WEST PALM BEACH, Fla -- The entrances to the Nationals and Astros’ Spring Training complexes are a stone's throw away from each other, but what occurred inside of them on Thursday was worlds apart.
Houston held a news conference to address sign-stealing during the 2017 season before players were questioned about the incident in their clubhouse. Meanwhile, Washington reacted to Major League Baseball’s findings against its '19 World Series opponent -- as well as reflected on a championship of its own.
“One day of having to answer questions is not going to make this go away,” Nationals closer Sean Doolittle said at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. “This is going to be something that they’re going to have to work really hard at to show baseball, to show other players [and] to show fans that they are remorseful and they do want to move on from this.
“I think in the long run, some of their actions will speak louder than words, and being sorry that you got caught and being sorry for what you did are two different things. ... This is going to be an ongoing process, unfortunately. This is something that all of baseball has to reckon with, and we’re all still trying to come to grips with it and process it, so it might take a bit.”
World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner Stephen Strasburg added on Friday, “That's something [the Astros] have got to live with. Not something that I would ever do, because I think who you are as a person and how you play this game and how you go about it is so much more important than what's on the back of your baseball card.”
“We were a team, and so I’m not going to separate myself from everybody who was involved,” Harris said. “I was on that team, and I take responsibility for it just like every other man that was in there.”
Harris noted he would not shy away from questions from his new teammates if asked. Doolittle appreciated that transparency.
“You’re asking a reliever to speak up and say something that goes against something that’s been sanctioned by the entire organization, and to be almost like a whistleblower in that respect,” Doolittle said. “It just puts him in such a tough spot, so I can empathize with that. I appreciate his apology. Talked with him a little bit about it so far in Spring [Training], and I feel like his remorse is genuine. I think he’s excited to be here, to have a fresh start. We’re excited to have him.”
While maybe not knowledgeable about the extent, the Nationals were aware of Houston's antics. Washington beat the Astros in a decisive Game 7 for the 2019 World Series title, but the Nats changed their signs along the way -- as frequently as every inning -- for extreme precaution.
“I thought we did a great job going in there and mixing our signs up,” said starter Patrick Corbin. “[Losing to them] would have hurt, for sure, a little more, but thank God we don’t have to deal with that and we got the job done.”
While there is a sense of relief for the Nationals that they won and don’t have to ponder the “what ifs,” there’s also a feeling of frustration for the sport.
“They crossed the moral line and cheated, but they’ve got to answer to it,” added starter Max Scherzer. “It’s not really for us to speak for them -- they need to speak for themselves. They need to talk to the fans of baseball and explain what happened.”
Manager Dave Martinez's message to his players was to move forward and control what they can control, not focus on what other teams have done. The Nationals will do that, while also looking for ways to ensure this moment in history doesn’t repeat itself.
“We’re in discussions right now with MLB and the union about what the future is going to be in terms of tech -- what replays and cameras and what’s going to be allowed going forward,” Scherzer said. “We’re trying to make sure this can’t happen again.”