Cleveland Indians: Terry’s Talkin’ Houston Astros cheating, Francisco Lindor rumors

Cleveland 3 weeks ago

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

When some of the Indians complained about the Houston Astros having superior analytics to the Tribe, it sounded like the whining of losers.

This was after the Astros swept the Tribe out of the 2018 playoffs.

It turns out the Astros had been using technology to steal signs for several years, according to a report in The Athletic.

In Game 3 of the 2018 American League Divison Series, MLB officials spotted an Astros employee in the photo booth aiming a cellphone camera into the Cleveland dugout. This was at Progressive Field.

The Astros claimed they were watching the Indians to make sure the Tribe wasn’t stealing signs illegally.

Now, we know that’s kind of like your favorite bank robber claiming he really wasn’t after any money, he was just checking the bank’s security system.

After denials, Houston’s next move will probably be the “everybody’s doing it" defense. They’ll try to act like a victim. They did that during the 2019 playoffs when assistant GM Brandon Taubman was insulting female reporters as the Astros celebrated winning the American League pennant.

The Astros even issued a statement calling the reports “fake news” and “a fabrication.”

It turned out they were lying as several reporters heard Taubman’s F-bombs and insults.

A big question is... why?

The Astros are a smart organization with tons of talent. Cheating was not necessary to win.

This reminds me of Albert Belle getting caught using an illegal corked bat. Belle was strong enough to hit home runs with a toothpick in that 1994 season.

Are other teams using technology to steals signs and break rules? Probably.

But we now know for certain the Astros were doing it. It’s a safe bet former Tribe pitcher Trevor Bauer was right when he claimed the Astro pitchers were using pine tar to get a better grip on the baseball. That’s also illegal.

Major League Baseball needs to slam the Astros. Big fines. Take away first-round picks for several years. Cut the amount of money they can spend in the International pool for prospects.

I’m not sure what vacating the 2017 World Series title would do, but they can consider it.

But what would really hurt Houston is losing high draft picks and the ability to sign the top International players who aren’t in the draft.

This has little to do with the Indians losing the 2018 ALCS to the Astros. They were outscored 21-6. Houston was the superior team.

But it has a lot to do with how MLB must make an example of the Astros, who it appears are a repeat offender.

A strange sidelight to the Houston story is the St. Louis Cardinals were found guilty of hacking into the Astros computer system in 2016 to steal information. St. Louis was fined $2 million and lost its top two picks in the 2017 draft.

None of this should be a surprise in the high-tech world of pressure-cooked pro sports. So there probably will be more to come if MLB is truly willing to conduct a major investigation in these areas.

ABOUT FRANCISCO LINDOR

There will be a lot of rumors about Francisco Lindor being traded two years away from free agency.

The Boston Red Sox are considering a trade of Mookie Betts, who will be free agent after 2020. Even the wealthy Red Sox think the price tag could be too high.

Or how about Gerrit Cole wearing a Scott Boras cap to his post-game press conference after his Astros lost in the World Series. Boras is his agent. Houston is another cash-rich team and not likely to keep Cole.

A year ago, the Washington Nationals let Bryce Harper (a Boras client) leave via free agency. Harper signed a $330 million deal for 13 years with the Philadelphia Phillies. Washington won the World Series without him.

Manny Machado received a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres. The Padres were 66-86 the year before signing Machado and some others. They “improved” to 70-92 this season. The Dodgers decided to not pay big to keep Machado.

How long do you think it will be before the Padres trade Machado as the weight of the contracts bear down upon them?

My point is, nearly every team faces a decision at some point about a great player such as the one the Indians have with Lindor. Even big-market teams sometimes allow them to leave rather than give out an outlandish contract.

Obviously, a real salary cap would help baseball.

But even a small change would matter. Suppose baseball had a maximum-contract system, such as the NBA, where players can’t sign for more than four or five years? That could help mid-market teams keep their stars.

ABOUT KA’AI TOM

I confess to being a little bored and checking out some of the Tribe minor league stats. I was looking beyond the big names such as Daniel Johnson, Nolan Jones and Bobby Bradley.

That’s when I spotted Ka’ai Tom, who hit a combined .290 (.912 OPS) with 23 HR and 86 RBI between Class AA and AAA in 2019. He’s not highly rated on most Tribe prospect lists.

But the 25-year-old outfielder had an impressive season, batting .311 vs. lefties and .294 vs. righties. He hit .433 (13-for-30, 3 HR) in the Class AAA playoffs for Columbus.

I don’t see the lefty hitter making the team out of spring training. He’s sort of come out of nowhere, batting only .245 (.728 OPS) with 12 HR and 64 RBI in Class AA Akron in 2018.

He’s not physically imposing: 5-foot-9, 190 pounds. He was a fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft out of Kentucky. He signed for $250,000. He’s not especially fast, but he’s a career .270 (.804 OPS) hitter in the minors.

Maybe he is a late bloomer. Maybe he has a big spring. Or maybe he’s a guy who just had a good year with a little luck (batted .379 batted balls in play). But I’m a little intrigued.


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