SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants chose Gabe Kapler over Joe Espada. Jandel Gustave pitched five innings for the 2017 Astros, but is on the outer-most peripheries of the scandal.
As the baseball world shouts and brays and scolds Houston’s way, the electronic sign-stealing saga dominating the sport, the Giants are a rarity that is barely connected to the infamy, the team not good enough in recent years to feel slighted and mostly too young to be concerned about the game’s integrity.
Evan Longoria, though, cares.
Longoria, star and ambassador, wants to see a clean game with an even playing field. He does not want to see ’17 World Series champs that he can no longer look at the same way: “How could you?”
“Honestly, I’ve tried to not think about it because I think it just makes players mad that people are willing to do that to gain an advantage,” the third baseman told KNBR on Thursday. “Obviously, just blatantly cheating.
“There’s no way around it — if your moral compass is pointing in the right direction, you know that what you’re doing is wrong. When I think about it, it just makes me upset because the game is very hard. To have that sort of information on a daily basis — or maybe they didn’t have it on a daily basis — but whenever they had it. It makes it pretty easy to have sustained success.”
The Astros were caught using cameras to pick up the catchers’ signs then relaying them to hitters, most notably through trash-can banging just before the pitch. The official apologies from the reigning AL champs came Thursday, when Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve read brief statements and did not take questions.
The organization, already known for its cutthroat culture, has become the villain of MLB and now has Dusty Baker as manager, following year-long suspensions to A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow, which turned into firings.
Longoria cautioned he did not read Major League Baseball’s report, only seeing drips of the damning findings on social media. He’s not sure if the punishment — an additional $5 million fine and missed first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts — was warranted because it can’t offset the winnings won. MLB has shielded the players responsible, penalizing the leadership instead, and “I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“It’s a pretty steep punishment, but I guarantee if you ask all those people who were a part of it would they do it again to win a World Series, they’d say yeah. That’s not right,” Longoria said.
The Astros’ system, implemented at their camera-equipped home, leaves baseball wondering just how good these world beaters — Altuve, Bregman, Carlos Correa — are, and whether their production will fall without the advantages. It all reminded Longoria of peformance-enhancing drugs and both the physical and mental benefits of a hitter having — and knowing he has — the upper hand. Steroids “are a mental edge as well,” he said, “that’s just as important as the physical side.”
“You still gotta hit the ball … but it’s like batting practice,” said Longoria, who’s spent much of his offseason at the Giants’ spring facility. “Batting practice isn’t 95 [mph] with sink. But at the very least, you know what’s coming.”