The continuing reach of Astrogate

If there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, it is that it was not a two-man show. We all did it. And let me be very clear that I am not denying my responsibility, because we were all responsible . . . Everyone who was part of the team from around mid-May until the end of the season, we are all responsible.

—Alex Cora, bench coach for the 2017 Houston Astros.

Would you believe a high school baseball game unwittingly inspired major league baseball’s first known extralegal sign stealer? An 1899 Phillies utility player turned third base coach was playing the ponies in New Orleans, watching the nags through binoculars, when he spotted something in the distance through them: the hands of a catcher flashing signs in that high school game.

From there, Pearce Chiles devised a system whereby one man would post behind the outfield fence with binoculars to decipher signs, then tap pulses to a device embedded below Chiles’s third base coaching line. After Reds shortstop Tommy Corcoran smelled the proverbial rat and unearthed the rig, the Phillies’ team batting average sank by 44 points.

If you must, call Chiles the great-great-great grandfather of Astrogate. SNY writer Andy Martino just about does, in his sober, engaging, and freshly troubling Cheated: The Inside Story of the Astros Scandal and a Colourful History of Sign Stealing. (New York: Doubleday; 270 p, $28 [$25 on Amazon].) It’s a freshly published reminder that, whether or not Astro fans or anyone else like it, Astrogate will not disappear soon into history’s recesses.

Nor should it. And this is while the forthcoming Winning Fixes Everything: The Rise and Fall of the Houston Astros—by Evan Drellich, one of the two Athletic writers (Ken Rosenthal was his partner) who sent Astrogate to the point of no return, when they finally had a player with direct knowledge (pitcher Mike Fiers) go on public record—may be delayed from its original planned August publication.

“Were the Astros part of a long tradition of sign stealing? Or were they outliers, worse than anyone else in history?” asks Martino, a ten-year veteran of baseball journalism now an SNY reporter. Then, he answers—yes, and no: “The answer is, well, both. What Houston did was the logical extension of more than a century of teams looking for an edge on the fringes of legality. But it was also new and different than anything that came before it.”

It also soiled irrevocably a championship run that gave a Houston battered badly by Hurricane Harvey an immeasurable spiritual lift. The team who put its collective arms around the ravaged city made it resemble fools for rooting for a team whose high-tech cheating came from the amoral front office down.

“[T]he team had access to technology that no other generation of cheaters could use,” Martino writes. ” . . . This was a twenty-first-century scam, pulled off by a group of people with the right blend of intelligence and moral flexiblitiy.”

Then, he quotes a baseball legend I’ve quoted a time or two through the entire Astrogate aftermath, a legend often accused of his own amorality until that and much else was almost completely debunked—Ty Cobb, who wrote in 1926 that “mechanical devices worked from outside sources” was “reprehensible and should be so regarded.”

The time-tested ways and means of legitimate (if only slightly unethical) on-base, on-field sign decoding have always had their experts. They’ve caught onto anything, not just the signs from catchers to pitchers, but assorted little hints in assorted moments, from catcher positioning when receiving certain pitchers to pitchers’ gestures when preparing to throw certain pitches.

In this century, Martino writes, they’ve included such men as Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar plus Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Joe Carter, Alex Cora, Shawn Green, Alex Rodriguez, and others. As Blue Jays teammates, Delgado and Green learned from manager Cito Gaston and from Alomar and Carter; Beltran learned from Delgado when they were Mets teammates. They were only too happy to pay it forward and teach teammates to come such intelligence arts.

Those men would use that kind of intelligence on the bases and even compile their own post-game logs (Delgado especially was such a player) on the various tells and reveals they’d discovered. So long as they did nothing in-game other than basepath espionage, all they had to do was hope the opposition didn’t catch on right away and switch signs or correct tells.

They weren’t operating the kind of high-tech cheating that came from Astros front-office intern Derek Vigoa, who convinced cold-blooded, results-before-humanness general manager Jeff Luhnow about a computer algorithm he’d developed for sign decoding called Codebreaker—but who warned to no avail that using it pre- and post-game was one thing but in-game was illegal.

The kind that gave Cora—now the Astros’ bench coach, with Beltran aboard as the team’s designated hitter and unofficial player mentor—an unexpected a-ha! when he discovered the high-speed, thousand-frame-a-minute Edgertronic camera. Until that discovery, Cora and Beltran were merely well-oriented, long-experienced students of what Paul Dickson’s study of the craft and its abusers alike called The Hidden Language of Baseball.

