Feb. 14 (UPI) — Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger was one of several Major League Baseball stars to criticize the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scheme Friday, saying the team stole an MVP award and a World Series title.
Bellinger made the comments before Dodgers pitchers and catchers had their first official workout for spring training in Glendale, Ariz.
The reigning National League MVP pointed toward Astros star Jose Altuve, who was one of several players to apologize for the scheme when the Astros opened camp Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla. Fans, former and current players, and media personalities on social media criticized the apologies.
“I thought [Astros owner] Jim Crane’s was weak,” Bellinger said. “I thought [MLB commissioner Rob] Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving [the players] immunity. Those guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from [Aaron] Judge in 2017. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us. But it’s over.”
An MLB investigation found that, at the start of the 2017 season, the Astros began using a camera-based system to steal signs from opposing teams, allowing their players to know which pitches were coming during at-bats.
The investigation also found the Astros used versions of the system during the 2017 postseason, when they won the World Series against Bellinger’s Dodgers. The practice continued for parts of the 2018 season, but Bellinger said he believes it even extended beyond that season.
The Astros beat Judge’s New York Yankees in seven games in the 2017 American League Championship Series, clinching a trip to the World Series.
Altuve hit a league-leading .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBIs, 32 stolen bases and an American League high 204 hits in 2017. Judge smacked an American League-leading 52 home runs and hit .284 with 114 RBIs while winning Rookie of the Year that same season.
Altuve said the Astros had a “great team meeting” Wednesday. He also said the Astros organization “feels bad for what happened in 2017.”
Former Astros general manager Jeff Lunhow and manager Grady Hinch were fired after being suspended by MLB for their roles in the scheme. The Astros also were fined $5 million and forfeited first and second round picks in the MLB Draft in 2020 and 2021.
Several former Astros — now with different teams — recently expressed remorse for their roles in the cheating.
Marwin Gonzalez became the first player from the 2017 Astros team to apologize for the sign-stealing scheme Tuesday. New York Mets utility man J.D. Davis apologized Friday. Davis was a rookie with the Astros when he first was exposed to the scheme.
“Everybody who was a part of the 2017 Astros, they feel regret about that decision,” Davis said. “Looking back as a young guy, being exposed to that in 2017 and looking back and getting a full season now, of course it’s regrettable and you feel ashamed to be a part of it.”
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer wrote an article in The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday, saying the Astros’ scandal was worse for baseball than previous steroid scandals.
“Why is what the Astros were doing different [or worse] than anything that had happened before? It’s because of the technology,” Bauer wrote. “They were using cameras focused on catchers to relay signs to hitters in real time — like instantly.
“And the issue is really the rate at which you can get the signs to the hitter. If you’re breaking me down after the game and I am dumb enough to use the same sequence of signs every single game, that’s on me.
“But if you can adjust in real time, what am I supposed to do? How do I compete against that as a pitcher?”
Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman spoke about the Astros schemel Thursday. He said he did not accept the opinion of Astros owner Jim Crane that sign stealing didn’t impact games.
“I disagree with that,” Chapman said. “When you have an advantage like that, it’s definitely going to make you a stronger team”
The Astros do not face the Dodgers this season, but have their first series against the Yankees from May 15 to 17 in Houston.