WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Dusty Baker wants action from Major League Baseball: End the criticism of the Astros from across baseball over sign stealing, and take steps to ensure pitchers don’t throw at his players.
“It’s not good for the game, it’s not good for kids to see it, so I think both,” the new Houston manager said Saturday. “Stop the comments and also stop something before it happens.”
Baker spoke in response to a wave of harsh comments during spring training about the Astros’ use of video to steal signs in 2017 and 2018. Los Angeles Dodger first baseman Cody Bellinger said Friday the Astros “stole” the 2017 World Series title from them and adds that Jose Altuve did likewise with the MVP, denying the Yankees’ Aaron Judge.
Houston players, management and ownership spent the first day of camp apologizing for their actions and professing remorse. But many players and front offices around the league didn’t feel they went far enough.
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said he wanted to hear the Astros use the word “cheated” when addressing the situation.
“I’m depending on the league to try to put a stop to the seemingly premeditated retaliation that I’m hearing about,” Baker said. “In most instances in life you get kind of reprimanded for when you have premeditated anything.”
Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling indicated he might intentionally throw at Houston batters if he faced them.
“We don’t start nothing,” Baker said. “This is kind of the slogan of my team: We don’t start anything — not intentionally. Guys are going to be getting hit intentionally and unintentionally. If you say you are going to drill somebody and all of the sudden you drill them, you can’t say, ‘I wasn’t trying to hit them,’ you know what I mean?”
Cubs star Kris Bryant said he expects teams to throw at Houston hitters, adding that players involved in the scandal “absolutely” should have been punished.
“They’re going to have a tough year this year for sure. I got booed really loud in St. Louis, and they’re going to get ... wow, everywhere they go, rightfully so,” Bryant said at Chicago’s camp in Mesa, Arizona. “I’m sure they will (get hit by pitches). Pitchers aren’t happy about it.”
“Obviously you don’t want anybody getting hurt but I think if teams are going about it the right way, if you do get hit you’re not going after people’s heads and stuff like that, I definitely think they’re going to experience some of that this year,” he said.
Houston ace Justin Verlander expects the commissioner’s office to severely punish retaliation.
“The game has changed,” Verlander said. “I think the commissioner has made it very clear in the past few seasons that throwing a baseball at somebody intentionally isn’t an appropriate form of retaliation in the game any longer.”
Verlander also said it is “wrong” to speculate that the Astros, specifically Altuve, used buzzers as part of the sign stealing.
“We were successful in the World Series last year. All that stuff about buzzers and all that stuff is simply not true,” he said. “People can speculate all they want. We dug our grave. We’re in it. I think emphatically everybody made it very clear that that wasn’t true.”
Outfielder George Springer declined to speak with the media before Saturday’s workout. Altuve was not in the clubhouse during the time it was open to the media but through a spokesman also declined to comment on Bellinger’s remarks. Position players don’t begin their first official workouts until Monday.
Verlander is concerned about the respect the Astros have lost around the league. However, he expects more revelations about sign stealing by other teams to emerge.
“Yeah, it bothers me,” he said. “But like I said, (Bellinger’s) entitled and everybody else is entitled to their own opinion. I think facts are still coming out, information’s still coming out, and I don’t think this is going to be something that’s done — not even for us. There’s going to be information that’s going to continue coming out for a long time.”
Could the Dodgers be one of those teams?
“I don’t want to insinuate about other organizations,” Verlander said. “The other day we apologized about what we did.”
Verlander also confirmed the Astros’ explanation from Friday about his reason for skipping a scheduled bullpen session.
“I threw an extensive bullpen the day before we started,” he said. “Just wanted to give myself a little time to recover after that.”