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Players react as MLB punishes Houston Astros for sign-stealing

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After MLB commissioner Rob Manfred handed out his historic punishments to the Houston Astros for his determination on Monday that they had stolen signs using a camera-based systems, players both active and retired from other teams chimed in with their thoughts about the suspensions and about cheating.

The punishments handed down — a $5 million fine, lost draft picks, and 2020 suspensions for both general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager AJ Hinch, among other penalties — triggered more than reactions, but also harsh consequences. Both Luhnow and Hinch were fired by team owner Jim Crane as a consequence of MLB’s announcement.

Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger was particularly pointed in his reactions, pointing out what was at stake in particular:





Perhaps predictably, Trevor Bauer wasn’t shy about sharing his opinion, tweeting a reference to the popular Kermit the Frog sipping tea meme attached to Hinch’s past comments about cheating accusations:



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J.D. Martinez confident Red Sox will be cleared in investigation, as ‘there was nothing going on here’

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Boston Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez said he believes Major League Baseball’s investigation into the 2018 World Series champions will reveal no wrongdoing.

“I’m excited for the investigation to get over with just so they can see there was nothing going on here,” Martinez said at the team’s Winter Weekend fan festival.

When asked if he believed the investigation would reveal no wrongdoing, Martinez responded affirmatively.

“I believe that, yes,” Martinez said.

Martinez played a critical role as an offensive catalyst in Boston’s run to a title in 2018, and has been an anchor mainstay in the Red Sox lineup in his two seasons, while gaining a reputation with the Boston media as a straight shooter. When pushed by reporters about why he was so strong in his belief, Martinez did not budge from his stance, saying that the team did nothing wrong. Major League Baseball opened an investigation Monday to probe claims the Red Sox used video to decode opponent sign sequences and passed the info to their players in 2018, as alleged in a report by The Athletic.

“I was in there, so I saw straight up,” Martinez said. “Everyone seems to forget that in 2016 and 2017, this was a really good team. They won 93 games those two years and then we got better. Like I said, I’m excited for it. Really not allowed to comment on it, but we’ll see what happens.”

Martinez, who hit .304 with 36 home runs, 33 doubles and 105 RBIs in 2019, also commented on his relationship with pitcher Mike Fiers, who went on the record about Houston’s sign-stealing scheme to The Athletic, kicking off the entire scandal. Martinez and Fiers played together at Nova Southeastern and have been friends for a long time.

“It sucks for Fiers,” Martinez said. “I’ve talked to him about it. I understand his side of it. I understand his side of being in the division and going against those guys, it’s one of those things where he’s in an uncomfortable position for him, and I understand it.”

With less than a month before spring training, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has kicked off his search for Cora’s replacement. Martinez added that he thinks bench coach Ron Roenicke is a strong candidate to be the next Red Sox skipper.

“I guess it’s up to Chaim to pick that,” Martinez said. “I could definitely see it coming from within. Ron is a great candidate and he knows our team, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s him or something. I don’t know.”

Even with the instability in the manager’s office at Fenway Park, Martinez believes the 2020 Red Sox will be fine, given the continuity in the clubhouse among players over the past few seasons.

“This is a group of professionals, and a very talented team,” Martinez said. “You look at our team and there’s a lot of talent, a lot of guys that know how to play the game and I’m excited. Guys are only going to get better and continue to grow. Look at Rafael] Devers last year, who’s to say he’s not going to grow?

Christian Vazquez is going to get better. Jackie Bradley Jr. will have a bounceback. Andrew Benintendi will get better. These are all relatively young guys that are still forming and coming into their own. I’m definitely excited because the injuries that happened with Chris Sale last year, with David Price, those are two big guys for us. How Eduardo Rodriguez threw the ball last year, there’s a lot of room for growth here. Not a lot of guys coming out of their prime. A lot of guys going into it.”

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Astros to interview Dusty Baker for managerial opening

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The Houston Astros will interview Dusty Baker for their open manager position next week, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The story was first reported by MLB Network.

Houston is looking for a new manager after Monday’s firing of AJ Hinch in the wake of a sign-stealing scandal.

Baker, 70, last managed the Washington Nationals in 2017.

In 22 seasons, Baker has a 1,863-1,636 record that includes a National League pennant with the San Francisco Giants in 2002.

The Astros have already interviewed former managers Buck Showalter and John Gibbons and current Cubs third-base coach Will Venable.

Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

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Fans want Astros players punished for sign-stealing scandal

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More than half of Major League Baseball fans believe that Houston Astros players should have been penalized along with team management in the aftermath of the sign-stealing scandal that’s gripped the game over the past week, according to an online survey conducted among 1,010 adults, including 810 MLB fans, nationwide Thursday and Friday on behalf of ESPN.

Fifty-eight percent of adults responded that Astros players should have been penalized by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, according to the survey. In addition, the vast majority (72% of adults and 76% of MLB fans) said they would support MLB taking additional steps to punish players who were involved in sign-stealing.

According to the survey, MLB fans are paying a lot of attention to the scandal, with 61% of the game’s fans polled saying they are closely following events surrounding the Astros and Boston Red Sox. One-third of MLB fans say they might watch those two teams less, though most Americans say the doping/steroids scandal was worse than the current sign-stealing scandal that led the Houston Astros to fire general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, with the Red Sox parting with manager Alex Cora. The New York Mets were not involved in a sign-stealing scandal, but parted with new manager Carlos Beltran, who was involved with the scandal while a player with the Astros. The survey was started before Beltran and the Mets parted.

Among avid MLB fans, 86% view the situation as serious, with 57% saying it’s very serious, compared to 83% of the game’s overall fans considering it serious, including 52% who say it’s a very serious situation. Among all Americans, 77% find it serious, with 45% finding it to be very serious.

Most Americans say the doping/steroids scandal was worse than this one (49% say doping was worse vs 24% who say the current sign stealing scandal was worse) but rank this scandal above Pete Rose gambling on his own team (44% say this scandal is worse vs 25% for the Pete Rose scandal).

While over half of Americans view both the Astros (56%) and Red Sox (52%) less favorable in light of the scandals, the negative impact is less severe for the MLB, the players, and the owners, with 54% saying their views of MLB itself are unchanged and 53% saying their views of their players haven’t changed. Just under half (49%) say their views of the game’s owners have changed, although around a third or slightly more say they have a less favorable view of each of these entities or groups.

Among MLB fans, it’s about an even split when it comes to whether the teams caught cheating should have their championships stripped, with 56% saying the Astros should relinquish their 2017 championship and 53% believing the Red Sox should do the same.

While 60% of adults and MLB fans alike say the scandals make no difference in their likelihood to watch MLB games, around a third of fans say they are less likely to watch the Astros or the Red Sox.

Roughly 3 in 4 Americans (74%) and MLB fans (76%) believe most teams were using technology to steal signs, but it’s just the Astros and Red Sox who got caught.

The survey has a margin of error of +/-3%, and the margin of error among 810 MLB fans is also +/-3%.

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