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Dodgers' Cody Bellinger blasts Astros, says Jose Altuve stole 2017 AL MVP

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USA TODAY Sports

Dodgers' Cody Bellinger blasts Astros, says Jose Altuve stole 2017 AL MVP

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger did not hold back when asked about the Houston Astros apologizing Thursday for illegally stealing signs.

The Astros received unprecedented penalties from Major League Baseball in January after its investigation concluded Houston created and used a sophisticated sign-stealing operation over the last few years. Several people lost their job in the aftermath of the MLB's report, including Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran. Cora was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017 before he left to join the Red Sox as their manager ahead of the 2018 season. He was named 11 times in the MLB's nine-page report on the Astros. Beltran was the only player named in the Astros report. He retired after winning the 2017 World Series with the Astros.

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The team they beat in that World Series was the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bellinger was on the 2017 Dodgers squad that lost Game 7 at home to the Astros, and he put Houston, its owner and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on blast Friday with scathing comments.

"I thought the apologies were whatever," Bellinger told reporters at spring training, via Blake Harris of TrueBlueLA. "I thought (Astros owner) Jim Crane's was weak. I thought Manfred's punishment was weak, giving them immunity. I mean, these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don't realize is (Jose) Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in 2017. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us."

He also added: "I know, personally, I lost respect for those guys. I would say everyone in the big leagues lost respect for those guys."

In addition to stealing signs, there have been accusations of the Astros using buzzers to relay signs to hitters. One example is Altuve telling teammates not to rip off his jersey after he sent the Astros to the 2019 World Series with a walk-off home run against New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. The MLB said it "found no evidence" of the Astros using wearable devices.

"I don't know what human hits a walk-off home run off Aroldis Chapman to send your team to the World Series, and, one, has the thought to say, 'Don't rip my jersey off,' but, two, go into the tunnel, change your shirt, and then come out and do your interview," Bellinger said. "That makes no sense to me."

The MLB is also investigating the Boston Red Sox for illegally stealing signs in 2018, although players are confident the team did nothing wrong. The investigation into the Red Sox reportedly will extend into spring training.

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Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

The lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed by daily fantasy game players, who claimed to be defrauded by the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, has been dismissed, but not without harsh criticism of the teams by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in his ruling blasted the Red Sox and Astros for "shamelessly" breaking both baseball's rules and "the hearts of all true baseball fans."

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In throwing out the suit brought by five daily fantasy players, Rakoff invoked the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal from 2007, agreeing with MLB lawyers' contention that rulings in similar suits brought by fans against the NFL after the Patriots were caught illegally taping opponents' defensive signals had set a legal precedent for this suit to be dismissed. 

While the suit charged that the Red Sox and Astros had engaged in consumer fraud that created "corrupt" and "dishonest" fantasy contest for companies such as Draft Kings, Rakoff agreed with previous decisions in the NFL cases that ruled fans should know teams will look for any advantage - even "foul deeds" - to try and win.

From Rakoff's ruling: 

[D]id the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.

The Astros' sign-stealing scheme led MLB to fine the team $5 million and the one-year suspensions and subsequent firings of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox then parted ways with manager Alex Cora, who, according to MLB's findings, was the mastermind of the scheme as Houston's bench coach in 2017. 

That team won the World Series, as did the 2018 Red Sox, who are accused of using a similar system to steal signs under Cora.

MLB has yet to release a report on the Red Sox allegations. Commissioner Rob Manfred said it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but will be released before MLB begins its 2020 season. In comments last month in court an MLB lawyer seem to imply the Red Sox are aware of Manfred's findings and that they disagree with them.

 


 

Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Nothing says Red Sox home game like iguanas, scorpions, and cacti, but these are desperate times.

Barring millions of instant tests or a miracle cure, COVID-19 will just be a fact of our pent-up, penned-in lives for the foreseeable future.

This makes embarking on the baseball season problematic, since one infection would theoretically sideline an entire team for two weeks, and good luck staying virus-free while flying all over the country. Visiting hot spots would not only increase a player's risk of illness, it would also up the odds of one becoming a vector himself, which is bad for the brand, not to mention public health.

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But what if baseball could maintain some control over its players' whereabouts while limiting travel to a fleet of buses? Could a season happen under these tightly managed circumstances? And if so, where?

It may be a long shot, but the more one considers the alternatives, the more it sounds like the best hope we've got is for MLB to hold its entire season in Arizona.

The logistics are nightmarish regardless, but in a situation this unprecedented, the fewer variables the better. And MLB won't find a higher concentration of acceptable facilities than in the 48th state.

The Cactus League features 10 ballparks that host 15 teams in two months of spring training. Unlike the far-flung Grapefruit League, with teams scattered across Florida's east and west coasts, the Arizona sites are compact.

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Parks stretch from Mesa in the southeast to Surprise in the northwest, a drive of only 45 minutes. Everything else lies in between, a constellation of moons tightly orbiting Phoenix.

Decamping to the desert for the duration would eliminate air travel and give the league a chance to closely monitor its players. The challenge is Herculean: hosting roughly 800 players, plus at least that many coaches, staff, families, umpires, and broadcasters without anyone contracting the world's most contagious virus, against which we possess zero natural immunity.

Players would need to be quarantined in league-controlled hotels, tested constantly, and shuttled to and from the park. For such a plan to work, they'd have to sacrifice their most basic freedoms of movement, because a single failed test would grind the season to a halt while at least one team spends two weeks in isolation, potentially triggering a cascade of shutdowns, too (the mere possibility of which prompted the NBA to suspend its season, after all).

Convincing the union to sign off on such draconian restrictions won't be easy, but the alternative may very well be no baseball.

The games would be made-for-TV events without fans. If each ballpark hosted one or two games a day, a regular schedule could be played.

The challenges would be enormous. Do three teams share one clubhouse? Could ballpark and hotel staff be expected to live in isolation as well to avoid infection? How long could players live like prisoners? Will testing capacity ramp up enough to accommodate an entire league? Are the results even reliable? And how would teams keep their facilities germ-free if they're in use all day?

Politics matter, too. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey only belatedly ordered a stay-at-home order on Monday, and it has drawn criticism from the state's mayors as one of America's weakest, with exceptions for "essential" services like golf courses, nail salons, and hotels. If Arizona experiences an outbreak, then this little thought experiment dies on the vine. The same goes for extending the order past its current April 30 expiration and into the summer.

But we're here to ponder best-case scenarios, not fill your heads with more unrelenting negativity. And though the task would be monumental, if there's to be a baseball season, our best bet might be to play it in the desert.