By the time Cora and Beltran began brewing their side of the Astro Intelligence Agency, more than a few other teams figured out a way to help baserunners send stolen pitch intelligence to their teammates at the plate: the replay room. The Astros weren’t wrong when they spoke publicly about those.

But the Astros played the whatabout game to deflect from their having gone above and beyond even the replay room reconaissance rings. Even after rumour and speculation graduated to fact and they were exposed for all time as transdimensional high-tech cheaters.

Those who still don’t get the difference between using established replay rooms to augment old-school gamesmanship (remember: the 2018-19 Red Sox’s replay room reconnaissance ring still depended on having a baserunner to send a batter the purloined numbers) and an illegal real-time camera sending signs should be ignored roundly.

MLB finally accepted instant replay, and installed replay rooms in the first place with the best of intentions, Martino reminds us. The entire sport was mortified by first base umpire Jim Joyce making a wrong safe call to deny Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga a perfect game on what should have been the final out. The result was both a helpmate and an unintended headache.

Boys will be boys, even in the 21st Century. Even the best-intentioned of newfangled solutions to immediate or time-worn problems find themselves at the mercy of boys being boys. When they’re the highest of high-tech solutions, there will be and there were boys being boys figuring out how to put them to nefarious service.

Martino insists quickly and supports in detail that that the most notorious illegal, off-field-based sign stealers who preceded or accompanied the 2017-19 Astros didn’t and still don’t justify the AIA. Quickly enough that it’s Cheated‘s second chapter, titled “No, the 1951 Giants Don’t Justify the Astros.”

Not those Giants, whose manager Leo Durocher installed a coach with a hand-held Wollensak spyglass in the clubhouse above the Polo Grounds’ center field to steal signs, enabling their stupefying comeback from thirteen games out of first place and, in due course, the pennant playoff triumph.

Neither do such telescopic cheaters as the 1910 New York Highlanders (exposure of which cost manager George Stallings his job), the pennant-winning 1940 Tigers (using a hunting rifle scope to steal signs from the outfield seats) or the 1948 World Series-winning Indians. (Courtesy of Hall of Famer Bob Feller’s Wollensak-like spyglass, brought inside the Municipal Stadium scoreboard to steal signs down the stretch.)

Those already went above and beyond the time-honoured ways and means of on-field sign stealing and discoveries of pitch tipping and other “tells” and “reveals” exploitable by the excessively observant. The AIA made the ’10 Highlanders, the ’40 Tigers, the ’48 Indians, and even the ’51 Giants resemble kids playing Spy vs. Spy.

This was a genuinely talented, well-built team surrendering hook, line, and stinkers to the high-tech temptations. With pliant, “conflict-averse to a fault” manager A.J. Hinch—burned by his first managing job in Arizona, where he clashed with veterans suspicious of his contemporary, information-augmented style—bent on fostering “a largely positive environment” with vets and youth alike in his clubhouse.

Enough that he felt without power to stop the high-tech cheaters in his own dugout.

Not every Astro was completely on board. Martino argues that second base star Jose Altuve objected vocally after hearing banging while he batted, even yelling at teammates in the dugout to knock it off. Neither did Altuve wear any kind of buzzer on his body. Veteran reserve catcher Brian McCann (since retired) and right fielder Josh Reddick (now with the Diamondbacks) also demurred.

Those who accused Mike Fiers of just keeping his mouth shut until he was an ex-Astro  might be surprised to discover Martino recording very plausibly what other reporting since has affirmed: Fiers actually did object to the AIA while he was an Astro, before passing warnings to beware on to his eventual Tigers and Athletics teammates.

We’ve known long enough that the A’s filed complaints with the commissioner’s office about their suspicions that the Astros were up to things above and beyond old-school on-field gamesmanship. We’ve also known long enough that Fiers finally went on the record  after too many other writers couldn’t convince their editors to let them run players’ suspicions without disclosing their identities.

Rob Manfred has earned most of the criticism he’s garnered during his term. But Martino records that he hoped he could get the deep Astrogate story without giving players immunity. When that proved implausible, Martino writes, the commissioner finally resigned himself and, with the players union’s agreement, got AIA players and personnel past and incumbent to talk—so long as the players got blanket immunity.

That was then, this is now. Manfred, the owners, and the players union have since agreed that players caught performing Astrogate-like electronic espionage can be suspended without pay and without credit for MLB service time.

