Astros respond to league-wide comments

February 15th, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- As players around the big leagues expressed disappointment and resentment toward the Astros on the heels of the sign-stealing scandal that permeated their 2017 World Series championship season, manager Dusty Baker implored Major League Baseball to help protect his players.

"I'm depending on the league to try to put a stop to this seemingly premeditated retaliation that I'm hearing about," Baker said. "In most instances in life, you get kind of reprimanded when you have premeditated anything. I'm just hoping that the league puts a stop to this before somebody gets hurt.

“It’s not good for the game, it’s not good for kids to see it,” Baker said. “Stop the comments, and also stop something before it happens.”

Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, when asked Saturday morning about the comments from Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger -- in which the 2019 National League Most Valuable Player Award winner said the Astros “stole” the '17 World Series -- admitted that the words bother him, but he said that allegations about the team cheating in '19 and using wearable devices, such as buzzers, are false.

“People can speculate all they want,” Verlander said. “We dug our grave. We’re in it. But I think emphatically, everybody made it clear that wasn’t true. I think we need to go out and prove that we’re going to win. We can win. We have a great ballclub, and we can do it the right way.”

MLB, in a report released on Jan. 13, said the Astros used electronic devices to steal signs in the 2017 season and into '18, which baseball doesn’t allow. The team was fined $5 million and docked its first- and second-round Draft picks in '20-21, while manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for the season. Houston owner Jim Crane dismissed Hinch and Luhnow that same day.

Bellinger on Friday became the latest player to speak out publicly against the Astros, who beat the Dodgers in seven games to win the 2017 World Series. In addition to saying Houston stole the World Series, he said '17 American League MVP José Altuve stole the award from the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who finished second.

“Like I said, he’s entitled and everybody else is entitled to their own opinion,” Verlander said.

Verlander said baseball has made it clear in the past that throwing a baseball at someone intentionally isn’t an appropriate form of retaliation.

“The problem is, now you don’t know if it’s on purpose or not,” Verlander said. “But I guess when you come out and say you’re going to do it on purpose, you know.”