Tony Kemp saw what was going on with the Houston Astros in 2017. He was powerless to stop the sign-stealing scandal that has enveloped the baseball world this offseason, but he did not partake in the crime.
Kemp, who will compete to be the A's starting second baseman this spring, arrived at camp Friday and answered questions he knew would be slung his way about his old mates' trash-can banging alert system.
The 28-year-old, who the Astros brought up late in the 2017 season, told reporters he refused to be a part of the scheme.
“I was up and down in 2017 and once I got there in September, the system was already in place,” Kemp said, via Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle. “I just tried to keep my head down and play hard and not really concern myself with it.”
The scandal, which was brought to light by A's pitcher Mike Fiers, has taken over the baseball universe. Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired, while Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and incoming New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran mutually agreed to part ways with their clubs.
Kemp played in 17 total regular-season games for the Astros in 2017, two in April and 15 in September. He wouldn't say which Astros players participated in the scheme, only that he got his hits the old-fashioned way.
“It was kind of out of my hands at that point, just having four months in the big leagues at that point,” Kemp said, via Slusser. “I got asked if I wanted to use the system and I said no. I felt like I was having a pretty good season at the plate in Triple-A so just wanted to continue to do that.”
A's manager Bob Melvin feels good about what he has heard from his new infielder and suggested the A's had watched video to make sure Kemp wasn't a part of the scandal, according to Slusser.
Astros owner Jim Crane and stars Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman offered a host of insincere apologies and explanations Thursday, while ace Justin Verlander, who has been vocal about sign stealing in the past, answered some questions and slinked away with his tail between his legs. Only new manager Dusty Baker, who had no involvement in the scandal at all, handled the press conference the right way.
The milquetoast apologies didn't sit well with A's left-hander Sean Manaea, who took the Astros to task Thursday after they an apology similar to a teenager whose only regret is getting caught sneaking out of his bedroom window at 2 a.m.
This story isn't going anywhere. A number of teams, from the A's to the Los Angeles Dodgers, should feel wronged by the Astros brazenly spitting on the integrity of the sport.
The Astros visit the Coliseum on March 30 for a four-game set.