Manfred’s January 2020 report, of course, named only one player publicly—Beltran, whose involvement cost him his new job managing the Mets . . . before he got to manage even a spring training game. Cora resigned before he could be fired as the Red Sox’s manager—but was brought back after last season. His confessional to ESPN reporter Marly Rivera a year ago probably went a long way toward rehabilitating him enough to get that second chance.

Hinch sat out his suspension, then got a second chance managing the rebuilding (and next-to-last-place) Tigers. Some say that’s cruel and unusual punishment for Hinch, who spoke candidly to Sports Illustrated‘s Tom Verducci last year about his failure to contain and dissipate the AIA.

A year after the infamous break-in, Richard Nixon gave a speech in which he insisted, a little testily, “One year of Watergate is enough.” Nixon was wrong then. Those who think a little over a year and a half of Astrogate is enough are wrong now.

Even with only five members of the Astrogate teams remaining on the club, their facing  pan-damn-ically delayed fan fury over the tainted champions is one example. Martino’s book is another. Drellich’s will be a third. With apologies to Professor Berra, when it comes to Astrogate literature it won’t be over until it’s over.

8 thoughts on “The continuing reach of Astrogate

    • Gary—I get that. There may well be more about that when Evan Drellich’s book finally does come forth. Meanwhile, this is a direct quote from Andy Martino’s book:

      “Altuve was the most resistant of the Astros stars. When the option to have a teammate bang the trash can first arose, he declined.

      “When Altuve was batting and there would be a bang, he would glare into the dugout.

      “. . . He was one of those players who felt that the additional information merely clouded his mind; he preferred to simply react to the pitch . . . ”

      Martino cited Tony Adams’s website signstealingscandal.com, which showed the seven Astros who got the most bangs in 2017: utility player Marwin Gonzalez, 147; outfielder George Springer, 140; DH Carlos Beltran (the co-mastermind), 138); third baseman Alex Bregman, 133; first baseman Yuli Gurriel 120; shortstop Carlos Correa, 97; reserve outfielder Jake Marisnick, 83; and, backup catcher Evan Gattis, 71. According to Adams, the patterns included that no bang usually meant the batter could expect a fastball.

      You may also remember that Gattis was the Astros batter in the infamous video captured when he faced White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar in 2017, the bangs he got were audible enough (and sounded like high-powered rifle shots) that Farquhar himself smelled trouble and called his catcher to the mound to switch up the sign sequences.

      Returning to Jose Altuve, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for him to reject the sign stealing. On the 1951 Giants, according to Joshua Prager’s The Echoing Green, Leo Durocher asked his players who wanted stolen signs and who didn’t. Hall of Famer Monte Irvin said he didn’t want stolen signs, to which Durocher was heard to reply that he thought Irvin was out of his mind.

      But if Irvin didn’t want stolen signs, it meant Hall of Famer Willie Mays—then in his Rookie of the Year season—wasn’t going to take them, either. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating now: Mays might have felt beholden to “Mister Leo,” but he felt even more beholden to Irvin, who treated him like a younger brother and guided and mentored him during his rookie season. Mays was far more likely to follow Irvin’s lead no matter how he felt about Mister Leo.

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  1. A few observations.

    There are 4 position players on the current Houston Astros team who are left from the 2017 Astros: Bregman, Correa, Altuve, and Gurriel, i.e. the whole infield.

    Jose Altuve is a free-swinging bad-ball hitter. I never believed he’d want to know what pitch was coming. It would screw with his instinct-driven batting style.

    I guess as long as Bregman, Correa, and Gurriel are on the team, they’ll deserve the “cheater, cheater” chants in every ball park until the end of their careers. And Altuve will hear it whether he likes it or not. But youngsters Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, Miles Straw, Chas McCormick and company don’t deserve it. And it also is a travesty of justice that Marwin Gonzalez and Alex Cora get a pass from the fans now that they play for the Boston Red Sox.

