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MLB investigating report 2017 World Series champion Astros stole signs, broke rules

MLB investigating report 2017 World Series champion Astros stole signs, broke rules

Major League Baseball has expanded its investigation into the Houston Astros after The Athletic website reported the team stole signs during home games in 2017 by using a camera positioned in center field.

The report Tuesday quoted pitcher Mike Fiers, who played for the Astros that season, and three other unidentified people with the club. The Astros won the World Series that year -- two sources told The Athletic that Houston used the system into the playoffs while another source said the system ended before the postseason.

The website said the process was started by a struggling hitter and a coach, neither of whom was identified. The camera at Minute Maid Park was connected to a television monitor in the tunnel between the Astros' dugout and clubhouse, The Athletic said, and team employees or players would communicate expected pitches by banging a trash can to signal off-speed pitches.

"I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they're going in there not knowing," Fiers told the website.

The Astros said in a statement the team "has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball" and declined additional comment.

Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow declined to talk about specifics.

"We take the allegation seriously and we're going to look into it. If you're not following the rules, it's a serious matter," he said Tuesday at the annual GM meetings. "I'm not going to get into exactly what I knew or anybody knew at this point. So I'm just going to have to wait and see. But I'm sure there will be an appropriate time to answer that question directly."

Luhnow said he hoped the allegations wouldn't put a damper on Houston's recent run of success, which includes the team's first World Series title in 2017 and an AL pennant this season.

"Teams are competing with one another and everybody's trying to find an edge," Luhnow said. "But we all have to follow the rules and the rules are set by Major League Baseball. We all agree to follow them and if you don't there's ramifications to that. We want to follow the rules and we want to compete and win. That's what every other club does, as well."

Danny Farquhar, who pitched for the Chicago White Sox twice at Minute Maid Park in September 2017, told The Athletic of `"a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a changeup signal got put down." He said after Chicago changed to more complex signals "the banging stopped."

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Carson Smith added to the sign stealing allegations on Twitter, saying that the Astros bullpen catcher would send signs to certain batters. He added that the "Astros went to extreme measures, undoubtedly still do, and it's paid off for them."

MLB strengthened its rules against sign stealing before the 2019 season, instituting procedures attempting to ensure teams did not use video to steal signs.

"After we review this new information we will determine any necessary next steps," MLB said in a statement.

Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Wednesday there was "scuttlebutt" that the Astros were stealing signs during the 2017 World Series, but "we certainly did not know anything definitive at the time." The Dodgers lost to the Astros in seven games.

"There are things that have kind of existed since the beginning of time. And then there are other things that are even more egregious and clearly across the line," he said. "And I think there are enough people involved in it, it would be pretty brazen to do certain things. And when you do, I think people are going to find out about it."

MLB already is investigating the Astros. Assistant general manager Brandon Taubman was fired for directing inappropriate comments at female reporters during a clubhouse celebration after the team beat the New York Yankees to win the AL pennant on Oct. 19. The team issued and then retracted a statement accusing a Sports Illustrated reporter of trying to "fabricate a story." Taubman was fired by the Astros on Oct. 24.

Luhnow said he didn't think the Taubman situation and the sign stealing allegations are related.

"I don't think they're tied together, but they obviously have come one after another it seems like the last few weeks," Luhnow said. "It's disappointing. If there is an issue that we need to address, we'll address it."

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Nationals, Sánchez blasted by Orioles in another mediocre performance

Nationals, Sánchez blasted by Orioles in another mediocre performance

WASHINGTON --  The Nationals are 4-6 following a Friday night drubbing by the Baltimore Orioles, a team not expected to be remotely good in 2020.

The season’s fluctuations are under way. The Nationals went 1-4, looked listless and were charged with not having fun. They won three in a row to complete the push for an even record. They lost Max Scherzer and two games since. Friday night was particularly abhorrent. They were smacked 11-0 by an Orioles team which had 19 hits. It could have been worse.

“This is just one of those games where you’ve got to put it behind you as quick as you can and come back tomorrow and regroup and go get ‘em tomorrow,” Davey Martinez said. “This game was about as lopsided as I’ve seen in a long time.”

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Aníbal Sánchez has problems. His ERA is 7.84. It, like the Friday night score, could be worse.

He shrugged off his poor start to open the season. Sánchez was more irritated Friday -- back on the mound 12 days after the first time. When he walked Renato Núñez on a 3-2 pitch which wasn’t close to a strike, he yelled, then left the mound to pace. Pitching coach Paul Menhart came to visit.

Recall last year. Sánchez opened with a 5.91 ERA across April and May. He was much better in the following two months, righting his season and helping the Nationals from their malaise. But time for a course correction this season is limited.

“I think the situation that happened last year was [me] out of routine,” Sánchez said. “This is only something you have to handle no matter what. … This is going to happen this year early in the season. I think when you’re out of routine, it’s really hard to see what’s going on. Right now I can see the difference between the games with fans and no fans and all the kinds of things. A little bit something in your mind. At the end, I think I need to figure out how to control my game in all those situations.”

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Sánchez has made 16.7 percent of his starts (and the team is through the same amount of its season). Only nine remain. Reacting to two starts in normal times is not recommended. However, these are not normal times. Much like the offense -- which failed to score for the first time this season -- Sánchez needs to quickly gather himself. However, Trea Turner doesn’t feel the squeeze is on them yet.

“If we do, it’s just going to snowball on us,” Turner said. “There’s no point to. I think it’s more perspective -- more teams are in the playoffs this year, so you’ve got more room for error. More opportunities to make up ground. That being said, it is a shorter season. We need to take advantage of every game because we’re playing some good ball clubs. They kicked our butts [Friday]. Got to be ready each and every day.”

The Nationals play two more games during the weekend against Baltimore. Austin Voth starts Saturday, Stephen Strasburg returns Sunday. Friday opened a 13-games in 13 days stretch after the jumbled beginning of days off and postponements. Martinez said they were happy to finally be starting what a season traditionally feels like. Day after day, game after game. Time and geography lost to the rhythm of playing.

But, the Nationals entered the game 29th in Major League Baseball in runs, then failed to score. The only team to score fewer is the coronavirus-riddled St. Louis Cardinals who have played five games this season. Their starting staff is yet to anchor them. The bullpen has an injury to its most important offseason signing and Sean Doolittle is ineffective. Fixable problems, but problems to be sure.

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Phillie Phanatic returns favor to Bryce Harper with custom jacket

Phillie Phanatic returns favor to Bryce Harper with custom jacket

Despite only being in year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, Bryce Harper's love for the Phillie Phanatic is well-known.  

On Friday, the team mascot returned the favor by showing some love to Bryce Harper with his new custom suit jacket.

Let’s all take a walk down memory lane since it is #FlashbackFriday and relive the moment when Bryce Harper took his love for Phanatic to the next level on Opening Day with this look: a custom olive-colored suit with pictures of team mascot Phanatic scattered throughout the inside. 

This is just a reminder to find someone who loves you as much as the Phanatic loves Bryce. Or vice versa. A bromance like no other.

Now if the Phillies are smart, they’ll make these suits available for the fans. If they do, there'll be no competition for the best-dressed fan base in the future.

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