SportsPulse: The Nationals are going to their first ever World Series and in the process had one of most historic turnarounds we’ve ever seen in baseball.
NEW YORK — The Houston Astros are sick of the cheating allegations, and Thursday fired back at anyone perpetuating the idea they are doing anything against the rules.
There were several stories written in New York media outlets that said the Yankees were angry with whistling coming from the Astros dugout, while also banging pipes in Game 1 of the ALCS, believing they were spying on the Yankees or picking up pitches on TV monitors.
“In reality, it’s a joke,’’ Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Major League Baseball does a lot to ensure the fairness of the game. There are people everywhere. If you go through the dugouts and the clubhouses and the hallways, there’s like so many people around that are doing this.
“And then when I get contacted about some questions about whistling, it made me laugh because it’s ridiculous. Had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in spring training.
“So to me, I understand the gamesmanship. I understand kind of creating a narrative for yourself or wondering how things are going.’’
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If the Yankees really believe that the Astros are cheating, Hinch says, then don’t hide behind anonymous quotes.
“The problem I have is when other people take shots at us outside this competition,’’ Hinch said. “When you guys ask me this question, my face, my name is by my quotes, my opinions, my reaction is all for you guys to tweet out and put on the broadcast. But we have people that are unnamed, or you guys have sources that are giving you information. I suggest they put their name by it if they’re so passionate about it to comment about my team or my players. …
“The fact that I had to field the question before a really, really cool game at Yankee Stadium is unfortunate.’’
Besides, Hinch says, if the Astros are cheating, they sure did a pretty lousy job of it, considering they were shut out, producing just three hits in Game 1.
“You guys have audio, video, people in places and nothing,’’ Hinch said, “and there’s no evidence of anything. Nothing bad is going on.’’
Now, if you want to accuse the Astros of picking up signs that pitchers are tipping their pitches, feel free.
You don’t think the Yankees do the same thing?
“Pitch tipping is a little bit of a different story,’’ Hinch said. “If you don’t want us to know the pitch is coming, don’t do something that demonstrates what pitch you’re going to pitch or what you’re going to throw. But they’re doing the same thing.
“Every hitter wants to know what’s coming by virtue of what a pitcher is doing or not doing.’’
Justin Verlander during Game 2 of the ALCS. (Photo: Thomas Shea, USA TODAY Sports)
Certainly, the Astros’ home-road splits have helped create the paranoia. The Astros had a major-league best 60-21 record at Minute Maid Park this season, and are 4-1 at home in the postseason, compared to a 47-34 road record in the regular season, and 1-2 in the postseason.
“It sucks for our players,’’ Astros pitcher Justin Verlander said, “because those guys are so talented. And I don’t think anything should take away from what they’re able to accomplish. And so in that aspect, it’s disappointing.
“But I think we know what’s going on there. Look at what we’re getting accused of. How many runs did we score in that first game? But I understand where the paranoia comes from. We have it. I have it.’’
Yes, the Astros also have the same suspicions about the Yankees.
“As far as tipping and signs, I’ll be using multiple signs here ,’’ said Verlander, who is scheduled to start Game 5 on Friday. “There’s just so many cameras and there’s so much video now, it just kind of evolved a few years ago.
“You’ve got teams studying what signs you use at second base before you even step on the mound. It used to be kind of a gamesmanship thing, runner gets on second base and if he’s able to decipher your signs the time he’s on second base, that’s OK, good for you.
“But if you’re pre-studying them or having some person study them before you even get out there, and all of a sudden you take the field and the team already knows what you’re using, I think that’s a little bit different.’’
And the same, Verlander says, goes for tipping pitches.
“There’s so much video, there’s so much analysis,’’ Verlander said. “We use the analysis to study our mechanics. You do overlays of video comparing yourself to when you were good, to when you were bad, and seeing if anything is different. Well, the same can be done to compare if you’re tipping pitches; fastball versus slider, fastball versus screwball, whatever.
“So it’s something with what’s out there, you just have to be extremely diligent about it and pay attention and try to do the best you can to not help the team know it’s coming.’’
If nothing else, a little paranoia can work in a team’s favor, knowing perhaps the Astros are in the Yankees’ heads. Still, Verlander says, it’s crazy to believe anyone can steal signs off a video feed since it’s now delayed by at least eight seconds in every clubhouse.
“I think MLB has done an incredible job this year. There’s been someone in the video room every game of the season, somebody is there full-time. You’re not allowed to have a live feed anywhere in the stadium that the players have access to; they check all that. I think that’s been an incredible step forward for MLB to go against the trend of all this technology that’s out there.
“They did what I think was the best thing possible to resolve whatever issue, paranoia teams have. Obviously, it didn’t resolve the paranoia. It’s still out there for every team.’’
And higher than ever.
The Washington Nationals have a horde of scouts at the ALCS studying both teams in preparation of the World Series, and just like everyone else, they’re trying to pick up signs themselves.
Hey, it’s that time of year.