    Continuing with my critique, I find the “specialness” argument of the Astros’ conduct, and the related attempt to defend Mike Fiers, to be lame and specious arguments. If all clubhouses aspire to sign-steal at one time or another, and break rules to do so, just because the Astros advanced the science to a finer art doesn’t make the Red Sox of 2018 or any other team less culpable. This “deception” artistry that is a time-honored traditon of baseball still is not prohibited TO THIS DAY in baseball’s rule book. That’s right folks, sign-stealing in any form is still not a violation of baseball’s rules per the rule book, although it does violate the directive contained in the commissioner’s memorandum. Thus it is techinally incorrect to call it cheating, per Ross Bernstein’s book, “The Code.” In his book, “The Code”, Ross Bernstein distinguishes between cheating and deception. Cheating occurs when an act is illegal or is a violation of a baseball rule. Deception is a practice that pushes the envelope of acceptability while not breaking a rule or law. Teams employ deception or play angles to get an edge. For example, the Giants soaking the dirt between first and second base to neutralize Maury Wills and his prodigious base-stealing (1962); the hidden ball trick; a catcher framing pitches; phantom tags; sign-stealing. These all are examples of deceptive practices that are time-honored traditions of baseball, and as such, they fall under the rubric of baseball’s unwritten clubhouse code, which Mike Fiers absolutely violated. To say he “tried” to out the practice while with the team is ludicrous. He may have objected to it – and I’d like to see the evidence of that – but all he had to do was go straight to Jeff Luhnow or Jim Crane and warn them that he wants the practice stopped NOW or he’ll give that spicey interview to a reporter – maybe the same one he talked to with the Athletic – and maybe he’ll also take some video of the activity and pass it along to the comissioner and the media. Show me where he did those things. No, Fiers picked up his World Series ring, cashed his winners check, and then puked all over his former teammates.

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    • Mark,

      There is another form of sign stealing which is reprehensible and should be so regarded. That is where mechanical devices worked from outside sources, such as the use of field glasses, mirrors and so on, are used . . . Signal-tipping on the fields is not against the rules, while the use of outside devices is against all the laws of baseball and the playing rules. It is obviously unfair. That’s Ty Cobb’s full 1926 published remark.

      Moreover, two directives—in 2001, from then-MLB vice president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson; and, of course, in 2017, from Commissioner Nero himself, after the Red Sox Apple Watching and their accusations that the Yankees used a YES Network broadcast camera for stealing signs—saying electronic sign stealing was and remained verboten equal that kind of off-field-based theft is indeed illegal.

      Clarification time: Mike Fiers in 2017 objected to the Astros sign-stealing illegality in-house at the time, in the dugout and the clubhouse. I’m betting that if he thought about taking it to Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane, he would have been deflected if not road-blocked and maybe even disposed of. Thanks to the tale of the Codebreaker algorithm, we know Luhnow was in it up to his ass when it came to illegal sign stealing. (Remember: Luhnow ignored Derek Vigoa’s warning that using Codebreaker during games was technically illegal, though using it for analysis after games wasn’t.) And when you consider Crane’s remarks in the immediate wake of the November 2019 Athletic bombshells, don’t expect that Fiers would have received even a partially sympathetic ear from the owner.

      Remember: Fiers and other players (the worst-kept secret in the game itself turned out to be that the Astros were up to something above and beyond) also tried convincing various writers to pick up, run with, and expose the Astro issue (and possibly others), only to discover those writers ran into their own roadblocks: editors who wouldn’t let them publish unless even one player was willing to go on the public record with it. I first saw that much affirmed by San Francisco Chronicle writer Susan Slusser in the immediate wake of The Athletic‘s bombshell.

      (To my knowledge, only one writer was able to do so, Jeff Passan, then with Yahoo! Sports. But since his 2018 article didn’t have a player willing to go on record by name—it exposed an Astro employee trying to get cute against the Indians in that year’s division series, from which point Passan referenced unnamed players and personnel saying they heard the trash can banging in ’17 and suspected its purpose—what a surprise that it didn’t light the kind of fire Drellich and Rosenthal finally did in November 2019, with Fiers finally going on the public record.)

      It’s sad that people still don’t grok the distinction between on-field gamesmanship and off-field-based, mechanical/electronic cheating. And, from there, that they don’t (can’t?) distinguish between mere sneaks using the MLB-installed replay rooms for sign stealing (in a way, it was like Mom and Dad leaving the kids and the keys to the liquor cabinet behind and trusting the rats not to unlock and imbibe while the cats were away) and the Cora and Beltran who added an outside, illegal, real-time (and high-speed) camera to the sign-stealing mix.

