implicates them, but I was already convinced that they were guilty anyways.

Hatter: But beginning with the Fiers Athletic article, correct? Prior to the Rosenthal-Drellich piece, you didn’t really believe that the front office was involved in such activities, right?

CKuno: I’ve always believed that all front offices are involved in activities that regularly cross lines, some codified and some not. I was surprised at the lengths involved in this particular one but it’s one of those things I’ve never really had to confront as a fan before now.

Hatter: Have you sorted out your feelings towards the organization, players and front office yet, or are you still kind of processing? (Which I think most of us are.)

CKuno: I feel like I can’t fully sort them until I know the resolution of the investigation and how extensive of a problem this really is within the organization. I am questioning my dedication to this team in ways I never have before though.

Hatter: That is exactly how I feel. Last year at the Osuna trade, you wrote a piece discussing “the limits of fandom”, and honestly these events are really testing those limits.

bilbos: This stuff, first Osuna, Taubman, and now cheating, has me reeling somewhat myself. I have believed there was an ethical core to the Astros and I have written passionately to that effect often. So I’m feeling rather foolish and demoralized. Of course, we don’t know the full extent of it, or how rampant these practices are, but the information we are getting now is leaving an ugly impression. Astroball may take on a new meaning.

Hebrew Hammah: So I’ll admit, I’m lost in this debate. Do I think the Astros did it? Yes. Do I think the Yankees and Red Sox were fined for the exact same thing? Yes

I do believe some of this is a hit back from the media since the Astros were assholes and went after one of their own.

Honestly, I’m sick of it. That’s not to take away from any of it, but I watch baseball to get away from crazy s#!%. Its a time I can grab a drink, watch a game and relax.

I get it. Maybe they f*@$ed up, maybe the league f*@$ed up. I understand why everyone thinks the Astros are the villains.

I watched 100 plus loss seasons and bought into the process. I was there for the s#!% seasons and there for the good. I get it, while probably wrong, the last few seasons were nice. I honestly believe Luhnow analyzed the letter of the law and found the loopholes.

They implemented new rules - and he probably pushed them past the edge.. but I miss looking at baseball. I miss digging into spin rates. Shifts. Some new analytic. This isn’t me. I don’t want drama.... that’s not why I come to baseball.

There’s a lot of heat on us for not reporting, but WTF do we say... damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

I’m sorry guys. Do I think the Astros cheated? Yes probably. Do I think it was different than what the Yankees and Red Sox were both fined for? Not really.

I’m sorry I’m not better with all of this. I’m one of the shorter lived fans, but since I’ve been a kid, this is the team I’ve rooted for and honestly... this sucks. I get they brought this on themselves between attacking the media and what they did, but I just want to focus on baseball.

Stephen: I think we all feel that HH. During these times, we all go back to either what made us fans or the feeling it was like to win it all.

Hammah: But that’s not it. Winning it all was great, but I remember Oswalt EARNING that tractor, Clemens/Pettitte signing, Biggio’s 3,000th hit (and many other moments) ... winning it all was great but it wasn’t about that. I remember the Astros “good guys” slogan. And they earned it in my biased belief.

Hatter: The Astros being “good guys” is what drew a lot of people to them. It’s why despite similar success and both teams having MVPs, Altuve and the Astros were looked upon more favorably than Harden and the Rockets. So where does that leave the Astros now?

Hammah: It’s s#!%%y we’re here. Yes, I’m a writer, but I’m also a fan. I’m watching the only team I’ve ever cared about getting ripped daily.