While the Houston Astros' cheating scandal is a national baseball story, certain MLB markets have added investment in what happened.
Not just the New York Yankees, who lost a trip to the World Series in 2017 when the Astros beat them in the ALCS, or the Los Angeles Dodgers who lost that World Series to Houston, but also the A’s, who narrowly finished as runner-up to the Astros each of the last two seasons in the AL West.
Because of it, they had to settle for playing in the wild-card game in 2018 and 2019, which both resulted in season-ending losses.
Anyone involved with the A's can be frustrated on a number of levels. It doesn't seem fair when Astros players are doing this:
Bregman down 0-2. gets two offspeed pitches that come with the bang. spits on the first. homers on the second. pic.twitter.com/pM6i0UKgGH— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) November 13, 2019
How should the A's, and A's fans feel about the scandal? Let's break down the main frustration points for Oakland:
Should the A’s have won the AL West in 2018 and 2019?
It’s impossible to quantify just how many extra wins the Astros took in recent years. While offensive statistics and commissioner Rob Manfred's report suggest 2017 was their most “involved” sign-stealing season, it is possible that the sign stealing continued in 2018 and 2019.
While the A's were well out of the playoff race in 2017, they only lost the division by six games in 2018 and 10 games in 2019.
Last season, Houston played in a whopping 48 one-run games, which equates to more than 25 percent of their schedule. While the result of those possible games was even at 24-24, what if knowing certain pitches were coming -- gaining “extra outs” -- helped them attain five-to-eight extra victories?
Given how the A's only lost the division by a handful of games, you can see how quickly all of this gets very interesting.
Campaigns to make Mike Fiers look bad
When Mike Fiers takes the mound at ballparks across the country this summer, fans in 29 cities (besides Houston) should give him an extra ovation. It took a significant level of fortitude to put his name with the quotes to The Athletic that got all of baseball’s attention back in November.
Despite the A’s previous knowledge and official complaints to MLB, it was the comments by Fiers that launched real investigations and public examination into what the Astros had been doing.
It's interesting to see the various spins used against the former Astros pitcher ever since. Did he break an unwritten locker room code? Why wait until after he left Houston to say something? Should he have gone to MLB first instead of being quoted in The Athletic?
2) He didn't because he would have been dismissed as a sour demoted bullpen pitcher
3) Clearly, that wasn’t already working.
No Astros players were punished
This is not necessarily a fault of the Houston organization, but there clearly was a trade of immunity for players, in return for the information they provided to MLB. It’s not that awards, stats, or recognition would have been taken away from any of the Astros in recent years.
But certainly, there could have been lengthy suspensions and punishments handed out to the most offending players moving forward. It could have been enough to set a precedent across baseball. We have thousands of audible bangs on a trash can if there was any question of personal involvement.
Another frustration point is the Astros' internal collaboration. It took multiple players and team employees. Had four Astros players cheated for a week, or a month, much of this could have been chalked up as the temporary insanity to win at any cost.
But it extended over months and potentially years, clearly because there was a measured positive result.
The skepticism of anyone and everyone as a cheater
From the proven banging of trash cans to the accusations of electronic buzzers, we already know a lot of cheating slipped through the cracks. It likely happened over the course of multiple seasons, and it would not be surprising if other MLB teams had their own methods as well.
All of this now puts MLB under a huge cloud of speculation, starting in 2020. Any team lucky enough to noticeably cut down on strikeouts and increase their offensive metrics most certainly is going to be accused of abusing the newest technologies.
It’s sad but true -- a metal detector is almost needed between the on-deck circle and batters box in order to assure that technology isn’t aiding an active hitter.
The Astros still haven’t apologized appropriately
As far as baseball scandals go, whatever the Astros infamously did belongs right up there with the 1919 Chicago White Sox, Pete Rose’s betting, and steroid usage of the 1990s. MLB’s corresponding punishments have proven there was foul play, yet assurances and any sort of apologies over recent days have been weaved into clustered promises of Houston’s redemption in 2020.
Their bats have all summer to “do the talking," but right now, the public is only here to witness sincere remorse. It’s baffling to hear the words “sorry for what happened " when literally zero details have been shared by the Astros organization, or its players, on the extent of what actually happened.
Star Astros infielders Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman made their highly anticipated apologetic statements Thursday for a collective total of 1 minute and 26 seconds. This feeds a narrative that everyone involved wants this “over with” as soon as possible, instead of getting it “righted” as soon as possible.