      It’s even more sad when they still seem to think it’s all the whistleblower’s fault. But then you can probably still find New Yorkers who think that city’s police corruption in the 1960s and early 1970s was all Frank Serpico’s and David Durk’s fault for blowing the whistle to The New York Times, too. It’s always the whistleblower’s fault, never the cheaters’ or the crooked’s fault.

      By the way, the ’62 Giants turning first base into a swamp on behalf of Maury Wills was more than mere “deception.” Some dare call it cheating.

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  2. A couple of reminders: I definitely said I don’t condone what they did; nor do I condone what the Giants did in ’62; and I shared the distinction between cheating and deception defined in “The Code”, in all its technical precision. If it’s to be placed on a par with hitting a batter a second time during a game, it needs to be written down in black and white in the rule book. Ty Cobb offered his erudite opinion. Still not in the rule book. Your defense of Mike Fiers is eloquent, but not logical. Why couldn’t he give that same interview while with the Astros? Or threaten to do so? He’s still under contract; the PA would still have his back; and he’d have all that support from all those other outraged teams and players! He’d get another job at anytime, in a heartbeat. I’m a big defender of whistleblowers – when they aren’t hypocrites. I sincerely question the nobility of his motives. Did Fiers return his World Series check and ring? When he does that, I’ll start defending him also.

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    • So. If it’s not in the written rules, it’s not cheating. (Incidentally, directives from the commissioner’s office do carry the same weight as the formal rule book—which now, I believe, allows the commissioner’s office to punish electronic cheaters among players.) So ethics need to be codified in writing before those behaving in contravention to it can be called cheaters. So someone can cheat on his or her spouse/life partner and not be considered a cheater if there’s no written law in their locale against such cheating.

      Got it.

      (If you think the players union would have had Mike Fiers’ back taking Astrogate public in the actual moment, before he and other players tried resolving it inside the game itself, think again. Hard. A union that isn’t going to let the commissioner’s office just drop the hammer on other rulebreakers without appeal isn’t quite a union that’s going to suffer a whistleblower against cheating in the ranks gladly.)

      At least, you and me have managed, somehow, to live up to Samuel Johnson’s observation of Edmund Burke—we chose our sides like fanatics and defended them like gentlemen. You don’t need me to remind you how nasty and even violent (the death wishes toward Fiers and toward Josh Reddick’s newborn children, anyone?) other such discussions of this topic have gotten elsewhere.

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  3. I feel a need to add my summary point here, which is that I agree something needed to be done about the misbehavior of the Astros. But I believe it was a disservice to baseball for Manfred to crucify them the way he did, while quietly wrist-slapping the Red Sox and Yankees.

    The Astros lifted the city’s morale when the city urgently needed a lift. Manfred’s disporportionate penalties served to foment a national wave of anti-Astros vitriol at perhaps the most vulnerable time in the city’s history. Houston wasn’t done – still isn’t done – healing and recovering from the flood damage of Hurricane Harvey, and now the more recent freeze damage. A good scandal sells, so maybe these guys and their salivating successors will make a mint off their literary efforts and can retire in comfort off their earnings at Houston’s expense. No doubt more scandal opportunists will do what they can to exploit this literary feeding frenzy.

    Manfred couldn’t think of a better way to get good policy enforcement going without unleashing a fusillade of foaming-at-the-mouth hysteria? He was able to do that with other teams for nearly the same issue, minus the fancy “algorithm”. If the ‘codebreaker’ was a step beyond Apple watches and replay room-relays, then let the policy enforcement be a step beyond fines and suspensions. Suspend the GM, as was done, and double or even triple the fine. And make the annoucnement the way the Red Sox annoucement was made – right after lockdown! That’s toungue-in-cheek. Of course the lock down wasn’t predictable. But it could have been timed to coincide with other big news events, because Manfred made that choice with respect to the timing of his 2018 Red Sox announcement.

    And not so incidentally, the Red Sox’ infraction of 2018 was their SECOND penalty. Yet they STILL got to keep all their draft picks, and they rehired their ring-leader manager, who was also the field ring-leader of the Astros sign-stealing scheme. By gentling the Red Sox in this manner the illusion is promulgated that what they did was minor in comparison to what the Astros did. To quote our new president, what a bunch of malarkey! And finally, get the policy into the rule book! But don’t decimate the farm system by decapitating its draft picks. That’s punishing the city of Houston.

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    • Number one: the lockdowns didn’t happen until after Manfred handed his Astrogate report down in January 2020.

