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Ryan Tepera's 'sketchy stuff' comments take over ALDS

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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And you thought getting that erroneous MVP vote last year was the most headline-grabbing thing Ryan Tepera was ever going to do.

The Chicago White Sox reliever has flipped the American League Division Series on its head with comments he made after his team staved off elimination with a 12-6 win over the Houston Astros on Sunday night. It's almost all that was discussed during press conferences on what turned out to be an off day Monday, when Game 4 was postponed due to a rain-heavy forecast on the South Side.

A night earlier, Tepera brought up the 22 swings and misses White Sox pitchers got against Astros bats in Game 3, comparing that to the number of such outcomes in the series' first two contests, played at Minute Maid Park in Houston (17 in Game 1 and 15 in Game 2), and tying it all in to the Astros' cheating scandal, in which the league discovered they had stolen signs electronically during their run to a World Series championship in 2017.

RELATED: Sox show what fueled World Series expectations in Game 3 win

Basically, Tepera suggested that kind of thing could still be going on.

"Obviously, it's a different game here at our field," he said after Game 3. "You play at Minute Maid, and they're doing something over there that's a little different. It shows you how many swings and misses they had tonight compared to at Minute Maid. So that's why you have home field advantage.

 

"They've obviously had a reputation of doing some sketchy stuff over there. It's just, we can say that it's a little bit of a difference, you know? I think you saw the swings and misses tonight compared to the first two games at Minute Maid.

"We come here to play. We're going to compete. We're not going to worry about what they're going to do. All we have to do is execute pitches, and they can't hit them anyway."

A day later, the Astros were relatively unmoved, at least in their own public appearances. Third baseman Alex Bregman said next to nothing on the subject, declaring his total focus to be on baseball. Manager Dusty Baker expounded further, comparing his team's home and road splits to those of the White Sox while addressing what he called "heavy accusations."

"We're about the same runs, OPS and everything as we are ... at home. And so then I think they're actually better at home than they are on the road," Baker said. "So I don't have much response to that other than I was listening to Eric Clapton this morning, and he had a song (that goes), 'Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.' You know what I mean?"

For what it's worth, the Astros owned a .787 OPS at home during the regular season, compared to a .780 mark on the road. The White Sox, who played much better at home than they did on the road all season long, finished the regular season with a .789 home OPS and a .729 road OPS.

It should also be noted that "Before You Accuse Me" was originally penned and recorded by Bo Diddley for the South Side's own Chess Records in 1956.

Hey, all in the name of accuracy.

But other than that initial reaction, Baker seemed to share much of Bregman's indifference on the subject of Tepera.

"He can say what he wants to say," Baker said. "I never even heard his name until we played the White Sox. So, no, man. I'm not bothered at all by it, really.

"Let them talk."

As for the White Sox, neither Yoán Moncada nor Aaron Bummer, the two players who spoke Monday, cared to comment much on what Tepera said. Manager Tony La Russa talked more, but focused mainly on his one-time recommendation to Major League Baseball that runners on second base should be forced to face center field as to not see the catcher's signs. He wore a big smile while relaying that his recommendation never made it far.

But if players and managers were, for the most part, trying to turn the page from Tepera to the potential end of this series in Game 4, certainly the outside world wasn't dropping it. And as Baker said, the insinuation from Tepera wasn't nothing.

 

Maybe that's why Baker's catcher, Martín Maldonado offered up this response on Twitter.

"I don't think it's going to have any affect on the teams playing the game," La Russa said. "There's always going to be something that will be questioned. And I think Major League Baseball has looked into whatever was happening and they're on top of it. So that's why I don't get into it.

"It's tough enough to try to play against a team like Houston without getting distracted. So we try to concentrate."

The Astros have been dealing with the fallout of their cheating scandal all season long, despite it being nearly two years old at this point. But a 2020 season played in empty stadiums meant aggrieved fans didn't have the opportunity to let the Astros know how they felt about what went down four years earlier.

Certainly that was the case when the Astros visited the South Side in July, White Sox fans hurling taunts and jeers toward the stars of the team who were instrumental in delivering a championship to Houston during that 2017 season. The fans cranked that to 11 on Sunday night, accompanying their electrifying support for the home team with loud boos and insulting chants directed toward the visitors all night long.

None of that's expected to change heading into Game 4, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the emergence of this as a main narrative inspire fans to go even further on Tuesday afternoon.

"They'll probably have to deal with it forever, really. Because people don't forget," Baker said. "They pass along information, it seems, from one generation to the next. This is just something that I feel badly (for them), but it's something that we have to deal with. You've got to rise above it all.

"I don't care nothing about perception. You know what I mean? I care about results, the happiness of my team and winning baseball games.

"It's kind of a waste of my time to even talk about it further. I would appreciate if nobody else would even ask me because I really don't care, if you haven't noticed."

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