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Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

The Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal has rocked MLB and left a dark shadow over the league during offseason. Up until this point, despite a fired general manager and on-field manager, the players at the root of the scandal have remained silent on the subject and avoided questions from the media.

That will all change in Spring Training as the Astros players plan to make "a strong statement as a team," according to Astros' owner Jim Crane. 

"When we get down to Spring Training, we'll all get them together and they'll come out with a strong statement as a team and apologize for what happened and we'll move forward," Crane said in a media scrum.

Over the weekend the team held their annual winter FanFest where several players had to face the music as many players met with the media for the first time. Jose Altuve, who is one of the players who allegedly benefited from the sign-stealing, dodged the question as best he could. The Astros shortstop's comments coincide with Crane's, saying “I think the time to comment about that will come. It’s a little early for me to say something about it.” 

Outside of their FanFest event, there is little that has come out of the clubhouse. Their owner acknowledged the lack of communication from the players and said the players were advised to stay out of the conversation. 

"The players have been beaten up a little bit and they've been all spread out. They've just kinda getting [sic] advice to take it easy."

Already Spring Training in West Palm Beach is going to be awkward between the two teams that made the World Series last season. The Nationals, who won the World Series whether or not the Astros used their system to gain an advantage, have their facilities next door to Houston's.

And if the Astros sign former Nationals' manager Dusty Baker to the same position in wake of A.J. Hinch's firing, there will be even more tense situations at Spring Training this year. 

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One year later, Bryce Harper is in a very different spring training atmosphere

One year later, Bryce Harper is in a very different spring training atmosphere

When Bryce Harper signed his then-record 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last March, the stands at Spectrum Field in Clearwater were filled to the brim on a daily basis while the media scrums in the home locker room had twice as many reporters firing questions.

That’s what happens when the most polarizing player in baseball, a former MVP and No. 1 overall pick who’s drawn his fair share of both fans and critics, joins a big-market organization looking to jump back into contention for the first time in almost a decade.

But a year later, with the Phillies having missed the playoffs entirely and much bigger storylines dominating the sport, things have been calmer in Clearwater this spring.

"It's definitely different coming into camp," Harper said Tuesday, per NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury. "It's good knowing I'll be here the next 12 years, a lot more calm, not as crazy, not as many cameras. I'll enjoy that and just get ready for the season."

Harper made his spring season debut Tuesday, going 0-1 with a walk and sacrifice fly while playing five innings in right field. With a month to go before the start of the regular season, Harper’s goal for the rest of spring isn’t too complicated.

"Just be healthy," he said. "Take good routes in the outfield, throw the ball well out there, have good at-bats."

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Max Scherzer not pleased with new playoff format proposal

Max Scherzer not pleased with new playoff format proposal

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Here is a summation on Max Scherzer’s thoughts about the proposed playoff format changes: No.

Is he willing to talk about it? Yes. Does his voice matter as a member of the MLBPA executive board? Yes. Would he consider alterations in the future? Yes.

However, the idea of adding teams to the postseason -- expanding the total number of entrants to 14 which would be almost half the league -- is not something which appeals to Scherzer at this point. 

“For me, it’s really hard to sit there and say our playoffs are broken,” Scherzer told NBC Sports Washington. “When we look at how we won the World Series, we made it as a wild-card team and we won the World Series, we’ve also seen the best team in baseball go out there and win the World Series as well. To me, as we sit here today, the playoffs are functioning as they should because the second wild-card spot and the teams behind it are typically only a few games behind, so really adding those teams, those teams should already be in the hunt and finding a way to make the playoffs already.”

If the proposal was law last season, here’s how the National League playoffs would have looked (number of wins in parentheses):

Division winners

Atlanta Braves (97)

St. Louis Cardinals (91)

Los Angeles Dodgers (106)

Wild-cards

Washington (93)

Milwaukee (89)

New York (86)

Arizona (85)

The 84-win Cubs would have finished a game out of the final wild-card spot.

The Dodgers would receive a first-round bye. The Braves would get to choose their opponent from the bottom three wild-card teams (Presumably, it would be Arizona in order to avoid Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg or Jacob deGrom in a one-game playoff). So, the 97-win Braves would be playing the 85-win Diamondbacks for the chance to advance. If the Diamondbacks know they have the same shot as a 97-win team, what’s to prompt their investment in the offseason or trade deadline? 

“When you start talking about increasing the teams that make the playoffs, I have a huge concern over the competition that resides in the regular season,” Scherzer said. “In this format that is proposed, really the team that finishes in second place is really in the same field as the team that finishes in seventh place. We’ve seen trades in the past where good teams have unloaded players for a number of reasons and maybe not necessarily put the best product on the field, and they don’t feel they would have to compete as strongly if there is a very, very strong team in the league. 

“So, there’s significant concerns for me moving forward with their proposal. Something I think we can work through, something we can talk about. But I think there’s other issues at play with our system, with the CBA and the way the economic structure of the game is working that I think are more pertinent issues we need to address as a whole to increase competition throughout the game. Without addressing those concerns, I think it’s pointless to start talking about the playoffs.”

Those concerns are?

“Those are concerns that will be addressed when the time is right in the CBA talks,” Scherzer said. “Those talks will [begin] after [the] 2021 [season]. I look forward to having those talks. We need to have those talks about what the game needs to look like going forward, how teams can compete -- small-market teams, large-market teams and what the game needs to move to as we continue to see how fans experience the game.”

But, for now, it’s a no on the playoff expansion.

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