      Number two: As you note, Manfred suspended Jeff Luhnow (not to mention Alex Cora) when he handed the report down. Manfred’s investigators hadn’t finished their Rogue Sox investigation just yet, and Cora was out as Red Sox manager at the time of the Astrogate report three months prior. (I’m still convinced that, all things considered, Cora quit before he could be fired, and that was before the extent of the Rogue Sox replay room reconnaissance ring was finally known in full.)

      Number three: The Astros kept up their little extralegal intelligence operation even after Manfred made public his memo following the Red Sox Apple Watching and the accusations that the Yankees used YES Network cameras for espionage, and pronouncing at once that electronic cheating is prohibited. (I’m not sure where making such a memo public equals a quiet wrist slap considering the days of stink in the sports press that followed over it.)

      Number four: The Rogue Sox weren’t part and parcel of a particular culture fostered by their organisation; it was strictly among the players who pulled off the scheme and the video room operator who abetted them. There wasn’t a shred of evidence that Cora was involved in the Rogue Sox operation himself, though the cynic in me pondered whether he, too, was made aware but averted his gaze considering how far up to his ass he was involved in the Astros’ illegal espionage. (I say again: yes, both teams were wrong, but if people don’t know the difference between using what was handed to teams on a plate by MLB and going above, beyond, and several quadrants past that as the Astros did, you ought to fear their inability to distinguish between a purse snatcher and an embezzler.)

      I only wish Manfred hadn’t boxed himself into the position where he had no choice but to give immunity to Astros and Red Sox players to get the full lowdown on their cheatings. I’ve been as strong a critic of Commissioner Nero as anyone, but that’s one I really wish he could have done better, too. Even Beltran—the only Astro player mentioned by name in the Manfred report, since he was a co-mastermind with Cora—had to settle for being fired by the Mets before he got to manage even a spring training game for them after the Manfred report came down.

      (So why did Cora get himself a second chance managing the Red Sox? My best guess is that interview I cited with ESPN reporter Marly Rivera, in which he was either sincere enough or clever enough—or both, perhaps?—to be genuinely contrite about his Astrogate role. I suspect the same factor played into A.J. Hinch being hired by the Tigers after Ron Gardenhire retired and Hinch’s 2020 season suspension ended. As for Jeff Luhnow, he’s not only shown no comparable contrition but he actually doubled down in a couple of ways—including suing the Astros and Jim Crane.)

      Number five: Anyone who knows anything about baseball drafts knows that you won’t be “decimated” if you’re without your first- and second-round picks. Just have a look at all the jewels that have been picked in the third rounds and beyond. (Last year’s pan-damn-ically canceled minor league season probably did a lot more damage to the Astros’ prospects than any strip of round one and two draft picks could.) That’s not even considering how many first-round picks become busts for assorted reasons, not entirely of their own makings. Aside from which, this year is the second of the two years the Astros are forced out of their rounds one and two picks. They’re off the hook there starting next June.

      But let us look reality in the face, shall we? The Astros—not Astrogate whistleblowers, not Manfred, not the analysts and critics—punished the city of Houston. (Any commentator who sought to blame Astrogate on anything about Houston itself should have been condemned.) That city put tremendous faith into that team, a well-built and truly talented team, and that team betrayed that ravaged city even more than they betrayed the game. (Playing the Hurricane Harvey card should dismiss someone entirely as any sort of commentator on the Astrogate issue. I’m genuinely surprised a man as intelligent as you would play it.)

      Which reminds me: Andy Martino’s is only the first book about Astrogate. To my knowledge, Evan Drellich’s will be the second. (I have no knowledge yet if anyone else has such a book in the works.) I did say in my original essay that I didn’t expect those two to prove the only Astrogate books, but so far there hasn’t exactly been a flood of them, either. Maybe between them Martino and Drellich in due course will prove to have been the final word on Astrogate just the way Joshua Prager—with The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca, and the Shot Heard Round the World—proved the final word that The Giants stole the pennant! The Giants stole the pennant!

      I hope to God Houston continues recovering from Harvey. I also look forward to the day when the last Astrogate player no longer wears the Astro uniform. I’d like to think that, on that day, Joe and Jane Fan nationwide will stop catcalling and snarking and trash-canning the Astros when they come to town. But if they’re letting the Astros have it despite only five Astrogate team members remaining on the roster, I’m not exactly optimistic that Joe and Jane Fan will smarten up after the last Astrogater standing moves on to another team or even retires.

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